Category: Tactics

Our beautiful planet.

It is the only lovely planet that we all have.

That ‘we’ being all the animals, plants, insects and humans there are.

I’m not saying anything new and not making this plea for the first time in this place.

But just take a few minutes out of your busy day to reflect that for you, for me, for everyone wherever they are in the world, physically and culturally, doing nothing is not an option.

More of that in a minute.

First I want to share with you a few autumnal photographs of our home here in Oregon.

Below was taken at 9am on October 24th showing the  mountain mist right down to the tops of our trees that mark the edge of our driveway from the house to our Hugo Road entrance.

Next, a sunrise photograph with the camera pointing to the East. The tree line follows the ridge of some hills the other side of Hugo Road. The picture taken on the 19th October at 07:20.
Now a close-up of the remains of a very old tree trunk with the trees that border Bummer Creek, that runs through our land, just showing through the morning mist. Taken on the 24th October at 09:05.

Final photograph I wanted to share with you is this beautiful sight of the moon taken from our property at 16:05 on the 25th. October.

Regular readers will know that Jean and I are not believers in any religion; we are atheists. But to my way of thinking that puts even more pressure on me and Jean to try to make a difference. We do all that we can but there’s no doubt that we can do more.

Yesterday, I referred to Bill Ripple, or to give him his full signature: William J. Ripple, Distinguished Professor of Ecology, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.

I sent Bill an email:

Dear Bill (and forgive the over familiarity if that offends),
I am a Brit, just turned 73, living with my beautiful wife, Jean, London-born as I was, down in Merlin, Oregon.

We live on 13 wonderful acres of rural property with 6 dogs (down from 12 when we moved here 5 years ago) and 4 horses, the majority of whom are ex-rescues.

I am the author of the blog Learning from Dogs and want to publish a post highlighting that viewpoint article. Because I believe with every neuron left in my ageing brain that the political changes that this world so urgently needs can only come when 99.9% of the public are screaming out “enough is enough”!

But there’s another saying that comes to mind, the one about being the change you want to see or something like that.

Is there information anywhere online that spells out, almost in words of one syllable, what lifestyle changes each of us can and need to commit to today? Changes that are as appropriate for elderly authors living in the country as young people seeking their first job or those up to their necks in working and raising families?

For that is what I want to publish on my blog!

If it would be easier for me to make an appointment to call you and take notes over the phone then I am just as happy to do that.

Sincerely,

Paul Handover
Hugo Road, Merlin,

Bill promptly replied:

Hi Paul, how long of a list of lifestyle changes do you want to make? Would three or four be enough? Bill

then followed that up with another email:

Paul, Consider suggesting that if people want to help, they could have fewer children, reduce energy consumption such as driving autos and flying, avoid meat and eat mostly plant-based foods and avoid wasting food. Below are quotes from our paper. Bill

“It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviors, including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our per capita consumption of fossil fuels, meat, and other resources ….

… reducing food waste through education and better infrastructure; promoting dietary shifts towards mostly plant-based foods

Now watch this video

I will close this post by listing out all the things that you and I can do now!

  • Set a target for reducing your car mileage next year compared to 2017,
  • If you are a regular aircraft passenger, then set a target for flying fewer hours in 2018 compared to 2017,
  • reduce or stop eating meat,
  • do not waste food,
  • reduce the use of heating and cooling in your home/s for next year,
  • commit to a dietary change away from meats and processed foods to a plant-based diet.

Then for younger couples who want a family around them, limit the number of children to a “replacement level” at most. Adopt??

Protecting our dogs from being stolen!

Can you imagine anything more awful!

I’m not sure if we are out and about with our dogs more frequently in the Summer but one would assume so.

But whatever the season, the number of people that do take their dogs with them when they are out is very significant.

So a recent article published by Care 2 about how thieves do steal dogs seemed timely.

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5 Ways Thieves Could Steal Your Dog

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on January 1, 2013. Enjoy!

Sergeant Kenneth Chambers was playing Frisbee with his dog in the parking lot of a Jacksonville, Florida, grocery store recently when lightning struck out of the clear blue sky. The young American veteran, in recovery for post traumatic stress disorder, rolled down the car windows and placed his Australian Shepard/Blue Heeler Mix inside the vehicle just briefly, while he went inside to help his mother with the bags. When he came out moments later, Adalida was gone.

