New York Skyscrapers Adapt to Climate Change

The reach of the EPA is much longer than one thinks. It’s a comprehensive entity that effects infrastructure existing and new and climate change is having an effect on our planning for the present and the future. Architects building our skyscrapers and other buildings need to use all the information available to create climate change resistant buildings and the EPA provides that. Our basic safety and well being is at stake. “If the government stops collecting the data on flooding vulnerabilities, heat waves, then it’s going to be harder for the design and development communities to incorporate changes in their design,” Wilson said.

New York skyscrapers adapt to climate change

Catherine TRIOMPHE
AFP
NY scyscrapers adapt to climate changeIn a New York skyline crowded with skyscrapers the American Copper Buildings going up on the East River owes its difference to climate change (AFP Photo/DON EMMERT)

New York (AFP) – With a skyline crowded with ever-more luxury towers, the construction of another Manhattan skyscraper wouldn’t normally be remarkable.

But the American Copper Buildings going up on the East River — a complex of two towers with 764 apartments, panoramic views and a huge entrance hall with a doorman — is different.

Planned just after deadly Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York in October 2012 — sounding another alarm about the mounting effects of climate change — it was designed with new threats in mind, reflecting how the real estate world is evolving to account for global warming, in contrast to President Donald Trump’s moves to roll back environmental protection.

The huge storm killed more than 40 people in New York, paralyzing the US financial capital for days.

JDS, the company developing the American Copper Buildings, bought the land for the project around the same time.

“The whole thing was a lake, we could have toured the site in a canoe,” said Simon Koster, a principal at the company.

“We knew something like that would happen again,” he added. “So we said, ‘How can we make sure that if we lived here, we will not be facing that scenario?’ So we let the designers loose.”

– Tools to survive –

One of the main innovations was to ensure residents have access to electricity as long as possible in the event of an outage in the city.

Instead of planning an opulent penthouse on the top floor, the architects reserved space for big natural-gas generators designed to keep key equipment functioning if the power fails.

Although the machines are situated “in the most valuable real estate of this building,” Koster said, “it makes all the other units all the more valuable.”

“We are going to have more of these events, it’s just being strategic and smart about how you prepare for them,” architect Gregg Pasquarelli said.

“If we lose power, if you can go up and down in the elevator and your refrigerator works and you have one outlet available that you charge your phone on, you can probably survive in New York for a week,” he added.

Every kitchen has two electrical outlets — one reserved for refrigerators — connected to a back-up circuit fed by the generators. That means smartphones can be charged during a breakdown.

Traditionally relegated to the basement, the heating, ventilation and large electrical equipment have been installed on the first floor instead, more than 20 feet (seven meters) above the street to minimize the risk of flooding.

The main entrance hall is large and austere, with steel pillars and floor tiling designed for outside use.

Wood-paneled walls warm the atmosphere — but the open side panels can dry easily with no damage in the event of flooding.

The building’s cheapest studios will be available for rent starting from $3,000 a month, and include the luxury perks of access to a swimming pool and huge terrace with views of the Empire State Building in addition to the more prosaic bonus of flood resistance.

– Embracing resilience –

New York is embracing resilient architecture more than most cities in the country because its exorbitantly priced real estate drives up the financial stakes, says Alex Wilson, president of the Vermont-based Resilient Design Institute, which specializes in such issues.

Besides electricity, architects are also coming up with ways of providing drinking water — with accessible faucets for everyone now obligatory on lower floors — as well as maintaining reasonable temperatures.

In the event of a summer power outage, “a lot of condominiums are heavily glazed and would become inhabitable,” Wilson said.

The city is identifying the most vulnerable existing buildings for adaptation.

However, the obstacles for reconstructing older structures are greater than integrating flood resistance during the construction of new projects such as the Copper Buildings — and so are the costs — Wilson said.

Politics may also get in the way. The Trump administration plans to slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, which may affect the collection of data to assess weak infrastructure.

“If the government stops collecting the data on flooding vulnerabilities, heat waves, then it’s going to be harder for the design and development communities to incorporate changes in their design,” Wilson said.

Still, he’s optimistic the government’s rejection of science about the effects of climate change will have only a temporary effect.

“The private sector is well aware of this, the insurance industry is increasingly aware of this and these industries will continue to drive progress in resilience.”

