Category Archives: Earth Matters

COVID-19 Blame Is Widespread

By Judith Schumacher-Jennings

Senator Richard Burr, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been accused of insider trading because he sold the bulk of his investments shortly before the COVID-19 market crash. However Senator Burr has been thinking about pandemics for a long time. In 2006 he coauthored the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA). Did he have inside information or do we have eyes wide shut?

Democrats are blaming Republicans for the nation’s COVID-19 response.  Republicans are blaming China. Perhaps both views are simplistic and the Covid-19 blame is more widespread.

Global Preparedness Monitoring Board

The United Nations Secretary-General created the Global Health Crises Task Force and Panel in the wake of the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic. The Task Force established the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB). GPMB urges political action to prepare for and mitigate the effects of global health emergencies.

The Board consists of 15 distinguished experts from around the world. It includes the former Director-General of the World Health Organization, the Secretary General of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, the Director-General of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and our own Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.

GPMP published its first annual report in September of 2019 (two months ahead of the COVID-19 outbreak in China). The title is A World at Risk.

The report outlined a grim situation.

A World at Risk

The world is at acute risk for devastating regional or global disease epidemics or pandemics. Both will cause loss of life, upend economies and create social chaos.

Population growth, increased urbanization, a globally integrated economy, widespread and faster travel, conflict, migration and climate change heighten vulnerability.

Covid-19 blame is widespread
Covid-19 has affected lives throughout the world, and its effects will be felt for years.

The world is confronted by increasing infectious disease outbreaks. For instance, between 2011 and 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) tracked 1483 epidemic events in 172 countries.  Epidemic prone diseases, e.g. influenza, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola, Zika, plague, Yellow Fever and others, are harbingers of a new era of high-impact, potentially fast-spreading outbreaks, They are emerging more frequently and increasingly difficult to manage.

The Covid-19 blame is widespread. The world is not ready for a fast-moving, virulent respiratory pathogen pandemic. The 1918 global influenza pandemic sickened one third of the world population and killed as many as 50 million people, 2.8% of the total population. If a similar contagion occurred today with a population four times larger and travel times anywhere in the world less than 36 hours, 50 – 80 million people could perish. In addition to tragic levels of mortality, such a pandemic could cause panic, destabilize national security and seriously impact the global economy and trade.

Public Trust and Political Will

Trust in institutions is eroding. As a result, governments, scientists, the media, public health, health systems and health workers face a breakdown in public trust. This is happening in many countries.  It is threatening their ability to function effectively.  Misinformation, communicated quickly and widely via social media, exacerbates the problem and hinders disease control.

Covid-19 blame is widespread
Covid-19 has disrupted lives and economies in ways that are only beginning to be understood

Covid-19 blame is widespread.  The lack of consistent political will at all levels hampers preparedness. National leaders only respond to health crises when fear and panic grow strong enough.  Most countries do not devote the consistent energy and resources needed to keep outbreaks from escalating into disasters.

Preparedness and response systems and capabilities for disease outbreaks are not sufficient to deal with the enormous impact, rapid spread and shock to health, social and economic systems of a highly lethal pandemic. In other words, epidemic control costs would completely overwhelm the current financing arrangements for emergency response.

Laurie Garrett authored The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, published in 1994.  Last year she wrote an article entitled, “The World Knows an Apocalyptic Pandemic Is Coming, But Nobody is Interested in Doing Anything About It,” for the September 20, 2019 edition of Foreign Policy.

A Changing Climate Plays a Role

According to Garrett, climate change favors outbreaks. For instance,rising heat and humidity spawn surges in populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes. In addition, warming temperatures allow water surfaces to suffocate under toxic algae, fill hospitals and agricultural fields with deadly fungi. Bird and animal migratory patterns are changing, and they, in  turn, carry their microbial hitchhikers to new geographies.

The report contended political will, financial investment and health system improvements lead to results. For example, the Republic of Korea successfully contained a second potential MERS outbreak in 2018. Nigeria also implemented an epidemic preparedness infrastructure. It rapidly controlled Ebola cases during the 2014-2016 outbreak which devastated west Africa. Additionally, recent improvements in India’s health system helped it identify and contain the deadly Nipah virus in May 2018.

