Tag: New York

Picture parade one hundred and six

The theme for the next three Picture Parades: The Perfect Puppy

Suzann sent me some wonderful pictures with the following background story:

A family in New York began visiting shelters to look for the perfect pup. After a few weeks of searching local shelters, they found a puppy that they fell in love with – Theo. He craved human friendship and attention. Three days after coming home with them, he joined their son Beau for his daily nap. Beau’s mother began taking “nap” pictures and now they are warming hearts around the world.

So here is the first set of seven pictures.

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Theo1

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Theo3

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Theo4

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Theo5

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Theo6

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Theo7

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Theo8

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Another wonderful set of pictures in a week’s time.

Governments: Listen to your people!

Because you clearly are not listening to Nature!

Sunday: 10:30 PDT. Won’t rabbit on too long as we are due out with our guests in the next thirty minutes. Just dipped into the online BBC News headlines and, frankly, was more than disappointed to see that the Climate March in New York, and many other cities all around the world, was the third headline after Afghanistan and Yemen.

Oh well!

What I read earlier in the morning was the most fabulous essay over on the Transition Times blogsite written by Jennifer Browdy.  It is republished in full with her kind permission.

This should be read in full!

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The People’s Climate March: Taking the Evolutionary Leap of Radical Democracy

The People’s Climate March in New York City is just one manifestation of a huge sea-change sweeping through our culture. Or perhaps “seeping” would be a better verb—this shift in awareness is not happening with the tsunami force of a revolution, but more with the steady, determined drip-drip-drip of water undermining rock.

Humans are paradoxical. On the one hand, we love everything that’s new and innovative, we all want to be out ahead of the curve when it comes to technological breakthroughs and new ideas. On the other hand, we hold tight to the received wisdom of our forebears, living by enshrined writings thousands of years old (the Bible, the Koran, the Mahabharata, Confucius, etc.) or hundreds of years old (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights).

We have established elaborate educational, political and legal systems designed to hold us to a particular form of society, permitting free, innovative thinking only along narrow channels carefully defined by the interests of business and commerce.

The arts and humanities, traditionally the realm of creative, imaginative exploration, have been steadily starved in this brave new world, which can only imagine creativity in the service of profit.

What happens to a society that can only envision creative energy in an instrumental, utilitarian light?

We become a society of robots. We lose our connection to the soul of the world, the anima mundi that sustains us humans along with all other living beings on the planet.

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The People’s Climate March, which is happening not only in New York City but worldwide, with 2,808 marches and events in 166 countries, bears welcome witness to the fact that the sparks of creative, independent thinking have not totally gone out.

There are many, many people worldwide who are aware, and aghast, at the failure of our political and business leaders to act in the best interests of the people and all the beautiful, innocent creatures who are slipping away into the night of extinction day by day due to the relentless human assault on our shared planet.

We are here, we are aware, and we are engaged. We are not going to stand by silently and let corporate greed and shortsightedness overwhelm us.

It is true that business and government have a stranglehold on official channels of communication, education and social change.

They control the curricula taught in our schools, what appears on our major media channels, and what projects and areas of creative exploration are funded. They keep us in line with the debt bondage of school loans, mortgages, car payments and the fear of not having enough money in the bank for a comfortable old age. We’re so busy running on the treadmills they’ve set up we have no time or energy to think about changing the system.

Or do we?

We saw it happen in the Arab Spring, where people used cell phones and texts to organize themselves to resist oppression.

We saw those people get beaten back, the promise of their revolution squashed by the entrenched power of men with guns and tear gas.

The rise of the Islamic State, like the rise of Al Quaeda and the Taliban, is all about conservative forces resisting change.

I am just as afraid of men with guns and tear gas as the next woman. I am happier making revolution on my laptop than in the streets. But at some point we have to come out from behind our screens, get off the treadmills of debt bondage, look around us at the beauty of the world, and say: this is what I want to live for, and this is what I’m willing to die for.

So far, the one social area that has not been overtaken by corporate/governmental control is the World Wide Web. It’s still a Wild West space, a place where you can find everything and everyone, from dangerous sadists to beneficent spiritual leaders. There’s room for every kind of idea out there to percolate through our collective consciousness. And make no mistake: the energy we’re seeing in the People’s Climate March is fueled in large part by the distribution power of the Web, the ability to get the word out and get people fired up to come together to take a stand.

Photo: Cheryl Himmelstein

Environmental activist and writer Terry Tempest Williams, in her book The Open Space of Democracy, says that the time has come to “move beyond what is comfortable” (81) in pursuit of what she calls a “spiritual democracy.”

“We have made the mistake of confusing democracy with capitalism and have mistaken political engagement with a political machinery we all understand to be corrupt,” she says.

“It is time to resist the simplistic, utilitarian view that what is good for business is good for humanity in all its complex web of relationships. A spiritual democracy is inspired by our own sense of what we can accomplish together, honoring an integrated society where the social, intellectual, physical and economic well-being of all is considered, not just the wealth and health of the corporate few” (87).

Williams calls for a radical recognition of the interdependence of all life on Earth. “The time has come to demand an end to the wholesale dismissal of the sacredness of life in all its variety and forms,” she says. “At what point do we finally lay our bodies down to say this blatant disregard for biology and wild lives is no longer acceptable?” (86)

If we humans could step into our destiny as the stewards of our planet, the loving gardeners and caretakers of all other living beings, we would harness our incredible intelligence and creativity to re-stabilize our climate and do what needs to be done to ensure the well-being of all.

