All posts by SustainableRossmoor

Systemic Racism and Climate Change

By Barbara Coenen

Protecting our environment has been my top priority since I attended my first Earth Day in Milwaukee in 1967. In 1967, it was all about using the most environmentally friendly dish soap and clothes detergent and learning about drinking water treatment processes.

In 2020, it’s about working as hard as we can to save the Earth for our children. That was my priority until May 25, when I watched the horrific murder of George Floyd.

Indeed, that was the day systemic racism in America became my main focus. It was the day I began to educate myself about the history and manifestation of systemic racism in America. Systemic racism manifests itself by the negative impacts of climate change on communities of color.

Racial Inequality and Climate Change

Penn State meteorologist Gregory Jenkins states, “racism is inexorably linked to climate change because it dictates who benefits from activities that produce planet-warming gases and who suffers most from the consequences.”

systemic racism and climate change
Many expressways pass through inner city neighborhoods filing the air with exhaust and other pollutants

Studies show residents in many brown and black neighborhoods in America live with far more air pollution than they produce from actions like driving and using electricity. By contrast, many white neighborhoods experience better air quality than the national average, even though their driving and electricity use contributes more pollutants.

Additionally, discriminatory housing policies, e.g. “redlining,” created distressed neighborhoods.  For example, these areas typically have vacant lots, more pavement, fewer trees and higher average temperatures.  In combination, these characteristics can lead to deadly heat illnesses.

Systemic racism and racial inequality also mean the people most at risk from climate change have the fewest resources to deal with the results of climate change.

Climate Change’s Impact on Neighborhoods of Color

Consider the following.  Over thirty percent (30%) of black New Orleans residents didn’t own cars when Hurricane Katrina hit.  Such conditions not only made them less mobile, it made it next to impossible for them to evacuate. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies conducted the study following Katrina.  (Just think about what that must have felt like for those people trying to save themselves and their families.)

systemic racism and climate change
Unintended consequences of post WWII housing projects was a loss of neighborhood community on a human scale.

Neighborhoods in Pittsburgh offer additional examples of the negative impacts of climate change on neighborhoods of color. Heather McClain, an environmental justice organizer, states: “Black communities, which already face disinvestment of critical resources like public transportation and access to health care, are being over policed and underserved.”

In East Pittsburgh, an oil and gas company is attempting to join with U.S. Steel.  Together they want to build a fracking well pad in the community.  This is the same community that has experienced generations of air pollution from steel mills.

I believe Joylette Portlock, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, sums it up best. She states, “Systemic racism is not limited to one system. Unequal treatment in our housing, education, health care and economic systems creates a lack of resources and options for where and how people live. There are many causal problems, none of which are easy to fix. …They require dedicated action to look for and remediate the unjust systems that support these inequities.”

Let’s get busy!

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, September 23, 2020.  Email Barbara Coenen at coenenbarbara@comcast.net

Educating Women and Girls – Reprised

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Native American proverb

By Joy Danzig

Earlier this month, the Earth Matters blog published my article, “Educating Women and Girls Amidst Climate Crisis.” It highlighted how educating girls and women could help in the fight against climate change.

The article was based on findings of the landmark book Drawdown, the Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.  Project Drawdown published the book in 2017.  Paul Hawken, a highly regarded environmentalist, edited the book.

Drawdown identified 80 solutions ranked in order of effectiveness. Each solution, when implemented, would lead to a “drawdown” of greenhouse gases. The objective is to reduce (drawdown) the rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and then reverse the trend.  There are eight categories, including one titled “Women and Girls.”

Each solution was researched in terms of reduction of CO2, in gigatons; net cost in dollars; and net savings in dollars. The total accounting included heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases and water vapor.

Two solutions, ranked No. 6 and 7, involved educating girls and family planning, respectively.

Educating Girls and Women

On May 18, Crystal Chissell revisited the subject in the article “The Astonishing Climate Effect of Empowering Girls and Women.”  Chissell is vice president of operations and engagement at Project Drawdown. The article streamed on the “We Don’t Have Time” app, found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The article marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (to see the article click here).

The opening statements of the article are striking: “Plant-based food, wind turbines and electric cars are often in focus during discussions on climate solutions. So maybe it’s time to highlight an even more important factor: health and education.”

Fighting the Climate Crisis Through Health and Education

Chissell contends we will not solve the climate crisis unless women and girls worldwide have equal rights and opportunities. This solution, which she now describes as “health and education,” is seen as the No. 2 most impactful one, just after No. 1, “Reducing Food Waste.”

