Climate Change and National Security

A couple months back, we had guest Ed Perry from the National Wildlife Federation on our show to talk about climate change, the history of our understanding of climate change, resistance to climate change's reality, and very interestingly, the way that the U.S. Pentagon has taken note of it in the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Ed has organized an interesting meeting and set of presentations on climate change and national security that will be hosted at the Day's Inn State College on June 1st at 6 pm. Check the flier below for more contact information.


Centre Region company fined for "wetlands encroachment"

This story is in from the Centre Daily Times. In the rush for the natural gas under the Marcellus Shale there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that there is a lot more going on than just some "wetlands encroachment" by Rex Energy, one State College company.

As the DEP tells it according to the story:

Dan Spadoni, DEP spokesman, said he did not know whether the impoundment pond contained fresh water or frack water — a by-product of the hydraulic “fracking” process used to extract Marcellus Shale natural gas.

In a news release outlining DEP’s actions, John Hamilton, acting regional director, called the violations “significant.”

“Not only due to the actual environmental impact, but also because they totally undermine the department’s permitting process,” he said.


Gulf Oil Spill

Please watch this:

This videographer has it right. The failure of the Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent rupture of the oil line is a pure environmental, social, and economic disaster, thus threatening the "triple bottom line" of sustainable life. With estimates ranging from 5,000 barrels (BP's estimate) to 70,000 barrels (independent engineers' estimates using particle velocimetry), the scope of the disaster ranges from appalling to totally overwhelming. Turtles, shrimp, crabs, fish, plankton, and too many other species to name are now collateral damage for the American fossil fuel economy.

I would hope that it is somewhat clear now that the human power to untap presents itself once again. Like the Bhopal incident in 1984, Chernobyl in 1976, the destruction of Lake Baikhal, and Lake Cayuga setting on fire, this accident shows very clearly how easily we lose control of things that we think control nature. Our ability to control what we untap and the machines we use to tap and untap is very much in doubt. In the last 3 weeks, there could be a million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Who knows how much it will be in coming weeks? We do know that the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida will all suffer as will everything that lives in between.

What I wish I could say is, "The oil industry has done unprecedented damage to the Gulf." Maybe to the gulf. But it is not just the oil industry. It is most of the growth economy built on the cheapness of fossil fuels, like oil, that have precipitated this crisis. Yes. We are all to blame. BP (who is trying to limit their liability), Transocean, and Halliburton (also trying to limit their liability), and a lax Department of the Interior are more to blame than you or me. However, our addiction to oil - whether that oil comes from home or abroad - calls for us to "drill baby drill" makes this happen. This addiction, like all addictions, makes this kind of unconscionable disaster inevitable.

We all knew this (or something nearly like it) was going to happen. We all knew it would be an utter disaster. We knew this was precedented by the way we live and what we leave behind, including good sense, compassion, wisdom, and humility. Because we leave those things behind in the name of "growing our economy" and "progress," we leave behind one of the greatest single humanmade ecological disasters in history.

Some of me sees this as an opportunity. This is an opportunity to evaluate what power means and what it must be coupled with. That means looking at the power of the tools that I use in my daily life from the car to the lightswitch to the bicycle. That means looking at the power of our purse to decide what is really important in our lives as individuals seeking for the good life lived with other people and other creatures. That means looking at the power of "the economy" and leveraging it to change and probably slow down. To step back from our hubris and say that might does not equal right. I think this is an opportunity to learn, or, as some great teachers might say, grow toward the good.

Do you think we'll learn from this? I hope so. Perhaps some of us already have.

Because this is not a local issue, Mike and I will probably not spend very much time on it on the air. But know that we are thinking about it and encourage calls on the topic.

[Picture courtesy of NPR]


En route to the roots of a second Green Revolution

Just two summers ago, people in the United States were alerted to a food crisis caused in part by spikes in corn prices and diversion of corn for food to corn for ethanol. Because the global human population has grown from 4 billion to 6.7 billion people in under 40 years the strain on global agriculture to feed the growing population has been immense. Fewer people today grow their own food relative to populations in the past and many have suffered because they lack the ability to grow their own food and have become dependent on global food commodity markets.

Following Wolrd War II, urbanization, globalization, and increased agribusiness concentrations have taken food production out of people's hands as the world has moved along a path of global "development." For six decades, global development agencies have promised prosperity and abundant food production for the entire world. The most pronounced of these global agribusiness moves has been dubbed the "Green Revolution."

In short, Norman Borlaug and other scientists developed "dwarf varieties" of cereal crops that produced higher yields when grown with chemical fertilizers. Though yields grew in many places and overall cereal production grew, we now have enormous chemically dependent monocultures of corn, wheat, and soybeans that have generated soil erosion and chemical pollution while also displacing traditional agriculture. And the first Green Revolution barely touched Africa and large sections of Central and South America where people have perhaps been affected most by hunger as populations have ballooned.

This weeks's guest, Jonathan Lynch (Prof. Plant Physiology and Soil Sciences - Penn State University), has written in The Australian Journal of Botany that in the more than 40 years after the beginnings of that revolution, "854 million people are malnourished, 6 million children under the age of five die every year from hunger, and more than half of all childhood deaths in the developing world are caused directly or indirectly by malnutrition." This problems roots are fed by "overpopulation, poverty, disease, environmental degradation, war, social inequity, corruption" and other problems. Lynch believes that we must now face a future where and when subsistence farmers are afforded the possibilities to feed themselves and their communities in low fertility areas. This could be the beginning of a Second Green Revolution.

It seems the Second Green Revolution could use traditional breeding methods and merge them with modern scientific examination to develop root systems in corn and beans (two of the most important crops in the world) that can both survive droughts and take up nutrients in low-fertility soil. Lynch has been working for several years now and believes that he has figured out ways to bring greater yields to many hungry people without genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with little to no chemical fertilizer, and even in arid lands where water is scarce. Is it possible that people left out or forced into poverty by global chemical agribusiness could be provided with tools to live with less hunger and therefore, less suffering?

On this week's show we hope to learn much more about the coming Second Green Revolution. Jonathan Lynch will sit down and talk us through the state of hunger in the world, his goals, and why - from a social, economic, environmental, and perhaps spiritual vantage - we need a Second Green Revolution. As his lab's website writes, "Since most soils on earth suffer from one or more nutritional problems, this subject is of considerable importance for two of the great challenges confronting humanity: how to sustainably support over 6 billion people, and how to deal with global environmental change." Might these routes be a way to sustainability now? We hope so.

Join us this afternoon, Friday May 14th at 4 pm on The Lion 90.7.