Would we let terrorists poison our water, if they promised jobs?

February 4, 2014

Great, potent question.

What do you think?

And, where did that photo come from?

Protester in West Virginia:  "Would we let terrorists poison our water supply, if they said it created jobs?"  Photographer unidentified; so is protester.

Protester in West Virginia: “Would we let terrorists poison our water supply, if they said it created jobs?” Photographer unidentified; so is protester.

Keep your eye on West Virginia.

Here’s why:  Do you know what factories may lie upstream from your drinking water, and do you know how they are regulated?  Is the regulation done well?

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How’s that “defund the EPA” working for you now? West Virginia edition

January 10, 2014

Rite-Aid store in Charleston, West Virginia, out of bottled drinking water.

Rite-Aid store in Charleston, West Virginia, out of bottled drinking water. Eyewitness report and photo via Twitter

West Virginia’s water woes might look like a political campaign ad from God to some people.

If you’re watching closely, you may already understand some of the morals of this story.

Last night West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared an emergency in six counties, telling about 300,000 people to avoid touching their tapwater — no drinking, mixing infant formula, cooking, or bathing; flushing toilets was okay.  NBC reported:

A chemical spill into a West Virginia river has led to a tap water ban for up to 300,000 people, shut down bars and restaurants and led to a run on bottled water in some stores as people looked to stock up.

The federal government joined West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in declaring a disaster as the West Virginia National Guard arranged to dispense bottled drinking water to emergency services agencies in the counties hit by the chemical spill into the Elk River.

Federal authorities are also opening an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the leak and what triggered it, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Friday.

The advisory was expanded at night to nine counties and includes West Virginia American Water customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties.

Several thousand gallons of an industrial chemical had leaked out, into a tributary to the Kanawha River above Charleston, upstream from the city’s culinary water intake.  While the company responsible for the leak, Freedom Industries, assured the governor and other authorities that the spill is not threat to human health, officials took the more cautious path.

This case illustrates troubles we have with food and water supplies, protecting public health, and the rapid proliferation and spread of modern technology and chemical innovation.

  • Why did the company say the spill is no threat?  No research has pinned any particular health effect to the chemical involved. But you, you sneaky, suspicious person, you want to know just what chemical is involved, don’t you?
  • What’s the chemical involved? 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM) spilled out of a tank into the Elk River, which flows into the Kanawha River, from which Charleston gets its water.  Charleston, West Virginia’s capital, is also the state’s largest city.  You’re still suspicious?
  • What are the health effects of the stuff? Now you ask questions for which there are not great answers.  The chemical, with the methylcyclohexane linked to an alcohol molecule, is new enough, and rare enough in industry, that there are not a lot of studies on what it does.  It’s known to irritate skin and mucous membranes; breathing a lot of it can cause pneumonia.  Only rats have been exposed to the stuff enough to know what it does, and only a few rats for only short periods of time and not massive doses. In other words, we don’t know the health effects.
  • What’s the stuff used for? Freedom Industries uses it to wash coal.  Heck, I didn’t even know coal was washed other than a water spray to hold down dust in crushing, loading and unloading the stuff.  [if you missed the link in this post, let call your attention again to the story at WOWK-TV, which is quite thorough in discussing MCHM and its effects.  WOWK-TV is more thorough than the federal regulating agencies.]
  • But wait! If there are no known health effects, why the caution? It’s not that the stuff has been tested and found safe to humans.  MCHM simply hasn’t been tested to see what the health effects are.  The toxic profile for the compound at CDC’s ATDSR does not exist.  NIOSH doesn’t have much  more information on it. The most thorough analysis of what it might do is populated by small studies, or none at all.
  • What do you mean the stuff hasn’t been tested!!!???? Welcome to to Grover Norquist’s “smaller government,” to John Boehner’s and Mitch McConnell’s “reduced regulation,” to Rick Perry’s “states’ rights” world.  Way back in 1962 Rachel Carson warned about the proliferation of newly-devised chemicals being loosed into the environment, when we really had no historical knowledge of what the stuff would do to humans who ran into it, nor to other life forms, nor even inanimate things like rocks, wood and metal.  A decade later, the founders of the Environmental Protection Agency entertained the idea that a federal agency would be responsible for assuring that chemical substances would be tested for safety, both old substances and new.  For a couple of decades Congress supported that mission, until it became clear that there are simply too many new compounds and too great a backlog to test all, thoroughly.That world of making chemists and big companies responsible for their chemical children began to crumble in the Reagan administration, and is mostly abandoned now.  Chemical juveniles may run as delinquent as they would, with EPA and all other agencies essentially powerless to do anything — unless and until tragedy.  Even where EPA, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and all branches and twigs of the Department of Homeland Security, designate something as hazardous and deserving of care in handling, a state like Texas will ignore the rules on a substance until an accident blows half of West, Texas, to Hell, Michigan, with loss of life and enormous property destruction.  Afterward, victims get left bereft of aid to rebuild, and wondering who they might look to, to look out for them, to prevent such a horrible occurrence in the future.