‘Tis the Season for Gratitude

‘Tis the Season for Gratitude

by Nicole Meyers and Erin McKinnon

http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc/html/home/home.shtml

In this the season of giving, it is difficult not to notice that all the “things” that make us happy and comfortable – food, shelter, water, warmth, gifts, parties, long distance travel to see our families – are all made from natural resources.

It’s been said before and I think it bears repeating – if you conserve you won’t have a dearth. Saving water prevents droughts. It’s a simple thing everyone can do and make a habit of in no time. Below is a list of simple things we can all do to conserve our valuable resources so we won’t want for them in the future.

Take any of these steps in addition to your usual shopping expedition and you have given more than a gift. You have taken a step in preserving their and your futures in anticipation of many more happy holiday seasons to come!

https://www.terrapass.com/

Next time you fly, check to see if your airline has voluntary carbon-offset program. Airline companies such as Delta, United, Virgin, Air Canada, Brussels, Srilankan Airways, Lufthansa, Kenya Airways, Cathay Pacific, SAS, Thai AIrways, TAP Portugal and more, give passengers the opportunity to buy carbon offsets for their flight.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car also allows you to purchase carbon offsets for your trip when you book a car. Interested in a carpool on your way to work? Enterprise’s RideShare program provides a van-pooling service that helps commuters get to work in a more cost and fuel efficient way. .

For individuals or businesses interested in buying carbon offsets or renewable energy credits, check out TerraPass, The Carbon Fund, The Climate Trust or Native Energy. You can purchase a one-time package or subscribe monthly, and there is a diverse range of high-impact projects to choose from. You can invest in energy efficiency, forestry, renewable energy, grassland conservation or other carbon-reducing projects with social and environmental benefits.  These organizations also feature online carbon calculators for those who want to track their carbon footprint.

http://www.americanforests.org/

Plant a tree through The American Forests organization, or give a tree as a gift. Trees are a meaningful way to to protect our forests. With your support, American Forests can plant trees in forests across the country and around the world that are in need of restoration.

The Nature Conservancy is a worldwide organization that is devoted to lands and water conservation. Their local New York Chapter has endless opportunities to encourage people get involved and protect and New York. Browse here for upcoming events throughout the state. If you are unable to attend, you can become a digital volunteer by joining their global community by following them on Facebook and Twitter, and sharing your posts with your friends.

The U.S. Water Alliance is an organization devoted to advancing water policy and programs that sustain this essential resource. According to their 2016 U.S. report, every American uses an average 176 gallons of water per day. That is over 64,000 gallons a year. There are many water-saving measures that individuals can take to minimise their usage. Simple things like turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth or wash your hands, or filling up your sink with water, instead of letting it run the whole time you wash the dishes.

http://www.worldwildlife.org/

The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) offers a species adoption program where individuals can make a donation to protect an animal of their choice.  All adoption kits support the WWF’s global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats. Amongst the options include african elephants, three-toed sloths, flamingos, narwhals, octopuses, llamas, and many more.

Recycling is a fundamental way to take care of the planet. Terracycle offers free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers, and retailers to help individuals and businesses collect and recycle your hard-to-recycle waste. You can choose the programs you want to join, start collecting in your home, school, or office, download a free shipping labels, and send in your waste to be recycled. You can also earn rewards for your school or favorite non-profit. Companies that work with Terracycle include Brita, Colgate, Yankee Candle, and Pepsico. You can also send in your binders, cigarette waste, snack bags, and personal beauty products.

Donate food, funds, or your time at City Harvest, an organization that combats hunger in New York City. Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities near you. City Harvest also rescues food from all segments of the food industry including restaurants, wholesalers, green markets, bakeries, caterers, hospitals and corporate cafeterias, as well as canned food drives. Donors who have 50 pounds or more of food can schedule a pick-up on an call-in basis. If you have a donation that you would like picked up, you can call 646.412.0758.

https://www.cityharvest.org/
Toys for Tots is a nationwide program that distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. You can make a monetary donation, or donate a toy at a designated drop-off location.

This year marks the 10th annual Burlington Coat Factory “Warm Coats and Warm Hearts” Coat Drive. You can donate a gently worn coat at any Burlington location across the country through January 23, 2017 and receive 10% off your entire purchase.

http://www.toysfortots.org/default.aspx

 

 

 

 

Conservation is the Key to Longevity

Conservation is the Key to Longevity

By Nicole Meyers

old-new-york

It’s hard to imagine that before New York City became a concrete jungle, it was just a jungle. Manhattan’s natural state of ecology boasted biological and ecological diversity that supported wildlife and sustained humans for thousands of years. There were valleys, forests, fields, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, beaches, springs, ponds and streams. It was home to bears, wolves, songbirds, and salamanders. Fish, porpoises and whales swam in the harbor. Then the Europeans came along. In 1609, the wild and lush landscape became increasingly industrialized, and the land’s primitive ecology gave way to an urbanization.

