PRESENT AT THE CREATION

By Ron Bonn, SanDiego350

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 4/20/2017

You could say I was present at the creation.

Looking back in our lives, we rarely know exactly when something started. But regular television news coverage of man-made climate change, with all it implies, started on New Year’s Day, 1970.

Ron Bonn

Ron Bonn, courtesy of the author

The staff of “The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite”: producers, writers, technicians; a couple dozen of us in all, were sitting around the newsroom waiting for something to happen—because nothing happens on New Year’s Day—when the man himself stormed in. “Goddamn it,” he said to us, “we’ve got to do something about this environment story.”

You might guess that when Walter Cronkite said, “Goddamn it,” things happened at CBS News. And what happened is that I, the science producer for “The Evening News,” was detached for eight weeks to “do something” about this environment story. Never before, to my knowledge, had a network spot news program paid that much attention to a non-breaking story. [Read more…]

Why I Am An Activist, #4

By Amy Knight, SanDiego350

It started when I began volunteering my Saturdays. It progressed when I got excited about giving up entire Saturdays. The feeling seemed all too familiar, but new. A laser-like focus, inexhaustible, melting hours away as if they were minutes. A flush of excitement came to my face whenever ice core records were mentioned.

Okay, maybe ice cores aren’t your thing. But, odds are that everyone has experienced these feelings in some way, about something. Perhaps it’s when floating on a surfboard, about to catch the next wave, or when about to take down a chess rival. It could even happen to some while tackling the intricacies of a tax return. If you’re getting a big return, that is…

I get that feeling when I’m teaching the science of climate change.

Amy teaching children about the ocean

Teaching children about the ocean. Photo courtesy of the author.

I didn’t magically wake up one morning and realize this was my passion. I realized it at 3:06 PM on a Saturday while listening to a University of Miami climate scientist explain the biogeochemical processes of ocean acidification. This was supposed to be my day off. Why was I here? Why was it transporting me so?

A year ago, I was teaching high school Psychology in Miami, Florida. My students were from predominantly low socioeconomic, minority communities sitting literally at ground zero for bearing the economic and social impacts of climate change. I’d spent the previous two years involved with Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities (CLEO) outside of school hours, learning the science behind climate change and helping teachers incorporate climate change into their curriculum. The hours were long, the scientific concepts demanding, and the political climate in Florida somewhat short of supportive. [Read more…]

Climate Change and Faith: A Moral Imperative

By James Long, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the East County Magazine)

On Monday, March 13, 2017, at the First United Methodist Church in Mission Valley, a panel composed of a climate scientist and representatives of the Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic faiths discussed climate change, each from their perspectives.

Dr. Ramanathan

Dr. Ramanthan makes his presentation. Photo by Greg Withee

The evening began with Dr. V. Ramanathan’s summary presentation of his climate science findings over the past 47 years. Dr. Ramanathan is a professor of atmospheric and climate sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He also serves as a council member in Pope Francis’ Pontifical Academy of Sciences. In his presentation, he made the following points:

  • We are giving a damaged planet to our children, who will witness a rapidly and adversely changing, unpredictable world in their lifetimes
  • $500 billion in subsidies are given to the worldwide fossil fuel industry each year; this amount would solve 60% of the climate problem
  • There is still time to avoid the effects that a global temperature increase of 6°C would impose (at which point one third of the planet would be uninhabitable), but the window of opportunity is only open for 4 or 5 more years
  • The wealthiest one billion people in the world contribute 50% of global CO2 emissions, while the poorest 3 billion people contribute only 5%
  • The University of California has put forth 10 solutions to combating climate change, gathered in a report called Bending the Curve
  • In addition, The Lancet has published a report on the adverse health effects that climate change will impose

[Read more…]

Aliso Canyon’s Fate – and Ours – Hangs in the Balance

by Amy Knight, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the San Diego Free Press)

Considered one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history, the record-setting release of methane from SoCal Gas’s Aliso Canyon in October 2015 had both long-term climate altering consequences for the world and immediate health consequences for the people of the greater Los Angeles area. The leak went on for 112 days, emitted 65 billion cubic feet of this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, and prompted the evacuation of more than 6,800 households.

Aliso Canyon Leak

Infrared picture of Aliso Canyon gas leak. Photo courtesy of EDF.

Today, the California public can make their voice heard, can be part of choosing the path we will go down from here. SanDiego350 calls on you to phone Senator Ben Hueso (619-409-7690) and ask him to bring SB 57 up for vote in the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communication Committee – and to vote yes on it. The bill prohibits SoCal Gas from injecting any more natural gas into Aliso Canyon until a root cause analysis of the leak is determined. It also calls on the CPUC to finalize by 12/31/2017 its study that will investigate the feasibility of closing the Aliso Canyon facility. [Read more…]

One Million Letters & Underappreciated Ocean Effects Presentations

by Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the East County Magazine on 3/5/2017)

On the evening of March 1, the organization Stay Cool 4 Grandkids hosted speakers who presented on Kids 4 Planet Earthtwo climate change topics. Representatives from Kids 4 Planet Earth spoke about their goal to have school children send one million letters to President Trump by Earth Day, telling him how important it is to them that he address climate change. Please help their request to go viral by sharing this goal on Facebook and other social media outlets.

The next speaker on the agenda was Dr. Lisa Levin, professor and researcher at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Dr. Levin spoke about the effects of climate change on the oceans, saying her concern is that this issue doesn’t get as much press as climate change’s atmospheric effects. It’s accurate, she says, to call the Earth “Planet Ocean,” as most of world’s habitable volume is in the oceans. [Read more…]

SECURITY & CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE REVEALS DISTURBING ATTITUDE SHIFT

By Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the East County Magazine on 3/5/2017)

On February 21, 2017, an audience of approximately 75 attended the Security & Climate Change: Issues and Perspectives conference, held in the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park. Organized and funded by The Center for Climate and Security (with the support of The San Diego Foundation and Skoll Global Threats Fund). The program focused on the threat climate change imposes on world stability, the burden it puts on the US military, and what they, as well as our local and state governments, are doing to plan for the consequences. The conference was followed by a screening of a new documentary entitled “The Age of Consequences.”

