Saturday, December 3, 2011


So what do Paul Ehrlich and a delicious restaurant in Truckee, California called the Squeeze In have in common? They are both featured in this story of course!

The scientist who cried wolf, Paul Ehrlich, surely made a mistake predicting mass starvation and environmental disaster from overpopulation in the 1960s. However, his caution was well-founded, and we would be making a mistake at least as serious to ignore the impact of humanity on the environment today.

The world's population has more than doubled from 3 billion in 1960 to nearly 7 billion today. Add to that increase in raw numbers of people an increase in the average standard of living for each person and you have a prescription for significant planet-wide environmental degradation.

Questions about the global carrying capacity for humans justifiably bear more weight today than they should have in 1960, but yet many dismiss the concerns as more of the same environmental doomsaying. Unfortunately, the world is vastly different today than in 1960 - 7 billion better-living people take up more space and use more resources than 3 billion mostly poor did 50 years ago.

Can the world handle 7 billion people over the long run? How about 9 billion people, a number we could reach before the middle of this century?

Questions of carrying capacity and sustainability are difficult to answer, and for many different reasons. First is the obvious issue of scale, the planet is big and measurements of agricultural productivity, water availability, suitable climates for growing food dwarf our worldwide data collection capabilities. But even if we manage to grow our data collection abilities with aerial and satellite observations, there is another basic problem.

Carrying capacity depends on the quality of life we are willing to accept. If we all require a single-family home on a quarter-acre of land, well, we better find a couple more planets, because we've already exceeded the carrying capacity of this Earth with 7 billion people. If we are all willing to live in small high-rise apartments and eat mostly a vegetarian diet, 9 billion or so might squeeze in.

The Squeeze In featured little elbow room in its 1970s edition as I recall (but delicious omelettes!), and we will all have very little metaphorical elbow room soon. That is, little food, little spare space, little oil or gas, and fewer species of beautiful plants and animals with which to share our good fortune of having a planet we call home. Are you ready to squeeze in?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eat Less Meat!

From the News and Observer (Raleigh, NC) on November 19:

In his Nov. 16 letter to the News and Observer, "We need the meat," a veterinarian claims that "the world now has about 7 billion people and they sure aren't going to be fed adequately with spinach and snow peas." He suggests that more people would be better fed if farms provided more meat, not less. He could not be further from the truth.

Assume it takes 10 acres to grow enough plants to feed one cow. And assume that one cow could feed 10 people. If instead of eating beef the people ate the plants grown on the 10 acres, there would be enough nutritious vegetables to feed about 100 people. Farmers can thus provide food for about 10 times as many people if those people eat vegetables than if they eat meat.

This is not to suggest that everyone become a vegetarian. However, significantly reducing our average consumption of meat would help the world's farmers provide enough food for everyone. Of course, there are also undeniable health advantages to eating less meat and more vegetables. Instead of "Where's the beef?" we might better ask "Where's the spinach, squash, tomato and tofu?"

-Denis DuBay, Ph.D.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Review of TERC's* Earth Exploration Toolbook

The Earth Exploration Toolbook (EET) is much more than a set of digital online classroom activities related to earth and environmental science. It is that - a very good set of activities accompanied by excellent supporting documentation - but it is also a guide to learning how to access any available online science datasets and analyze them with the appropriate software tools. As such, this is not only a resource for educators, but as TERC points out, citizens and policy makers might also make good use of the Toolbook.

The Earth Exploration Toolbook at last count contained 43 active chapters and two retired chapters. Retired chapters used datasets and/or analysis tools that are no longer readily accessible. A useful index categorizes chapters by both earth/environmental science topic (eg., atmosphere, biosphere, climate, etc.) as well as by technology tool used to obtain and analyze the data (eg., spreadsheets and image analysis, etc.).

Anyone may use the Toolbook to learn new skills with which they may then find and analyze online earth/environmental science data for themselves. This is the feature that surprised me most about the site. I was expecting a set of classroom activities, and as I said, each chapter can be used in that fashion - a stand-alone classroom activity complete with background information, objectives, and detailed instructions for students. But the Toolbook can serve another purpose, enhancing the professional development of teachers or anyone else with an interest in better understanding current topics by improving their ability to find and explore online earth and environmental science datasets. Do not overlook this opportunity.

