Did Anybody Notice???

It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. Ansel Adams

Yet, despite our many advances, our environment is still threatened by a range of problems, including global climate change, energy dependence on unsustainable fossil fuels, and loss of biodiversity. Dan Lipinski

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead


Did anybody notice the news last week? In California … about the Oroville Dam, north of Sacramento?  More than 190,000 people were forced to leave their homes under an evacuation order.  The fear was that a largely earthen emergency spillway could collapse and cause catastrophic floods on the Feather River.

oroville-1.png

And what of the bushfires and bats in Australia, in the midst of one of the most ferocious heatwaves on record?  Parts of South Australia and Victoria reached 46 °C (115° F), while New South Wales and Queensland recorded temperatures above 47 °C (117° F). At least five towns in New South Wales and four in Queensland had their hottest day ever recorded over the weekend. As Ed McMahon used to say to Johnny Carson, “how hot WAS it?”  Well, it was so hot that thousands of bats dropped dead from the heat in eastern Australia, falling from the trees. The latest heatwave has led to people being admitted to hospitals as well as blackouts due to excessive use of air-conditioning. It has also sparked dozens of bush fires in New South Wales that firefighters are still trying to contain.

 

Why am I writing about this now?  What is the connection between a potential dam failure/flood in California and a heat wave in Australia?  Climate change. Pure and simple … climate change brought about, at least in part, by the habits of mankind and his obdurate burning of fossil fuels, as well as other things that produce excess carbon emissions, thus causing a greenhouse effect and destroying the ozone layer of the earth’s atmosphere. As to why I am writing about this now … first, the two above-mentioned incidents were widely reported, but little noted here in the U.S., where the masses were consumed by Trumpy Tweets and scandals involving national security advisor Michael Flynn, spokesperson Kellyanne Conway, and the contentious confirmation hearings of Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions.  The stories of a heatwave in Australia and a narrowly-averted disaster in California, along with that of six tornadoes in and around New Orleans were apparently not all that interesting.

In recent news, on Monday, 23 January, just after Trump’s inauguration, employees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received the following memo:

I just returned from a briefing for Communication Directors where the following information was provided. These restrictions are effective immediately and will remain in place until further direction is received from the new Administration’s Beach Team. Please review this material and share with all appropriate individuals in your organization. If anyone on your staff receives a press inquiry of any kind, it must be referred to me so I can coordinate with the appropriate individuals in OPA.

  • No press releases will be going out to external audiences.
  • No social media will be going out. A Digital Strategist will be coming on board to oversee social media. Existing, individually controlled, social media accounts may become more centrally controlled.
  • No blog messages.
  • The Beach Team will review the list of upcoming webinars and decide which ones will go forward.
  • Please send me a list of any external speaking engagements that are currently scheduled among any of your staff from today through February.
  • Incoming media requests will be carefully screened.
  • No new content can be placed on any website. Only do clean up where essential.
  • List servers will be reviewed. Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.

I will provide updates to this information as soon as I receive it.

Meanwhile, on 03 February, Florida representative Matt Gaetz introduced a bill that would terminate the EPA by the end of 2018. Terminate.  No more research, no more directives, no more scientific studies.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  The bill is co-sponsored by representatives Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Steven Palazzo of Mississippi.

climate-change-meme-kyle-hGaetz, a freshman in Congress, said the EPA’s rules and regulations designed to protect the environment actually hurt people and that the agency has “violated the sovereignty of the states.” Democrats in Congress are not overly concerned that the EPA will be abolished, as Gaetz’ freshman status likely means that he will not have the political clout to push his bill through.  Additionally, to completely abolish the EPA would require repealing a number of laws entrusting the agency with a number of specific environmental responsibilities.

However, Trump still appears to be set to chop the EPA’s budget drastically, and then there are the braying duo, Ebell and Pruitt …  .  Pruitt has spent the better part of his career as attorney general of Oklahoma suing the EPA … in fact he has filed a total of 14 lawsuits against the EPA.  And now he will, in all likelihood, run the agency.

The full senate is set to vote this week on the confirmation of Trump’s choice to lead the EPA, climate-change denier and supporter of the fossil fuel industry, Scott Pruitt. Trump already placed another climate change denier, Myron Ebell, in the position of director of the Center for Energy and Environment. I have written about both Ebell and Pruitt in the past few months.

Recently Pruitt acknowledged the existence of climate change, though he argued that the role of human activity is subject to debate. Just last year he referred to climate change as a ‘religious belief’.  During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt was asked by Senator Bernie Sanders about his personal opinion on the link between climate change and human activity, Pruitt demurred, claiming his opinion would be immaterial to his job as EPA administrator.  I love Sanders response:

“Really? You are going to be the head of the agency to protect the environment, and your personal feelings about whether climate change is caused by human activity and carbon emissions is immaterial?”