Chissell describes the current solution as being more complex, in contrast to those that are focused and technological. This solution involves a sociological phenomenon. It encompasses quality of life, health of families and equality of opportunity for women.  Moreover, it includes equality in business and agricultural endeavors. Most critically, the relationship between their level of education and their engagement in family planning.

The rate of population growth drives the “demand for and consumption of food, transportation, electricity, building space and goods.” An article published May 26 by Resilience.org states: “Almost universally, research since the 1980s shows that women with higher levels of good, quality education marry later and have fewer and healthier children, live longer and enjoy greater economic prosperity. For example, in Mali, women with secondary education or higher have an average of three children, while those with no education have an average of seven children.”

Education Can Help Reduce Population Growth

Further, “The United Nations currently projects that the world’s population will grow from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion, with most of the growth being in developing countries. … But recent research shows that if girls’ education continues to expand, that number would total 2 billion fewer people by 2045” (see https://tinyurl.com/y56lrjs6).

Even the statistics regarding greenhouse gases are striking.  Chissell states, “In a scenario where there is investment in family planning and we limit population growth to the UN median population projection, our analyses shows we can avoid up to 85 gigatons of greenhouse gases between now and 2050.”

Educating Women and Girls
Enhancing health and wellbeing is key to overcoming our climate crisis. Education is the essential ingredient.

Chissell believes “solving problems concerning human health and wellbeing is the key to getting more people involved in climate action.”  She adds, on a practical level, “those problems are far more visible than what’s going on up in the sky.”

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women in our country the right to vote, it seems fitting that this, a potential solution to “drawdown,” receives renewed attention.

In addition to addressing the subject of women and girls, it is important to understand the very nature of Project Drawdown, which seeks to build on and enhance the findings leading to the 2017 book.

Change is occurring rapidly, as is the search for climate solutions. Visit the website https://www.drawdown.org/. The Drawdown Review, the first major update to research and analysis of climate solutions, is available there.

Support Organizations Educating Women and Girls

To find answers to Chissell’s question “What can we do to enhance global achievement of solutions to our climate crisis?” we can look to organizations supporting girls’ education and health.

Planned Parenthood, for example, reaches across the world. It partners with more than 120 organizations in Africa and Latin America.

The International Alliance of Women, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Geneva, is also notable. Its roots go back to International Women’s Suffrage Alliance.  It represents 50 human rights organizations with several hundred thousand members around the globe. For more, see https://womenalliance.org/.

Not only girls and women, everyone will benefit in the not-so-distant future as we approach the achievement of “drawdown.”

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, September 2, 2020.  Email Joy Danzig at joyfuld@gmail.com

Educating Girls and Women Amidst Climate Crisis

By Joy Danzig

The New York Times ran an editorial with the surprising title, “This Has Been the Best Year Ever,” on Dec. 28, 2019. The editorial’s author, Nicholas Kristof, wrote “few forces change the world so much as education and the empowerment of women.” 

Kristof said he drew his conclusion from a vantage point of “the long arc of human history.”

To illustrate, he pointed to the dramatic decline of illiteracy, poverty and diseases typically prevalent in developing nations. Diseases such as “polio, leprosy, river blindness, elephantiasis and AIDS” have been on the decline over the last 35 to 40 years. At the same time, there is evidence “when parents are confident their children will survive and have access to birth control, they have fewer children.” Such evidence runs contrary to those who argue, ”if we save children’s lives, the result will be a population crisis that will cause new famines.” See Kristoff’s article.

Project Drawdown

Project Drawdown provides further evidence of the potential of educating and empowering women. The Project is a climate change mitigation project founded by environmentalist Paul Hawken and climate activist Amanda Joy Ravenhill.

Project Drawdown developed a list of the “100 most substantive solutions to global warming.” A team of more than 200 scholars, scientists, policymakers, business leaders and activists developed and compiled the list. They measured and modeled each solution’s carbon impact through the year 2050, including the total and net cost to society and lifetime savings of each.

Educating Girls and Women
Educating girls and women are an investment in the world’s future.

They published their findings in Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever to Reverse Global Warming, in 2017. The book presents 80 solutions ranked by their projected effectiveness to reduce total atmospheric carbon dioxide. It quantifies each solution in gigatons.  A gigaton is “a unit of explosive force equal to one billion tons of TNT.”

The project has eight sectors, each containing several subtopics.  The sectors are buildings and cities, energy, food, land use, materials, transport, women and girls and “coming attractions.”  Out of the 80, educating girls and family planning rank 6 and 7 in importance, respectively.

Solutions prior to those two are No. 1 refrigeration (materials), No. 2 onshore wind turbines (energy), No. 3 reduced food waste (food), No. 4 plant-rich diet (food) and No. 5 tropical forests (land use). Family planning and educating girls each show a reduction of 59.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In addition, a third subsection, women smallholders (No. 62), referring to the ability of women to own land and manage farms with resources equal to those typically given to men, shows a reduction of 2.06 gigatons. Total: 121.26 gigatons.

