Smarter than ants

 

After the recent hurricanes we heard Scott Pruitt and others talk about how now is not the time to be talking about climate change, how we should be focused on helping the people who need help.  After the devastating loss of life in Las Vegas many of our elected officials expressed the same sentiment related to talking about gun control.  These types of deflections and deferrals are incredibly frustrating.  With climate change enhanced storms, fires, floods, and mass shootings becoming common events; that deferral approach will never provide the time for real discussions, but perhaps that is the point.  If you kick over the sand on a sidewalk ant hill, the ants will immediately begin working to rebuild and fix their home.  They will not stop and ask themselves if there are any actions they could take that would improve the sustainability of their home nor put critical thought in to how to prevent further disruption.  As humans, we do stop and ask questions and this has led to countless advances in society that have increased our safety and lifespan.  If we had always taken the ant approach, our life expectancy would be like that of a caveman.

 

The other thing we as humans often do when domestic terrorism happens is shrug our shoulders with a sort of ‘oh well, if someone wants to do bad things they will find a way’ attitude.  This is absolutely true, but I strongly disagree with the complacency, dismissiveness, and acceptance of the statement.  Throughout history we have implemented countless new precautions and policies to help thwart and minimize the loss of life.  After the Oklahoma City bombing, federal buildings were modified so they are set back from the street, have blast resistant glass, are engineered so the floors do not collapse, and have cement flower planters or similar that prevent vehicles from getting too close.  After 9/11 there were countless security measures implemented to increase the safety of air travel.  So when it comes to gun violence, let’s try and find common ground and agree that exploring the opportunities for preventing and minimizing the loss of life is a valuable investment of time.  Once we have agreed on that, then we can move on to a more interesting dialog about what those potential solutions could be.  So whether it is fighting climate change, domestic terrorism, gun violence or anything that is a deep threat to life itself; let’s be smarter than ants.

 

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Defeating excuses

As you might recall, last February I began a new program to begin to improve my overall health. After losing thirty pounds in 6 months, I have spent the last month maintaining that but not inching any closer to my end goal. I have been eating pretty appropriately but not getting in much exercise. My bike had been sitting on the garage hooks for several months and I kept finding myself too busy or distracted with other things to get it down. So, on Thursday I purposefully painted myself in to a corner and had the kids drive themselves to school despite me planning to attend my sons school soccer game 15 miles away. This left me one free option, to ride my bike. Thursday morning my brain started randomly producing excuses about why I should just stay home. These included the unusual heat and humidity, that is was too far and unsafe, that my bike should have a tune-up first, and my favorite – that I would likely get some chaffing, In and amongst those, I put air in the tires, lubricated the chain, prepared an appropriate song playlist, and began to pre-hydrate. Since Bing currently lacks an integrated bicycle mapping solution (vote for it here), I turned to Google. It showed the path I should take and estimated it should take 90 minutes on a bike to go the 15 miles. My first thought was to give myself 3 hours and if I was running ahead of schedule I could stop somewhere on the way, but as the day wore on I settled on 2 hours, sprayed some arm and hammer powder to alleviate chaffing concerns, put on my ear buds, and was on my way. For the first few miles, the excuses and doubts continued to creep in but I kept peddling and was eventually to a point where it would be less effort to keep going towards my destination rather than turn back. I arrived at the game 30 minutes early which was spot on with the Google estimate. I wonder if Google knew I was a middle aged somewhat out of shape man riding a fat tire trail bike.

Sometimes we need to push (or pedal) through our doubts and excuses and stop letting fear, uncertainty, laziness, or complacency hold us back. It has been several months since I have written a blog entry, in part because of an underlying feeling of despair. I have watched many of the decisions that our current U.S. elected and appointed officials have made related to environmental protections and have been truly saddened for future generations who will feel the impacts much greater than I will. The current status quo is unsustainable and the global scientific community has been telling us this for decades. We have been treating the sky like it is a limitless expansive sewer, where we dump 110 million tons of man made global warming pollution every day, when in reality there is a thin shell of an atmosphere less than half the distance that I biked yesterday. It is no coincidence that 16 out of the 17 hottest years ever recorded on planet Earth have occurred since 2001. I could go on and on but to simplify what you hopefully already know, the problem is complex and the solution is simple. My good friend Tim said it well, we need to fix the market bug and have taxpayers stop subsidizing the very things that we turn around and socialize the costs of.

