Sunday, February 28, 2010

Food Shouldn't Be Engineered by Gene Splicing -- A stronger Critique of GMO's

Boy, Bio-tech gets glossed over by writer who gets book published by Harvard University Press. But thank goodness for Jill Richardson and a legion of organic, sustainability, and Ag in the Middle folk, even Organic Valley, for fighting these giants of the morphed genes, the split DNA, and all else that adds to their profit line. A critique of Monsanto is now deeply ingrained in conservative ag programs throughout the land, not just those so-deemed rabblerousers like Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan.

From Robert Calson's blog on his book, pictured on the left.

"In general, as we shall see, there is no reason to think that any country's lead in developing or using biological technologies will be maintained for long. Nor will the culture and experience of any given country dominate the discussion. Access to biological technologies is already ubiquitous around the globe. Many countries are investing heavily to build domestic capabilities with the specific aim of improving health care, providing fuels and materials, and increasing crop yields.

Research efforts are now accelerating, aided by rapid advances in the technology we use to manipulate biological systems. It is already possible to convert genetic information into electronic form and back again with unprecedented ease. This capability provides for an element of digital design in biological engineering that has not heretofore been available. More important, as measured by changes in commercial cost and productivity, the technology we use to manipulate biological systems is now experiencing the same rapid improvement that has produced today's computers, cars, and airplanes. This is evidence that real change is occurring in the technologies underlying the coming bioeconomy.

The influence of exponentially improving biological technologies is only just now starting to be felt. Today writing a gene from scratch within a few weeks costs a few thousand dollars. In five to ten years that amount should pay for much larger constructs, perhaps a brand-new viral or microbial genome. Gene and genome-synthesis projects of this larger scale have already been demonstrated as academic projects. When such activity becomes commercially viable, a synthetic genome could be used to build an organism that produces fuel, or a new plastic, or a vaccine to combat the outbreak of a new infectious disease.

This book is an attempt to describe a change in technology that has demonstrably profound social and economic implications. Some parts of the story that follows I know very well, either because I was fortunate to witness events or because I was in a position to participate. Other parts of the story come in because I had to learn something new while attempting to paint a picture of the future. Delving into details is necessary in places in order to appreciate the complexity of biological systems, the challenge of engineering those systems, and the implications of that technology for public policy, safety, and security. Whatever else the reader takes from this book, the most important lesson is that the story is incomplete. Biology is technology, and as with any other technology, it is not possible to predict exactly where the project will go. But we can at least start with where that technology has been.


Even this pretty open ended look at bio-tech, ag and the elements of biodiversity gives us a deeper look at the bio-tech field.

Effects of Biotechnology
on Agro-biodiversity

By Bert Visser

Various biotechnologies have been developed which can have both a positive and negative effect on agro-biodiversity. The socio-economic context in which these technologies are developed and utilized will determine which applications, and thus which effects, will dominate.

Since the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed in 1992, the value of biological diversity in general, and agro-biodiversity in particular, has gained recognition world-wide. Agro-biodiversity can be defined as the total of components, structure and functions in agro-ecosystems relevant for agricultural production. Agro-biodiversity is first of all of vital importance for the food security of future generations. This diversity can be exploited to overcome new pests and diseases, to cope with climate changes and a growing world population, to react to changing consumer demands and to make production more sustainable. Furthermore, agro-biodiversity is related to cultural values and traditions. Finally, many believe that diversity has an intrinsic value and that mankind is responsible for the survival of ecosystems and all that constitutes these systems. Technology in general has had an impact for ages on the development of agro-biodiversity. Utensils in agriculture, food processing technology and seed storage systems, for example, have always been developed in close interaction with the diversity present in agriculture. This includes the genetic diversity of landraces and varieties within crop and animal species, the diversity of different crops and animals at the farm and the diversity within the entire agro-ecosystem. Some technologies, like fermentation technology, have influenced the properties that farmers consciously selected for their crops and animals. Others, like seed storage and fodder production, have resulted in conscious as well as unintended selection in landraces and animal breeds. The adaptation of crops and animals to the available technologies has determined their role in the farming system. And finally, the development of the farming systems has greatly influenced the agro-ecosystems in which they function, as is evident from the current discussions on the sustainability of high-external-input systems. Biotechnology, like all preceding technologies, has influenced and will further influence agro-biodiversity. In this article an inventory will be made of the likely or potential effects of modern biotechnology on agro-biodiversity.