As for the individual chapters, 17 of the 43 are directly related to the atmosphere and/or climate. Other topics include biosphere, earth's cycles, geography, human dimensions, hydrology, oceans, solar system and astronomy, solid earth, surface processes, and time/earth history. Most chapters make use of spreadsheets, but many also involve image analysis tools and GIS mapping tools. Additional technology tools include online graphing, data portals, and modelling.

The supporting documentation is simply outstanding. Beware, these are not, for the most part, activities you can complete in a single hour. For example, "Climate History from Deep Sea Sediments" estimates at least three hours will be needed.

Every chapter comes with a brief opening description, then detailed teaching notes. Teaching notes include an example output of the activity, target grade level, goals, rationale, brief science background, pre-requisites, specific instructional and assessment strategies (including questions), content standards met, and time required. Every chapter focuses on a case study, and provides detailed information and background preparatory to tackling the assignments. Only then come the detailed step-by-step instructions for accessing online data, acquiring the analysis tools, and performing the data analysis and interpretation.

The step-by-step instructions are detailed, well-documented and illustrated, and include many screen-captures to guide the novice. The "Climate History from Deep Sea Sediments" chapter mentioned above includes 34 screenshots (!), most of them provided as pull-down images available with a click of the mouse, but not cluttering up your screen unless and until you require them.

The step-by-step instructions contain the meat of each chapter, and include many interpretive questions for you to consider as you access, view, and analyze the datasets. Each chapter concludes with an array of additional questions and resources for follow-up and extension activities. Expect to save online data and new software tools to your computer as you work through a chapter.

This is a resource worth exploring and utilizing. It will take some time, but it will be time well-spent. Expect to learn skills you will employ again. If you are a teacher, expect to help your students acquire skills they will use in their future as well as in your class.

On an introductory "About the Earth Exploration Toolbook" page is a paragraph addressing the question, "Why teach with data?" If you needed another reminder that science is a process of discovering new knowledge and not a matter of memorizing facts, this is it. Don't miss it.
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* TERC was founded in 1965 as the Technical Education Resource Centers, and is located in Cambridge, MA. The Earth Exploration Toolbook is a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration between TERC and the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College in Northfield, MN.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Richard Louv begins the final section of his book, Last Child in the Woods, with a question posed by his then four-year-old son, Matthew, "Are God and Mother Nature married, or just good friends?" Later, Louv and his son share this question with Fred Rogers whose reply includes this request to Matthew, "Will you let me know, as time goes by, what answer you find to your question?"

The relationship between God and nature guides only a portion of this interesting and carefully-researched book, but it is the final portion. It wraps up the story Louv weaves with perhaps the most effective argument favoring reconnecting children with nature, and that is to strengthen their spirituality. The argument leans towards no particular denomination or church, rather towards a spirituality rooted in the amazement that overcomes one in the face of an incredibly large, steep, and jagged mountain, the reflection of tree-covered hillsides, blue skies, and white clouds in the smooth surface of a mountain lake, the arching flight of a hawk overhead, or the cautious steps of a suddenly alert deer on the trail ahead.

Louv's telling of this exchange between his young son and Mister Rogers ends in the same manner the book proceeds, with respect for the question and the child asking it, with compelling interest in how the answer comes out. I know it will take some time, but please let me know the answer you find.

Although Louv clearly makes the case for the importance of nature in the growth and education of children, he does it gently, with openness to ultimate alternatives. Yes, he cites many examples, many research studies to support his contention that connections to the natural world help children learn science and math and language, cope with danger as well as with difficulties, appreciate the unknown, and even come to know God. But he entertains as much uncertainty in exactly how exposure to nature does these things, and how we might improve the connection down the road, as he acknowledges in dealing with his son's question about God and Mother Nature.

Although Louv has two sons, it is his younger son Matthew who opens both the book and its last section. This time the question has to do with Louv's oft-repeated recollections of playing outdoors during his own childhood, something Matthew felt he had missed out on growing up in the last decades of the 20th century, so Matthew asked how come it was more fun when his father was growing up. With this opening, Louv describes in disturbing detail the many obstacles preventing our children from experiencing nature with the same ease and wonder enjoyed by earlier generations.