The good news is that there is growing bi-partisan support for addressing this issue head on but we need to keep the momentum. Today there are 56 US House of Representative members (28R / 28D) in the Climate Solutions Caucus working on economically viable options to reduce climate risk and protect our nation’s economy, security, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply, and public safety. While 56 is a good number, it is not like being past the halfway point on my bike was. We need to keep peddling and push through any discomfort, go up some hills, avoid some potholes, avoid some distracted drivers, and eventually we will have enough momentum that moving forward will be easier than turning back. You can use the previous link to look at who is in the CSC and easily ask your representative to join the caucus as well as thank the current members. Please take a few moments to nudge your representative. As we have seen, addressing climate change with partisan solutions is not sustainable because a change in leadership after an election cycle can quickly negate progress in that area. Mother Nature and Climate Change do not care about your political affiliations and neither should you when it comes to this topic. We need to embrace our representatives with a positive mindset and find common ground with them to move forward.

195-3

Today was a historically sad day as POTUS announced he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.  I watched his speech announcing this with frustration and anger but am now residing myself that maybe it is for the best.  My frustration and anger stem from the flawed logic and false narrative that are being used to justify the exit.  The primary focus was about the agreement being a bad deal for the U.S., how it is a ‘massive redistribution of wealth to other countries’ and how if the U.S. remained it would ‘become the laughing stock of the world’.  He went on to boast about our existing “natural” (fossil fuel) energy sources and the value of using those to drive our energy needs.  He went on to paint a picture of ‘brown outs, black outs, and businesses coming to a halt if the U.S. were to remain in the agreement’.  Sometimes I think POTUS chooses to undo things his predecessor did or do the opposite of them just to stick it to him and then creates a narrative to support that, as opposed to critically thinking about what is truly best for our country.

In my opinion, if we were not already, we most definitely are now the laughing stock of the world.  We join Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations not to be signed on to the Paris Climate Accord.  Ironically, Nicaragua is not on board because they felt the goals were not aggressive enough and Syria has other priorities as you can imagine.  Scott Pruitt (EPA) got to follow on and mentioned how ‘America finally has a president who answers only to the American people and not to special interests’.  Which American people does he answer to when making such decisions?  It is not the hundreds of U.S. based companies who asked him to remain in the accord, it is not the leaders of organized religions, it is not the countless U.S. scientists, and it is not the majority of Americans who support remaining in the agreement.

Consider that in the U.S. the clean energy sector is growing at 10x the rest of the U.S. economy.  The idea of making America great again by reviving the coal industry, fracking, and drilling is short sighted and today marks the most irresponsible act of this president to date in my opinion.  The silver lining is that had the U.S. remained in the accord, we would have been a total PITA for the other nations under the current administration.  Now, they can forge ahead uninhibited as they have declared they will.  As other nations adopt a clean energy economy with a carbon fee and dividend policy, It is logical to assume that the U.S. will at some point in the future face tariffs, sanctions, and taxes on our exports to account for the cost of carbon used to create those.  If we follow the current MAGA mantra, the U.S. is certain to be left behind and let a huge opportunity to be world leader and innovator pass us by.  It is sad that we cannot count on our own government to protect the habitability of our beautiful planet, but perhaps we can get this done via cities, states, and businesses until such a time that we have a leader with common sense and courage.

Do great things

One of the things I admire about former president Obama is his ability to speak diplomatically and thoughtfully.  In his first post presidency speech a few weeks ago at the University of Chicago, he gave some advice to the young crowd and one statement in particular struck me.  He said “Worry less about what you want to be, and worry more about what you want to do”.  I think this is an interesting distinction to think about.  In society we often ask kids what they want to be when they grow up and we often hear firefighter, athlete, doctor, president, etc.  Imagine the child who says ‘I want to be a police officer’ having the self awareness and change in mindset to be able to say I want to make critical decisions, hold people accountable, and provides important services to others.  Or imagine the child who wants to be a professional athlete being able to say ‘I want to compete physically on a team that has a strong sense of comradery’. Thinking about what you want to do broadens the opportunities for success.

When I reflect on myself, it is easy to categorize myself as being an environmentalist but the reality is that what I want to do is to help ensure the sustainability of the planet for future generations and focusing on the “do” should help me maintain a more positive mental attitude (PMA as my dad refers to it).  The former president closed out the speech with “do great things” and that is a good reminder for us all. Regardless of the complications that might creep in to any situation, if you do great things with the opportunities you might not always be what you wanted to be, but you will be who you wanted to be.