Veteran's Museum

Veterans Museum in Balboa Park. Photo courtesy of the author.

The Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, started the conference by noting that the city has been diligently working toward sustainability. Evidence of that effort, to name only two, include the city’s enforceable Climate Action Plan (CAP) as well as the largest water recycling effort in the western hemisphere. These projects could not be done without the close cooperation of the military based here (1 in 6 of the Navy’s personnel reside in San Diego, 1 in 4 of the Marines). San Diego, he said, sets the bar, leads the way toward positive, innovative change. [Read more…]

San Diego 350 Calls on Senators Feinstein and Harris to Reject Trump’s Climate Denier Cabinet

By David Harris, SanDiego350

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 1/26/17

Two weeks ago, a sign-wielding crowd of 150 people gathered together in front of the downtown Federal Building to deliver an urgent message to California’s two Senators: reject four nominations made by President Trump to key cabinet-level level posts. Why? Because all four of these men deny the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

SD350 Cabinet Nominee Protest

Protesters rally against Trump’s Cabinet Nominees. Photo by Chris West.

At the peaceful but spirited rally, speakers Diane Takvorian of the Environmental Health Coalition and newly elected Councilmember Georgette Gomez called upon Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris to reject Trump’s nominees. “I know how much California has done and plans to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” stated Takvorian, “and I know Senators Feinstein and Harris support this progress. That’s why it’s now so critical for them to take a vocal, principled stand and oppose these climate denying nominees who value corporate profits over our communities.”

[Read more…]

The Truth of the Matter

Originally Published in the San Diego Free Press on 11/24/16

by Mark Hughes

One of humorist Will Rogers’ signature lines was: “Well, all I know is what I read in the papers.” In subtext, he’s saying he trusted what he read, so it seems reasonable to believe that in those days newspapers lived and died by getting the story right. What a simpler time; if Will was reading papers and the Internet and watching TV today, depending on the sources he chose, some to much of what he learned would be either misleading or just plain false. The information portal guardians have been overrun by hordes bearing rocket-propelled innuendo, guided missile conspiracy theories, and bandoleers bristling with self-serving lies. But that was only the first wall to fall. In this country, those hordes are no longer raging outside governmental gates; soon they will be the government itself.

Welcome to the newest incarnation of the world. The rules, as they always do, have once again changed, and the eternal response is demanded: what do we do about it? How do we live now?

Let’s start with a review of the situation. Truth, in both the social setting and as science’s burnished product, took a hard beating in this election cycle. But perhaps that was an almost foregone conclusion, obvious once recent history is examined from a certain angle.

[Read more…]

From Coal to Climate: the Evolution of an Activist

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, September 22nd, 2016

So, here is a question: what’s about as likely as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly jointly admitting that pretty much everything they’ve ever said was wrong?

climate activist

Before I knew what coal looked like. And smelled. And tasted.

Answer: that a guy with my background would end up as an active member of 350.org.

I grew up in Kansas, famous for Dorothy, sunflowers, and voting against your best interest (as in What’s the Matter With…). I remember my father vehemently wishing he could vote against Ted Kennedy. My mother railing against the Equal Rights Amendment, saying she liked having men open doors for her. Umm, I guess that such chivalry was banned in the bill’s text somewhere. Both of them mourning angrily that the country was ruined, now that Carter had been elected.

Not to spare myself, I also remember a Charles Kuralt interview in which he wondered what conservatism ever brought us. I turned to Dad and said—without a trace of irony—the money for everyone else to live on. I was maybe eighteen at the time, swimming with the rest of the fish in the Republican Kansas water. Unnecessary to point out?

An engineering degree landed me a job going around the country starting up coal-fired utility scale power plants. Doing that, I liked to reflect on the fact that I worked with some of the biggest “engines” in the world. I thought seriously about building my own small power plant, natural gas fired, and selling power to the grid. What fun it would be, I thought, but then found that the economics of small scale were a bit less than profitable. Regardless, it seemed to me that those of us in the industry were like priests of old, tending the sacred fires around which their civilizations turned.

[Read more…]

Notes from a Climate Conference Junkie, Part 1

by James Long

Folk singer Pete Seeger, age 94, at his home on the Hudson River, where he was interviewed for Pando Populus.

Folk singer Pete Seeger, age 94, at his home on the Hudson River, where he was interviewed for Pando Populus.

I started my journey singing with Pete Seeger and ended it three weeks later with the fiery intellectual Cornel West! I just got back from Pando Populus in Claremont, California, and the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Portland, Oregon. After 25 to 30 lectures — together with great music, stimulating presenters and a lot of new friends — I’m ready to get down to the business of local organizing for climate action.  But first, I’d like to share my notes about these inspiring conferences. I’ll tell you about Pando Populus this time, and the UU Assembly in a second posting.

What is Pando Populus?

"Seizing an alternative" logo from the Pando Populuus conference.

“Seizing an alternative” logo from the Pando Populuus conference.

The name Pando Populus refers to a Utah aspen grove that may be the oldest and largest living organism on Earth.  “Above ground Pando appears to be a grove of many individual trees.  Underground they are interconnected through a single root system — sprouts of the same tree.”  Pando Populus, the environmental organization, has adopted this name as symbolizing the interconnectedness of all living things. [Read more…]