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Oct 212013
 

Green Right Now Reports

Matt Damon and Bill McKibben received top awards at the 2013 Environmental Media Awards on Saturday.

matt-damon-luciana barroso at the Enviro Media Awards

Matt Damon and wife Luciana Barroso at the Environmental Media Awards

Damon received the Ongoing Commitment award for his work raising environmental awareness. The film about natural gas fracking and the toll it takes on land and communities, Promised Land, which starred Damon, also was honored, as the best Feature Film.

Another movie, Josh Fox’s Gasland II, which shows how hydraulic fracturing of natural gas deposits is polluting water and causing health issues, was honored as best documentary film.

Environmentalist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who has led global protests against climate change and led demonstrations in the US against the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. McKibben, a professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, has written several books about the loss of nature and the threat of climate change.

Hayden Panettiere and Save the Whales Again project (animal welfare insistute .org)

Hayden Panettiere at a Save the Whales Again! event.

Another major award, the Futures Award, went to Hayden Panettiere, star of the TV show Nashville, for her work on behalf of ocean animals.

Actress Anna Getty, a healthy living and yoga advocate, received the Green Parent Award.

Other awards went to TV and online media for episodes highlighting environmental issues:

Reality Television: Gangs & Oil, Vice

Television Episodic Drama: “Chapter 9,” House of Cards

Television Episodic Comedy: “Mother Fracker,” Last Man Standing

Children’s Television:“What’s the Deal With Fracking?” Nick News With Linda Ellerbee

Digital Content: Overview

The Screen Actors Guild Awards received the Green Production Award.

Oct 182013
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Climate change is altering the planet in fearsome ways. Ice is melting, oceans are warming, drought is sizzling crops, heat is fueling wildfires and storms are becoming more powerful.

And sometimes, I don’t feel like watching yet another movie about these horrific changes.

Psychologists would say that’s because people, faced with such enormous happenings over which they have little control, become paralyzed, even depressed.

CHASING ICE PHOTO 1 A_Alaska-6-08-0955-Edited

Chasing Ice (Photo: James Balog)

And so it was with some trepidation that I settled in to watch Chasing Ice, a movie about the rapidly vanishing glaciers that contain the majority of earth’s freshwater.

This film drives home the reality of climate change, but it didn’t leave me or my fellow viewers feeling helpless, and it didn’t harangue us with a fire hose of facts. Rather it did what great movies are supposed to do, and what the film’s protagonist has been working for years to do: It showed us that the earth’s warming temperatures and seas are melting arctic ice at a scary pace.

What you see is haunting, devastating. Real. Climate change.

Perhaps most captivating is the film’s inescapable juxtaposition of destruction and beauty. We see the dirty trail left by retreating ice – captured by time lapse photography. But the camera also dwells on the tranquil beauty of icebergs, ice sheets and glaciers. The deep crevasses or moulins with their racing rivers of ice water are a wondrous landscape, but they hide a terrifying phenomenon. All that water is rushing out to sea.

This homage to the frozen part of our planet, and to the incredible dedication of  photographer James Balog as he reveals climate change to a sleeping public with arresting visuals, is far from dispiriting. It is inspiring.

But let’s back up.

Chasing Ice, James Balog, camera installation...N_JB_Alaska-5-07

James Balog installs a camera that will use time-lapse photography to document the retreat and advance of the Columbia Glacier in  Alaska.

Balog, the subject of this 2012 documentary, which is now available on DVD, began his adventure/ice love affair in 2005, when he was assigned to photograph evidence of climate change for National Geographic. A self-described climate skeptic at the time, Balog became persuaded beyond all doubt that carbon emissions are causing massive havoc in the arctic and worldwide.

The assignment evolved into a project that Balog founded called The Extreme Ice Survey, in which the photographer, who’s also a mountaineer and a geologist, set up two dozen encased cameras to take time lapse photos of retreating glaciers over the next months and years.

Among his crew was Jeff Orlowski, a recent Stanford grad and aspiring photographer. Orlowski served as a videographer for Balog as they trudged across the Arctic, to Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains, painstakingly documenting the retreat of glaciers and the loss of ice sheets calving into the seas. The protégé ultimately convinced the veteran photographer to allow him to tell his story on film.