Nature in New York City still exists. On the outskirts of our urbanized city center, New York’s natural areas continue to support diverse plant and wildlife populations. In the face of rapid development, resource conservation has been a pulsing matter.  A number of key organizations have emerged to preserve new york’s natural habitat through advocating for coastal restoration, forest conservation, neighborhood parks, gardens, and green spaces.

A number of key organizations have emerged to preserve new york’s natural habitat.  The Natural Areas Conservancy (NAC), partners with NYC Parks to restore and conserve 10,000 acres of forests, meadows, and wetlands citywide. NAC was founded on the idea that our city’s ecological health is critical to it’s greatness.  They work across all five boroughs to ensure healthy forests through tree plantings and long-term management, improve coastal resilience by rebuilding dunes and marshes, and motivate New Yorkers to get outside through volunteer events, tours, and lectures. Click here to learn more about NAC’s upcoming events.

central-park
The Nature Conservancy also plays a vital role in protecting New York’s green heart. Addressing land conservation on a larger scale, The Nature Conservancy is the leading organization working around the world to protect lands and waters. Their New York City chapter provides a number urban conservation programs that aim to make the city more livable, such as their recent project in Jamaica Bay. In partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), The Nature Conservancy has launched a collaborative project to improve the ecological health of habitats and increase resiliency at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area in Queens. Land management strategies on coastal park lands is fundamental to enhancing our city’s resilience to climate change.

Founded in 1995 by singer and songwriter Bette Midler, The New York Restoration Project (NYRP) is dedicated to transforming open space into green space in low-income communities citywide. In fact, NYRP is the only conservancy for under-resourced communities. They provide free environmental education for all ages that teach New Yorkers about composting, sustainable horticulture, and native plants. They also work to restore and maintain community gardens throughout the five boroughs. Click here to find a garden in your neighborhood!

eliz-st-garden

 

 

 

Urban Design Adapts to Climate Change

Urban Design Adapts to Climate Change

by Nicole Meyers

sea-leve-rise-nyc

The ever-popular “rising sea levels, disappearing ice caps, and drowning polar bear” discourse has been the poster board narrative for environmental impacts of global warming. The Arctic’s geographic isolation and distance led to the misconception that sea-rise is only pertinent in places like the North and South Pole, or in small islands like the Maldives. In reality, sea rise occurs on every coast. This detachment from what is happening in other parts of the world feeds into the denial that New York will face a similar future– a future under water. In New York Magazine’s September issue, Andrew Rice wakes his readers up to the fact that the future is a lot closer than we think.  His article “This IS New York: In the Not-So-Distant Future,” warns society that climate change is the single greatest threat to our city,  and New Yorkers must acknowledge the impending ecological crisis before it’s too late. Coastlines worldwide are vulnerable. Given that Manhattan is an island, and New York City has 520 miles of coastland, it might not be long before our buildings are under water too.

A report by New York City Panel on Climate Change argues that sea level rise poses an even greater challenge for coastal New York. The report projects sea levels around New York City will rise 11 to 21 inches by the middle of the century, 18 to 39 inches by the 2080s, and up to 6 feet by 2100. Average sea levels have risen about 1.2 inches per decade in the city since 1900, or about 1.1 feet overall, according to the report. This is almost twice the average global rate of 0.5 to 0.7 inches per decade. This Risk Zone Map Here is a surging sea map that allows you to visualize what N ew York City will look like in the future and the long-term local consequences of different carbon pollution scenarios.

The effects of New York City’s sea level rise are already being felt. New York City has lost a tremendous amount of wetland area. The disastrous impacts of Hurricane Sandy were a painful wake-up call for how critical wetlands landscape are for retaining storm water and flood control. Sea level rise alone will lead to an increased frequency and intensity of coastal flooding as the century progresses. Beyond environmental impacts, sea level rise will bring social consequences as well. About 400,000 New Yorkers live within the current 100-year floodplain, which is more than any other U.S. city, including New Orleans.

manhattanlexingtonave_wzohaibflickrnhcreport
Advancing Waters, which creates landscape metrics by leveraging data from the 2010 Census, the National Elevation Dataset, and the NYC Selected Facilities and Program Sites data sets to visualize the potential scenarios of sea level rise. Their goal is to illustrates exactly what that means for the city’s residents and its infrastructure. Their maps show that at an elevation of five feet, sea-level rise could impact about 34 schools, 80 transportation sites, and 30 waste-management facilities.

