Book Review: Flight Behavior

I recently read the novel Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, a book about climate change. When I first began reading the book I had no intentions of doing a review, but as I got deeper into the book, and the characters voiced their opinions, about media in general, my intentions changed.

The premise of the book is that millions of monarch butterflies migrate to a rural area in Tennessee for the winter instead of going to their usual location in Mexico. After they are Flight Behaviordiscovered by Dellarobia on her family’s land, and the media gets involved with a news story, people from around the world begin showing up including a scientist. The next several months the scientist, Dr. Ovid Byron, and his team attempt to ascertain why the monarch butterflies wintered in Tennessee.

There have been discussions in the media and scientific journals about how monarchs are decreasing in population. While some believe the cause is climate change, others believe it is the use of pesticides and some believe it is a combination of both. For example, Andre Leu, IFOAM President and author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides, quotes in his book, “Herbicide-resistant plants….have increased the use of glyphosate, which kills all other plants including milkweed, the only type of plant that monarch butterflies use for laying their eggs.” The author cites that milkweed has declined by 60 percent and monarchs in the U.S. that winter in the forests of Mexico has dropped from 1 billion in 1997 to 33.5 million. The milkweed fact above was mentioned in Flight Behavior.

I”m not going to use this space to debate climate change; rather, I’m going to use this space to discuss the role of media in the conversation. Today, media is quoting “experts” about climate change (and other issues) that are in fact not experts at all. Where are the credible scientists and researchers who are doing the work around climate change in this conversation?

Many scientists do not like how they are portrayed in and by the media. Reporters often spend more time being skeptical about the facts being delivered by a respected scientist then they do when speaking to a person who uses social media to get his/her word out effectively but has no basis in training or education to be discussing the scientific merits of an issue. (In other words, scientists don’t speak sexy talk).

Dellarobia and her husband Cub, give us an example: “Here’s the thing,” she said. “Why would we believe Johnny Midgeon about something scientific, and not the scientists?” Continue reading

Chicago to Vote on E15

Today the Chicago City Finance Committee is considering an amended ordinance that according to Alderman Ameya Pawar, one of the bill’s co-sponsor, will ensure Chicago motorists will have a choice at the pump. The “Chicago Clean Air Choice” ordinance would enable retailers to offer drivers E15 fuel.

Chicago E15 logo“Through the ordinance the City of Chicago will once again help lead the way in cleaning up the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other toxic carcinogens in the air,” said Alderman Pawar. In his remarks he was referring to the Chicago City Council’s actions in 1984 that banned leaded gasoline in the city and its 2000 action where the Council banned various toxic additives.

Co-sponsor Alderman Anthony Beale, added that the ordinance has economic and security implications. “By reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by increasing ethanol usage, this ordinance is supporting a renewable fuel that is grown in America, keeping American dollars and troops at home, instead of sending them overseas.”

The original ordinance was introduced last summer. The enhanced ordinance includes an exemption of all filling stations selling less than 850,000 gallons of fuel per year and a 360 day phase in.

Ansell Installs Biomass Boiler to Reduce Energy Costs

The Ansell factory complex in Biyagama, Sri Lanka has installed its second biomass boiler as part of company initiatives to be greener. The new boiler has a capacity of 12.5MW and will be the largest hot water boiler in Sri Lanka. Ansell Lanka already has a 10.5MW boiler installed at its premises, which reduced CO2 emissions by 11,000 MT per annum. From 2004 to 2012, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 36 percent across all of Ansell’s manufacturing facilities, with the global CO2 emission rate from 2013 to 2014 alone reduced by 6 percent. The company anticipates the reduction of a further 14,000 MT of CO2 emissions annually as furnace oil consumption will now be reduced to the bare minimum.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.26.12 AM“This project represents another step forward in Ansell’s business strategy to conducting business ethically, transparently, and in ways that produce social, environmental, and economic benefits for communities around the world,” said Steve Genzer, senior vice president of global operations at Ansell. “We would like to thank the government of Sri Lanka for its continued support, and the more than 4,000 Ansell employees who are the driving force of implementing these green programs.”