Williams calls this “the next evolutionary leap” for humanity: “to recognize the restoration of democracy as the restoration of liberty and justice for all species, not just our own” (89).

If we are able to take this leap, we will not only avert climate-related disaster on a Biblical scale, we will also overcome many of the social problems that we currently struggle with. “To be in the service of something beyond ourselves—to be in the presence of something other than ourselves, together—this is where we can begin to craft a meaningful life where personal isolation and despair disappear through the shared engagement of a vibrant citizenry,” says Williams (89).

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Williams’ small gem of a book grew out of a speech she gave at her alma mater, the University of Utah, in the spring of 2003, as America was rushing into its ill-conceived War on Terror in Iraq. She describes her heart pounding as she got up to make a speech advocating a different form of democracy than that embraced and espoused by all the conservative friends and family sitting in the audience before her.

Challenging one’s own friends and family, betraying one’s own tribe, is the hardest aspect of being a social revolutionary. You have to question the very people you love most, who have given you so much and made your whole life possible.

But if we become aware that the social systems that gave birth to us are the very social systems that are undermining the possibility of a livable future on this planet, can we continue to just go with the flow, to avoid asking the difficult questions?

Or will we become change agents who work slowly and steadily, drip by drip, to awaken those around us, those we love most, to the necessity of undertaking “the next evolutionary leap” in the human saga on the planet?

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From that BBC News website:

On Tuesday, the UN will host a climate summit at its headquarters in New York with 125 heads of state and government – the first such gathering since the unsuccessful climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

So world leaders, are you going to reflect the wishes of millions of your peoples across the world and step up to the mark?  We will see.

Intimately connected to Nature!

Three stunning photographs.

Just a quick reminder that, as heralded in my post of the 10th – Time waits for no man – arriving family in fewer than two weeks is cutting into my blogging time.

So going to make today’s offering three stunning photographs of lightning strikes on the World Trade Center.  As seen on EarthSky News.

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Boom! Three perspectives on July 2 lightning strike at One World Trade Center

Beth Alison (@bethalison) got this shot of the July 2, 2014 lightning strike of One World Trade Center from her Manhattan apartment … with her phone!
Beth Alison (@bethalison) got this shot of the July 2, 2014 lightning strike of One World Trade Center from her Manhattan apartment … with her phone!

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Jennifer Khordi caught the lightning hitting One World Trade Center from New Jersey.
Jennifer Khordi caught the lightning hitting One World Trade Center from New Jersey.

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Lightning strikes One World Trade Center July 2, 2014. Gary Hershorn (@garyhershorn), who took this photo, said it turned the sky red.
Lightning strikes One World Trade Center July 2, 2014. Gary Hershorn (@garyhershorn), who took this photo, said it turned the sky red.

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Wow!

Potentially dangerous Jerky Treats.

With thanks to Cynthia for including me on her recent email.

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FDA seeks pet owner help on dangerous jerky treats

From Associated Press October 23, 2013 8:17 AM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is appealing to dog and cat owners for information as it struggles to solve a mysterious outbreak of illness and deaths among pets that ate jerky treats.

In a notice to consumers and veterinarians published Tuesday, the agency said it has linked illnesses from jerky pet treats to 3,600 dogs and 10 cats since 2007. About 580 of those pets have died.

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has run more than 1,200 tests, visited pet treat manufacturing plants in China and worked with researchers, state labs and foreign governments but hasn’t determined the exact cause of the illness, the FDA statement said.

“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” Bernadette Dunham, a veterinarian and head of the FDA vet medicine center, said in the statement.

Pets can suffer from a decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting and diarrhea among other symptoms within hours of eating treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes or dried fruit.

Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder, the FDA said.

Most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China, the FDA said.

The FDA has issued previous warnings. A number of jerky pet treat products were removed from the market in January after a New York state lab reported finding evidence of up to six drugs in certain jerky pet treats made in China, the FDA said. The agency said that while the levels of the drugs were very low and it was unlikely that they caused the illnesses, there was a decrease in reports of jerky-suspected illnesses after the products were removed from the market. FDA believes that the number of reports may have declined simply because fewer jerky treats were available.

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That FDA Notice is here.  I have taken the liberty of republishing it in full.

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Jerky Pet Treats

dog laying down

The problem

Since 2007, FDA has received reports of illnesses in pets associated with the consumption of jerky pet treats. As of September 24, 2013, FDA has received approximately 3000 reports of pet illnesses which may be related to consumption of the jerky treats. The reports involve more than 3600 dogs, 10 cats and include more than 580 deaths.

What we are doing

FDA is working with laboratories across the country to investigate causes. To date, testing for contaminants in jerky pet treats has not revealed a cause for the illnesses.

We have tested for:

  • Salmonella
  • Metals or Elements (such as arsenic, cadmium and lead, etc.)
  • Markers of irradiation level (such as acyclobutanones).
  • Pesticides
  • Antibiotics (including both approved and unapproved sulfanomides and tetracyclines)
  • Mold and mycotoxins (toxins from mold)
  • Rodenticides
  • Nephrotoxins (such as aristolochic acid, maleic acid, paraquat, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, toxic hydrocarbons, melamine, and related triazines)
  • Other chemicals and poisonous compounds (such as endotoxins).

Testing has also included measuring the nutritional composition of jerky pet treats to verify that they contain the ingredients listed on the label and do not contain ingredients that are not listed on the label. Another area of investigation includes the effects of irradiation and its byproducts.

