The IPCC – They’re Kind Of A Big Deal

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So for those of you who come to my blog for your environmental news (which, in hindsight, would be a terrible idea for I post far too irregularly to properly do the topic justice – sorry folks), I decided to provide you with a little bit of current events. Today, September 27th, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released part of its fifth climate change assessment – the full, 2,000-page document to go public this coming Monday. How’s that for current?

Now, this assessment is actually a really big deal. The IPCC is made up over 800 scientists from around the globe and they get their facts from over 9,000 publications. Pretty much, they’re about as reputable as they come. So what new and, regrettably, depressing conclusions did the IPCC come to? Among them the following:

“Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.”

How is this new information? you may wonder. Well it really isn’t but the more facts and studies we have to back up this claim, the more likely people are to come to their senses and realize the severity of our situation.

The IPCC did, however, come up with some new information. For starters, they said they didn’t expect to see the increase in temperature slowing down in the next 15 years, as many reputable studies have been suggesting, but rather that the warming is going to be going on long beyond that. On a more optimistic note, they also released the first established budget for the amount carbon that can be released into the atmosphere…though, regrettably, we are already more than half way through that quota…

Okay, that got a bit depressing. But this really is exciting news guys, promise! We live in a cynical society; I can admit that because I too am a cynic. But having official assessments like the IPCC’s is where we start to validate our concerns. Having the international community join together to brainstorm and hold each other accountable? That’s a start. That’s progress. That’s the seeds of change.

My Summer Internship

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 12.14.33 PMHaving a niche as a college student can seem a little limiting. I mean, how many nonprofits or environmental organizations are looking for PR help from a twenty-something student? But I think knowing what I want to do has its advantages. For starters, it helped me land a summer internship working for the local nonprofit FOOD for Lane County.

Companies and organizations are looking for passionate individuals. Period. Or at least that’s what my boss said when she hired me last May. Because I was so focused, I had a lot of relevant experience, which gave me a leg up. Well, that and my video skills.

I spent the summer chasing stories with a Canon EOS 7d strapped around my neck and a tripod strung over my shoulder. Is it a conventional PR job? Maybe not. But the lines between PR and advertising and marketing are all blurring together nowadays. In the end, I produced numerous videos for the organization – but there’s one that sticks out the most.

One of my tasks this summer was to create a call-to-action, or “ask,” video for our annual auction fundraiser. Here was where my niche really came into play. I want to use my PR skills, be that through traditional PR methods or design or video, to help make a difference. Well, with this video I did just that.

By understanding what the organization really did in the community and the difference it made in my area, I was able to use my skills to accurately portray the nonprofit…and pull at a few heartstrings. My video, seen here, brought in $132,400 for the FOOD for Lane County.

I think that’s what it comes down to – knowing what you want to do, or having a niche, and wanting to use every tool available to make that happen. If I had limited myself to learning the traditional PR methods, I wouldn’t have been able to get this far. So screw traditional – be a sponge. Learn everything you can and that is how you make things happen.

In An Instant

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Flashback to four years ago when I decided I wanted to be an environmentalist – all because of a little trip to Yosemite National Park.

No, this blog post isn’t my typical eco-friendly and slightly optimistic rant; rather, it’s more of an obscure nugget about the author…me. But I figured, as the Rim fire inches closer and closer to Yosemite, I should pay tribute to my endangered environmental motherland and try writing something a little different.

I was a senior in high school and my only experience with “roughing it” was sleeping in a tent in the backyard. Don’t get me wrong, I had always liked being outside, but I elected to take an environmental science class to see the outdoors, to learn what it was I had been missing. That’s what brought me to Yosemite; a week of camping and hiking, of learning and being outside my comfort zone. One week is all it took. Actually, one moment is all it took. There I was, standing on the valley floor, surrounded by El Cap and Half Dome and the falls…

To some, the valley blocks out the rest of the world, but to me it was more than that. It was as if Yosemite had swallowed me whole. This sense of awe coursed through my veins, an overwhelming feeling of being consumed by nature. I had never felt anything like that before.

Here was this geographic masterpiece, so bold and so big that it could change my sense of being in an instant…and yet still so vulnerable. In that moment Mother Nature thrust perspective in my direction, but she also awarded me with a certain sense of responsibility. I’m not just talking about protecting the Ansel Adams, John Muir hotspot from the current blaze; I mean something so much bigger than that.

At the time I was considering being a journalist because I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless. My trip to Yosemite let me know just whose stories I was supposed to help tell. And so began my employment by Mother Nature.

Petri Dish Patty

Screen Shot 2013-08-18 at 8.41.17 PMChicken or fish? Man, how I wish choosing meat was simple as it is on wedding RSVPs. Now you’re flooded with options like organic, hormone-free, cage-free or some other alternatives even I don’t fully understand. But what if the stores start carrying another option? Yes, like so many others right now, I’m talking about vitro meat.

