Earth Day 40 — join the party!

I haven’t posted anything with a political slant in a while, so humor me for a little while. This is actually a repost from (It was meant to be an email, but I’m posting it here instead.)


To mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, an unprecedented movement is coming together to demand Congress pass a climate bill this year. Sign the petition now, and your name will be projected along with all the other signers on the National Mall at the Earth Day birthday party on April 25th. You can sign here:

And here’s more info from
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Just in case

ConnerHouseSmall.jpgA few years ago Cheryl and I talked about moving to Vermont. It wasn’t serious talk, just two people inspired by pictures of my mother’s family home in a small town just south of the Canadian border. (Actually, my mother was born in Massachusetts, but both of her parents were from Vermont.) I’ve only been there once, when my grandmother died, but the place has a hold on me… like a good mystery novel. It was home to half of my family (at one point in time), but I know almost nothing about them – the place or the people.

A few other things were on our minds when we looked at those pictures. We were wondering if it was the right time to get out of Florida, while the getting was good. Specifically, we wondered when the effects of global warming would start influencing property values – and more importantly – our safety. In 2004 we had one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record. Four storms passed through our area – a stripe of land across Florida known as “The I-4 Corridor.” A year later my sister and brother-in-law were rudely evicted from their home in New Orleans by Katrina. Climate scientists were saying this was just the beginning, and we didn’t think enough of you had the desire to do anything about it.

Part of the case for staying is we live on a high point in the county (on the leeward side of a higher point). Plus, all of our immediate family is here. The bad news is it’s only 11 meters above sea level, and it would make an awfully small island. Although, if you threw in a little sand around the edges we’d be beach front baby!

Well, we didn’t move. But we haven’t stopped worrying. We’re encouraged by our governor and our president, who seem to get our concerns. We do some of the little things all of us can do at home, trying to do our part. But we’re still concerned by a few stories in the news, and the short-sighted nature of too many people.

A couple of weeks ago I read a story about the west Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS). Here’s a quick summary: if it breaks up it may cause even more flooding than we thought. Now add that to reports about the Pine Island Glacier last year (on the West Antarctic Peninsula), suggesting it’s more unstable and closer to breaking up than we thought. NASA’s Robert Bindschadler:

Some say that we won’t see these ice shelves disappear in our lifetime — I’m not so sure. I think we might well.

Some see this as a problem for future generations, which is bad enough. Scientists see the environment changing faster than the worst case scenarios of previous climate models, and they’re alarmed. Look at the image (below). It might alarm you too. It shows the areas that would be flooded if the WAIS broke up. (Click the image to zoom in on Florida)


Ripped from the pages of Climate Progress

Some of you may think it’s too expensive to act now, with the economy where it is. The problem with this argument is there are an awful lot of climate scientists and economists who think the price of acting now is cheap compared to later. Damn cheap. It’s worth noting their idea of “later” is probably sooner than yours. Some folks are ahead of the curve on this one… in the private sector, of all places. Try getting a private insurer to write a new property insurance policy in Florida.

Think about building a dike/levee system for the gulf coast and eastern seaboard… or abandoning all of south Florida (including Miami), Naples, Ft Myers, and Tampa; as well as places like Washington and New York. They’d be under water. Then there’s the kicker: the image above doesn’t include the effects of Greenland melting (which I think may be a much slower slower process, but still a real risk if we don’t shape up).

Does that get your attention? Because it’s just the tip of the iceburg (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

If it’s hard for you to appreciate the rest of the world’s problems, think about what would happen if we turned everything west and south of Colorado into a desert. Maybe you think this is just doomsday speak from the wacko-eco-fringe? There’s some evidence it’s already starting. Ask someone from Colorado, Nevada, or California how their water supply is doing. I read this article a year or so ago, but if I recall, it was pretty sobering.

I look at that image above and I wonder why every Floridian isn’t an amateur environmentalist. One way or another, we all might be bailing.

Prove me wrong. Think about all of this when congress considers environmental legislation later this year. Tell your representatives what you think about it. Tell them you want them to do something about it.

I may not have convinced you, but after reading a draft of this post Cheryl asked me what the job market was like in Vermont.

Forecast: It’s going to be hot

I want to point you to a couple of links you should check out. They’re both on the same topic, but they’re both worth your time. Here, and here.

