Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lagoon faces unprecedented peril |

Lagoon faces unprecedented peril |

Henderson does a great job of addressing the issues, the sources of the problems and various solutions.

Volusia County is not alone in dealing with these problems. Tampa Bay, St Lucy and more have similar problems. Lawns and septic tanks are mentioned. Many people have their lawns on automatic, so it gets irrigated, rain or shine, winter or summer. They want to have beautiful green lawns year round in Florida. Especially in the rainy season, the fertilizer washes off so they add even more.

Fertilizing at the right time, and careful water management is critical to avoiding all of the runoff of fertilizer. Systems are starting to get really smart, in fact, by sensing the moisture in the ground and checking weather forecasts. No need to water if it is likely to rain tomorrow.

But what do you do with people who won't be proactive in water management. In Florida, you have snow birds who are gone a lot. Renters who are less attentive and vacant houses.

Septic is another issue. Passing a law that everyone has to have it pumped and inspected every couple years is overkill. Probe tests are ineffective, the last I heard, so opening it and pumping it, is the only sure way. And moving to a mandatory municipal service has lots of problems.

In most of these areas, it seems that a combination of carrot and stick must be used.

And that's just two of the sources. There's Ag, industrial, traffic, boating and other sources of pollutants.

At the source types of remedies are always easiest. Identifying the biggest issues and concentrating on those big issues and are actionable is a critical place to start.

Imagine that almost every community everywhere (Flint, Michigan) is have medium to major water issues. Droughts, floods, contaminants, and aging water systems.

There are some good sources on the topic(s):
  • Out of water: From abundance to scarcity and how to solve the world's water problems by Chartres and Varma (2011).
  • Aqua Shock: The water crisis in America by Marks (2009)
  • World Water Day (at UN): 
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Thursday, April 14, 2016

ECO:nomics | The Wall Street Journal

ECO:nomics | The Wall Street Journal:

The WSJ's big forum on ECOnomics seems to have been a great learning and sharing session for divergent ideas on how to blend economic growth/development with environmental needs.

A special report in the WSJ on Wed, April 13, 2016 offers several takes and interviews covering the spectrum of associated topics.

A couple base statistics are that coal generated electricity has dropped from half of all US generation to less than 1/3 within about 10 years. The big gain is Nat Gas, but that too is changing. In 2015 solar was the #1 install base with 9.5 gw (37% of new), NatGas 8 gw (31%), wind 6.8 gw (26%). Only 4% new nuclear and fractions of other.

Related to the switch from coal to NatGas, this is only a stop-gap measure: moving from one really bad non-renewable, coal; to a relatively better non-renewable, NatGas. Michael Brune from the Sierra Club comments on the methane and other issues that brings NatGas closer to parody with coal (really ugly vs. relatively ugly).

Coal is really taking a hit, as Peabody goes bankrupt this week, bringing down all of the big coal companies. No victory laps here; the pain and suffering in the mining communities is going to be horrendous. (Also, bankruptcy doesn't mean the mines will all stop, just that the debt associated with the companies will replace the equity positions.)

Even against crashing oil/coal prices, solar & wind are winning major solid footing. Even with the likelihood of subsidies going away, are now starting to be very price competitive (especially if you consider externality costs). BUT when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine (night) we still need regular power generation. Or battery-type storage.

You have to marvel at the gain of renewables during the second year of record low fossil fuel costs. That is really, really impressive.

Check out all the articles on the ECOnomics conference and interviews at the special business & energy section of the WSJ:

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Study Confirms World's Coastal Cities Unsavable If We Don't Slash Carbon Pollution | ThinkProgress

Study Confirms World's Coastal Cities Unsavable If We Don't Slash Carbon Pollution | ThinkProgress:

This article discusses the melt-off of Antarctica as discussed in a new Nature article. They did a better and more detailed analysis of the volume of water that would move into oceans as the Antarctic melts. They resolved a few of the issues that were not fully addressed by other studies. In addition to the models of ice volume/dynamics, they compared current warming with other times in history, thus offering benchmarks for validating their analysis.

Even as many areas of Antarctica have been collapsing at an alarming rate, there has also been evidence of the snow building in the center of the (island? of Antarctica). This Nature study seems to resolve these apparent inconsistencies. They build a strong argument that we need to do a LOT now, not later. Many coastal cities will partially or totally under water if we continue for several more decades under the old business-as-usual model of carbon emissions.

DeConto and Pollard (2016) in their article Contribution of Antarctica to Past and Future Sea-Level Rise look at ice dynamics to better analyze the volume of ice that should be displaced into the ocean waters as temperatures rise. They ran models under business-as-usual and more aggressive action scenarios. Then, they paired their results with key times in history where temperatures where high and sea-levels rose.

They concluded that a likely scenario if we delay action is 1 meter (3.28 ft.)  of sea-level rise by end of century and 15 meters (~50 ft) by 2500 that would be attributable to antarctic ice melt. Add thermal expansion and other factors and this represents an ugly, ugly prospect.

DeConto, R. M., & Pollard, D. (2016). Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise. Nature, 531(7596), 591–597. doi:10.1038/nature17145

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Call for Civility and Values-Based Leadership | Starbucks Newsroom

A Call for Civility and Values-Based Leadership | Starbucks Newsroom:

About March 20, there was a full-page add in the Wall Street Journal that had a heading of Howard Schultz calls for Civility and Value-Based Leadership and two column of words, 15 pairs. They were generally antonyms:
Division  < ==>  Unity
Cynicism  < ==>   Optimism
Limits < ==>  Opportunity
Isolation < ==>  Community
Apathy < ==>  Passion
Exclusion  < ==>  Inclusion
Partisanship < ==>  Leadership
Blame < ==>  Responsibility
Status Quo < ==>  Daring
Vitriol < ==>  Respect
Cowardice < ==>  Courage
Nostalgia < ==>  Vision
Fear < ==>  Love
Indifference < ==>  Compassion
Bystander < ==>  Upstander

... every day, we have a choice.

The next full page is essentially an open letter to America. Essentially a challenge from Schultz and Starbucks. It says when negative news every day ('cause only bad news is news) and the viscous political environment (including the next presidential cycle), "You could easily mistake America as a nation, lost. A people who have severed the common bonds that hold us together -- compassion, respect, shared responsibility, a belief in service, a willingness to unite despite our differences.

The add asks us to put aside hatred, vitriol and negativity and look at all the good. We are 300m plus people who mentor kids, help neighbors, and nurse the sick.

This positive story is the one that Schultz and all partners (employees) believe in; and they think every American should too.

The letter/add finishes with:

"This is not about the choice we make every four years. This is about the choice we make every single day."

Visit the newsroom to see the ads: Howard-Schultz-on-role-and-responsibility-of-citizens

There's an 8 min video where Schultz makes this same discussion to shareholders. Two years ago he make a challenge to corporations to be more socially responsible; this year he challenges all citizens.

The whole be-good-and-responsible effort caught a lot of attention from many media sources and the whole twitter scene. A lot of twitter love, but ironically, a lot of hate going on by people who were offended (trying to push individual values and virtues on them is just not right for a company).

Fox News took up the kinder-gentler America story. Ironically, after a rather fare and civil discussion about the civility campaign, they concluded that the left column was actually referring to only one American: Donald Trump. Hmmm? No one else has been throwing mud? Super PAC ads are measured in Pinocchio; a nose that grows with every second of airtime.

It seems that many people/groups need to get together, have a cup of Starbucks coffee, and listen. Notice, the word wasn't "talk". Lots of people talk, but almost no one listens.
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