Common effects of agriculture and biotechnology on biodiversity Both agriculture and biotechnology make use of biodiversity and thus show us the value of biodiversity. Likewise, both agricultural practices and biotechnology impose a threat to the existing biodiversity on which they depend. Modern agricultural practices, stemming from the rise of a modern breeding industry and from the Green Revolution, have caused massive genetic erosion, the disappearance of many diverse populations of crops maintained by farmers and adapted to local circumstances. The application of modern biotechnology may result in a wider use of genetic diversity, whether present in wild or domesticated species, for the benefit of future food security. However, it may also potentially result in the further narrowing of the genetic base of our food crops, because of the high costs of biotechnology and, consequently the tendency to focus on few varieties or breeds only. It may even result in the introduction of novel organisms which form a risk to the (agricultural) environment. Genetic erosion, now commonly regarded as a negative development, was caused by the rise of the modern breeding industry and marketing decisions of that industry, and did not form a natural necessity. The socio-economic context in which biotechnology is developed and applied includes competition, research structures, seed markets and intellectual property rights. It will also determine which applications and, consequently, which effects of biotechnology on the conservation and utilization of biodiversity will dominate. For a number of biotechnologies the picture of positive and negative potentials, depending on the socio-economic context, begins to appear.

Finally, a quick review of Jill's book DailyKos on :

"Richardson, who first discovered her talent for writing about food issues here at Daily Kos as OrangeClouds115, has turned in a terrific book in Recipe for America, managing to organize into one smooth narrative information as disparate as employing undocumented workers and the lobbying that goes into the Farm Bill. Under her educated eye, the pieces of the enormous puzzle of legislation, policy, science and environmentalism are woven together in a book that can serve as an introduction to those unfamiliar with the sustainable food movement, while expanding the base of knowledge of those who've been reading on the topic for years.

"This is no small feat. Juggling the needs of newcomers to a topic without losing the interest of the already informed is a problem that many writers with many more books under their belt than Richardson have failed to solve."

We really need to develop stronger resolve in understanding how insecure our food and farming communities are, and bio-tech and genetic engineering and all those fossil fuel and toxic inputs are just not doing the world any good anymore.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bears, Travel, Responsibility -- What Are Love Miles and Eco-tour Miles and Our Responsiblity to Apex Species Like Polar Bears?

Gotta love Rick Steves' "Travel with Rick Steves" show, since he helps to bring a multi-cultural approach to our world, and to introduce us to people in those regions who love their communities, their countries, and want to share their lives and their places.

Rick just had Richard Ellis on for half his show today, and it's something I've been hearing on his show from time to time, on a more regular basis -- more than just travel for travel's sake. Woodpecker and polar bear experts. This past show gave his audience a chance to make those connections between our fossil fuel burning, a heated-up atmosphere and ocean, and a shrinking white ice. Ellis did well, and Rick tried to contextualize everything. He did go to the trite -- "Oh, Mister doom and gloom" when Ellis gave the reality of what it means to call the polar bear the canary in the mineshaft, how that apex creature, like orca, are full of our pollutants, and that this bodes not well for humanity, and not just native people's living in Greenland and the polar north.
Steves tried. Ellis just kept the story going, well, and this book looks good, really good, because he gives us the polar bear, ins and outs, history, behavior, but he also connects the huge oil plundering and huge global connection to burning fuel and raising atmospheric CO2 levels way beyond anything we've seen in more than a million years.

The irony is that a caller came on and told us how she takes at least one exotic trip each year, and recently she flew to Churchill and went on a polar bear watching trip. She was a veterinarian to boot. First, I couldn't get in to call after her to help Rick see the connection between "exotic" travel and the death of the polar bear. Fossil fuels run the airline industry, and these love miles or fun miles we get to fly here in the so called West are killing the planet. Forget the fact that she feels that she must see polar bears up close and personal before they vanish. This is the disconnect that Richard Ellis was trying to put forth. It's tough on a travel story radio show to discourage this, but it should have been one of the critiques broached. Some of us have voluntarily stopped the incessant flying to get away, to languish on a coral atoll to sop up sun and scuba. I'm a professional diver master in an earlier iteration. A real dive bum and a real aficionado of marine systems. I've roughed it big time, but still, it's still a history of low cost gasoline and me tooling around Mexico and Central America to find those spots. I've been to Viet Nam and Thailand on a wildlife survey, real biodiversity work. But in the end, I have used up a lot of carbon expulsion miles.

Going to the arctic to witness the decline of the polar bear in some variation of a eco-tour just bespeaks a myopia. We are all connected, and so are those air miles, all that metal mined for planes, all the waste and pollution from the circuitry, plastic. Let alone the runways, the cleaning fluids, and the land and habitat gobbled up by air ports, cities that feed them, and the noise and habitat called view sheds.