In summary, Garrett wrote it’s hard to know what, shy of a genuinely devastating pandemic of killer influenza or some currently unknown microbe, will motivate global leaders to take microscopic threats seriously.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, April 1, 2020.  Email Judith Schumacher-Jennings at

Just Say ‘No’ to Bottled Water

By Bob Hanson

When someone offers me a bottle of water, I tell them that I don’t do bottled water. It used to be that this response surprised the would-be donor. These days, more and more hosts understand where I am coming from.

If we lived in Flint, Michigan, or some other parts of the country, bottled water might be justified.

The water we get from our taps comes straight from the High Sierras and often has won awards for purity and flavor. The East Bay Municipal Utility District does a great job.

Bans on Plastic Water Bottles

In 2013, Concord, Massachusetts, became the first city in the country to ban single-serve plastic water bottles.

City fathers cited environmental and waste concerns. Since then a handful of colleges, several national parks and the City of San Francisco have joined the movement. I would support the City of Walnut Creek taking a similar stand.

Americans consumed 13.7 billion gallons of bottled water in 2017.  I’m sure the 2019 amount was more.

Bottle Recycling Isn’t Widespread
just say no to bottled water
The majority of plastic bottles are tossed, instead of being recycled.

About 70 percent of the plastic water bottles bought in the U.S. are not recycled. Most end up in landfills or in a ditch next to the road somewhere. The third most common item picked-up on our beaches on beach clean-up days is plastic water bottles…right behind cigarette butts and plastic food labels.

Ads for bottled water display clear mountain springs. In fact, most bottled water comes out of a faucet somewhere. Studies have shown that 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.

Bottled Water is Costly

Another negative factor is that every bottle of water sold at our local Safeway or Costco has been shipped by truck from far away. One popular brand comes all of the way from the Fiji Islands. Does that make any sense at a time when we are trying to kick the fossil fuel habit?

Bottle manufacturing uses huge amounts of petroleum. Carting the water around the country also requires a tremendous amount of fuel. Theoretically, we melt down the bottles and reuse the plastic.  In practice, however, plastic recycling is becoming harder and harder to accomplish. China is where much of it is sent, but they are beginning to get fussier and fussier in what they will accept.

Plastic Manufacturing is Harmful

And pity the poor folks who live near a plastic bottle manufacturing plant. Studies show that communities living close to plastic factories suffer from increased levels of chronic illness and birth defects. In Corpus Christi, Texas, where the country’s largest plastic factory is located, birth defects for nearly a decade, from 1999 to 2007, were 63% higher than the rest of the state.

Bottled water is expensive. It can cost between four hundred to two thousand percent (400%-2,000%) percent more than tap water. That’s four times more than an equal volume of milk and three times the cost of gasoline. Mathematicians at Penn State University estimate that spending $20 on a reusable water bottle can save a person up to $1,236.00 a year.

So please join me in “just saying NO” to bottled water. Mother Earth, your health and your pocketbook will thank you.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, February 19, 2020 Email Bob Hanson at

Solve the Climate Crisis by Talking

By Paul Wright

I have an exercise to propose to the Rossmoor community: an investigative experiment for convening conversations. Among ourselves. About the climate crisis. Conversations – respectful listening and thoughtful speaking – have always played an important role in my life. Conversations have helped me learn about others,  shape ideas, understand myself better and for collaborating to accomplish goals together. The conversations I have in mind fit into all these categories.

Last year I attended a talk by David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth, at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. His book, an unadorned look at the implications of a future dominated by the impact of human-made climate change, has attracted a large following. For reviews of the book: The Guardian and NYTimes.

“Talk about It”

Unsurprisingly, of the many questions he got after his talk was recommendation for the best actions we can take. His answer surprised me. “Talk about it,” he said. He continued emphatically: “Talk about it with friends, neighbors, family members and colleagues. Engage with those around you in speaking about the climate crisis.”

On reflection, his response made perfect sense. Given the stakes and the scale of the problem we face – and the generations coming after us – can we afford not to?  Does anyone ever change his/her point of view without getting new information? So, one way to solve the climate crisis is by talking.

Talking about climate change
Conversations help us understand our world better.

This would probably be a good time for me to put my cards on the table. When it comes to the climate crisis, I should probably call myself a climate fundamentalist. By that I mean I fully embrace the claim that human activity is driving climate change today. In fact, given basic knowledge of science and mathematics, it would be truly strange if it weren’t.