Importance of Educating Girls and Women

While the statistics in the book are intrinsic to understanding the most effective solutions to reverse global warming, in many instances, these solutions offer a vital impact on the quality of life – most intrinsic to the section on women and girls. With education and resources for family planning, a young woman no longer has to bear unwanted children that may preclude her ability to pursue work to enhance her family’s standard of living. She may, therefore, live a healthier, more satisfying life. She may not be subject to domination by the men in her family and community. Her opportunity to attend school may not be precluded by family resources going to her brothers for their education. She may be able to manage her small farm, rather than work as an underling in a male farmer’s plot.

Educating Girls and Women
Education has helped lift the poor in developing countries out of extreme poverty.

The women smallholders subsection states “countries that have higher levels of gender equality have higher average cereal yields; high levels of inequality correlate with the opposite outcome.” Also, “when women earn more, they reinvest 90 percent of the money they make into education, health and nutrition for their families and communities, compared to 30-40 percent for men. With this solution, human well-being and climate are tightly linked, and what is good for equity is good for the livelihoods of all genders.” Although the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere plays a key role in the solutions portrayed in “Drawdown,” the value of human well-being cannot be minimized.

Agencies Out Front Educating Girls and Women

What agencies come to mind that play a key role in supporting these solutions involving women and girls? One is Planned Parenthood, which provides care with regard to the right to abortion and sex education of the young. It also reaches across Africa and Latin America in partnership with more than 120 organizations in those countries.

Further investigation reveals more resources. UNGEI (U.N. Girls Education Initiative), with a global advisory committee, has more than 30 partners. Of those, Action Aid (actionaid.org) deals with girls’ rights to education in many countries. Another, The Brookings Institution (brookings.edu/topic/ education/), features an extensive article on its website: “Girls’ Education in Climate Strategies” (Dec. 10, 2019). Find comprehensive and global strategies online at https://www.brookings.edu/research/girls-education-in-climate-strategies/. It is worth the time to read and learn about this important subject.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, February 5, 2020. Email Joy Danzig at joyfuld@gmail.com.

What Are Our Earth’s Rights?

“Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.” – Evo Morales

By Dale Harrington

The above quote inspired me to think about my next article for the Earth Matters column in the Rossmoor News. I strive to write articles that are meaningful and useful to others. I wondered how a conversation would go with the Earth if I asked it what it thought its rights are.

Earth's Rights
Does our forest use protect wildlife habitat?

Magically, the Earth’s response came to me! Here’s what it said: “First, I want clean air and clean water. Next, I want to maintain the natural beauty that I have brought. Then, I want to have my inhabitants enjoy what I offer – shade, fruit and nuts from the trees I grow. Of course, I am even happy when they find uses for my trees to build shelters, tools and fires to stay warm. I am pleased they enjoy and appreciate wood I provide as well as the fruits and nuts that grow from trees’ limbs. Same goes for what they find inside me – minerals, metals, oil, even clean water. BUT some of my inhabitants know no limits! I am the only Earth we are aware of!

How much is enough?

“My oceans are polluted with waste that is harming ocean inhabitants. As is true for all my inhabitants, my bounties are not limitless. The recent COVID-19 virus has emphasized an example of cause and effect on my environment. My inhabitants walked more and drove less, thus my air was cleaner, stores were closed, so there was less impulsive buying, and humans began finding ways to conserve my natural resources. Am I asking for too much?”

Here are some other examples of the impact humans have on the environment.

Depletion of minerals

According to a new study of the U.S. manufacturing sector (Sci. Adv. 2020, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv. aay8647), almost two dozen minerals required for new and emerging technologies are at risk of supply shortages. We use these minerals to produce alloys, batteries, catalysts, ceramics and for other applications.

Air pollution
Earth's Rights
Our rivers, lakes and oceans seem so vast, yet our profligate carelessness has polluted them all.

Because the average driver logs 13,476 miles each year, that means that in total, Americans drive more than 2.5 trillion miles annually.https://tinyurl.com/yxuvj5fc In 2017, the United States consumed a total of 7.28 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of about 19.96 million barrels per day. https://tinyurl.com/y3apr4aq In a previous article I wrote for the Earth Matters column, I included the following: We have an addiction to throwaway plastic! Ask yourself, am I an addict? Well, you would probably say NO because we normally think of addiction only in terms of drugs or alcohol. The definition of addiction: “the fact or condition of being enslaved to a particular substance, thing or activity.” (Emphasis is mine.) We are behaviorally addicted to the activity of purchasing plastic things!