Unfortunately for Sergeant Chambers, and for Adalida, the parking lot scenario placed them in two of the top five high-risk situations for pet theft. And while Sergeant Chamebers’ search continues for Adalida, there are measures that all of us can take to prevent a similar tragedy.

Here are five of the top high-risk pet theft scenarios to avoid: 

1. Dogs in cars

In the blink of an eye, a partially opened window can be forced down or smashed. It takes 20 seconds or less to abduct a dog, and by the time a pet owner returns to the car, their dog is long gone. The American Kennel Club reports a 70 percent rise in dog theft in 2012 and a 40 percent rise the year before. A weak economy has fueled financially motivated dog-napping — and a dog in a car is, quite simply, a sitting duck.

2. Highly prized breeds or dogs with special abilities

A purebred dog or a dog with special skills is a bit like a gold watch. Thieves see dollar signs, and that’s more than enough temptation. Any dog left unattended can be taken, but there is far greater motivation for criminals to walk off with a dog who can bring in a large sum of cash.

3. Pets left in fenced backyards

Everyone loves the convenience of a doggy door — especially criminals. Homeowners who let their pet explore the fenced yard without supervision maintain the illusion of safety, but police departments across the country will tell you that this isn’t enough.

In broad daylight on a single Saturday in November, Corning Animal Shelter Manager Debbie Eaglebarger documented the theft of four Dobermans, four Australian shepherds and two Rottweilers. One neighbor witnessed a man and a woman lure one of the dogs out of a backyard and into their vehicle. All dogs taken that day were purebred, but that is not always the case.

4. Pets left tied in front of businesses

This one may sound like a no-brainer, but particularly in urban areas where pets accompany their owners on errands, it’s not uncommon to find dogs tied up in front of a bank or grocery store. Typically, these are dogs with a gentle demeanor — and that makes them highly susceptible to the commands of a would-be thief.

“Leaving your dog tied up in front of a store is about as ludicrous as leaving your child out front and saying, ‘Wait right there, I’ll be back in 10 minutes,” explains Howard Simpson of Integrated Security and Communications in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. “Do yourself a favor and realize that there are security risks in even the safest of neighborhoods. Being naive makes you a target.”

5 Strangers in the neighborhood

Any strangers on your property can be a risk to your pets. Whether they are invited contractors, deliverymen or political campaigners, visitors could easily grab a pet during a moment when the homeowner is distracted. In some cases, they are making a mental note of homes with valuable breeds or easy-to-subvert home security that will facilitate a quick dog-napping at a later time. It bears mentioning that it’s not uncommon for cats to jump into the back of truck beds for a snooze and to be unwittingly carried off at the end of the day.

Which breeds are most likely to be stolen?

According to the American Kennel Club, the most stolen dog of 2011 was the Yorkshire terrier, followed by the Pomeranian, Maltese and Boston terrier. Small breeds are targeted by thieves because of their size but also because of their value on the market — a single dog can fetch well over $1,000! Among the large breeds, Labrador retrievers are a frequent target, as well as pit bull terriers and pit bull mixes – perhaps for a much more sinister purpose.

Why do thieves target pets?

1. Bait dogs and laboratory dogs

This is every dog guardian’s worst nightmare. Indeed people involved in dog fighting will gather “bait” dogs to be used as training tools for fighting dogs. It happens in both urban and rural areas, and there has been no measurable decline in dog fighting in recent years. Despite some legislation intended to stop the sale of undocumented dogs to research laboratories, under-the-table sales continue — and, in some countries, these exchanges are not considered a crime.

2. Financially motivated theft

“For the first time ever we’ve seen a trend now where shelters are being broken into and purebred and mixed breed dogs are being stolen,” said Lisa Peterson, spokesperson for the American Kennel Club. In fact, any purebred dog, particularly puppies, is considered a high-value commodity. Even with a microchip, it’s often too late when a pet buyer discovers that they have purchased a stolen dog.  By then, the thief is long gone.

3. Emotionally driven theft

What’s often overlooked are the emotionally motivated crimes that rob dogs of their families. This can happen because the perpetrator feels that a dog is not being properly cared for. Some animal lovers will feel justified in stealing a dog that is tied in front of a store or who gets  loose one day. Other times it’s an act of revenge, and, in many cases, a former romantic partner is considered the prime suspect.

