More Techno-Fixes for a Hot Planet?

What’s Good for the Navy * Louis CK, Truth-Teller * In My Own Backyard

OK, I admit it. I squandered the first hour of my Monday writing day on Facebook, and I have my daughter’s post to blame for it. Seems that the US Navy has developed technology to convert seawater into energy. The headline: The U.S. Navy Just Announced the End of Big Oil and No One Noticed.  Because the ‘no one noticed’ resonated, I decided to check out the source of Justin “Filthy Liberal Scum” Rosario’s article. But first, I read the comments. Whoa! If we could only tap the energy of all that misplaced rage.

You won’t be surprised that the Navy’s April 4 press release is anything but emotional, but it made my heart beat a little faster just the same. Here’s the lead:

WASHINGTON (NNS) — Navy researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division, demonstrated proof-of-concept of novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) from seawater and conversion to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

Wow, party on!

Louis CKSo let me put this in the context Louis CK’s recent Oh My God monologue (we’re huge fans of his in my humble abode).  Of course, the Navy’s NRL technology is an energy hog, but maybe no more so than tar sands technology or fracking, when you add back all the externalities like health impacts and clean up costs after accidents, to name just two. Of course, there’s a Plan B for Planet Earth, but maybe we would be better off not counting on business-as-usual. (Not everyone is, incidentally, see IKEA’s big investment in wind energy, snide comments aside.)

This past week, I screened the urban farming documentary, Growing Cities, at my UU congregation and at the successful urban intervention, C’est La Via: Rethinking the Alleyways, as part of my work to get traction for Transition Palm Beaches. (If you’re interested in having me bring it to your organization or school, give me a shout at yogimarika at gmail dot com.) The comment I always make by way of introduction isn’t original with me, but I keep repeating it because it just makes sense: even if climate change wasn’t already disrupting life as we’ve known it, switching to a slower, lower-carbon, localized, community-centered life will make us happier and healthier, and contribute to environmental justice for all. By the same token, even if a techno-fix is just around the corner and we could continue to live our high-powered, fast-paced, mindless, wasteful lives, transitioning offers an alternative that more and more people, by choice or circumstances, hunger for (see Blessed Unrest). That’s the Plan B I am putting my faith in.

Food-forest-garden-1500 × 1125In my own backyard, plans advanced this week for our composting experiment and planting of a mini food forest. Edible landscaping! Bring it!

Here’s what my minister, CJ McGregor, just posted on Facebook:

Imagine growing our own avocados, mangoes, guava, papaya and other tropical fruit…..right here in our congregation’s back yard. Imagine abundance and offering fresh and organic fruit to migrant workers and their families. Imagine children who are hungry when school is not in session being offered a place to help grow and enjoy the literal fruits of their labor. Imagine inspiring the next generation to understand and respond to the real and devastating effects of climate change such as food shortages. Imagine the connections. Imagine vacant spaces on our campus becoming a grove of plenty. Imagine healing a bit of our community.


What the Frack?

Climate Fixes and Plan B’s: The IPCC’s Guide

Cinderella Technologies

The Energy Collective

It’s Complicated, Part I

gas flare fracking site Bradford County PennsylvaniaWhen you hear a scientist call fracking* “complicated,” you don’t know whether to be reassured or scared out of your natural mind.  Complicated is a word like “debate” which has been so successful in sowing doubt in the minds of many people, a cadre of fence sitters, about climate change.  When the scientist also happens to be your beloved, respected, meditation teacher, well, the reaction is probably too complicated to be contained in a single blog post.  So here’s Part I.

I was reporting that I had viewed the HBO screening of Josh Fox’s Gasland, Part II (on New Year’s Day, no less).   The documentary is a sequel to Fox’s Gasland, and both have been attacked by oil and gas industry-funded operations such as Energy in Depth, which exists to defend the technology.  (A favorite EID target is environmentalist, Bill McKibben.)

If you spend even a few minutes reading any of the material put out by this organization, you’ll notice some tactics.  First, it will attempt to discredit critics on the basis of personal behavior, e.g. McKibben was sighted leaving a climate rally in a gas-guzzler.  Second, it seeks to cast doubt about the impacts of fracking on the environment.  In this case, it argued that methane (the gas that ignited from the end of a water hose in an iconic scene of the film) was naturally occurring in the water in the area, independent of fracking.  (And the Earth is just going through a warming phase, independent of human contribution.)

A day after the HBO screening, The Diane Rehm Show invited Josh Fox and EID spokesperson, Steve Everley, to duke it out.  As a landowner in Pennsylvania with some personal exposure to fracking, Rehm’s bias was evident.  Here’s the transcript.   Like Ms. Rehm, I found Gasland, Part II, convincing, especially the documentation of scientists from the academic community about the high risk of ground water contamination and gas leaks into the atmosphere.  You don’t have to be an expert to figure out that with thousands miles of pipeline to maintain – not unlike our highway and bridge system — something is likely to go wrong.  And then there’s that Halliburton Loophole.  Why the exclusion if the chemicals used in the fracking process are really safe?

It doesn’t really matter who did a better job defending their positions (I give it to Josh Fox, by a wide margin).   Hydraulic fracking currently has the support of President Obama who has hailed it as energy for 100 years.  The elephant in the room question for future generations: And then what?  The infrastructure already exists to exploit every shale deposit in the country and ship liquid natural gas around the world.  In this race, renewable energy is a distant also ran.  It’s not easy to imagine what could arrest this momentum with so much power and money (read campaign contributions) behind it.  But we must try, because gasland is coming to your neighborhood.

According to a Palm Beach Post article from March 2013, fracking the Everglades is on the table.   Even if you think the jury is still out on the safety of fracking, and you’re not fazed by noisy drilling rigs in your backyard, no one denies the technology requires vast amounts of water – Florida’s most precious commodity.  So it behooves you to learn as much as you can about it, as I plan to do.

*BTW, Spellcheck doesn’t recognize “fracking.” Perhaps by the time I get to Part II, it will.

Some resources to start with:

Huffington Post
The New York Times, Drilling Down Series
Op-Ed Piece re: leaks