Category Archives: Consumerism

Corporate Green Deeds: What’s the verdict?

Yesterday on Twitter I stumbled upon a comment by a Green Blogger, The Good Human, who directed his readers to a post that outlined the 10 most polluting companies in the United States. Included was a link to the original article dictating the full list with the Top 100, as conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute.

Here are the top 10 worst polluters, along with their Toxic score (pounds released x toxicity x population exposure):

  • E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co. – 285,661
  • Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) – 213,159
  • Dow Chemical – 189,673
  • Bayer Group – 172,773
  • Eastman Kodak – 162,430
  • General Electric – 149,061
  • Arcelor Mittal – 134,573
  • U.S. Steel – 129,123
  • ExxonMobil – 128,758
  • AK Steel Holding – 101,428
  • Many of the worst offenders (on this and the extended list) did not surprise me. Exxon, BP, Shell, Cargill, ConocoPhillips, Honeywell, 3M… they’re all there.

    (SIDE NOTE:  I don’t mean to target American companies as if they’re all on the naughty list. The only reason these are here is because they pollute worst in the US, because they are in the US. Ford Motors is on the list, and it should improve its practices. But that doesn’t mean we should all switch to Mitsubishi.) Another side note: I spelled Mitsubishi right on the first try, just fyi.

    Anyway!

    Since many of my friends are on the job search these days, I copied the article link and put it in the body of an email with the subject: “A list of places you’re not allowed to work.”

    But then I had to pause, and another commenter did too. Have a look:

    While the Exxon thing doesn’t concern me and neither does Forbes’ useless awards, the comment about GE’s EcoImagination program did.

    One of my best friends, who is also concerned with environmental initiatives, just interviewed with GE and was particularly interested in working for them due to all their work with efficient appliances and benevolent initiatives (e.g. installing water filtration systems in Africa), not to mention good salary, benefits, and the like. Despite all this, I have to admit that at the time of her interview I was pretty skeptical since I knew of their dirty deeds.

    Was she wrong for wanting to work for GE for these honorable reasons, even though the company is in the top of the top polluters in the US?

    Is a corporation’s benevolence measured by the amount of “good” they do when compared to the amount of “bad?” Should working for these corporations be avoided at all costs so as to support grassroots efforts with more transparency? Or, is a good deed a good deed, no matter what other shenanigans happen behind closed doors (or from pipes dumping into rivers)?

    I wasn’t quite sure.

    So, today at Clean Wisconsin I officially instigated, “Environmental Chat in the Communications Office,” and brought the matter to the table.

    My wonderful advisers commented that if everyone went to work at GE with the intentions of my friend, GE would probably do even more to increase the effectiveness and occurrence of these green initiatives.

    Moreover, Exxon is a company that inherently pollutes, foundationally, no matter what. They sell oil, and as a result, they must promote our use of oil. Bottom line.

    GE however is a self-described, “technology, media, and financial services” company, so whose to say that their green efforts are not sincere and with potential for great progress?

    Could it be that working for these corporate polluting giants could end up being more socially beneficial than working for the little grassroots non-proft? (Or is it about the same?)

    What do you think?

    But really, I really wanna hear what you have to say about this one.

    I have applications to send!

    In the spirit of good intentions (and procrastination of final paper-writing),

    -Jenny

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    Environmentalists love practicality

    Coal plants and vehicle emissions polluting our air? Advocate for a switch to renewables and expanded public transit.

    Mangos taste like cardboard in January? Pick a preserved or more seasonal fruit.

    Beef industry polluting our water? Cut down on meat consumption.

    200,000 gallons of oil a day pouring into the Gulf of Mexico from the sea floor? Take it as [yet another] a warning sign of our dangerous addiction to oil.

    ………………………………

    No one likes a doomsayer, and I’m not trying to be one. But my morning news today certainly did nothing to cure the Monday morning blues.

    Really, it makes me quite overwhelmed.

    When we can’t pass a climate bill for the life of us and Sarah Palin takes this opportunity to advocate for increased domestic drilling, I get a little bit riled up.

    [Deep breath.]

    The only thing I can do now is remember that my choices make a difference, and hope that you remember this too.