Find out more.

What consumers can do

Watch your pet closely. Signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the jerky treat products are decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption and/or increased urination. Severe cases are diagnosed with pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, and kidney failure or the resemblance of a rare kidney related illness called Fanconi syndrome.

If your pet has experienced signs of illness, please report it to FDA. Once a consumer has filed a report with their local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator, or electronically through our safety reporting portal, FDA will determine whether there is a need to conduct a follow-up phone call or obtain a sample of the jerky pet treat product in question. While FDA does not necessarily respond to every individual complaint submitted, each report becomes part of the body of knowledge that helps to inform FDA on the situation or incident.

What veterinarians can do

The “Dear Veterinarian” letter to veterinary professionals explains how they can provide valuable assistance to the agency’s investigation, requests that veterinarians report to FDA any cases of jerky pet treat-related illness that come to their attention and, when requested, that they also provide samples for diagnostic testing by the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), a network of veterinary laboratories affiliated with FDA.

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I just mentioned this to Jeannie who says that while we do feed our dogs jerky treats, she is careful to purchase only those brands that are made in the USA.

Feel free to republish this howsoever you wish.

Picture parade eight

Beautiful waterfalls.

Can’t recall how, but recently I came across a wonderful collection of photographs of waterfalls presented by MNN – Mother Nature Network.  There are 16 photographs; I took the liberty of sharing just a few of them with you today.

Dettifoss Located in Northeast Iceland, the massive Dettifoss is generally recognized as the largest and most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is protected within the Vatnajökull National Park and remains untapped as an energy source. Plans to build a hydroelectric plant at the site have proven to be an engineering risk.
Dettifoss

Located in Northeast Iceland, the massive Dettifoss is generally recognized as the largest and most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is protected within the Vatnajökull National Park and remains untapped as an energy source. Plans to build a hydroelectric plant at the site have proven to be an engineering risk.

Gocta
Gocta Cataracts

Well-known to locals for centuries, this towering waterfall remained a secret from the rest of the world until as recently as 2005, when German explorer Stefan Ziemendorff became the first outsider to witness it. Located in a remote Amazonian province in Peru, the Gocta Cataracts is one of the world’s tallest waterfalls. Though accurate measurements of its height have yet to be taken, an initial estimate placed it as the third highest in the world.

Locals kept the location secret because they feared that revealing its whereabouts would release the curse of a beautiful blond mermaid who is rumored to live in the waters.
Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls

Plunging over majestic red rocks and pooling into milky, turquoise water, it’s easy to see why Havasu Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the world. It helps that the location is deep within breathtaking Grand Canyon National Park, where the waters eventually converge with the mighty Colorado River.

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Kaieteur Falls

Located in Guyana’s Kaieteur National Park, this waterfall is reputed to pour more water over a great height than any other waterfall in the world. According to the World Waterfalls Database, Kaieteur Falls is the world’s 123rd tallest (single and multi-drop waterfall) and the 19th largest waterfall in terms of volume. In other words, this site has a rare combination of height and water volume, which helps to quantify its spectacular beauty.

Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

The most powerful and most famous waterfall in North America, Niagara Falls pours more than 6 million cubic feet of water over its crest line every minute during high flow. Located on the border between the state of New York and the province of Ontario, Canada, the falls are an important source of hydroelectric power for both countries. The site has inspired its share of daredevils who have attempted to plummet over the falls in barrels, or who have tiptoed over them on a high wire.

Nature's Power
Nature’s Power

Few natural wonders encapsulate the sublime power and impermanence of the wild better than roaring waterfalls. The force of a waterfall can carve a valley out of mountains, shape the world’s grandest canyons and even power our electrical grids.

Many more wonderful photographs to admire on MNN.

Now for something completely different!

Here are two photographs taken on Friday when a mother deer and her young fawn overcame shyness of Jean in order to feed on some grains that Jean had placed near her car.

Trust between deer and Jean.
Trust between deer and Jean.

Later the young fawn was nibbling the grass in front of the tractor, allowing the following picture to be taken.

Magical moment.
Magical moment.

We sincerely hope we can set up some regular pattern of feeding the deer, especially during the coming Winter.

Forty ways of using the can.

Ah, maybe that’s why it’s called WD40!

Grateful to Neil Kelly back in Devon, SW England, for sending me this list of 40 things you can do with WD40.

wd40

1. Protects silver from tarnishing

2. Removes road tar and grime from cars

3. Cleans and lubricates guitar strings

4. Gives floors that ‘just-waxed’ sheen without making them Slippery

5. Keeps flies off cows

6. Restores and cleans chalkboards

7. Removes lipstick stains

8. Loosens stubborn zippers

9. Untangles jewellery chains

10. Removes stains from stainless steel sinks

11. Removes dirt and grime from the barbecue grill

12. Keeps ceramic/terra-cotta garden pots from oxidizing

13. Removes tomato stains from clothing

14. Keeps glass (and plastic)shower doors free of water spots

15. Camouflages scratches in ceramic and marble floors

16. Keeps scissors working smoothly

17. Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in homes

18. It removes black scuff marks from the kitchen floor! Use WD-40 for
Those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring. It doesn’t seem to harm the
Finish and you won’t have to scrub nearly as hard to get them off. Just
Remember to open some windows if you have a lot of marks

19. Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly!
Use WD-40!