I’m sure you heard of the alleged $330,000 hamburger tested out two weeks ago. And if you didn’t initially hear about the petri dish patty, I’m sure you heard the outcries coming from everyone from environmentalists to consumers to politicians. But in the midst of the sea of opinions, the facts are a little fuzzy.

First, let me just clear something up. Not every hamburger is going to cost $330,000 – it’s a concept in its infancy right now, and though that may seem obvious to some, you’d be surprised how many people are fooled by the price tag. Paying that much for a burger is impractical…but so are our current rates of meat production.

How impractical you may ask?

In the US, 70% of all our grain production goes to feeding livestock. Right now to produce one pound of beef, a farmer would need at least 13 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water. That is an inefficient system…and that’s not even looking at the environmental concerns. Livestock currently accounts for about 20% of the world’s green house gas emissions, and livestock runoff is the largest water pollutant in the US.

Close to ten percent of Americans are (or have been) vegetarians – it’s obvious we’re starting to care about where our meat comes from. Regardless, we can’t seem to kick this hamburger habit, and I think that’s where petri dish patties and test tube tacos is going to come into the picture. A few cells from a cow can produce 10 tons of meat. Now that is an efficient system…once we get the price down in 10-15 years.

I wouldn’t consider myself a vegetarian or a vegan, actually I wouldn’t even put a label on it (though perhaps in saying this I’m inadvertently labeling myself as a hipster), but I care about where my food comes from. I don’t eat meat unless I know where it came from, and call me crazy, but I think vitro meat might be a decent a solution. Yes it seems far-fetched and science-fiction-esque, but let’s celebrate the innovation here. We’re making something out of practically nothing…something I wouldn’t mind smothering in barbeque sauce on a bun.

Please, Sir, I Want S’mores!

943538_573294946044069_1064030676_nThe starry night. The crackling fire. The salty sea air. Yes, I am a fan of the ocean-side bonfire; I grew up in Huntington Beach, it’s a part of my culture. But you know what else I’m a fan of? The right to clean air.

Things got heated this past month as the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) passed new bonfire legislation set to go into effect March of 2014. Many Southern California residents were outraged, but is the decision really that outlandish?

Here’s the court’s compromise: fire pits can remain so long as they are located at least 700 feet from the nearest residence, or are separated by at least 100 feet (though if a city has fewer than 15 pits, they can be separated by only 50 feet).

All things considered, the decision could have been much worse. The SCAQMD is in charge of air quality in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties – that’s nearly 11,000 square miles and over 17 million people to keep happy.

“But we don’t see poor air quality at the beach – why should we care about it?” Allow me to break it down. It all comes back to geography.

The south coast basin is exactly that – a basin. It has mountains on three sides and ocean on the other. The wind off the ocean pushes particulates (like those coming from bonfires) inland, where they are then trapped by the mountains. So maybe you don’t see pollution at the beach, but your pals inland sure do feel it.

So, yes, maybe there are fewer bonfire pits or they’re just a little more spread out. Considering that the SCAQMD had the right to pull the plug on all bonfires in the area, I’d choose battles wisely. But hey, that’s just me – I guess I’m a sucker for clean air and a good s’more.

Do It For The Animals

Animal-Picture-Mother-Tiger-Licking-Cub-HD-Wallpaper“You might not see the effects of climate change – but your grandchildren will!” It’s a lesson I’ve had drilled into my subconscious in every environmental class I’ve taken. “Make a difference, Mandy. Do it for future generations. Do it for mankind.”

But what about doing it for more than just our own sakes? If the studies pan out and the average temperature rises upwards of four degrees over the next hundred years, it’s not mankind that’s going to be affected first; we’re a versatile species, well adapted to everything from the Sahara’s heat to the Arctic’s chill…no, the first to go will be the animals.

It’s not that four degrees difference will make for that drastic of a change. The Earth and earlier generations of beasts have underwent larger changes in temperature and lived to tell the tale. The problem is the speed.

Many land animals aren’t going to be able to evolve quickly enough to match the rising temperatures. It all comes down to the timing. There won’t be enough time for species to change their morphologies and evolve. Their generations are too close together. The changes are too drastic. There simply isn’t enough time.

So maybe, rather than picking a few favorites to cling to and attempt to protect from the inevitable, we choose a different approach.

When it comes to endangered species and especially charismatic megafauna (aka those cute and cuddly mammals), we seem to have a soft spot. Why not make that work for us? What if rather than sporting ‘Save Our Pandas’ t-shirts, we fight the good fight against climate change? Right now, we keep treating the symptoms rather than the disease. I’m not saying I have the answers, I’m just saying we’re asking ourselves the wrong questions. And we’d better start asking ourselves the right ones, and quick…before we, or some helpless creature, run out of time.