The announcement is part of the company’s Green Productivity program, focused on energy management, and implemented within manufacturing operations across Ansell. Energy management at Ansell focuses on achieving the most efficient and effective use of energy and simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Programs that have been implemented include the installation of equipment to recover energy from flue gas emitted from boiler chimneys as an energy source to heat water, the installation of energy efficient equipment to provide chilled water for manufacturing site cooling systems and the conversion of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

“While the forward progress made in the last 10 years has been incredible, this is only the tip of the iceberg in how Ansell will be doing business differently in the years to come,” added Genzer. “Ansell is committed to a number of sustainable and practical initiatives that are designed to make a positive and lasting contribution to the markets it serves and the community in general.”

Bioenergy for the Birds

A new research paper examines the relationship between bioenergy and the birds. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and published in PLOS ONE, looked at whether corn and perennial grassland fields in southern Wisconsin could provide both biomass for bioenergy as well as a bird habitat.

The answer is yes.

UW-Madison biofuels and bird studyThe study found that where there are grasslands there are birds. For example, grass and wildflower dominated field supported more than three times as many bird species as cornfields. And grassland fields can product ample biomass to be used to produce advanced biofuels.

Monica Turner, UW-Madison professor of zoology, and study lead author Peter Blank, a postdoctoral researcher in her lab, hope the findings help drive decisions that benefit both birds and biofuels, too, by providing information for land managers, farmers, conservationists and policy makers as the bioenergy industry ramps up, particularly in Wisconsin and the central U.S.

The research team selected 30 different grassland sites – three of which are already used for small-scale bioenergy production – and 11 cornfields in southern Wisconsin. Over the course of two years, the researchers characterized the vegetation growing in each field, calculated and estimated the biomass yields possible, and counted the total numbers of birds and bird species observed in them.

According to Blank and Turner, the study is one of the first to examine grassland fields already producing biomass for biofuels and is one of only a few analyses to examine the impact of bioenergy production on birds. While previous studies suggest corn is a more profitable biofuel crop than grasses and other types of vegetation, the new findings indicate grassland fields may represent an acceptable tradeoff between creating biomass for bioenergy and providing habitat for grassland birds. The landscape could benefit other species, too.

Among the grasslands studied, the team found monoculture grasses supported fewer birds and fewer bird species than grasslands with a mix of grass types and other kinds of vegetation, like wildflowers. The team found that the presence of grasslands within one kilometer of the study sites also helped boost bird species diversity and bird density in the area.

This is an opportunity, Turner said, to inform large-scale land use planning. By locating biomass-producing fields near existing grasslands, both birds and the biofuels industry can win.

Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association Working for You

The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is working on behalf of the biofuels industry and consumers throughout Minnesota. With several successes under their belt, the Association has identified several more goals they would like to achieve on behalf of the biofuels industry over the next few years.

“We are hopeful the next two years will lead us into opportunities to develop higher usage of ethanol blends, in particular we will work hard on promoting usage of E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles,” said Brian Kletscher, CEO of Highwater Ethanol and President of the Highwater Ethanol Aerial PhotosBoard of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. “To help accomplish this we have hired a Biofuels Marketing Manager, this will allow us to directly communicate with the many gas station owners in the State of Minnesota and give them guidance on how to bring in E15 to their gas station while providing and economic benefit to them as owners while also passing on a savings to their customers in lower cost for E15.”

Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association echoes Kletscher’s goal. In addition, Rudnicki said they are continuing to increase the use of E85. “Sales of E85 in Minnesota have been on the rise but there is still plenty of room to grow. There are many flex-fuel vehicle owners who don’t know the benefits of using E85 or even the fact that it’s 80 cents cheaper per gallon on average in Minnesota.”

When asked if the biofuels industry would have seen as many successes without the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, Kletscher said while the industry was growing prior to the formation of the Association, by working with Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Soybean Growers Association and other ethanol related organization, the formation of the Association has allowed the ethanol industry and biofuels industry the opportunity to branch out and grow in supporting and promoting the usage of their products.

“While doing this we have maintained a strong relationship with the associations and related organizations that walked with and grew the biofuels industry to the point that it is today,” said Kletscher.

However, as Rudnicki identifies, the political landscape will have an effect on their work but for the most part, the view of biofuels is positive. “We are fortunate that many of our federal and state-level senators and representatives are supportive of biofuels and support measures to increase its usage,” he said. “We work closely with many of them and they understand how important biofuels are to the economy in Minnesota and its role in reducing prices at the pump, greenhouse gases and our dependence on foreign oil. Biofuels are the only viable solution to removing our dependence on harmful fossil fuels and many of them understand that.” Continue reading

Clean Tech Will Provide Jobs in Emerging Countries

According to a new report from World Bank Group, there are significant clean tech opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries. The new report, “Building Competitive Green Industries: the Climate and Clean Technology Opportunity for Developing Countries,” frames responding to climate change as an extraordinary economic opportunity, particularly in developing countries. The report, published by infoDev, recommends actions by the public and private sectors to foster the growing market for SMEs in the clean technology sector.