20. Gives a children’s playground slide a shine for a super fast slide

21.Lubricates gear shift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on
Riding mowers

22. Rids kids rocking chairs and swings of squeaky noises

23. Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to open

24. Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close

25. Restores and cleans padded leather dashboards in vehicles, as well as
Vinyl bumpers

26. Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles

27. Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans

28. Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easy
Handling

29. Lubricates fan belts on washers and dryers and keeps them running
Smoothly

30. Keeps rust from forming on saws and saw blades, and other tools

31. Removes splattered grease on stove

32. Keeps bathroom mirror from fogging

33. Lubricates prosthetic limbs

34. Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell)

35. WD-40 attracts fish. Spray a little on live bait or lures and you
Will be catching the big one in no time. Also, it’s a lot cheaper than
The chemical attractants that are made for just that purpose. Keep in
Mind though, using some chemical laced baits or lures for fishing are not
Allowed in some states

36. Removes all traces of duct tape

37. Folks even spray it on their arms, hands, and knees to relieve
Arthritis pain

38. Florida ‘s favorite use is: ‘cleans and removes love bugs from grills
And bumpers

39. The favorite use in the state of New York , WD-40 protects the Statue
of Liberty from the elements

40. Use it for fire ant bites. It takes the sting away immediately and
stops the itch

There you are.  You always wanted to know that, didn’t you!

The word ‘No’, Part Two

The concluding part of Ellen Cantarow’s essay recently published on Tom Dispatch.

As I explained yesterday, when I introduced Part One of Ellen’s essay, the reason I split it into two was wanting to add additional material.  Today the additional material will be added at the end.  So to Ellen’s essay.

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Frack Fight 2012

New York isn’t just another state.  Its largest city is the world’s financial capital.  Six of its former governors have gone on to the presidency and Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to have his sights set on a run for the White House, possibly in 2016. It also has a history of movements, from abolition and women’s suffrage in the nineteenth century to Occupy in the twenty-first. Its environmental campaigns have included the watershed Storm King Mountain case, in which activists defeated Con Edison’s plan to carve a giant facility into the face of that Hudson River landmark. The decision established the right of anyone to litigate on behalf of the environment.

Today, that activist legacy is evident in a grassroots insurgency in upstate New York, a struggle by ordinary Americans to protect what remains of their democracy and the Earth’s fragile environment from giant corporations intent on wrecking both. On one side stands New York’s anti-fracking community; on the other, the natural gas industry, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and New York’s industry-allied Joint Landowners Coalition.

As for Governor Cuomo, he has managed to anger both sides.  He seemed to bowto industry this past June by hinting that he would end a 2010 moratorium on fracking introduced by his predecessor David Paterson and open the state to the process; then, in October, he appeared to retreat after furious protests staged in Washington D.C., as well as Albany, Binghamton, and other upstate towns.

“I have never seen [an environmental movement] spread with such wildfire as this,” says Robert Boyle, a legendary environmental activist and journalist who was central in the Storm King case and founded Riverkeeper, the prototype for all later river-guardian organizations. “It took me 13 or 14 years to get the first Riverkeeper going. Fracking isn’t like that. It’s like lighting a train of powder.”

Developed in 2008 and vastly more expansive in its infrastructure than the purely vertical form of fracking invented by Halliburton Corporation in the 1940s, high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing is a land-devouring, water-squandering technology with a greenhouse gas footprint greater than that of coal. The process begins by propelling one to nine million gallons of sand-and-chemical-laced water at hyperbaric bomb-like pressures a mile or more beneath Earth’s surface. Most of that fluid stays underground. Of the remainder, next to nothing is ever again available for irrigation or drinking.  A recent report by the independent, nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded that fracking poses serious risks to health and the environment.

New York State’s grassroots resistance to fracking began about four years ago around kitchen tables and in living rooms as neighbors started talking about this frightening technology. Shallow drilling for easily obtainable gas had been done for decades in the state, but this gargantuan industrial effort represented something else again.

Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University’s Department of Engineering, co-author of a study that established the global warming footprint of the industry, calls this new form of fracking an unparalleled danger to the environment and human health. “There’s much more land clearing, much more devastation of forests and fields. . . thousands of miles of pipelines. . . many compressor stations [that] require burning enormous quantities of diesel. . . [emitting] hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.” He adds that it’s a case of “the health of many versus the wealth of a few.”

Against that wealth stands a movement of the 99% — farmers, physicists, journalists, teachers, librarians, innkeepers, brewery owners, and engineers. “In Middlefield we’re nothing special,” says Kelly Branigan, a realtor who last year founded a group called Middlefield Neighbors. “We’re just regular people who got together and learned, and reached in our pockets to go to work on this. It’s inspiring, it’s awesome, and it’s America — its own little revolution.”

Last year, Middlefield became one of New York’s first towns to use the humblest of tools, zoning ordinances, to beat back fracking. Previously, that had seemed like an impossible task for ordinary people. In 1981, the state had exempted gas corporations from New York’s constitutionally guaranteed home rule under which town ordinances trump state law. In 2011, however, Ithaca-based lawyers Helen and David Slottje overturned that gas-cozy law by establishing that, while the state regulates industry, towns can use their zoning powers to keep it out. Since then, a cascade of bans and moratoria — more than 140 in all — have protected towns all over New York from high-volume frack drilling.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Caroline, a small hamlet in Tompkins County (population 3,282), is the second town in the state to get 100% of its electricity through wind power and one of the most recent to pass a fracking ban.  Its residents typify the grassroots resistance of upstate New York.