I know what you’re thinking:
He’s tried this trick before. There’s no way in hell he knows what I’m thinking.

Fair enough.

If I were you, I might be thinking:
I don’t do links. You’ve got a sentence or two before I lose interest, so give it to me now before you lose me to Yahoo.

Both links take you to a discussion about a recent climate study. It apparently makes the following finding (if you’re inclined to take my word for it): once we put greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere we’re stuck with what we’ve got – whatever it brings. Well, unless you plan on being around for a thousand years. The concentrations will stick around for a long time.

Things are warming up enough now to melt the ice at the north pole. Does this mean we could stop emitting everything – NOW – still end up with an ice free north pole? (In addition to some other things that’ll seem a lot less abstract.) I’m no expert, but it sounds like scary stuff.

It’s no reason to give up though. Things could always be worse.

Go on now. Time to get clicking. There’s nothing more to see here.


Not afraid

image1096184013.jpgBeth’s stubborn streak can drive me crazy sometimes, but I wouldn’t have her any other way. Her almost complete lack of fear to speak her convictions can push my patience to it’s absolute limit. At the same time, it’s a big part of why I’m so proud of her. (Probably at least in part because I had none of her inner strength when I was her age – which she finds hard to believe now.)

I thought about this the last time we went to church. It was hard not to. We had an errand to run afterwards, she had a suggestion to make, and spoke right up.

“Dad, Publix (a grocery chain in FL) isn’t that far away. Why couldn’t we just walk?”

As you may know, I’m compelled to admit my faults at every turn. My knee was itching to jerk – telling her that was silly. Walk to the store?

But you know what? It wasn’t silly at all, and I should have known better. Publix was a third of a mile up the street (at the very most). It was an incredible Sunday morning, the kind of day that cries out for attention. A little walk was the least we could do for it. So I quickly bit my tongue and we did just that.

It’s crazy how lazy we can be – jumping in our cars for the shortest trips. I’ll admit I’ve been as bad as many, in part because of where my house is, and the distance we travel for basic stuff – often with little kids in tow. But that’s no excuse for how we use our cars once we get there. How many of us make a shopping trip, then move our cars in quarter mile increments as we check items off our to-do lists?

Look at me. I’ve been making an effort to consolidate trips to cut down on the gas we use. I’ve been recycling everything I can think of – dropping it off when it’s on my way elsewhere. And we’re eating better (your diet has more impact on climate change than you think). But even I’m still a bit brainwashed by our car driven society. I was going to get in my car and drive less than a mile up the street for a few non-perishibles. Strictly speaking, It wasn’t even on the way home.

Think about it the next time you’re shopping and you go out to essentially just move your car. Why not just move yourself and leave the car out of it?

Think of this as fair warning. Even if you don’t have kids to answer to, mine’s more than willing to take up the slack.

Listen to me?

At least the kids are listening.

I’d swear I covered this a long time ago, but judging from Beth’s reaction to this telling, I’m guessing I didn’t. A couple months ago Beth asked me why we recycle. I told her.

Now Beth wants to recycle everything she can. When she can’t, she wants a detailed explanation why not (which usually isn’t sufficient). She figured the next part out on her own: it’s better not to use stuff wastefully in the first place. Now she’s telling me when I’m using more than I need. “Dad, don’t get out that spoon, I can make due with this fork. We shouldn’t wash more than we have to.” (Beth doesn’t even do the dishes, though it brings up an interesting idea….)

I’ve heard this before, and you might have too, but it bears repeating: “we don’t inherit the planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” No matter what you think about the environment… no matter what you think about climate change, resource depletion, pollution, or over-population… think about your kids. Think about what happens to them if you think the status quo is just fine, you do nothing to change it, and you’re wrong.

There are many reasons why I’m proud of Beth, but I’m especially proud she understands this. I’m happy to let her hold me to my responsibility… to her and her generation.


A blogging friend of mine started a new web site devoted to taking action on climate issues. There’s a focus on Canadian politics, but the issues are universal and there’s some good advise for everyone. Beth and I invite you to take a look (click the image to the right). You’d do well to take her advise. If there’s anyone who embodies stubborn and determined, then that someone lives in my house.

Don’t make her check my server logs.

