Climate Policy Not Going so Well

Amidst the sixth extinction that includes dying coral reefs, fires, and floods, Australia is backing away from implementing the Paris agreement. Australia is not alone. Governments and many of their citizens continue to focus on the short term. While understandable, this will lead to dramatic misery in the years to come.


www.nytimes.com/2018/08/20/world/australia/turnbull-energy-emissions-climate-change.html

Ecomaine and Recycling

The tipping floor: where recyclable stuff is loaded onto the conveyors for separation

Running stuff on the conveyor

I’m recently back from a trip to Maine where I visited friends. One of the highlights of my trip was a tour of Ecomaine’s recycling facility.  It’s all about our stuff. You might remember George Carlin’s skit about stuff.

Trash stuff is offloaded in another building where the claw grabs it to feed to the burners. There it is reduced to ash. Contaminates are scrubbed and captured as fly ash. Both go to landfills where they cannot leach into the surrounding soil.
After sorting, each type of stuff is bailed and shipped to producers.

Recycling facilities offer a critical service. Unfortunately, we consume so much stuff that recycling is not enough. Right now there is tremendous pressure on the picturesque Finger Lakes in New York State (home of many wineries) to receive evermore stuff into their landfills. People are up in arms. But who can blame them? I don’t want a landfill in my backyard either. Who is to blame? Well, uh, it’s you, me, and all of us. The fact of the matter is we all buy too much stuff. And the manufacturers and the retailers, they just add to it by blister packing it in cardboard and plastic so it’s more difficult to shoplift and looks great on the shelves or on hooks. Having all this stuff is also causing global temperatures to rise, due to the energy required to produce it.

So, the solution is, buy less and package less. If we don’t do it, then the planet will do it for us. I’m not making a pitch to save the planet—it will go on without us. I’m making the pitch to save ourselves. But at the very least, keep recycling.

My thanks to our tour guide, Katrina, who knew the answers to all of our many questions.

 

The Atlantic Migratory Bird Flyway

Wind turbines in western New York. Property access courtesy of Davis Valley Farm, LLC.

 

Alright, so up to this point I have cited all the advantages of wind turbines. Unfortunately, their downside is that they kill 140,000 to 328,00 birds in North America, annually. Both the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society support the growing use of wind turbines, provided they are properly sited—the one known, effective means of minimizing wind turbine bird strikes. The major reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is paramount for our biosphere. To ignore the threat of climate change would not only threaten far more birds over time, but most of the current flora and fauna.

We now know that birds migrate along  the same flyways each season. The Atlantic flyway, passing through New York,  extends from the bottom of South America to the Canadian Tundra. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  recommends that all new wind developments consider:  avoiding bird migration routes, places where raptors’ prey congregates, and water-filled landscapes that would encourage birds to flock, such as wetlands. These are guidelines only, however.

There is current testing of technical approaches, including: using purple turbine blades (white attracts insects which then attract birds), bird averse lighting systems, and GPS/radar the latter designed to detect flocks in time to shut down the turbines. However, the effectiveness of these approaches are not clear at this time.

This is all I have to say about wind turbines. I still have to get one more good panorama when  I have the best evening sky. I will place a collection of my wind turbine photographs in my online gallery soon. I will let you know when I do.

Please contact me with any questions or comments about our growing use of renewable energy.

 

Climate Change and Health

As regular readers of this blog know, I have presented aesthetic, environmental photographs to raise people’s awareness of the threats to our environment posed by global climate change. During the past few years I have studied the likely effects of climate change on public health. So, I’m pleased to announce that I have been invited to take part on a panel this fall at the Association for Applied & Clinical Sociology to discuss the relationship between climate change and health, along with the policy implications for reducing climate change’s threat.

I’ll have more to say on this over the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can find a climate overview in NOAA’s 2018 Global Climate Report.

Misty Wind Turbines


Fog and mist often add to a photograph, giving it a softer, aesthetic look. Since fog and mist are generally a dawn phenomenon (water vapor condenses when temperature and dew point are within two or three degrees of each other) I got these shots early in the season since I live over an hour away from the field (I only had to get up at 4:30 to get these shots).

Since there is usually no wind associated with fog or mist, wind turbines are not likely to rotate, since they need at least a 4 MPH breeze. I was fortunate to have a view of some turbines on higher ground (where there was some wind) overlooking background mist on lower ground.

Aesthetic Wind Turbines

On this hot July Fourth here are some unique views of wind turbines. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (an old social constructionist saying). Wouldn’t one of these look great on your wall?

I got lucky with the crows

Zoomed turbine

Looking up

Threesome power

Surrealistic wind turbine