Vigil to End Climate Silence ~ Finale

I will not go down under the ground, 
Cause somebody tells me that deaths comin’ round

I have read all their statements and I’ve not said a word
But now Lawd God let my poor voice be heard
Let me die in my footsteps 
Before I go down under the ground

Let me Die in My Footsteps
~Bob Dylan

I would like to sum up the end of the Vigil to End Climate Silence. In the end the silence was broken but it had little to do with the vigil and more to do with the images of destruction all along the east coast. These images mirrored the warnings of the prominent climate scientists and those familiar with their work. Until recently, much of this had been dismissed as alarmist and it was even the fodder of jokes.

However, as the storm barreled towards the east coast the levity stopped and all along the eastern seaboard people bunkered down. By the time it hit land, having maintained much of it’s massive reach, there was little anyone could do but watch, helpless, as electricity went out all along the eastern seaboard and portions of the most populous city in the country were submerged in sea water. The storm has thus far been reported to have killed over 180 people (with at least 113 killed in the US), and has left many others displaced, in some cases indefinitely.

It is important to note that in the midst of the historic failure of our national leaders to minimize the likelihood of such events by effectively curbing green house gas emissions, and despite their present failure to address the situation head on, many citizens have been vigilant.

Vigil to End Climate Silence ~ Wednesday, Oct. 24th, 2012

For nearly the entire week prior, a steady stream of volunteers had been maintaining a Vigil to End Climate Silence in Boston’s Government Center. Over 200 volunteers took on shifts, calling attention to the failure of our national leaders to address the changing climate and take necessary measures for keeping us safe. The vigil was organized by 350MA and other local groups. Volunteers from all over the area came out, and they included several organizers from Occupy Boston. It is important to mention that though the vigil was nominally called off this Monday in the wake of Sandy, it continued none the less.

Two of the volunteers insisted on staying and one, Sage Radachowsky, insisted on staying through the entire night. He was sheltered only by a self made “occupod” tied to a flag pole. (The occupod is a carbon neutral, mobile shelter attached to a bike, designed by Radachowsky and Brian Brown). Another Occupy organizer offered to stay out with him protected by just a rain coat, but was discouraged by Radachowsky from sitting out in the storm without any shelter at all. On one side of the occupod a giant sign read “Denial is Not an Energy Policy”, on the other side was a sign that read, “What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on”.

Vigil to End Climate Silence, as storm approached on Monday Oct. 29th 2012

“I read Thoreau and Peter Gelderloos, and listened to the radio through the night.  Finally, around 9pm, the storm broke and all became silent. There was a quiet peace for half an hour, before all the whirring blowers and fans of the city came back on. I walked to the wharf and looked at the sea” explained Radachowsky.

“I stayed out because I wanted our statement to be fierce, and to make a stand that would be noticed by many people. I didn’t want to throw in the towel just because a hurricane was on the way. The worst that would have happened, most likely, is that the trike shelter would have gotten smashed to bits and my camera and phone gotten wet.  I would have ducked for cover, if that had happened. As it went, I spent many tense hours wondering when the bug gust would come and blow it apart, but the vehicle was resilient, and it bent instead of breaking! Like a birch tree, the walls bent over sideways and then sprung right back up. This made me happy, because I love the quality of resilience, and I think that our energy systems need to have that quality, so to find it in something i built made me happy.”

Despite the battering of the storm, the vigil persisted and was able to meet its target goal, continuing nonstop in Boston’s Government Center from Tuesday Oct. 23 to Tuesday Oct. 30th.

While national leaders continue to refrain from discussing a truly comprehensive energy policy, one that takes our safety into account, ordinary citizens are entering the public discussion and demanding that we end our support of fossil fuels and reduce our emissions now. These are people who are willing to risk their own comfort and safety to protect others. That too is a force to be reckoned with.

~ Nuevaspora

Clean Energy Lobby Day: Putting Solar on the Grid?

Great Post from our own Susan R. Happy Independence Day!