Undo

For a few weeks now I have been thinking about how to surround myself with more positive things and just as importantly, how to minimize my time with things that I do not find fulfilling or rewarding.  This is a bit of a real challenge for me in some regards.  I like to stay informed and yet much of the information I see brings on feelings of despair and hopelessness as it zaps motivation.  One thing that has been going pretty well is my participation in a program through work geared towards helping me get healthier.  I weigh in daily and the scale automatically uploads the data for my health coach to see.  I also have to log all food intake, exercise, etc.  In short, the program adds accountability, reasonable goals, and tracking which have been helping me make positive changes.  As someone who has struggled with their weight most of my adult life, I am hopeful this approach will invoke lasting changes.

This week, my health coach encouraged me to make an “un-do list” which aligns quite well with what I was already thinking about in terms of getting more positive.  Her sample list is below and I have added some additional (mildly comical) thoughts below and plan to spend some of my day off today “unning”.  I will need to think more about additional un-do options.

The UN-DO:

  1. Energy-sapping people
    1. For me this will be cleaning up my Facebook feed, unsubscribing from e-mail feeds, and limiting time with people who are unjoyful.  Kindness matters.

                                                               i.      If the bulk of your contact with me is in regards to asking me for money so you can do pointless things like sending Scott Pruitt (EPA) as many Climate Change for Dummies books as possible, I am unsubscribing.

                                                             ii.      If your friends call my empathy towards indigenous people dumb, I am unfollowing you

                                                           iii.      If you are aware of my efforts and goals towards a healthier body and you take joy in shaming me for drinking a 6oz can of apple juice because of all of the sugar it contains, consider yourself unned.

                                                            iv.      If you do not “believe” in science…

  1. Energy-sapping food
    1. I have done pretty well here but need to continue to improve and be vigilant about portion control and rationing sweets
  2. Over-doing the over-thinking
    1. Maybe I did too much of this on #1 above
  3. More social media than socializing
    1. See 1a (or 1-1 as this goofier editing program made it).
    2. I am also thinking of invoking phones down time for portions of some evenings.  Sometimes our family of four are all within 8 feet of each other and all in our phones.
  4. More hateful than grateful
    1. This is a big one.  It is easy for me to get riled up about the current negative actions on the environment and spending more time with those working on and implementing solutions as opposed to fighting with the naysayers will make me more grateful.
  5. Doing someone else’s to do list rather than my own
    1. There are some areas of my life where this occurs but not too many.  I think of this as needing to ask and be honest with myself about how some things make me feel and then making adjustments as necessary.
  6. Focusing on what I can’t control
    1. Amen

Let’s roll

A recent op-ed by Mark Reynolds of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is titled “To solve climate change, the passengers must now fly the plane”.  It does a good job creating a metaphor but I think there is one area that could use an adjustment.  Here is a portion of it:

When it comes to climate change, most Americans are like the passengers on a jetliner wanting to arrive safely at their destination but thinking there’s no need to be involved with the actual flying of the plane. The “people in charge,” surely, have things under control.

Lately, however, the plane has experienced a rough ride:

  • On Christmas Day, the temperature at Santa’s workshop – a.k.a. the North Pole – approached the melting point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, about 40 degrees above average for that time of year.
  • With 2016 hitting another high mark for average global temperature, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred in the current century.
  • Floods, like the disasters that struck Louisiana and North Carolina last year, are happening as a result of unprecedented rainfall measured in feet rather than inches.
  • As we start the new year, 37 million people across Africa are without food because of crop failures caused by droughts and floods exacerbated by climate change.

All this turbulence is prompting some of the passengers to rise from their seats, walk to the cockpit and check with the pilot. Upon opening the door, however, they are shocked to see no one seated at the controls.  For a number of years, President Obama did his best to keep the plane aloft with executive orders to address climate change, chiefly the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at power plants. But the 44th president has donned his parachute and exited the plane, leaving the pilot’s seat disturbingly empty.

So, how do we avoid crashing into a mountainside?

It’s time for the passengers to start flying the plane, and by passengers, we mean citizens.  This entails setting aside cynicism about our government and engaging with people in Congress who represent us in Washington. Government will respond to the will of the people, provided the people tell the government what we want.