The consequences of ignoring the problem will be enormous and doing nothing will only make it worse.  Our actions, or inactions, will affect the entire planet and all those who inhabit it. What future are we leaving for the young folks in our lives, whether children or grandchildren, and those of our friends? If actions speak louder than words, what are our actions telling them? What can we say, are we saying, to one another?

Why Aren’t People Talking About It?

Of course, getting started with a topic like the climate crisis can seem daunting. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication surveyed Americans to find out how much they talked about global warming. The survey showed eight percent (8%) of the Americans didn’t talk about it because the subject was uncomfortable. Many other, bigger, reasons that show up in that survey, too. For example, “the subject never comes up” (35%), “we agree” (33%), “(I) don’t know enough” (28%) and “ not interested” (27%). Then there’s the inevitable: it’s “too political” (26%).

Talking about climate change
Chating improves understanding

Further down the response scale, 13% don’t discuss global warming because of disagreement. This is all remarkable since, while about 60% of Americans report that climate change matters to them personally, perhaps only a third actually talk about it from time to time – and 59% rarely or never. After all, we’re not exactly shy about expressing our views. If you’re interested, you can read more about this at Attaining Meaningful Outcomes from Conversations on Climate – Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Nothing Will Happen If We Don’t Talk About It

I’ll be the first to admit exploring the climate crisis is a journey that can take us to some unexpected places.  I’ve experienced a range of surprising emotions, including grief, pain, anguish and sheer (dumbfounded) anger. It’s an astonishing way to realize what it means to call this planet our home – and begin to really appreciate the simple fact that we share it, and all that that implies.

Talking about climate change
Small group meetings give all participants a chance to contribute.

So back to the exercise I’m proposing: How can we talk together about the climate crisis? Well, by doing it. Organizing ourselves into groups no larger than eight or so, let’s explore the subject with our neighbors in a spirit of goodwill. Maybe we do it once; maybe we do it again, keeping in mind the lessons we learn as we go along. I’m proposing as many of us as possible host a conversation in our homes, or elsewhere, in one of Rossmoor’s many meeting spaces. Let’s begin to solve the climate crisis by talking.

Community Conversations In Rossmoor

Sustainable Rossmoor, which is interested in sponsoring this project, will be happy to arrange a meeting space and refreshments.

I’m also proposing that these be facilitated conversations – with facilitators present prepared to help hosts convene them, explain to participants a few basic ground rules, keep the conversations on track and help everyone to reflect on what they’ve learned along the way.

Talking about the climate crisis won’t solve a problem so hugely complex. But it might let us understand better where to begin, which is with one another.

Note: Given the current impact of the coronavirus (COVID 19) on public gatherings, the exercise described here will be delayed for the time being.

If this experiment interests you, and you would like to participate or serve as a host, please contact me at We’ll follow up once the coronavirus landscape clears.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, March 25, 2020. Email Paul Wright at

Reversing Climate Change

By Judith Schumacher-Jennings

Reversing climate change requires political will, practical solutions, commitment and cooperation.

Several months ago, I wrote a column for Earth Matters about the Green New Deal.  It was the most exciting climate news since the Paris Climate Accord.  You may have considered it a “pie in the sky” idea.  After all, it is supported by Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the like.

Turns out, the Green New Deal is not “pie in the sky” after all. I recently discovered a book that spells out how addressing climate change is not an impossible task. Paul Hawken’s Drawdown, published in 2017, takes us step by step through the 100 best ways.

In Drawdown’s preface, Dr. Jonathan Foley explains why reality of climate change is upon us. Dr. Foley is the executive director of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. He argues climate change is affecting weather patterns, ecosystems, ice sheets, islands, coastlines and cities. It is also affecting our health, safety and security.

Processes Producing Carbon Dioxide and Methane
Reversing Climate Change
Methane and carbon monoxide are produced by multiple sources, not just burning fossil fuels

We release heat trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. CO2  is also released manufacturing cement, plowing fields and destroying forests. We release methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas, with our cattle, rice fields, landfills and natural gas operations. However, Foley believes we have all the tools we need to reverse climate change. He says, Drawdown is the most important book ever written on how to do just that.

