A Front Burner Issue
stand here on this beautiful chapel green overlooking the mighty
mother of waters looking out across fertile farmland. We should
look quick! It won't stay this way forever. There are so many changes
afoot at this period that no one knows for sure how fast they will
come, but they are already coming. Climate change has been accelerating
for the last hundred years and now at an ever quickening pace.
and climate are two words that go hand in hand today. Since most
of the world's energy and certainly most of our energy is the result
of burning fossil fuels, we are most certainly releasing increasing
amounts of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, creating an ever
thickening blanket that holds in the heat and warms our planet.
Almost everyone now acknowledges that this accelerated warming is
human-induced. Of course, there are natural causes of warming, volcanoes,
El Niño, but beyond those, new evidence that human-induced
effects are changing our climate has come from the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography
at the University of California at San Diego. Dr. Barnett of Scripps
said that the "fingerprint" of human influence on the warming climate
is "so bold and big that you don't have to do any fancy statistics
to beat it out of the data. It's just there." (St.Louis Post-Dispatch,
April 13, 2001, AP) And "American cars, factories, and power plants
emit 25% of the heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere making the
US the world's biggest producer of greenhouse gases." (Amicus Journal,
Spring 2001, p.8)
temperatures are believed to have risen about 1.1 degrees over the
last century. According to UN: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change's most recent predictions, global temperatures will rise
2.5 to 10.4 degrees in the next 100 years. Let me repeat that. Temperatures
have risen 1.1 degrees in the last 100 years, and are predicted
to rise between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees in the next 100 years. That
is unnatural acceleration! Instruments became available in the 1950s
that made it possible to measure the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2)
in the atmosphere and monitor it around the world. In an article
entitled "Fiddling While the World Burns" (Amicus Journal Spring
2001) George Woodwell writes, "Suddenly data were available showing
a year by year accumulation of CO2 and powerful
evidence of the importance of the interactions between the atmosphere
and natural ecosystems: an annual cycle of rising and falling carbon
dioxide concentrations following the seasonal metabolism of northern
hemisphere forests. Woodwell writes in Amicus Journal, "my colleagues
and I could see the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere
fall every summer as forests of North America took up carbon, and
rise every winter as respiration dominated over photosynthesis and
the forests released carbon. It was clear that the forests have
a very large role in determining the composition of the atmosphere.
Such a thought was heresy at the time, but is now universally accepted."
Another idea that is gaining acceptance is that of "ecosystem services".
Wetlands purify water free of charge. Insects pollinate crops free
of charge. Forests moderate climate free of charge. (Nucleus, Winter
2000-2001 p. 12) Yet these ecosystem services are very valuable
and costly to duplicate if the natural process no longer functions
due to destruction. When we begin to value the bio-capital, we do
our economics on a different scorecard.
the 60s scientists increased their warnings, Congressional hearings
were held, solar panels were installed on the White House as an
example for the nation. Subsidies for alternative fossil fuels were
strengthened. We were on a path, but under Reagan the solar panels
were removed, the subsidies and initiatives canceled. "Two decades
of delay ensued." (Amicus, Spring 2001 p.31). More recently the
meetings in November at The Hague failed, and now our president
has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Where are we now? The CO2
content is 33% higher than it was 100 years ago and rising daily.
And our government is still stuck on trying to get by without curbing
anything. We have been pushing for emissions trading, credits for
forests in other countries that absorb CO2,
investing in emissions reduction programs in foreign countries while
taking little action at home and doing business as usual. The new
energy policy doesn't talk about conservation at all. They have
taken away half of the appropriations for alternative energy research
and are pushing for more domestic development of fossil fuels, which
will only increase CO2 emissions.
total release of carbon from burning coal and oil and gas is now
about 6.5 billion tons annually. There is an additional release
of carbon from the destruction of forests, about 1.6 billion tons
annually. Of that sum about 3 to 4 billion tons accumulate in the
atmosphere annually." (Amicus Spring 2001) p.31) That CO2
blanket causes rapid continuous warming of the earth. It causes
changes in precipitation patterns. It causes migration of climatic
zones at a rate of one to several kilometers per year. It causes
the melting of glaciers. It causes an accelerated rise in sea level.
