SUNDAY PROGRAM – 3 p.m. Presenting ‘2020: Science, Policy, & Capital Converge on Climate Change – What Will Happen?’ talk with Paula DiPerna. Cooperstown Village Library. 607-547-8344 or visit www.facebook.com/VillageLibraryOfCooperstown/
Some of you may have heard our Adirondack neighbor Bill McKibben’s NPR interview a year or two ago.
Unless all buildings in the U.S. are made energy-efficient by 2030, the war against Global Warming will be lost, he said.
The interviewer asked, is that possible? No, said McKibben, who is among the nation’s foremost
advocates of stemming greenhouse gases. In different words, McKibben is saying, we’re lost.
Too much of the discussion of the future of the earth is fear-filled and hope-less.
In reality, much research is underway not just toward creating a sustainable future, but into cleanly burning fossil fuels.
If that’s possible, we would preserve a huge investment in infrastructure that today provides 81 percent of the nation’s energy needs, and it’s portable and convenient.
Living here in Otsego County, we forget the scale of the energy challenge. But visit New York, Chicago or Miami – it’s a big, energy-guzzling world out there, friends.
Still, with fracking, the U.S. has achieved energy independence in the past decade for the first time since the end of World War II. This is desirable, but, of course, not if it destroys us.
Perhaps it doesn’t have to. So today, at the bottom of this page, we begin an occasional series, “Can Fossil Fuels Save Us?”, with a report from Stanford University of what its scientists are doing to emeliorate greenhouse effects.
Many similarly credible reports are available from research universities across the country, and the series will tap into them. And this newspaper has many credible readers that assess these inputs independently, and provide a counterbalance if necessary.
All but a tiny fringe of our fellow citizens accepts that Climate Change is real. That debate’s over. The focus is shifting to how much, how soon, and amelioration.
With Governor Cuomo proposing a $33 billion five-year green energy plan (despite the $6 billion budget), with the Otsego County Energy Task Force planning our local energy future, and with four-mile-square solar farm proposed at West Laurens (and many more to come), is it likely that renewables alone don’t need to be the whole solution?
Travel with us. Let’s not succumb to McKibben’s despair.
CLIMATE TALK – 6:30 – 8 p.m. Learn about global warming, species loss at talk ‘Climate Crisis: Heading for Extinction (And What To Do About It)’ by Dr. Art Weaver. Templeton Hall, 63 Pioneer St., Cooperstown.
Science reveals the truth about many things and can be trusted. It explains things we take for granted, such as why the seasons change, why flowers blossom in the spring and leaves fall at the end of summer, and even why water runs downhill. Indeed, science explains much of what we see in our daily surroundings – it can be trusted.
We tend to take it for granted because they are within our normal daily realm. All of these are obvious parts of the “balance of nature.” Within the science community this is what is known as “systems in equilibrium,” where everything depends on everything else to stay balanced. When the balance is upset, the system reacts and adjusts to the change. That’s how science works and a balance is maintained.
The same can be said of polluting the atmosphere.
Because our global society pumps pollutants into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the atmosphere adjusts, which is what contributes to the documented trend of rapid climate warming currently in progress. These changes involve forces of energy that we are just beginning to understand and are difficult to accurately gauge, such as how a warming climate influences ocean temperatures and the well documented currents that move through the oceans like a conveyor belt.
To complicate matters, the non-scientist may hear different opinions from different science sources.
What is the lay-person to do – who to believe? One obvious tipoff is that scientists who accepted funding from energy companies are much more likely to offer an opinion less objective than others. This is certainly the case for scientists who deny any anthropomorphic influence on climate change. Once again, money talks.
I think we are beyond our ability to completely stop what has already been initiated, but it can be altered. To change the energy momentum of the atmosphere and oceans will require centuries, not decades.
That’s how long it will take to stop or reverse the warming in progress.
However, if we don’t try to reduce the warming the outcome will apply even greater stress on the global society. We must try even if our efforts appear ineffective to start. We all recognize areas impacted by extended draughts, excessive heat waves, more intense storms and the incessant upward creep of sea level.
All of which are examples of the “system” adjusting to climate change. The system is the environment we live in and experience every day.
All of this is within the realm of science. So, why then are elected officials, including the White House ignoring science? If they would acknowledge science and dwell less on satisfying big money donors, our local and global society would benefit. Without responsible leadership there is little hope to reduce the devastating effects within the foreseeable future.
Let’s face it. There will never be a time when fossil fuels won’t be an essential energy source. After all, airplanes will never be powered by “green energy.” No serious scientist thinks our global society will ever stop using some fossil fuels. But, that’s not the point. We should be working toward reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by vigorously developing alternate energy sources now. I doubt if anyone seriously thinks Green Energy will replace all other resources.