    I recall why I don’t mind living without air conditioning and can opt not to buy products that have too much packaging. I recall that biking this summer means fitness, extra cash in my pocket and it means that I think we can change our culture to rely less on our cars. It reminds me to be a voice for climate bills and renewable energy legislation and an advocate for responsible businesses.

    So, today, I will advocate for a few things (this is as much a reminder to me as anyone else):

    1. Read the news. Be aware, and get freaked out because it’s motivating (once you pick your jaw up off the floor).
    2. Then read this. It made me feel better.
    3. Call your senator about the Climate Bill (won’t take more than 5 min and is super easy.)
    4. Pick a few things and stick to them. “10 ways to help the environment” lists are everywhere. But here’s one I like. (Annnnd here’s a vastly extended version.)
    5. Once you make the changes and save money, feel healthier, breathe better, and are happier as a result, tell your friends!

    Get set, go.

    -Jenny

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    Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy

    But before I begin, I should follow up with yesterday’s post by saying that Mifflin yesterday was pretty wild.

    Bloody Marys and pancakes, then Mifflin Street, followed by a long nap, and then a fun time at my friends’ apartment. I’m going to miss these days [of nothing to do] so much!

    Anyway, the title of this post is something I’ve been thinking about and so has No Impact Man. He said in his book:

    What  really filled me with despair, though, was that I didn’t believe that the way of life that was steadily wrecking the planet even made us happy. It would be one thing if we woke up the morning after a big blowout party, saw that we’d trashed our home, but  could at least say we had had a rip-roaring good time. But if I had to generalize, I would say that, on average, the 6.5 billion  people who share this globe are nowhere near as happy as they  could be.

    Sadly, that might be true. Anyway, this funny video pairs nicely with the idea. However, while it is funny, I think it also may be quite profound.

    You decide, and tell me what you think.

    -Jenny

    For more similar thoughts about the state of our happiness as it relates to the environment and society, check out this list. (I love this list.)

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    Stuff. Part 2: paper receipts version.

    Something was recently brought to my attention that has to do with stuff… of the useless and wasteful variety.

    Paper receipts.

    In addition to being tricky to spell, these pesky non-recycleable pieces of paper consume barrels and barrels of oil and literally hundreds of thousands of trees every year (more specific stats here). Did I mention that they’re not even recyclable?

    My friends at softwareadvice.com are working on advocating for all electronic receipts, saying,

    We think paper receipts are a wasteful vestige of the last millennium. There is no reason – legal or otherwise – why consumers or retailers need paper receipts. Electronic receipts are completely valid and far more efficient. Not to mention, the production of paper receipts do some real damage to our environment.

    But I really liked what one commenter had to say:

    I bought a doughnut, and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut. I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut, man, I’ll just give you the money, and you give me the doughnut… end of transaction. We don’t need to bring ink and paper into this.

    Anyway, I think this is a really interesting and applicable campaign that fits nicely with the blog I mentioned in my original “Stuff.” post about how we can vote with our purchases and that we should be vocal about our preferences (i.e. telling the manager to look into this receipt issue.) Online banking is efficient, and a few dozen little paper receipts clogging up my wallet, backpack and life are not.

    Check out this post to learn more and take their poll.

    Cheers,

    Jenny

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    Stuff.

    We use too much of it.

    What a boring lead to a story. But it’s true.

    And, hate to say it, but I never quite realized how much it’s true until I ran out of money recently (remember, I’m a senior in college) and noticed just how much stuff I’m accustomed to buying.

    I feel like I’ve been deceiving you all by saying how careful I am with purchasing. Because I am. Well, er, was. Well, I thought I was.

    For example:

    I'm so sneaky.

    I might bring my own cup to the coffee shop, but accept a Styrofoam container at lunch because that’s all there was.

    I might use a cloth bag at the grocery store but stop and get ice cream in one of those little paper cups with those little plastic spoons and those little paper napkins. (Note: this picture <<< is the trash from one day ONE DAY at red mango fo-yo shop.)

    “Because that’s all there was.” Hm, I don’t think I like that anymore. I hate to see all that stuff get used by anyone, but I really hate to see some of it get used by me.