It causes an increased range and frequency of climatic extremes
including large storms. "These changes are not hypothetical. They
are measurable now and accelerating." (p. 31) Can you remember when
the summers were milder and the winters colder and snowier? When
I ask friends in Central America or South America when is the rainy
season, they invariably answer, "Well, it used to be that..."
potential for further warming... will take the world far beyond
the range of reliable predictions." For example, "Just what are
the implications of an Arctic Ocean that is consistently open in
summer, no longer a cold, reflective white surface of ice, but a
warm, black surface of open water, free to absorb the heat of a
24 hour summer sun through evaporation? Since the global climate
is driven by the latent energy of water vapor, what will be the
effects of a large new source of this energy entering at the polar
extreme? At what point in the disruption of the global climatic
system will the circulation of the oceans suddenly shift, altering
the flow of the Gulf Stream, which now carries heat to northern
Europe and keeps coasts ice-free in the north? What are the costs
around the world to 6 billion people when continental centers become
progressively arid and increasingly subject to climatic extremes?"
(Amicus Journal, Spring 2001 p. 32) What will happen to islands
and coastal cities when the sea level rises and floods them? What
will happen to fertile lands that become so arid that they can no
longer be our "bread baskets"?
biophysical stability of the human habitat is dependent on the stability
of the functions of natural ecosystems. That just means that plants
and creatures, us too, depend on relatively stable temperatures
to live in and produce our food. "Destabilization leads the world
down the slippery slope of biotic impoverishment." Haiti is an example
of a thoroughly impoverished landscape and concomitantly a thoroughly
impoverished people. (p.32) Do we want to go there?
you aware that much of our fossil fuels are dug, drilled or mined
from places were indigenous people are not consulted, and their
lands are laid waste and altered for all time? The U'wa Amerindians
of Colombia have threatened to all just step off the cliff en masse
if Occidental Petroleum drills any further into their tribal lands.
That has got to be a desperate posture to assume. Mass genocide.
They have seen the results of oil exploitation to neighboring tribes,
and they will not endure it. The Cofan, Huaorani, the Secoya and
now the Shuar in the Amazon regions of Ecuador have all felt the
terrible crush of oil destroying their forests, their homes, their
rivers and their hunting grounds. Even on our own US soil the Dineh
or Navajo people are watching the underground aquifer be pumped
at a rate of 1 billion gallons a year by Peabody Coal so that a
slurry for pulverized coal can be piped to a nearby power station
in the Mojave Desert. Where water is precious, should our energy
demands suck the desert of indigenous people and their pastures
dry after we have stolen their land in the first place and now their
that brings us to the desire of some to drill for oil in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge. ANWR is the undisputed pristine wilderness
left in North America. It is the calving ground of a caribou herd
that migrates up the Porcupine River from northwest Canada into
the northeast corner of Alaska. Indigenous Gwi'chen people whose
lives revolve around the caribou would have their culture wrenched
from them. When you read that Alaskan natives are in favor of drilling
for oil on the coastal plain, they are talking about the Inuit people
who gain their livelihood from the Arctic Ocean. Obviously they
wouldn't be as concerned about caribou if their living comes from
whales. If we all inflated our tires on our cars to reduce friction
for maximum efficiency, we would save as much gasoline as we would
ever be able to drill for in the ANWR, about 5.4 billion gallons
in 50 years. Can't we do that instead? Do we have to destroy yet
another culture, a people, a habitat that is irreplaceable for a
few extra gallons of oil that we will have to give up on pretty
soon when we run out anyway.
heard it said that it would be as smart to drill in the ANWR for
oil leaving it pock marked and disrupted, and then have to find
new fuel eventually anyway when that oil runs out, as it would be
to not have enough fuel and decide to burn the Mona Lisa to keep
warm and then have to find another fuel anyway. Why not switch now
and save the treasures like the ANWR and the Mona Lisa?
is to be done? We hold the chart and the possibility of rescue."