Hawken defines “drawdown” in atmospheric terms.  Drawdown is the point in time at which greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline. He decided to demonstrate how reversing the accumulation of greenhouse gases is possible. Hawken compiled a list of applied, hands-on practices and technologies that are commonly available, economically viable and scientifically valid. His list highlights the practices and technologies with the greatest potential to reduce emissions or sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

The Drawdown Background

To this end he gathered together 70 Drawdown Fellows, students and scholars from 22 countries. This group compiled and sorted through the existing research. Then Hawken assembled a 120-person advisory board to review and validate the findings.  The board included prominent geologists, engineers, agronomists, politicians, writers, climatologists, biologists, botanists, economists, financial analysts, architects and activists.

Drawdown’s resulting solutions lead to regenerative economic outcomes. They will create security, produce jobs, improve health, save money, facilitate mobility, eliminate hunger, prevent pollution, restore soil, and/or clean rivers. Hawken sees global warming as an opportunity. Reversing climate change is an opportunity to build, innovate and effect change and a pathway to awaken creativity, compassion and genius.

Cooperation v. Competion

Reversing Climate Change
Drawdown’s solutions can heal the planet and reverse climate change and require a paradigm shift in human behavior.

An essay by Janine Benyus describes the history of a great debate in the early 1900s. The debate was between ecologists Frederic Clements and Henry Gleason. Clements studied bayous, chaparrals, hardwood forests and prairies.  His research indicated plants actually cooperate with each other to survive. Gleason, on the other hand, was in the Darwin tradition and thought plants merely competed with one another for survival.

Clements theory held sway until the 1940s. The Truman Doctrine and the onset of the Cold War made any mention of “communism” impossible, even when talking about plants. In the last 20 years, however, Clement’s ideas have seen a resurgence. Over 50 years of research into the competitive nature of the plant world proved inconclusive.

Gleason had promoted the cutting of thousands of acres of California blue oak trees. The Blue Oaks thrived for eons to provide for rangeland grasses free from competition. In the 1990s ecologist Ray Calloway’s research showed the blue oaks act as nutrient pumps and feed the surrounding landscape. He has since compiled more than a thousand (1,000) studies describing how plants enhance their neighbors’ survival, creating a virtual manual for how natural communities heal and overcome adversity.

Collaboration and Community
Reversing Climate Change
Climate change is reversible…if we all work together

In the epilogue, Hawken writes about Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes. Stoknes found we tend to become immobilized by fear, guilt, passivity, apathy and denial when inundated with threats and dire warnings about climate change. Hawken believes a conversation framed about possibility and opportunity can shift the paradigm.

The economic data collected for Drawdown shows clearly that far greater profit is achievable by instituting regenerative solutions than the cost of conducting business as usual. For example, the most productive method of farming is not conventional agriculture, which depletes the soil and adds to the carbon footprint, but regenerative agriculture. Regarding power, the solar industry has employed more jobs as of 2016 than gas, coal and oil combined.

As it turns out, climate solutions depend on community, collaboration and cooperation. Reversing climate change will require groups of people forging new and promising alliances: developers, cities, nonprofits, corporations, farmers, churches, provinces, schools and universities. Curiously, research has shown that children typically exhibit altruistic behavior even before they speak. Concern for others is seemingly innate.

Hawken suggests we’ll reverse global warming when we remember who we are meant to be.

Learn more about Project Drawdon, Paul Hawken, Drawdown, Frederic Clements, and Henry Gleason

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, January 8, 2020. Email Judith Schumacher-Jennings at

Cutting Back on Meat and Dairy

By Dave Casey

Most Americans blame cars and coal-fired power plants for greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, but most aren’t aware of the cow in the room. Few of us are aware the livestock sector accounts for more emissions than cars and planes together.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a prestigious medical journal, recently editorialized that climate change represents the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. It also noted that chronic diseases caused by dietary choices are currently the leading cause of death.

Could there be a way to combine fighting climate change and combating chronic diseases at the same time? For example, using a bicycle for transportation versus driving a car is a win-win-win for our health, for the planet and for our pocketbooks! Are there similar win-win-win situations when it comes to diet?

Cutting back on meat and dairy
Consuming red meat and dairy products in moderation benefits you and the environment.