Whatever the scenario or the motivation, dog guardians can best protect their dogs with watchfulness. Never leave a dog unattended. Secure your home, including all doors and windows, to the best of your ability and budget. And be wary of strangers in your neighborhood at all times.

Brought to you by the Harmony Fund, an international animal rescue charity.

Now this is having a head for heights!

Not your usual Father’s Day outing!

Think you have a head for heights??

Well try this …. (first seen on the NatGeo website.)

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First Interview With the Climber Who Scaled El Capitan Without a Rope

Honnold approaching the top of El Capitan on Saturday, June 3rd. The historic event was documented for an upcoming National Geographic feature film and magazine story. Photograph by Jimmy Chin

Writer and climber Mark Synnott took Alex Honnold on his first international climbing expedition to Low’s Gully in Borneo back in 2009, and subsequent trips to Chad, Oman, and Newfoundland. Over the years they’ve kept up a running dialogue about the finer points of climbing and debated the dangers of free soloing—climbing alone, without ropes or other safety gear.

It seems fitting that in the first moments after Honnold had become the first person to free solo Yosemite’s El Capitan, the greatest pure feat of rock climbing in history, that he’d sit down with his old friend at the Manure Pile, a popular climbing spot at the foot of El Capitan. He ate an apple, listened to the birds, and described the experience of a lifetime. Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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The rest of this story including the interview with Alex may be read here.

I’ll close with another photograph from that NatGeo piece.

Rock climber Alex Honnold sits atop Yosemite’s iconic El Capitan after nearly four hours of climbing alone, without ropes or any other equipment or safety gear.

El Capitan is only 500 miles drive from our home. Maybe next year’s Father’s Day outing? ( I jest, of course!)

Subsequently, I have come across a longer documentary that some may enjoy (??) watching.

Watch where you walk, good people!

 

Positive reinforcement.

And I’m speaking of dog training.

p1160472Over the week-end Jean and I were down in Medford at this event promoting my book Learning from Dogs.

Inevitably, we saw many dogs and their owners come in to the store for we were positioned just inside the main door. Likewise, inevitably we saw a whole range of ‘relationships’ between those dogs and their human companions.

It reminded me of a recent TED Talk that was given by Ian Dunbar about dog training. For those who have not previously come across Mr. Dunbar, his bio reads as follows:

Veterinarian, dog trainer and animal behaviorist Ian Dunbar has written numerous books, including How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks and The Good Little Dog Book. He has also hosted several award-winning videotapes on puppy and dog training.

So here’s that brilliant TED Talk.

Uploaded on Aug 21, 2008

http://www.ted.com Speaking at the 2007 EG conference, trainer Ian Dunbar asks us to see the world through the eyes of our beloved dogs. By knowing our pets’ perspective, we can build their love and trust. It’s a message that resonates well beyond the animal world.

Veterinarian, dog trainer and animal behaviorist Ian Dunbar understands our pets’ point of view. By training dog owners in proper conduct (as much as he trains the dogs themselves), he hopes to encourage better relationships with dogs — not to mention their friends and children, too.

Why you should listen

We may call dogs man’s best friend, but according to Dr. Ian Dunbar, humans often fail to reciprocate. Dunbar’s decades of research on hierarchical social behavior and aggression in domestic animals truly give him a dog’s-eye view of human beings’ incomprehensible and spontaneous — if involuntary — cruelties.
Dunbar says we might break our unseemly, unflattering habits and usher in an “era of dog-friendly dog training” by coming to understand why dogs do what they do — Is Fido misbehaving, or just being a dog? — and the repercussions of our actions toward them. (We might foster better relationships with our fellow humans, too.) His Sirius Dog Training company focuses on training puppies to be playful, yet well-behaved. His second organization, Animalin, promotes games for dogs and puppies at an international level.

What others say

“There is no single person on the face of the planet to whom dog trainers and owners (not to mention dogs) owe more.” — Jean Donaldson, author, The Culture Clash

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I will close with another photograph from the PetSmart event.

p1160469(Sorry about the cardboard boxes under the table!)

That fickle finger of fate!

Coping with an emergency includes looking after our dogs.

Most of us live our daily lives without paying too much attention to the likelihood of an emergency. But as Hurricane Hermine and the recent explosion of that SpaceX rocket show the unexpected does come along.