Woodwell suggests, "The first step is for the US to develop its
own plan for encouraging first the conservation of fossil fuels
and then their displacement as the main source of energy driving
industrial society." (p. 32 Amicus Spring 2001) Many studies point
to great economic advantages as well as environmental stability
coming with this transition. "The issue is a global emergency, a
disaster underway. It is not a potential threat. It is with us now
and gathering costs, immediate and future, daily..."We the wealthy
of the US, are the worst carbon culprits, and the billions of the
whole world will pay the costs of our scandalous neglect." (p.32)
And at least 20% to 30% of the electricity Americans use today is
simply wasted - an obscenity, on a warming earth. We need to do
are doing several things, but we need to do much more. For instance,
Department of Energy is holding to the tougher standards for energy
efficiency in home washing machines and water heaters. The new standards
will cut water use by 10.5 trillion gallons by 2030 and save enough
electricity to light all US homes for more than 4 years. Although
not as high a standard as the last administration set, DOE is requiring
a 20% increase in energy efficiency for home central air conditioners
and heat pumps. These energy savings will equal the output of 37
power plants or enough electricity to light all US homes for 2 years.
(Nucleus Winter 2000-2001)
gas buses are already on the streets in many cities beginning to
curb the plumes of pollution emitted by diesel buses and trucks.
Zero emission buses running on batteries or fuel cells are beginning
to show up. Over a thousand transit buses running on natural gas
now operate in cities from New York to Los Angeles. The environmental
costs of natural gas are far less than those of diesel, about 40%
less smog producing pollutants. Natural gas emits about a tenth
as much soot as diesel buses, but it is not the ultimate solution.
Fuel cells give full environmental protection because they emit
no pollutants, no toxins, no greenhouse gases. Only water comes
out the tail pipe! "Fuel cells produce electricity directly from
the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. Oxygen is taken from outdoor
air. Hydrogen can be stored on the vehicle in its pure form, or
it can be extracted from other carrier fuels such as methanol."
(Nucleus p.6) When a bus company begins to use natural gas buses,
they are on the path to building an infrastructure for future fuel-cell
buses. Many of the changes in facilities necessary to accommodate
natural-gas fuel will be useful for hydrogen.
may say that switching all the gasoline tanks in all the gas stations
in America is too big a task, but who uses typewriters anymore?
We have made big switches when we found a better way to do business
over and over in the past. How many blacksmiths do you know? And
now we need to make this switch, too, from fossil fuels to alternative
cleaner burning fuels, so that we can have a safer and cleaner future.
With cleaner fuels, there will be less maintenance. In hybrid buses
that switch back and forth between electric and gas, there's no
transmission. The buses handle better, ride smoother. (Nucleus p.7)
That not only means for mass transit, but for family cars. We need
to vote for congressmen and women who will support clean energy.
We also need to vote with our dollars by buying products that are
you know that not only do SUVs get abominable gas mileage, but also
they are not regulated for emissions like cars? They are exempted
from clean air rules and are allowed to get by with the poor standards
that trucks are allowed. If you drive an SUV, you may want to think
about it some more. It is quite possible to drive a car that gets
40 to 50 miles per gallon or better. I do. I have for the last 10
years. It's nothing new. And it can get a lot better if we would
all vote with our dollars and buy cars that are energy efficient.
We influence the market! California approved a measure ordering
carmakers to offer thousands of electric and other advanced- technology
vehicles beginning in 2003 with a requirement to surpass 50,000
over the next decade.
news from the Farm: "Wind developers are installing large turbines
on farms and ranches. By 2020, wind energy could provide farmers
and rural landowners with $1.2 billion in new income and 80,000
new jobs," writes Eric Wesselman in the Union of Concerned Scientists
recent issue of Nucleus. (p. 10)"A wind turbine uses only a quarter
of an acre of land and can earn royalties up to $2000 a year. Iowa
now requires 2% of electricity sales be from renewable resources."