Marine wildlife expert Richard Ellis explains how the loss of the ice cap in the Arctic is accelerating, why the wildlife cannot adapt to global warming, and why this should matter to everyone. Rick also takes listener calls for stories of lessons learned when we are immersed in another culture.

Polar bears—fierce and majestic—have captivated us for centuries. Feared by explorers, revered by the Inuit, and beloved by zoo-goers everywhere, polar bears are a symbol for the harsh beauty and muscular grace of the Arctic. Today, as global warming threatens the ice caps’ integrity, the polar bear has also come to symbolize the peril that faces all life on Earth as a result of harmful human practices. Here, the acclaimed science writer Richard Ellis offers an impassioned and moving statement on behalf of polar bears—and all they stand for.

Ellis gives a vivid and carefully observed picture of Earth’s largest land predators—including their hunting, mating, and hibernation habits. Polar bears are exceptionally well suited for hunting—especially when it comes to ringed seals, their favorite prey, which they can smell from over a mile away. But as the ice melts in the Arctic, the ability of polar bears to find the food they need to survive diminishes in spite of their incredible physical capacities. Unable to find food, some bears will vainly take to the water in search of ice on which to hunt—many of them swim until they drown. In the past twenty years alone, the world population of polar bears has shrunk by half. Today they number just 22,000

Olympics, Coal, Tar Sands, and the fight to gain the podium and the microphone and the political landscape

These are some serious issues tied to climate change, politics and big oil, big energy, and a huge lobbying campaign and misinformation network of media, corporations and a public that is not getting the lo down on climate change, global warming, CO2 in the atmosphere and how that connects to positive feedback loops of 20 percent of the earth's "white" melting like a ice cube in hell.

It's refreshing to see the so-deemed jock go public and actually come to grips with the realities of the world away from marketing, TV, hockey, rough and tumble child's games played by men and women. Read the following op-ed by a former Olympian and New York Ranger. Then tie into the campaign to inform, lobby for sanity and stop this dirty fuel source. The USA imports that dirty tar sand from Canada to put into our tanks. And then tie into the bigger campaign working to get politicians and corporations to stop dragging knuckles on the 350 ppm fact that we need to stabilize our atmosphere to the 350 CO2 ppm equivalent.

Scientists tell us that the maximum level of CO2 our atmosphere can safely bear is 350 parts per million. Beyond that, our our earth and its species are at imminent risk of catastrophic changes we'll never be able to stop — meaning billions of people will die.Today, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is already at 390 worldwide — and it's rising at 2 parts per million per year.

Of Canada, The Olympics and Dirty Oil

A nation with a deep environmental
awareness pursues a destructive


February 24, 2010

Some of my proudest moments over the
course of my hockey career came from the
opportunity to represent my country in three
Olympics. The Canadians were fierce rivals
then, and they still are today.

Canada is known for its winters -- and for
terrific hockey players, skiers and
snowboarders. So it's fitting that the Winter
Olympics are being held this year in

The country is also a paradise of rich natural
resources kept that way by deep
environmental awareness and responsible
policies. But while Canada has immersed
itself in the excitement of the Winter Games,
the country is also pursuing an energy policy
that could have a huge impact on winter
sports by accelerating global climate change.

The Canadian province of Alberta is home to
a form of oil that is considered the dirtiest on
earth. It's called the oil sands, and each
barrel creates three times the global-
warming pollution of conventional oil. That's
a staggering amount of carbon.

In fact, oil sands are now the fastest-growing
source of global-warming pollution in
Canada. To make matters worse, producing
this dirty oil requires clear-cutting giant
swaths of ancient forest, sucking up water
from rivers and leaving behind lakes of toxic
waste so large they can be seen from space.
The earth is gouged where the oil-soaked
sand is dug and loaded onto trucks. After
being sent through crushers, the sand is
mixed with hot water and moved through
slurry pipelines to a plant where the bitumen
is extracted.

The oil industry is now considering
spreading this dirty oil into the United States
through a vast, sprawling network of
pipelines and refineries. These pipelines
would crisscross back yards and farmland in
Minnesota, as well as in Montana, Nebraska,
South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin,
Illinois and Texas, jeopardizing our drinking
water and rural communities.

As a hockey goalie who loves winter sports,
it has been hard to watch events canceled in
Vancouver because of warm weather and
know that if we don't act now to fight global
warming, we may see more and more of this
in the Olympic Games of the future. Even
skiers and snowboarders could be forced to
compete indoors, in artificial climates, on
man-made snow.

Harder still is to see the damage to our
health, to the economy, to national security,
to moral standing and to quality of life that
climate disruption brings. These are not just
environmental issues; our energy policies
touch every aspect of our lives and affect
every shade on the political spectrum.