“I’m very skeptical that multinational corporations have the best interests of communities at heart,” Don Barber, Caroline’s Supervisor, told me recently. “The federal government sold [Americans] out when they exempted fracking from the Clean Water and Air Acts,” he added.  “Federal and state governments are not advocating for the civil society. There’s only one level left. That’s the local government, and it puts a tremendous load on our shoulders.”

Caroline’s Deputy Supervisor, Dominic Frongillo, sees local resistance in global terms.  “We’re unexpectedly finding ourselves in the ground zero for climate change,” he says. “It used to be somewhere else, mountaintop removal in West Virginia, deep-sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, tar sands in Alberta, Canada. But now…it’s right here under our feet in upstate New York. The line is drawn here. We can’t keep escaping the fossil fuel industry.  You can’t move other places, you just have to dig in where you are.”

Two years of pre-ban work in Caroline included an election that replaced pro-drilling members of the town board with fracking opponents, public education forums, and a six-month petition drive. “We knocked on every single door two or three times,” recalls Bill Podulka, a retired physicist who co-founded the town’s resistance organization, ROUSE (Residents Opposed to Unsafe Shale Gas Extraction). “Many people were opposed to gas-drilling but were afraid to speak out, not realizing that the folks concerned were a silent majority.” In the end, 71% of those approached signed the petition, which requested a ban.

On September 11th, a final debate between drilling opponents and proponents took place, after which Barber called for the vote.  A ban was overwhelmingly endorsed. “For the first time,” he told the crowd gathered in Caroline’s white clapboard town hall, “I will be voting to change the balance of rights between individuals and civil society. This is because of the impacts of fracking on health and the environment. And the majority of our citizens have voted to pass the ban.” The board then ruled 4 to 1 in favor.

Stealth Invasion

About a year and a half ago, as Caroline and other towns were moving to protect their land from the industry, XTO, a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil Corporation, began preparing for a possible fracking future in the state.  It eyed tree-shaded, Oquaga Creek, a trout-laden Delaware tributary in upper New York State’s Sanford County, leased the land, and applied to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) for a water-withdrawal permit. XTO required, it said, a quarter of a million gallons of water from the creek every day for its hydraulic fracturing operations.

Delaware Riverkeeper, an environmental organization, found out about the XTO application and spread the word. Within days, the DRBC received 7,900 letters of outrage.  On June 1, 2011, hundreds of citizens, organized by grassroots anti-frackers, packed a hearing in Deposit, a village in Sanford Township that lies at the confluence of the creek and the western branch of the Delaware River. Only two people spoke at the meeting in favor of XTO. One was the Supervisor (mayor) of Sanford, Dewey Decker. He applauded the XTO application and denounced protestors as “outsiders.”  He is among a group of landowners who have leased land to XTO for hundreds of millions of dollars.  (Decker refused to be interviewed for this article.) The rest of the crowd spoke up for the creek, its fish, and its wildlife. The Delaware River Basin Commission indefinitely tabled the XTO application.

While a grassroots victory, the episode also served as a warning about how determined the industry is to move forward with fracking plans despite the state-enforced moratorium still in place.  As a result, Caroline and other towns are continuing to develop local anti-fracking measures, since they know that the 2010 ban on the process will end whenever Governor Cuomo okays rules currently being written by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

When it comes to those rules and fracking more generally, the DEC has a conflict of interest.  While it is supposed to protect the environment, it is also tasked with regulating the very industries that exploit it through the agency’s Mineral Resources Division. Last year, the DEC received over 80,000 written comments on the latest draft of its guidelines for the industry, the 1,500-page “SGEIS” (which stands for “Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement”). Drilling opponents outnumbered proponents 10 to 1. The deluge was a record in the agency’s history.

Activists weren’t the only ones with a keen interest in the SGEIS, however.  Documents obtained through New York’s Freedom of Information Law indicate that, in mid-August 2011, six weeks before the DEC made its statement public, the agency shared detailed summaries of it with gas corporation representatives, giving the industry a chance to influence the final document before it went public.

Two days before the SGEIS was opened to public scrutiny, an attorney for the Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation and other companies asked regulators to “reduce or eliminate” a requirement for the sophisticated testing of fracking fluids.  Such fluids are laden with toxins, including carcinogens, which storms could wash away from drilling sites — an especially grim prospect given the catastrophic flooding experienced in the state over the last three years.

At the same time, two upstate New York journalists revealed that Bradley Field, the head of the DEC’s Mineral Resources Division, had signed a petition that denied the existence of climate change.  Formerly of Getty Oil and Marathon Oil, Field also serves as the state’s representative to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council, both industry fronts which maintain that fracking is benign.  As this was coming to light, state officials anonymously leaked word of a plan to open five counties on New York’s border with Pennsylvania to fracking as long as communities there supported the technology.

This is What Autocracy Looks Like 

In May 2012, Dewey Decker and his board passed a resolution pledging that the town of Sanford would take no action against fracking, while awaiting the decision of the DEC. There was no prior notice. Citizens were left to read about it in their local papers. “You wake up the next morning and say, ‘What happened?’” commented Doug Vitarious, a retired Sanford elementary school teacher.

In June, a headline in the Deposit Courier, a Sanford paper, read “Local Officials in Eligible Communities Approve Pro-Drilling Resolutions.” Accompanying the piece was a map of towns that had passed such resolutions. The subscript under the map read: “Joint Landowners Coalition of N.Y.” The JLCNY is the state’s grassroots gas industry ally, whose stated mission is to “foster… the common interest… as it pertains to natural gas development.” Decker represents the organization in Sanford.

