I have always said that I’m an environmentalist but not a naturalist. I’m an environmentalist largely because I had so much pleasure outdoors as a kid: camp on the ever-magnificent Lake George in New York, climbing and hiking in the Adirondacks, skiing in the Green Mountains, traveling around the American West one memorable summer, playing ball in the fall and spring. I was blessed that way. My wife and daughter have imbibed much of that love of the great outdoors. I have never gained, however, a great deal of a grasp of the inner workings of the natural world. Birders are all around me in Central Park during migration, but I can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw. The wonders of nature nevertheless never cease to astonish me. An article from last year absolutely mystified me with this fact: A species of beetle in South Africa, feeding on animal dung, like others of their cousins which are found on all the continents except Antarctica, roll their dung balls in a straight line at night by orienting with the Milky Way. Astonishing. The flash of color from a male Red-winged Blackbird once captivated me so thoroughly hitchhiking at dusk in Wisconsin that I realized it was my totem animal. When I watch trees waving in the wind, it seems to me that they are dancing in joy at the sunlight and air. 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
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
That’s not me, but it’s certainly my sentiment. I’m a dad and I’m against the patriarchy. I’ve written about the evils of the patriarchal mentality, and was reminded after the catastrophic election in 2016 about how the New, Improved American Right is fed by it.
I was out with my daughter for the march in 2018 and yesterday with my wife. They went together in 2017 for the big inaugural event in Washington, along with a million of their sisters and brothers. Continue reading
I was discussing renewables with my class the other day and recounted an event I moderated a few years back in which one of the panelists, Minoru Takada, observed that there was much to celebrate on the renewable energy front, very much including the fact that policy makers, both in governments and the private sector, and general publics around the world, have been steadily gaining confidence in our ability to transition away from fossil fuels. I think we can all draw a great deal of hope as energy economies around the world continue to build confidence in this critical transition in which we are engaged. Continue reading
The Great Transition is the title of the preeminent sustainability theorist and activist Lester Brown’s last book. The Energiewende – energy transition – is what the Germans call their brilliant initiative to reshape the energy economy. Call it a transition, revolution, mobilization or transformation, or what you will. Call it clean tech, green tech, the green economy, sustainable development, or even the Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services Sector (LCEGSS). Whatever you want to call it and however you slice it, we are in the midst of a series of remarkable breakthroughs. Continue reading
There are a lot of ideas out there to save the world from our global environmental crisis. Lester Brown’s Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Project Drawdown, and the Green New Deal among them. A friend of mine pointed out a new essay in the New York Times this morning, “Climate Change Is Not World War.” The writer, a professor of English, purports that “We are underestimating both the deep national trauma of World War II and our present challenge.” Here’s my reaction. Continue reading
I finally got around to reading Private Empire this summer. (You know how it is: a bazillion books, papers, articles and every other doggone thing on your reading list.) I’ve been reading Steve Coll’s stuff in The New Yorker for years. He’s the dean of the J-school at Columbia.
Private Empire, to a certain extent, follows in the footsteps of The Prize, Dan Yergin’s Homeric saga in which he recounts “the Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.” But Yergin’s book is a historic and geographic sweep of the oil industry while Coll’s book zeroes in on ExxonMobil, the company with the second-highest revenues in the world, $453 billion, in 2012 when the book came out. They dropped to eighth by 2018 with $290 billion in revenues. Continue reading