    I think this realization will make it easier for me to do a few things:

    #1, and perhaps most notably, spend boatloads less money. Since I stopped carrying my wallet, I’ve brought tea to class, made breakfastlunchanddinner, not spent exorbitant amounts in coffee shops because I went in with my laptop and good intentions (i.e. coffee, black) but gave in (i.e. medium iced soy mocha), drank less alcohol, not bought little things (nail polish at Walmart, cool pen at book store, cute little notebook at cute little gift store, worthless piece of [colorful] plastic crap at the dollar spot at target), ETC.

    #2, gotten angry about the fact that I did these things, and started to do something about it. Ever since I read this earth day post about our impact (consumer demand) on stores (supply), it’s really had me thinking. And now, speaking up.

    Have a read:

    …But if you, a customer, request a change?

    Businesses will listen. Especially if there is more than one of you.

    Vote with your dollar. You have more power than you think.

    Ask why the business is still using incandescent bulbs when there are $1 compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs at Ace Hardware down the street. Ask why the faucet in the restroom pours water out faster than Niagra Falls when low-flow aerators cost about $5. Ask why coffee comes in styrofoam cups when paper cups are used at every Starbucks and Caribou. Ask why the air conditioning is set at 55 when the door is left hanging open. And ask if you can turn the temperature back to 70. Pay attention, and speak up. Write letters, write comments, write letters to the editor, ask to see the manager, and threaten to take your business elsewhere — somewhere that you like the way things are being run.

    Tell the business you love what they do and want to continue to be a valued customer. And then proceed to be a pain in the ass. I don’t like to do it, either. But trust me. It works. Business decision makers remember you, and roll their eyes, and eventually change their minds. Because any business that doesn’t serve a customer or a need isn’t going to survive.

    When you find a business that does it right, tell every other business you visit about it. Name names. Shame your favorite business into action.

    Because we are Americans. We are ego-driven. And we don’t like to be told what to do by anyone without a dollar bill.

    #3. Noticed Greenwashing. I’ve learned (and really, it sucks it took me so long to realize it), that there’s a difference between greenwashing, making a “green choice,” and “being green.”

    Greenwashing, which according to greenwashingindex.com, is, “when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush.” And it’s EVERYWHERE. Read on:

    …A classic example might be an energy company that runs an advertising campaign touting a “green” technology they’re working on — but that “green” technology represents only a sliver of the company’s otherwise not-so-green business, or may be marketed on the heels of an oil spill or plant explosion.

    Or a hotel chain that calls itself “green” because it allows guests to choose to sleep on the same sheets and reuse towels, but actually does very little to save water and energy where it counts — on its grounds, with its appliances and lighting, in its kitchens and with its vehicle fleet.

    Or a bank that’s suddenly “green” because you can conduct your finances online, or a grocery store that’s “green” because they’ll take back your plastic grocery bags, or …

    You get the picture.

    – “Making a green choice” might mean choosing the organic cotton or bananas or “now less packaging” lotion, when really you could have gone without these things in the first place (refrain from buying the shirt, choose a more seasonal fruit, made homemade lotion!). Don’t get me wrong, green choices are generally good ones, but I would challenge you (as I have just learned, but kind of by accident) to consider whether there’s a greener one…

    – “Being green” might mean finding a recipe for my own household cleaner, cooking my own food, carrying a container and fork and cup so I don’t have to accept all those throw-aways (even if it is paper, not Styrofoam). In this context, being green kinda means being cheap. And we could all use some of that. (Especially me.)

    So, here’s to less stuff and saving the money for something that won’t be thrown away in 5 minutes, or 5 uses.

    Frugally,

    -Jenny

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    The Green List

    You’ve seen it before.

    “101 things you can do to be green in 2010” and, “10 ways to Green your life” and… many, many (many) others.

    But you haven’t seen it from me!

    Don’t worry though, I know that you can’t “green” your life in 10 steps. In fact, I love environmental things and talk/think about them all day long and I STILL don’t live a 100% “green” life … whatever that means.

    So I’m just here to tell you a few tips I’ve learned along the way to just do what you can to help.

    Before I begin, there are two lessons I’ve learned that you must always remember and that underscore this whole idea:

    1. You can’t do it all. No one person is going to save the world or have zero impact. That is actually one thing I really like about environmentalists (or just people who care, if you don’t like that term), is that they must rely on others and believe in good intentions of all people.

    In other words, since we can’t do it all by ourselves, we must rely on the progress of others to believe that any change can happen!

