By Emilio Macy
The first episode of Years of Living Dangerously sets the series up as one that confronts climate conflicts by way of celebrity. Will new audiences receive these efforts as genuine? Or will the dramatization fizzle out like so many other efforts?
Maybe this series triggered some Day After Tomorrow PTSD, but many of the performances struck our viewing party as over-dramatized. Harrison Ford narrates with his Raiders of the Lost Ark monotone. While the “cheesmo” struck a cynical cord, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t entertained watching Harrison Ford riding in a longtail boat and helicoptering over Indonesia. And hopefully, it will hook the majority of Americans — fast — because we really need to take action to solve the climate crisis, we need to start the mentality of today being our last.
Content-wise, one thing that this episode really hit home was that right now, thousands of acres of old, peat-rich rainforest is being burned down in Borneo, you can read more about the deforestation crisis there here. Watching the constant smoke rise from this otherwise-perfect ecosystem just for palm oil was heart-breaking. Palm oil is a hot commodity right now and Indonesia, its major supplier, has had to up its production, following orders from its own forest ministry to burn down forests for palm tree plantations. Warning: We’re a big part of the problem. Just check the ingredients of almost any snack food and you’ll likely see palm oil as an additive.
Photo from Mongabay.com – http://borneoproject.org/updates/indonesian-villagers-occupy-government-office-over-palm-oil-land-grab
In addition to Ford exploring the Indonesian rainforest problem, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman interviews NASA and reports on food shortages in Syria and Don Cheadle explores climate denial in the Texas heartland. Our group learned a lot from a climate scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In her seminars, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe merges the two polar ideologies of church and climate science to illustrate that they need not be separate. When you think about it, you cannot have science without also appreciating the creation or creator of it. This is nothing new, I remember hearing a piece on NPR about it when I was in high school. Still, it is a thought-provoking message and needs to be understood by many more people if we’re going to pass much-needed policy solutions to fight climate change.
The whole point of the watch party was so we could discuss the episode afterwards. One person found it depressing, but liked the “connect-the-dots” style of the series, which linked droughts to food shortage to economic and health problems, and appreciated the in-depth perspective on each. I share the concern of another viewer who thought the “dark messaging” in the series will turn people off. Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth created a similar problem and, since it came out, we’ve proven year after year that scare tactics don’t have lasting impact. And, like me, another viewer wondered if celebrities really are good messengers for reaching the general public.
Our group was interested enough to agree to try out the second episode. We’ll get together on Earth Day — Sunday, April 27 at 7:00pm. I, for one, cannot wait to see what Harrison Ford has to say to the Minister of Forestry! We hope to see you there.
If you are worried about climate change and would like to take meaningful action, please come to the first ever meeting of the new Ann Arbor chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby! We will listen to a guest speaker via teleconference and then discuss actions we can take.
Citizens Climate Lobby is a national nonpartisan organization working to build support for carbon fee and dividend legislation in order to create the incentive to transition away from fossil fuels.
When: Saturday April 5, 12:45-2:15pm
Where: Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, 1420 Hill Street
RSVP to email@example.com if you are planning to attend or if you have questions
On Monday, March 17th, the Ann Arbor City Council will consider two important resolutions:
- Resolution for Commercial Energy Disclosure (read more and see supporting attachments)
- Resolution Recommending Staff Resourcing for Community Energy Efficiency (see text and supporting attachments here)
Already convinced that these are important? Yay! Click here to find out what you can do to make them a success.
The Commercial Energy Disclosure resolution would mean that commercial buildings annually report energy consumption in a format consistent with the free online energy benchmarking system, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager©, provided by the U.S. EPA.
Why would we do this? Much like “miles per gallon (MPG)” for cars or “Nutritional Facts” labeling for food products, energy disclosure ordinances allow for the comparison of commercial buildings by their energy performance — often one of a building’s biggest expenses. Not only does energy disclosure drive awareness among users of the building in question, but it also drives awareness — and implementation! — of energy efficiency improvements. Knowledge of energy consumption has been shown to encourage building-owners to pursue energy audits, which lead to efficiency upgrades (read: cost savings!) and stimulating local job activity (local auditors, local contractors to do the repairs, etc.).
The next sentence is what my high school English teacher would call a “box and highlight” sentence so get ready …
Estimates for the potential energy cost savings of a benchmarking ordinance in Ann Arbor, prepared by the non-profit organization the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), are between over $2 million to nearly $2.5 million, annually, or $12.5 million cumulatively by 2030.
What exactly is the resolution asking for? City Council to convene a stakeholder group (as a subcommittee of the Energy Commission) to develop and present a draft ordinance by the start of 2015. Ordinances in place elsewhere typically employed a phased approach, often with municipal buildings as well as the largest private buildings (by square footage) complying in the initial year(s), and medium-sized and/or smaller buildings participating in later years, with an option to either include or exclude multi-family buildings. Initial examination of the commercial building inventory in Ann Arbor suggest that 60% (~300 buildings) of buildings in this sector are 50,000 square feet or more, and over 80% (~500 buildings) of commercial buildings are 15,000 square feet or more in size.