The foods that create the most greenhouse gases (red meat, farmed fish and dairy) appear to be the same foods that contribute to many of our chronic diseases. Meat, dairy and eggs have substantial negative environmental impacts on climate. Grains, beans, fruits and vegetables have the least negative impact on the environment. Moreover, animal-based foods have less fiber, vitamins and antioxidants than plant-based foods. Meat and dairy also cost more per pound. That makes a possible win-win-win: reducing meat and dairy leads to less environmental impacts, greater health benefits and lower cost.

European Commission Study

In 2011, the European Commission commissioned a study on what individuals can do to help the climate. The Commission is the European Union’s executive arm. In terms of transport, if all Europeans started driving electric cars, it could prevent as much as 174 million tons of carbon from getting released. They also could turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.

But the European Commission study concluded the single most impactful action people can take is to shift to a low-meat diet. The foods we eat may have more impact on global warming than what cars we drive or turning down the thermostat. Cutting out animal protein just one day a week can have a powerful effect. Meatless Mondays can reduce greenhouse gases as much as the weekly commute to work. A switch from the average omnivore diet to a 100% plant-based can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Commission’s study identified why it is difficult to reduce meat and dairy. It’s simply lack of knowledge, ingrained habits and culinary cultures. Most approaches to reversing climate change are expensive. A global transition to a low meat diet, as recommended for health reasons, can actually save money. A healthier, low-meat diet could cut the cost of mitigating climate change; while a no meat and no dairy diet could cut climate mitigation costs by 80%.

Cutting back on beef and dairy
Reducing the red meat in diets is a healthy choice.

For most of my life, my family has enjoyed a great barbequed flank steak on Friday nights, a weekly cheese laden pizza, a weekly spaghetti or tacos with beef, and frequent crackers and cheese. Yet, over the past year, I have found myself and my family consuming less and less meat and dairy.

World Resources Institute Recommendations

The World Resources Institute recommends developed nations cut beef, lamb and dairy consumption by 40% to meet global emissions goals for 2050. The Institute is an environmental research group. I’m not sure I can commit to a 100% vegan diet. I can certainly substantially reduce my consumption of meat, dairy and eggs. Such efforts will reduce my carbon footprint, improve my health and save money. By helping the planet, we can help ourselves.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, March 4, 2020. Email Dave Casey at:

Vote Climate to Save Our Earth

By Anne Foreman

Every vote counts.  Our planet, its forests, oceans, air and earth, can’t vote.  We can.  It’s time to Vote Climate to save our earth.

The bad news is unrelenting. A few examples: plastics are filling up our oceans. Next, air pollution is worsening. Additionally, our lakes and rivers are becoming more polluted. Moreover, forests worldwide are burning and being cut down. Arctic glaciers are rapidly melting. Sea levels are rising. More species are facing extinction. At the top of the calamities is global warming.

U.N. Report Contained a Dire Warning

Time is running out. That’s the warning from the latest United Nations report on global warming. For instance, our planet is still heating up with greenhouse gas emissions at an alarming rate. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells us the “point of no return” is in sight. “Climate change” has become “climate crisis.”

Individuals Are Heeding the Warnings

On an individual level, many people are doing their best to try to save our planet Earth. Here are some examples, in no particular order: first, many are composting. Secondly, people are refusing to buy food and beverages sold in plastic. Thirdly, investors are divesting their stock portfolios of oil and gas stocks, in favor of renewable energy companies — solar, wind, and geothermal. Fourthly, home owners are installing solar panels on their roofs. Additionally, they are planting trees. Lastly, people are buying electric cars.

Governments Need to Step Up
Vote Climate
The fate of the earth is in every voter’s hands

All these efforts by individuals are laudable, but the reality is individual efforts aren’t enough to significantly stop global warming. Only decisive measures taken by national governments will be able to curb the rise in global temperatures. The world’s 20 richest countries are responsible for more than three-quarters (75%) of worldwide emissions. And of these countries, China and the United States are the worst polluters.

We need leadership at the top to acknowledge the reality of global warming – leadership that will fight aggressively for legislation to stop it. Vote climate to save our earth. How we vote in 2020 will be crucial in the fight to save our Earth. For indeed – time is running out.

