Climate models predict a continuation of the trends we’ve been seeing in many countries: heat waves happening more often and more intensely, longer and more severe droughts owing to decreased precipitation, wildfires as a consequence of long-term dry spells, and water stress for both urban and rural populations as well as for agriculture. Nowhere are these trends more in evidence than in the American West. The extraordinary engineering that has gone into making the West prosperous is at risk. (I blogged about the landmark history of water policy and politics in the West, Cadillac Desert, here in September.) Continue reading
I wrote about Cadillac Desert, the classic book about water in the American West, in September. Scores of millions of people depend on the waterworks that were built up over the 20th Century there, and many millions more benefit from the bounty of fruits and vegetables that grow there, much of it in California, where agriculture accounts for 80% of overall use. The story of Cadillac Desert, though, is that there has been a tremendous price paid for all that concrete, steel, energy, and the treasure needed to build and operate the waterworks. Environmental destruction has been catastrophic, lives were lost when dams broke, thousands of small farmers and their communities were destituted because the water too often benefited Big Ag, and the American taxpayer was bilked out of billions over time. Continue reading
Let me see if I have this right: The law says that you have to wear a mask on public transportation in New York City, including in subway stations and on the trains. But police officers feel free to ignore the law. They not only don’t enforce it, but they don’t observe it. And our mayor says, point blank, the cops won’t enforce the law! What am I missing here? Continue reading
That water flows toward power and money is, according to Marc Reisner in his magisterial book, Cadillac Desert, “the West’s cardinal law.” In every chapter, that sad fact is illustrated in abundance. The book, first published in 1986 and revised in a 1993 edition, put a new lens on the American West and the regional and national politics of water. It, like so many chronicles of the abuses of power, and the lies, arrogance, and destruction that accompany them, is both revelatory and maddening.
Dept. of Better Late than Never: A friend gave me the book more than 30 years ago. Continue reading
Here’s our family’s story from 20 years ago today. I sent this around to friends, colleagues, and relatives a few days after the event. It was a good way for many of them to have a personal connection to the day and its aftermath.
On September 10, 2001, you were six months old. The next day the world around you changed as it rarely ever does – with violence, stunning in its cruelty; with mind-numbing speed; and with a decisiveness almost unheard of in human history.
I bear witness to what happened because we were very close to the epicenter of this world-shattering earthquake.
This nightmare that we’ve been experiencing for the past four years may finally be coming to its end. Like many nightmares, it looks like it may culminate in a last, intensely frightening burst of violence. And then we’ll wake up, bathed in sweat, but breathing freely again, feeling relieved that we’re not dead or mangled or crushed by the monsters that were pursuing us in the dreamscape. This nightmare has not just been afflicting those of us who feel as if social justice and sane, reasoned public policy are the means and the ends to which society should attain. Those among us who see ourselves as rightful inheritors of a legacy of cultural dominance over the “other,” be they of a different skin color or sexual orientation or religion, have also been plunged into a darker night of fear than that in which they had previously been trapped. Continue reading
Hydrogen appears, finally, to be well along in realizing its enormous potential to substantially decarbonize our energy. I wrote about The Hydrogen Economy last year and this week I sat in on a compelling webinar, “Opportunities for Hydrogen in the Northeast,” presented by the NECEC. NECEC includes the Northeast Clean Energy Council and NECEC Institute. Continue reading
It is big news that Scientific American, one of the world’s most prestigious sources on science and technology, after 175 years of publication, has endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time ever. The Editors declare that “Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden.” They feel “compelled to do so” and “do not do this lightly.” The first and foremost reason given for this historic endorsement is clear: “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science.” They detail the catastrophic consequences of this rejection, like the nearly 200,000 Americans who have succumbed to the coronavirus. They further note his lies and, beyond that, the attacks on “environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges.” Continue reading
On May 10, 1940, German armed forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. That evening, the chairman of the UK’s Labour Party, Harold Laski, wrote “We are at a turning point in the history of the world.” Less than a week later, Winston Churchill, newly installed as Prime Minister, and Clement Attlee, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, announced an agreement to form a coalition government in order to prosecute the war. Unity was the watchword. David Low’s famous cartoon from that time vividly illustrates the fierce resolve of the leadership and, indeed, the public.
I wrote the other day about some of the manifest benefits of natural gas in our economies. There are also, without question, many negatives. Let me count the ways here. I also, however, want to note that there are ways to capitalize on gas in our transition to fully decarbonized energy economies. I’ll do that in a third post. Continue reading