All of which is my preamble to a recent item over on the Mother Network Nature site that reviewed taking care of our beloved pets when an emergency does strike.

I have pleasure in sharing it with you.

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5 steps to ensure your pet is cared for in an emergency


Jaymi Heimbuch August 31, 2016

When an unexpected problem pops up, have a back-up plan for your pet. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)
When an unexpected problem pops up, have a back-up plan for your pet. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

A car crash, an arrest, a natural disaster or a medical emergency. While no one wants to think about these awful possibilities, sometimes we should to protect and provide for those we love, in case one day we can’t make it home as planned. And those we love include our pets.

Imagine something happens to you and you can’t get home to your dogs, cats, birds or other critters. You need a way to not only alert others to the fact that you have pets at home, but also the information they need to care for your pets in your absence. Here are five ways you can ensure that your pets will be looked after.

Carry a card in your wallet

Create a card that you can carry in your wallet or purse. If you’re ever in a medical emergency, a rescue worker or paramedic looking through your wallet for identification will also know that there are animals at your home that need care.

The card can be as simple as a note that you have pets at home on one side, and on the other side lists contact information for friends or family members you’ve designated to care for them. Or it can be detailed, listing how many pets you have at home, their names and the kind of animal each pet is, your address, and emergency contact information for two people you trust to care for your pets. How much information you want to include is entirely up to you.

You can create your own card, download a free template online to print out, or buy cards online that you can fill in information with a pen.

Add a sign on your door or windows to save your pet

Another place to put an alert card is in your window or on the door to your home. An emergency emergency-pet-sign.jpg.838x0_q80pet alert sticker is ideal when you can’t get to your home but someone like a firefighter or rescue worker can.

Like a wallet card, a sticker should list how many pets are inside and what species they are, so any rescue worker would know if they’d found all the animals inside.

This is a small but potentially life-saving step in preparing for emergency situations such as after an earthquake, tornado, fire or flood, so that someone who is searching through homes can rescue your pet even if you can’t — or aren’t allowed — to get back to your home.

Ensure at least 2 separate people you trust have access to your home

Your emergency wallet card states contact information for people you trust to care for your pet if you’re in an emergency situation and can’t get home to them. The next step is ensuring they can get to your pet when needed.

Make sure each person listed as an emergency guardian has a set of keys, or that they know the secret hiding place for your spare set of keys. If you have an alarm system on your home, you’ll need to provide these friends with the access code.

Because these friends or family members not only have access to your home but also will take responsibility for your animal companion, you’ll need to put some thought into who you’ll have in place as a temporary caregiver or as a permanent caregiver.

The ASPCA notes:

When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. He or she should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other criteria. This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet in the event that something should happen to you. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so he or she understands the responsibility of caring for your pet.

You may want to put down temporary caregiver contact information on your emergency cards, and ensure they know who is designated as the permanent caregiver should you not be able to return home to your pets for a long time, or at all.

An emergency kit with your pet's medical information, extra food and other supplies will help rescuers. (Photo: rSnapshotPhotos/Shutterstock)
An emergency kit with your pet’s medical information, extra food and other supplies will help rescuers. (Photo: rSnapshotPhotos/Shutterstock)

Create a kit for your pet

A disaster preparedness kit is a great idea both for you and your pet. This also benefits your pet not just for a natural disaster, but if you’re in an emergency and can’t get to them.

An emergency supply kit should include a document that a temporary caregiver or potential permanent guardian can use to understand your pet’s needs. This includes:

  • vet and vaccination records
  • pet insurance details
  • information about any medications your pet needs
  • an extra leash and collar
  • a carrier if you have a smaller pet
  • information on any behavior problems, quirks or habits that a caregiver should know about

Be sure to tell your emergency contacts and temporary caregivers where this information is located in your home, so they can access it should they need it.

Make formal long-term arrangements for your pet

We briefly discussed designating someone as a permanent caregiver for your pet should you not be able to return to them. You may want to consider setting up a formal arrangement for this to ensure that your pet definitely goes to the person you’ve designated and receives the care they need.