To Orlowski, the director/producer of Chasing Ice, the film was a documentary about the Extreme Ice Survey and yes, climate change, but it is also an adventure story.

“There were many challenges just dealing with the camera in the cold, and there were life threatening circumstances for the whole team,” Orlowski said, in an interview this week promoting the release of the DVD.

Trailing Balog certainly appears to have been an adventure. The camera follows the relentless photographer/adventurer as he climbs mountains and dangles into ice crevasses in pursuit of the story. His crew takes many risks as well. In one scene, members camp on a windy, icy mountain ledge anticipating the calving of a Greenland glacier. They (and we) are rewarded with incredible footage, but not before their tent almost flies away.

Chasing Ice, Iceland C_Iceland-02-2008-7766

Chasing Ice in Iceland, with an EIS crew member providing scale to the photo. (Photo: James Balog)

But the payoff could be great. Balog’s work, which continues, is raising awareness and changing minds, Orlowski said.

“One of the problems with climate change is that this issue is invisible. By every rubric, we cannot see with our naked eye the changes that are happening with temperature and carbon dioxide. So for the average person, how do they understand what this means and the implications?”

Balog’s time lapses break through; they’re irrefutable evidence that the planet is rapidly changing, he says.

“The time lapses of these changing glaciers is really just one small way in which James has figured out to visualize this issue,” says Orlowski, who has since experienced two more personal brushes with climate change when his house in Boulder was threatened by wildfires and again this year when it was flooded.

“For our whole team it’s so clear and obvious that climate change is happening. I think this is the single biggest issue that society has to deal with. We as a species are changing the fundamental nature of nature.”

“. . . Unfortunately, I think it’s going to take a lot more imagery and a lot more content before society as a whole understands the implications.”

More on ‘Chasing Ice’:

Copyright © 2013 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Oct 142013
 

The anger at seed giant Monsanto was felt at demonstrations held around the world. The company is the world leader in genetically modified seeds. Its GM crops and agri-chemicals are widely used in other parts of the world, but Monsanto has found it much harder to gain a foothold in Europe.

In Berlin several hundred people turned out to demonstrate against genetically modified food crops and denounce Monsanto’s agricultural and business practices. In the U.S., marches against Monsanto were held in dozens of cities.

RT’s Ramon Galindo shows us the crowds in Los Angeles.

Oct 042013
 

From Green Right Now Reports

More than 2,000 developers will be powering up on the world’s problems during a hackathon this weekend in 21 cities around the world.

Good Neighbor app

The Good Neighbor app, a previous grand prize winner.

The #hack4good event, organized by Geeklist out of San Francisco, encourages participants to come up with program apps and other technological solutions to world issues like climate change, hunger, disaster relief, nature conservation and education.

Cities with participating designers and programmers include New York, London, Kathmandu, New Delhi, Minsk, Toronto, Tel Aviv and San Francisco, according to Geeklist.

Why hack for good?

“Every aspect of our lives is touched somehow by software engineering – whether it’s the media we read or the fruit we eat – and there’s huge potential to work globally to better manage the problems we face,” says Reuben Katz, founder and CEO of Geeklist.

“Solutions have to solve actual problems, be they logistical, communicative or data-oriented. But we plan to unite NGOs, charities and organizations that deal with humanitarian issues, disaster and environmental relief and think there is real scope to affect change.”

The developers will get pizza and soft drinks as they huddle, finding ways to help non-profits work more easily and affordably or directly assist those with needs. Participants donate their time, but are treated to awards, distributed to all and provided by tech firms such as Google, Rackspace, Deezer, Actuate/Birt, Pivotal Labs, Mandrill, Bountysource, 50onRed, Gandi.net and others.

Developers are being encouraged to create tools that can help:

  • Find people in a disaster,
  • Non-profits use data to become more effective
  • Connect supporters to causes
  • Provide affordable tech tools for smaller non-profits
  • Create local and global networks to impel civic action

Tools developed in past hack4good events have included apps like:

  • Good Neighbor by Jonathan Wu, Jason Liu, Luca Zuccarini, Howard Guan, which helps communities post needs, services and giveaways and also can be used on a large scale by emergency relief organizations.
  •  Just Sayin’ – Colorsby Nea Bisek, Dogan Berktas, Irmak Berktas, Shinyoung Park, an educational game app that helps early language learners and kids with autism to learn to speak. Objects animate after the user says their color.

