Tag Archives: environment

The Flint Water Crisis: Practical and inexpensive solutions, and a hint of scandal

5 Feb

Flint Water Tower (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Without minimizing the culpability of those who created and have perpetuated the Flint water crisis, much less the pain of the citizens, I want you to consider that the crisis in Flint, Michigan, is not quite as catastrophic as it seems. Continue reading

A New Global Warming Manifesto

2 Oct

By Mike McGee

This is the Global Warming statement of Mike McGee, a believer in some aspects of global warming, presented in concert with the Paris 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in December. We urgently need some new thinking on climate change. Here is my contribution, in three parts. The first two parts are practical, while Part Three is more philosophical. Continue reading

Global Warming, Part Four

2 May

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

To summarize, there is significant evidence that there is not a big danger for the earth as a whole from global warming or population increase. According to the World Meteorological Organization www.wmo.int, globally-averaged temperatures in 2011 were estimated to be .7° Fahrenheit (0.40° Celsius) above the 1961-1990 annual average. The WMO does acknowledge that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are at historically high levels. The combined statistics, though, seem to be saying that greenhouse gases are not a major threat to the planet.

A significant portion of this small increase in globally-averaged temperature increases can be attributed to natural fluctuations such as population increase, changes in weather patterns around the globe, and even to very small changes in the tilt of the earth as it rotates.

Even so, the public is inundated by charts showing catastrophic geometric progressions of warming, destruction, and chaos. All these projections are entirely speculative in nature, and have no basis in reality. Most of us humans can’t really say with certainty what will happen tomorrow, much less next year.

Although we have no Starship Enterprise, nevertheless we boldly go where no man has gone before: setting up secondary markets for carbon credits, shutting down or hobbling legitimate manufacturing facilities, establishing ever tighter emission controls for motor vehicles. All these and more are expensive, short-term, popular, and unproven solutions to very ill-defined problems.

The short-termism can be seen as coming from the “Information Age” where every opinion (including mine) and every catastrophic event is presented in real-time to everyone in the civilized world. Worried people demand immediate action on these fragments of information.

I urge those who believe we are on the edge of the extinction of mankind to look deep inside your own soul and face what you fear most in your own life. Get past these personal fears in your own life, and you’ll get to a place of YOUR OWN harmony with the earth.

Don’t be so quick to blame corporations and plastic bags and the burgeoning multitudes of souls for the woes of the earth. Be very slow to blame all the natural phenomena which are arising as nature adjusts in its own way, a way which we can’t control. Try to stop focusing on doomsday and the need for quick, unproven and very expensive “fixes” for the earth.

There’s more than a little delusion of grandeur within individuals, when they believe they and their politicians can “save the earth” from ultimate destruction. The earth will adjust as it will, and magnificent policies and billions in spending won’t change a thing. The changes which are ultimately needed are changes within ourselves which will remove fear and restore personal harmony inside our bodies, in our relationships, and in our communities.

The “New Earth” requires new visions, not new rounds of blame and finger-pointing. The first vision must be stirred within each of us. Only then can we find adequate solutions for the actual problems which confront us with regard to global warming and the environment.

Let me give one example of “New Earth” thinking. We can say with some degree of certainty that there will be a rise in sea levels due to global warming. So why isn’t anyone looking at the coastal areas in the United States and around the world that will be inundated or flooded by the rise in sea level? We need to begin right now to find ways to encourage people to relocate from areas which will be inundated by the ocean over the next fifty years. If we start now, the long-term consequences will not be severe.

Governments can stop issuing building permits for areas within zones likely to be affected by the rise in sea level. The government and private insurers should phase out the issuance of flood insurance policies in these areas. Banks should avoid giving thirty-year mortgages in such areas. Planners should begin founding new city centers on higher ground not far from the old cities which are in these areas. It takes all of us, working together, to adjust with the least amount of pain to the rising sea levels.

New Orleans is a prime example of an urban area which will be significantly affected by the rise in sea levels. Brad Pitt should stop encouraging the rebuilding of New Orleans, and should never have started doing so. There should never have been any rebuilding. The city should have been, and still should be, moved to higher ground. When coastal floods such as Hurricane Sandy wipe out homes there should be no new building. Find a location on higher ground, and flood insurance proceeds can be used to build in the new location. The government should begin to phase out new construction of levees in flood plains, and mortgage lenders should stop approving new mortgages in flood-prone coastal areas. And so on. If we all work together, the relocations will not hurt too much.