Sea level trends will continue to rise if we continue in our current paradigm, where more people lead to more resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. An increasing population will only reinforce this positive feedback loop underpinning anthropogenic climate change. New York’s population has grown by nearly 375,000 people within the past five years—an increase of 4.5%. As New York continues to grow through natural increase and migration, it is vital that environmental priorities are a forefront consideration if we want to build resilient city.

While future projections leave us feeling hopeless, New York is constantly piloting and inventing new solutions to different problems to save our city.  Bill de Blasio’s One City Built to Last Plan is an aggressive policy approach that implements a spectrum of efficiency initiatives aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from New York City’s over one million buildings. The goal is to reduce city wide emissions by 80% in 2050. Growing a city within sustainable parameters isn’t easy and has proved to be a daunting task for urban architects. According to Robyn Shapiro, director of the Lowline Project, problems of urban growth are not challenging, they invite innovation. Designing cities to respond to future environmental problems is an opportunity for alternative future landscapes, novel possibilities, and innovation through creative design. Urban resilience is the goal, and building a resilient city is the key to building a sustainable city.

lowline-2

 

Aesthetics is Everything – Tesla’s Stunning Solar Roof Tiles

Aesthetics is Everything – Tesla’s Stunning Solar Roof Tiles

How did we not think of this before? Make the tiles in four styles to match the home. Genius. Well done, Elon. Many thanks!

These are Tesla’s stunning new solar roof tiles for homes

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wasn’t kidding when he said that the new Tesla solar roof product was better looking than an ordinary roof: the roofing replacement with solar energy gathering powers does indeed look great. It’s a far cry from the obvious and somewhat weird aftermarket panels you see applied to roofs after the fact today.

The solar roofing comes in four distinct styles that Tesla presented at the event, including “Textured Glass Tile,” “Slate Glass Tile,” “Tuscan Glass Tile, and “Smooth Glass Tile.” Each of these achieves a different aesthetic look, but all resembled fairly closely a current roofing material style. Each is also transparent to solar, but appears opaque when viewed from an angle.

0cf27641-f7f1-4ead-a8af-030e742088c9The current versions of the tiles actually have a two percent loss on efficiency, so 98 percent of what you’d normally get from a traditional solar panel, according to Elon Musk. But the company is working with 3M on improved coatings that have the potential to possibly go above normal efficiency, since it could trap the light within, leading to it bouncing around and resulting in less energy loss overall before it’s fully diffused.

Of course, there’s the matter of price: Tesla’s roof cost less than the full cost of a roof and electricity will be competitive or better than the cost of a traditional roof combined with the cost of electricity from the grid, Musk said. Tesla declined to provide specific pricing at the moment, since it will depend on a number of factor including installation specifics on a per home basis.

Standard roofing materials do not provide fiscal benefit back to the homeowner post-installation, besides improving the cost of the home. Tesla’s product does that, by generating enough energy to fully power a household, with the power designed to be stored in the new Powerwall 2.0 battery units so that homeowners can keep a reserve in case of excess need.

The solar roof product should start to see installations by summer next year, and Tesla plans to start with one or two of its four tile options, then gradually expand the options over time. As they’re made from quartz glass, they should last way longer than an asphalt tile — at least two or three times the longevity, though Musk later said “they should last longer than the house”.

Watch the video here!

Disposable

Disposable

By Nicole Meyers

99cent-andreas-gursky
Andreas Gursky. 99 Cent, 1999

In 2007, Colin Beavan embarked on a mission to reduce his carbon footprint in New York City. In his book No Impact Man, the Manhattanite documents his year-long crusade to lead an urban lifestyle that has impact on the environment. This means no fossil-fuel emitting transportation, no new purchases, no use of disposable items, and no takeout food or bottled water to avoid containers. Above all, this means NO waste. Beavan produced no trash for twelve months— He didn’t even use toilet paper.