World Food Bank Clean Tech report“Fostering home-grown clean-tech industries in developing countries can create a sustainable and wealth-producing sector of the economy,” said Anabel Gonzalez, senior director for the World Bank’s Global Practice on Trade and Competitiveness, “While simultaneously addressing such urgent development priorities as access to clean and affordable energy, clean water and climate-resilient agriculture.”

In just the last decade, clean technology has emerged as a major global market. Over the next 10 years, an estimated $6.4 trillion will be invested in developing countries. Of the total market in developing countries, some $1.6 trillion will be accessible to SMEs, according to the report. China, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa are the top three markets in the developing world for SMEs in clean technology, with expected markets of $415 billion, $349 billion and $235 billion, respectively for sectors such as wastewater treatment, onshore wind, solar panels, electric vehicles, bioenergy, and small hydro.

More can be done to support green entrepreneurship. As sited in the report, clean technology SMEs face daunting challenges, particularly in accessing early and growth stage financing. Countries can help by creating targeted policy incentives to encourage their own clean technology sectors. The report provides policymakers with a range of practical instruments that help support SMEs in clean technology sectors such as innovative finance, entrepreneurship and business acceleration, market development, technology development, and the legal and regulatory framework.

Urban Air Initiative Launches Public Campaign

Urban Air Initiative has launched a public awareness campaign with the first phase the launch of a new website. The consumer-focused site draws attention to the problem of toxic compounds in gas with a call to action for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate some of the most harmful components in fuel.

fixourfuelAccording to Urban Air Initiative President David VanderGriend, “There’s a problem with the air we’re all breathing and it stems from what’s in our gasoline. It’s something that’s too small to see, but too big to ignore.”

The new website is fixourfuel.com and explains why the country needs to clean up gasoline and protect public health through lowered emissions from vehicles said VanderGriend.

“The website takes a story-like approach to make a complicated subject easier to understand. “Right now, toxic compounds called aromatics are added to gasoline to provide octane boost,” added VanderGriend. However that boost is hurting your health. Aromatics, such as benzene, come out of the tailpipe as invisible, odorless ultrafine particles (UFP’s). These UFP’s have been linked to ailments from lung cancer and stroke, to birth defects and developmental disorders in children.”

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to remove these harmful aromatics from gasoline, but not enough is being done. According to Urban Air Initiative officials, there are cleaner and cheaper options available, such as mid-level blends of ethanol. Increased use of these mid-level blends will reduce toxic aromatics and UFP’s.

Enviro Groups React to Prez Obama’s Climate Speech

“Yes this is hard, but there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part,” said U.S. President Barack Obama during the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit that is taking place this week in New York.

During his speech he pledged to put forth a proposal to continue combating climate change beyond 2020 as well as committed to addressing the serious and growing impacts of climate change that the poorest and most vulnerable around the world are already facing. In addition, he took responsibility for America’s role in climate change.

“As I sat in the audience today, I heard President Obama demonstrate the kind of climate leadership the world needs. He made it clear the U.S. is serious about fighting climate change through major cuts to our carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRCD) after the speech. “He promised to help communities around the world become more resilient and speed their development of clean energy. And he challenged other nations to step up their climate actions by promising a commitment to our own. This was a message of hope — hope that together we can head off the worst damages from climate change and leave our children a healthier world.”

Jennifer Morgan, director, Climate and Energy Programs for the World Resources Institute welcomed the President Obama’s clear focus and personal commitment. “I am encouraged by President Obama’s promise to put forth an ambitious post-2020 climate commitment early next year. Strong signals that the United States is decarbonizing its economy will set the stage for a successful outcome at the climate negotiations next year. As growing evidence shows, investing in a low-carbon economy creates jobs, reduces air pollution and improves people’s lives. The United States now must build on the importance progress made in recent years.”

It has been five years since the last climate summit in Copenhagen and the next summit will take place next year in Paris. Obama noted that scientists have learned a great deal more about climate change in the past few years and that they will continue to learn more. He also stressed that climate change is happening and action will mean survival.