More significantly, governments at all levels should announce right now that they will not use tax money to pay for private losses due to rising sea levels. Give people advance warning that they are on their own if they persist in coastal flood plain building. The rising sea levels are an entirely natural phenomenon. The government didn’t create the problem, and tax money paid out to those who ignore the warnings is a grave misuse of the system (except for help with immediate disaster relief).

There seems to be a lot of male testosterone flaring up in the current “solutions” to global warming. We have to tear down smokestacks, spend money to dig and bludgeon the earth into submission. There needs to be an infusion of feminine energy in the process, to achieve a spiritual balance in the process of reaching toward the “New Earth.” Here’s a quote I found in John Steinbeck’s classic novel, THE GRAPES OF WRATH:

“We got nothin’, now,” Pa said…. “Git so I hate to think. Go diggin’ back to an old time to keep from thinkin’. Seems like our life’s over an’ done.”

“No, it ain’t,” Ma smiled. “It ain’t, Pa. An’ that’s one more thing a woman knows. I noticed that. Man, he lives in jerks – baby born an’ a man dies, an’ that’s a jerk – gets a farm an’ loses a farm, an’ that’s a jerk. Woman, it’s all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on…. We ain’t gonna die out. People is goin’ on – changin’ a little, maybe, but goin’ right on.”

“How can you tell?” Uncle John demanded. What’s to keep ever’thing from stoppin’; all the folks from just gittin’ tired an’ layin’ down?”

“Hard to say,” she said…. “Just try to live the day, just the day.”

Let’s now summarize what we’ve learned about global warming and population. First, the “New Earth” is a warmer place than at any time during human history, and greenhouse gases are here to stay. Second, the “New Earth” will always have a greater population than it’s had at any time in human history.

There’s an old expression, “If you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em.” Trying to roll back global warming, through megalomaniac efforts to stop industry, commerce and transportation from releasing carbon into the atmosphere, is not feasible. We now have in place sufficient laws, rules and regulations to prevent or reduce most of the preventable noxious discharges. Adding more of the same will impose an intolerable burden on industry and commerce and will have little or no effect on global warming and carbon emission.

Much of what now passes for environmental activism is actually untethered fear-mongering. “Sensationalism, whether for good or ill, sells,” says Robert J. Samuelson in his 2010 book The Great Inflation and its Aftermath. “We may weaken our productive machine by…. an uncritical reaction to the possibility of global warming that may cause us to undertake costly policies that, in the end, do little to affect global warming but do weaken our economy’s performance.”

Dr. Bengt Skarstam has said flatly that global warming may be a good thing. HOW CAN THAT BE????? First, Dr. Skarstam lives in Sweden, which is a very cold country. From his perspective a warmer Scandinavian region may make life a little more comfortable for himself and all his fellow countrymen :>)

Yet there is a great deal more insight involved in Dr. Skarstam’s statement. First, we can’t reverse global warming. So let us re-cast it from being a “problem;” make global warming an active part of the “New Earth” solutions which will inevitably emerge from the fertile and sometimes febrile imagination of the scientific community. With the active acceptance of global warming, new political and social ideas will inevitably arise which do not involve the repression and destruction of commerce and industry. With seven billion souls on the planet, we need huge increases in commerce and industry in order to alleviate the poverty which strangles so many of our fellow planetary citizens.

I’m not trying to gloss over the difficult changes we will see as a result of global warming. I’m simply trying to point out that there are some benefits the planet will gain. We are already seeing that the melting of the Arctic ice cap is opening access to vast new deposits of high value ores and oil reserves, which could be sufficient to supply a warmer world for the next hundred or more years beyond our currently identified available resources.

What if all the ice on the island of Greenland melts? According to the CIA World Factbook, Greenland consists of 2,166,086 sq. km (410,449 sq. km ice-free, 1,755,637 sq. km ice-covered); a land area slightly more than three times the size of Texas. It is owned by Denmark, which has a total land area of 43,094 sq. km. Assuming there are oil and ore deposits under the Greenland ice pack, little Denmark could become a major world economic player as a result of global warming.

It’s also fairly certain that mankind will evolve or adapt in a fairly short time to the increased levels of carbon and heat in the atmosphere. We don’t know exactly what this Darwinian evolution will look like, yet it will happen, and it’s an established scientific theory that most of the evolution of our species has been in the direction of greater strength and intellectual capacity.