So it goes, the nation blundering along from one tragedy, until the next.

Through most of American history, great tragedies produced great reforms.  No longer.  The Great Red State of West Virginia is dependent on federal largesse to get water to drink, at enormous expense and waste of time, talent and money.  Meanwhile, West Virginia’s Members of Congress conspire in Washington, D.C., to strip federal agencies from any power to even worry about what may be poisoning West Virginians.

Gov. Tomblin’s speedy action may seem out of place, not because there is great danger, but because he’s acting to protect public health without a mass of dead bodies in view to justify his actions.  We don’t see that much anymore (Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott didn’t cancel appointments to get to West, Texas to even offer sympathy, but instead scheduled weekend jaunts after it was clear the fire was out and there was no danger.  The good people of West did not greet them with a hail of rotten tomatoes, but thanked them for their concern.  Americans are nothing if not polite.)

I was struck with the news last night because I could find no report of just what was the chemical that leaked into the rivers.  This morning we finally learned it was MCHM.  In the depths of some of those stories, we also learn that the leak may have been going on for some time.  Though thousands of gallons of the stuff are missing, the concentrations in the river suggest not much is leaking now . . . the rest leaked earlier, and is already water under the bridge south of Charleston.

What do you think state and federal authorities should do in this case?  What do you think will actually happen?

More:

Update January 12, 2014:  JRehling got it right:


How about another cup of coffee? (Global Warming Conspiracy and Starbucks Cup #289)

June 19, 2013

Encore post from September 17, 2007, and August 2009 — maybe more appropriate today than ever before.

Found this on my coffee cup today (links added here):

The Way I See It #289

So-called “global warming” is just

a secret ploy by wacko tree-

huggers to make America energy

independent, clean our air and

water, improve the fuel efficiency

of our vehicles, kick-start

21st-century industries, and make

our cities safer and more livable.

Don’t let them get away with it!

Chip Giller
Founder of Grist.org, where
environmentally-minded people
gather online.

Starbucks Coffee Cup, The Way I See It #289 (global warming)

Look! Someone found the same cup I found!

I miss those old Starbucks cups — but then, they killed the Starbucks in our town.  I don’t buy the 100 cups of Starbucks coffee I used to get in a year.

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Where have all the flowers gone? A bunch to Pete Seeger on his 94th birthday today

May 3, 2013

Pete Seeger was born on May 3, 1919.  He turns 94 today.

Pete is an alumnus of the Louis August Jonas Foundation‘s Camp Rising Sun, a little nugget that appealed to me when I signed up as a counselor at the Rhinebeck campus in 19#&.  Pete and Arlo Guthrie teamed up for a series of concerts at East Coast venues that summer, including Wolftrap, Saratoga, Tanglewood and others.  Pete lives just down the river from Rhinebeck, near Beacon — but driving home from one of those venues was just a bit too far.  Pete stopped off at his childhood haunts and spent a day with us.

I hoped to invite him to Salt Lake City.  Pete said he might make such a trip, but it was unlikely — and impressed me with his reasoning and dedication to principle.  He explained that he was sticking closer to home as he approached 65, because there was work to do there.  He said he’d attended a local school board or PTA meeting to voice an opinion on some issue in Beacon.  One of the local newspapers complained he was “an outside agitator.”  That stung, he said — he’d been a resident in the town for more than 30 years.

Instead of complaining, though, he started thinking.  He said he’s traveled the world and worked for causes for other people in other towns; and he said he realized that one’s life’s work might be dedicated to making life better where one lives.  So he’d decided to campaign to clean up his local river, the Hudson . . . you’ve heard of the Sloop Clearwater?

Pete’s dedication to making things better, with local action where one may make a huge difference, stuck with me, and it should stick with all of us.

Last month I was doodling around Twitter, and discovered Pete had signed up for a Twitter account — years ago.  He tweets regularly.

He’s an encouragement to all of us.  He boasts that there is no group he has ever refused to sing for, and in his typical humility, he claims that he can get any group to join, so they do all the heavy lifting.  During the pre-inaugural festivities for President Obama’s first inauguration I was happy to see Bruce Springsteen singing some of Pete’s work — highly appropriate for any president’s inauguration — and I thought it would be more fitting only if Pete was singing himself.  Then Springsteen brought Pete out on stage to close out.