Here are some resources to help you decide: Climate Voters Guide, Politico report, USA Today, SF Chronicle, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Dec. 25, 2019.  Email Anne Foreman at

A New Look at Bio-degradable Plastic

By Bob Hanson

It’s time to take a new look at bio-degradable plastic. The news these days is full of articles about the evils of plastic.  Plastic threatens the oceans and landfills, health concerns, litter problems, difficulties in recycling, waste of fossil fuels, etc. On the other hand, we have become hooked, and ever more dependent, on plastic.  Consider the ball point pens we use, the combs we pull through our hair and dozens of other items we use daily.  Plastic is ubiquitous and has many uses.

Certainly, we should use less and recycle more. But wouldn’t it be sweet if we developed a plastic that would bio-degrade in less than a 1,000 years? I was happy to discover scientists are working on that. Someday your table scraps could turn from trash to plastic bottles, medical equipment and other beneficial objects, and when they are discarded, they can return to the soil.

Bio-degradable Plastic

bio-degradable plastic
Bio-degradable utensils and straws are already available and can be recycled

Leading the way on this effort is a Canadian woman, Luna Yu. Her Toronto-based business is converting low-value waste into high-value materials. Soon your table scraps may turn into all sorts of plastic items, which will be compostable when discarded.

This new second-generation plastic is called polyhydroxyalkanoates (don’t ask me how to pronounce that!) Let’s just call it PHA.

The scientists who are perfecting the process have developed bacteria, which can break down the food waste into small carbon-building blocks. PHA-assembling bacteria eat the carbon and store bioplastic granules in their cells. Scientists chemically extract the bioplastic from the bacteria. Some other companies are making the new plastic from methanol, sugar and oil. All of these new ventures developing bio-degradable plastic are finding the process more expensive than making it from petroleum. Yet, if consumers are willing to pay a bit more and insist plastic items be bio-degradable, demand will go up and prices will come down.

Europe Leads the Way (again)

bio-degradable plastic
While convenient, single use plastics are deadly contaminants

European countries are leading the way in ridding themselves of single-use plastics. European parliament committees have approved banning a number of single-use plastic products by 2021. Scientists are developing a number of other bio-degradable plastics. Unfortunately, so far only PHA will break-down in the ocean water, where a great deal of plastic ends up.

Bio-plastics currently only constitute about 1% of the 320 million tons of plastic produced each year, but this percentage is certain to rise. We can help speed up the conversion by working with legislative bodies and pressuring retailers to eliminate non-biodegradable plastic packaging and outlaw plastic items, such as drinking straws and eating utensils, unless they are bio-degradable.

California has always been a leader in environmental legislation, and we should be on this issue.

More research and development is necessary.  Moreover, the Ecology Center cautions us not to get ahead of ourselves.

If this, or other environmental, issues interest you, such as taking a new look at bio-degradable plastic, please consider joining Sustainable Rossmoor.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Nov 13, 2019.  Email Bob Hanson at

A Call for Climate Activism

By Brad Waite

This is a call for climate activism! We owe it to our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren to take very serious action to combat the climate crisis. And to do it now! Why?

The climate crisis is causing a rapid increase in the number of kids suffering from what therapists call “eco-anxiety.” They share a growing sense of fear over climate change and impending environmental disasters.

The Power of One

climate activism
Our youth are at risk, get involved!

This anxiety became so severe for one 15-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, that she became depressed. Fortunately, she decided to take action to help deal with it.

With the blessing of her parents, in August of 2018 she started skipping school every Friday to sit on the steps of the Swedish parliament to lobby for action on the climate crisis. Soon other kids joined her for the same reason. She quickly became the leader of world-wide student-led climate strikes.

In March of this year, the strike she led drew over a million kids to 2,200 actions in over 120 countries. The strike she led on Sept. 20 of this year drew over 5 million people over even more countries. Two members of the Norwegian parliament nominated her for the Noble Prize this year.  Learn more about Greta.

She has awakened the world to the need to take massive action now, while there is at least a fighting chance of saving our planet from becoming uninhabitable. If you don’t believe the risk is real, you may be drinking the  disinformation kool-aid campaign of the fossil fuel industry to deny, delay and obfuscate on this issue, a playbook they took from Big Tobacco. Exxon scientists informed senior management in the 1970s that extracting and burning fossil fuels would create a climate crisis. Yet they have never admitted it while continuing to reap huge profits.