Wait a minute — has this worked anywhere else? Yes, the resolution cites several cities across the U.S. that have adopted benchmarking ordinances similar to what would be considered for Ann Arbor. Those cities were motivated to pass these ordinances because of their Climate Action Plan greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals. Ann Arbor has these too!
But what about that other ordinance recommending staffing?
To do Energy Disclosures right — and to implement the 85 other actions in Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan — the City Energy Office needs staffing! For example, staff would help building owners comply with the Commercial Energy Disclosure ordinance. This position isn’t new for Ann Arbor’s Energy Office, but the person who staffed it left (to help run a farm in northern Michigan!) and it hasn’t been adequately resourced for a few years now.
Again, this investment has shown value in other places. Many cities (Berkeley, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Chicago) that are exhibiting success on their climate action plans have City staffing to help residents and local businesses reduce their energy use and lessen their carbon footprint.
Okay, okay, so what can I do?
Disclosure of energy use is an important first step in reducing the carbon footprint of buildings — and we need staffing at the City’s Energy Office to do that work (and other pieces of the Climate Action Plan) successfully. So, now what?
We need City Council members to know that residents in their wards support these resolutions so that they will pass them! Can you take a minute to contact your Council rep and ask him/her to vote “yes” on both of them? Here’s the contact info for everyone who can vote (to email everyone at once, click here):
Guest blogger: Zack Deutsch-Gross, Field Organizer-Oakland County Sierra Club Beyond Coal
What do we hang onto from the year 1900? That’s about when the nation’s first coal-fired power plant opened. Think of the number of changes we’ve made since then. Think of the products that are newer than that and yet are still old enough that they’re dated, they’re has-beens.
Who uses a rotary-dial phone? It’s a more modern invention than a coal plant. The first LP (this dates me: Long-Playing record, what we used to call a 33, what is now called “vinyl”) dates from 1948. The transistor radio was developed in 1954.
In the century-plus since the first coal plant opened, we’ve developed and abandoned large amounts of technology; many, many products have come and gone, but we still see these behemoth anachronisms, providing 60% of our electricity.
There are many reasons to move beyond coal. How many lakes and rivers in our beautiful, watery state have mercury warnings and fish advisories? All of them. How does coal affect our health? The American Lung Association says coal-plant particle pollution alone kills 13,000 a year nationwide (see their Time to Clean Up Coal-Fired Power Plants here).
We can do better. We don’t have to settle for the soot, the illnesses, the millions of fish killed each year by the older plants. Didn’t know that? It’s not widely known, not compared to the oft-repeated myth that wind turbines are great killers of birds.
Older power plants on the Great Lakes each kill millions of fish per year, sucking them and other creatures in with the massive amounts of Great Lakes water needed for cooling. About the birds, check out this post on the subject.
We hear that wind turbines only work when the wind is blowing; solar only when the sun is shining. Well, coal only works when coal is burning, and to power our lives, as I’m doing right now on this computer, coal has to burn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it has to be burned right in someone’s neighborhood, right on a lakeshore or riverside.
To provide that much coal, coal has to be mined and transported, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What might have seemed a miracle to a smaller population is now dated, dirty, dangerous.
And destroying Appalachia and parts of the west starts to seem a bit unfair to those residents. We Michiganians do not like the idea of bottling up our water or putting it in tanker trucks or freighters. It’s not just a commodity to us. We might imagine that people elsewhere feel the same about the unique aspects of their own landscapes.
When the first coal plant opened, women couldn’t vote. Women could still be arrested for smoking in public. Coal plants might have made sense in that America, with less than 80 million people in the US. Providing electricity to 310,000 takes clean, modern thinking.
Let’s leave the coal plants behind with voting inequality. A better future is ahead for the Great Lakes State. For more information or to get involved, go to the Sierra Club’s website or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Obama administration is expected to announce a decision about the Keystone XL pipeline in the next couple of months. Next weekend, students from all over the United States will march for Georgetown University to the White House to denounce the Keystone XL pipeline and show their opposition to an “all of the above” energy approach.
One component of this action — which students are hoping will be the biggest of its kind — is peaceful civil disobedience. The protest and rally takes place on March 2nd, with a mandatory training for those who choose to participate in civil disobedience.
A number of vehicles are currently being coordinated from Ann Arbor for those interested in attending. There’s a ride board to coordinate rides or you can email email@example.com. For more information, visit http://xldissent.org/call-to-action/
Lynate Pettengill, Director of Field Development with Citizens Climate Lobby
With the need for political will to address climate change growing ever more urgent, citizens are invited to gather in Lansing on Saturday, March 8 for a workshop that will launch new chapters of Citizens Climate Lobby. The event is sponsored by the Red Cedar Friends Peace and Social Justice Committee.