Pete keeps up a schedule of concerts, most for causes.  He sails with the Clearwater, campaigning for clean water on the Hudson River (much accomplished) and community efforts to change things for the better.  As you will see below, he pulls his own when raising the sails.    He cuts his own wood to heat the house he built.

Considering his age, 94, we might wonder why he keeps going, doing so much all the time.

Why does he keep on going?  He might be telling us, from this 2012 recording.

More:  

English: This graphic was used for the cover o...

Cover of Pete Seeger’s single release (same photo on an album). The banjo features Pete’s traditional “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” a twist on a sticker famously seen on his old friend Woody Guthrie’s guitar. Wikipedia image

Some material in this post is recycled from an earlier post.

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Over 65? Why go on? Pete Seeger shows us

April 2, 2013

Intrigued to learn our old friend Pete Seeger signed up for a Twitter account — years ago.  Pete tweets regularly.

He’s an encouragement to all of us.  He boasts that there is no group he has ever refused to sing for, and in his typical humility, he claims that he can get any group to join, so they do all the heavy lifting.

Pete keeps up a schedule of concerts, most for causes.  He sails with the sloop Clearwater, campaigning for clean water on the Hudson River (much accomplished) and community efforts to change things for the better.  As you will see below, he pulls his own when raising the sails.    He cuts his own wood to heat the house he built.

Pete will be 94 on May 3, 2013.

Why does he keep on going?  He might be telling us, from this 2012 recording.

More:  

English: This graphic was used for the cover o...

Cover of Pete Seeger’s single release (same photo on an album). The banjo features Pete’s traditional “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” a twist on a sticker famously seen on his old friend Woody Guthrie’s guitar. Wikipedia image


Clean Water Act at 40

October 18, 2012

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

In this photo, an entry in the 2012 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Photography Contest, can you tell the answer to Ben  Franklin’s not-rhetorical question:  “Is this a rising, or setting sun?”

Sun and ocean, entry in 2012 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Photo Contest

Sun and ocean, entry in 2012 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Photo Contest – click to contest site to see whether it is a rising or setting sun.  Photo by Ramsay age 14,
and Kyle age 43

We’re in the home stretch for the 2012 elections.  Are your congressional representatives among those who have pledged to cut funding for enforcement of the Clean Water Act?  Are they among those who have pledged to kill EPA?

How would that affect beaches like the one pictured above, by Ramsay and Kyle?

Nancy Stoner wrote at an EPA blog:

I am proud to be at EPA in 2012 for the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s foremost law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource. I often think about how a generation ago, the American people faced health and environmental threats in their waters that are almost unimaginable today.

Municipal and household wastes flowed untreated into our rivers, lakes and streams. Harmful chemicals were poured into the water from factories, chemical manufacturers, power plants and other facilities. Two-thirds of waterways were unsafe for swimming or fishing. Polluters weren’t held responsible. We lacked the science, technology and funding to address the problems.

Then on October 18, 1972, the Clean Water Act became law.

In the 40 years since, the Clean Water Act has kept tens of billions of pounds of sewage, chemicals and trash out of our waterways. Urban waterways have gone from wastelands to centers of redevelopment and activity, and we have doubled the number of American waters that meet standards for swimming and fishing. We’ve developed incredible science and spurred countless innovations in technology.

But I realize that despite the progress, there is still much, much more work to be done. And there are many challenges to clean water.

Today one-third of America’s assessed waterways still don’t meet water quality standards. Our nation’s water infrastructure is in tremendous need of improvement – the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it a D-, the lowest grade given to any public infrastructure. The population will grow 55 percent from 2000 and 2050, which will put added strain on water resources. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution is increasingly harming streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters. Climate change is predicted to bring warmer temperatures, sea level rise, stronger storms, more droughts and changes to water chemistry. And we face less conventional pollutants – so-called emerging contaminants – that we’ve only recently had the science to detect.

The absolute best path forward is partnership – among all levels of government, the private sector, non-profits and the public. It is only because of partnership that we made so much progress during the past 40 years, and it is partnership that will lead to more progress over the next 40 years.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has been part of protecting water and for working to ensure that this vital resource our families, communities and economy depends on is safeguarded for generations to come.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water

Tell us about your favorite stretch of clean water, in comments.

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Tea partiers: Constipated, now in the dark — what else can they screw up?

July 9, 2011

Life is just a constant bitch for tea partiers.