In the beginning of his project, one of Beavan’s initial realizations was the amount of plastic waste his former lifestyle created. Between grocery bags, food containers, coffee cup lids, drink bottles, plastic containers and casing is so ubiquitous in our world that it’s very difficult to buy anything not encased in it, nonetheless made out of it. Beavan wasn’t able to buy cheese until he found a farmer that was able to cut off a slice from the original block and wrap it in paper. Bevan switches from plastic petroleum-derived diapers and opts for cotton tissues and cloths instead. He also starts packing a glass jar with him wherever he goes so he can drink tap water without using plastic cups.

If we want minimize our impact on environment, logical and effective sustainable legislation systems need to consider a full life cycle of plastic, from raw material extraction, production, consumption, and disposal. Plastics are made from oil extracted from the ground, which is then chemically processed to create the molded plastic product. Finished plastics are then sent to stores in an infinite variety of shapes depending on the product requested. Once the the product is discarded, then what happens? Oil-based plastics don’t degrade, but many types CAN be recycled. However, whether or not proper recycling occurs is a whole other problem. Single-use plastic products and throwaway food containers is the fastest growing form of packaging and the main source of oceanic pollution. Every year in the U.S., less than 14 percent of plastic packaging gets properly recycled, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The rest ends up in our oceans, where plastic pollution has become one of the largest threats to our marine ecosystems. Published in the journal Science in February 2015, a study conducted by a scientific working group at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) quantified the input of plastic waste from land into the ocean. The report concluded that every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans— and the rate is growing exponentially. In 2025, the annual input is estimated to be about twice greater.

mixed-recycling-40x51
Chris Jordan. Mixed Recycling Seattle, 2004

The United States has one of the lowest overall recycling rates of any developed nation. Our contaminated coastal lines are a testament to our inadequate recycling infrastructure. Several communities don’t have curbside recycling programs, and our fast food industries aren’t held responsible for providing recycling and composting bins for their customers. In contrast, European countries are held accountable for their packaging.

Recycling is required in all NYC apartment buildings, but not all are compliant with meeting recycling requirements. When buildings do abide by regulation, there still needs to be individual participation for recycling to work. Aside from making sure the proper infrastructure is offered, another huge problem is the discrepancies surrounding how to recycle and what needs to be recycled. We need to receive recycling education—a fundamental knowledge that is critical if we want to live in a sustainable society. Sorting plastic from paper recyclables leads to cross contamination between plants. Thus, people opt for “single stream” recycling, which ends up doubling contamination rates. Learning about what is and what isn’t recyclable is geographic, as communities have different rules and standards.

If you aren’t sure about your neighborhood’s protocol, visit www.iwanttoberecycled.org to find your local recycling information and the nearest recycling centers.

The Future of Food – An Actionable Evening with EWG’s Ken Cook and Dr. Frank Lipman

The Future of Food- An Actionable Evening with EWG’s Ken Cook & Dr. Frank Lipman

By Nicole Meyers

food safety

Why, all of a sudden, is everyone is gluten intolerant? On September 13th, Environmental Working Group’s co-founder Ken Cook sat down with functional medicine leader Dr. Frank Lipman, MD to discuss how our broken food system has given way to a fleet of chronic illnesses which society has never seen before. Cook and Lipman use gluten to illustrate the impacts of food production at the crossroads of public and environmental health.

The way we grow, cook, and consume food is inherently tied to ecological and social consequences. The rise of celiac disease is no coincidence, as Cook points out, but rather a product of America’s complex food system, where corporate interests are given precedence over the health and stability of society. Farmers are forced to adapt industrialized growing techniques to meet rising demands and compete with economies of scale. Their answer came in the form of a cheap agricultural input called Roundup, Monsanto’s brand of weed killer that contains glyphosate as the primary ingredient.

Monsanto’s popular herbicide was never reviewed to evaluate the full range of long-term effects on public health or the environment. Our regulation protocol is systematically flawed to benefit corporations, where chemicals of concern are proven safe by a panel of scientists who manufactured them. Meanwhile, a number of former Monsanto employees are now employed by the FDA and other agencies to monitor Monsanto products. This included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which initially determined that the science “does not provide evidence to show that glyphosate causes cancer.”

monsanto

This is where Environmental Working Group (EWG) comes in: to restore consumer sovereignty and “stand up for the health of society when government and industry won’t.” The EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides scientific research on environmental issues so that consumers can protect their health.  Cook discussed how EWG’s findings indicated the danger of glyphosate consumption. While toxic farming practices increased, so did the rate of chronic illness and health diseases including obesity, reproductive issues and cancer.