During the summer, Vitarious and other citizens asked their town board where the resolution had originated, but were met with silence. They requested that the board rescind the resolution and conduct a referendum.  Decker refused.

By the end of August, 43 towns in the region had passed resolutions modeled on one appearing at the JLCNY website. It stipulates that at the local level “no moratorium on hydraulic fracturing will be put in place before the state of New York has made it’s [sic] decision.” Under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council obtained records from Sanford and two other towns about how they achieved their objectives. The records, says Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, “detail contacts between gas industry operatives and officials.”

Two months before superstorm Sandy swamped parts of the state, Sue Rapp, a psychotherapist from the town of Vestal, told me that flooding worries her as much as anything else about fracking. Upper New York State suffered flooding in 2010 and 2011. And then came Sandy.  Floods turn millions of gallons of fracking waste-water for which there is no safe storage into streams of poisons that wash into waterways.

Unlike Sanford’s board, Vestal’s has not formally blocked debate. It has heard arguments for a moratorium by Rapp and an organization she co-founded, Vestal Residents for Safe Energy (VERSE), as well as pleas for a moratorium by physicians and academics. Its reaction, however, has simply been to sit on its hands, waiting for the DEC and Cuomo to make a final decision. This amounts to adopting the JLCNY position in all but formal vote.   “What is happening?” asked Rapp rhetorically at a demonstration in Binghamton this past September.  “They are trying to shut us down. But we do vote and we will vote. We do not constitute [what pro-drillers call] the tyranny of the majority, but simply the majority. That is called democracy.”

Demonstrations against Cuomo’s frack plan, which drew thousands to Washington D.C., Albany, and elsewhere in New York, included pledges to commit sustained acts of civil disobedience should the governor carry out plans to open the Pennsylvania border area of the state to fracking. At the end of September, theNew York Times announced that Cuomo had retreated from his June stance. The report credited the state’s grassroots movement for his change of mind.  Legendary for his toughness and political smarts, the governor will confront a political challenge in the coming months. Either he will please gas-industry supporters or his Democratic base. Whichever way he goes, it could affect his chances for the White House.

The stakes, however, are far larger than Cuomo’s presidential aspirations.  Opening any part of the state to fracking will certainly damage the local environment.  More importantly, a grassroots win in New York State could open the door to a nationwide anti-fracking surge.  A loss might, in the long run, result in a cascade of environmental degradation beyond the planet’s ability to cope.  As unlikely as it sounds, the fate of the Earth may rest with the residents of Middlefield, Caroline, Vestal, and scores of tiny villages and small towns you’ve never heard of.

“All eyes are on New York,” says Chris Burger, a former Broome County legislator and one of a small group who persuaded New York’s last governor, David Paterson, to pass the state’s moratorium on fracking. “This is the biggest environmental issue New York has ever faced [and not just] New York, the nation, and the world. If it’s going to be stopped, it will be stopped here.”

Ellen Cantarow first wrote from Israel and the West Bank in 1979. A TomDispatch regular, her writing has been published in The Village Voice, Grand Street, Mother Jones, Alternet, Counterpunch, and ZNet, and anthologized by the South End Press. She is also lead author and general editor of an oral-history trilogy, Moving the Mountain: Women Working for Social Change, published in 1981 by The Feminist Press/McGraw-Hill, widely anthologized, and still in print.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.  Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2012 Ellen Cantarow

oooOOOooo

So to reinforce the points made by Ellen, let’s just dip into these:

From the BBC News:

A report by the UN says global attempts to curb emissions of CO2 are falling well short of what is needed to stem dangerous climate change.

The UN’s Environment Programme says greenhouse gases are 14% above where they need to be in 2020 for temperature rises this century to remain below 2C.

The authors say this target is still technically achievable.

But the opportunity is likely to be lost without swift action by governments, they argue.

Negotiators will meet in Doha, Qatar for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP18) next week to resume talks aimed at securing a global deal on climate by 2015.

The Emissions Gap Report 2012 has been compiled by 55 scientists from 20 countries. It says that without action greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will be the equivalent 58 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2020.

That’s around 14 gigatonnes above the level that scientists have saidis needed to keep temperature rises this century below the targeted level of 2C.

Even if the most ambitious pledges from countries to cut emissions are honoured, the gap is likely to be eight gigatonnes, an increase of two gigatonnes on last year’s estimates.

“Eight is a big number,” says Dr Joseph Alcamo, chief scientist of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “that’s about the total greenhouse gas emissions of the entire industrial sector in the whole world right now.”

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) says the increase in the levels of emissions in this year’s report is due to projected economic growth in some developing countries and the removal of some emissions cuts that were counted twice.

“The report provides a sobering assessment of the gulf between ambition and reality,” says Achim Steiner, the executive director of Unep.

Also recently reported by the BBC:

Greenhouse gases hit record high

The WMO and Noaa operate monitoring stations around the world

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new record high in 2011, the World Meteorological Organization has said.

In its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released on Tuesday, the organisation said that carbon dioxide levels reached 391 parts per million in 2011.

The report estimates that carbon dioxide accounts for 85% of the “radiative forcing” that leads to global temperature rises.

Other potent greenhouse gases such as methane also reached record highs.

The carbon dioxide levels appear to have been rising at a level of two parts per million each year for the last 10 years – with the latest measure being 40% higher than those at the start of the industrial revolution.