Rand Paul revealed why he’s full of . . . that certain fecality, shall we say.  He did that in a hearing about light bulbs, and appliances.  Energy conservation gives Rand Paul formication (look it up).

Joker burns money - Warner Brothers publicity still, with Heath Ledger as the Joker

Burning money: Republicans prefer more heat than light, less energy conservation, and the libertarian, self-help yourself to others' money philosophy popularized in recent movies.

But what about efforts to undo the energy conservation bill that practically forces long-lived, low-energy light bulbs on us?  The Tea Party doesn’t like that idea, either.  Michael Patrick Leahy, writing at the blog for Rupert Murdoch’s Broadside Books, explains why he thinks the Tea Party should oppose Fred Upton’s bill to repeal the energy standards Rand Paul castigated.

Basically, none of these guys knows beans about energy, nor much about the technology or science of electricity and lighting — they just like to whine.

Leahy wrote:

Section 3 [of the “Better Use of Light Bulbs Act,” HR 2417] states that “No Federal, State, or local requirement or standard regarding energy efficient lighting shall be effective to the extent that the requirement or standard can be satisfied only by installing or using lamps containing mercury.” This reads to me that Congress is attacking the mercury laden CFL bulbs. The point of the individual economic choice guaranteed in the Constitution, however, is that Congress ought not to favor CFLs over incandescents, just as it ought not to favor incandescents over CFLs. I’m no fan of CFL bulbs personally, but look for CFL manufacturers like GE to make this argument against the bill at every opportunity.

Section 4 of the Act is designed to repeal the light bulb efficiency standards in effect in the State of California since January 1 of this year. The standards are essentially the federal standards that will go into effect January 1, 2012, but moved up a year. While I personally question the legal status of these very specific rules promulgated by the California Energy Commission based on a vague and non-specific 2007 California statute, it seems to me that there are serious Constitutional questions surrounding a Federal law prohibiting a State to establish its own product efficiency standards. While a good argument can be made that the Commerce Clause grants Congress the right to repeal California state regulations, a reasonable argument could be made by opponents of the bill that Congress can’t do this because the state of California is merely establishing local standards, which is its right.

Given these concerns about Sections 3 and 4, what purpose does it serve to include them in the bill? Both raise potential objections to the passage of the bill on the floor of the House if it comes to a vote this week.

Now, granted this is the House of Representatives, and not the Senate where Sen. Paul keeps a chair warmed, occasionally.  Still, is it too much to ask the Tea Party to support the bills it asks for?  Leahy said:

A full and open discussion of these issues in public hearings held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would have been the right way to begin a legislative process that would have identified and addressed these potential objections. That’s the course that a Committee Chairman seriously committed to repealing the light bulb ban would have taken. Instead, Chairman Upton has followed this secretive, behind closed doors, last minute rushed vote approach.

There was a hearing in the Senate — good enough for most people — and of course, there were hearings on the issue in the House.  The Tea Party was unconscious at the time.  The bill they’re trying to repeal was a model of moderation as touted by the president when it passed, President George W. Bush — and it’s still a good idea to conserve energy and set standards that require energy conservation (the law does not ban incandescent bulbs).

Also, while they’re complaining about the mercury in Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs), remember, Dear Reader, they oppose letting our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protect you from mercury in your drinking water or the air that you breathe.  Pollution is only worrisome to them if they can use worry as a tool to whine about people making life work without pollution.  A rational person would point out that the mercury released by coal-fired power plants to produce the energy required by repeal of the conservation law would more than equal the mercury from all the CFLs, even were all that mercury to be released as pollution (which it isn’t, if properly disposed of):

8 hours: The amount of time a person must be exposed to the mercury in a CFL bulb to acquire the same mercury level as eating a six-ounce can of tuna, according to Climate Progress’s Stephen Lacey.

Is it too much to ask for reason, circumspection, and a touch of wisdom from these guys?  You’re supposed to drink the tea, Tea Party, not smoke it.

Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller (can we get on the no-call list?) says Republicans plan to vote for darkness instead of light next Monday.

A wet shake of the old scrub brush in the general direction of Instapundit, who never met a form of pollution he didn’t prefer over clean water or clean air.

_____________

Update:  Mike the Mad Biologist talks sense about the light bulb vote planned by the dim bulbs:

Because it’s not like more efficient light bulbs would be helpful at all:

The American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy says that the standards would eliminate the need to develop 30 new power plants – or about the electrical demand of Pennsylvania and Tennessee combined.

Only Republicans can make the current crop of Democrats look good…

Mike provides more points that make the Upton bill look simultaneously silly and craven:  The current law does not ban incandescent bulbs at all, for example, one manufacturer has introduced two new incandescent bulbs in the past year.  Tea Party Republicans:  No fact left unignored, no sensible solution left undistorted and unattacked.