We can't seriously combat global warming
while getting fuel from the world's dirtiest
source. If we allow Canada's oil sands
project to creep across our border, it will
lock our nation into dependence on yet
another foreign source of oil, just as our
local clean-energy industry is beginning to

Right now, we are poised to become a leader
in the global clean-energy economy. By
taking the steps to ensure that we are the
leader of the next industrial revolution, we
can reignite our economy, bolster national
security and improve the health of our

One of the most important things we can do
to demonstrate that leadership is to say no to
Canada's oil sands. For now, the decision
rests with the Obama administration. By
denying permits for pipelines and refineries
in the United States, President Obama can
signal to the world that we are serious about
fighting climate change and helping American
clean-energy technologies thrive.

If he does, we just might be able to save the
winter games we love -- and set a new
course for the nation we cherish.

Michael T. Richter is a founding partner in
Environmental Capital Partners. He is also the
former goalie of the New York Rangers, a
three-time Olympian and a member of the
Sierra Club's National Advancement Council.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ahh, You All Can Decide about Petions -- Save the Beluga!!

The Cook Inlet in Alaska is home to an isolated and distinct population of beluga whale - one of the most endangered populations of marine mammals in the world. Only about 300 individuals remain! Already on the brink of extinction, the beluga is now facing multiple new threats - increased oil and gas drilling, port expansions, and the proposed Chuitna Coal Strip Mine, just 45 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Service has proposed designating more than 3,000 square miles of ocean as critical habitat for the highly endangered Cook Inlet population of the beluga whale.

March 3rd is the deadline for the comment period – let them know that designating critical habitat would be a crucial first step in protecting this iconic species. Please sign our petition today to protect critical habitat these magnificent and endangered whales need to survive. During the 1980s the population numbered approximately 1,300 whales. Even though hunting was curtailed in 1999, the number has continued to drop precipitously, demonstrating that many other factors, such as dramatic increases in offshore oil and gas development, are continuing to harm the whale. The proposed Chuitna Coal Strip Mine would:

Increase dangerous ship traffic through the beluga's critical habitat. According to the current proposals, coal from the proposed mine will be shipped overseas.
Decimate a salmon stream that is part of the Cook Inlet and supplies a portion of the beluga's primary food source.

Dump millions of gallons of toxic mining waste into the Cook Inlet watershed each day.

Yeah, Climate Change isn't a Weatherman's (woman's) Gambit!!!

As an educator, writer, and developer of active community dialogue and community development when it comes to sustainability, and as a radio show host and the co-coordinator of Earth Day 2010 for Spokane, I have to field plenty of retrograde thinking when it comes to snow in DC or rain in BC. Now snow at the Olympics? El Nino is the answer? Oh, so ocean temperatures that are increased because of an "El Nino event" can effect rain fall in Spokane and the lack of snow in BS and the flooding in Phoenix? Boy, we need some reality checks with our famous and infamous weather guys and gals. Read on below:

Weathermen not educated in climate change.

The right wing has been trumpeting the global warming denial of TV weatherman John Coleman, claiming that such a “high profile member of the weather reporting community” should be viewed as a legitimate skeptic of climate change. Climate Progress’s Joe Romm reports that meteorologists generally have thin knowledge of long-term climate patterns:

Meteorologists are not required to take a course in climate change, this is not part of the NOAA/NWS [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service] certification requirements, so university programs don’t require the course (even if they offer it). So we have been educating generations of meteorologists who know nothing at all about climate change.

Romm writes, “Asking a meteorologist to opine on the climate — or even the cause of recent extreme weather — is like asking your family doctor what the chances are for an avian flu pandemic in the next few years or asking a mid-West sheriff the prospects for nuclear terrorism.” Check out ThinkProgress’s response to right-wing distortions here.

Top UN climate official resigning

After watching governments fail to agree on new global warming deal for four years, de Boer announces resignation

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press

Top U.N. climate change official Yvo de Boer told The Associated Press on Thursday that he was resigning after nearly four years, a period when governments struggled without success to agree on a new global warming deal.

His departure takes effect July 1, five months before 193 nations are due to reconvene in Mexico for another attempt to reach a binding worldwide accord on controlling greenhouse gases. De Boer's resignation adds to the uncertainty that a full treaty can be finalized there.

De Boer is known to be deeply disappointed with the outcome of the last summit in Copenhagen, which drew 120 world leaders but failed to reach more than a vague promise by several countries to limit carbon emissions -- and even that deal fell short of consensus.

But he denied to the AP that his decision to quit was a result of frustration with Copenhagen.

"Copenhagen wasn't what I had hoped it would be," he acknowledged, but the summit nonetheless prompted governments to submit plans and targets for reigning in the emissions primarily blamed for global warming. "I think that's a pretty solid foundation for the global response that many are looking for," he said.