The Clean Energy Lobby Day at the State House on June 14th, brought together activists that delivered an urgent message to Massachusetts legislators— Don’t Block Expansion of Critical Solar Programs! 

About 25 energy activists, solar industry employees, students and citizens from across the Greater Boston region lobbied their Representatives on Thursday to update policies in the Green Communities Act to increase renewable energy production.  Among the groups represented were Environment Massachusetts, Boston Climate Action, the Sierra Club, Mass Interfaith Power and Light, as well as students from Northeastern Law School.

We fanned out in small groups to speak directly with legislators, or their staff, about the importance of two bills in particular that address climate action, sustainability, and environmental justice (i.e., CASEJ’s key concerns).  We asked that they sign onto a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Dempsey urging consideration of S.2214 already passed by the Senate that promotes greater renewable energy production by allowing more net-metering. *See explanation of net-metering below.

Increasing the cap on the net metering program will guarantee that consumers receive financial incentives for the solar energy they produce. S.2214 will restore financial certainty to the solar market and will allow more consumers to take on new and worthwhile solar projects.

Also, we explained the environmental justice merits of H.3897, the so-called “Oil Heating” bill that would require heating oil companies to offer energy efficiency programs to customers as do the electric and gas utilities.  The program would especially benefit lower income households on oil that are stuck with old systems.

(Note:  To follow any bill on line, go to http://www.malegislature.gov/ and use the search feature).

Array of solar panels at the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan
For more visit the Solar Energy at Boston Nature Center site!

In Massachusetts, 90 percent of our energy comes from dirty, dangerous sources… 

Here in Massachusetts, most of our energy comes from burning coal, oil and gas to heat and power our homes. Our environment and our health pay the price: these sources emit air pollution that causes smog and global warming, as well as mercury pollution that contaminates our waterways and makes our fish unsafe to eat.

Did you know that enough sun shines on Massachusetts everyday of the year to power the state multiple times over with clean solar energy?  Yet despite the state’s abundant solar potential, Massachusetts produces less than 1% of its electricity from the sun.  Environment Massachusetts, one of the event sponsors, believes at least 10 percent of energy use in this state could come from the sun by 2030.

According to people in our group from wind and solar companies, lifting the cap on net metering is urgent.  Because the current allowable limit for net-metering by small businesses and households has been reached, private financing for new production is unlikely or unavailable to owners and developers of solar and wind.  The renewables industry argues that incentives are needed to level the playing field with the fossil fuel energy corporations that receive subsidies.  Greater economic activity in the renewables industry will eventually bring down the cost per watt of using renewable energy technologies.  Hank Werlin (hwerlin@solardesign.com) related a cautionary tale about New Jersey’s renewables program that failed to continue support, with the result of a crash in renewables economic activity in that state.

Ben Wright of Environment Massachusetts stated, “We can’t let politics get in the way of important net-metering reforms that have strong support among the Commonwealth’s citizens, industry, and our Senators, as well.”  According to the Environment Massachusetts website, some Massachusetts power companies and their fossil fuel allies are attempting to prevent homeowners and businesses from getting easy access to solar. Industry lobbyists want to protect their profits by keeping us dependent on the polluting fuels of the past.

Environment Massachusetts has a goal for the state of getting 10 percent of our energy from the sun by 2030.  To achieve these goals, urges groups to build massive public support for solar and convince legislators to:

  • Expand access to rooftop and onsite solar energy by expanding Massachusetts’ most successful solar program;
  • Establish programs to promote solar hot water;
  • Make all new buildings zero net-energy by maximizing energy efficiency and promoting rooftop solar; and
  • Work with local communities, utilities, developers and large building owners to make solar a centerpiece of Massachusetts’ plan to meet our energy and environmental challenges.

*What is net metering?  *Net-Metering is one of the most effective ways to generate more local, renewable energy in Massachusetts.  Essentially, net-metering allows consumers (residential, commercial or municipal) of electricity to generate renewable electricity on site and sell it back to utility companies.  Since the net-metering program was first enacted (as part of the Green Communities Act in 2008), solar installations in the Commonwealth have increased 24-fold.  Currently, only 3% of all of Massachusetts’ electricity is permitted to be net-metered (1% of all private electricity and 2% of all public).  The bill would raise the cap to 3% for public and 3% of private generating systems).