    Anyway, what you can do is pick one area that you really advocate for and adhere to. I have become passionate about food issues, but others focus on transportation, corporate responsibility, building, renewable energy, fisheries, forests, the list is endless! There really is something for everyone out there!

    2. Be willing to make the initial sacrifice. At first, some of these things might seem like a big deal, but I promise your life will often be better off for it in the end. Maybe you’ll save money, be more active, feel good about yourself, get your name out there, feel healthier, or have something to share with your grandchildren. Who knows, all I’m sayin’ is pick something new and give it a try.

    Got an idea for me? Share it in the comments! I’d love to know how you “green” your life. (… Although that term grosses me out. I have to think of a new one.)

    Anyway, here I go. Oh, also: don’t feel like you have to read the whole thing. Maybe pick your “area” and just read that.

    Continue reading

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    I had an article published!

    It’s about the meat we eat. I think it’s really important – but you probably already know that about me if you read this blog.

    Enjoy (and sorry for my long absence. I’m coming back… soon… with a vengeance!)

    -Jenny

    Make your meals meatless

    Reducing the amount of meat in our diets can help our health and the environment.

    By Jenny Lynes

    The Green Room

    |

    Published: Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2010

    “Help stop violence?”

    “Not today,” you said.

    Gruesome images of upside-down, bloody, feces-stained cows litter animal rights and environmental literature. They’re on the pamphlets you’ve rejected on State Street, too.

    It’s disconcerting to read studies about the negative effects of red meat and belching cows ruining the atmosphere, to be sure. Still, surprisingly little of it actually translates to a change when we’re standing in the lunch line. The answer to why most of us don’t oblige and cut down? Simple: Meat tastes good.

    Though I won’t deny an occasional urge for my favorite sausage-filled breakfast sandwich, I’m proud of the changes I’ve made in cutting out meat to improve my health and help out the environment. So what did it take?

    For me, it wasn’t until I left my urban home to work on a small family farm in Maine and asked the farmer what he thought about “industrial meat” that I realized how simple the choice really is. “I would never eat that shit,” he said. That pretty much settled it.

    Don’t get me wrong––the farmer and I shared plenty of eggs (fresh from the coup) and bacon (formerly known as Napoleon the pig). But as I learned more about the implications of mass-produced, machinelike treatment of animals, I learned that most of the meat I’d been eating away from the farm was a product of a disgusting, unethical and dangerous industry that wreaks havoc on our land, water, air and health. Did you know that the chickens to be served at KFC are fed and raised in a manner that they reach physical maturity in just over one month? Count me out.

    Let’s put animals aside, though, and first consider the implications for our own bodies. There was a time when eating meat was considered a treat. Now, it’s not unheard of to have it in three meals a day. Need protein, you say? Americans currently consume around 110 grams of it a day, which is roughly double the government’s recommended intake. In fact, new research has shown that high consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of death from cancer and heart disease, as much as 50 percent among women. This type of diet also increases our chances for diabetes, and the rates have sharply increased since 1980 to prove it. Don’t worry too much though, there’s still time to prevent it simply by replacing some meat eating with plant-based foods.

    Americans spend about $147 billion annually on preventable illnesses related to food choices: obesity, salmonella outbreaks, diabetes and heart complications. This, paired with astounding hormone influxes and antibiotic resistance thanks to the manner in which it is produced, results in a big headache for the health sector. All the while, the meat industry is encouraged to expand because of better sales than ever before.

    While there are scary implications of mass-produced mystery meat (read: McDonald’s), it’s not that all meat is bad for you. But, we must consider if we want to support such practices and realize that we often do so at the expense of putting something healthier into our bodies.
    Onto the environment. Since pigs, for one, produce about four times the amount of waste a human does, you can only imagine what happens with literally millions of pounds of feces created daily––it leaves the feedlots with a one-way ticket into our streams and rivers, polluting our air on its way. On top of this pollution, the industry contributes huge amounts of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, worsening global warming.

    However, these are preventable problems. According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week, the effect would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads. While I have determined that the quality of industrial meat is unsatisfactory for my preferences, I realize that is personal. One thing that isn’t: our responsibility to be informed and choose to take steps to help preserve the resources on this planet for those who will come after us.