“As the President made clear, we don’t have the luxury to act as though climate change isn’t happening,” continued Morgan. “For the most vulnerable communities, taking action now is a matter of survival. The good news is that we have the technology and techniques in hand to both shift to the low carbon economy and build resilience to climate impacts. President Obama’s announcement today is a key step in putting those tools to use. Better and more information about climate impacts is one of our most powerful tools to combat climate change. The President has signaled his commitment to ensure everyone around the world has access to the data they need to anticipate and protect themselves from the consequences of global warming.”
Continue reading

New Study: E15 Would Reduce Smog

According to a new study conducted by Life Cycle Associates, using E15 ethanol blends rather than regular gas will reduce cancer-causing pollutants and smog in Chicago’s air. The research examined and aggregated a wide range of research to assess changes in the emissions from E15 taChicago E15 logoilpipe and evaporative emissions, compared to regular gasoline. The following factors were considered for the study: ethanol blend composition; vehicle tailpipe emissions; storage and fueling with ethanol blends; changes in evaporative and exhaust emissions; human health impacts; ozone potential; and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions.

To determine how much E15 reduces the risk of cancer, the study looked at several cancer-causing pollutants found in vehicle exhaust and found that using E15 shows a projected reduction in cancer risk because the ethanol in E15 displaces carcinogens like benzene and 1,3 butadiene.

“The most significant changes from a change … to E15 include a reduction in cancer risk from vehicle exhaust and evaporative emissions, a reduction in the potential to form ozone or photochemical smog, and a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” the study reported.

The study found:

  • The renewable fuel in E15 displaces cancer causing emissions from gasoline, resulting in a net decrease in cancer risk of 6.6% compared to regular gas.
  • The smog forming potential from E15 is lower than in regular gas.
  • Using E15 gasoline with 15 percent ethanol results in a 1.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to regular gasoline which contains 10% ethanol.

Adding ethanol also displaces gasoline components with higher smog forming potential, resulting in a lower smog forming potential for E15 blends than regular gasoline, according to the paper. In addition, the study reviewed extensive research on E15’s influence on greenhouse gas emissions, finding a reduction of 1.5 percent in E15 gasoline compared to regular, E10 gasoline. However, E15 has had difficulty gaining traction in the marketplace due to infrastructure challenges.

Those discoveries have significant implications for Chicago, which suffers from poor air quality and increased risk from disease-causing pollutants, particularly on the South Side. This study shows how the availability of E15 gasoline could help to solve those problems.

The report was supported by the Department of Energy (DOE), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), California Air Resources Board (CARB), Coordinating Research Council, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Illinois and several other institutions.

Sierra Magazine Releases 2014 Coolest Schools

The “Coolest Schools” in America rankings are out and the top school is University of California, Irvine. Compiled annually by Sierra Club, the rankings focus on America’s greenest colleges. The ranking universities displayed a deep and Dickinson College Studentsthorough commitment to protecting the environment, addressing climate issues, and encouraging environmental responsibility. More than 150 schools filled out an extensive survey created in a collaboration between Sierra and the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Using a customized scoring system, Sierra ranked the universities based on their commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

“For eight years Sierra magazine has encouraged America’s colleges and universities to fully embrace their unique and multifaceted role in tackling the climate crisis and protecting America’s air, water, public health, and beautiful places,” said Bob Sipchen, Sierra magazine’s editor in chief. “From innovative research and development to powering campuses with wind and solar, to educating students in the most advanced thinking on sustainability, colleges and universities are leaders and models for the rest of society. Sierra magazine congratulates those that made our annual ‘Coolest Schools’ list.”

Sierra magazine’s top 10 schools of 2014 are:

1. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)
2. American University (Washington, DC)
3. Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA)
4. Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, IL)
5. Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR)
6. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
7. University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
8. Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT)
9. University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
10. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)

This is UC Irvine’s fifth consecutive year as a top 10 finalist, but its first time as the winner, thanks in part to its three on-campus solar projects, a 19-megawatt turbine cogeneration plant, and energy-efficiency goals that are consistently exceeded. Other factors that helped those at the top of our list: American University has D.C.’s largest solar array; Dickinson runs an organic farm; Stanford is divesting from coal; and USF supplies a solar charging station for electric vehicles.

“The Cool Schools ranking is yet another indication of how deeply young people understand the benefits of clean energy and of how adept they are at turning awareness into action,” said Karissa Gerhke, director of the Sierra Student Coalition. “To capitalize on this power, the Sierra Student Coalition will join with students across the country this fall to launch the Campuses for Clean Energy campaign, a transformative movement that will demand 100 percent clean energy for campuses.