The global-average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly soared to +0.72 deg. C in January, 2010. This is the warmest January in the 32-year satellite-based data record

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Earth Day, 2010 -- 40 Years of Celebrating a Passion for Working with Earth Systems

Spokane is pushing the Earth Day, 2010, celebration to the hilt, and we hope PacifiCAD can support this year's effort -- Taking it to the Streets, Spokane!

Seek it out: April 17, Sat., all morning, afternoon and into the night. It's about urban space, public places, and understanding the relationship between us, humans, cities, our places, and our carbon imprint and footprint.

Check out the new blog --

April is Earth Month

SpeakOut brings you speakers who explore the issues, make the links and inspire action. Speakers like . . .

Dr. Antwi Akom is a leading expert on the green economy, climate change, and educational equity. His research focuses on the links between race, environmental health, and educational equity in cities and schools; the role of the green economy in facilitating pathways out of poverty for vulnerable populations; and the role of local knowledge in the production of environmental health and educational equity. He is co-editor of the forthcoming book Revolutionary Urbanism: Race, Climate Justice, and the Politics of Pollution in Cities and Schools.

Dr. Kevin Danaher is a co-founder of Global Exchange, founder and Executive Co-Producer of the Green Festivals, and Executive Director of the Global Citizen Center. He speaks on issues ranging from the dynamics of the global economy to how we can replace the power of transnational corporations with local green economy networks. His latest book is Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots.

Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) is an internationally renowned environmental activist working on issues of sustainable development, climate change, renewable energy and food systems. As Program Director of Honor the Earth and Founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, she works nationally and internationally on these issues with Indigenous communities and in alliance with other communities. She is the author of five books, including Recovering the Sacred and All our Relations.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympics in Canada -- Oh, Climate Change, Oh, Ecological Rights, Oh, Indigenious Rights, Oh, the Poor

Plenty of information on planning web sites and other sites and in articles, both popular and in professional publications, discussing how expensive the Olympics are for any city, whether they be summer or winter. Greece got fleeced. Atlanta lost. Now Vancouver. These are huge public dollar injected events to promote media and corporations alike. In a time of collapsing economies (yes, Greece, now), we might rethink these Olympic Games and the spirit of competition. Up to $5.6 billion will have been spent for these snow less Winter Games, 2010. Here's a great bit below on civil society coming together to protest the said Games. In Vancouver, the city officials and many others feel it is necessary that protesters of many ilks get their say. They pledge not to keep civil protest shuttered away from players, visitors, media and the like. So, below, read the PR message and go to the various web sites for more edification.

"A coalition of environmental activists led by is calling on climate change activists to join the convergence at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

When the 2010 Winter Olympics start a couple of weeks from now in Vancouver, BC the athletes and spectators will be joined by organizations with some of the worst records on climate change.

General Motors is a national partner for the games, and one of the leading corporate opponents of effective action on climate change. Only two years ago, a vice-chairman of GM called global warming a "total crock of shit." GM is supplying a large fleet of vehicles for the games, almost all of which are gas-guzzling SUVs.

Petro-Canada, another National Olympic Partner, is the retail arm of the largest extractor of Oil Sands bitumen. The Oil Sands are Canada's biggest ghg emissions point source.

RBC (the Royal Bank of Canada) in addition to being a prominent Olympic sponsor is the largest commercial bank funder of the Oil Sands,. TransCanada pipelines, whose pipelines connect to the Oil Sands, is also an official supplier.

The government of British Columbia is the main funder and promoter of the games. They kicked off a massive plan to add over 1,000 km of new highway lanes (an increase of over 2,000,000 annual tonnes of CO2e emissions ) with the Sea-to-Sky Highway expansion for the Olympics. These plans include the controversial Gateway Program. It continues to heavily subsidize the oil and gas industry which resulted in it being the only Canadian province to see ghg emissions from industrial sources increase in 2008.

The Federal government of Canada which consistently earned "Fossil Awards" at the most recent international climate talks also is a major funder for the Olympics.

These corporations and governments want to fool the world with their claim that these are the "Greenest Games Ever" despite the links to climate change deniers, highway expansion and the Oil Sands."