Much can and should be argued in favour of continuing research into climate science, additional regulations to reduce carbon emissions, and a number of other initiatives for which the EPA has been responsible, but I and others have said it all before.  The question before us today is what will happen to the EPA and how will it affect the earth’s future?  Fortunately, other nations are taking climate change seriously and will continue to do so even if the U.S. backs out of the Paris Climate Accord.  However, every nation needs to do its part, lest heat waves, droughts, floods, and melting polar ice caps become the norm.  It is interesting that the representative who wants to do away with the EPA is from Florida, a state where they are already fighting against rising sea levels.

We can hope that the senate, seeing the chaos the Trump administration has been this past week, has begun to shed its collective rose-tinted glasses and will vote with their minds and consciences when the Pruitt confirmation comes to the floor for a vote, but I am not counting on it.  Perhaps somebody should take them, in their stuffy suits and ties, to Australia and leave them for a week … then perhaps they would understand.  Probably not, but it is fun to think about, yes?

33 thoughts on “Did Anybody Notice???

  1. Sigh. There are always those who think everything will work out fine because we are so clever – and those who would rather not believe scientists for whatever reason.Or simply believe in acting as devil’s advocate.
    If you consider the increasing speed of the melting of polar ice, the raising of sea levels (already happening) which will affect coastal settlements all over the world and the changes in rainfall distribution which are already affecting some of the most vulnerable parts of the world such as the Congo basin, I would frankly rather try and do something to avert a potential global catastrophe than sit on the sidelines saying the data doesn’t go back to days when there were no humans to record it. But it does – we have ice cores and lake cores and deep sea cores. We have enough data to know that we should be entering another ice age and are actually warming up.
    Everyone is entitled to his or her views but we just have to face it, some people aren’t going to be swayed by rational argument.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make excellent points, my friend! The damage and causes are well-documented by scientists all around the globe! The effort to slow the effects are worldwide … those who would deny it are either blind to the facts, else have not bothered to study the facts, the evidence. I call it a Scarlett O’Hara (ever see Gone With The Wind?) mentality … “I won’t think about it today … I’ll think about it tomorrow”. Tomorrow may be too late, but some live only for today and to heck with future generations. Sigh. It is an uphill battle already, and now here in the U.S. we have a “leader” who is among the worst! Sigh.

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  2. Also climate change is a rather vague term, don’t you think? Climates always change. So what is the problem? Should man be so arrogant to think we can force environment to be stagnant? Not to say we shouldn’t care about the environment. The bible says we are the servants as well as the masters of nature. So we need to tend to it accordingly least we destroy it. However what exactly is it that you are saying exists? Climate change doest really answer that question. Global warming? Debatable. Global cooling? Well that was the theory 50 years ago. Who knows, maybe in 50 years the problem will be the climates aren’t changing enough. So serious questions, what specifically are you saying is the problem with the global environment and what data do you have to prove that this is not the norm?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The words ‘climate change’ may seem vague, but the concept of climate change as influenced by mankind can no longer be in doubt or dispute! Most of the world’s scientists are in agreement that if we do not significantly reduce our carbon emissions and soon, the earth will ultimately no longer be habitable by mankind, not to mention most of the species of plants and animals we depend on for the air we breath, the water we drink, and the food we eat. It is not simply a ‘theory’, but a reality, and if one just looks around, reads the news, one can see evidence of this every day!

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      • Well scientists used to agree that the universe was infinite and had no beginning or end. We have since disputed that. Man caused climate change in the data simply doesn’t exist if you scale out the data to hundreds of thousands of years. I’m not saying its not man caused, but what I am saying is that the burden of proof lies on you and I’m not sure that one could even truely prove it since we only began recording data 100 years ago at the end of the mini ice age.

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  3. Government agencies do the most environmental harm. One of them, in charge of preserving forests, actually caused one of the country’s largest forest fires in history. Perhaps local control will be better as locals care more about their local environment than beaurocrats in d.c. just doing paperwork for a check.

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    • Well, the problem with that is that the localities and states do not have the resources to make significant differences, such as perpetuating renewable energy sources. AND … states and localities are going to be influenced by local whims, such as promoting fossil fuels that are an industry in their particular state, as opposed to making the best decisions for the good of the whole. Environmental regulations and policies will only be effective when administered at a national level, in conjunction with other nations who have similar agendas.

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  4. And, as President Nero fiddles, climate change continues to heat the planet. The World Economic Forum said the greatest two risks to the planet over the next ten years are 1) our global water crisis and 2) not addressing climate change faster.

