Defense of Our Resources

I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?

Robert Redford

USA in “Top Ten” for Premature Pollution-Related Deaths

In a new study that will surprise absolutely no one, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAPH) found that pollution kills.

The new data shows pollution still to be the largest environmental cause of premature death on the planet, killing 8.3 million people in 2017,2 or nearly one death in seven. These deaths are caused by exposure to toxic air, water, soil, and chemical pollution globally.

The GAPH report updates and expands on results of a similar study published in October 2017 – The Lancet Global Commission on Pollution and Health Report.

Diseases linked to pollution still disproportionately kill the poor and vulnerable; and is a leading cause of premature death in many smaller low and middle-income countries. That said, the United States makes the “Top Ten” in sheer number of premature pollution-related deaths.

The United States, the world’s third most populous country with 325 million people, makes the top 10 list by virtue of its size, while ranking 132nd in the number of deaths per 100,000 people. In the U.S., air pollution is responsible for more than half of the pollution-related premature deaths.

Pollution kills three times as many people a year as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Pollution is responsible for 15 times the number of deaths caused by war and other forms of violence each year. In the most severely affected countries, diseases associated with pollution account for more than one death in four.

The GAPH report categorizes pollution “as modern and traditional”, with modern pollution resulting “from industrialization and urbanization and includes ambient air pollution, soil and chemicals pollution, and pollution in the workplace. These forms of pollution are increasing.” Traditional pollution, on the other hand, “refers to indoor air pollution, largely caused by poor ventilation and smoke from cook stoves and heating fires, and water pollution from unsafe sanitation.” The report notes that while traditional pollution is falling, “poor water sanitation and contaminated indoor air are major killers in the world’s poorest nations.”

Traditional pollution, which closely correlates with poverty, improves as economies grow and living standards rise.

I think the saddest part of this new study is not nothing has changed since the earlier Lancet Commission report was published. According to GAPH, that report had three major messages: Pollution is the largest environmental threat to health; pollution has been severely neglected and has not received adequate attention at private or government levels; and, most telling, pollution can be controlled with solutions that already exist.

An awareness that approximately one in seven deaths in the world is pollution-related should in itself be an immediate call to arms for civil society and government actors alike. Actions to mitigate pollution and implement solutions should be urgently undertaken. However, despite pollution’s substantial effects on human health (as well as on the economy and the environment), pollution mitigation remains in large part neglected, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Shores Forward: Ocean Conservancy & City of Miami Partnership

In a press conference at Miami City Hall yesterday, City of Miami and Ocean Conservancy announced a “partnership to protect the region’s ocean and coasts, including iconic Biscayne Bay and the Miami River.”

The City of Miami is the first ever “Shores Forward” partner, a brand new initiative led by Ocean Conservancy to partner with local leaders in the fight to conserve Florida’s most treasured asset: its marine environment.

Ocean Conservancy press release
Shores Forward press conference on the Biscayne Bay waterfront outside of Miami City Hall December 12, 2019: Emily Woglom, Executive Vice President Ocean Conservancy – Raymond A. Martinez, Executive Director Miami Super Bowl Host Committee – Jane Gilbert, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Miami – Ken Russell, Miami City Commissioner District 2 – Francis X. Suarez, City of Miami Mayor
The “Shores Forward” partnership will focus on 5 key issue areas identified in Ocean Conservancy’s new Currents and Crossroads report
  • Water quality: The City has increased its water quality monitoring and is in the process of updating its stormwater design guidelines. Miami will establish regulations and formal training requirements for landscaping professionals and other commercial fertilizer applicators in the City. Miami and Ocean Conservancy are also committing to work together to develop educational materials for consumers, residents and the general public to understand the proper times and ways to apply fertilizers to avoid negative impacts on the environment and the ocean.
  • Marine wildlife: Miami will take new steps to restore habitat and protect marine wildlife, including implementing grates over stormwater outfalls to protect manatees, mangrove restoration efforts, marking storm drains to indicate impacts to marine wildlife, and committing to stronger enforcement of boating laws in sensitive habitats like Shrimpers Lagoon.
  • Education and outreach: Mayor Francis Suarez will launch his “Mayor’s Challenge” with local non-profit Dream in Green to support conservation curriculum in Miami schools. Ocean Conservancy and Dream in Green are formal partners, working together to bring ocean education into Miami-area classrooms, and the city’s commitment further bolsters this effort.
  • Marine debris: There’s enough plastic entering the ocean to fill Hard Rock Stadium to the brim every other day year round, so we know that cleanups alone won’t solve the problem. The City of Miami and Ocean Conservancy are committing to work together and with world-renowned plastic pollution scientists to conduct a comprehensive, city-wide survey of Miami’s plastic litter and pollution footprint. Miami will be the first major U.S. city to perform a comprehensive plastic pollution survey of this type. Once completed, this study will give the city the information it needs to make data-driven decisions on how to most effectively tackle the city’s plastic pollution challenges.
  • Carbon pollution: Miami is taking concrete steps to move the Magic City toward a renewable energy future by updating its greenhouse gas inventory, converting its fleet to hybrid cars and creating incentives to switch to solar energy and improving infrastructure with electric car charging stations.