NRDC Report Guides Buying Sustainable Biofuels

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) looks at how federal agencies and other large commercial customers can buy sustainably produced biofuels and avoid those linked to things such as defined by NRDC as major deforestation, destroyed wildlife habitat and fouled waterways.

NRDC Sustainable Biofuels Fact SheetThe report “Biofuel Sustainability Performance Guidelines,” was commissioned by NRDC and authored by LMI as was written in response to large fuel consumers begin to pivot toward more plant-based fuel options to boost their “green” credentials and sustainability efforts while reducing their use of fossil fuels. The report is intended to help guide fuel buyers such as federal, state and municipal bulk fuel procurement officers, contractors and suppliers, and corporate sustainability officers.

“Biofuels can be a clean alternative to dirty fossil fuels, but they’re not all created equal,” said Brian Siu, senior energy policy analyst at NRDC. “Some biofuels are produced in ways that endanger precious land, wildlife and the environment. As the U.S. government and large business expand their use of biofuels, they should ensure they come from sustainable sources, and relying on the best certification systems can help them make these smart choices.”

According to NRDC, many large fuel buyers are beginning to understand the risks of poorly sourced biofuels, but are unable to determine whether their biofuels are produced sustainably. Third-party certification systems can provide this service, but vary significantly in stringency and protectiveness. The non-profit said a sound certification system should check each stage for impacts on water quality, soil, biodiversity, air quality, land use, and waste. It also should check for the social impacts on economic issues, human rights, food security, and workforce safety.

Study lead Jeremey Alcorn, senior consultant with LMI, said of the report, “NRDC offered LMI an exciting opportunity to apply our practical analytical experience to analyze established and emerging biomaterial and biofuel sustainability certification standards, and we believe that this report will fill a critical need by informing bulk biofuel procurements and enabling a better understanding of the utility of different certification programs in achieving enhanced sustainability performance.”

To help stakeholders, NRDC’s report examined seven leading programs that certify biofuel production practices for sustainability. The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials ranked best. RSB ranked best for helping to ensure economic, environmental and social sustainability of biofuels production practices in places such as the United States, Indonesia, South America and Asia.

Battery Bat Houses for Hydroelectric Projects

Bat Houses from scrap volt battery casesEagle Scout Matthew Netherland has developed a creative way to help bats who live near hydroelectric projects. Using discarded scrap Volt battery covers donated by GM, Netherland built 22 bat houses for Consumers Energy to install in their energy properties.

“This project connects a lot of environmental dots,” said Rich Castle, Consumers Energy’s natural resource manager for hydro generation. “Hydro dams generate clean electricity, and cars that run on electricity are a cleaner form of transportation. The battery covers from the electric-powered vehicles are being kept out of landfills, and by being utilized as bat homes they allow biodiversity to thrive along the river habitats that produce renewable energy.”

About 100 or more bats can live in each bat box, which includes five chambers. Netherland, a friend and two adult mentors helped build the bat boxes in about two months that will be installed by Consumers Energy.

“I’m thankful that GM had the perfect shell for the bat box plans, and that Consumers Energy has great locations to place the boxes,” said Netherland from Boy Scout Troop 185 from Clarkston, Michigan. “Both companies have been great to work with, very encouraging and generous.”

Emily McDonald, environmental engineer for GM who coordinated with Netherland on his project, added, “I’m so impressed by Matthew’s energy and dedication to this project. We’ve worked with renowned bat experts on our bat house design and are grateful that we can partner with others who share our passion for conservation and will help us make a lasting impact. The Volt covers are made with durable material and will result in wildlife nesting opportunities for a long time.”

CGI America Launches Feed-Out Program

The world is about to see the first market-based, fixed-price funding program for solar and renewable technologies through a Feed-Out Program. The program, the brain-child of the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) and Demeter Power Group, has a goal of helping modernize the nation’s power grid with distributed energy.

Clinton Global Initiative logo“The Feed-Out Program will bring together independent power producers and financiers to enable the lowest-cost, fixed-price offering for renewable energy,” said Michael Wallander, Demeter Power Group founder and president. “But unlike other similar ‘feed-in-tariff’ programs, the energy will be used on the customer-side of the meter.”

