The Fierce Urgency of Now

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the “fierce urgency of now.” With 2018 now well underway, our collective commitment to climate urgency is a great source of inspiration for me. History happens now – is always happening – and we make it whether we like it or not.

The year started with inspiring news: New York City has announced plans to “divest $5bn from fossil fuels and sue oil companies.” I believe we are at an inflection point, and that 2018 will be the year when concern about climate issues ceases to be (even vaguely) marginal, and we see sustained, substantial actions – from governments, some corporations, and most especially citizens and civic and social groups – that make a significant dent in greenhouse gas emissions and finally start the process of slowing and reversing global climate breakdown.

A Climate Museum has opened in New York City, and is looking for a permanent home; a study commissioned by the U.S. Congress found that for every dollar spent on climate mitigation, society reaps six dollars of benefit; and at least one tech commentator believes that market forces alone will be enough to drive a near complete transition to renewable energy in the coming decades.

We should be hopeful, and we should put our shoulders to the grindstone, because, on the flipside, the fossil fuel industry has effectively commandeered the United States Government, and it seems that it will stop at nothing to lock at least the U.S. into another century of fossil fuel dependence. It is hard to imagine the global ecological impacts of such an American eventuality. As it is, 2017 was the second hottest year on record (behind only 2016) and “the warmest year on record without El Niño.”

What I’m Doing

I will start this brief update with a few disappointments: I have yet to successfully change banks; this is proving sticky, both for the obvious reason – inertia – as well as owing to the challenge of finding good, ethical alternatives.

We also visited loved ones in India over the US holiday season – which was lovely and overdue – but points to just how challenging it is to find sustainable alternatives to things like air travel.

In more positive news, I continue to self-educate about and support battles against fracking and the construction of fracked gas infrastructure in New York State and the Greater Northeast, and I would like to encourage you, again, to watch Josh Fox’s film Gasland – as a primer – if you haven’t watched it already. Additionally, if you live in New York City, New York State, or anywhere that receives drinking water from the Delaware River Basin (as we do here in Manhattan, and our friends in Philly do as well), I strongly encourage you to come up to speed on two key regional struggles:

  • The fight against the construction of the CPV Power Plant in Upstate New York – a 650 MW plant that would be fueled by fracked gas piped in from Pennsylvania, and which would necessitate the construction of extensive networks of (always leaky) pipelines across wide swathes of forest and agricultural land. The group Protect Orange County has led a citizens struggle against CPV and the affiliated Millennium Lateral Pipeline; although this recent New York Times article fails to highlight at all the question of power plant and pipeline, it does make clear just how much corruption has been involved in the relevant approval processes. As things stand now, it seems that completion of the pipeline and activation of the plant are imminent, and that only sustained mass grassroots resistance stands a real chance of preventing that outcome.
  • And the fight to ban not only fracking, but all fracking-related activities in the Delaware River Basin. Not only is the Delaware River Basin a remarkable “natural resource” – if one cares to think about it that way – but it is also a key source of drinking water for New York City and Philadelphia, and in total provides drinking water for approximately 17 million people. The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is currently considering an outright ban, but also the possibility of allowing some fracking-related activities – for example related to wastewater – to go forward in the Basin. It is essential that a full ban come into place and never be lifted, and you can help make that happen by participating in the public comment period that is currently open. Simply follow this link to submit your comments to the DRBC. You might consider watching (even just the first 10 to 15 minutes of) this helpful webinar to get a better sense of the issue. You can also visit Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Berk’s Gas Truth (official motto: “Don’t frack your mother”) for more background.

Finally, in a small piece of personal news, I bought my first real solar panel. I see it as a minor step towards preparedness for another potential Superstorm Sandy-like event, as well as a way to catalyze my own thinking and learning around renewables, given that – as renters in New York City – we are not in a position to go fully renewable of our own accord as yet. Even in the midst of New York winter, this small panel has been sufficient to charge my phone, and I appreciate the fact that it was designed for use in contexts without centralized electricity generation, as I suspect that is what the future looks like everywhere.

And on the subject of renewables, we have been pleased with Arcadia Power, and encourage all of you to consider using Arcadia yourselves. The cost is quite low; it is illuminating to be able to easily track our energy consumption; and the dashboard alone is worth the expense.

What I’m Reading

Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection – fascinating deep dive on the human and ecological toll of private garbage collection in NYC.

What Is a City Street? And What Will It Become? – on the future of urban design, with an emphasis on present-tense ways we can start making New York (and others cities) far more sustainable.

Can We Keep Food Scraps Out of the Landfill?

Too right it’s Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet – good piece from the holiday season by George Monbiot.

Bad News Travels Fast – analysis of the credibility, or lack thereof, of the 25 most shared climate articles of 2017. I linked to at least one of them – the New York Mag piece – though seem to recall drawing attention to its hyperbole…

Humanity’s fight against climate change is failing. One technology can change that. – I continue to be deeply skeptical that geoengineering (or any technological fix) can meaningfully address global climate breakdown in the absence of collective shift of social and political norms and values.

Seeing Red on Climate – about the “eco-right.”

The doomsday glacier problem & Time Thwaites for No One – about accelerating collapse of Antarctic glaciers (sufficient to inundate every major coastal city globally, in case you were flirting with inaction or not feeling motivated enough.


Oh, and have a look at this map, and these two. Three pictures, at least three thousand words.

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