    My overall-wearing, milking, chicken-feeding days have ended, and I’ve resumed my Madison residence for now, but I remain happy and confident with my decision to give up meat unless I know where and how it was raised.

    While I don’t believe everyone has to take this step, I do think the message is clear––we need to change the way we eat. I propose that we all eat much, much less meat than we tend to currently. My challenge for Madison is to include it once every other day for now––but I think you’ll see, as I did, that a life with meat as a treat is surprisingly pleasing.

    Jenny Lynes is a contributor to The Green Room. Please send all responses to opinion@dailycardinal.com

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    Green Books Campaign: The Love-Powered Diet

    100bloggers

    This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

    Not expecting to take on a diet book as part of this campaign, I was pleasantly intrigued by the message of nutritionist and life coach Victoria Moran’s, “The Love Powered Diet: Eating for Freedom, Health and Joy.” The book is addressed to food addicts, who she defines as,

    “any person of any body size who’s engaged in a longstanding battle with a knife and fork,”

    as well as anyone who is interested in a more healthful, sustainable,  and happy life. Moran emphasizes the necessity for all readers to first love themselves in order to begin to see any effect from her diet or others, stating “It’s OK to feel beautiful right now. If you wait until you’re thin to feel beautiful, you may never get there.” Moran’s approach is to address how her diet-prone readers view both them self and food (as well as how they consume it) in order to “finally win the battle by giving up the fight.”

    With the lose definition of ‘thin’ as, “having a body that serves you well so you can live freely without wishing you weighed less,” Moran supposes that if you love yourself enough, you’ll treat yourself as someone who is lovable, attractive, and thin by choosing the right foods and listening to your body. She gives witty, informed, socially concerned, and specific means to accomplish this coveted view of eating. And better yet, in doing so, readers learn to eat correctly for his or her body’s ideal weight, and eventually to achieve this goal.

    Although it is a diet book, hers is not solely focused on food. This book also has a humanitarian and progressive message to correlate with her theme of love and new attitude toward food. Printing her book as part of the Green Press Initiative, publisher Lantern Books explains its commitment to the environment by not using fiber from ancient forests or any chlorine at the expense of printing slightly more expensive books. But the eco-focus of her book does not end there.

    Overall, Moran presents a very sustainable and important notion of food. First, she stipulates that food is valuable and required hard human work to get it to whatever conditions it is in now for you to eat it, so be thankful. Next, that since it is about to become part of your physical body, you should be choosy about which foods (and how much, and how often) you decide to eat. Pay attention to labels and decide whether the avoidance of highly processed, high sodium, fat, and sugary foods are worth a few extra dollars and preparation minutes at meal times.

    Her description of foods in the love-powered diet, the ones that make it so eating becomes less of a battle, and the ones who transform food addicts to someone approaches a food with a “take it or leave it” mentality, includes all the ingredients above: a healthy mind, approach, and plate.

    This food, “is generous, delicious, and aesthetically pleasing.  It promotes high-level health as well as normal weight, it is economical and provides plenty for everybody, it respects all life, and is environmentally sustainable.”

    Talk about setting the standards high! Thankfully, Moran gives detailed direction to make this description come to life and realizes that no one can achieve this without occasional mistake and exception. But, as she says, “a love-powered meal can be an effortless donation to a most deserving planet,” and that is certainly something for which to strive.

    Throughout this semester, I have struggled to combine my “fooducation,” with my actual practice, AND with my view of what and how I should be eating in order to maintain or lose weight. This book tied together all three of these concerns, and because of this balance, has much to give. It is empowering, inspiring, and addresses much more about dieting than the desire to be thin, and has fundamentally changed my answers to the questions of what, how, and why I eat.

    Image Credit: Susan Newman.

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    In case you’re still not sure

    First of all, I’m sorry for such a long absence! ‘Twas season of travel, midterms and stress, but that’s now all in my past and I’m currently looking forward to a weekend of relaxing with my friend who goes to BU, Hannah Feder, and some silly-costumed celebration. Pictures to come!

    Before all this, however, I had a very well-done and interesting lecture yesterday in my Global Warming Debate class that I can’t get off my mind and feel should be shared. Even though this is my blog full of my thoughts, I have to give COMPLETE credit for all the ideas in this post to my professor, Jack Williams, without whom I wouldn’t have these interesting insights and resources. So, thank you Jack.