Whether it's homeowner association rules prohibiting treehouses, forts, or any free, unsupervised play in open areas, the replacement of unstructured woods and vacant lots with ball fields used only for structured games, or the fearful restrictions placed by worried parents on how far afield their young offspring may go, there is little doubt of the differences kids experience growing up today compared to 40 or 50 or more years ago.

How many 5th-graders today ride their bikes several miles along major roads on their way to school? I asked my mother recently if she worried about me on those days in suburban Baltimore when she let me take a big spin towards independence. She recalled a strong fear for my safety, but she still let me ride. Of course the world was different then, recall there were no bike helmets or even seat belts!

And in the list of obstacles to kids enjoying the outdoors, did I mention the seductive draw of electronic gadgets yet? Richard Louv certainly mentions them! Couch potato may have been invented to refer to middle-aged men watching football on Sunday afternoons, but the term has been usurped by today's boys (and girls?) playing computer games and texting back and forth. I put girls in parentheses as our three daughters never owned a Playstation or similar electronic gaming device during their entire childhood - a part of "family life" we missed?

Louv highlights research documenting these things that remove kids from nature, but he also goes on to highlight as well the costs of that separation. He acknowledges nature-deficit disorder is not a formally recognized illness, but nonetheless reports many problems that may arise when children grow up with little to no exposure to the natural world of trees, dirt, creeks, bugs, mud, frogs, hills, and ponds.

But Richard also explores how we may return, not to the good old days, but to an exciting new future where parents and children have the opportunity to share an
easy, hand-dirtying, imagination-filled examination of a hillside of bare soil, a flowing creek, a climb-able tree, a trail of ants, or the capture of a frog by a snake! Louv does not spell out exactly how this will or must happen. Instead he shares an array of examples where that future has already begun to happen, and examines and discusses a variety of projects, programs, even movements, that could lead us further in this direction.

To paraphrase an apt question asked by one of my daughters at age four, but did we wanted to go there? Having spent a portion of my time reading this book gazing at high mountain ridges and walking alongside cool alpine lakes with mule deer and ravens, and once or twice passing by a class of adventurous ninth-grade students camping out and hiking in the woods, I know the answer I would give. But the more difficult question is how do we get there, to this new future.

Although Richard Louv does not have all the answers, he's posed important questions, and supported well his contention that most of our kids need and would benefit from more time spent in nature. He has also described a many-branched set of pathways to that hoped-for nature-filled future. And he's reminded us that to be human is to be constantly and repeatedly and deeply amazed, at a mountain, a tree, a waterfalls, a hummingbird, a sandy beach, a child.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Some question the push to subsidize and adopt green forms of energy, such as solar photovoltaic and wind turbines. The challengers suggest that green power cannot produce enough energy to replace fossil fuels, would cost too much to use, and has too many problems associated with its production and distribution. But virtually all of those problems boil down to costs - green energy costs more than dirty fossil fuels. Rick Martinez summarized much of this in the Raleigh News and Observer on September 14, 2011 in an article entitled "Green energy more hype than help."

The flaw in Mr. Martinez' reasoning is a failure to take into account the external costs of burning coal and gasoline. External costs for coal and gasoline are things that burning coal and gasoline cause that cost real money to fix but that are not included in the up-front cost (internal costs) of purchasing that fuel.

For example, extracting coal by removing a mountaintop in West Virginia causes deforestation and massive water pollution. However, the mountaintop and the forests are not replaced and the water pollution is not cleaned up. Moreover, your electricity bill includes no funds to compensate those living near or downstream from that missing mountaintop for their resulting expenses.

For example, burning gasoline releases nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons that cause ozone air pollution. That ozone air pollution has demonstrable health impacts that raise healthcare costs and damage people's health and fitness. Those healthcare costs are not paid for by the oil companies and are not part of the price of a gallon of gasoline.

Let' s be clear. External costs must be paid for, are paid for, one way or the other. It's just that external costs are not included in the price of the fuel whose extraction and use caused them to occur. They should be part of the cost of those fuels, but historically they have not been, and that continues today.

Solar photovoltaic and wind turbines both represent renewable alternatives to nonrenewable and polluting fossil fuels. Although solar and wind power generation have their own environmental costs, they clearly produce little to no air pollution, greenhouse gases, water pollution, or environmental health dangers. Solar photovoltaic and wind turbines have few external costs that result from their use.