One of the many problems created by increasing population and global warming is a greatly increased worldwide competition for increasingly limited supplies of fresh water. Some of our more evolved and febrile scientists will inevitably come up with economically feasible ways to desalinize sea water and remove contaminants from industrial and human waste water. Current methods are just too expensive for widespread use. Although the developed world does a good job of removing contaminants from waste water, there is not any structure at all in place for the most part in countries like India. And even the developed world is struggling with the negative consequences of too little fresh water per se.

One possible near-term solution is to set up thousands of acres or even hundreds of square miles of sea-water evaporating pans; which will be heated by sunlight to remove the largest part of the salt or contaminants by simple distillation. Then powered plants will only have to remove the “last ten per cent” of the salt or contaminants, making them not so expensive. Huge fields of warming pans could be set up in central Texas, or even in the deserts of Iran. Ocean water could be pumped to the distillation fields. The resulting fresh water could be distributed using networks of pipes like the spokes of a wheel.

The point is, if we accept the inevitability of a warmer and drier earth, even embrace it, we will inevitably find solutions to the problems which must be solved. As long as we spend our money and energy on fighting the problem, and relying on the sensational, we will overlook things which can make the “New Earth” a better place for life of all kinds to exist and flourish.

So it’s mostly fearful thinking and feeling which separates us from the benefits of global warming. Living in fear is also one of the characteristics of an unhappy person. If we can evolve to a loving acceptance of these things we fear, our lives will be much more contented. We will also be in a better position psychologically and emotionally to make the best of the world we have and to create the “New Earth” we all so ardently desire.

To use the language of Robert J. Samuelson in a different context, the real source of our environmental errors is in the prevailing doctrines. Blaming industry and commerce for the increase in global warming results in a smug and ruinous complacency, which allows us to lash out at a scapegoat rather than looking at what we can do right now with what we have right now.

Once we reduce our fearful and desperate quest to stop global warming and population growth by our “righteous” and simplistic attacks on industry and commerce, we can clear our heads and concentrate on ameliorating its effects. Most of the time, the demonstrable things we can actually do to “dance with” global warming and population growth are ignored, in the rush of panicked thinking about stopping global warming and population growth, which we can’t do.

A global rise in sea levels is one of the most certain consequences of the “New Earth.” Yet most opinion leaders and scientists have nothing to say about what actually needs to be done when sea levels rise. There is a huge mental disconnect brought on by fear of the loss of property values in coastal properties and low-lying cities. Planners can begin by drawing boundaries around coastal areas which are projected to be flooded or unusable if there is a three-foot rise in sea level.

Drawing these boundaries, though, will result in an immediate and irreversible loss in property value for all buildings and land inside the three-foot boundaries. These losses in value can be ameliorated to some extent if these same planners give projections that the three-foot sea level rise will not occur for fifty years, or for whatever is a responsible and supportable time frame.

Probably more than half of all the homes and buildings in the three-foot zone will already be twenty or thirty years old, which means they will retain value for most of the rest of their useful life. Raw land and the land under existing structures will not retain much value, though. There will be considerable financial losses for coastal land-owners and developers. Planning will need to include refusal to issue building permits for new structures.

Perhaps the government could set up a fund such as the FDIC, and owners can pay in each year, with some payout to be made when land or a building is actually lost. The government should not be looked to as responsible for paying for these natural losses which are the inevitable result of a warmer planet. By starting now, though, the private losses will occur over a long period of time and will be more manageable.

Right now almost no one is looking at the obvious and knowable actions that need to be taken. Simplistic battles against the earth as it is make better headlines, and are easier to deal with than absorbing the more complex strategies necessary to adjust to the changes which will happen within the lifetimes of our children. It’s easier to devote ourselves to despair than to look with love at the world we actually have, and live on it gracefully.

This is part four of a four part series.

Global Warming, Part Three

1 May

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

Thus it may be deduced that global warming caused by population increase is a natural process, and not an artificially induced phenomenon. Global warming may actually be an integral and necessary part of the “New Earth.”

Such acceptance is an advanced form of wisdom. We would not have the world we have today without the great increase in population and global warming. The population increases, and the warming of the planet, are keys to our current existence.

Before 1927, when both these natural phenomena began, there was really no way to confirm our existence on a planetary scale. All our existence was fragmented and for the most part local. The current tribalism evident in Afghanistan and other societies underscores the local nature of earlier existence. Communications were difficult and travel from one place to another was to take your life in your hands. It was probably somewhat colder in places like Sweden and the Arctic than it is now. Being warmer can be a good thing, therefore.

Even more so, without the population increase, there would not likely be a sufficient “customer base” for the launching of new technologies such as fast cars on fast highways, oil, gas and water pipeline systems, and the Internet and cell phones and crowd-sourced computer applications; not to mention ground-based rapid transit systems and the fastest travel by airplane. We would likely never have put a man on the moon; South Africa would still be a primitive apartheid-based society.

And without population increase and global warming, both of which are natural processes, our scientists and innovators would not be motivated to develop more efficient methods of energy production and use, and better ways of marshaling the resources of our planet. We would not even be having this discussion if the population were still two billion. Furthermore, it’s not likely this discussion would be propagating globally via the Internet if the population were still two billion souls.

Another major issue which is brought to the forefront by population and global warming is the subject of corporate responsibility for emissions and pollutants. Corporate responsibility was not even a term in use back in 1927 when the population was only two billion. The dumping of the detritus of production at the factory gate was the norm back then.

I remember when I was a child, in about 1955. There was a creek that ran through an area of woods where I played, in the small town of Lexington, North Carolina. I was amazed by the rainbow of colors in this creek. One day it would be bright red, the next day bright green, and another day it would be bright yellow, and so on. Fortunately, I was just concerned enough to stay out of the water. There was a fabric dyeing plant nearby, and they were dumping their untreated dye residues directly into the stream.

Most corporations inside the United States are doing considerably better at handling their wastes and runoffs than they were back in 1955. They are showing at least some degree of corporate responsibility, and it is appreciated. So in this essay I’m not going to hammer too much on corporations. I’m going to look at the flip side of the problem: the politically correct and seemingly magically effective solutions offered up by the environmental establishment: the green advocates.

If only we could get our government to agree on forcing companies to meet carbon reduction targets, and to buy and sell carbon credits. If only we could spend multi billions of government and private dollars on wind and solar power. If only, if only. The list of impractical and expensive solutions goes on, and no one seems to be questioning the long term effectiveness of these more or less academic ideas; and no one is really questioning whether we even need to do these things.

No one is asking whether any of these environmental “solutions” will “cure” the “disease” which may actually be a natural process, which we can live with if the genius of our scientific and political leaders is applied to direct solutions such as increasing the efficiency of internal combustion engines and reducing the weight of vehicles and other equipment used for freight and personal transportation.

After we accept the reality of a changing earth and an increasing population, what we need is to find ways to imagine actual scenarios in the future and begin to invent processes and things right now to cope with these grounded visualizations of the next thirty to fifty years of the earth.

The “New Earth” we live on demands us to care deeply about how we spend our money, and how we adjust to the changed living conditions which did not exist even 85 years ago.

What about those who believe in their hearts that global warming and environmental pollution is the greatest disaster the world has faced, and the world must act decisively to combat these threats to our planet?

Marinette Forbes-Magno has a master’s degree from the Asian Institute of Technology, and has researched energy issues in Thailand as a professional. She’s a member of my family and is visiting in my home as I write this. She says that global warming brought about by massive population increases will inevitably lead to major environmental disasters. These natural disasters will wipe out the excess population and only after this happens will we return to a more normal way of living. This is not necessarily the way it will happen, she says, yet it’s one way to look at it.

She’s worried, that’s for sure. Yet she’s not a doomsday prophet, she’s simply a well-informed concerned citizen. The label of doomsday prophet belongs to the loud and robust environmental activists and politicians –think Al Gore – who are constantly bombarding us with messages that we have to do what they tell us to do; and spend billions to implement schemes of dubious or unproven effectiveness to “reverse global warming” (Bill Clinton’s words).

The label of doomsday prophet also belongs to the lurid and showy television pundits, and the networks with 24-hour news cycles which must be filled with words and pictures – think CNN. They get better ratings if they really scare people with the rash predictions made by interviewees with personal agendas, and the endless loop reporting on every storm and earthquake on the face of the earth.