Also see:


Raise taxes to pay for regulation? What do we get for our money?

May 25, 2011

Letters to a blog of the Orange County Register (California):

In praise of regulations

ORANGE, Susan Wong: I recently went through my day being mindful of what taxes do for me. I took a shower in clean water. I drove to work over safe, well-maintained streets. I was free to practice a profession of my choosing. I am able to do this work because I got my degree at a California state school and passed the California Board exam to earn my license.

On the way home, I stopped at an FDIC bank to take out some money that I had earned and am allowed to keep to support myself and my family. I stopped at a grocery store and bought safe food to eat due to various government regulations. I took my dog for a walk at a beautiful regional park. I picked up a takeout dinner at a restaurant inspected by state inspectors. And I went to sleep in peace.

Government exists to provide us with tangible things that an individual cannot provide for himself. I am so tired of people complaining about taxes as if they get nothing in return. It takes money to run a government that allows us to live our lives as we do.

So, let’s be grown-up about it and raise taxes to keep California from becoming a third-world country.   (May 25, 2011)

Evidence that not every Californian is crazy.


Boulder and Fort Collins: Wise city action prevents global warming? WUWT misreports the story

March 15, 2010

This is a story of two cities located within 100 miles of each other in Colorado, in that paradise created by close mountain recreation, clean and clear western vistas, and local, great universities.  The question is, does this story tell a tale of urban growth that mistakenly shows up as global warming, or is it a story of wise planning that avoids the harms of global warming — or something else in between, or completely different?

Boulder at twilight - Wikipedia Image by Phil Armitage

Boulder, Colorado at twilight, at the foot of the Rockies – Wikipedia Image by Phil Armitage

Anthony Watts complained that I don’t read his blog closely enough, or often enough.  He may rue the day he made that complaint.

Browsing over there I found a post hidden under a headline, “A UHI Tale of Two Cities.” I say “hidden” because Watts once again falls victim to the Dunning-Kruger syndrome of using an acronym, UHI, which sounds sciency but is in fact confusing to anyone not following the debate closely.  I’m science literate, I’ve done research, I’ve done air pollution research, I’ve served state, federal and local governmental bodies working on environmental issues, and “UHI” didn’t ring any bells with me.  It’s a MEGO phrase, in other words:  My Eyes Glaze Over.

It took five clicks, but I discovered UHI is “urban heat island,” the well-worried-over effect of cities, with all their concrete, asphalt and steel, holding heat longer than surrounding countryside.  In some cases, it is hypothesized that these urban heat islands affect or create their own weather.  In the airline industry we worried about late afternoon thunderstorms that continued well past historical evening limits (and I suspect airline meteorologists and flight schedulers still worry about the issue, but I’ve been out of it for well over a decade).

For the study of global warming, the issues are simple but important:  Do temperature measures made in or near big cities inaccurately show warming that is wholly local, and mislead scientists into thinking there is global warming?  Or is some of the supposed heat island effect instead due to global warming?  And, if it the urban heat island effect is mostly local, should we worry about it when developing policies to combat global warming and preserve our forests, wildlands and wildlife, wildernesses. oceans, rivers, farmlands and urban areas, and modern life?

Southwest quadrant of Boulder Colorado, showing greenbelt and trails - image from city website with information on greenbelt use and open space regulations, and maps.

Southwest quadrant of Boulder Colorado, showing greenbelt and trails – image from city website with information on greenbelt use and open space regulations, and maps. Boulder’s greenbelt open space and wild lands may get more visitors than nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.

In the post at Watts’s site, this is stated (from Watts?  from someone else?  Who can tell?):

Conclusion:

We have two weather stations in similarly sited urban environments. Until 1965 they tracked each other very closely.  Since then, Fort Collins has seen a relative increase in temperature which tracks the relative increase in population. UHI is clearly not dead.

Watts misses much of the story.

In the middle 1960s and into the early 1970s Boulder, Colorado, made conscious and careful attempts to preserve its environmental quality.  In 1967 Boulder created a greenbelt plan that started the processes to preserve an open space belt around the city, to preserve wild lands and to provide a sink for air pollutants and other effects of the city.  In the early 1970s the city limited city growth to assure environmental quality.