“Most Intelligent”…”Highest Evolved”…Really?

It is puzzling we humans consider ourselves the most intelligent of living species on the Earth, yet look at the destruction we cause. We kill each other in wars; destroy forests and eliminate the habitats of the creatures living there; pollute the very air we breathe; litter the oceans and waterways with millions of tons of plastic and other waste, which wildlife ingest to their detriment and ours; pollute the very water we drink; abuse animals; and insist on buying and throwing away millions of items that have only a one-time use. Let us think more about what we are doing to our Earth, to future generations and to ourselves!

Earth's Rights
Millions of acres of western forests are devastated by fires every year. The smoke from the fires affects millions and contributes to climate change.

The words in the quotation at the top of the column – “What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans” – should cause us to reflect on our behavior. Do we care? It can be easy to come up with a quick answer and say “YES” because all of us want to care about our Earth (our home), and we believe we truly do care.

Pause and Reflect

However, if we pause and reflect upon our behavior, we might recognize that sometimes our behavior is disrespectful to the Earth. If we recognize that, then we not only can improve our behavior, but we MUST do so. It is time we MUST demonstrate we care and are entitled to live here.

Living on Earth is not a right, it is a privilege. All creatures have a right to live here. We have a window of time to take a step back and give our Earth an opportunity to meet us half way. Earth is telling us, “You are my guests, take care of me, don’t abuse me.” It’s time we recognized Earth’s Rights too.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, August 19, 2020.  Patty Harrington assisted with this column. Email Dale Harrington at dalejharrington@gmail.com

Our Indispensable Relationship with Nature

By Paul Wright

How would you describe the state of your relationship with Nature these days? I don’t mean to pry into private matters best kept from nosy strangers. But Nature happens to be “something” all of us have a connection with (you know…Mother Nature, right?), so my apologies if the question seems out of line.

After all, the noted Harvard biologist (and supreme fan of Nature) E.O. Wilson reckons humans have enjoyed a close association with Nature for over 99% of our evolutionary history. It’s what’s happened during the other 1% of our history I’d like to talk about here.

Take Time to Appreciate the World Around Us

When was the last time you gave Nature a close look? I frequently enjoy quiet time on our porch late in the day.  I like to let myself get lost in the complex tangle of the maple tree just beyond our porch railing. My gaze wanders to the St. John’s wort and yarrow dotting the verge down below with splashes of yellow.  I watch the occasional crow cutting a diagonal across the early evening sky, and in the distance the sunset glow of golden hillsides.

our indispensable relationship with nature
We are as much a part of nature as the world outside our door.

Rossmoor, of course, presents a domesticated, skin-deep version of Nature. The genuine article lies just under the surface, including the physical, chemical and biological systems that drive our environment. Consider the wildlife we share this valley with, the cycle of the seasons, the shifting sky overhead (and everything beyond), or the complexity of oceanic tidal action and river flows at work nearby whose effects reach even landlocked Rossmoor. It’s all Nature, baby!

It’s easy to imagine Nature as a movie we watch that’s happening right outside our front door. Bambi? Jurassic Park? The Perfect Storm? Choose your genre and pull up a seat. The problem with this approach is that we’re in the movie, too. Which is where things start to get especially complicated.

Agriculture’s Mixed Blessing

Somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago in various parts of the world, humankind made a revolutionary decision. To feed ourselves, we decided to become farmers, planting crops and raising livestock. Life was never quite the same and the consequences for our species were huge. Our indispensable relationship with Nature began to change. One particularly momentous implication was somehow we humans began to assume we live outside Nature.  Nature became something for us to manage, manipulate and tame where possible. But also to destroy.

our indispensable relationship with nature
As mankind learned to cultivate crops, our relationship with nature began to change. We no longer felt subject to nature’s laws.

Of course, we comfort ourselves that this approach opened the door to “progress.” But our triumphs over Nature have also led to unintended consequences. Although humans may have essentially declared independence from Nature, Nature never received the memo. Natural principles are still at work and natural systems still function. But by perceiving ourselves out of the relationship, we’ve made it harder to appreciate our place in it and easy to underestimate some important guardrails.

Reorienting our indispensable relationship with Nature

Putting ourselves back in the picture raises awkward questions. Questions prompting us to understand our propensity for impinging on systems that actually support us.  Maybe we need to think more about climate change, watershed damage and land overuse. Or to ask where our attitudes toward non-human creatures may lead us (consider the impact of industrial-scale livestock operations). Or to question our assumptions about Earth’s carrying capacity.  How many of us can Earth actually accommodate, now that we’re pressing 8 billion?