The WMO estimates that 375 billion tonnes of carbon have been released into the atmosphere since 1750, and that about half of that amount is still present in the atmosphere.

“These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on Earth,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

“Future emissions will only compound the situation.”

US weather agency the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contributed to the bulletin with their Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, which indicated that between 1990 and 2011, carbon dioxide’s role in the radiative forcing that leads to warming had increased by 30%.

Levels of methane, a more potent greenhouse gas, hit a new record at 1,813 parts per billion – more than two-and-a-half times the pre-industrial level.

Concentrations of nitrous oxide, estimated to be nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, rose slightly to a record 324 parts per billion.

Mr Jarraud pointed out that until now, “carbon sinks” such as the oceans had reclaimed half of all atmospheric carbon dioxide, but that pattern would not necessarily continue.

“We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs,” he said.

“There are many additional interactions between greenhouse gases, Earth’s biosphere and oceans, and we need to boost our monitoring capability and scientific knowledge in order to better understand these.”

Last one! From Christine’s excellent blog 350 or bust.  She recently published a post called Our Carbon Pollution: Is It Different From Raw Sewage?  It included the following video!

In 2010 New York City added 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent) to the atmosphere, but that number means little to most people because few of us have a sense of scale for atmospheric pollution.

Carbon Visuals and Environmental Defense Fund  wanted to make those emissions feel a bit more real – the total emissions and the rate of emission. Designed to engage the ‘person on the street’, this version is exploratory and still work in progress. Mayor Bloomberg’s office has not been involved in the creation or dissemination of this video.

NYC carbon footprint:

54,349,650 tons a year = 148,903 tons a day = 6,204 tons an hour = 1.72 tons a second

At standard pressure and 59 °F a metric ton of carbon dioxide gas would fill a sphere 33 feet across (density of CO₂ = 1.87 kg/m³: http://bit.ly/CO2_datasheet). If this is how New York’s emissions actually emerged we would see one of these spheres emerge every 0.58 seconds.

Emissions in 2010 were 12% less than 2005 emissions. The City of New York is on track to reduce emissions by 30% by 2017 – an ambitious target.

For a set of stills from this movie, see:http://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonquilt/sets/72157631827283027/

For more information see:
http://www.carbonvisuals.com/work/new-yorks-carbon-emissions-in-real-time

Nothing more to add from me!

RMS Titanic – in memory.

Spare a moment’s thought today.

On April 14th, 1912, at 23.40 ships time, the Titanic struck an iceberg and the rest is history.  I’m not going to add to the wealth of information available on this sad centenary except to say that 1,514 people lost their lives and they and their descendants should be held in our prayers.  And to recognise that one of those who lost his life was young ‘Jack’ Phillips, Senior Wireless Operator, who persisted in sending out distress messages by Morse Code to the very last, thus enabling the RMS Carpathia to rescue 710 souls.

Rest In Peace

Below are some local times to assist you in offering up a quiet thought as one hundred years ago to the moment the sound of a liner hitting an iceberg reverberated around the world.

RMS Titanic Ships Time April 14th 2340 – 11.40 PM

GMT/UTC April 15th 0240 – 2.40 AM

British Summer Time April 15th 0340 – 3.40 AM

Arizona/California April 14th 1940 – 7.40 PM

New York April 14th 2240 – 10.40 PM

London April 15th 0340 – 3.40 AM

Paris April 15th 0440 – 4.40 AM

Moscow April 15th 0640 – 6.40 AM

Singapore April 15th 1040 – 10.40 AM

Sydney, Australia April 15th 1240 – 2.40 PM

More world times may be calculated from this website.

Titanic, 100 years on, Apr 10th 2012

A very famous, albeit sad, anniversary of a great ship.

Such a short life!

From launch to maiden voyage, 100 years ago today.

April 10th, 1911.

And just four, short days after RMS Titanic left Southampton for her maiden voyage; on April 14th, at 11.40 pm ….

Not even a year after the launch.

“The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912,” EyeWitness to History www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2000).

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic, largest ship afloat, left Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City. The White Star Line had spared no expense in assuring her luxury. A legend even before she sailed, her passengers were a mixture of the world’s wealthiest basking in the elegance of first class accommodations and immigrants packed into steerage.

She was touted as the safest ship ever built, so safe that she carried only 20 lifeboats – enough to provide accommodation for only half her 2,200 passengers and crew. This discrepancy rested on the belief that since the ship’s construction made her “unsinkable,” her lifeboats were necessary only to rescue survivors of other sinking ships. Additionally, lifeboats took up valuable deck space.

Four days into her journey, at 11:40 P.M. on the night of April 14, she struck an iceberg. Her fireman compared the sound of the impact to “the tearing of calico, nothing more.” However, the collision was fatal and the icy water soon poured through the ship.

It became obvious that many would not find safety in a lifeboat. Each passenger was issued a life jacket but life expectancy would be short when exposed to water four degrees below freezing. As the forward portion of the ship sank deeper, passengers scrambled to the stern. John Thayer witnessed the sinking from a lifeboat. “We could see groups of the almost fifteen hundred people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after part of the ship, two hundred and fifty feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a sixty-five or seventy degree angle.” The great ship slowly slid beneath the waters two hours and forty minutes after the collision

The next morning, the liner Carpathia rescued 705 survivors. One thousand five hundred twenty-two passengers and crew were lost. Subsequent inquiries attributed the high loss of life to an insufficient number of lifeboats and inadequate training in their use.