Here’s an example  of net metering from the Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs website:

Imagine that a residential customer installs a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system (also known as a solar-electric system) to her home, on her side of the retail meter. Before daylight, her retail meter spins forward as she consumes electricity from the distribution company to power appliances like a refrigerator or computer. During the day, the solar panels generate electricity. If they provide more power than the customer can use, her retail meter will spin in reverse as the excess electricity is sent to the electric grid. At night, when the solar panels are not generating electricity, the retail meter will spin forward again as the customer consumes more electricity than her system generates. At the end of the billing period (around one month), the customer only pays for the net consumption of electricity. 

~ Susan R.

Pilgrims, Nukes and Refugees

A belated weekly rundown…

10 families in PA barricade themselves to avoid a fracking eviction, reports of 14 people arrested in MA for protesting Pilgrim Nuclear power plant, and it’s just the start of the week.

10 Families in Jersey Shore PA Refuse To Be Displaced for Fracking Operation

In Jersey Shore PA, over 30 families were told that they would have to vacate Riverdale Mobile Home Park to make way for the construction of a water withdrawal site to support hydraulic fracturing. 10 families refused to leave, and are now standing their ground. At least some of these families lack the means to move their homes. Construction was scheduled to start on Friday. What started as a vigil on Thursday night has extended through and past the weekend as people from a myriad of groups and organizations (including OWS) have gone to the park to stand with them. The protest has been peaceful and they have set up barricades preventing vehicle’s from entering. Aqua America, the company that bought the land and initiated the evictions can be reached at: (610) 527-8000.

Riverdale Mobile Home Park, Jersey Shore PA

Fortune has begun to shift at least a little, and the company is scheduled to go into negotiations with residence today.

The water withdrawal its self was permitted in March by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, a water shed management agency. More information can be found on the Save Riverdale blog.

An update on our own Charles River via Michael:

 

 

The New England Regional office of the EPA released its annual report card on the Charles River. EPA water quality data shows that during 2011, the Charles River had an acceptable water quality for boating and swimming. The grade issued this year is a ‘B”. The grade reflects that the river met bacteria-based water quality standards for boating 82% of the time and for swimming 54% of the time. The EPA launched its Charles River Initiative in 1995 when the river received a D for meeting boating standards 29% of the time and 19% for swimming. The EPA has been measuring the cleanup of the Charles River against the objectives set in the Clean Water act of 1972.

The New England Regional Office of the EPA is designated as Region 1 and includes all of New England and the ten tribal nations recognized by the Interior Department Bureau of Indian Affairs. The ten tribes include the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head in Massachusetts, The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Indian Tribe in Connecticut, The Narragansett in Rhode Island and five tribes in Maine. The tribes in Maine include the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Malaseet, Passamaquoddy (Indian Township), Passamaquoddy (Pleasant Point) and the Penobscot.

Source:epa.gov news release 4/21/12

CASEJ:

CASEJ met last night deciding plans for the Summer. This will likely include joining a rally in protest of the re-permitting of the Pilgrim Power Plant on June 7th and another advocating for clean sustainable energy on June 14th.  Details:

Pilgrim Coalition protest at NRC hearing on nuke plants Thursday June 7 at 9:15 a.m. (yes, this Thursday!) at Post Office Square. Bring signs. Why? According to the invite: “While the hearing will be held in Boston, the content pertains to all Mark 1 boiling water reactors in the U.S., which have the same faulty design as the Fukushima reactors.”

On a related note, fourteen people were arrested in Plymouth on May 20th as part of a protest to close the unsafe Pilgrim plant. Some of them will be at the rally. Check out the story in the Boston Occupier.