All this helps explain recent warnings that our habit of butting up mindlessly against Nature can trigger major disruption – like the current COVID-19 pandemic. Natural systems emit signals that call for attention. Honeybees suddenly die off; 356 elephants fall dead suddenly in Botswana; dozens of gray whales wash up dead on Pacific beaches; the planet heats up. Or a new coronavirus appears. Perceiving ourselves as a part of Nature might encourage us to value these signals more, aware that we’re all on this planet together, a key driver behind sustainability efforts.

Appreciating the gifts of Nature
our indispensable relationship with nature
Seeing Earth from space gives us a new appreciation of indispensable relationship with nature

Our carelessness about this critically important relationship may even have more mystical consequences for us – like how we see ourselves and one another. I suspect this was what the great Russian writer and philosopher Leo Tolstoy had in mind when he observed that “one of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken.”

Several astronauts have described experiencing a moment of epiphany when they first view Earth from space – a very real sense that our planet is a whole system that’s part of something larger, whose fragility calls poignantly for care and protection. From that moment – sometimes referred to as the Overview Effect – they’ve reported tracing a mental shift, a shift in perspective and priorities, a recognition that our lives are intertwined with what we call Nature. Few of us will have the privilege of experiencing our own Overview Effect from space. But we can start now, wherever we happen to be, to recognize our indispensable relationship with nature.

So … tell me again about the state of your relationship with Nature.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, July 22, 2020. Email Paul Wright at pwright001@aol.com.

Survive PG&E Power Outages

By Adrian Byram

All of us living at Rossmoor depend on reliable and affordable electricity.  Many of us depend on electrically powered medical devices. This column focuses on practical actions you can take before this year’s fast-approaching wildfire season – and the looming threat of public safety power shutoffs – to ensure you have a reliable source of electricity, especially for your critical medical devices.

Reliability is important, but so is affordability. Over the past five years, PG&E’s rates have risen 4.3% per year. By 2030, you will probably be paying $200-$450 per month for electricity, 60% more than today. So, this column also suggests ways you can save on your monthly electric bill – and even reduce it to nearly zero, no matter how much PG&E raises rates.

How can you improve the reliability of your electric power?

You need your very own stash of electrical power so when PG&E shuts down, you have hours or even days of electricity to power critical medical devices, or even your whole house. There are two ways to do this.

Option 1: Portable power stations

These are simple devices that can power an oxygen generator or CPAP machine for eight to 12 hours. When you get a power station, you plug it into the wall and plug your critical device into the power station.

Under normal circumstances, the power station routes electricity from the wall directly to your device. However, the instant PG&E power goes off, the power station automatically switches to its internal battery – your critical medical device continues to run without missing a beat and without any intervention on your part.

Portable power stations cost $1,000-$1,200. If you need help setting it up, Rossmoor’s Handyman Service can do the job for you.

Warning: The portable power stations described here are battery-powered and certified for indoor use. Gasoline-powered generators can also supply backup power, but should NEVER be used indoors.  Even outdoors, they are completely unsuitable at Rossmoor because of noise and fire danger.

To learn more about portable power stations and how to recharge them using solar power, check out www.sustainablerossmoor.org/backup-power.

Option 2: Whole house battery backup.

This option keeps your whole house running no matter what happens to PG&E. Your house is powered by a high-capacity battery mounted on an outside wall of your manor. During the day, the battery continuously recharges from solar panels on your roof; at night, if the battery is not sufficiently full, it draws power from PG&E.

survive PG&E power outages
A technician testing newly installed solar panels

When a PG&E outage occurs, the system automatically and instantaneously switches to the battery to provide all the power you need. In a multi-day outage, you can live normally, using all your lights, oven and any critical medical devices. (You may need to restrict use of your A/C.) Unfortunately, whole house battery backup systems are not cheap – $25,000-$30,000 including the rooftop solar system (after 26% federal tax credit). However, the system will eventually pay for itself in electricity savings. To learn more, visit www.sustainable rossmoor.org/backup-power.

How can you make electric power more affordable?

Here’s one tip to quickly save a few dollars a month on your bill. And one tip to cut your bill to under $20 a month.

Tip #1: If someone in your household depends on a medical device like an oxygen generator, nebulizer or CPAP, then you qualify for a medical baseline discount that’s probably worth $10-$15 a month. Due to COVID-19, you no longer need a physician’s signature to apply; just Google “PG&E Medical Baseline” or go to www.rossmoorepo.org/residents.htm to find the application form.

Tip #2: The best way to reduce your bill and insulate yourself from PG&E rate increases is to install roof-top solar. When the sun is shining brightly, your solar panels not only power your entire house, they send power back to PG&E – effectively running your electricity meter backwards. During nighttime and cloudy days, you draw power from PG&E, so your meter runs forwards during these times.