“Technology is our greatest problem-solving tool, capable of connecting us globally, putting information at the hands of everyone equally, and empowering individuals and communities to become self-resilient,” said Dan Cunningham, a user experience designer and entrepreneur who is organizing the London event.

“Only about 30% of the global population are using the internet right now. We’re very excited about what can be done as the next 4.5 billion people come online.”

 

 

 

Sep 242013
 

In an interview with CNN Money, former Vice President Al Gore says the role of money in U.S. politics is “kind of pitiful,” but he seems optimistic about a government response to climate change. “Mother Nature has been speaking loudly and persuasively,” he says. “These extreme weather events that are connected to the climate crisis have captured the attention of people.”

Sep 202013
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Rob Hopkins 3 - May 2013 - Photo Credit - Jim Wileman

Rob Hopkins, author of “The Power of Just Doing Stuff” (Photo: Jim Wileman)

OK, book lovers, locavores, gardeners and survivalists, listen up! Nike says “Just Do It” and permaculturalist Rob Hopkins says “Just Do Stuff.”

Both have the same message, ‘Don’t wait’.  Climate change is urgent. Finding our path to sustainability, urgent. Cleaning up the planet. It’s all got to happen quickly.

And, to borrow another catchphrase, it takes a village.

It does.

Also our elected, appointed and anointed leaders cannot do it alone, and as we an plainly see, some of them are not doing much at all.

Persuaded yet? Hopkins hopes to pull you in with his book, The Power of Just Doing Stuff: How Local Action Can Change the World.

We haven’t read it yet (we will), but his rallying cry, which is a little bit like think globally, act locally, but more like think locally and also act locally, calls upon us all to get started in small ways, wherever we are, on building Earth 2.0. Here’s the promotional video for the book:

 

Hopkins’s previous work has been co-founding a “Transition Town” in Ireland, and writing The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependence to Local Resilience and The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times.

You can meet Hopkins, who normally hangs at home in Ireland, at various stops in the U.S. this fall, including at SXSWEco in Austin Oct. 7-9. Oddly enough, SXSWEco last year hosted Annie Leonard, famous for her work, The Story of Stuff.

Here’s Hopkins’ schedule:

New Orleans (10/1-10/2) for the Environmental Grantmakers Association Retreat (private) and a public event at Tulane University

Boston (10/3) at Tufts University

Portland, ME (10/4) as a Featured Speaker on the eve of the New England Transition Gathering & Resilience HUB Regional Gathering 

New York (10/5-6) at the Omega Center for Sustainable Living “Where Do We Go From Here” Conference. Register for Omega’s free live webcast to watch Rob’s talk!

Houston (10/8) for a Sustainable Houston Town Hall at Rice University

Austin (10/9) as a distinguished speaker at SXSW Eco Conference (Transitioners can purchase discounted tickets using code “reg-eco-mark13_nt5x9ht676″)

San Francisco/North Bay (10/10-12) with Gopal Dayaneni for a public talk in Oakland, and as a keynote speaker at the Building Resilient Communities: Northern California Transition & Permaculture Convergence.

Los Angeles (10/13-14) for The Power of Just Doing Stuff Festival with Andy Lipkis of Tree People and D’Artagnan Scorza of Social Justice Learning Institute and the Just Doing Stuff Fair in Pasadena.

Milwaukee (10/15-16) for the Brew City Abundance Tour and Bash with Mayor Tom Barrett

Copyright © 2013 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Sep 162013
 

Carl Sagan was the featured speaker at the Interparliamentary Conference on the Global Environment in 1990. More than 40 countries met to discuss strategies on key issues on the environment. (Posted by the Film Archives)

Sep 162013
 

CNN Money reports that former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman says the federal government has to take proactive steps to combat the effects of climate change.

Whitman served as the 50th Governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001, and was the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the administration of President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003.