So any comparison of the costs of producing electricity with coal to producing it with solar or wind is way off base if it does not include the difference in external costs of the two energy sources. Any comparison of the relative costs of running a car on gasoline versus electricity falls short if it does not include the external costs of burning gasoline that simply don't exist for producing electricity with solar or wind power.

Just how expensive are those external costs? The National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recently estimated the hidden costs of energy production and use at $120 billion per year. Dr. Paul Epstein of the Harvard Medical School recently estimated the external costs for coal alone at from $175 to $500 billion per year.

For comparison, from 2007 to 2010, government subsidies supporting renewable energy sources jumped 186%, from $5 billion to $15 billion, this largely due to the government's recent economic stimulus bills. That 2010 figure of $15 billion represents just 12% of the low-end estimate of $120 billion per year in external costs of continuing to use fossil fuels.

We could subsidize renewable energy sources at a rate five times higher than the 2010 figure and they would still be much cheaper than fossil fuels!

This is why renewable energy sources must be subsidized - to make up for the unfair advantage fossil fuels have by not having to pay for their external costs. Renewable energy sources have few if any external costs. Until fossil fuels are forced to pay for their external costs, any comparison between the costs of fossil fuels and renewable energy is simply propaganda for the fossil fuel industry.

How could those external costs be paid up front by fossil fuels? The direct and simplest way is a carbon tax. Charge enough to pay for the damages the fuel causes. Take those funds and use them to reduce income taxes by a like amount, and you could have an overall revenue-neutral or tax-neutral tool that would even the playing field between fossil fuels and renewable energy.

With a tax on carbon, consumers would pay the true costs of using coal-generated electricity and driving gas-guzzling cars. Those who wished to save money on their fuel bills would lead the charge to renewable energy, such as solar photovoltaic and wind power. Power companies and car companies would get the message that consumers want efficient clean-energy alternatives, since renewable energy is, in fact, cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Although my niece Megan, good friend's daughter Kate, and son-in-law Andrew may not realize it, they most likely share a sensitivity to ozone air pollution. You see, they each suffer from asthma. They are just three people I know who have asthma, there are others, since asthma is a condition that affects an estimated 20 million Americans, 1 out of every 15 of us. And experiments find that people with asthma suffer greater lung damage when exposed to ozone air pollution than the rest of us. We all suffer lung damage when we breathe ozone, but some of us experience more injury than others.

President Obama recently decided to delay issuing a rule that would have lowered something called the primary standard for ozone air pollution. That primary standard now sits at 0.075 parts of ozone per million parts of air (ppm) averaged over an 8-hour time period. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed lowering that primary standard to between 0.070 and 0.060 ppm of ozone. That would mean cities would have to adopt strategies to keep ozone pollution from exceeding 0.060 or 0.070 ppm averaged over 8 hours.

Just what is ozone? It is a molecule that consists of three oxygen atoms (O3). The oxygen molecule you want to breathe, that you enjoy breathing in deep gulps, has just two oxygen atoms (O2). How do normal, two-atom oxygen molecules acquire that third, troublesome atom? That involves energy, as do all chemical changes, and in this case the energy comes from sunlight. But sunlight alone is not enough. To get O3 from O2, the air must also have other gases present, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons.

Nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons come mostly from burning fossil fuels. Nitrogen oxides are produced when we burn coal in power plants to produce electricity, or burn gasoline in cars and trucks. This is also how hydrocarbons are produced, though hydrocarbons can also come from the evaporation of gasoline and other petroleum products or solvents like dry cleaning fluids.

Sparing you from more chemistry than you need to know, just be aware that those nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbon gases in the air help sunlight split apart some O2 molecules, freeing up two solitary oxygen atoms, which can then each combine with still-intact O2 molecules to produce O3 molecules, ozone. And ozone is a highly reactive molecule, which means that it will react with and change (equals damage) any of your body's cells it comes in contact with.

Your skin cells are made tough to resist chemical attack, and are not affected by ozone. However, the inside of your lungs are not covered in skin cells, they can't be or they would be no good at absorbing the oxygen you need to live. So the cells lining your lungs are readily injured by contact with ozone, which is unavoidable if it's present in the air - unless you hold your breath!