Join the Movement

climate activism
Join the movement, get involved!

I’ll bet you’re asking how you can answer the call for climate activism. What you can do to help? Start by learning enough about the topic to be able to speak with others about it. Then continue to talk with anyone and everyone, starting with your grandkids. Ask them what they think you can do to help. Ask them and their parents what they are doing to help themselves and future generations.

How can you start learning about this crisis? There are plenty of really great books, starting with Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken. One of the best things about the book is it lists 80 solutions and ranks them by effectiveness. Read Drawdown and pick a solution that works for you. Find an organization that is active and effective in that area and join them, be involved and contribute. They will help to educate you while providing support and camaraderie while you help them move forward.

For example, there are several very effective groups that were started and run by youth, such as Earth Guardians, Sunrise Movement and Youth vs Apocalypse. These three groups all have Bay Area chapters and they all could use mentorship and money. They will supply the energy, passion and courage. I’ve engaged with some of these youth climate activists and can tell you that they are fearless and totally committed to this fight.

Don’t Forget You Have A Personal Part to Play

climate activism
Find an issue you support and get involved!

On a more personal level, you can work to reduce your own household’s carbon footprint. One of the best ways to do that is to use a good online carbon footprint calculator. Contra Costa County has launched its own, which you can access at They call it the Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge and it allows groups or friends/neighbors to form a team to compete for honors by having the largest reduction in carbon footprint. On this website, once you have completed your profile, you will be shown several actions you can take and how much each is expected to cost, if anything, and the expected reduction in carbon.

One very fast and easy step is to opt up to MCE’s Deep Green program from our local community choice energy provider. Their plan delivers electricity from 100% renewable sources. The cost is minimal, with the average MCE customer paying only about five dollars more per month for pollution-free power. Get your account number from your PG& E bill and go to to sign up. For extra credit, use that clean electricity to charge an electric vehicle.

These are just some of the ways you can get motivated and involved. The most important thing is to do something that makes a difference. Respond to the call for climate activism. And remember: keep talking about this issue with others and talk about ways to solve it.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Oct. 30, 2019. Email Brad Waite at

Recycling, Composting, Trash Disposal and Much More

By Dale J. Harrington

The ubiquitous dilemma of “how to and what to” place in recycling, composting and trash disposal containers continues to baffle most of us. I’ve been methodically researching such matters in hopes of finding “the correct” answers to this decision-making process. I hope you will benefit from my research as I share some of my findings.

Use cloth bags or netting bags, instead of plastic, when grocery shopping. This reduces the amount of waste you bring into your house. You can wash the bags and use them over and over.

recycling, composting, trash disposal
Avoid pre-packaged fruits, vegetables , etc. and take your own reuseable bags to market

Buy food that has less packaging. Purchase bulk instead of pre-packaged items. Many pre-packaged vegetables are available in vegetable bins. Selecting items from the bins, allows you to control the quantity and thereby reduce waste. Most plastic wrapping on the pre-packaged items ends up in landfills.  Even if the tray  the vegetables are in is recyclable, by using your cloth or netting bags, you reduce recycling.

Don’t use bottled drinks unless you have to. Mix your drinks into your juice container to save on recycling plastic or glass.

Buy milk in plastic containers since they can be recycled. Milk in cardboard containers cannot be recycled because they have a film on them (prevents leaking), which means they are not recyclable.

My wife was excited when I shared the following sustainable practices for everyday use.

All-Purpose Cleaning Solution:

Consider making your own household cleaners and detergents (as provided on the Family Trip blog): All-Purpose Cleaning Solution

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar 1/2 cup distilled water drops preferred essential oil ** Toilet Cleaning Solution

• Sprinkle baking soda in toilet

– Spray distilled white vinegar on top

• Allow to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing. With your toilets, prevention is key. Once you get nasty mildew build up, it gets a lot tougher to clean. So clean quickly, yet often.

Homemade Dryer Sheets

Fabric scraps – cut into approximately 4-by-4 squares 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar 10 drops preferred essential oil ** 2 tbsp water (tap is fine) Place everything in a resealable container, allow fabric to soak through, add 2 scraps to wet clothes in the dryer before starting the cycle.