Alternatives to Growth Oregon (AGO) featured an excerpt from a book detailing several growth-controlling actions by American cities as well and succinctly as anything else I’ve found (excerpted from Better Not Bigger by Eben Fodor)

In 1967, Boulder voters approved one of the nation’s first locally funded greenbelt systems. They used a local sales tax increase of 0.4 percent to finance open space land acquisitions. As of 1998, Boulder had raised $116 million and acquired 33,000 acres of greenways and mountain parks. The greenbelt system serves as a natural growth boundary, defining the limits of the city with open space and parkland. This natural boundary helps to block urban sprawl and “leapfrog” development. The greenbelt has also helped protect the quality of life in Boulder as the city has grown. It is said that more people use the greenbelt system each year than visit nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. As an added measure, Boulder established a building height limitation of 55 feet in 1971 to preserve the view of the Rockies. The city and surrounding county have cooperated on planning and growth-management policies and jointly adopted the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan. A city-county study in 1970 showed the area’s population doubling in 20 years to 140,000. This projection alarmed many residents and prompted discussions about optimum population size. A public opinion survey found that more than 70 percent of respondents favored population stabilization near the 100,000 level.

In November, 1971 Boulder citizens set another first when they placed an initiative on the ballot to create a charter amendment setting a maximum population limit for the city. Voters narrowly defeated the initiative. The defeat may have been partly due to an alternative referendum placed on the same ballot by the city council. This second referendum was approved by 70 percent of voters and directed local government to “take steps necessary to hold the rate of growth in the Boulder Valley to a level substantially below that experiences in the 1960’s.” This important decision has led to a number of experimental growth-management policies that are still being fine-tuned today.

More information on greenbelts, how they work and why they are such a great idea, can be found from the Trust for Public Lands (also here), among other sources.

Fort Collins is a college town, like Boulder, and loaded with people interested in preserving the environment.  Colorado State is the state’s Land Grant College (Morrill Act), the official repository of studies of protecting and wisely using the lands of Colorado.  But Fort Collins did not create a green belt.  Development in Fort Collins follows rules, but rules set by more traditional zoning and protection regulations than Boulder’s green belt.

Exploring Old Town Fort Collins by bicycle - City of Fort Collins photo

Exploring Old Town Fort Collins by bicycle – City of Fort Collins photo

Watts’s blog lays the differences in temperatures between Boulder and Fort Collins since 1965 entirely at the feet of rising population, and an assumption that rising population means more concrete, asphalt and steel (Watts writing, or someone else?).  Analysis of population growth from any serious statistical viewpoint, comparing Fort Collins-Loveland SMSA against the Boulder MSA (or Denver-Boulder SMSA) is lacking.  This is probably more a reminder that Watts’s blog is not engaged in serious scientific analysis global warming from a global view — nor even a national, state or regional view.  The comparison is simple, on population and temperature, and probably not sustainable to the point Watts suggests he wants to take it.

The population of the City of Boulder grew less than the population of the City of Fort Collins grew.  That appears to be enough for Watts.

Check with the public officials of Boulder, especially those in charge of development and zoning.  They’ll let you know in a hurry that Boulder’s slower-than-Fort-Collins growth is intentional.  While the Boulder plan technically has no upper limit, it slows growth so that environmental quality can be maintained, especially the greenbelt, with its manifold recreation opportunities.

Fort Collins has a lot of good recreation, too.  The Cache de Poudre River offers great river running within 40 minutes of downtown in the summer, and the local National Forests and other public lands offer camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and I imagine, snowmobiling in winter.  There are bike paths through Fort Collins — but not the green, automobile-free style of trails available all around Boulder.

Scouts climbing at Camp Ben DelaTour, outside of Fort Collins - Longs Peak Council BSA photo

Scouts climbing at Camp Ben DelaTour, outside of Fort Collins – Longs Peak Council BSA photo

Perhaps most important, Fort Collins experiences “leapfrog” development that Boulder specifically spurned 40 years ago.  New businesses cluster along roads into town, frequently just out of the city limits and beyond the zoning rules of the city, at least until the city annexes the land and its problems.  This is the traditional growth model for American cities.  What it ensures is urban sprawl and suburban growth.  It also virtually guarantees that there will be no preserved greenlands around the city.  Green land, rural or more wild, get developed in sprawl.

Here’s the question Watts and his collaborators don’t deal with:  How much of Boulder’s cooler climate is due to the greenbelt, and how much due to the striving for wise development instead of sprawl?  Considering Boulder’s proximity to Denver and explosive growth there, the fact that Boulder’s climate is cooler than Fort Collins’s, according to Watts, suggests even more strongly that tough protection of the environment can work wonders, if not near-miracles.

Who is Anthony Watts to claim that Boulder’s cooler climate is not the result of careful planning to preserve the environment, initiated by Boulder’s visionaries 50 years ago?