This could be a formal written arrangement with a permanent caregiver or it may be part of your will. You might also consider creating a trust or other financial arrangement to ensure your pet is cared for if you’re incapacitated. However, Petfinder notes:

Before making formal arrangements to provide for the long-term care of your pet, seek help from professionals who can guide you in preparing legal documents that can protect your interests and those of your pet. However, you must keep in mind the critical importance of making advance personal arrangements to ensure that your pet is cared for immediately if you die or become incapacitated. The formalities of a will or trust may not take over for some time.

Such a document may at first seem like a lot to handle for a “what if” situation, but by taking the appropriate precautions ahead of time, you can be sure that your pets are immediately cared for should something occur that prevents you from returning home to them.

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This all seems like very sound advice and, believe me, advice that Jeannie and I will review and adopt wherever we can.

Please, good people, do take care of yourselves including all your pets.

No way to run a world!

Why we have to learn integrity from our dogs, and soon!

After yesterday’s post about the ice dagger poised to fall on the heads of humanity, I was hoping to offer something more cheerful for today. Indeed, I had a guest post ready for publication but then ran into a small technical hitch that stopped it being scheduled for today.

So I turned to this recent article that appeared on The Conversation blogsite that is, unfortunately, another reminder of these mad times. It is republished within the terms of articles that appear on The Conversation.

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How could VW be so dumb? Blame the unethical culture endemic in business.

Author: Edward L Queen, Director of Ethics and Servant Leadership Program, Emory University.

How much can corporate culture explain VW’s deception? Jim Young/Reuters
How much can corporate culture explain VW’s deception? Jim Young/Reuters

That far too much of the world’s corporate leadership is driven by moral midgets who have been educated far beyond their capacities for good judgment should be obvious after observing the events of the past week.

The financial industry-led economic collapse of 2008 should have taught us this lesson, but the specificity and clarity of it was brought home by news of price-gouging in the pharmaceutical industry and, even more blatantly, by the announcement that Volkswagen intentionally programmed thousands of its diesel automobiles to cheat emissions testing.

We should be outraged by such behavior and demand appropriate punishments and sanctions as well as restitution and correction. But we should not be shocked. As an ethicist who has looked at the behavior of individuals in business and corporations, I can point to a number of troubling trends that help explain these transgressions.

Impaired moral imaginations

For the past five to six decades, epigones of Milton Friedman have been emphasizing that the only duty of a corporation is return on investment (regularly ignoring his caveat of doing so within the law and social norms).

This lesson, drilled into generations of business school graduates, now drives tsunamis of corporate malfeasance. Data regularly demonstrate that business school students are more likely to cheat on examinations and assignments than their peers, although – and this is of interest for the Volkswagen case – they are closely followed by engineering students.

Are business school teaching the right values? mleiboff/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND
Are business school teaching the right values? mleiboff/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Additionally, some evidence suggests that not only are business students more impaired in their moral judgments in a broader sense than are those in other majors and professional schools, but that business schools themselves may be responsible.

More disturbing, observational and anecdotal evidence suggests that business students are not only impaired in their moral judgments but that significant percentages of them have severely impaired moral imaginations. By this I mean not only do they make bad ethical decisions, but they actually are incapable of identifying an ethical situation when they are presented with one.

Numerous interviews with business ethics faculty I have had over the past decade suggest that when business students are presented with an ethics case, that is a case where they have been told that there is an ethical problem, 20% to 30% of the students cannot find or identify the ethical issue. This has been borne out by my personal experience when teaching business students.

Unmistakable malfeasance

With regards to the Volkswagen scandal, let us be clear about the nature of the company’s activities. This was not a mistake, an error, an ethical lapse or poor judgment. This was an intentionally designed and executed violation of the law in both its letter and its spirit. It also was an ethical violation of the highest level.

Volkswagen intentionally deceived those to whom it owed a duty of honesty. It fraudulently misrepresented its automobiles to be other than what they were. Most significantly, it intentionally chose to do so and went out of its way to commit the wrong.

This last fact may make it far more difficult for VW to recover from the reputational hit than it perhaps has been for GM or Toyota. Even though the latter’s product defects cost people their lives, they did not intentionally produce such parts.

The sheer brazenness and conniving that went into Volkswagen’s actions are probably what shocked people the most. This was a highly technical and sophisticated operation that basically taught the emissions system how to distinguish between road travel, typical idling and idling while undergoing an emissions test.