According to CGI, $1 trillion a year – a total of $36 trillion – is needed for investment in sustainable energy infrastructure to successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. The Program will help tackle this challenge focusing primarily on funding for solar energy while also enabling cost-effective investment in energy storage, fuel cells and electrical vehicle car charging stations.

Yann Brandt, Demeter Co-Founder and EVP of Development noted, “What retail tenant or business owner would not want to save money on their energy bills while offering customers and employees the ability to shade their cars and power up with solar energy? We enable funding for solar-powered carports with electric vehicle charging stations at a net-negative cost to the customer.”

Demeter Power Group logoDemeter is contributing its finance mechanism – PACE3P – to help overcome credit-related challenges that have prevented scalable finance programs in the past. Demeter explained that PACE3P ties services fees to the buildings where the energy is used through a voluntary assessment on property tax bills.

Initially the Program will make financing available to commercial properties located in Northern California communities participating in the California FIRST property assessed clean energy (PACE) Program offered through the California Statewide Community Development Authority. Interested participants must register with Demeter to participate in the platform, which is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2015.

U.S. Mayors Expand Climate Protection Agreement

U.S. Mayors have signed a revised climate protection agreement that for the first time focuses on local actions to adapt cities to changing climate conditions. The agreement is also aims to build grassroots support for local conversation efforts. The action took place during the 82nd Annual U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) meeting where one area of focus was climate change and the role energy efficiency and renewable energy could play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon.

14307537950_ca123598fd_zThe Agreement also urges federal and state governments to enact bipartisan legislation, policies and programs to assist mayors in their efforts to lead the nation toward energy independence. Following the signing ceremony, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy congratulated the Conference on their work and engaged in an interactive discussion with mayors from the audience.

USCM President Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said mayors have been leaders on climate protection, whether it’s cutting carbon emissions or preparing their communities for the effects of climate change. “In the 3.0 era, mayors are innovating, working with the best and the brightest, to lead on climate. Mayors are getting smart about sustainability. We’re moving from fossil fuels to alternative fuels, from waste to reuse. Mayors are using technology and innovation to do what we couldn’t do ten years ago. We’re boosting our economies and protecting our climate at the same time.”

The climate initiative was first launched 10 years ago in February of 2005 and at the time the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement was a landmark pledge by mayors from all across the country to take local action to reduce carbon emissions from city operation and by the community at large, consistent with the goals of the Kyoto Protocol. More than 1060 mayors signed the Agreement, mostly representing larger cities. Since then, USCM has been recognizing mayors for their successful efforts through its annual Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards.

USCM Energy independence and Climate Protection Task Force Co-Chair and Bridgeport, CT Mayor Bill Finch noted, “This is not a cause for mayors. This is a pragmatic problem that requires pragmatic solutions. Mayors across the country are investing in the future by tackling climate change head on. And, those who have signed onto the U.S. Conference of Mayors agreement have made more progress on beating back climate change in their cities than those who have not. Continue reading

Book Review: A Bird on Water Street

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wake up, walk outside and there were no animals, livingA Bird on Water Street things others than humans and nothing was green but all brown? Well this is the world of Jack, growing up in a Southern Appalachian copper mining town. The environment is so bad that the air eats through a pair of pantyhose in a matter of minutes. “A Bird on Water Street” is a young adult (and adult) story about the environmental turn-around of Tennessee town, “Coppertown”.

Based on a true story, author Elizabeth O. Dulemba explores the relationship between the environmental devastation due to copper mining and how the efforts of one boy, Jake, can turn a city around and make a difference.

Bird on Water Street explores several key environment and advocacy issues including:

  • Issues around copper mining and the devastating effects it has on the local environment.
  • How taking small actions to better our surroundings can make a big difference.
  • The challenges that many young people face, including bullying, death, pregnancy, and drugs and how they can navigate the issues.
  • Why having a sense of community is so important, especially for the growth and development of the community’s youngest members.

It’s hard to imagine living in a world with a “dead” environment, wide-spread disease, death and other health issues, but through the voice of Jack, you not only imagine it, you are both sad for him, his friends and his town. And you can’t help but cheer for him when he begins to discover elements of the environment that he realizes he is missing and he takes small steps to make change: growing a garden and planting a tree. Eventually, the whole town, after a strike and the closing of the mine, bands together on reclamation efforts and a new town is “reborn”.

I enjoyed the book and the authenticity of the voices of Jack and his friends and families. For parents who are looking for ways to encourage their children to become an active player in environmental efforts or young adults looking for inspiration and ideas, this is a great book to begin that journey.