If we take a look at the facts, our current president has tweeted that Climate change “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”, is a “Hoax”, is an “expensive hoax” and is “bullshit”.  He even tweeted “Not only are wind farms disgusting looking, but even worse they are bad for people’s health”.  Trump made campaign promises to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, has approved fossil fuel projects, has made staff appointments of outspoken climate change deniers, and placed restrictions on how scientific agencies can communicate to citizens.  The really sad thing is that with majority party control, making progress to address climate change presents a huge opportunity where the current elected officials could be heroes by following the CCL recommended and widely supported plan that would initiate significant job creation and shift the U.S. economy while moving towards clean energy. 

So back to the metaphor above.  I agree we are all passengers on the plane, the only problem is that from our seats we can hear that the captain is indeed still at the controls, we can tell he is there by his constant chirping over the PA system.  When we try to go have an honest dialogue, we learn that he has a likeminded flight crew, numerous DHS agents, and a legion of unconditional followers who will not hesitate to verbally abuse or attack the majority with a factual view of science.  As we listen to the chirps continue, we realize that a thin skinned unapologetic egocentric madman is at the controls; bullying anyone who asks tough questions or has an opposing view.  Relying on hope that someone close to him will get through to him and shift his mindset is not enough.  As passengers, we need to take action to prevent a crash landing that few will walk away from.  We can no longer afford to sit in our seats and listen to the same rhetoric and misinformation, it is time to get up and demand action; let’s roll.

Mark sums it up well by reminding us what Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart once said, “We aren’t passengers on spaceship Earth, we’re the crew. We aren’t residents on this planet, we’re citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility.”

The Onion tribute: Using sex to sell climate science

Despite an overwhelming majority of countries, religions, companies, and scientists publicly stating that they are in favor of immediate action to help mitigate man made influences on climate change there are still pockets of powerful and influential people in the U.S. who oppose it.  Concerned about delays in action, Yale University commissioned the Paddleford Warren Research Trust (PWRT) to identify the demographics of this group and determine what could influence them to get on board.  PWRT found that the majority of those who did not believe in man-made global warming were white males between the ages of 45 and 65.  In researching that demographic they learned that the primary influencers of their climate science opinions were females like Sarah Palin, Megyn Kelly, Maria Bartiromo, Tomi Lahren, and other outspoken female climate science skeptics.

Yale University took this information and has partnered with other academic institutes and is in the preliminary phases of implementing a plan to bring more influential women to the scientific side of the discussion.  Wesley Thibodaux from the Peoples Grant Institute (PGI) is overseeing the financial help his organization is providing.  In an interview, Thibodaux stated “with no disrespect to the women in science today, we need to bring more overt sexuality to the table when it comes to discussing climate science.  Sex sells and action is long overdue”.  The grant process includes many common initiatives to get more women in science but in reviewing the grant application there are areas where it differs significantly.  The application asks for a headshot and video of the applicant talking sternly about anything climate science related.  It outlines the awards that an applicant can receive which include wardrobe vouchers, makeovers, and even plastic surgery.  Thibodaux defends this by saying “look at the TV today, big oil is spending money on $2300 shoes, tight white designer dresses, and requesting low camera angles for their legion of ladies to continue persuading inaction on combatting climate change, it is time to sex up science and get these dirty old men back to reality”.  He concedes that it is unclear whether this campaign will have any impact on climate change but says that his team can definitely influence public opinion, “what is the alternative, to wait for these old men to die, we simply do not have enough time for that”.

In a follow up with Yale University, they confirmed that they are partnering with the PGI and adding scholarships to the mix for “qualified female candidates”.  Yale stated that this process is no different than what is commonly done for athletics and is an important step in bringing science to the forefront.  Yale Human Behavior and Psychology professor, Dr. Kirk Frederic (PhD) adds “Studies have shown the providing old white men exposure to an attractive female with opinions makes them more likely to adopt those opinions as their own.  When it comes to scientific fact, it takes a little longer exposure but the same holds true”.  PGI holds up Kait Parker as one of their successes and a reason to continue to expand the program quickly and Thibodaux (PGI) is no stranger to the concept, his late father is a former music video producer from the 1980’s that brought Tawny Kitaen to the Whitesnake videos and produced Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher video which according to Thibodaux Sr. “increased young men’s school attendance at a critical time in their development”.

 

The following blog post was satirical in nature and some characters appearing in this work are fictitious.