That is a start, but wide-open farmland in the Midwest could provide
a lot more power from the wind. Some larger projects already pay
115 landowners $640,000 each year. They also add $2 million a year
to the tax base." (Nucleus p.10) Since when is energy efficiency
not good business? Did you realize that organic vegetables require
less fertilizer (a product of oil), no pesticides or herbicides,
and fewer trips around the field in a tractor that guzzles oil?
co-op in Iowa planted 5,500 acres in switchgrass to be burned with
coal in a large power plant. If successful, the project will increase
ten times and plant 50,000 acres producing 200,000 tons of switchgrass
each year supplying 5% of the plant's fuel. Tripling biomass use
could provide $20 billion in new income for farmers and rural communities
and reduce heat-trapping emissions causing global warming by the
same amount as taking 70,000,000 cars off the road. Another farmer
is generating power from cow manure. His digester heats the manure
to 100 degrees F and the methane gas produced powers the turbine
that generates enough electricity for his farm and 50 homes. The
other good thing is that this process eliminates carbon and methane
emissions, which are both greenhouse gases. Farmers also are using
the sun to dry crops, heat buildings, power water pumps, making
farms more economical and efficient. (Nucleus p. 10)
of last month a bipartisan group of US senators and representatives
introduced the Clean Power Act of 2001. This legislation will require
dramatic reductions in power plant emissions of four pollutants
by 2007 and will encourage the development of renewable energy facilities
and energy efficiency programs. You could urge your senators and
representatives to co-sponsor the Clean Power Act of 2001. Do you
know whom your senators and representative are? If not, check it
out online. The four nasty pollutants it aims to cut emissions of
oxides which cause smog by 75% from 1997 levels,
dioxide, which causes acid rain, by 75% from levels, set by Title
II of the Clean Air Act
dioxide, which contributes to global warming, to 1990 levels and
which contaminates fish and threatens human health by 90% from
1999 levels. (Nucleus Spring 2001 p.12)
another good sign. In 1999 the NY Attorney General sued some of
the dirtiest power plants around the nation - the first time a state
has directly sued out-of-state power plants for violating the Clean
Air Act. Since then, two companies have come forward to negotiate
settlements. One company will spend $1.4 billion to slash smokestack
pollution, and another will spend $1.2 billion and cut pollutants
by 70%. , Both of these companies burn coal whose emissions cause
acid rain in New York. (Amicus Journal, Spring 2001 p.7) Money talks.
You might as well clean up and save, rather than stay dirty, get
caught, and pay anyway to clean up.
heat records continue to be broken and extreme weather events intensify
around the world, the reality of global warming is sinking in -
everywhere it seems like, except Capitol Hill. At the 1998 World
Economic Forum in Switzerland the CEOs of the world's 1,000 biggest
corporations surprised organizers by voting climate change as the
most critical problem facing humanity," reports Ross Gelbspan. (Sierra,
May June 2001 p.63) "European countries are planning drastic reductions
in their CO2 emissions while growing numbers
of corporate leaders are realizing that the necessary transition
to highly efficient and renewable energy sources could trigger an
unprecedented world wide economic boom." UK is committed to 12.5%
cuts by 2010 and 60% by 2050. Germany is working toward 50% reduction.
Holland who is worried about being flooded by rising sea levels
is planning to slash their CO2 emissions
by 80% in 40 years. British Petroleum is investing in solar power
and likes to be called BP - Beyond Petroleum now. Shell has created
a $500 million renewable-energy company. Ford and DaimlerChrysler
have invested $1 billion in a join venture to put fuel cell powered
cars on the market in 2004. Even William Clay Ford recently declared
"an end to the 100 year reign of the internal combustion engine."
(Sierra, May June 2001) But we have a way to go...
called the Natural Step has caught on in Scandinavia and is spreading
through Europe and starting in the US. The idea is that companies
who realize the economic advantages to being ahead of the game in
efficiency and resource management will gain far more than they
invest in research to create products that use less water, emit
no toxins, use no fossil fuels, and are willing to be responsible
for recycling the product after it is used cradle to cradle and
reused so that there is nothing to throw away! For example, Electrolux
in Sweden realized that the growing economy in China was going to
enable millions of people to own washing machines. But if all the
Chinese wanted to wash in machines like the ones we have, there
wouldn't be enough water in China to do it. So they invented a washer
that used about 1/3 as much water. No other company was ready with
such an innovative machine and when the Chinese wanted washers,
guess who led the market and made millions? Taking $$ and time for
research to create a more efficient product also made $$. Efficiency
and economy and environment are the three Es that go together. They
are not mutually exclusive.
Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research estimated
that "the world must generate half of its power from wind, sun and
other non-carbon sources by the year 2018 to avoid quadrupling of
traditional atmospheric carbon levels which would most certainly
trigger catastrophic consequences." His team suggested "researching,
developing and commercializing carbon-free primary power technologies...with
the urgency of the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Space Program."
(Sierra, May June 2001)
Foerster, husband of a Principia Trustee, Maggie Foerster, is on
the board of Alternative Energy Institute. You can check them out
on their website, www.altenergy.org. They have worked to encourage,
disseminate, facilitate and connect inventors, scientists, and investors
interested in all kinds of alternative energy. The best ideas get
shared faster and more widely through Alternative Energy Institute
and made practical. That is an angel message.
example of an alternative energy that a Principia graduate is engaged
in is UEK Technologies: Green Clean Power. Wayne Hawkins is Vice
President of Finance and Operations of UEK which produces a device
that can take free-running river or tidal flows and, without a dam
or other obstruction, use these flows to drive a turbine and generator
to make electricity. Imagine no dam. No flooded habitat. No displaced
people. No sacred sites lost. No warm water killing fish below the
dam. The turbine blades revolve slowly so fish passage is not an
issue, but with great torque to produce the power. California is
short of electricity. Many developing nations are in need of power.
This system can deliver power from the day it is installed, no pollution,
no emissions; no blocking of the river for transportation or fishing
and for much less cost than building a dam. There is tremendous
power in flowing waters. Why not harness it? They have. That is
another angel message.
energy transition will require a great deal of money, but not nearly
as much as ignoring the problem. Building and maintaining the necessary
new energy facilities will take an army of skilled workers that
organized labor can provide. More jobs, not less. That old Global
Climate Coalition made up of oil companies and auto manufacturers
who hired scientists to say that global warming wasn't real has
collapsed. Texaco and Mobil Exxon were the last holdouts. But the
world is waking up and so must we.
have an impact on the planet. Everyone does. There is a way to measure
impact; a formula that helps put things in perspective. It is I=PAT.
That is impact equals population times affluence times technology.
In other words one nation's impact might be less even though their
population was large, if they were not affluent or didn't have much
technology. On the other hand you might not have a very big population,
but if you were an affluent nation with lots of technology, you
could have a huge impact. Guess where we in the US stand? Our impact
leaves massive footprints since we love gadgets and convenience,
have plenty of money to buy them, and we waste a lot.
question remains what are we doing individually to help, to wake
up, to change our old bad energy habits? Dr. Jane Goodall, who will
be visiting this campus in a few weeks, believes that the individual
is important. Instead of thinking, "What can just one person do?"
and not doing anything, she asks what if all 6 billion of us did
a little something in the right direction? That would be a lot!
We can purchase simple technologies that will lighten our stomp,
or our step, maybe even help us tiptoe on the planet. For instance
do you have low flow shower heads on your shower? Do you use compact
fluorescent bulbs in your light fixtures? Does your family's water
heater have an insulated jacket? Do you have your own tire gauge
to check inflation pressure regularly for maximum efficiency while
driving? Do you have timers on your thermostats that can be set
to automatically lower the heat during the night and turn it back
up just a little in the morning? Timers that turn on and off hot
water heaters and air conditioners only at the hours you need them?
Do you recycle everything you possibly can? Do you know that in
the phrase "throw it away" there is no away? Do you "close the loop"
by buying recycled products whenever possible? We help create the
demand. Are you purchasing the most energy efficient appliances?
Is good gas mileage a priority when you buy a car? Do you consistently
do all the things your teacher told you to in grade school about
turning off the water while you brush your teeth, taking a 3 minute
shower, deciding what you want in the fridge before you open the
door and shutting it as soon as you are through, and turning off
lights and TV when leaving the room, and writing on both sides of
the paper, and only printing from the computer when essential? Do
we carry our own bags to the grocery store? Are we willing to ask
store managers if they could please carry recycled products? Do
we ask ourselves "How much is enough?" Do we weigh mere convenience
with true needs? Are we willing to break some of our wasteful habits?