    Our country does not even talk openly about the first issue which is affecting our planet and country. On climate change, we have a President and too large a percentage of our country who are believing it is not a serious threat and man does not influence it.

    The related concern is climate change also impacts the first major threat. Duke Energy factors climate change into its water usage models and notes that with respect to the Catawba River that supplies power and water to millions of people, the reservoirs will have an additional 11% evaporation due to climate change.

    So, a simple question to our President would be if this is a hoax, why is Duke Energy factoring it into its water projection models?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent question! Admittedly, I focus quite a bit on climate change, but know little about the global water crisis — I need to learn more about that. But our current administration not only does not plan to do anything to make positive changes, but actually plans to make both of these situations worse. In fact, the House already started that process when they passed the bill allowing coal companies to dump their residue into nearby streams. Thanks for the info!

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      • Jill, water is the new oil. This was the key conclusion of book on “Water” which looks at the rise and fall of countries and civilizations based on their ability to use water for drinking, sewage, transpiration and naval might. Our main aquifers are shrinking, to such an extent that Saudi Arabia has allowed Muslims to pray with sand and not water. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Jill,

    The sooner US House republicans deal with DT, the better for them Later on when the whole story re Russia and his ties to the fossil fuel industry become widely disseminated, these republicans will not be able to dissociate themselves from their flawed leader and his policies.

    The seriousness of climate change is one of the issues that even a slight majority of republicans and most democrats align on and for good reason..

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. One is judged by the company one keeps, and the more intertwined the Republicans in Congress become, the more damage they are doing to their own reputations, not to mention our country! Climate change seems to me such a no-brainer … scientists are mostly in agreement and have offered sufficient evidence that I do not understand how anybody with a brain can deny it! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this Jill. We had heard of the dam threat and the tornadoes but I missed the news from Australia – how dreadful, the bats. Like ‘Choosing’ I like the Titanic cartoon – perfect, but also tragic. I had a conversation with a neighbour about climate change and she said – oh, you’re into that kind of thing are you? Excusable in a person in the street who gets her news from a climate change denying paper, but at Government level. This is utterly appalling. And for most people it still doesn’t seem to be an urgent issue – or even a serious one. Aaargh!
    I wonder, has there been any good news out of this new administration at all?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I almost cried over the poor bats. Silly, I know, but I am an animal lover and stories like this always break my heart. As I was just telling Gronda, I simply cannot understand how anybody can deny climate change. The proof is in the newspapers daily, and scientists have provided enough hard evidence … as you say, the average person who gets their news spoon-fed by dubious sources can perhaps be forgiven, but people in government who are college-educated, supposedly wise people … they MUST know the truth, but are claiming otherwise to further their own agendas. And no, there has not been a single positive thing to come out of this administration … the most positive thing would be for them all to resign and let’s start over! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The Sierra Club president met with a number of Republican Congressmen not long ago who admitted in private that they know climate change is a serious problem but it would be a risk to their careers to come out and admit it publicly — much less take steps to do something about it. So we have a group, in this instance, that regards their own careers as more important than saving the planet! Talk about confused priorities!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I like the cartoon with the Titanic… Funny, but sad really. Sigh. – But here in Europe a lot of newspapers/newspapers comment today on Trump’s difficulties with his “team”. One headline said “Not management, only schemes” (my translation of the German original quote). The article basically noted that although Trump had declared in his campaign that as a successful businessman he could lead a country easily (snigger on that), he apparently does not have a real grip on things. It looks more like his team is rather fragile (apart from the oh so robust Mr. Bannon – by the way: my browser’s auto-correct wanted to change Bannon into banana 😉 sort of fitting!). I don’t know if that is good or bad (do we really want a fragile government of the US?), but … we will see. It is definitely good to know that not all is working out as the trumpet had planned.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Interesting. I really do think he will not be long in office. It is just a question, as Jill has said, how much damage he can do before he is forced out, one way or another. He simply doesn’t know how the job should be done and he offends just about everyone he must somehow learn to cooperate with in a balanced government. Eventually, after the euphoria thins out the power structure in Washington will be sick and tired of the man.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I had seen that Titanic pic before and it was just too good not to use. I usually avoid cartoons when the topic of the day is quite serious, but I couldn’t resist this one. 🙂 Trump’s ‘team’ is imploding, I think, with the latest couple of scandals involving Flynn and Kellyanne. I said in the beginning, ‘give him enough rope and he will hang himself’, and that may well be happening. We shall see. I love that your phone changes Bannon to banana! Back in 2012, when Sarah Palin was John McCain’s running mate, my phone would always change “Palin” to “Pain” … I always just left it that way … thought it was quite apropos! 😀 Have a great day!

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