Perhaps more critically:  Doesn’t Boulder demonstrate that planning that stops global warming, is feasible, practical, economical, and perhaps, preferable?  Doesn’t the greenbelt, and lower temperatures, suggest that we can kill the urban heat island effect, to the betterment of local living standards?

There is a moral to the story of development in Fort Collins and Boulder, Colorado.  That moral has very little, if anything, to do with heat islands.  It is instead a model to tell us that planning to avoid environmental disaster is the wise thing to do.  Anthony Watts has the charts to prove it.

Notes:

  • A serious study of the effects of the greenbelt, or effects of population growth, on local climate, or on global warming, in the area along the Front Range in Colorado and Wyoming would probably be strengthened with analysis of Greeley and Denver thrown in.  Denver is big enough to contain a couple of universities; Greeley is home to Northern Colorado University (as Fort Collins and Boulder are homes to Colorado State and the University of Colorado, respectively).  Growth in Greeley, a prairie, farming and beef ranching town (and former utopian destination of easterners headed west), differs markedly from Fort Collins, founded as a military outpost to protect the Overland Trail and other commerce routes through the Rockies, and Boulder, largely a mining town.  Similarities and differences between the cities could be instructive, especially considering the proximity of each to the others.
  • Boulder gets its water from a glacier, a point that shouldn’t be lost in discussions of global warming
  • City of Boulder’s officials and advisors, and Copenhagen 15 — the city took what it regarded as an active role to combat warming
  • Watts visited Boulder to check out its weather stations; his photos show the station, near the NOAA headquarters, close to the green belt.  “Sometimes people smack into the truth, and then pick themselves up and walk off as if nothing had happened.”  Watts said construction near the site demonstrated “expansion pressures.”
  • From Boulder, it’s 38 miles to Fort Collins, and 38 miles to Greeley.  Greeley and Fort Collins are 19 miles apart.  From Denver it’s 26 miles to Boulder, 47 to Greeley and 55 to Fort Collins.
  • Two-needled ponderosa pines live outside of Fort Collins, to the northwest.  Most pines have odd numbers of needles, and ponderosa typically have five needles.

Update, James Madison Day (3-16-2010): Watts still doesn’t get it.  In a post today he wrote:

My last few posts have described a new method for quantifying the average Urban Heat Island (UHI) warming effect as a function of population density, using thousands of pairs of temperature measuring stations within 150 km of each other. The results supported previous work which had shown that UHI warming increases logarithmically with population, with the greatest rate of warming occurring at the lowest population densities as population density increases.

Comparing Fort Collins with Boulder, and noting that Fort Collins grew faster, is an inadequate explanation for more warming in Fort Collins, about 40 miles north of Boulder.  Boulder has a greenbelt designed to frustrate global warming, locally and globally.  To fail to account for the effect of a massive green belt of 33,000 acres — more than double the size of the city’s 16,000 acres — is a failure of science.  If Watts’s methodology misses such factors that slap an unbiased viewer in the face, you’ve gotta wonder what else he’s missing.  If he can’t see a greenbelt twice the size of the city, surrounding the city, what else has he overlooked?

Plus there is this:  Assume for a moment that he proves a heat island effect exists (a proposal unquestioned in meteorology and atmospheric sciences for a generation, by the way) — the question he’s seeking to prove is that urban heat islands skew official temperature readings enough to falsely indicate global warming.  To skew measurements that include thousands of at-sea sensing devices, and rural areas around the world, there would have to be an massive effect that would be immediately obvious in the cities causing the effect:  They would melt.

Flatirons rock formations, on Green Mountain, near Boulder, Colorado - Wikimedia photo by Jesse Varner

Flatirons rock formations, on Green Mountain, near Boulder, Colorado – Wikimedia photo by Jesse Varner

Help others find wisdom for their cities:

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How about another cup of coffee? (Global Warming Conspiracy)

August 18, 2009

Encore post from September 17, 2007 — maybe more appropriate today than ever before.

Found this on my coffee cup today:

The Way I See It #289

So-called “global warming” is just

a secret ploy by wacko tree-

huggers to make America energy

independent, clean our air and

water, improve the fuel efficiency

of our vehicles, kick-start

21st-century industries, and make

our cities safer and more livable.

Don’t let them get away with it!

Chip Giller
Founder of Grist.org, where
environmentally-minded people
gather online.

Starbucks Coffee Cup, The Way I See It #289 (global warming)

Look! Someone found the same cup I found!