Aug 292013
 

Green Right Now Reports

In his first major policy address since taking over at the Department of Energy, Dr. Ernest J. Moniz sought to explain the administration’s “all of the above” energy plan and answered critics who accuse Obama supporting natural gas development despite concerns that fracking contaminates air and water.

You can see Moniz’  hour-plus full talk Monday at Columbia University here, or read the synopsis of the highlights below.

Fracking

The topic actually didn’t come up until the end of the address, when the moderator explained that about half of the question cards turned in by the audience dealt with hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, a hugely controversial topic in New York and elsewhere where citizens are worried about the effects of intensive fracking operations on community water supplies and local air quality. Residents living near intensively fracked areas have reported problems with well water as well as skin rashes and respiratory issues.

Asked what the role for natural gas should be in the new energy economy, Moniz was clear that it has its place.

“It is a fact that in these last years, the natural gas revolution as they say has been a  major contributor to reducing carbon emissions,” he said.

Moniz Energy Address Aug. 2013 smallAbout half of the progress so far toward reducing overall U.S. carbon emissions under the Obama Administration has been due to the substitution of natural gas for coal in power plants, he continued.

“In my previous life at MIT when we did a study on natural gas, if you asked the question up front — is natural gas a part of the problem or part of the solution for climate change? — we reached the conclusion that yes, that certainly in the near term and potentially for some years  out, this substitution of natural gas for coal combustion, without carbon capture [for coal], would be a major contributor to reducing carbon emissions.”

Down the road if the U.S. is really cracking down on carbon emissions that might change, he said, then “gas itself would have to have carbon capture or it would be too carbon intensive.”

Asked about fracking’s methane gas emissions, which are greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, Moniz noted that these could be captured and put to use, and that an Obama-decreed task force of multiple federal agencies would be looking at the problem of methane gas leakage from hydraulic fracturing.

The “War on Coal”  

The administration has had to walk a fine line on fossil fuels, on the one hand supporting natural gas for reducing carbon emissions by replacing coal (and also cracking down on pollution from coal-fired power plants) and on the other hand, arguing that it has not launched a “war on coal.”

Moniz stayed on the tight rope.

Directing the EPA to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants was Obama ‘s best open route to bring down the carbon emissions that are driving climate change, he said.

“It is the most significant step the president can take with executive action, absent legislative action, but the charges of it being a  ’war on coal’ is a misunderstanding or a misstatement of what is being called the all-of-the-above approach to US energy.”

The All-of-the-Above Energy Plan

In addition to addressing criticism from the right that the administration has started a war on coal, Moniz addressed critics on the left who quibble that Obama’s oft-described “all of the above” energy plan is soft on fossil fuels.

“The idea is that ‘allof the above’ means we will invest in the technology, research and demonstration so that all of our energy sources can be enabled as market place competitors in a low carbon energy world.”

“That’s what we mean by all of the above”

But while fossil fuels are included in the “all of the above” vision, it’s a plan that still begins with the core goal of reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels, he said.

Moniz also suggested that in a nation dependent on transportation, which is largely dependent upon oil, would be foolish not to challenge the fossil fuel industry to come up with its own lower carbon solutions.

U.S. policymakers, he said, must be “pragmatic” and “practical”.

On Climate Change

“I’m not here to debate what’s not debatable. The evidence is  overwhelming, the science is clear, certainly clear for the level that one  needs for policy making in terms of the real and urgent threat of climate change. . . .”

“Prudence demands strong commonsense near term policy actions to minimize the risks of global warming and that’s what the president’s  Climate Action plan does in the absence of legislative remedies.”

On Renewables

Moniz waxed hopeful, and sounded most passionate, discussing green energy technologies.

U.S. wind power, he noted, had tripled in capacity since 2008, accounting for 44 percent of new electricity capacity in 2012 and dropping in price to a “levelized” 6 cents per kilowatt.

Solar PV modules, he said, cost about 1 percent of what they did 30 years ago and utility-scale solar is creating a disruptive, but positive force on the grid.

LED lights have advanced with lightning speed and offer a lifetime savings of $100 for every incandescent 60 watt bulb they replace.

“The future,” Moniz said, “may not always be 10 years away.”