How Forbes Got the *Climate Debate* Ridiculously Wrong

The climate debate has taken a nasty turn,” Forbes declared this week; but their November 14th article is so full of wrong – starting with the obvious error in that first sentence.

There is no “climate debate” between “climate affirmers” and “climate deniers”. There is the science and scientific consensus that human actions are contributing to current climate change; and then there are people who, for whatever reasons, ignore and deny the science. There is no “debate” here. There is fact, and denial of fact.

NASA graph showing the drastic increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1950
Climate Change: How Do We Know? From NASA Global Climate Change

Personal Responsibility for Combating Climate Change

The Forbes article, Does Greta Thunberg’s Lifestyle Equal Climate Denial? One Climate Scientist Seems To Suggest So, presents a false narrative that there is a big dispute within the climate advocacy community.

Now the finger-wagging is taking place among climate affirmers on the subject of personal responsibility for combating climate change.

There are two key actors in this unfolding saga. One embraces the importance of individual responsibility while the other derides it.

Greta Thunberg in her yellow rain slicker
Greta Thunberg outside the Swedish parliament, August 31, 2018 (photo credit Anders Hellberg, Creative Commons)

While they accurately describe Greta Thunberg’s personal lifestyle choices, they demonstrate the very point Michael Mann makes in the article they linked.

In that interview with The Guardian, Mann is quoted as saying, “there is an attempt being made by them to deflect attention away from finding policy solutions to global warming towards promoting individual behaviour changes that affect people’s diets, travel choices and other personal behavior.

“Them” in this sentence are the climate deniers – not Greta Thunberg.

The Guardian goes on to write:

Mann stressed that individual actions – eating less meat or avoiding air travel – were important in the battle against global warming. However, they should be seen as additional ways to combat global warming rather than as a substitute for policy reform.

It is clear that Mann does not “deride” personal responsibility nor imply in any way that Greta Thunberg’s lifestyle “equals climate denial”. To the contrary, in article after article, Mann’s point is:

This is why we really need political change at every level, from local leaders to federal legislators all the way up to the President. We need change not just at the breakfast table, but at the ballot box as well.

Michael E. Mann in Time Magazine’s Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Enough to Save the Planet. Here’s What Could

Perhaps even more damning to the Forbes article, Thunberg repeatedly makes the same point:

For well over a year young people have been striking from school every Friday, demanding our leaders take responsibility and to unite behind the science. The people in power have not yet done that. They continue to ignore us and the current, best-available science.

Greta Thunberg in The Charlotte Observe interview November 9, 2019

It’s Not an Either/Or Proposition

Michael Mann at podium giving his talk: The Madhouse Effect How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet Destroying Our Politics and Driving Us Crazy
Michael Mann at CSICon 2016, October 28, 2016 (photo credit: Karl Withakay, Creative Commons)

Neither Greta Thunberg nor Michael Mann eat meat. That is a lifestyle choice both made, in part, because they “walk the talk” in their climate advocacy. Here is the critical theme: neither of them are demanding the rest of us make the same climate-related choices in our own lives.

As Greta Thunberg said in her interview with Democracy Now: “I go by bus, by train, electrical car, and sailboat now, as well. And it takes a lot of time. And, of course, I’m not saying that everyone should stop flying and start sailing everywhere. But it was — I thought that I am one of the very few people in the world who can actually do this and who has this opportunity to do this trip. And then I thought, “Why not?” And it sure gained a lot of attention.

In short, Greta Thunberg and Michael Mann are saying exactly the same things in their own ways.

What Mann additionally cautions against, however, is the weaponization of those individual personal choices – what he calls “deflection”. A false focus on personal responsibility for combating climate change allows corporate polluters and their beholden politicians to guilt us into thinking we, as individuals, are solely responsible for fixing the climate crisis; and that unless our personal carbon footprint is zero, we have no place advocating for governmental & corporate climate solutions.

This Forbes article is an example of exactly that sort of deflection, and I call B.S.