Controlling the message

I received an email alert from, the site/campaign started by Al Gore to create the political will to tackle the climate crisis.

We Can Solve It:

ABC recently refused to run our Repower America ad, even though they run ads from oil companies that mislead the American people about the role fossil fuels play in the climate crisis.

Ask ABC to reconsider their decision and air our Repower America ad this Friday.

When you complete the form below, we’ll send your message to ABC, and let them know how you feel.

If you feel as I do about the environment, consider following the link above and send a message to ABC. Let them know you’re not happy.

How not to be convincing

Here’s another neglected post – this one from June. Did you know I could stop writing for months and still have fresh material (sans editing) ready to go?

Here’s my formula (re: the post’s title):

1. I get a little angry.
2. I make it personal.
3. I act like a jerk.

I don’t know why it irritates me when people complain about the price of gasoline. It’s a legitimate concern. When gas is more expensive lots of other things we need get more expensive. What’s really great about rising gasoline prices is it simultaneously depresses economic growth AND spurs inflation – basically neutering the Federal Reserve (our magic bullet against economic woes).

Yesterday we were having a pleasant day until I overheard someone nearby say, “Congress better do something about these gas prices! It’s getting ridiculous!”

Quiet-boy was about to give way to his alter-ego.

I replied, “What do you think Congress should do about it?”

“Well, they could drill for oil in Alaska.”

“You know, we already drill for oil in Alaska, right?”

“Well, we should drill for more.”

“Let’s go wild and say we could add five percent to the world’s oil supply. It’s probably less, but lets say there’s another 5 percent there. Do you think it would bring the cost of oil down 50 percent, or any meaningful amount?”


“Besides, what do you think is the biggest reason gas prices are so high? Do you think it’s because the supply has dropped off?”

“Well, the value of the dollar probably has something to do with it.”

“Do you think it has anything to do with the increase in world-wide demand? Do you think it has anything to do with the growing economies of China and India, and their gall – thinking they can wiggle in on our God-given-right to all the world’s oil? Let me put this another way: do you think it’s possible the rising price of oil might be almost completely outside our control?”

“Well, maybe…”

“You know what I think? I think it’s your fault.”


“Congress could have been doing something about this 30, 20, or even 10 years ago, but it wasn’t your priority, so it wasn’t theirs. I’ll even concede the Democrats dropped the ball too.”

“Yeah, but we elect them to know about these things and do the right thing… what’s best for us.”

“What kind of horse-crap is that?”


“We’ve had a few elected leaders who were ahead of the curve on energy issues, but we did our best to un-elect them, branding them green-freaks, or worse: America hating socialists. You could have been listening, but you had your head stuck in the the tar sands (or the shale, take your pick). Now there isn’t a damn thing Congress can do that would have any effect on short term energy prices. They should do something, but drilling for more oil in Alaska – or anywhere else for that matter – is like peeing in a pool to warm it up.”

Nowhere in this conversation did the other person say, “Wow, your arrogant sarcasm really shines a light on the subject. I’m going to have to give this more thought.” When they say you shouldn’t discuss politics with friends or family, they have people like me in mind.

Like father, like son

My earliest memories date back to sometime in the mid 1970s. No, I’m not pointing it out to taunt you, or complain my days of possibly being drafted by the Celtics are over. I assure you it’s just a little context, nothing more.

I was sitting in my dad’s old VW Bug. It was cold winter day in New England. We were at a gas station and my father was jotting some figures down in a small spiral notebook. He was writing down the odometer reading and gallons pumped to keep track of the gas mileage he was getting. I’m not sure how much it had to do with the gas crisis at the time, or just dad being dad, but it sounds just like an engineer doesn’t it?

About a week ago I decided to see what kind of mileage I’ve been getting. I was pulling out my Palm at the gas station, flipping the cover… much like you might flip the cover on a small spiral notebook, and I was swallowed by a thick cloud of deja vu. Whoo! That was a wild trip.