Frank Lipman, a leading expert in Integrative and functional medicine, outlines the ways in which consuming the potent toxin is damaging your health, including reproductive problems, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease and Attention-Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder. However, the big, unanswered question resides in the potential health effect of glyphosate levels over extended periods of time. Studies have found traces of the toxin in umbilical cords of unborn children and even breast milk. While it may be impossible to avoid glyphosate entirely, Lipman challenges you to use EWG’s resources to empower yourself to take control of your health; and while it seems unrealistic to eliminate glyphosate entirely, the bottom line is to do whatever you can to limit the events of exposure.

What can you do? Educate yourself and choose wisely when shopping for food or medications. Environmental Working Group has done extensive research on everything from sunscreen to food additives. Look at their lists here.

ewg

 

Save the Hors d’Oeuvre!

We live in New York City. We are bombarded every day with pleas from environmental groups to save something – something new or old or small and cute and it is often too overwhelming to contemplate. We live in the human built environment surrounded on all sides by other humans and very little nature. How do we connect with all these asks for saving, support, and urgent action? Stick with what you know.

We go from home to subway or bus or taxi to street to work to meetings to conferences to cocktail hours to networking events to charity events to parties to home. What do the things that come during and after work all have in common? Food!

cocktail party food 1Small, flavorful, bite size bits of food to keep us going to the next stop. And we love them, don’t we? We love hors d’oeuvre! That tiny slice of sirloin on toast with some horseradish sauce? Heaven! Deviled eggs with paprika? Lovely. Sautéed crab cakes with herb remoulade? Sign me up. Mini lobster rolls! Bite size chicken empanadas with chipotle salsa! Baby lamb chops and Dijon mustard! Vegetable summer rolls with that addictive sweet chili dip…what do you mean it’s already 8pm and we have to go? Just one more!

A word on conference cheese. While those piles of orange and white cubes may not be categorized as hors d’oeuvre per se, they can be found at every conference, meeting or reception in town. One can’t help but line up for a stab at toothpick roulette – will I get the hidden spicy Havarti? Is that real cheddar? I think that one is the Muenster! Those little cubes, full of mystery and intrigue, can so easily lift one from their panel discussion stupor and for that they should be praised. conference cheese

Climate change is rapidly starting to become less of a concept and more of a reality and with it the consequences. There is a reason certain foods are grown in certain places. The cycle of seasons and temperatures are at a delicate balance to create this life which sustains us. Fluctuations in these temperatures and cycles not only disturbs pollination timing but also growth and harvest cycles. Everyone is familiar with what happens if Florida receives a freeze at the wrong time. Oranges die and demand outpaces supply and prices rise. That little glass of morning OJ we take for granted just jumped in price and may not even be available.

orange juiceImagine if that happened with every commodity we consume from bread to cheese to kale – heaven forbid a run on kale! Less bread means higher bread prices that make Dean and Deluca look reasonable.

The US supplies more than 30% of wheat, corn and rice to the world. The World. If there is a disruption in weather patterns due to additional carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, extreme weather events will throw off the delicate balance. Droughts, violent storms and floods are a direct example of temperature variability due to increased CO2, which have cost farmers dearly. In 2008 when the Mississippi flooded just before harvest season, it cost farmers 8 billion dollars in losses.

tea sandwich platterWarmer temperatures also come with an increase in pests and weeds causing an increase in pesticides which are then passed on to humans affecting their health. And next thing you know there is a dearth of grains and someone doesn’t get a mini meatball sub then “hanger” sets in and all hell breaks loose. Or, more seriously, someone goes hungry either next door or across the world. Neither is an acceptable option.

This same scenario also applies to corn which is popularly fed to cows. If the cost of corn goes way up due to a reduction in yield, the cost of meat will increase exponentially to the price of feeding them. Additionally, higher temperatures can cause stress on the animals and their milk production, fertility and health. No more baby beef wellingtons! No more conference cheese! No milk with your cookies! What will the kids say at bedtime?

cookies and milkOver-fishing and pollution is only the beginning of the stress on fish populations. Worse is warming water temperatures because certain fish only survive within a range of temperatures and are very sensitive to changes. If we exceed the comfort zone that can lead to reproduction loss, migration interruption and death.

salmon tartareMost familiar is the life cycle of the salmon that consists of all of the above: Once eggs are laid they mature by spring, the salmon grow and swim to the ocean for a number of years, feed, and migrate back to their home stream to mate, spawn and then die. This cycle is very sensitive to temperature, changing of the season, and sun position to be successful. If we do not adhere to this delicate cycle, the supply of salmon will drop, the price will rise, and that amazing salmon tartar in the tiny pastry cup is no longer a staple. Worst case scenario – a moratorium on sushi! No sushi!