Lynate Pettengill, Director of Field Development with Citizens Climate Lobby, will lead the three-hour workshop. “Politicians do not create political will, they respond to it,” says Pettengill. “If we want Congress to address climate change, then they have to hear from us. The workshop is designed to give volunteers the tools they need to be effective advocates.”
Citizens Climate Lobby is a grassroots advocacy organization, with 140 chapters across the U.S. and Canada, dedicated to generating the political will for effective national policies to address climate change. The group is working to build support for a carbon tax that returns revenue to households, creating a market-based incentive to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
WHAT: Workshop to launch new chapters of Citizens Climate Lobby.
WHY: To break the gridlock in Congress that prevents our government from enacting policies that will stabilize our climate and preserve a livable world for future generations.
WHO: Anyone with an interest in supporting this work.
WHEN: Saturday, March 8, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
WHERE: Red Cedar Friends Meetinghouse, 1400 Turner St., Lansing, MI
RSVP: Elizabeth Dell, Michigan State Coordinator, Citizens Climate Lobby, 231-499-6747, firstname.lastname@example.org
Come see Elemental: The Film with us at the Michigan Theater next Tuesday! The film tells the story of three individuals as they work to confront the most pressing ecological challenges of our time.
We’re excited to be partnering with A2Share and the Graham Sustainability Institute to bring the film to Ann Arbor and have a panel discussion with local activists and experts after the film.|
Questions? Let us know!
Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose goal is to speed the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy by pushing for a consumer-friendly tax on carbon. It is a relatively young, fast-growing organization, and there isn’t a chapter in Ann Arbor — yet!
If you are interested in helping to get a chapter of CCL started in Ann Arbor, email Ginny at email@example.com.
For more information about Citizens Climate Lobby, visit http://citizensclimatelobby.org/ They also hold a weekly introductory telephone conference call which gives a great introduction to the organization — you can sign up for this on the website.
Satellite image showing entry of the Polar Vortex into the northern US. Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Whew! How about this crazy weather?
The scientists tell us that extreme weather is one of the consequences of climate change, and we’ve sure seen plenty of that around here the last several months.
That’s one reason we’ve been pushing for local action address climate change. Local action is critical to global progress on climate pollution — because cities like Ann Arbor are at the forefront of the causes and effects of climate risks that will become more frequent and severe over time.
In particular, we’ve spent the last several months organizing a plan to implement Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP is an ambitious plan with 87 different steps we can take to address climate change at the community level.
Given the lack of momentum at the state and federal levels, cities can’t wait to take action. That’s why we’re launching a Community Climate Partnership to get started fixing the world, right here at home.
We look forward to keeping you posted on the progress — and on ways you can engage to help us get to our goal.
The Michigan Forest Heroes campaign has hit the ground running and are continuing to put pressure on Kellogg’s cereal company, which buys palm oil from Wilmar International (the company that controls almost half of the palm oil industry worldwide).
This weekend, Ann Arbor’s Forest Heroes — Eva and Katie — would like to invite you and your family to their Halloween Party:
All ages welcome for games, tiger-friendly goodies, and action!
Forest Heroes hit downtown Grand Rapids! Photo: mlive
Saturday, October 26th, 10am – 1 pm
3000 Fuller Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
It’s almost Halloween, and the Forest Heroes of Ann Arbor invite you to join us for a family-fun Halloween celebration! There will be games, tiger-friendly candy giveaways, fun tiger costumes, kids craft activities and tables set up to take immediate actions like calling John Bryant and taking pictures to urge Kellogg’s to be a Forest Hero too! It should be a lot of fun, and we need as many people there as possible to make sure Kellogg’s hears us loud and clear! Can you and your friends or family make it to the party on Saturday? It’s a free event, but please take 30 seconds to RSVP here today!
Kellogg’s is a Michigan institution and Tony the Tiger is an American icon, but they’ve recently partnered with Wilmar International, ranked the least sustainable corporation in the entire world. Wilmar’spalm oil production destroys the homes of endangered species like Sumatran tigers, elephants, orangutans and other wildlife, and is a top driver of climate change.
We envision a world where rainforests are protected and cherished; not destroyed for profit. The good news is that Kellogg’s has the power to influence Wilmar to change its practices to preserve the rainforest, but they will only act if they see that their neighbors here in Michigan want them to do the right thing. This Saturday, we have an amazing opportunity to make a real impact on this critical global effort – and to have some fun while doing it!
Join us with your family and friends this Saturday for the Forest Heroes Halloween Party to help us protect our precious rainforests! Please take 30 seconds to RSVP here today!