Climate change, along with all of its ramifications (and there are many) is causing serious stress within our global society. We can trust science to reduce the impact of these stresses and help find solutions to protect and preserve the quality of our living environment. This is the time of year to be thankful for our blessings, including reliable science.
P. JAY FLEISHER
A concerned scientist
Town of Milford
CLIMATE DISCUSSION – 10 a.m. Presenting ‘How to Solve Climate by 2030: We CAN change the FUTURE’ with Eban Goodstein, Ph.D. who will lead discussion on energy technologies, engagement in climate solutions. Red Dragon Theater, SUNY Oneonta.
On this week’s “Morning Headlines” on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, Jim Kevlin, editor/ publisher of www.AllOTSEGO.com (and Hometown Oneonta & the Freeman’s Journal), reports on Cooperstown’s Paula DiPerna returning to the Vatican for a conference preparing reports for the United Nation’s Sept. 23 Climate Change conference at U.N. Plaza in New York City, “Climate Summit 2019: A Race We Can Win.”
COOPERSTOWN – Back in Vatican City, Cooperstown’s Paula DiPerna looked around the Sala Regia Friday, March 8. There was a turbaned Sikh. There was Muslim. There was a shaman from the far reaches of Greenland.
“All these different societies have a need to protect nature,” said DiPerna, special adviser, CDP North America, a non-profit that helps companies, cities and nations manage their environmental impacts. “There’s ice melting in Greenland, deforestation in Ghana – all have seen and are living the problems of Climate Change.”
COOPERSTOWN – Failing to do so two months ago, the county Board of Representatives today voted 12-2 to enact a state-sponsored “Climate Smart Community Pledge.”
County Reps. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, and Kathy Clark, R-Otego, who had questioned it last time, when it was referred to the Solid Waste & Environmental Concerns Committee (SWECC) for further study, opposed it again.
ONEONTA – Saying the language “was softened,” County board Vice Chair Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, today voted against sending a “Climate Smart Community Pledge” resolution, as revised, to the full board for action March 6.
However, his colleagues on the Solid Waste & Environmental Concerns Committee nonetheless agreed to forward the adjusted resolution, 4-1, for the full board’s consideration.
“The language did reduce the sense of Climate Change being a crisis,” Koutnik said. “My vote was largely a symbolic one, so it would be in the public record for future generations to see.”
ENERGY SUMMIT – 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Explore energy, climate change, our region’s economy with area industry leaders, policy makers from across New York State. Learn, network, more. The Otesaga, Cooperstown. 607-432-4500 ext. 104 or visit otsegocc.com
Those who oppose using fossil fuels to provide the bulk of our energy needs without offering viable alternatives are depriving this and future generations of job opportunities. When our country attempts to keep our illegal immigrants seeking to enter our country illegally in pursuit of jobs, Nancy Pelosi and those aligned with her call it “immoral”. What should we call doing that to our own citizens?
When those opposed to fossil fuels argue against them, they point to their environmental impacts, especially their contribution to “climate change” and laud renewables as being “pure” when it comes to the environment. Is that really the case?
Democrats Can Rebuild Around Climate Change, Economic Justice
Now that the Democrats have made a comeback by capturing the House of Representatives, they are faced with how to use their new power. Up to now, they have been obsessed with Trump, and split on how to address the problems of the day.
We’ll get to Trump in a moment. But first, let’s look at what the Democrats have to say about the big issues of the day.
These boil down to two super-problems: runaway climate change for all and increasing economic insecurity for many. It’s hard to think of any major issue which isn’t entangled in one or both of these, or that wouldn’t be greatly alleviated by progress on either of them.
Status quo Democrats (the Clinton-Obama tradition) have become the party’s conservatives. They’ve been running the show for a generation, and have failed to rein in either climate change or economic insecurity. There’s less and less reason to think they can deal with these mounting problems.
Progressive Democrats, by contrast, are largely defined by the Bernie Sanders movement, which, revealingly, calls itself “Our Revolution.” They are also influenced by the Green party, particularly by its call for a Green New Deal, recently endorsed by Bill McKibben.
The Green New Deal is remarkable in its focus on the twin problems of climate change and economic justice. So far, it’s the only alternative this writer has seen to business as usual (just Google “Green New Deal”).
The Green New Deal calls for closing overseas military bases and using the savings to help finance domestic renewal. It demands an end to subsidies and tax breaks for fossil-fuel related industries. It insists on an immediate transition to 100 percent renewables.
