Tag Archives: environment

I didn’t quit the Paris accord

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Standard transportation, especially for points west and south in the District. This is the designated parking space.

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wilds of West Virginia

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If you think these are not wild carrots, please do not let me know until tomorrow, after they have been sauteed in butter and eaten.

Exelon ok if you like teeing up; for the environment, not so much

 

I’m a greenie (to candidates, “an environmental voter”).  I wondered who would be in favor of the pending sale of Pepco, the power distribution company that sends bills to homes and businesses in the mid-Atlantic, including my house in Washington, DC, to Exelon, a bigger Chicago-based power producer, and significantly, owner of a bunch of shop-worn nuclear reactors.  Pepco no longer owns power generators, but instead purchases power from suppliers — coal-, wind-, and solar-generated — and resells it.  (How power gets into those little wires on the poles I leave to others to explain.)  This is about the only good thing about Pepco — because it no longer operates those messy power plants, it has come around, gradually, to liking the cute solar panels on the roofs of local customers, and is OK with just charging for the wires.  We have solar panels on our roof, much diminishing our electrical draw, so I refer to the Pepco bills as just their little charge for staying friends.

So I attended two of the local Public Service Commission hearings about the looming sale to see who would find the behemoth remote company with 20th century holdings superior to one that is smaller, local, and has at least a kite in the renewal-energy wind.

Here’s who likes Exelon:  a suspiciously large number of testifiers for the merger essentially admitted to some level of being bought off.  They were contractors of one kind or another, beneficiaries of some charitable contribution, or organizations who thought they put on good conferences.  Here’s where I squirmed in my chair (and perhaps, maybe, let out an audible noise):  golf tournaments.  That’s right.  At least three proponents — and I did not by a long shot hear all of the testimony — really, really think Exelon is an awesome corporate citizen because of the golf tournaments it has sponsored.

That’s like choosing a dentist who doesn’t fix your teeth but who gives out nice calendars. You can pick another dentist, but it’s still hard for most households to go off-grid, so it’s important to worry more about the product you are actually paying for, and stop ignoring the significant damage done to the environment.

As one testifier said, “We need better than Pepco, but Exelon’s not it.” I recommend the full story about aging nuclear plants seeking bailouts, from which this came, in Daily Kos today.

“To improve its overall balance sheet, Exelon is also trying to take over the mid-Atlantic electricity distribution utility Pepco, a proposal that has engendered substantial opposition in Washington, DC, Maryland and Delaware. DC, for example, has a stated policy of becoming the greenest city in the country with the goal of being 50% renewable powered by 2030–a goal Pepco’s pro-renewable policies support. For its part, Exelon owns the dubious distinction of being the only utility ever thrown out of the American Wind Energy Association for its vociferous anti-renewable policies. A new analysis of the proposed deal by the independent Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis recommended that the Washington PSC reject the merger.”

The Washington, DC, Public Service Commission has bean-counters, I hope, who are logging the relatively bogus examples of corporate citizenship against matters of true value.

What would Andy Goldsworthy do?

I get asked how I like “retirement.”*  It’s hard to explain beyond “I love it.” Several times a day I find myself doing an activity that I could not do while having a regular 9-to-5 type job.

I can take advantage of activities that happen to take place during normal working hours — like the national Sierra Club board meeting, usually in San Francisco, but this time in DC, where I sat in for a few agenda items. (I am a life member and want to make sure the club is doing as I wish. Sort of.) Some are things that fall roughly outside those hours, but if following on a work day would seem more like a nuisance, or a tacky, unsatisfying way to end the day.  I have gone to serve food or perform other menial tasks at meal center for homeless women. I don’t know how that will work out, but as of now, I head to the church basement with a spring in my step.

I’ll tell about some of these and other worthy activities another time.

But some make no sense and have little ultimate purpose but are a creative expression.  Sunday, I made a fairy circle, or a needle ring, or pine circle.  I struggle with that name, but this is what I did.

I pass the little triangle park bounded by Quincy Street, 5th Street and Rock Creek Church Road just about every time I leave the yard.  It is no one’s private property, so no one keeps it up, but the pine needles and enormous pine cones from the huge tree there have been especially untidy looking lately.  Prevailing winds toss the fallen material southward, toward the sidewalk and the street.

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Detritus in disarray in Rock Creek Church triangle park. 23 February 2014

As you know from an earlier post, I love the work of Andy Goldsworthy and others who artfully rearrange Planet Earth’s componentry, even on temporary basis.  So I set out, with a rake over my shoulder and a snack and a little flask of a refreshing adult beverage in a sack, to rearrange the materials on my little public plot.

I started to rake with a little circle in mind, a halo, an aura a ring-around-the-rosy — find me the word.  A circle is a fairly primitive design idea that I cannot claim as my own.

I thought about marking the four compass points with mounds of downed pine seeds, but after bending over what must have been a hundred times to pick them up and then tote them several feet north, south, east or west, the four loci became 12; because of a counting error, the 12 became 13.

ImageAct in progress; edge of ring, one pine cone mound.

ImageLong shadows after a raking needles and rearranging pine cones, about 3 pm.

The bending, stretching and pulling were exhausting, maybe in the way that a yoga class is just sooooo tiring, but carrying the rake was way cooler than toting that incriminating silly little rubber mat. (Right?)

Later that evening I passed the park after dark.  My creative product was still in situ.

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*Retirement, that is, not working at a regular job but with a pension so tiny that I need to find some income soon.

Bill Nye takes on 4,500 years of crazy

ImageEnjoying a good debate, I confess that I was drawn to spend a couple hours listening to the back-and-forth on creationism vs. evolution between Bill Nye, a creditable scientist, and Ken Ham, who is decidedly not one, though he claims to know some and helpfully included all the ones he knows in his slideshow.

