I haven't posted in quite a while as I've been busy working on a new book, but I feel compelled to point out that we are in the third week of February and the temperature in Connecticut, where I live, reached 57 degrees today. I'm just saying . . .
Today, the US House of Representatives defeated a misguided Republican sponsored bill intended to roll back light bulb efficiency standards passed during the Bush administration.
(Insert huge sigh of relief here)
Predictably, the vote was mostly along party lines, with a few defectors from each side of the aisle; five Democrats voted in favor of the bill and ten Republicans voted against the bill. One Republican voted "present."
Why Republicans would want to repeal a bill signed by George Bush that will save Americans $12.5 billion by 2020, cut pollution, and create manufacturing jobs is a complete mystery to me. Right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck, and Tea Partiers like Michelle Bachman have recently expended enough hot air to heat all of Buffalo next winter, trying to persuade people that the 2007 energy bill would outlaw incandescent light bulbs entirely. It does no such thing; as I reported back in March, (twice, in fact) it simply mandates that incandescent bulbs become more efficient.
It's lovely to feel, however briefly, that Congress occasionally gets something right.
Thomas Friedman's Op-ed piece, "The Earth is Full," in todays New York Times was both deeply sobering and, at the same time, oddly hopeful.
Friedman writes, "You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century — when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all — and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?"
Gilding expects dramatic changes in the way we live on Planet Earth. We are irrevocably headed for a Great Disruption, he says, due to the simple fact that, “If you cut down more trees than you grow, you run out of trees. If you put additional nitrogen into a water system, you change the type and quantity of life that water can support. If you thicken the Earth’s CO2 blanket, the Earth gets warmer," all of which, he says will change the way the planet's whole ecosystem behaves, with social, economic, and life support impacts." It's not speculation, Gilding asserts, "this is high school science.”
The more hopeful part of his message, however, is that as these impacts hit, “our response will be proportionally dramatic, mobilizing as we do in war. We will change at a scale and speed we can barely imagine today, completely transforming our economy, including our energy and transport industries, in just a few short decades.”
The consumer-driven growth model that has led us to where we are today, Gilding believes, is irrevocably broken. But his conclusion is that we will be forece to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on people working less and owning less.
“How many people,” Gilding asks, “lie on their death bed and say, ‘I wish I had worked harder or built more shareholder value,’ and how many say, ‘I wish I had gone to more ballgames, read more books to my kids, taken more walks?’ To do that, you need a growth model based on giving people more time to enjoy life, but with less stuff.”
Are we really ready for that? Gilding thinks we're closer than you might think. "We either allow collapse to overtake us," he says, "or develop a new sustainable economic model. We will choose the latter. We may be slow, but we’re not stupid.”
Lester Brown's visionary book, “Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization,” has been on my top ten list for several years. Now, a documentary based on the book will be broadcast on PBS on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 10 p.m, hosted by Academy Award winner Matt Damon. I encourage you to watch.
Appearing with Lester Brown are Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Friedman, former Governor and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, along with other scholars and scientists. Parts of the film were shot on location in China, Japan, Korea, India, Italy, Turkey, Bangladesh, Zambia, Haiti, and the United States.
Describing the film, the LA Times says, “The scope is wide, the photography compelling, the presentation is crisp. Take notice unless you’ve already booked passage to another galaxy.”
What makes “Plan B” so fascinating for me is that it provides a slew of hopeful and realistic strategies to avoid the growing threat of global warming, while, at the same time, strengthening the ecomony. If the film is half as good as the book, it will be an hour well spent.
Barry Katz will be the featured author at this year’s Green Lifestyle Fair, hosted by The Shoreline League of Democratic Women (SLDW) on Saturday, April 2, 2011. The event, which is free and open to the public, runs from 9am to 3:30pm, at the Water’s Edge Resort and Spa, in Westbrook, CT.
Barry will be speaking about his book, Practical Green Remodeling, at 11:00 AM, and will be on hand to sign books and answer questions throughout the day.
The Green Lifestyle Fair will host a wide variety of Exhibitors featuring energy alternatives, green products and services. Industry experts and environmental advocates will be on hand to discuss energy alternatives, financial incentives, conservation initiatives, and the most pressing challenges affecting our environment today. For more information on the event, visit the SLDW web site at www.SLDW.org or call 860-399-1147.
Also during the event, there will also be a Green Book Fair, Energy-Saving Lighting Fair, and Eco-friendly Raffle. The Green Book Fair will carry the latest titles in eco-friendly lifestyles for adults and children, from seasonal cooking to practical green remodeling.
The Lighting Fair will offer ENERGY STAR lighting products at deeply discounted prices for Green Lifestyle Fair attendees.
Can you think of something fun to do in the dark for one hour? At 8:30 PM on Saturday 26th March 2011, lights will switch off around the globe for Earth Hour. Around the globe, hundreds of millions of people will be turning off their lights for an hour, and committing to actions large and small that help fight climate change.
Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries/territories participating. Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, CN Tower in Toronto, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.
By March 2009, hundreds of millions of people around the world took part in the third Earth Hour. And Earth Hour 2010 was the biggest ever. In 128 countries Iconic buildings and landmarks from Asia Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched off their lights. People across the world from all walks of life turned off their lights and came together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet.
Earth Hour 2011 will take place on Saturday 26 March at 8.30PM (local time).