    Today, professor Williams spoke to those who, despite tons of green-climate-warming-eco hubbub still feel uneasy when they hear the occasional boisterous news reporter, columnist, or politician cite that global warming is one great big huge joke. In fact, in May, a Pew Research Center Poll was released which says that only 54% (down from 71%) of Americans believe that “the earth is getting warmer.” So what gives?

    And what are we supposed to do with all this differing information?

    “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [>90% likely] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Summary for Policymakers, 2007

    “Could it be that global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American People?” – Senator James Inhofe, Aug. 28 Senate Speech, 2003

    Well, according to Williams, our best bet is to side with the scientists, which in this case overwhelmingly concur that the world is, in fact, warming as a result of human activities. Although we are unsure of what the future will hold as far as the impacts, how to stop it, how much it’ll cost, how long it’ll take to stop (there are a million other what-ifs), at this point the questions of “is the world warming” (yes) and “is it due to humans” (yes) are pretty much settled.

    To expand on his point, he went through a series of points and myths that frequently come up in the media.

    1. “There is no scientific consensus” or, “The IPCC does not represent the scientific community.”

    The IPCC represents the most current and accurate work of hundreds of scientists that is rigorously reviewed by thousands of other scientists. To say that the IPCC is not a consensus is simply incorrect and is pitting the vocal minority against the vast majority on this issue.

    In fact, Stanford professor Naomi Oreskes, in her essay, “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” reviewed 928 abstracts of peer reviewed literature with the phrase “global warming” and found that 75% of papers agreed with IPCC consensus (world is warming and humans are responsible), 25% took no position, and NO papers disagreed!

    (if you want to read the essay, you may download it here.)

    2. Next, he noted that there were a few names that continually come up in popular media regarding climate change skepticism whose credentials or science may be hazy or not within the scientific consensus, yet still receive a disproportionate amount of attention. Here are a few names to look out for:

    1. S. Fred Singer

    Credentials:  Director, Science and Environmental Policy Project, affiliated with Cato Institute (conservative think-tank).

    Position:  world is warming –but due to natural variability (1500-year cycle)

    2. Patrick Michaels

    Credentials:  PhD Ecological Climatology UW Madison(!)  Professor of Environmental Science at U. Virginia, Former state climatologist for Virginia

    Position:  The gamut… has backtracked over time… the world isn‟t warming, CO2 isn’t responsible, the warming will be small.

    3. Timothy Ball

    Credentials:  Former instructor at the University of Winnipeg.  Describes himself as “emeritus.”  Published 4 papers over his career

    Position:  World has been cooling since 1998

    4. Richard Lindzen (he’s the most credentialed of the group)

    Credentials:  MIT Professor, widely recognized as bright guy.

    Position:  World is warming –but negative feedbacks will stabilize system. The “Iris Hypothesis.” This is a reasonable theory, but there is no evidence for or against it at this time.

    5. Arthur Robinson

    Credentials:  Unclear, co-founded the “Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine”

    Position:  world is warming but due to natural processes.

    6. Sallie Baliunas

    Credentials:  Astrophysicist at Harvard, scientist at George C. Marshall Institute (Conservative think tank)

    Position:  world is warming but due to natural processes (solar)

    7. Bjorn Lomborg

    Credentials:  economist and statistician at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.  Known for The Skeptical Environmentalist and just-published “Cool It:  The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming.”

    Position:  World is warming and we are responsible.  But costs/minimal risks don’t justify action.

    8.George Will

    Credentials:  Washington Post Columnist.

    Position:  General suspicion of environmentalists; argues that recent warming has been minimal.

    3. Next myth: “climate scientists aren’t listening to alternative viewpoints.” or, “Climate scientists are in it for the federal grant money”

    While it is unlikely, there is truth to the fact that it cannot be disproved that climate scientists are or are not working for the money. However, the fact that they define themselves as scientists and not environmentalists says something. A scientists is someone who (usually) neutrally searches for information and truth about how the world works. If he or she says the world is warming: it is simply a reflection of their research. Williams said his findings have been that scientists are usually motivated first by curiosity second by fame and recognition, and that money is more of a means to an end for points one and two. An environmentalist, on the other hand, advocates for the cause and is more involved with social aspects.