Lobby Day for Renewables Bill Senate 2214 at State House on Thursday, June 14 (next week).  Meet on State House steps at 11 a.m. next to big banner for Climate Action–Connect the Dots, followed by visits to key legislators with support letter. This is part of an entire week of events with Energy Week Boston. (*Those of us who speak with legislators will be introducing ourselves simply as concerned and active citizens, not as Occupy, Occupy Boston or OB CASEJ.) Whether you want to support it or say that it’s not enough, lets make the clean energy discussion loud!

The full text for Renewables Bill Senate 2214 can be found here.

We will also be training more of our members to tweet, wiki and blog, so watch out!

Young Protester Refusing Eviction From Riverdale Mobile Home Park. Jersey Shore, PA

Sweet Solar Pump!

Talking about environmental problems can get a little gloomy, so here is a link to a lovely design project. It’s a solar charging pump and public seating space designed by Sol Design Lab and SXSW Inc. Sol Design Lab works to “create interactive and inspiring solutions for urban sustainability, public art, and design”. The music in the video is by the band Fool’s Gold (misattributed to their single release Surprise Hotel). I happen to have gone to one of their concerts a few years ago. They were a big group of fun, talented musicians, and it was like watching a traveling party. Nice match for the video…

Some may think that the name “Fool’s Gold” is also a great match for solar and other alternative energies. In fact, there are many people under the impression that these energies simply cost more than they are worth, and that they are ultimately unfeasible at present. I can’t speak to the latter at the moment because, aside from the complication that we subsidized almost all energy in some way (including fossil fuels), it brings up questions of how we distinguish and compare costs, and fundamentally how we judge and determine value. Since that is well beyond the scope of this short post, I’ll just speak to the feasibility. In 2009 Dr. Mark Delucchi, at the Institute of Transportation Studies in UC Davis, and Dr. Mark J Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, published an article in Scientific American outlining how we could rely completely on wind water and sun for our energy by 2030. The brief synopsis of the article explains:

• Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe.

• The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.

• The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil-fuel and nuclear power.

• Shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles.

One of the biggest obstacle was a shortage of materials for things like car batteries. However they say that particular issue might be mitigated by recycling the material. This seems to focus on a straight transition to wind, water, and solar energy, without even factoring in the potential for major changes in efficiency and energy use (like increased use of small scale geothermal).

Speaking of materials, researchers are now exploring the use of fools gold, also known as pyrite, as a possible cheap and abundant semiconductor for use in photovoltaics.

Quick heads up: at 7:00 tonight there is an Occupy Boston book swap and potluck on Copley Square Plaza, and at 7:00 tomorrow there will be a meting on the future and direction of Occupy Boston at the Parkman Bandstand in Boston Common. It’s your future and everyone is welcome!

~Nuevaspora

How We Use Energy…

[Sorry for the delay, our “blog team” has been traveling and having a hard time getting to the internet.]

No doubt about it, solar power is hot. At least it is in Europe, where last year 21.9 gigawatts of photovoltaic paneling was installed, surpassing that of gas and wind plants connections combined.

While the threat of climate change is be alarming, raising awareness is can be fun

On this side of the pond, Obama is pressing congress to extend tax breaks for wind power projects* (now gaining bipartisan support), while on Wednesday memos were leaked that implicated John Droz and others in organizing to “cause subversion in message of [the wind] industry so that it effectively becomes so bad no one wants to admit they are for it”. Their strategy included efforts to create a movement that should “ appear as a ‘groundswell’ among grass roots.” John Droz is best known know for is involvement in the law suit targeting climate researcher Dr. Michael Mann.

On the same day, Dr. James Hanson, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, condemned the use of another new fuel source, this one emitting more greenhouse gas than conventional fuels. Tar Sands can be processed into a very crude oil, but it requires much more work  (it starts out as gritty bitumen rather than a liquid). Dr. Hanson explains in his New York Time’s op-ed:

“But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically. President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground.”

We are not yet locked into the future Dr. Hanson is describing, however we could be if we don’t change the way we use energy soon (read: less than 5 years). The panning necessary will have to come before that, so timing is crucial. If all this leaves you wondering what options the average citizen has in trying to reduce national emissions, check out Wednesday night’s interview with Gary Rucinski on carbon fee and dividend.