Megan, Kate, and Andrew, and the rest of us too, will suffer damage to the cells in our lungs when we breathe in ozone. Notice I said when, not if. All of us living in the developed parts of the world have breathed in ozone air pollution at one time or another. It's our most common and most important air pollutant - a molecule that is produced in the very air around us.

Experiments show that lungs can begin to respond to ozone concentrations as low as 0.060 ppm, levels often exceeded across the country during the summer months. In fact, the national 8-hour maximum average ozone levels during the summer of 2009 was 0.070 ppm.

We all suffer some level of injury from ozone air pollution. That injury can trigger inflammation and reduced lung function, increased susceptibility to respiratory infection, coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, and aggravation of chronic lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis. The costs to health include increased medication use, more frequent doctor visits and school and work absences, increased emergency room and hospital admissions, and even premature death in people with heart and lung diseases.

Ozone is a seasonal air pollutant problem, because it requires intense sunlight and high temperatures. The sunlight, as you know, provides the energy necessary to produce ozone, and the high temperatures speed up that chemical reaction, meaning higher concentrations of ozone in the air.

When you hear news reports of a "Code Orange" air pollution alert, that means authorities expect the sunlight and heat forecasted for the coming day are enough, given the presence of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbon air pollutants, to produce dangerous levels of ozone air pollution, especially during the hottest part of the day. People sensitive to ozone, people with asthma or heart conditions or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) should refrain from physical exertion outdoors to avoid suffering injury. Of course, all of us might do the same to protect our lungs, and if you ever hear a "Code Red" or "Code Purple" ozone alert, stay inside and hold your breath!

The recipe for reducing ozone air pollution involves reducing those "precursor" gases, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. We can't stop the sun from shining, but we can burn less coal and gasoline, and clean up the smokestack and tailpipe emissions when we must burn those fuels.

The estimated costs for reducing those emissions to levels that would keep ozone under the proposed lower primary standard of 0.060 ppm - from $19 to $90 billion by 2020. The estimated health benefits approximately equal those costs, ranging from $13 to $100 billion. So a simple cost-benefit analysis suggests we should do it!

And those health benefits include saved lives and improved quality of life, especially for the 1 in 15 of us who suffer from asthma. Are Megan, Kate, and Andrew worth making that effort? Is your health worth it?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Can You Make Sense of Sustainability?

A stream in Julian Price Park along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Sustainability makes little sense in the developed world to the ordinary citizen. How can I know that my lifestyle is sustainable or not?

Guess we need to define sustainability first. A sustainable way of life can be continued indefinitely. That means you can live that way without threatening the ability of your region (the planet?) to continue providing the renewable and nonrenewable resources necessary for maintaining your desired quality of life.

I can probably make some crude decisions about what is more or less "sustainable", but whether driving to work every day in a Hummer is sustainable or not is either very difficult or very easy to answer. If the gas is there and I can afford it week after week, month after month, year after year, then the easy answer is, YES, it is sustainable. It may be sustainable for me, but is that enough?

If I am supposed to determine whether or not my lifestyle is sustainable for the long term, that is, can my children and their children continue to live in the same manner, for example, driving a Hummer every day, that is a much more difficult question. In fact, for the ordinary citizen, that question is simply unanswerable. Of course driving a Prius is likely "more" sustainable than driving a Hummer, but when will that gas run out or when will the cost become a complete budget-buster?

You get the idea that sustainability is much easier to consider as a budgetary matter. If I can afford it, it is sustainable. Income either meets or exceeds expenses, or it does not. If it does not at least meet the expenses, I am living unsustainably.

Of course, ecological sustainability involves not money, but the ecological services provided by intact and well-functioning ecosystems. Will my ecosystem (instead of my budget) be able to continue to supply oxygen, clean water, edible food, the materials to provide shelter, and a relatively comfortable climate?

Well, now things get really difficult. What are the boundaries for "my ecosystem?" It must be bigger than my neighborhood, since not many of us can walk or bike to the farms producing even some of the food we eat every day. It might be bigger than my town if we don't have any coal mines or oil or natural gas wells nearby. And do you get your drinking water from the nearest stream, and the wood or bricks in your house from the nearest forest or clay deposit? How about the metal in your car?