Thinking about “Going Solar?”

Over the course of a year, a properly sized solar system sends about as much power back to PG&E as you draw from it, so your average bill drops to about $20 a month. And best of all, when PG&E raises rates, it has to pay you more for the power you send back to it – balancing out the rate increase.

Roof-top solar systems have come down in price. You can get one installed for $9,000-$12,000 after the 26% federal tax credit. (Note this credit drops to 22% at the end of 2020 and expires at the end of 2021.) As soon as you install one, your electricity bill drops to about $20 a month. This means you recover the capital cost of the system in about eight years and enjoy almost free electricity for years afterward.

To learn everything you need to go solar, check out www.sustainablerossmoor.org/residential-solar/.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, July 8, 2020. Adrian Byram is chair of the Residential Solar Committee for Sustainable Rossmoor.  Email Byram at adrian@byram.org

Mobilizing Locally to Act Globally

By Dave and Amanda Casey

In 1941, the world faced unfathomable horror as war enveloped the globe. The United States, an enemy of fascism, was temporarily protected by its isolation from Europe and Asia.  But, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Congress recognized the wave of death and destruction coming in the wake of Hitlerism.  They called for Americans to mobilize and unite to help our allies.

The Lend-Lease law, enacted in March 1941, formally began the mobilization. Then, the wave crossed the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese killed more than 2,400 Americans at Pearl Harbor.  The U.S. entered the war and all its people doubled down, ultimately defeating the Axis powers.

A Crisis Bigger than World War II

Today, the world faces a different but equally unfathomable horror.  Climate change is enveloping the globe. World War II killed more than 70 million people. Today’s horror, left undefeated, will kill many more than that. Indeed, climate change is already causing more devastation globally than the Axis powers did.  Rising oceans, deadly hurricanes and devastating fires make the damage from Hitler’s Luftwaffe (air force) look insignificant in comparison.

Sadly, our national leadership hasn’t been acting like FDR and Congress did in 1941. Instead, the current government has undermined the Environmental Protection Agency. It has rolled back automobile emission standards, encouraged burning more dirty coal and dropped out of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Mobilizing locally to act globally
Families across the country grew vegetables in “Victory Gardens” during WWII to contribute to the war effort.

It’s the people that really count. In 1941, Americans sacrificed in big and small ways to save this nation and the world. People rushed to fill jobs in the mobilization effort, even relocating across the country. People walked and biked more as gas was rationed. They travelled less and stayed home more. People cut milk and meat from diets, and planted thousands of “Victory Gardens” to take their place.

Shared Sacrifice Led to Shared Gain

The nation’s emergency mobilization brought unforeseen benefits. Progress on racial and gender equality was integral to America’s success. African American men and women were an integral part of the war effort, both at home and overseas. Native Americans transmitted critical battle plans, untranslatable by the enemy. More than five (5) million women joined the workforce for the first time. New jobs were created, and everyone contributed. The U.S. came out of WWII stronger than it was when it went in.

So hope is not lost. In response to the lack of national action, many cities and counties have declared a climate emergency. They are mobilizing to address the clear and imminent danger.

Today, you see signs of the global climate emergency on the nightly news regularly. Yet, you may wonder if the emergency is real, because some leaders and other members of your community not reacting. You may think that it will not affect you or your children and grandchildren.

Indeed, social science experiments have shown that if authority figures ignore an emergency nearly everyone else will, too. However, it’s time for the people to lead and for local action to spur global action. The people defeated Hitler, and we can defeat the climate emergency.

To address the global climate emergency, people need to acknowledge the clear and imminent danger of continued greenhouse gas emissions. We must collectively abandon our “normal mode” of (in)action.  Abandon the leadership of those who ignore the danger, and immediately mobilize as individuals, employees, business owners and voters.

Mobilizing Locally to Act Globally

Contra Costa County’s Sustainability Commission has drafted a Climate Emergency Resolution (CER). If adopted by the Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa will join more than 1,000 local governments around the world declaring a climate emergency. Jurisdictions representing nearly a billion people – from big and medium-sized cities, like London and Sacramento, to little towns like Basalt, Colorado – have joined a massive movement. If passed, Contra Costa County’s CER will put the County on record in support of taking emergency action to reverse global warming. It will also initiate climate mobilization in the County and call for action at state, national and international levels.  View reports about the CER by The Antioch Herald and Contra County Herald.

Mobilizing locally to act globally
Wind and solar energy production reduces reliance on carbon burning energy sources

Climate mobilization calls for rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2030, and immediate efforts to drawdown carbon from the atmosphere. It also includes a just transition for residents and workers, as well as accelerated adaptation and resiliency strategies.  Learn more about Contra Costa County’s Climate Action Plan.