Sunny day high tide nuisance flooding in Brickell, Downtown Miami, Florida on October 16, 2016
Sunny day high tide nuisance flooding in Brickell, Downtown Miami, Florida on October 16, 2016. (photo credit: B137, Creative Commons)

Florida Ocean Alliance Stakeholder Meeting – November 14

According to a FOA press release dated June 24, 2019: “The state of Florida has awarded the Florida Ocean Alliance a grant to develop a much-needed Strategic Plan for Florida’s Oceans and Coasts. Senate President Bill Galvano championed the project as part of the Legislature’s focus on Florida’s ever-growing water issues. The Alliance will work closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in carrying out the project.

To help create a Strategic Plan to protect the state’s water resources, the Alliance will host public hearings across the state with citizens and other stakeholders, including industry, environmental groups, and research institutes. The project will provide a roadmap for the state to address the conservation and management of the state’s estuaries, bays, and oceans in order to preserve them for future generations.”

The Florida Ocean Alliance is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to bringing together the private sector, academia, and nonprofit research organizations in Florida to protect and enhance Florida’s coastal and ocean resources for continued social and economic benefits.

Florida Ocean Alliance Mission Statement

The mission of the Earth Ethics Institute is to foster Earth Literacy in the course objectives of each discipline and all campus operations at Miami Dade College, as well as in the South Florida Community and the extended Earth community beyond.

Earth Literacy includes an understanding of cosmology and ecological principles as the basis for sustainable living. The cosmological context is the story of the Universe, as contemporary science describes the developmental process out of which Earth and all life emerge.

Earth Ethics Institute Mission Statement

Environmental Crisis ⇔ Democracy Crisis

In order to address the environmental crisis, we’re going to have to spend some time fixing the democracy crisis.

Vice President Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”

King Tide + Hurricane Dorian = Miami Flood Alerts

Miami-Dade County has issued a “be ready” advisory in advance of Hurricane Dorian’s approach. According to the latest forecast models, Dorian will be passing somewhere over Florida at the same time as coastal Miami-Dade is experiencing King Tides. If Dorian comes ashore over Miami this weekend, the flooding could be severe.

An already saturated ground, King Tides, plus possible heavy rain and storm surge from Hurricane Dorian sounds like a trifecta for flooding. Be careful out there Miamians.

Greta Thunberg Arrives in New York

Greta Thunberg sailing into New York, heading up the Hudson River to North Cove Marina. (photo from @GretaThunberg Twitter)

Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old Swedish girl, has captured the world’s attention with her year-long climate change activism. She is the genesis of “Fridays For Future” as more than 2 million teenagers have followed her lead and taken part in “climate strikes”.

The movement began in August 2018 when Thunberg began skipping class to sit outside Sweden’s Parliament, holding placards saying climate change had reached a crisis point. She came up with the idea while speaking with like-minded peers who were inspired by students in Parkland, Florida, who walked out of their classrooms in protest of the lack of action on gun control after a shooting there left 17 people dead in February 2018.

NBC News, How teen Greta Thunberg shifted world’s gaze to climate change, August 17, 2019

As of August 29th, there have been 5,202 #ClimateStrikes in more than 170 countries.

“We know that our future is at risk. We would love to go back to school and continue with our everyday lives, but as crucial as this situation is, as serious as this situation is, we feel like we must do something about this now.”

Greta Thunberg, Summer Meeting in Lausanne Europe (SMILE) at the University of Lausanne, August 2019

Today, Greta completed her two week trans-Atlantic sail from Plymouth, England, to New York.

Fridays for Future… as well as a number of other youth activist groups, are organizing a climate strike on September 20. Adult organizations are also getting into the mix, helping plan a global strike on September 27. Sandwiched between that, world leaders will meet at the United Nations for a one-day climate summit in the run-up to a major climate conference in Chile known as COP 25 later this year. Thunberg’s message to those leaders in clear: “COP 25 must be a breaking point” she said at a press conference.

Brian Kahn, Gizmodo Eather, Greta is Here, August 28, 2019

Sept 14: Miami Climate Alliance General Meeting

Miami Climate Alliance is coming together to share campaign updates, learn about climate justice initiatives in our community, and celebrate our 2019 wins!

WHEN: Saturday, September 14, 2019 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.

WHERE: Miami Dade College – Wolfson Campus; 300 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, Florida 33132; Chapman Conference Center Room 3210

  • Translation available in Español & Kreyol
  • FREE parking available at MDC Garage 1 – 500 NE 2nd Avenue – For free parking you must use the 5th Street entrance and let the attendant know you are attending the meeting.
  • Metromover stop: College/Bayside