Convergence Info:

Green Olympic Watch:

Climate Crime Scene:

Or, the homeless in Canada:

Activists in Vancouver are threatening to hand out red tents to street people in the hope of attracting international attention to the problem of homelessness in the city during the Olympics and forcing the federal government to come up with a housing strategy

Read more:

Colleges and Incubating (and taxing) Towns

These so-called transformational cities like Pittsburgh, well, so much is riding on the social capital, the educational frames, and the engines of innovation and development that colleges and universities can provide. Read the post below I wrote as my job as Spokane commentator in the weekly, Pacific Northwest Weekly Inlander.
Another CHRONICLE of Higher Education article on this aspect, and others, tied to U-Districts, etc.
Current college students, like generations before them, probably got their first civics lesson courtesy of Fred Rogers, the cardigan-wearing children's television host who broadcast his iconic show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, from WQED, a public-television station in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. "Won't you please, won't you please," he sang in the opening of every episode, "please won't you be my neighbor?"

Today, Mr. Rogers's neighborhood is bustling. filled with cafes, beer bars, and even a hot-dogeria, Essie's Original Hot Dog Shop. Backpack-toting students and scrubs-clad physicians from the nearby University of Pittsburgh Medical Center throng bus stops along Fifth and Forbes Avenues, Oakland's main arteries, while culture hounds flock to the stately Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. The neighborhood—which is home to Carlow and Carnegie Mellon Universities and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as its affiliated medical center—ranks behind only downtown Pittsburgh and Center City Philadelphia as among Pennsylvania's largest commercial cores.
Spokane's U-District push:

Solar, Colleges, New Jersey?

I've always decried the lack of solar power awareness, pilot project, full-throttle examples and broad utilization in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and so on. Really. As a reporter and professor in those environs, I was beginning in the 1980s to see how delusional it was to not to have as much solar PV, solar concentrated collectors turning turbines and innovative passive (for the summer) and deep solar storage projects (winter) up and running.
Schools, too. The LEED gold at Spokane Falls Community College, Building 24, is a bit of a joke. LEED Gold can be achieved by having bike lock racks and showers for bicyclists. Not one solar panel, and the building is positioned the WRONG way.
Some get it right. A 3.5-megawatt solar array, one of the largest solar-power projects among college campuses in the country, will be set not in the 362 sun days a year places like Arizona, California, or Nevada. We're talking Jersey.

William Paterson University of New Jersey. Solar panels being built will provide 20 percent of the school's power needs as well as shade parking lots on the campus from summertime rays.
Read the full piece in the CHRONICLE of Higher Education:

"New Jersey is a hotbed of solar power. Last year it surpassed 4,000 residential and commercial solar installations, making it second only to California in sheer numbers and first in the country in solar power per square mile. That activity is driven largely by state tax incentives and regulations that benefit companies and institutions that want to go solar, colleges and universities among them."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

America's U-Districts and Downtowns

Color Spokane's U-District Green

The U-District could become a model of sustainable growth in the city. Just ask the Dutchman who runs Portland State

Paul K. Haeder

The U-District could become the engine of revitalization and vibrancy in Spokane’s urban core. That was the message of the new president of Portland State University, Wim Weiwel — an expert on the role of universities in sustainable urban development — when he blew into town recently to impart his ideas to local politicians and business leaders.

Now, the connection between university life and incubating huge change for Spokane’s downtown district is a big leap for some. You know, GU, EWU, WSU, CCS, and SIRTI are “way down there,” next to the railroad tracks and east of Division.

But Weiwel — who hails from Amsterdam and cut his teeth in Boston and New York before heading up the “green machine” in Portland — has spent the last 18 months positioning PSU to be the world’s sustainability Mecca, akin to MIT’s role as world’s engineering center.

EWU’s urban planning school and the Downtown Spokane Partnership got him here to look over our downtown plan and consider the U-District’s future. He gabbed with politicians and others surveying the lay of the land. But what kind of psychological impact did he have on the players involved in downtown development?

PSU’s physical footprint, economic imprint and sheer growth rate since its inception in 1946 are impressive, with explosive building expansion, redevelopment galore and a projected student body rising from 28,000 to maybe 52,000 in next 25 years.

Weiwel sees PSU’s apartments, green boulevards, private-public partnerships and integrated urbanization — “a university not in but of the city” — as ideal. For instance, a Living Building, the world’s largest, is being built to serve as the Oregon Sustainability Center, with PSU acting as real estate developer, expert advisor, business accelerator and community partner.

PSU students have to do a capstone project tied to public projects at the neighborhood level. It’s a big influence on Portland, with 1.4 million hours of PSU student time put into development in 2007.

Weiwel’s talk with Mayor Verner was a half hour — not a roll-up-the-sleeves encounter. Weiwel made a presentation to the DSP and others in the business community — but really, what can come of outsiders, albeit innovators, breezing into town to talk to an entrenched community?

Spokane needs connectivity — pedi-cabs and rickshaws, people-powered traffic lanes, dedicated alternative transportation. Buses should run every 10 minutes from downtown to the U-District.