To sum it up, Ken Ham believes what the Bible says, hard-core and literally — like, all manner of stuff that we know of was created in a seven-day work week a few thousand years ago.  In fact, all life on earth actually dates back to the day after every single acre of Earth was inundated about 4,500 years ago. Those time periods were calculated by running the life spans of guys in the Bible — as reported in the Bible.  Evidence to anything contrary, from any other historical source or actual observation, he does not believe.  Tree rings showing individual trees over 6,000 years old? Fossils of creatures that no longer exist? The fact that all that flooding created one Grand Canyon? Ignored.

Alas, early on, there actually was a concession to evolution.  It was a little hard to follow exactly, because Ham had to use a concept new to me of “kinds,” stating that some “kinds” of animals were indeed on Noah’s boat, but not all that we know today.  So, for example a couple of dogs were on the ship, and after the flood, they then divided into the many species and breeds of dogs seen today.  But that does not mean that dogs evolved from wolves before that, oh, no.

I thought that acknowledgment of mutations into new life forms would end the show, but I was waaaay wrong.  While Bill Nye went a bit overboard for his audience talking about a range of scientific discoveries — from microscopic to infinite — that contradict the “young earth” notion, as it is called, Ham provided repeated bits from the Bible that prove that the Bible is true.

Troubling is the foundational notion that humans cannot believe in something that they did not witness, such as the beginning of the earth, I guess.  Yet, the story of creation, and one would suppose that hot story about the virgin who becomes pregnant, though that never seems to happen in modern times, are completely true, to Ham.

When Nye’s answer to a question was a truthful “we don’t know,” Ham’s answer was that a book has already been written about that – it’s called the Bible.

ImageI loved that Nye referred to the creationists’ source many times the “American-English translation of the Bible,” a subtle reinforcement of the provincialism and narrowness of the documents selected a few hundred years ago, translated well after that, as the primary Judeo-Christian authority.  (I know, I know – plenty of religious people use the Bible in more sensible ways.)

And by the way, the Bible also apparently frowns upon gay marriage, Ham finds, and a lot of other stuff that isn’t actually in my copy.  How about four wives per husband?  Ham explains this with a dismissive hand wave, saying that some parts of the Bible are merely poetry or stories about actual people, and some of them did bad things.  I’ve read the part he’s talking about, and that’s not what it says.  I like to ask adamant Bible-clutchers whether they eat the pork and lobster forbidden in Genesis, and that usually brings about the same kind of quivering and ‘splainin’ about how Jesus came along later and specifically said that bacon was cool.

I understand that there is real evidence that only about two-thirds of Americans believe in evolution (the believers skew toward the more educated). This may explain the disbelief in human-source global warming, or the holding that a fertilized cell is a full-faith-and-credit human being.

I would not want to chat it up with Ham or his likes – too frustrating for me. I might only envy the simplicity of his tasks on moving day, when instead of spending hours or days sorting through hundreds of beloved books, he would only have to tuck the one volume under his arm.

For swimmable, drinkable, breathable. . .

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I admit that I’m not as intrepid as I’d like to be. But a whole lot of friends put out some money, so I pledged to put as much of my body as possible into the Potomac River Saturday morning at 10:30 am.

The cause for the leap is to raise money for a sound organization working on climate change and the environment specifically here in my watershed – CCAN, Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The forecast for that hour was 23 deg., 23 mph wind and snow showers, and those numbers represented a warm-up from the night before. Yikes. How do you train for that? I had been outside in Washington, DC’s subfreezing weather as much as possible, verified the fiber content of my long underwear for after emerging, and come up with a mantra/chant that essentially expresses my happiness about being a mammal at this time. I had decided to call the Channel 7 weather department to verify precisely what the water temperature would be (seeing the water fowl walking across the river’s surface should have been a clue, had I wanted to accept it) and Doug Hill himself, local on-air celebrity, called me back.  He said he also had made a “polar bear plunge” a few years ago, at Sandy Point, and it was the worst experience of his life.  But said I would be fine!  He said, “Your systems will shut down enough to direct all the blood to your heart, lungs and brain!”

Despite those best wishes, I had a moment of doubt.  There’s a little rush of panic you feel just at that start of a marathon, contemplating whether you have the stamina for the what will be the next  4+ hours, and you do; this would be only a 15-minute thing, but possibly more physically taxing. And with all these people are watching; I had to go in.

So we – William volunteered too – waded in to the gap of open water created by men in wetsuits just an hour earlier, and splashed around a bit, up to the neck in my case, all the way in for William. We didn’t stay long, and the only short-term damage was some frozen toes from the total time waiting for and then taking the dip, wearing Tevas, which I had thought would be the ideal dive-and-dash footwear, so don’t ever do that.

A hot shower, some food, a nap, and we feel restored.  CCAN is a thousand dollars richer — thank you generous friends and supporters — and I have bolstered my intrepid credentials a little.

Through other eyes

If you get the news in any format, you’ve heard the whining, cursing and lamenting about the weather in the east.  It is severe, for sure, but it is just weather, we can adapt; and as I heard from a guy at the Swedish embassy a while back, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”  I personally like inclement weather in general, and snow especially, and even as an adult get up in the middle of the night to take a look.

But we have in the house now Cynthia, a Californian who doesn’t see much of it.  Yesterday when she came into the house, without taking off her wraps she went over to the sink, where I saw her bent over gazing down. At what, I wondered.

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There was a small mittenful of show she wanted to savor up close, in this way.

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She is not weary, jaded or inconvenienced by snow, but has a fresh childhood fascination. Neither that nor the snow will last forever.

ImageEnjoy them while they — and you — are here.