You want a reason to get involved in the climate fight? Save the Hors d’oeuvre!

 

 

 

 

Our Legacy – A Human Story

Our Legacy – A Human Story

When considering climate change and the many-sided arguments that accompany it, one must turn to the core of human values to define our ultimate goals. It has been addressed in every way possible; through art, film, documentary, short film, petitions, lobbying, lawmaking, media, social media, news – both print and television, even humorous cartoons. It is certainly not a lack of information that is the problem. It must be the way the message is delivered. It has been spoken about by everyone in every kind of language from scientific, sociological, medical, legal, philosophical, and moral to the day to day practical expressed in plain old everyday English. Every type of person in every kind of setting from the highest court to the most respected of academia to the town square has been addressed. But what of the foundation? What does everyone want at their core? To be remembered.

cern
CERN Interior

The Higgs Boson particle, a subatomic particle theorized in 1964 and discovered in 2013, is a legacy particle. It flashed into existence for less than a billionth of a trillionth of a second then changed into other particles due to its rapid disintegration.  The only reason it was able to be detected was because scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland were able to measure changes via the particles it became. Had there not been any perceivable shift in its surrounding environment, they would not have known it had ever been there.

The only legacy we all leave behind is the effect we have on others, the changes we create in them by interacting with them, and thus the world. Without these changes, we would not be. The ripple effect of our presence lives on in all to whom we have been close.

This is the purpose of art. It marks time, speaks of when and where we were, how we saw it, what we did, what we didn’t do. Positive and negative actions are of equal weight when marking time and influence. Olafur Eliasson speaks of results in terms of consequences, action and reaction; positive and negative space – actions taken and actions not taken all have consequences – often the latter ends in regret, remorse, self-loathing, and at worst, nothing. At the end of his TED talk he says “This is all I have.” It’s more than enough to fill the coffers of personal and professional curiosity and goad one into action – even if only in personal reflection.

olafureliassonlittlesun
Olafur Eliasson and his solar light Little Sun
David Hume, Scotland’s preeminent philosopher among other incarnations, speaks to these core values from the inside out. As discussed by Arthur Herman (How the Scots Invented the Modern World):

“Hume quietly pointed out that human beings are not, and never have been, governed by their rational capacities. Reason’s role is purely instrumental: it teaches us how to get what we want. What we want is determined by our emotions, our passions – anger, lust, fear, grief, envy, but also joy, love of fame, love of contentedness, and paradoxically, our desire to live according to rational principles.”

The basic tenant that he speaks of is self interest. We avoid that which is uncomfortable in lieu of what is familiar and easiest, which due to its inherent nature does not equate the effect with the cause. It simply is. “The overriding guiding force in all our actions is not our reason, or our sense of obligation toward others, or any innate moral sense – but the most basic human passion of all, the desire for self-gratification.”

Edinburgh
David Hume’s Home Edinburgh, Scotland

CRED (Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University) says we need to speak to people’s self interest, find the common denominator that moves them. Now that we know that the common denominator is actually self interest, and this is the basis for all decision making, then climate change arguments are included. It’s a vicious circle of selfishness that should by all accounts end in self preservation at the very least.

For all intents and purposes, if the phrase is taken literally, would end in this current generation succeeding at its greatest accomplishment so far – changing the course of history to include reversal of climate change and the development of a way of thinking that supports the health of the earth without sacrificing expansion and growth. Johan Rockstrom believes this to be a possible outcome using our current tools within our current planetary boundaries.

“The planetary boundary research liberates us from limits to growth in a decisive way,” Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, explains in his TED Talk, “It says, ‘here is a safe operating space where we can have unlimited growth.’” True, the existence of the climate boundary means that developed nations must slash their carbon emissions to near zero in just a few decades. “But there is nothing to hinder solar and wind power and higher efficiency,” Rockström says. “The world economy can grow even in a decarbonized space.”