I’ve been trying to save gas by associating my gas pedal with dollar bills flying out of my wallet, and CO2 molecules flying out of my tailpipe. (Even before gas prices shot up recently.) Obviously, public transportation is the best way to save on both, but it’s not a viable option where I live. Actually, my bicycle would be the best way, but that hasn’t been an option lately either (though I’m hoping I’ll be able to try again eventually). Consolidating trips and driving less is another way, but it isn’t the only way. Once you establish you have no choice but to get in your car and drive, there’s one more option a lot of you may not be thinking about: driving efficiently. It means several things: keeping the tires inflated to the proper pressure, not starting from every stop like you’re a teenager in daddy’s Lexus, laying off the gas well before red lights (coasting up to the light when possible, and not dangerous or rude), and shifting gears sooner. The last couple of things are a lot easier with a manual transmission (I love my 5 speed stick), but I think you can achieve almost the same thing in an automatic by taking a lighter approach with your gas pedal (with the exception of coasting – I’m not sure how wise it is to shift back and forth between neutral and drive all the time).

I admit driving efficiently has been a lot harder than I thought. I’m just as flawed as the next guy, and many of my flaws show up when I’m behind the wheel. For one thing my gas pedal is well acquainted with the floor. I really like to drive. Even though it’s not a sports car, zipping around in my little civic is a lot of fun. I can work that stick like a speed bag while my feet dance from pedal to pedal. But if I’m honest with myself, it’s a little too fun. Maybe the real problem is my alternate personality. I’m pretty laid back in life, unless I happen to be behind the wheel. When I close the door and turn the key it’s as if the A/C is filling the air with a fast acting, aerosol amphedamine. No speed is too fast and no delay is acceptable. I always seem to be in a big hurry and it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for patience – which I think is key. Plus… oh crap, I can’t remember what I was going to say here. Moving on….

You might think this is crazy, extreme, or down right communist… but now the first thing I try to think about when I get in the car is all of you. There are other people on the road, and sharing nicely is a virtue (or so I’ve been telling the kids). It’s not just the road I’m sharing; its the world’s air and energy resources too. Plus, I try to remind myself that driving fast doesn’t save that much time. On a ten mile drive to work, what am I going to save with jack-rabit starts, maybe a few seconds? I might shave a whole 60-90 seconds off my time if I manage to miss one extra red light. Is my time really worth that much?

Maybe you don’t care about the emissions. You should, but I’ll do anything here to make the sale. If so, think about those dollars flying out of your wallet every time you put your foot down. Or better yet, do a little math. The last time I figured out how my car was doing on mileage (during my lost child of the Andrettis days), my little Civic was getting around 25 MPG. I admit that’s a bit rough though. It’s based on a few times I did some quick math in my head. I never reset the trip odometer and took precise notes. Since I started making an effort to drive more efficiently, my mileage has crept up to 32 MPG in the city. If I run some conservative numbers, just counting the drive back and forth to work (picking up the kids along the way), I drive 25 miles per day. If I’ve done the math right, it means I’m saving about a gallon of gas every week. That’s not a huge number, but it adds up. Plus, I don’t act like an ass on the road anymore.

Now go really crazy and double that number, assuming I can lighten Cheryl’s foot too. (Her commute is about the same.) Or how about I go stark raving mad and figure I drive 10,000 miles every year (I don’t, but many people do… and more). All by myself I’d save just under 90 gallons of gas per year, or $350 (assuming gas is $4/gallon). Multiply that by two, again assuming I can switch out Cheryl’s lead loafers, and I’ve almost saved enough to buy a new computer every year.

(Although that’s a bit wasteful too.)

That’s not even considering the potential savings in brakes, tires, etc.

Maybe you don’t believe my fuel economy numbers. Well don’t take my word for it, Consumer Reports did their own test. When they reduced the highway cruising speed on a Camry (from 65 to 55), fuel economy increased by 5 mpg. When they avoided frequent bursts of acceleration and braking they improved fuel efficiency by another 2-3 mpg. They noted a tire’s rolling resistance (re: pressure and/or style of tire) could add or subtract another 1-2 mpg.

So consider lightening up on the pedal. You don’t need to wait on Congress or your local government to improve your transportation options (not that you should let them off the hook). You’ll be doing another small thing right now to make the world a better place.

Call me fanciful. Call me silly. Call me weird. Call me anything you like, just think about it the next time you put your foot on the gas.

The Gore Challenge

You may have read about Al Gore’s speech, but consider listening to it without the commentary, if you haven’t already. This is just a few short pieces of the speech (about 5 minutes of your time), but you can find the whole thing here.