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.
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
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!
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 RSVP HERE
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!
Fossil fuels are a bad bet, and its time for our schools to own up to that. Mindy Lubber is an investment expert with Ceres and she has a message to the folks who think they can weather this storm. Here’s her full article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mindylubber/2012/12/17/fossil-fuel-divestment-is-timely-issue-for-investors/
“A resolution on divestment from fossil fuel companies has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council on a 9-2 vote.” - The Ann Arbor Chronicle
The Ann Arbor City Council has been considering urging the City’s Retirement Board to divest from fossil fuels since September.
This would not have happened without the work the community. In particular, Energy Commissioners like Mike Shriberg, Wayne Appleyard and Dina Kurz — all of whom drafted and then championed the resolution by delivering public comments. The student-led campus divestment campaign also stood up and spoke out as did members of Ann Arbor 350.
Ann Arbor is among the first 20 U.S. cities to pursue divestment because — to quote from the resolution itself:
Continued support for the fossil fuel industry undermines the quality of life for the City of Ann Arbor retirees and runs counter to the requirement of the City of Ann Arbor Employees’ Retirement System’s duty of ‘providing benefits to members’.
University of Michigan researchers are conducting a detailed study of the potential environmental and societal effects of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial natural gas drilling process known as fracking.
Researchers are working with government regulators, oil and gas industry representatives and environmental groups to explore seven critical areas related to the use of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan: human health, the environment and ecology, economics, technology, public perception, law and policy, and geology/hydrodynamics.
Because a critical aspect of the process involves engagement with a wide range of decision makers and stakeholders, UM researchers are inviting the public to review the technical reports and to provide input – questions, ideas, and suggestions – for the focus of the Integrated Assessment, which will be completed during the next phase of the project. As part of the investigation, research teams are soliciting input from the public through an online comment form on the Graham Institute website: Share your questions and thoughts now.