    It’s important to differentiate.

    4. “Glaciers at location x have been advancing” or “temperatures at location x have been cooling.”

    These are examples of cherrypicking data by location. There are hundreds of such examples. Yes, there have been glaciers that have advanced or temperatures that have cooled, but when compared with global averages and trends, the data overwhelmingly suggests these cooling situations are anomalous. Next time you hear that temperatures in the Sargasso Sea are relatively low or glaciers on Kilimenjaro are advancing, check out some other locations to see if this may serve as evidence about the global energy budget to dispute global warming, or if it’s just situational.

    5. “1934 was the warmest year on record” or “The world has been cooling since 2000.”

    These are examples of cherrypicking based on time window (and sometimes location). First, ’34 is closely tied for the warmest year on record for the US with 1998 and 2005, but for the globe, 1934 isn’t even close to even being in the top ten warmest days. You could say,

    2008 was actually the coldest year of the decade, therefore things are cooling.”

    Or, you could say, 2008 was the 9th warmest year on record and, 1998, 2005 and 2009 are the three warmest years on global record, and 8 of the last 10 years are in the top ten warmest years over a 150 year record.

    There are many other claims (“the satellites show cooling,” “the supposed global warming is due to the Urban Heat Island Effect”….), but as with all the others listed here, this lecture taught me that just as when any other scientific claim is made, it’s important to check the reasoning behind it and the credentials of the writer/speaker/source of information. Maybe a scientists did publish a fact-based article about global warming, but if it was published in The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (as in the Sargasso Sea example) or one of writer George Will’s columns, it may be worth taking it with a grain of salt.

    A misconception is that climate scientists are able to predict the future and think they’re never wrong. Yes, scientists have been wrong in the past and I don’t think there are many who claim to know what the future holds. But, there are many, many indicators that the world is, in fact, warming. So as a consumer of the media (or any non-scientific member of society) it’s important to be critical when you hear statements rejecting climate science. While it may be easier to hear, it won’t be easier to be unprepared and there’s no use in arguing about if the world is warming, when we have plenty of arguing to do about what to do about it! Plus, as I often argue in this bog, I believe that the changes to society that are made in an effort to curb global warming might actually end up improving our society, culture, communities, and lives on the whole.

    What do you guys think about all this?

    Have a great Halloween,

    Jenny

    P.S. Are you interested in learning more? Prof. Williams recommended these websites:

    Grist skeptics page

    Metoffice

    realclimate.org

    Sourcewatch

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    My Footprint

    This week has been No Impact Week. It has also been one of the busiest weeks of the semester so far.

    As each day of No Impact Week went on, participants were to eliminate or severely restrict a certain area of their carbon footprint in: waste, consumption, food choices, transportation, energy, water and then end the week (tomorrow) with an eco-sabath, similar to the Jewish observances of Shabat. The week was interesting for me because I learned how anomalous my life is in many ways: I walk literally everywhere I go, I happen to have a large and inexpensive farmers’ market within walking distance so I eat almost entirely local foods, I can’t afford to spend money so I really don’t “consume” much during the week as far as products go, I have to pay for my own electricity for the first time in my life, so I try to use it as very, very little as possible… etc! A lot of times I found that I didn’t have to work very hard to participate in No Impact Week.

    But there are many things about it that are/were tough and I know that I’ll have to keep all aspects in mind once I get off campus and start living in the real world. It was difficult to cut down on trash, but I liked their practical suggestions like, being prepared with a reusable coffee mug, keeping silverware and plastic containers in my backpack, etc.

    I have to admit, since I noticed these green trends in my life, I did the activities sort of halfheartedly and was incredibly focused on school because I’m in DC this weekend and I didn’t want to have to work the whole weekend. But then I realized.

    I flew in an airplane during No Impact Week.

    Whoops.

    So, I guess my biggest lesson was that it is really, really important for me to live an extremely green lifestyle because I do fly more than the average person.

    You’ve probably been offered a million times, but I recommend a carbon calculator to see which areas if your life are most polluting here.

    Did you do the No Impact Week? Let me know what you thought!

    -Jenny

    Also: today is International Day of Climate Action. There’s still time to participate! If nothing else, educate yourself about the 350 movement and why that number is important.

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