There is even an Earth Hour iPhone app. Click here to see it in the app store.
As a follow-up to my previous post, readers might find this amusing. Last night, Stephen Colbert interviewed Natural Resources Defence Council’s Dale Bryk about the upcoming debate in Congress about light bulbs. In usual fashion, Colbert doesn't add a lot of clarity to the issue, but when was the last time a light bulb made you laugh?
Imagine trading in your new car for an Edsel. In essence, that’s what some in Congress want to do with light bulbs, according to Elizabeth Heyd of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
On Thursday March 10, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to consider a bill (S.395) introduced by Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi that would repeal efforts to expand the use of more energy-efficient light bulbs.
Along with companion bills sponsored by House Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, and Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the proposals would roll back energy efficiency standards signed into law by President George W. Bush that are designed to increase the efficiency of light bulbs by at least 25 percent.
If passed, the bills from Enzi, Barton and Bachmann would derail plans for new job-creating lighting factories and eliminate an estimated $10 billion in annual energy costs savings.
Please tell Congress that going backward on light bulbs not a very bright idea.
Opponents to new efficient light bulb standards say the government wants to tell consumers which types of light bulbs they can use, limit their choices to swirly compact florescent lamp bulbs, and ban incandescent bulbs.
That’s just not the case.
The new standards don’t force any type of bulb on consumers, nor do they ban any type of bulb. Incandescent bulbs will still be available – it’s just that new and improved incandescent bulbs will put out the same sort of light using 28 percent less energy. Current incandescent waste about 90 percent of the energy they consume.
And, of course, if you want to save even more, compact fluorescents (CFLs) that are now widely available will cut your energy costs by as much as 75 percent.
AMERICANS LIKE THEIR EFFICIENT LIGTH BULBS
Consumers already are adapting to better bulbs - and they like them. A February poll by USA Today found that nearly 3 out of 4 Americans have recently purchased new, more efficient light bulbs and 84 percent said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with them.
SAVINGS – AND MORE SAVINGS
When fully implemented, the new light bulb standards are expected to reduce the nation’s power bill by $10 billion a year.
The savings don’t stop there. The new standards also will reduce the need to build as many as 30 new power plants and cut greenhouse gas pollution by 100 million tons – the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road - helping reduce health problems (and health costs) along the way.
LIGHT BULB INNOVATION DRIVES ECONOMIC GROWTH
New lighting standards are already driving R&D investments in the United States and creating new jobs. Some examples:
Sylvania recently retooled its St. Mary’s, Penn. incandescent bulb plant to make new incandescents that meet the new standards.
Philips Lumiled in California, Cree Inc. in North Carolina, and Lighting Science Group in Florida are creating thousands of new jobs at factories that make new LED bulbs.
Bulb maker TCP Inc. used to do all of its manufacturing in China. But in 2009, the company announced plans for its first U.S. plant, in Ohio, to help meet growing demand for CFLs because of the new standards. When was the last time you heard of a company moving its manufacturing from China to the United States?
When all else fails, opponents to the new lighting standards use scare tactics and bring up health concerns. CFLs contain dangerous mercury, they point out.
At best, the health scare tactics are a huge stretch.
Today’s CFLs contain an average of four milligrams of mercury. In contrast, U.S. power plants pumped nearly 90,000 pounds of mercury in to the air in 2008, much of it in order to generate power for outdated light bulbs. To generate that amount of mercury, you’d have to break about 10 billion CFL bulbs
Whatever you are doing right now, I encourage you to take a 3-minute break and watch "Big Question: What Is Nature Worth?", an eye-opening animated video that offers a fresh look at global biodiversity loss - not only what it is costing humanity, but also what we can do about it.
"Big Question: What Is Nature Worth:?" is part of Momentum magazine's biodiversity issue (http://www.environment.umn.edu/momentum) and was inspired by the Natural Capital Project – a partnership between Stanford University, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Minnesota and the World Wildlife Fund.
Right off the bat, author Barry Katz says his book, "Practical Green Remodeling: Down-to-Earth Solutions for Everyday Homes," is not a how-to book. It's more a book about ideas and reasons for making sound and wise changes to your home.
More importantly, Katz approaches the subject of green and sustainable building by explaining that nothing is clear-cut. For instance, for the question about whether a house can be green without using green materials, the answer is both yes and no. He explains that there are shades of green and no house or building that is absolutely green.
"Ironically, the greenest thing is no building at all," he writes.
In each chapter, Katz offers a summary of his thoughts under the heading Green View. In the chapter on material selection he lists questions you should ask about each material that goes into remodeling your home. The questions are intended to help you to winnow out what shouldn't be used and make an informed decision, which can be truly helpful when you think about the sea of materials available.
In the chapter "Green Inside and Out," the summary reads in part:
"Advocates of healthy eating will tell you that the foods that are best for you are the ones containing the fewest ingredients. The same advice can be applied to furniture and fabrics for the home. ... Most synthetic fabrics contain dozens of ingredients, many of which are not even identified on the label. Wool has one ingredient."
See what I mean? He gets you thinking.
Katz also addresses the value-added component of making sustainable renovations. Throughout the book, his tone is more that of an informed friend than a preachy advocate. The softbound book is loaded with photographs, charts and diagrams to help explain each topic.