These are not trivial difficulties. A host of Ph.D.s would find considerable challenge calculating ecological sustainability for anyone in a developed country. In fact, they almost surely would have to resort in many instances to recommending practices that are "more or less" sustainable, without being able to determine whether or not a particular practice is actually sustainable for an individual in a particular region.

Oh, and we've left out actually defining the goal of our sustainability. Do we want to live sustainably as our ancestors might have lived a century, or two centuries ago? Or do we want to live sustainably as our parents did, or continue as we are living today? We're talking about the quality of life we would like to enjoy sustainably.

Finally, how many kids and grandkids do you want to have? Sustainability depends on population size. If we agree to limit our family size to two or three children each, sustainability will be easier to reach than if we average four or five offspring!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Environmental Enlightenment

Thomas Jefferson's first of four basic principles laying out the importance of education states that "... democracy cannot long exist without enlightenment." Today we face a threat to that enlightenment from those who point to the honorable Mr. Jefferson as an icon of their cause. From Washington, D.C. to Raleigh, North Carolina, politicians eager to establish their conservative credentials strive to eliminate educational and research programs designed to conserve Earth's life-supporting ecological and environmental systems.

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), budget cuts proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives would restrict or eliminate research efforts to improve our understanding of climate and our impacts on it. One way to overcome findings of fact which conflict with your ideology is to simply stop the research. Ignorance may not be bliss in this case, but it could silence dissent.

Here in North Carolina, the political wing that ironically claims the conservative label is hard at work finding ways to keep fellow citizens and patriots ignorant about the ways in which the conservation of this state's natural resources benefit our economic well-being, our quality of life, and our health. This state's House of Representatives seeks to divide and conquer the conservation efforts of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Among the myriad proposals is one to move the Division of Soil and Water Conservation into the Department of Agriculture, where presumably, agricultural interests could stem the state's efforts to enlighten us all about an industry often cited as a major source of nutrient pollution in North Carolina's waterways.

But perhaps Mr. Jefferson would find most alarming one of the smallest cuts proposed by the North Carolina State House, one of just $221,000 to gut the state's Office of Environmental Education. Here is a program that coordinates and creates environmental education efforts that cut across departmental and philosophical divides and works on that most subversive activity, education.

The state's Office of Environmental Education brings in at least $221,000 in outside grants and in-kind support to more than match it's tiny state appropriation. But it may not be the dollar figure that draws the ire of "conservatives," but rather the program's goal.

That goal is understanding how ecosystems function - how humans and the environment are interconnected - how conservation may help us live healthier and richer lives. Environmental education strives for a populace that can address complex environmental problems with knowledge and the scientific method rather than with emotional and misleading appeals to ideology.

The Office of Environmental Education created an award-winning and nationally touted environmental education certification program to ensure that those teaching about the Earth's environment not only know of which they speak, but truly educate rather than engage in issue advocacy.

Equally as valuable, the Office leverages private funding and job creation at outdoor educational and recreational facilities across the state - each promoting environmental stewardship. But as a former member of the Office, and most recently, a high school science teacher, my favorite programs are those for teachers.

The Office of Environmental Education spearheaded efforts to enrich K-12 classrooms with the educational and scientific power of technology, specifically geographic information systems (GIS) and the Internet, in partnership with N.C. State University and the EPA. Efforts such as this highlight environmental education's role preparing future citizens for 21st Century jobs in high-tech careers.

Enlightenment may not be expensive, but the lack of enlightenment could bankrupt any economy or country. Mr. Jefferson understood this.

Our natural ecosystems provide us with clean water, breathable air, fertile soil, a climate in which we can grow food and live comfortably, and an attractive environment - all at little or no cost. Threats to those natural ecosystems, and threats to our efforts to better understand them, imperil our economic well-being and our quality of life. Those threats, abounding today from Raleigh to Washington, could damage our democracy in ways at least one of our founding fathers appreciated.

The North Carolina Senate is now considering such proposals sent over from the State House. In the spirit of Mr. Jefferson, you might wish to enlighten your state senator about the values of environmental education in a democracy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wolverine and Walrus

Recent studies find that two more species of mammals, the wolverine and the walrus, are threatened by climate change, yet neither will be immediately placed on the official Endangered Species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Seems there are too many species becoming endangered too fast for the bureaucracy to keep up. What does that tell you about the state of our planet, and the effects of climate change?