Year 2, Month 9, Day 4: My Hen Has A Tooth.

Nebraska’s Governor is a Republican, Dave Heineman. He appears to have a modicum of sense, according to the August 31 Lincoln Journal-Star:

Gov. Dave Heineman is calling on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deny a permit to TransCanada to build a 36-inch petroleum pipeline through the Nebraska Sandhills.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, Heineman cited concerns about potential oil spills and contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer as grounds for denial.

“I want to emphasize that I am not opposed to pipelines,” the governor said. “We already have hundreds of them in our state. I am opposed to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route because it is directly over the Ogallala Aquifer.”

Perhaps this will give President Obama the necessary “bipartisan” cover to do the right thing. We can hope. Sent August 31:

Governor Heineman is right on target. The Keystone XL pipeline has no business in Nebraska. While the Governor specifically cited issues of aquifer contamination and the potential for oil spills in his letter to President Obama, there are so many other arguments against the tar sands oil project it’s mind-boggling: the destruction of vast areas of Canadian forest along with its capacity to absorb carbon dioxide; the devastating environmental impact of the extraction processes; the long-term consequences for Earth’s climate (Dr. James Hansen has stated flatly that the pipeline’s impact would be irreversible and catastrophic); America’s urgent need to end its addiction to fossil fuels; the oil industry’s long history of malfeasance, incompetence and venality (why trust a proven liar?) — the list goes on and on. On the other hand, there’s exactly one argument for the pipeline: money. It’s going to make a few extremely wealthy people even richer.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 10: Revenge of the Poles

Oh, this is totally gross. The New York Times for July 25 reports that:

Warming in the Arctic is causing the release of toxic chemicals long trapped in the region’s snow, ice, ocean and soil, according to a new study.

Researchers from Canada, China and Norway say their work provides the first evidence that some persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are being “remobilized” into the Arctic atmosphere.

“Our results indicate that a wide range of POPs have been remobilized into the Arctic atmosphere over the past two decades as a result of climate change, confirming that Arctic warming could undermine global efforts to reduce environmental and human exposure to these toxic chemicals,” write the scientists, whose analysis was published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Yecccch. Sent July 25:

For centuries, humans have seen the Polar zones as places of mystery. Explorers, novelists, storytellers and scientists have all sought the secrets to be found beneath the accumulated ice and snow. It turns out that might not be such a good idea. In an appalling side-effect of global warming, the melting ice is releasing significant doses of toxic chemicals back into circulation. This unintended consequence of our greenhouse gas emissions is sadly ironic — the Earth almost seems to be “striking back.” As we face a future on a drastically altered planet, we will discover that no aspect of our species’ history of waste and pollution can ever be truly buried; eventually we will no longer be able to avoid a cleanup task of monumental proportions. It behooves us to ensure that the toxic effluvium of our time not blight the lives of future generations.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 8: Here’s Hoping My Kid Likes To Eat Jellyfish

The Boston Globe has a good editorial on a terrifying subject. The threatened oceans:

THE WORLD’S oceans provide a crucial environmental safety valve: The blue territory that covers 70 percent of the globe absorbs 80 percent of the heat we are adding to our climate, and about a third of carbon dioxide we are emitting into the atmosphere. A recent report by the International Program on the State of the Ocean, however, has found that the oceans may not be able to sustain these burdens much longer.

The report highlights a combination of factors that put us at high risk for, as the report puts it, “entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.’’ The combined effects of overfishing, marine pollution, and carbon emissions are responsible for this basic fact: Our oceans are degenerating far more quickly than previously predicted. This has consequences not just for marine ecosystems and species, but also for humans.

Sent July 22, gloomily:

Considering that we lived in close interaction with the natural world for countless thousands of years, modern homo sapiens shows a disturbing level of ignorance of the environmental systems of which it is a part. The possibility that the planet’s oceans are entering a death spiral barely seems to be registering on most people’s radar; instead, we are preoccupied with gossip, trivialities, and short-term threats to our comfort. Attention, everyone! A collapse of oceanic ecosystems would not just be a temporary inconvenience, but a world-changing event of a magnitude far beyond our ken! Between oceanic acidification, overfishing, and pollution, we humans have inflicted enormous damage on the seas; if we don’t change our ways voluntarily, we will be forced to change them whether we like it or not. With a civilization struggling in the aftermath of catastrophic ecological implosions, we will have no alternative but to adapt or die.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 31: They DO Believe In “Free-Market Fairy Dust,” Though.

It’s gotta be pretty rare to find an anti-pollution editorial in a Coal State paper. The Lexington Herald-Leader gives us an example:

And after 20 years of hemming and hawing, it’s time to start controlling the 386,000 tons of toxins that rain down on this country each year from coal-fired power plants, the No. 1 source of air pollution.

It’s past time, really.

A bipartisan majority of Congress in 1990 ordered the EPA to get to work on nationwide standards for toxic emissions from power plants. If people should be alarmed about anything, it’s that it’s taken so long and that the health of so many has suffered during the delay.

As the crisis at the Fukushima reactors reminds us, invisible substances in the air can do grave harm to human health and lasting damage to the environment.

Although I didn’t mention Semmelweiss by name, he was very much present in my thinking as I composed this. Mailed March 22:

It is astonishing in this day and age that some people still deny the harmful potential of microscopic particulates in the atmosphere. By now, most of us agree that germs, bacteria and viruses are the principal media through which disease is propagated — a theory validated in the late 1800s in the face of vehement denial. Why can’t we accept that atmospheric mercury poses a danger to us, to our children, and to the environment in which we live? In large part it’s because the oil and coal industries devote significant resources to obscuring the truth and elevating falsehoods — for example, asserting that pollution regulations on coal plants are “job-killers,” while conveniently ignoring pollution’s catastrophic health and environmental impacts. Similar mendacity is at work denying the planetary impact of CO2 emissions. Why should we trust billionaires whose fortunes depend on our continued consumption of oil and coal?

Warren Senders