Americans need to mobilize to create a just and livable future. We need to exit “normal mode” and enter “emergency mode.” Today, that means residents of Contra Costa must urge their county supervisors and city council members to recognize the emergency and take urgent action. If we mobilize to defeat the climate emergency like we mobilized to defeat the Axis powers, then the U.S. will again come through victorious stronger than it was before.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, June 24, 2020.  Email Dave and Amanda Casey at davecasey@comcast.net

The Green New Deal

By Karen Perkins

The Green New Deal gets its name from the New Deal programs of the 1930s.  President Franklin Roosevelt initiated a series of programs and policies to reverse the economic devastation of the Great Depression. The “New Deal” programs stabilized the economy. Further, it brought an end to the severe depression and suffering of unemployed Americans.

Roosevelt’s New Deal Addressed A National Crisis
The Green New Deal
A quarter of US workers were out of work during the Great Depression

Such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage and many others, led to the growth of a thriving middle class. One of its key programs was the creation of 15 million government jobs enabling families to keep paying their mortgages and pay their bills. It also saved many from a loss of self-esteem often created from languishing idle while taking a government handout. Just as importantly, it also retrained workers to do all kinds of important contributive work, ranging from such important infrastructure projects as building the Hoover Dam to control the Colorado River, to building the National Parks we now enjoy.

Fast forward to today. We certainly have a lot of unemployed Americans.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Created A New National Crisis

In fact, at the height of the Depression the unemployment rate was 24.9%. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently estimated the rate today could get as high as 25%. What can be done to save the suffering of so many workers? Could they be employed to do things that would not only help with the coronavirus crisis we are in, like contact tracing positive test results, but things that would also lessen, even reverse, the catastrophic future of the climate crisis? Scientists tell us we have a limited window of opportunity. We are witnessing more and more dire results from cataclysmic hurricanes, fires and floods.

Unemployed people could “build the infrastructure needed to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

The Green New Deal Proactively Addresses the New Crisis and Climate Change
The Green New Deal
New infrastructure is needed to combat climate change

Workers could “dramatically expand and upgrade renewable power sources.”  Such a program could deploy “new capacity, build or upgrade to energy efficient, distributed and ‘smart’ power grids and ensure affordable access to electricity.”   Other workers “could upgrade all existing buildings in the United States and build new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, rate efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort and durability including through electrification.”

Workers in rural areas could “work collaboratively with farmers and ranchers to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”  Agricultural programs would support family farming and invest in “sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health and build a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”  Another program could overhaul the transportation systems – it goes on and on.

The Green New Deal identifies these, and many more, ideas in its 14 pages. It is House Resolution 109 and Senate Resolution 59. The House of Representatives passed Res. 109. The Senate, however, voted against Res. 59. It’s easy-to-read. It also explains the need for the Green New Deal. Furthermore, it lists all the ways we can save the human race and all life species to live on a planet with far less environmental, economic and social injustices. With a mobilization like that of the 1930s, it is imperative that we begin right now.  The Sierra Club is one of many organizations with information about the Green New Deal.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, May 27, 2020.  Email Karen Perkins at kper@sbcglobal.net

Tree Huggers Unite

By Bob Hanson

More than once, I have been called a “tree hugger.” Although I’m sure it wasn’t intended as a compliment, I am happy to admit I do love trees. Trees provide homes for wildlife and birds, food for our tables, lumber for our homes and shade for Mother Earth.

Growing up in the windswept flatlands of North Dakota, about the only conifer tree we ever saw was our yearly Christmas Tree. When my family moved to Enumclaw, Washington, suddenly I was in a forest wonderland, surrounded by Douglas Fir, cedar, hemlock and other giant trees. My friends and I made pocket money by going into the woods and stripping the bark off of cascara trees, which we dried and sold at the local feed store. When I went to college, I would have majored in forestry except for the fact that in 1949-50, forestry grads weren’t finding jobs. That changed three or four years later, but by then, I had gone a different direction.

These days, trees and forests are enjoying a wave of popularity. Most folks, except for our president, are concerned about climate change.  Forests are one of the best solutions for holding down the rising level of greenhouse gases – at least CO2.

Benefits of Trees
tree huggers unite
Trees help cool the earth, provide shade and help prevent flooding.

Trees store CO2 as they grow. Capturing carbon certainly isn’t the only solution to global warming – we need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels – but trees can be a part of the solution. There are two sides to this effort: preventing existing forests from being clear-cut or burned to clear the land for agriculture, and planting trees to establish new forests and replace trees lost to fire, logging and insect damage. A trillion trees planted could store up to 205 metric tons of carbon. That’s two-thirds of the amount humans have produced in the last 100 years.