You will have to add more liquid to the scraps after some time – the length of which depends on how often you do laundry. Just feel free to add the same ratios of liquid to the jar and fabric scraps.

Hardwood Floor Cleaning Solution

1 gallon of water (can use distilled, tap is fine) 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar 3 drops pH neutral dish detergent (recommended: Dawn Pure Essentials) 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol 2-3 drops preferred essential oil ** ** Essential oil: Concentrated Hydrophobic Liquid: An essential is a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted.

recycling, compost and trash disposal
Reduce single use plastics and other single use containers

Here are a few other tips:

• Take anything that can be reused, such as clothing, to a secondhand store. There are numerous secondhand stores in Walnut Creek.

• Put recyclable items into recycling bins. Do not contaminate them by putting landfill or compost items there.

– Place compostable items into compost bins.

• Dispose used batteries into battery container up at MOD.

– Take fluorescent light tubes to Ace Hardware.

• Do not buy products in aerosol cans. The aerosol contaminates the environment.

As much as anything, stay tuned, share with others what’s working for you. Know we are doing the best we can to inform you about recycling, composting and trash disposal.

See Rossmoor’s recycling page.  Check out Sustainable Rossmoor’s Trash Talking page.

We depend on Republic Services, Recycle Smart, and other services to take care of what we don’t want/need. They depend on their buyers, who often face new challenges for this task. Bottom line: be flexible and know our purchasing decisions truly make a difference.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, Oct. 16, 2019.  Email Dale J. Harrington at

Electric Vehicles – What’s New?

Electric vehicles are seen as the sustainable future of transportation. There are, however, two issues that have slowed their adoption. Firstly, their range (how many miles they can go on a fully charged battery).  Secondly, the ease of charging the batteries.

Researchers and businesses around the world are working to address these concerns.

The Race for a Better Battery

The Swiss start-up company Innolith claims to have developed a high-density lithium-ion battery that will give electric cars a 600 mile range. Compare that with Tesla’s batteries, which are produced by Panasonic, and can support 330 miles of range in the most expensive models. Innolith’s battery uses an inorganic solvent that is more stable and less flammable than the organic compound used in lithium-ion batteries.

However, Innolilth’s battery has not been independently verified so major car makers haven’t lined up to buy it yet. The company is starting pilot production in Germany. It admits it may take up to three (3) years to commercially launch the product.

Battery Charging…today

electric vehicle
Battery charging time will decrease as Level 3 stations become more common.

On the charging issue, most EV owners prefer the convenience of charging their vehicles at home.  Eighty percent (80%) of current owners do just that. However, they use either with Level 1 (a standard 110 volt outlet) or Level 2 (an upgrade to a 240-volt outlet). Both of these levels use AC (alternating) current. Level 1 can replenish the battery of some limited-range electrics and the hybrids – like the Chevrolet Volt or Fiat 500e – overnight. Vehicle models with larger batteries providing a range of over 200 miles require Level 2 for overnight charging.

Level 3 fast charging is 480 volts and uses a DC (direct current) plug. It is available at some commercial locations, such as Whole Foods markets, parking garages and car dealerships.

Battery Charging…looking forward

What if Level 3 fast charging were to become available for individual homeowners at a reasonable cost? And better yet, what if the electricity could come directly from solar panels to a storage battery, to the car, and bypass the local utility company completely?

The online publication Off Grid Energy Independence reports TU DELFT, along with the companies Power Research Electronics and Last Mile Solutions, has developed a quick charger that can charge cars directly from solar panels using DC current. The product is still in development stage.

electric vehicle
Roof top solar panels would enable residents to more easily and cheaply charge electric vehicles

Such a technology would be a boon for places like Rossmoor. For example, many living units and carports at Rossmoor have limited electricity. Certainly not enough to support multiple EV charging outlets. If solar panels could be installed on carport or garage roofs to provide electricity for EVs without the need to connect to the utility grid, that problem would be solved.

Major car companies are investing heavily in electric vehicles. For example, Volkswagen is converting a gas engine car factory into an electric car factory. The factory will produce over 300,000 cars per year. Hopefully major technological advances in residential charging via solar energy won’t be far behind.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, Sept. 18, 2019.  Email Anne Foreman at