Some remain that humans are meant to adapt and change to survive. However, why take the risk? What we are living through right now is as unprecedented as it is unnatural, making the survivability of it as uncertain as the unpredictability of the climate change itself. Highlighting already documented changes due to chemical saturation, deforestation and ozone depletion and the already documented effects thereof, support of making it any worse is counter intuitive to our fundamental needs, which, again, is our inherent self interest that starts with clean air, water, and food, and expands to include personal comfort and basic safety. That is reason enough to take on the challenge of maintaining our planet in its current state. It will be our legacy.

alaska

Water, water everywhere…

And not a drop to drink according to NASA. Water conservation and backing off on aquifer drilling is a must do right now. There’s no replacing water that is created naturally from rain and snowfall once it is consumed without spending excruciating amounts of money on desalinization plants and treatment facilities. A smarter move would be to recognize the folly of over harvesting and get back to basics – conservation is everything.

New NASA data show how the world is running out of water

June 16

NASA-Scientists-Say-the-World-Is-Running-Out-of-Water

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.

Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.

Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.

“The situation is quite critical,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and principal investigator of the University of California Irvine-led studies.

Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Demand is even greater in times of drought. Rain-starved California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use as its rivers and above-ground reservoirs dry up, a steep increase from the usual 40 percent. Some expect water from aquifers will account for virtually every drop of the state’s fresh water supply by year end.

[Rich Californians balk at limits: ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water’]

The aquifers under the most stress are in poor, densely populated regions, such as northwest India, Pakistan and North Africa, where alternatives are limited and water shortages could quickly lead to instability.

The researchers used NASA’s GRACE satellites to take precise measurements of the world’s groundwater aquifers. The satellites detected subtle changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull, noting where the heavier weight of water exerted a greater pull on the orbiting spacecraft. Slight changes in aquifer water levels were charted over a decade, from 2003 to 2013.

“This has really been our first chance to see how these large reservoirs change over time,” said Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist at Oregon State University, who was not involved in the studies.

But the NASA satellites could not measure the total capacity of the aquifers. The size of these tucked-away water supplies remains something of a mystery. Still, the satellite data indicated that some aquifers may be much smaller than previously believed, and most estimates of aquifer reserves have “uncertainty ranges across orders of magnitude,” according to the research.

Aquifers can take thousands of years to fill up and only slowly recharge with water from snowmelt and rains. Now, as drilling for water has taken off across the globe, the hidden water reservoirs are being stressed.

“The water table is dropping all over the world,” Famiglietti said. “There’s not an infinite supply of water.”

[California’s water woes primed to get worse as groundwater is drained]

The health of the world’s aquifers varied widely, mostly dependent on how they were used. In Australia, for example, the Canning Basin in the country’s western end had the third-highest rate of depletion in the world. But the Great Artesian Basin to the east was among the healthiest.

The difference, the studies found, is likely attributable to heavy gold and iron ore mining and oil and gas exploration near the Canning Basin. Those are water-intensive activities.

The world’s most stressed aquifer — defined as suffering rapid depletion with little or no sign of recharging — was the Arabian Aquifer, a water source used by more than 60 million people. That was followed by the Indus Basin in India and Pakistan, then the Murzuk-Djado Basin in Libya and Niger.

California’s Central Valley Aquifer was the most troubled in the United States. It is being drained to irrigate farm fields, where drought has led to an explosion in the number of water wells being drilled. California only last year passed its first extensive groundwater regulations. But the new law could take two decades to take full effect.

Also running a negative balance was the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer, which stretches across the southeast coast and Florida. But three other aquifers in the middle of the country appeared to be in relatively good shape.

Some groundwater filters back down to aquifers, such as with field irrigation. But most of it is lost to evaporation or ends up being deposited in oceans, making it harder to use. A 2012 study by Japanese researchers attributed up to 40 percent of the observed sea-level rise in recent decades to groundwater that had been pumped out, used by humans and ended up in the ocean.

Famiglietti said problems with groundwater are exacerbated by global warming, which has caused the regions closest to the equator to get drier and more extreme latitudes to experience wetter and heavier rains. A self-reinforcing cycle begins. People living in mid-range latitudes not only pump more water from aquifers to contend with drier conditions, but that water — once removed from the ground — also then evaporates and gets recirculated to areas far north and south.

The studies were published Tuesday in the Water Resources Research journal.

Famiglietti said he hoped the findings would spur discussion and further research into how much groundwater is left.

“We need to get our heads together on how we manage groundwater,” he said, “because we’re running out of it.”