Can we eat lower on the food chain? Remember "a penny saved is a
penny earned?" How about a gallon saved is a gallon not drilled.
So many things we can do to help!
forests play such a big part in regulating climate I have a bit
of good news. Over the last 3 decades a huge experiment has been
taking place in the tropical dry forest of Costa Rica. Dr. Dan Jansen
and many others have been working to restore the forest, and they
have done it! Where forests were routinely burned to clear the land
for cattle ranching and agriculture, once again lush green native
vegetation covers the northwest portion of Costa Rica called Guanacaste.
William Allen, the award winning environmental writer for the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch, has just come out with a book "Green Phoenix:
Restoring the Tropical Forests of Guanacaste, Costa Rica".
will be speaking May 5 in St. Louis at the Missouri Botanical Garden
at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night. The evening is free, the slides will
be beautiful, the information amazing, and the company inspiring.
You can purchase his book and get it signed then, or you can do
it today at the table marked St. Louis Rainforest Advocates right
over there. The hardback is $35 and worth every penny. We need success
stories like the one Bill tells. Everyone is invited on May 5th.
You might even want to arrange carpools and cut down on your CO2
another happy note. The Wilderness Society recently announced that
more environmental organizations were integrating spiritual and
moral values into their missions and messages. They are encouraging
dialogue that will transform the environmental movement. Their plan
promises to bring a new level of idealism to their work. They are
discovering within themselves and sharing with others the meaning
of concepts such as spirituality, faith, morality and values. They
wrote, "Our plan of enabling and encouraging spiritual thought and
expression in environmental work can improve our conservation work,
strengthen our resolve and help others to understand our message.
By making more individuals aware of the connections between spirituality
and environmental preservation, we can only improve the quality
of all conservation work. We are ready to help bring those connections
to light for everyone working to protect the Earth."
reading that. And I loved receiving the letter to Alumnus last fall
from Dr. Moffet. He wrote that employers around the country note
that "Principia provides an educational experience that, because
it trains its students to be critical thinkers, excellent communicators,
and globally alert citizens, is more important than ever before."
I hope we are turning out Principians that are all of those things,
but the one that stood out to me was when George pin-pointed "globally
alert citizens." We sure do need to be that! And best of all we
know how to pray! We can be expecting that useful solutions will
be seen. For example, recently scientists at the U of Florida discovered
that a common fern has the capacity to soak up arsenic from the
soil without keeling over dead. Once the plant has pulled arsenic
from the soil, it can be harvested safely. It could be planted in
contaminated soils to help with cleanup from farm chemicals and
wood preservatives. Who would have thought? That is an angel message,
voters, politicians, CEOs, citizens, "consumers" can all be receptive
to ideas that bring solutions. Some may be surprising. Remember
Elisha's solution to the lost ax? He threw a stick into the deep
river where the ax had sunk and "the iron did swim." Even though
the idea defied physical laws, Elisha was obedient to God's angel
message, and the solution was at hand. We, too, can be willing to
listen for and follow angel messages that will lead us to be gentler
to our planet home.
closing I want to share some of my favorite quotes, ideas that caution
me, inspire me, and keep me hopeful:
has gone to the moon, but he does not yet know how to make a flower,
a tree or a bird song. Let us keep our dear countries free from
irreversible mistakes which would lead us in the future to long
for the same birds and trees."
Houphouet-Boigny, President of the Ivory Coast
makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could
only do a little."
Burke, British Statesman
you think or know or believe is of little consequence. In the
end the only thing of consequence is what you do."
last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant:
"What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then
every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota,
in the course of eons, has built something we like but do not
understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless
parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of
doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can
change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
you to be not a just a consumer, but that committed citizen and
help us change the world!
finally in the sixth section of this week's lesson, Mary Baker Eddy
reminds us that "The devotion of thought to an honest achievement
makes the achievement possible." (S&H 199:21-22)