In tandem, get the Jenson Byrd building retrofitted and set up as a university incubator with private partnerships, dorms, knowledge- and tech-based business, and private housing.
The U-District needs genuine density: an urban village on those 55 acres with mixed-income housing that’s sustainable and low-impact. Neighborhood gardens, some on roofs. Private foundations researching climate change, agriculture, urban and rural sociology.

We could move some key government agencies — maybe even a K-12 campus — into what would be a mixed business-educational-research park. We could apply for “green” federal stimulus bucks to create an urban multi-campus townscape with restaurants, technology shops and general retail.

A whole lot of talking goes on in Spokane, for years, and then the strategic plans collect dust in dark corners.

All this is not to say that the concept of a centralized Sustainability Center at PSU doesn’t also have top-heavy problems: Low-income neighborhoods were removed, and gentrification ensued.
But we shouldn’t kid ourselves: We’re not doing anything sustainable when we dump more pollution into the atmosphere, delay de-carbonizing our society, plunder resources and stall conservation.

Every major state university should have sustainability centers based on each area’s biological, hydrologic, cultural, economic and population needs. Sustainability is evolving daily: We’re seeing that manufacturing solar panels and computer screens generates a by-product gas (NF3) 17,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

In an era when Republicans guffaw whenever global warming is mentioned — and when President Obama fails to remind Republicans that some of their favored legislation funds research into the very real dangers of the same global warming that they deride — maybe it’s time for universities to become our social justice and peace centers. Maybe universities will lead the way on sustainability — and maybe lawmakers will start listening.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Earth Beat Radio -- Spokane Interviews Radio Leader in Climate Crisis Radio Show

Earth Beat Radio's Mike Tidwell did well on Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge, Spokane's weekly community radio sustainability radio spot, with a twice-a-week broadcast/rebroadcast of a provocative, hard-hitting one hour show on sustainability -- Wed. PST 3-4 and Friday, 6 a.m.

We talked Copenhagen, Scott Brown and what that election means to environmental and climate crisis thinking, Haiti and earthquakes and the redistribution of ice into the sea as water now a possible cause of tectonic plate shifts, clean coal, Maria Cantwell's CLEAR Act, the alternative climate change bill, and what challenges the climate crisis fields have with more and more delusional thinking. Ge also talked about Geo Engineering, Techno-fixing, the next technological solution. See tomorrow's blog on that. He was hopeful, though, that there is really change about to happen, or at least some push back now from the experts who won't back down on these silly theories about global warming as a hoax. It's no longer censoirng James Hansen, no longer climate change denial in the White Hourse, but there is just as much work to do now than ever.
For Washington's Senator's legislation, with Sue Collins of Vermont, check out the bill's language:

We tussled a bit on NF3, the gas used to clean semi-conductors and solar panel PV film material. 17,000 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2.

Mike Tidwell is founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. He is also an author and filmmaker who predicted in vivid detail the Katrina hurricane disaster in his 2003 book Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast. His newest book, focusing on Katrina and global warming, is titled The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of America’s Coastal Cities. Tidwell’s most recent documentary film, We Are All Smith Islanders, vividly depicts the dangers of global warming Maryland, Virginia, and D.C.

Check out these stories:

And check this out at the following address:

Dr Margaret Lillian is an independent science journalist specializing in global trends. More information on the effects of global warming plus a Free Report ’5 Crucial Secrets About Global Warming’ and newsletter is available at her website at

As reported only this year, Harvard seismologist Göran Ekström has found a striking increase in the frequency of glacial quakes, particularly in Greenland, but also in Alaska and Antarctica.

Greenland quakes have risen from 6 to 15 a year between 1993 and 2002, to 30 in 2003, 23 in 2004 and 32 in the first 10 months of 2005, closely matching the rise in Greenland’s temperatures over the same period. Their source was traced to surges and slips within ice sheets, where rapid melting is causing water to collect under glaciers, making them glide faster into the sea, triggering quakes.Similarly, retreating glaciers in southern Alaska are likely to open the way for future earthquake activity.

Accelerated melting of glacial ice decreases the load on the Earth’s crust, thereby decreasing the pressure holding volcanic conduits closed. Already, we are seeing evidence of new volcanic activity in Antarctica. A new, previously unknown volcano has appeared on the sea bottom in waters off the Antarctic Peninsula, in an area with no previous record of volcanic activity.