No spin can mitigate that fact. There is and can be no claims of confusion or misunderstanding, no failures to communicate. This will erode people’s trust in Volkswagen as a company to a degree that the failures of other companies may not have experienced. In the Volkswagen scandal, just like the story about price gouging in pharmaceuticals that broke the same week, consumers are confronted with the stark reality of corporate malfeasance.

In both instances, the wrongdoing was exacerbated by the responses of the companies’ CEOs. The now former CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, basically acknowledged his incompetence and failure of leadership by claiming that he was unaware of the actions taken by his employees. Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, in a series of tweets responding to criticisms of its pricing of the drug Daraprim demonstrated a level of knowledge of moral and social norms that can only be described as clueless.

Redefining success

These events – and others – make clear that there is a need to look at the broader cultural realities that drive unethical decisions in business, particularly the perception that the only way of determining value and worth is money.

This situation is not new – as early as 1906 William James wrote in a letter to H G Wells, “The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success — is our national disease.”

When a person’s worth is determined only by money, only by success as it is and can be monetized, when one has no sense of being without the BMW, the Rolex, the Armani suits, the yacht, etc, the moral flabbiness emerges. Indeed, it engulfs entire organizations and perhaps even entire societies.

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Those last two sentences of that essay need repeating over and over again. This may just be a blog about learning from our beloved dog companions but as my home page spells out, this is not some silly romantic notion:

As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer. Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming, thence the long journey to modern man. But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite. Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.

Dogs know better, much better! Time again for man to learn from dogs!

So there!

Bears and duct tape!

With grateful thanks to Cynthia G. who sent this to me.

(Going to take a break from the serious writing for this long week-end)

So, what's the story here?
So, what’s the story here?

The place: The Alaskan Wilderness

Just a bear wanting some food!
Just a bear wanting some food!

The event: A private “fly-in” fishing excursion to that Alaskan wilderness.

Well, a bear would, wouldn't it!
Well, a bear would, wouldn’t it!

The mistake: The pilot and fishermen left a cooler and bait in the plane.

Now what?
Now what?

The consequence: The bear went exploring for food!

Nothing if not ingenious!
Nothing if not ingenious!

The smart thinking: The pilot used his radio and had another pilot bring him 2 new tires, 3 cases of duct tape, and a supply of sheet plastic.

And they all happily went home!
And they all happily went home!

The result: The pilot patched the plane together, and they all flew home!

duct tape

The moral of this story: Duct Tape? Never Leave Home Without It

Turning corners, en route to Plan B.

Nothing stays the same for very long!

I wanted to call this post Change out of hope but that title was used on March 17th so opted for Turning corners instead!

Either way, this Post is prompted by a recent item published on the Earth Policy Institute website.  While Lester Brown’s book World on the Edge is a tough read, Lester is President of the Earth Policy Institute, it’s all too easy to think that the future for humanity is wall-to-wall gloom.  So here’s the article that was recently published, reproduced here under the copyright terms of the Earth Policy Institute.

Hope turning on the wind!

Wind Tops 10 Percent Share of Electricity in Five U.S. States

by J. Matthew Roney

A new picture is emerging in the U.S. power sector. In 2007, electricity generation from coal peaked, dropping by close to 4 percent annually between 2007 and 2011. Over the same time period, nuclear generation fell slightly, while natural gas-fired electricity grew by some 3 percent annually and hydropower by 7 percent. Meanwhile, wind-generated electricity grew by a whopping 36 percent each year. Multiple factors underlie this nascent shift in U.S. electricity production, including the global recession, increasing energy efficiency, and more economically recoverable domestic natural gas. But ultimately it is the increasing attractiveness of wind as an energy source that will drive it into prominence.

Wind power accounted for just 2.9 percent of total electricity generation in the United States in 2011. In five U.S. states, however, 10 percent or more of electricity generation came from wind. South Dakota leads the states, with wind power making up 22 percent of its electricity generation in 2011, up from 14 percent in 2010. In 2011, Iowa generated 19 percent of its electricity with wind energy. And in North Dakota, wind’s share was 15 percent.

The two most populous U.S. states are also harnessing more of their wind resources. While adding more than 900 megawatts of new wind farms in 2011 to its existing 3,000-megawatt wind capacity, California was able to increase its wind electricity share from 3 to 4 percent. Texas has the most wind installations of all the states, with 10,400 megawatts. In fact, if Texas were a country, it would rank sixth in the world for total wind capacity. Figures from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the independent service operator that delivers 85 percent of the state’s electricity, show that wind’s share of electricity in the ERCOT region jumped from 2.9 percent in 2007 to 8.5 percent in 2011.