My daughter Michelle Kathryn McGee, www.healinggeneration.com is concerned that what I’ve been saying about the environment in my series of blogs is a convoluted justification for constant striving rather than constant being — which means being willing to face contradiction fearlessly at every turn. She is personally concerned about the degradation in the quality of life brought about by global warming, yet global warming per se is not the problem. There is, she says, a bigger need for a raising of human consciousness, and she wants each person to take on BEING the solution to a different, more important set of problems. It’s not our planet that is the problem, it’s the level of consciousness and awareness each of us brings to our everyday living that is the problem.

The environmental activists are pushing a hundred doomsday scenarios; rivaling the preachers of the “end times” rapture, where only the saved will be taken into heaven. These dramatic doomsday scenarios are endlessly looped to the public and to the politicians, until everyone believes in them regardless of the evidence to support them. Believing in such disasters is much easier than if someone says we must examine our own personal levels of consciousness to find our way home, and take personal responsibility for our part in what happens next.

Pushing “easy solutions” – which claim to have the remarkable ability to totally head off the natural and artificial disasters threatening our planet – seems to be the most popular way of addressing the claims of environmental degradation. That these easy solutions, such as solar and wind electrical power, carbon offset credits, and battery powered cars, are incredibly expensive, and are so far unproven as primary methods of carbon emission reduction, doesn’t stop us from embracing them as tightly as is they were our first-born child.

The popular culture seems utterly captivated by movies and other media, where the whole earth is threatened by monstrous outside forces, and one person – think Ironman – comes along and saves the whole planet from destruction. (Interestingly enough, this typical movie plot is a direct rehashing of the Biblical New Testament, where one man saves all humanity from the malevolent forces of evil.)

There are even people out there who are persuading us to spend huge amounts of tax dollars to set up a system to predict when a rogue asteroid or meteor might crash into the earth, so we can take defensive measures. This could happen at any time, they say, or at least within the next thirty thousand to a million years from now. Budgets are already being prepared for submission to governments.

Our collective disaster-consciousness is a big step away from reality, and from the true measure of human consciousness, which is: who are we BEING right now, in this moment? How can we be a part of generating peace and awareness within ourselves? How can each person, from elected official to corporate officer to hamburger-flipper, take responsibility for our own part in the ongoing “drama” of daily life? How can our systems be re-calibrated to move our thinking away from disaster and into the fullness of a well-lived life?

For example, what is the primary obstacle to our doing our daily driving around town and to and from work in golf-cart sized battery-powered vehicles made of light plastic parts? It is this: If I tried to drive out into the traffic on the local road right out in front of my home in a “golf cart” type vehicle, I’d be terrorized and traumatized by all the big-engine roaring steel cars going as fast as they can, almost bumper to bumper. I probably wouldn’t make it a hundred feet before I gave it up and parked the little plastic buggy and walked back home to get my full-sized car, to protect my life and sanity. If I continued driving along in spite of my fear, I’d probably be arrested by the police for blocking traffic and being on a public road in a nuisance vehicle.

Far more than half of the driving in the United States is for distances of thirty-five miles or less round trip. These trips could easily be made in golf-cart sized vehicles, if such vehicles were allowed and provisions were made for their safety, and they were cheap enough. Most people would still want another full-sized car, for longer trips and on bad-weather days. Why is there no public dialogue about smaller light-weight vehicles?

First, in our country the road still offers more freedom than frustration. Three-quarters of Americans say driving often gives them a sense of independence, and nearly half say it’s often relaxing. Four in ten love their cars — not just like them, but love them. (This is from an ABC News Analysis by Gary Langer, February 13, 2005.) I’m definitely one of those freedom-lovers. I’m also one of those four in ten who love my own big heavy car.

I’ve already made the internal shift to driving a small car with a small fuel-efficient engine. It would take a further cosmic change within me before I’d emotionally adapt to driving around town in a golf-cart car. Can I adapt? Yes. I. Can. Will I adapt? Only if the whole system of traffic is re-calibrated to make me feel safe and wanted in my light-weight golf-cart sized car.

And yet I don’t see or hear any politicians or environmental activists howling for a new traffic system that will accommodate light-weight individual vehicles. Any such vocal activists would probably be opposed by the auto industry and the highway construction industry. Maybe we could make it more palatable by promoting light-weight car lanes as a new infrastructure project which will help create jobs to get us out of the recession. You think?

This is part three in a four-part series.