Investigations into a large area of surface slumping on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet revealed a huge accumulation of water underneath that has now been shown to be due to an active volcano erupting under the sheet.Glacial melting has a less direct but just as unsettling additional impact on global seismic activity. The reliquified water released raises sea levels and increases the weight on the ocean floor, unbalancing tectonic forces deep below the surface. Underwater quakes and therefore tsunamis could thus become more frequent. Though they get little attention, glacial melting of the Antarctic ice is already causing earthquakes and underwater landslides.
And back to a previous PacifiCAD blog post:

NF3 is not the NFL's secret weapon:

"A climate threat from TVs, chips"

July 08, 2008 by Margot Roosevelt, LA Times Staff Writer

A synthetic chemical widely used in the manufacture of computers and flat-screen televisions is a potent greenhouse gas, with 17,000 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide, but its measure in the atmosphere has never been taken, nor is it regulated by international treaty.
The chemical, nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), could be considered the "missing greenhouse gas," atmospheric chemists Michael J. Prather and Juno Hsu of UC Irvine wrote in a paper released June 26 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. "With the surge in flat-panel displays, the market for NF3 has exploded.

Finally, less than 3,300 tigers in the world, in the wild, left, and 1/4 are in India, in the low lands, marshes, and one foot of sea level rise will wipe them out because their retreat zone is a matrix of dense villages and cities.

Cat Tales in Spokane is about to have a tiger give birth to two, in April. We will keep you updated on that.

According to WWF -- "Experts estimate there are as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild, due to poaching, the loss of their habitat and depletion of the tiger’s natural prey. Hunters, traders and poor local residents use the forest for subsistence, directly competing with the tiger. Some of the largest remaining areas where tigers occur are the mangrove forests of India. The projected rise in sea levels could cause these living spaces of the tiger to vanish altogether."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Earth Beat Radio's host on Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge --- Spokane's KYRS Community Radio

But you all can live stream the show, Wed. Feb. 3, 3-4 and then Feb. 5 rebroadcast 6 a.m.
Earth Beat Radio is on KYRS and dozens of other stations nationwide -- KYRS.ORG. Thursdays, 6 a.m.
Here's the blurb from the web
Since 2003, Earthbeat's co-hosts Daphne Wysham and Mike Tidwell bring you an hour of ground-breaking environmental news and interviews live from the nation's capital. Earthbeat Radio features leading environmental activists and thinkers -- the politics and the people behind the efforts to defend the planet.Focusing on a different theme each week, the hour is devoted to an in-depth conversation with a distinctly pro-environment view. Climate change now dominates the daily news and Earthbeat brings our hosts' decades of experience directly to our audience. News makers in environmental justice, climate science, international trade, and other crucial topics join our hosts each week for fascinating, insightful, and informative talk radio.
We have some real serious issues in climate change. This blog has broached many, and many can't be dealt with superficially. However, the Obama State of the Union address has some telling after effects. I was on my way to talk to and listen to Wim Weiwel, Portland State University's president and sustainability proponent. I listened to the speech on radio, in my vehicle. Obama barely mentioned climate change, and I heard that chortling from the big what, unholy crowd of mostly deniers, delayers and downright ill-informed law makers?
I won't armchair quarterback here, and say what I would have said as President after hearing dozens of uneducated folk on one side of the aisle sound like idiots.
The bottom line is that those same lawmakers thrown money at DoD and NSA, our military industrial complex. With those billions thrown into defense and homeland security, some hundreds of millions of dollars annually are allocated toward security and climate change, ice shelf recession and global insecurity, strategic policy on environmental refugees CAUSED by climate change; the military's response to global warming. These are admirals and generals and their wonks studying the arctic ice melting. These folk are looking at Africa and other nations where climate change has already hit in the form of lack of rain, melted glaciers, vector-borne diseases increasing, water, water, water, food, food, food. Rising sea levels, crop failure, resource mal-distribution, mud, hurricanes, salty fresh water supplies. The list is too big for a blog, but the lawmakers last Wed. hooted and booed while the term "climate change" was spoken by this middle of the road president. Absolutely appalling, my students think. And Why?
Here's a big report, again, paid for by our taxes. Conservative, slow to respond security agencies and military experts, and they somehow are misinformed?
Or the Pew Center on Climate Change -- now there's a wacky group (NOT):
Or go to the Brookings Institute --
Campbell, K.M. (ed.) Climatic Cataclysm: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, 2008.
The point is that my college students, the community I work in -- Spokane -- and the state I reside in -- Washington -- are ramping up the position that our political leaders are caricatures of something too bizarre to go into here. The American Psychological Association is now weighing in on what is it about our human brains (some of ours) that don't grasp climate change and the realities of time that is not that far off, nor are the predicted changes that abstract.
We need real people in Washington, and we need state universities and some private ones to start playing a bigger role in government, and not just on sustainability and climate change.

This blog is brought to you by

This blog is brought to you by
Paul Haeder

Fuse Washington

Fuse Washington