There are several good nonprofit groups working to prevent deforestation: Save the Redwoods League, American Forests, the Rainforest Alliance, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club, just to mention a few. Tree huggers unite: all of these groups deserve our support.

Reforestation Efforts

Researchers in Switzerland determined the planet can support nearly 3.5 million square miles in trees without affecting cities or agriculture. The United States, for example, has over 397,000 square miles available for planting.

Other groups are working on the “reforestation” side of the problem. The World Economic Forum leaders, for example, established a trillion trees campaign at the Davos conference. The United Nations and many other groups are working on the challenge.

tree huggers unite
Forests sequester CO2, protect watersheds and provide habitat for birds and animals.

One encouraging development was announced in December. A U.K. company, Dendra, plans on planting 500 billion trees by 2060 using artificial intelligence and drones. The drones can plant 120 seedpods per minute. The company estimates it would take just 400 teams of two drone operators, with 10 drones per team, to plant 10 billion trees per year. The cost is much less than planting by hand and makes it possible to plant in hard-to-reach places. The drones use pressurized air to fire the seeds into the ground. The seedpods penetrate the earth and start to grow, once activated by water. Wouldn’t this be a better use of our tax dollars than building more nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers?

Closer to home, perhaps the newest committee in Rossmoor is Sustainable Rossmoor’s Tree-Planting Committee. About 20 of us have banded together to see what we can contribute to this world-wide effort. If you would like to join us, send me an email and let me know.

Tree huggers unite! The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago – the second-best time is today.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, April 29, 2020.  Email Bob Hanson at doctoroutdoors@comcast.net

Defiling the Environment

By Dale J. Harrington

The number of articles and letters published in the Rossmoor News concerning how humans pollute the environment, including our own back yard, is astounding. Why are there so many letters and articles related to this subject? Why are we defiling the environment?

We are supposed to be intelligent, yet we often act as though we are ignorant. Part of the problem is we sometimes do not realize the impact plastic has on our environment. Plastic breaks down and forms microscopic particles. Bob Hanson described the process in a profoundly detailed Earth Matters article in the Feb. 19, 2020 Rossmoor News article and reprinted here on April 30, 2020. He wrote, “Studies have shown bottled water samples contain nearly twice as many pieces of micro-plastic per liter than tap water from a glass container. Chemicals from the plastic can leach into the water with serious side effects.” When I read this I immediately thought, “out of sight, out of mind. If I cannot see it, it does not exist.”

The Dangers of Microplastics
defiling the environment
Our profligate reliance on plastic has lead to a world of rubbish

On Feb. 25, there was an article in the East Bay Times titledScientists gather to study risk from microplastic pollution.” The article contained following statement: “’Some of the concern stems from an unusual twist unique to plastic pollution. Because plastic is made from fossil fuels and contains hydrocarbons, it attracts and absorbs other pollutants in the water, such as PCBs and pesticides,’ said Andrew Mason, the Pacific Northwest regional coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program.”

Are we defiling the environment because we are insensitive to the damage we are doing? Is it because we do not see the microscopic plastic in our water or the thousands of pounds of plastic floating in streams, rivers, and the ocean it does not exist? It may not exist here in Tice Creek or our pond near the golf course, but if you search the Internet you can find numerous examples of this desecration.

Is Our Reliance on Plastic an Addiction?

We have an addiction to throwaway plastic! Ask yourself, am I an addict? Well, you would probably say “No” because you think of addiction only in terms of drugs or alcohol. I went on the Internet and put in “Definition of Addiction.” Here is what I found: “… the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing or activity.” We are behaviorally addicted to the activity of purchasing plastic things!

defiling the environment
We are the trash we make, are plastic bottles worth the cost?

Since it is behavioral, we can change if we decide to control our behavior. Sometimes it is not easy, but it can be accomplished with focus and dedication. First, we need to acknowledge our behavior. Then we need to examine the impact of our behavior. Then we need to take, possibly one small step at a time, to correct our behavior. I know habits are sometimes hard to change. Especially if we have behaved in a particular way for many years. And most of us living in Rossmoor have had many years of behaving “our way.”

We in Rossmoor are not totally insensitive to the environment. We are making good strides in recycling, composting and landfill. For some of us, living in Rossmoor is a new world, so to speak. Let us all extend this sensitivity to the broader environment for the sake of ourselves and others. Whenever possible, refuse to purchase plastic items.  Refuse to contribute to defiling the environment.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, April 15, 2020. Email Dale Harrington at dalejharrington@gmail.com.