10 Things to Know by 10 a.m. – July 14

SSBlogPic1. With the World Cup over, it’s time to see if FIFA carries out its promises to alleviate the tournament’s environmental implications. Sao Paulo was awarded host city on promises to offset the Cup’s greenhouse gas emissions; FIFA is now responsible for buying credits for upwards of 27.5 million tons of greenhouse gases.

2.  BBC announced that it will be banning climate skeptics from the air for fear of misinforming the public. With 97 percent of scientists in agreement about the source of climate change (hint, it’s us), BBC fears creating a false sense of balance on the issue’s anthropogenic nature.

3. Last week, a study on organics came out, proving that organic produce has far more antioxidants and far less toxic metals and pesticides than its conventionally grown counterparts. However, the study, the largest of its kind, has been called “inconclusive,” as the products’ overall effects are still unknown.

4. In response to the Kendall Jones’ hunting controversy last week, an old photo of Steven Spielberg was reposted on Facebook with the Jurassic Park producer posing next to a triceratops movie prop, with the caption: “Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a Triceratops he just slaughtered.” Unfortunately, the snide political commentary generated real fury from dim-witted conservationists who thought the director actually killed an animal…that had already been dead for millions of years.

5.  A new Greenpeace “Carting Away the Ocean,” CATO, report came out last week, marking significant improvement in the sustainable seafood industry. In 2008, no major retailers hit all requirements for sustainable seafood production and sale; this time around, 22 of 26 major retailers passed, with four even scoring as “good” – Whole Foods, Safeway, Wemens and Trader Joe’s.

6. CSR Asia teamed up with Oxfam for a “Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil” last week. The conference targeted palm oil produced in Asia, one of the largest producing areas in the world, in hopes of producing a product that is more socially, ecologically and environmental beneficial, despite a lack of current legislation and jurisdiction.

7. Tesla’s new supercharger delivered outstanding results in first month on the market, and hopes to continue to improve over the following months. In June alone, the supercharger saved 168,000 gallons of gas, 4.2 million pounds of CO2 offset and fueled 3.7 million miles of travel – the equivalent of going to the moon and back 7.5 times.

8. A new National Grid study suggests that the price of electricity could double over the next 20 years. The increase would come as a result of the U.S. reaching 90 percent dependency on foreign oil and a slump in North Sea gas and oil production.

9. Nearly 92 years since the last grizzly bear was killed in California, a new petition is in the works to bring the animal back to the golden state. The initiative proposes to bring part of the diminishing Alaskan population down south for fear of the potential effects of climate change on the northern most bears.

10. With festival season well on its way, more and more event organizers are considering festival’s two most significant environmental issues: transportation and waste. Green coach companies, banning of plastic water bottles and post-event tent donations are just some of the ways festivals like Glastonbury and upcoming Outside Lands are coping with festivals’ long standing environmental implications.



The IPCC – They’re Kind Of A Big Deal


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.

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.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

mp517This term I’ve been lucky enough to take a class titled International Environmental Politics from the amazing Ron Mitchell here at the UO. Yes, the class is a lot work (and involves a 20-page research paper), but it has proved invaluable to me. The supplemental articles were informative and the slides were concise, but what really made the class stand out is that it asked the tough questions.

Unlike some college courses, Ron’s class actually encouraged thinking. We struggled through topics and questions that don’t have a simple solution. Most recently we’ve been discussing the ever-present danger of climate change. More importantly, we’ve been discussing what the hell we’re supposed to do about it.

And it isn’t easy. There isn’t just some simple solution to climate change. We can’t throw money at the situation or invent some new technology. If we want to get anything done there has to be actual change…and that’s a scary thought!

But what’s scarier? If I stay in Oregon after graduation, settle down, have kids – those kids will never see snow in their backyard. If we keep at the rate we’re going, keep producing more than we consume and consuming more than we need, my kids would never get to experience snowfall. No snow angels, no sledding, no frost bitten noses. And unless they were looking at the tip of Mount Hood, they’d never get a white Christmas.

For me, snow in Oregon puts everything into perspective. Thinking about far off countries and how they are affected by climate change, thinking about remote islands disappearing and natural disasters – it’s almost too much to handle. It’s easier to just look away. But thinking about snow in Oregon? There’s something to change. I might not be able to save the whole planet, but I sure can dream of a white Christmas.

Peace, Love and Polar Bears

Charismatic megafauna.  It’s probably my favorite phrase to throw around when talking about the environment- first, because it makes me sound way smarter than I am, and second, because I love bringing the conversation back to these large and (seemingly) cuddly endangered species.

Yes, concentrating on charismatic megafauna isn’t going to solve Earth’s biodiversity crisis, but it’s not meant to.  It’s meant to pull at the heartstrings (and purse strings) of Americans.

Careful photography and clever marketing show how even some of the Earth’s top predators can be vulnerable…especially to climate change.  And there is no better example than the polar bear.

The polar bear lives close enough that Americans can feel a sense of kinship- and though most of us will never see a wild polar bear in our lifetime, they represent what little wilderness remains in North America.

Maybe the polar bear is the ideal face for climate change quite literally because of it’s face.  The bear’s dark and distinctive wide-set eyes contrast its light fur and draws Americans in, allowing you to connect with them.

But in the end, it’s the bear’s color that sets it apart.  The very color of the bear seems pure and harmless causing the beast to be further victimized.  Not to mention that it is quite literally white.  America’s Anglo Saxon, European history cannot be ignored, and though not everyone can relate the bear to their own skin tone, it can be related to America’s emphasis on white power. This being said, climate change not only threatens the polar bear, it threatens America.

Perhaps this is an over simplification, but from greeting cards to soda cans, the polar bear has pushed its way into America’s lifestyle quite seamlessly, and as such has been able to start a conversation about conservation.   And if focusing on the polar bear means America taking a closer look at climate change, I’m all in.