It identifies the financial system, led by too-big-to-fail private banks, as the main obstacle to economic restructuring. It proposes an alternative public banking system to fund infrastructure, guarantee employment, transition to renewables, offer free education through college, and provide single-payer, comprehensive Medicare for all.
Revolutions are risky business.
Can revolutionary excesses be avoided? Climate change and economic insecurity are increasingly catastrophic. Is a Green New Deal what we need to cope? Is it practical? Can it gain broad support? Can it hope to overcome its formidable opponents? Can its goals be achieved without chaos and abuse of power?
A lot will depend on the answers to these questions.
But, like it or not, the Green New Deal takes seriously our most intractable problems, and gives us a sense of what it will take to deal with them. If we’re going to have a revolution, this is the one the
Progress on big issues is unlikely, however, unless Democrats (and Republicans) learn to deal with Trump. We all know his faults. He has also become the voice of social grievances his critics have mostly, to their peril, ignored. Perhaps most important, he denies climate change and takes extremes of wealth for granted.
Whatever collusions and financial ripoffs might be pinned on Trump, even if illegal, blend all too easily with what many corporations and governments do routinely these days. In these ways, he’s as American as apple pie.
He should be impeached if impeachable offenses can be established. But for impeachment to stick, to avoid the appearance of political vengeance, it has to be part of a larger sense of renewed justice that speaks to the revolutionary changes which seem to be increasingly in the air.
That means getting serious about climate change and economic insecurity – two items not on Trump’s agenda.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and moderator of Sustainable Otsego, lives in Fly Creek.
Otsego County needs a new direction for energy and economic development. An important step to that end was taken last week when the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee endorsed the idea of setting up an energy and economic development task force.
Kudos to them! A county-wide task force would give us two things we don’t have now: long-term economic planning and a wide range of interests and expertise systematically participating in local decision-making.
We’re increasingly recognizing how vulnerable we are. We depend on long supply lines for food, energy and necessities. As climate change accelerates, those supply lines become less reliable.
We read, almost daily, of one disaster after another regionally, nationally, and internationally: mega-hurricanes, severe droughts, enormous wildfires, melting polar ice, mass extinctions, etc.
No place is immune from climate change, not even Otsego County. Nonetheless, our quiet corner of the planet looks more and more like a refuge compared to many in other places, and that may be our greatest asset.
In fact, climate change may have some advantages for us: milder winters, a longer growing season, plenty of water.
We may be more resilient as well – thanks to a lower population density – than overdeveloped areas, including coastal cities in the South and drought-prone regions in the West, which now bear much of the brunt of climate change.
We need an economic plan that builds on sustainable assets, not on unsustainable liabilities.
Our sustainable assets include, above all, an uncrowded, serene, clean, safe, attractive and relatively stable environment – something increasingly rare in a world of accelerating climate change.
We have an underutilized rural base, including agriculture, forestry and the potential of value-added products. Farming has not recovered from the death-blow to the dairy industry, it’s true, but if local boutique and organic farmers had more financial support and better distribution systems, they could be more competitive and develop new local products.
We have a high-quality health care system, and we often forget it is our major industry. Even so, it has yet to realize its full potential as a magnet for medical and nursing care.
Bassett Healthcare, as an integrated medical system, provides a superior level of care that could be coupled with additional facilities for assisted living, similar to those in other locales around the country. An aging population will demand it, and we could supply it.
We have, in Oneonta, institutions of higher learning that could be further developed and better folded into the community. Curriculum innovation and more partnerships between the colleges and local institutions and businesses – after the model of the Hartwick College nursing program – could make it possible for more students to stay on in our communities after graduation, as we see in other college and university towns.
Tourism has become the main interface between Otsego county and the world. Our cultural attractions – events, concerts, festivals, galleries, and museums – could be expanded even further. But tourism works only insofar as the powerful symbiosis between our cultural assets and the historical aura and natural beauty of the area is maintained.
Tourism needs to be kept proportional and diversified, so as not to overwhelm the fabric of local life.
And, perhaps most important of all, we have a steady in-migration of people looking for second homes, or retirement living, or the opportunity to conduct internet-related businesses and raise families in a new setting, away from the urban madness.
These new immigrants are attracted by the natural assets they find here, as well as good schools, good healthcare, a lively cultural scene, and a vibrant civic life worth being a part of.
They want sustainability, which we can offer, in contrast to the increasingly unsustainable systems they’re looking to escape.
If I were to make an optimistic prediction about the future of our communities in response to the growing ecological and economic crises, I would look to a synthesis of high-tech internet with a rural, family-oriented lifestyle.