Read more of this fascinating account, especially the story of Elizabeth Shutes who, aged 40, was governess to nineteen-year-old Margaret Graham who was traveling with her parents. As Shutes and her charge sit in their First Class cabin they feel a shudder travel through the ship. At first comforted by her belief in the safety of the ship, Elizabeth’s composure is soon shattered by the realization of the imminent tragedy.

Also grateful to my cousin, Rose F., who sent me a link to a story in the British newspaper The Telegraph that came out in September, 2010.  I don’t have permission to reproduce that story but hope that it being 18 months since it was published by the Telegraph makes my act forgiveable!

Titanic sunk by steering blunder, new book claims

It was always thought the Titanic sank because its crew were sailing too fast and failed to see the iceberg before it was too late.

10:55PM BST 21 Sep 2010

But now it has been revealed they spotted it well in advance but still steamed straight into it because of a basic steering blunder.

According to a new book, the ship had plenty of time to miss the iceberg but the helmsman panicked and turned the wrong way.

By the time the catastrophic error was corrected it was too late and the side of the ship was fatally holed by the iceberg.
Even then the passengers and crew could have been saved if it had stayed put instead of steaming off again and causing water to pour into the broken hull.

The revelation, which comes out almost 100 years after the disaster, was kept secret until now by the family of the most senior officer to survive the disaster.

Second Officer Charles Lightoller covered up the error in two inquiries on both sides of the Atlantic because he was worried it would bankrupt the liner’s owners and put his colleagues out of job.

Since his death – by then a war hero from the Dunkirk evacuation – it has remained hidden for fear it would ruin his reputation.

But now his granddaughter the writer Lady (Louise) Patten has revealed it in her new novel.  “It just makes it seem all the more tragic,” she said. “They could easily have avoided the iceberg if it wasn’t for the blunder.

The error on the ship’s maiden voyage between Southampton and New York in 1912 happened because at the time seagoing was undergoing enormous upheaval because of the conversion from sail to steam ships.

The change meant there were two different steering systems and different commands attached to them.

Some of the crew on the Titanic were used to the archaic Tiller Orders associated with sailing ships and some to the more modern Rudder Orders.

Crucially, the two steering systems were the complete opposite of one another.

So a command to turn “hard a starboard” meant turn the wheel right under the Tiller system and left under the Rudder.
When First Officer William Murdoch spotted the iceberg two miles away, his “hard a-starboard” order was misinterpreted by the Quartermaster Robert Hitchins.

He turned the ship right instead of left and, even though he was almost immediately told to correct it, it was too late and the side of the starboard bow was ripped out by the iceberg.

The steersman panicked and the real reason why Titanic hit the iceberg, which has never come to light before, is because he turned the wheel the wrong way,” said Lady Patten who is the wife of former Tory Education minister, Lord (John) Patten.

Whilst her grandfather Lightoller was not on watch at the time of the collision, her book Good as Gold reveals that a dramatic final meeting of the four senior officers took place in the First Officer’s cabin shortly before Titanic went down.

There, Lightoller heard not only about the fatal mistake, but also what happened next, up on the bridge.

While Hitchins had made a straightforward error, what followed was a deliberate decision.

Bruce Ismay, chairman of Titanic’s owner, the White Star Line, persuaded the Captain to continue sailing.  For ten minutes, Titanic went “Slow Ahead” through the sea.

This added enormously to the pressure of water flooding through the damaged hull, forcing it up and over the watertight bulkheads, sinking Titanic many hours earlier than she otherwise would have done.

Ismay insisted on keeping going, no doubt fearful of losing his investment and damaging his company’s reputation,” said Lady Patten.  “The nearest ship was four hours away. Had she remained at ‘Stop’, it’s probable that Titanic would have floated until help arrived.

The truth of what happened on that historic night was deliberately buried.

Lightoller, the only survivor who knew precisely what had happened, and who would later go on to be a twice-decorated war hero, decided to hide what he knew from the world, including two official inquiries into the sinking.

By his code of honour, he felt it was his duty to protect his employer – White Star Line – and its employees.

Lady Patten said: “The inquiry had to be a whitewash. The only person he told the full story to was his beloved wife Sylvia, my grandmother.  As a teenager, I was enthralled by the Titanic. Granny revealed to me exactly what had happened on that night and we would discuss it endlessly.

She died when I was sixteen and, though she never told me to keep the knowledge to myself, I didn’t tell anyone. My mother insisted that everything remained strictly inside the family: a hero’s reputation was at stake.

Nearly forty years later, with Granny and my mother long dead, I was plotting my second novel and it struck me that I was the last person alive to know what really happened on the night Titanic sank.

My grandfather’s extraordinary experiences felt like perfect material for Good As Gold.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2010

Anyone who reads this and is as fascinated as I was should read the comments as there is much discussion about the nature of the steering error.

Rest in peace.

The power of a wagging tail!

We must never lose sight of the greater power of positive thoughts.

Indeed, who cannot look at a dog’s wagging tail and not feel better about life.  There is so much doom and gloom around that we need constantly to remind ourselves that there is a brighter future ahead, there always is.

And to understand how little it takes for a positive difference to sweep through, take a look at this article from Science Daily,

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.

The implications of this are profound. Be sure that we are living through a transition period, a period necessary to find a better future.  Find another nine people who agree with you, and there’s a hundred on their way!  Back to the article,

“When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

Science supporting common-sense!