Even though the cost of generating electricity from the wind has fallen substantially, certain policies have been needed to help it compete with the longtime support and lack of full-cost accounting for fossil fuels. Through so-called renewable portfolio standards (RPS), 29 states now require a percentage of utilities’ electricity to come from renewables by a certain date. This includes 8 of the top 10 states in total installed wind power capacity. For example, California’s RPS requires one third of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. But the biggest policy driver of U.S. wind power growth thus far has been the federal production tax credit (PTC) for each kilowatt-hour of electricity a wind turbine generates. When Congress has allowed the PTC to expire, as it is scheduled to do again at the end of 2012, wind installations in the following year have plummeted.

In the short term, extending the PTC will be critical for the U.S. wind industry, which boasts more than 400 turbine component manufacturers and employs some 75,000 people. Ultimately, moving away from the recurring boom-bust threat by establishing a national RPS or a carbon tax would encourage even greater manufacturing growth and wind installations.

In a country where wind resources could power the entire economy, there is still great potential to be realized. Four states in northern Germany have set the mark, with each getting more than 40 percent of their electricity from the wind. Which U.S. state will get there first?

For more information and data on wind energy in the United States and around the world, see Earth Policy Institute’s Wind Indicator, “World Wind Power Climbs to New Record in 2011,” at http://www.earth-policy.org.

Copyright © 2012 Earth Policy Institute

This video is well worth watching as well as going to that link at the end of the essay above.

Lester Brown, Thomas Friedman, and Paul Krugman discuss the need for a carbon tax in order to price carbon emissions at their true cost.

The “Journey to Planet Earth” series continues with a special program, hosted by Matt Damon, which features environmental visionary Lester Brown and author of “Plan B.” This documentary delivers a clear and unflinching message — either confront the realities of climate change or suffer the consequences of lost civilizations and failed political states.

I will see how much material there is available online with regard to that programme hosted by Matt Damon and, maybe, present some of it on Learning from Dogs.

Finally, the picture of the wind turbine at the head of this Post came from a website called www.windgeneratorblog.com.  Fancy a home wind generator?

Final message in a bottle

The concluding part of what we might care to leave for the next generation

Mankind over the next few years is facing the start of an interval of economic chaos and social stress between the end of the fossil fuel age and whatever follows.  That interval could well last a lifetime or more.  Some might argue that the economic challenges that have been the mark of 2011 are, indeed, the first signs of this economic chaos.

How well we cope, adapt and survive is not going to be down to those of my age (born 1944) but to the bright youngsters who have been born in the 21st century.

That was the motivation behind publishing, on December 1st, the speech given by Steve Jobs, the 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech, and on December 6th, the famous and fabulous speech given by Sir Ken Robinson at the 2005 TED Talks conference.

The third and concluding message is a subsequent speech given by Sir Ken, this time in May 2010.  It isn’t as stirring as his speech in 2005 but still a wonderful focus on what is our, as in homo sapiens, only chance of surviving – the innovation and creativity of the next  generations.

In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

Second message in a bottle

Continuing the advice you might offer to the next generation?

On the 1st December I published the first message.  It had been inspired by a conversation with Peter McCarthy, who lives and works in Bristol, England.  Here’s a little of what I wrote,

Anyway, Peter and I were talking about the sorts of qualities that enable some young people to take a risk-based entrepreneurial approach to life.  Peter gave me the links to three videos that he thought were especially relevant to the notion of achieving success in life.  So over the next few days I want to share those videos with you, dear reader.  To me, these videos are, indeed, the essence of the messages that any person, especially those the wrong side of 60, would wish to leave in a bottle floating down the river of life.

So to the second message which is a recording of the talk that Sir Ken Robinson gave to the TED Talks conference in Monterey in February, 2006.  It has been widely seen for all the right reasons; Sir Ken offers some powerful common-sense and a wonderful message for all the young people out there.  As Sir Ken’s website says,

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation.  He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere.  The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been seen by an estimated 200 million people in over 150 countries.

Read the rest of Sir Ken’s background here.

So with no more ado, here’s the film, watched by nearly 3 million people!