Such a synthesis would realize participation in the global economy with the virtues of small town and country living.
If this is to be our future, if these are the people we want to attract, then we need universal broadband to sustain the economy, as well as renewable energy to preserve a clean and beautiful local environment.
That’s where our investments ought to be going.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.
Recently, nearly 100 people crowded the Oneonta Town Hall to respond to a report by Otsego Now head, Jody Zakrevsky, about the controversial gas decompression station proposed for Oneonta.
The backlash was overwhelming. A long series of speakers unanimously condemned the project and demanded instead a full-scale effort to transition to renewables as soon as possible.
As the speakers pointed out, a myriad of solutions exist to the problem of inadequate natural-gas supply affecting some institutions and businesses in Oneonta. We heard about retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, replacing gas and oil furnaces with heat exchange systems, and developing local renewable energy sources, including solar and wind.
This isn’t pie in the sky. The Otsego County Conservation Association, for instance, is currently supporting a NYSERDA-funded program, Heat Smart Otsego, to promote the financial and environmental benefits of currently available non-fossil fuel technologies. Check it out.
The speakers also made clear the gravity of this issue.
We’re not just talking about inconvenience, higher costs, or limits to local economic development. We’re talking about a global crisis increasingly affecting us all.
The inability of our local community to do its part in getting us off fossil fuels is symptomatic of a larger political failure which is dangerous to our future. We have mostly relied on someone else to deal with this problem, usually in Albany or Washington.
They haven’t done the job, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to, at least not unless they’re prodded from below.
Yes, our community continues to be divided over energy policy. The editorial in last week’s edition of this paper characterized speakers at the town of Oneonta meeting as “anti-gas true believers.”
There were a couple of strident speakers, as with any large group, but nearly all were thoughtful people pointing out the very real and harmful consequences of using more gas.
Mike Zagata in last week’s paper also misinforms the public by talking about “clean-burning natural gas,” when in fact there’s no such thing. The combustion of natural gas unavoidably produces CO2, a polluting greenhouse gas. Zagata admits as much by worrying if plant growth will absorb the extra CO2.
Even worse, he ignores the seepage of methane from wells, pipes and compressors, which adds another, more potent greenhouse gas to the mix, making natural gas as bad as any other fossil fuel.
By contrast, Zakrevsky, to his credit, bemoaned his fate at the Town of Oneonta meeting, confessing to the crowd his own confusion and lack of expertise. He was hired to promote local economic development, he noted, not to make energy policy. He’s exactly right. He and Otsego Now are not qualified to make energy policy and should not be tasked with that burden.
What was painfully obvious at the meeting was the lack of coordination among capable parties interested in developing a local energy plan. Currently we have groups too often confined to their respective silos – elected officials, economic development people, the local business community, the colleges, the hospitals, the environmentalists, etc.
Each of them is working on their piece of the elephant. What’s lacking is an effective mechanism for combining their resources and talents to develop a plan for all of us.
In my last column I mentioned the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap (Google it!) as a precedent for what should happen here. That initiative began in 2010 as part of a Tompkins County Energy Strategy for 2020. It was first developed as a project by Cornell graduate students.
In 2014, a steering committee was formed composed of individuals “who represent the breadth of experience, interest and perspectives within the community regarding our energy future.” The draft Energy Roadmap was then presented to numerous community groups and has since become the focus of Tompkins county energy policy.
This Energy Roadmap doesn’t rely on hiring expensive outside consultants, who are often ignorant of local circumstances; nor does it narrow options by handing authority to a single, unprepared agency. Instead it utilizes the expertise already found in a variety of existing organizations and individuals.
We may not have Cornell University, but we have SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College. We have Otsego 2000, OCCA, Citizen Voices, chambers of commerce, the Land Trust, Farm Bureau and Sustainable Otsego, and others. We have individual engineers and scientists and retired executives who’ve worked for multi-national corporations. We have the talent.
Let me suggest, again, that the Otsego County Board of Representatives, in a bi-partisan spirit, is the logical authority to establish an Otsego Energy Task Force. A large, diverse umbrella group is far more likely to develop a comprehensive, viable energy strategy that gets it right, and to do justice to the needs of the community as a whole.
The point is to get key people in the same room and tackle the problem. It’s up to the County Board to make this happen. The time is NOW.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.
OPENING DAY – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Kick of the 45th season the museum with guided tours of the water-powered sawmill, gristmill, woodworking workshop. Admission $9/adult. Hanford Mills Museum, 51 Co. Hwy. 12, East Meredith. Call 607-278-5744 or visit www.hanfordmills.org