Sunday, November 21, 2021

Acqua Alta Alert!

One crazy thing that happened while we were in Venice was an acqua alta event. This is when the tide gets so high it floods the city, which is built right on sea level (those famous canals are seawater, not fresh).

These tides used to happen (for a bunch of reasons) about ten times a year in the fall/winter. Now, thanks to sea level rise and more severe weather due to global warming (among other things) they can happen up to 60 times a year, any season. (Florida has something similar called "sunny day flooding"). 

We thought we'd be swimming for our scheduled "ghost walk" that night! But the forecast was so dire the government decided to deploy the MOSE ("Moses"), a newly-competed series of sea gates that literally parts the water around Venice and prevents severe flooding. So we got rain-wet, but didn't have to wade! 

A few days later, they apparently decided NOT to deploy the MOSE, because here's what happened:

The locals we talked to were concerned about climate change and sea level rise. Business owners have removable "dams" installed in their doors. Residents are rebelling against the city's ban on window air conditioning. Homeowners are raising the levels of their canal ports. Our gondolier pointed at the green algae line on the side of the canal, noting it used to be a lot lower. "We're out here every day. We know what's going on."

Our awesome Airbnb host Sara Tirelli turned out to be an artist and filmmaker who made a movie about climate change and the acqua alta in Venice. Check it out here:

It took 5.5 billion Euros and 18 years, but the MOSE seems to be helping Venice for now, at least sometimes. The bad news is that when sea levels rise as much as scientists say they could, even the MOSE won't be able to save this 1600-year-old city. 

It's just a matter of how long it takes to get there...the less we use fossil fuels, the more time we can buy to adapt to our earth's changes.

With the recent COP26 summit happening, warming is on our polititions' minds (or should be). Tell them it's on yours too:

Pictured: buildings almost floating on the surface of the sea; climate graffiti; canal doors under reconstruction; walkways set up for tourists to walk on during floods; a huge line of yellow gates stretching between ocean islands. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

New family member!

Leman Family Sustainability Journal (a big entry!) 

This afternoon we went down to the ol' car vending machine, dropped the coin in the slot, and got a new-to-us '18 Ford Fusion Enegi plug-in hybrid instead! 

Our '01 Camry was going to cost us more to fix so that it could pass emissions than the car was worth. We wanted something electric for around town, but fuel-efficient to get Grandma's house (not too many quick- chargers yet on that stretch of road... hopefully soon!). 

This hybrid should be able to get us to Boise on less than half the gas it used to take. Taking fuel savings into account, it costs about as much as the last used car we bought. And we have solar panels, so the electricity we use to charge it won't create as much pollution as it would otherwise. We'll see in a month or two how much more we still need to draw from the power grid. Your guess is a good as mine! I'm just glad it isn't as bad for the air. 

(But anyway, coal has to account for more than like 2/3rds of electricity production in any given area for an electric car to be harder on the climate than a gas car. We're below that in Utah, and in my house in particular. And Utah's reliance on coal is decreasing all the time, so electric cars only get cleaner.) 

We were looking into the Hyundai Ioniq, wanting to take advantage of tax credits for EVs. But supply chains aren't great right now (as for lots of things). So this Ford on Carvana seemed like the best option we could find that fit our needs. If we get lucky and Congress passes a bill aimed at helping people buy used EVs, maybe we'll get a little kickback. 

The Energi plugs right into a regular wall socket and should charge easily there in about six hours. In our level 2 socket (which we had installed with our panels) it should only take two. 

One criticism of EVs I hear is that the mining required for batteries is so wasteful and bad for land and the people who have to do it. But we mine oil and gas (also not great humanitarian records) and burn it in our cars every day, putting that waste into our air and bodies. Once an EV battery is recycled (it can be done, it just hasn't been much yet), an EV accounts for 300% less mineral waste than a gas car. 

We will miss our old Camry, which is going to the junkyard. But we're excited for this new friend. And isn't the vending machine cool? 


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Beach memories


This week, 126,000 gallons of oil spilled from a broken pipe, creating a 13-square-mile oil slick off the coast of my favorite beaches-- places we loved to go when my kids were small.

Renewable energies like solar, wind and geothermal? They don't do this.

Over. And over, and over.

Of course there is an ecological cost to making any kind of energy, but renewables demand a smaller cost--mostly mining (which of course needs to be done responsibly) and waste, much of which can be recycled, and which enjoys years of use before it needs to be.

You can't recycle oil and gas. Once we mine that, fossil fuel waste ends up spilled into our water or burned into our air, where it hurts our bodies and warms the planet. And we're all using up gallons and gallons of it every single day.

I'll take clean beaches. I just hope they're still around for my grandkids.

So choose renewable whenever possible. And talk to your federal, state, and local representatives about your choices:

Sunday, October 03, 2021

All Creatures of our God and King

So twenty-three species were taken off the Endangered Species list this week, because they're extinct. 

These 23 include only US species that actually on list. How many species worldwide are extinct or near extinction is hard to pin down....Researchers estimate that the current rate of species loss varies between 100 and 10,000 times the historical "background" extinction rate. (Which is 1-5 species/year.)

If we could do something about this, wouldn't we want to? 

I think living things are generally worth keeping for their own sake. But they benefit humans, too. One way is of the chemotherapy drugs I was given comes from a random yew tree. Could one of these extinct 23 species also have saved millions of lives?

I'm often told by my representatives that they believe in "good stewardship of the earth." I would think that being a steward for God's earth might include facilitating a place where all His creations can flourish. Right now, because of habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change, that's not what we have. And stewardship seems preeeeetty far down on some of their lists of priorities. Sometimes it doesn't even make the cut...economic concerns are usually at the top. 