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Exotic trouble: Zebra mussel invades Texas

April 22, 2009

Zebra mussels have been found live in Lake Texoma, on the Texas-Oklahoma border, a lake made by damming the Red River.  Video from WFAA, Channel 8 in DallasPress release from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

All of a sudden Texans have a powerful reason to worry about evolution (the mussels are evolving to live in warmer waters?), climate change, ecosystem destruction by exotic species, and water pollution.

Zebra mussels are a bigger problem than any other undocumented immigrant.

Happy Earth Day! 

Help out:

If you find a suspected zebra mussel, here are the numbers to call:

  • In Texas-(800) 792-4263
  • In Oklahoma-(405) 521-3721

Resources:


Polluted waters near your home, 6-legged frogs, and you

April 19, 2009

It was a reference to the “environmental movement” in government and politics — seniors take the class in Texas.  “What does that mean?”

We have maybe ten minutes in the block to stray.  No time for discovery learning to get this point across in government.

“The movement, the grass-roots political organizing to express concern for clean air, clean water, preservation of green space, preservation of endangered species, protection from toxic chemicals and poisons.  Things really took off after Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. ”

“That’s a funny title.  What’s it about?”  I pause.  It’s dangerous territory to ask what high school kids don’t know these days.

“Is there anyone here who does not know about DDT and its role in threatening our national symbol, the bald eagle?”

Every hand went up.

How can children get to their senior year and not know about Rachel Carson, DDT, or “environmentalism?”

Comes Frontline on PBS this week.  Government and politics teachers, your students should watch and report.

FRONTLINE
http://www.pbs.org/frontline/

This Week: “Poisoned Waters” (120 minutes),
April 21st at 9pm on PBS (Check local listings)

———————-

For years, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith has reported from the corridors of power in Washington, on Wall Street, and overseas.  But these days, he’s worried about something that he’s found much closer to home — something mysterious that’s appeared in waters that he knows well:  frogs with six legs, male amphibians with ovaries, “dead zones” where nothing can live or grow.

What’s causing the trouble? Smith suspects the answers might lie close to home as well.

This Tuesday night, in a special two-hour FRONTLINE broadcast –“Poisoned Waters”– Smith takes a hard look at a new wave of pollution that’s imperiling the nation’s waterways, focusing on two of our most iconic:  the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound.  He also examines three decades of environmental regulation that are failing to meet this new threat, and have yet to clean up the ongoing mess of PCBs, the staggering waste from factory farms, and the fall-out from unchecked suburban sprawl.

“The environment has slipped off our radar screen because it’s not a hot crisis like the financial meltdown, war, or terrorism,” Smith says.  “But pollution is a ticking time bomb. It’s a chronic cancer that is slowly eating away the natural resources that are vital to our very lives.”

Among the most worrisome of the new contaminants are “endocrine disruptors,” chemical compounds found in common household products that mimic hormones in the human body and cause freakish mutations in frogs and amphibians.

“There are five million people being exposed to endocrine disruptors just in the Mid-Atlantic region,” a doctor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health tells Smith.  “And yet we don’t know precisely how many of them are going to develop premature breast cancer, going to have problems with reproduction, going to have all kinds of congenital anomalies of the male genitalia that are happening at a broad low level so that they don’t raise the alarm in the general public.”

Can new models of “smart growth” and regulation reverse decades of damage?  Are the most real and lasting changes likely to come from the top down, given an already overstretched Obama administration?  Or will the greatest reasons for hope come from the bottom up, through the action of a growing number of grassroots groups trying to effect environmental change?

Join us for the broadcast this Tuesday night.  Online, you can watch “Poisoned Waters” again, find out how safe your drinking water is,  and  learn how you can get involved.

Ken Dornstein
Senior Editor

————————

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support  of PBS viewers. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation. Major funding for Poisoned Waters is provided by The Seattle Foundation, The Russell Family Foundation, The Wallace Genetic Foundation, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, The Merrill Family Foundation, The Abell Foundation, The Bullitt Foundation, the Park Foundation, and The Rauch Foundation.  Additional funding is provided by The Town Creek Foundation, The Clayton Baker Trust, The Lockhart Vaughan Foundation, The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, The Chesapeake Bay Trust, Louisa and Robert Duemling, Robert and Phyllis Hennigson, Robert Lundeen, The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, The Prince Charitable Trusts, Ron and Kathy McDowell, Valerie and Bill Anders, Bruce and Marty Coffey, The Foundation for Puget Sound, Janet Ketcham, Win Rhodes, The Robert C. and Nani S. Warren Foundation, Jim and Kathy Youngren, Vinton and Amelia Sommerville and Laura Lundgren.

————————

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of the WGBH Educational Foundation.

See a preview, and read more, here.  Another preview below.  You can watch the entire program online after April 21.


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