But a world that can't support its plants and animals will increasingly not support our economy, either. Or us, obviously. 

Call them, email them, tweet at them, text them...tell them *you* support good stewardship, clean air, clean water, wise development, whatever:

(Pictured: the ivory-billed woodpecker, picture taken in Louisiana, 1935. A big black-and-white bird with a long beak and a shocking red crest. Sort of like the pleated woodpecker, which is what moatly comes up when you do an image search of ivory-billed.)

Sources (there are lots, here are just a few):

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Air, Smoke, and Hearts


In the last couple of weeks, in my personal circles, I've  been told of four Utahans who have suffered cardiac events in the past 6 weeks. These events either put them in the hospital or ended their lives.

The young brother of a good friend.
A man in my mom's neighborhood.
A ward member of a work colleague.
A fellow member in an environmental organization.

These events occurred during a time period when we have had heightened--even extreme--air pollution in the Salt Lake Valley.

The 2020 study and report commissioned by the Utah legislature known as the Utah Road Map to Clean Air links heart disease (among many other ailments) to the kind of pollution we've been experiencing (see screen shots below).

While I don't have any way of knowing whether these particular people's cardiac problems were caused by the recent air quality, exascerbated by it, or unrelated to it, the number of people in my acquaintance experiencing this stuff lately makes me wonder if health agencies have also seen an uptick in these kinds of problems.

The World Health Organization reports 4.2 million yearly deaths worldwide due to air pollution-caused stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases. This is way more than other causes that get more attention, like war and natural disasters. We're no exception to those deaths here.

The smoke we've had lately from fires is due, in large part, to a warming planet. Air quality affects our health and our families. Climate change too.

If you want to call your reps and tell them how it affects you, this website has an easy way to do it and even gives you tips on what to say:


Friday, September 10, 2021

Climate stuff around town


My sustainability journal this week looks a little different:

*I got to eat tacos this week with 2022 Senate candidate for Utah Becky Edwards! As, basically, a single-issue voter these days, I went to a cottage meeting to see what her thoughts are about climate change. She won me over with a story about how she got the first red-state resolution on climate change passed in the Utah legislature, by meeting with dozens of senators opposed to the bill and working with them and with the bill until they could agree.

She strikes me as a practical, sensible, kind collaborator, and I would be proud to have her represent me. We need more sharp, energetic, experienced mom/grandmas sticking up for women and families in Congress! I'd vote for her in next year's primary even if she wasn't running against Mike Lee! ๐Ÿ˜‚ 

Becky's website:

*I took my family along to a screening of this film: 2040, a documentary exploring what the planet could look like in 20 years for our kids if we make positive changes now. It was uplifting, educational and sweet, starring lots of cute kids. It kept my teenagers' interest, as far as I can tell, haha. ("It was pretty good. You already told us most of that stuff, Mom.") 

The movie has four more screenings at BYU this weekend (I got a pic of the BYU Sustainability Office's "green" publicity table)

... and I think you can find it streaming online.  Check it out:

*I toured Provo Power's new community solar installation. Pretty soon, interested residents will be able to purchase blocks of clean energy, and it might even lower your bill. It's available to renters and transfers with you if you move to one of the included

communities (unlike rooftop solar). Cool, right? The program will be available in several cities:

*.....aaaand I signed up to speak at the Sept. 24 Fridays For Future protest in Salt Lake City๐Ÿ˜ฎ Hope to see some familiar faces there. Stay tuned for details, or check it out here:

Saturday, September 04, 2021

"Code Red for Humanity"

 Since I last did one of these posts a couple of weeks ago, our country has been slammed by several catastrophies (see screenshots). I was going to highlight other recent unprecedented disasters abroad--CRAZY flooding across Asia, wildfires in Greece, Russia, Italy, Turkey--but it got too overwhelming, tbh. 

This week I tuned in to the House Select Committee on Climate Change as it heard a review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released three weeks ago. Presenters were climate scientist reps from the US who helped compile the report, which amassed 14,000 studies from 65 countries to reach their conclusions, which reps from 195 member countries signed off on. (Can you imagine 195 countries agreeing on ANYTHING? The evidence must be pretty compelling, right?) 

Here were some basic takeaways for me:  

1) For the first time, the IPCC agrees that climate change is "indisputably" driven by human activities (this speaks to the IPCC's historical hesitancy to theorize beyond the reach of evidence, though this idea has been more than a theory for a long time) 

2) We're locked in to about 1.5C/2.7F degrees warming, definite sea level rise, and polar melting; 

3) But ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด๐˜€ ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ ๐˜€๐—น๐—ผ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฑ *๐—ถ๐—ณ* ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐˜„๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—น๐—ฑ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ๐˜‚๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ณ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜๐—น๐˜† ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ถ๐—บ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—น๐˜†, ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜-๐˜‡๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ผ ๐—ด๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐˜€ ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐—ฏ๐˜† ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿฑ๐Ÿฌ;

4) Frequency and intensity of natural disasters (like the ones pictures) will continue to increase as warming increases; 

5) The atmosphere responds immediately to emission reduction (as compared to ice and oceans, which are way slower); 

6) Meaning we *๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐˜€๐˜๐—ถ๐—น๐—น ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ๐˜‚๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ณ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—พ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐˜† ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ถ๐˜๐˜† ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ฒ๐˜…๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฒ ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐˜€* in our lifetime; 

7) Methane (natural gas, mostly from fossil fuels and agriculture) reduction in the atmosphere could especially help slow warming, and the tech exists to do so, fighting air pollution and climate change simultaneously. 

The upshot? As always, call/email/tweet those reps early and often, yo. Ask them what they think about the IPCC report and tell them we need action to reduce emissions: