Thursday, November 04, 2010

Increase Green Efficiency: Improve Our National Security and Economy

November 2, 2010 election results reinforce that Americans are concerned most with our economy. However how we stimulate new goods and services is multi-trillion dollar question. I propose as we become more efficient we improve our economy.

The best definition of what green is efficiency minus subsidy. The challenge is that in the U.S we have subsidized many things that increase waste and prevents us from profiting from pollution prevention. Just look how we have addressed our national security challenge. Presently, conflicts over water, and other essential resources. Does our U.S. military act as peacekeepers? A majority of experts predict that if our government does not prepare for climate change we will have hell to pay for.

Several years ago a number of retired generals and security experts presented national-security study*. Using the military's risk-assessment practices, 11 retired generals and admirals issued a report* saying that climate change creates massive instability around the world.

"The impacts of climate change will be huge — deserts move north, coastal areas threatened, the dislocation of people," said retired Adm. T. Joseph Lopez, who commanded peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. "I'm a student of instability, and instability is the enemy.”

Is reducing military spending and waste a key to lessening our growing deficit? How we can promote more efficient green ways to stabilize? Let’s go beyond the debate of either “guns” or “butter” to renew our economy by finding news way of getting more using less. As we stopped subsidizing our huge military and trim this wasteful industrial complex then we will stimulate new forms of economic development. Can we champion this new green form goods and services that cultivate peace? Waste and inefficiency is a form of terrorism. Once we concentrate on ways we can become more secure and prosperity will follow creating new green efficient technologies and practices that arise.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Oh Shenandoah Please Enact A Good Rural Plan

Shenandoah County will benefit from good rural planning. Promoting rural prosperity will happen when we keep new housing near our towns; invest in land conservation; and strengthen our zoning ordinances.

New innovations can be explored once we see these as beginning economic development tools for our county. How we allow our land to be developed can be a win/win situation if we exercise wise best management practices. Otherwise irresponsible development will be passed on to us tax payers. One great example is who is going to be taking care of all the abandoned junk yards in our county? Who is going to clean these up? Citizen’s freedom to do things must be balanced by their responsibility to take care of those things they have.

The more we keep growth near our towns with joint comprehensive plans the cheaper it will be for us to provide public services and improved land use patterns. Already we our towns have invested in hundreds of millions in water and waste water and expansion into rural areas must be properly managed. Just look at our failing septic systems and other failed utilities to see that they do impact our county’s natural resources.

It is not question of “if” but “when” we will need agricultural land since food shortages will shortly be very evident. We need to develop a economic development program for our farms and fund the purchase of development rights (PDR).

Visit West Virginia if you wish to see what happens when you do not have zoning ordinances. Look at what is happening around Winchester. Updating our rural zoning by creating low density measures allowing in A-1 one lot per ten acres this county will benefit if it becomes law. Also one lot per 15 acres in C-1 zoning district will protect us from rapid sprawl. Also rewarding cluster development with “bonus” lots can reward our landowners so using the cluster option is imperative to keep our county rural.

Without integrated comprehensive planning increased Shenandoah County economic development comes into question. You can insure best management opportunities to promote future prosperity for Shenandoah County:

I urge you look at this county’s future from a big picture perspective. Just add together income gained from fisheries, agriculture, industry, and recreation and tourism this county currently enjoys. Supporting rural area plans are investment since document income from recreation and tourism and increased property values. However the most important investment is our county’s quality of life. If this get’s destroyed future generations will not get the same opportunities we have enjoyed. Ben Franklin was correct when he said, “I am not so concern on the return on my investment rather the return of my investment”

Government Waste: A Catch Word

Government waste is a common used phrase. However, even the many organization’s that are the watchdogs of this costly act have been unable to get to the root of the problem. We love create spend more instead of fully using what we have. Consume seems to be an economic mantra however, it all results in less if we do not show some thrift.

The government wastes money, resources and other precious things because there is an incentive to do so. We, Americans or better yet our Congress, has no reason to save since everyone wants more and more. Look at any area of government support- health care, defense, education, environmental protection, transportation, housing, foreign affairs, intelligence you see billions of dollars lost. The question is how we can create new commerce and prosperity without jeopardizing future generation's quality of life?

Now what incentives does our government give to be frugal or more conservative? You can search for performance based saving measures and you will find few or none. Just look at our national debt and you will see how it grows in trillions in several months.

The fact is that many special interests benefit from government over spending and waste. Watch the movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War” to see that Congress is an addict when it comes to fiscal restraint. Unfortunate like any addiction what will it take for American’s to understand we all pay more when we waste. However, the reality is that no one is going to seriously champion government towards more frugal ways since there are too many disincentives and special interests to result in such a change.

Unless Americans see the future connection if our government continues to waste they transfer this debt to the next generations to pay latter at higher cost. This country will not fully prosper until we have a revolution about how we conduct business. As we evolve to better management practices we also will find a increased sense of well being. Cleaning house is what is "eco" is all about becoming lean and helping to discover the really meaning of "green."

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Washington DC Area Oil Spill

For over thirty years I have been active preventing oil spills. These come from do-it-yourself motorist. Our country’s worst environmental accident proves that we do not value prevention. Lessening human error and having back-up plans is critical to our very future.

Years ago there was a Pogo cartoon with a picture of an oil tanker in a backyard, and the caption read, “We have met the enemy and it is us.” At George Washington University in 1977 one of my environmental science text books alerted me to oil polluting my local watershed of Little Falls in Bethesda, Maryland that runs into one of the drinking water reservoirs for the nation’s capital. Since then I have promoted the recovery of do-it-yourself automotive fluids from every possible angle. I began this effort in Montgomery County, Maryland and started DC’s used oil recycling efforts. I even helped build the region’s largest used oil recycling facility and recently worked on updating Virginia’s used oil collection program that I have championed for many years.

I have come to the conclusion that we, in America, can better use and conserve our oil. Each year we use 240 billion gallons of the world’s petroleum supplies. We spend more than $200,000 every minute overseas in our yearly consumption of over 7 billion barrels of oil products. Since the USA constitutes 4% of the world’s population, uses over 25 % of the world’s oil, and produces 22% of climate-altering CO2, we have a tremendous opportunity to best save our oil.

On the front end, there is the one trillion gallons of oilfield waste we inject into deep wells in addition to the 3 billion tons of oil and gas wastes we generate yearly by our oil and gas exploration and production in the USA. On the back end, we waste 400 million gallons of used oil and 500 plus million oil filters are lost yearly in the United States. The current sampling method to evaluate the toxicity of oil, Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) is not the best test since it was designed for municipal landfills. I ask you to simply reflect on the fact that one gallon of used oil improperly disposed can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water or ruin the water supply for 50 people for a year.

Closer to home, in the last four years, Washington DC area motorists disposed of 11.2 million gallons of oil. The improper disposal of used oil, oil filters, and antifreeze by those who perform their own automobile maintenance is a ubiquitous environmental concern. Three to 4.5 million gallons of used oil, 4.7 to 5.9 million oil filters, and approximately one million gallons of antifreeze were "lost" in our environment. Washingtonians who change their own oil and antifreeze account for roughly 45% of those owning passenger cars, and only 15-30% of these materials are believed to be recovered. Even the disposal of discarded oil filters and plastic containers reveals a residual amount of oil whose sheer volume is alarming.

Each year, the United States generates approximately 1.351 billion gallons of used oil; only 57 percent of this used oil is accounted for through recycling. The roughly 45 million people who change their own oil, the so-called do-it-yourselfers (DIYs), are a major source of improperly disposed used oil. It is estimated that between 193 to 400 million gallons of used oil are released into the environment each year in this manner. This is not taking into account the loss of home heating oil from old tanks at peoples’ homes.

There are other harmful household chemicals. Each year according to EPA, Americans generate 1.6 million tons of hazardous household waste (HHW) including, paints, cleaners, batteries, and pesticides that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable and reactive ingredients. Also there are many small businesses and farms generating less than 100 pounds per year of harmful materials that are Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQG). There is limited information on how many tons of these materials impact our health and natural resources. Presently it is believed that a small percent of this toxic material is recovered, and the cost to do so can be expensive. Improper disposal of this non-point pollution threatens public health and the environment in many ways that must awaken us to this real terror in our homes.

Clearly we can prevent much pollution if we design our products to minimize waste. Today we use close to a billion light-duty oil filters sold in the United States. The average used light-duty oil filter contained on average six to eight ounces of oil, but this amount may be higher since American vehicles are much larger now. One innovative approach would be to promote reusable oil filters that are compatible with engines that use the one-piece sealed spin-on filter. No modifications or tools are required to install these filters on any engine that uses a spin-on filter, and they allow for the recovery of all used motor oil. The assembly housing is reused; only the paper element is replaced, and this can be easily recycled or burned for energy. Widespread adoption of these reusable filter systems would virtually eliminate used oil being trapped in filters and prevent steel filters entering landfills. If produced in volume, this filter could be manufactured for under a dollar. At the point of final sale, the filter would cost somewhat less than the current spin-on filter. Reusable filters were popular up to the early 1960s and are still widely used in the racing industry.

As a huge plume of oil now threatens both the gulf and possibly our East Coast can we make wiser use of our rapidly depleting non-renewable petroleum supplies? We, Americans, are oil addicts and it is time we go into a recovery program. We must make our "oil can" mightier than the sword and as a nation embrace thrifty management of our black gold.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Gulf Spill: A Rude Crude Awakening

The recent Gulf oil spill is a rude awakening to humans regarding the price and risk of energy exploration. With now an estimated 23 to 47 million barrels of oil draining into the gulf region we are seeing tremendous alarm why we need to reexamine our American energy policies.

The tragic costs of this accident will be accounted for in years. This includes the lost of marine life, devastated wetlands and economic impacts to the Southeast. Oil extraction results in the destruction or alteration of wildlife habitats, erosion, sedimentation, pollutant loading of groundwater and surface water from product and/or waste leaks and spills, groundwater contamination from communication between production or waste injection zones and underground sources of drinking water, release of hydrocarbons and hydrogen sulfide to the atmosphere, and decreased soil productivity from land spreading and/or releases of reserve/mud pit contents. While oil and gas professionals have developed practices that have reduced the generation of waste to avoid such environmental catastrophes. Also there has been improved economics of drilling and production operations leading to safer operations.

In the United States alone, more than 2 million wells have been drilled in the search for oil and gas since the first few successful wells in the mid 1800s. Of these wells (averaging about 1000 meters in depth but ranging to as much as 8000 meters), only about 1 exploratory well in 10 has found oil in sufficient quantities to justify production; and 1 in 50 has found enough oil to repay its total costs. Increased shortages will force new searches for oil and gas into more remote and hostile environments. Some drilling may not be offset by profits reaped by actual oil and gas discovery. The difficulty of finding oil and gas now is finding it in pores of rocks as a mixture of oil, salty water, and natural gas. The oil clings tightly to the pores of the rock to resist even the most elaborate schemes to get it out.

The cause and effect how we use oil in American reveals both triumph and tragedy. Petroleum has been both a blessing and a curse for America. We comprise less than 5 percent of the world's population, but consume 25 percent of all oil produced or about 20 million barrels or 840 million gallons. Since 1751 when the Industrial Revolution began we used the amount of fossil fuels burned that is equivalent to all plant growth on Earth for the last 13,300 years. We use this black gold there's no end to the stuff, though experts estimate we've got 50-100 years' supply left at current consumption rates.

The world is currently consuming oil at the rate of 30.2 billion barrels per year. Based on the forecasts 50 to 100 years forecast is our global supply. We, Americans consume about 20.6 million barrels of petroleum per day (7.5 billion barrels per year). Currently, about 70% of the petroleum we consume is used for transportation. Light duty vehicles and freight trucks take the largest share while aircraft take less. However, from the standpoint of fuel efficiency, aircraft are the least efficient while light duty vehicles are the most efficient. However, overall fuel consumption increasing by almost 7 million barrels per day with only slight changes in the distribution of use.

The advancement of electric cars and hybrids will significantly effect on petroleum consumption. All-electric vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries can help most to reduce oil consumption, because only 2% of our electricity is generated from oil. Also, there may be some technology improvements in diesel-powered freight trucks,

Even if we drill up north at full production in 2020 or beyond, proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is estimated to produce 800,000 barrels of oil daily, 0.7 percent of global production. Estimates of undiscovered oil, has been estimated by experts to amount to 39.1 billion barrels including reserves in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf, the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the restricted areas of the Lower 48 States. At our present rate of consumption, these reserves would supply our needs for a little over 5 years.

In the U.S. is a good example of what is going to happen to many others in the world. We are currently depending on other countries to supply us with 66% of the oil we need. It is believed we have passed our peak of oil production in 1970’s or 80’s. Presently our petroleum comes from: USA Petroleum Production-34%; Petroleum Imports from OPEC-27%; Non-OPEC Petroleum Imports-39% (Canada, Mexico, Russia, etc.)

Just from the American do-it-yourself consumer, we waste 400 million gallons of used oil and 500 plus million oil filters are lost yearly in the United States (each containing around seven ounces of oil). The current sampling method to evaluate the toxicity of oil, Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) is not the best test since it was designed for municipal landfills. I ask you to simply reflect on the fact that one gallon of used oil improperly disposed can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water or ruin the water supply for 50 people for a year.

There is a price for using oil besides impacting climate change. Exploration, development, production, product treatment, and waste management activities associated with oil and gas production projects can have a variety of impacts on the environment. There is the one trillion gallons of oilfield waste we inject into deep wells in addition to the 3 billion tons of oil and gas wastes we generate yearly by our oil and gas exploration and production in the USA.

For over a century Americans have greatly benefited from oil. Now the question is how we find energy alternatives as we deplete our dwindling oil resources. Also how we make this transition have enormous benefits for our prosperity. The future holds what complexity, expense, and the environmental impact of increased exploratory drilling will result. We will greatly profit from preventing such future pollution. As Americans increasingly learn the full cost of this Gulf spill so must we explore new ways to conserve and preserve this fragile place where we live.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pedaling to Make Bethesda Greener

Did you know May is National Bike Month? People will celebrate it with various activities around the nation, including Bike-to-Work Week from May 17-21. Bike-to-Work Day will take place Friday, May 21. (That morning, get breakfast, tune-ups and prizes at the Bethesda pit stop)

Living in Bethesda for over 40 years, I have become an avid cyclist. There is no better way to get around. It is quicker and cheaper, has no parking problems and I enjoy the exercise. Also there are lots of other psychological benefits: I get to slow down, get a feel of the community and lessen my environmental impact. As an expert in used oil recycling, I also believe in another type of “re-cycling”; this is why biking is my thing. Also I have documents showing the numerous water impacts cars have on the Little Falls and other area watersheds.

According to WorldWatch Institute, a short, four-mile round-trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air. Also the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey found that 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle. Sixty percent of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively. Since “cold starts” create high levels of emissions, shorter car trips are more polluting on a per-mile basis than longer trips. (Learn more about why you should ride for the environment.)

Commuting by bike reflects the tenor of the times because of its health benefits and low environmental impact. Biking to work or using a bike to run errands prevents pollution, saves you gas or transit money, and benefits us all by reducing oil and gas use. Biking also can be less stressful than hanging out in area traffic. Riding a bike can give you fresh air outside the gym and allow you to see more of the outside world. Also you may consider taking a bike to the subway or to the bus stop.

There are many wonderful ways you can explore neighborhoods and get a sense of our beloved Bethesda community pedaling around. Increase everyone’s quality of life here: Bicycle as much as you can!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green Spaces Provide Great Economic Potential

This is a guest column thanks to Jack Lundee - "Taking a more progressive green approach."

Some of the more heavily discussed topics of early 2010 include obesity, green infrastructure, clean water, and more. In particular, the addition and/or substitution of green spaces have been quite controversial as of late. Senior resident of Urban Land Institute Ed T. McMahon states "Green space adds value to property." Not only would these areas of conservation drive economic trends upward, but they also improve the overall health of the surrounding community. For example, substituting things like golf courses with conservation areas would essentially increase surrounding property value while diminishing overpriced maintenance fees. The same holds true for airports and other large acre-eating developments.

Some of these areas are already abandoned or unkempt. For instance, park and recreational areas that were once highly visited have become urban wastelands. In an article from the Salt Lake Tribute, Lindsay Whitehurst discusses how an area that was capped with tennis courts to replace an old reservoir had been empty for some time now. She further explains how the University of Utah received a loan to fill the old reservoir and turn the land into a conservation area. Bob Sperling, manager of the water design team for Salt Lake City public utilities, infers high costs when he mentions challenging structural design. Aside from this, safety was a tremendous issue which was later justified when a large piece of slate gave way. It wasn't soon thereafter that it was noticed by Sperling during a routine inspection.

Much larger metropolitan areas are also playing their role in promoting sustainability by implementing many Green Spaces within the city. In Meg Muckenhoupt's new book Boston's Gardens & Green Spaces, she discusses different green space within the city of Boston. With very low cost maintenance fees and little liability, these areas are perfect for protecting our wildlife and the environment. They also attract further tourism; which would in turn generate revenue from ticket/tour sales.

This aligns with the implications of "economic viability" and long term sustainability, posing the question, "Would the substitution of golf courses and airports in the short term lead to an abrupt economic downfall? It's true that this type of architecture provides undoubtedly high revenue. On the contrary, they both come with ridiculously high expenses and maintenance. Incorporating various elements of green architecture implies things like green roofing, which could in turn drive down electrical/gas costs dramatically.

Larger organizations are already taking a step in the right direction in Haiti. Brainchild behind the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative), Doug Band, has been working closely with organizations like AFH (Architecture for Humanity) to discuss potential means of green restoration. Combined with the additional efforts of many large collaborative units like the USGBC (United States Green Building Council), AFH hopes to shed some light on a terrible situation.

Recent findings have driven people like McMahon and fellow conservationists to investigate further into upgrading and expanding green infrastructure efforts. As earth day 2010 slowly approaches, it's important that we as individuals follow and support these ventures. It's equally important that we adapt greener disciplines to support both our planet and our economy.

Jack Lundee - "Taking a more progressive green approach."

Saturday, April 03, 2010

America's First Composter, George Washington

A knowing farmer, who, Midas like, can convert
everything he touches into manure,
as the first transmutation towards gold.

For 45 years George Washington was the master of Mount Vernon, and he viewed his occupation as farmer very seriously. Beginning as a tobacco planter like his father and older brother before him, Washington devoted himself to producing bounteous crops of the weed for export to England. He realized early on, however, that this plant was ruinous to the fertility of his soil. Therefore, he soon stopped growing tobacco and took up the cultivation of wheat as his primary money maker, complemented by corn and a variety of lesser crops aimed at sustaining his family and slaves. The quest to improve his yields led Washington to explore a wide range of agricultural experiments, including composting as a means of restoring soil nutrients.

In 1794 Washington sadly noted in his diary that, "Unless some practice prevails, my fields will be growing worse every year, until the crops will not defray the expense of the culture of them." Unfortunately for his successors who attempted to farm Mount Vernon after the death of the great man in 1799, this gloomy prediction was all too true. For Mount Vernon's soils were simply too poor to be a good producer no matter what innovative measures were employed. Thin topsoil overlying a dense, impermeable clay foundation was the main culprit, exacerbated by severe erosion caused by the poor practices of the day.

Washington never gave up the challenge to improve his soils, however, and he undertook numerous experiments to find the best form of fertilizer. He subscribed to John Spurrier's The Practical Farmer, which advocated the wise use of agricultural by-products and adding organic matter to improve the soil. Washington revealed an experiment in composting in his diary on April 14, 1760, when he "Mixed my compost in box" with different types in the various apartments. He planted the same number of seeds in each compartment and systematically recorded the results. After many trials, Washington applied manure, river and creek mud, fish heads, and plaster of paris to his fields with some success.

As evidence of George Washington's devotion to composting, he erected a highly unusual building specifically designed to compost "manure" and to facilitate its "curing" into usable fertilizer. Mount Vernon archaeologists have excavated the site of this building, called the "dung repository" or the "stercorary", to gain more insight into Washington's farming activities and to provide the information necessary to reconstruct this interesting structure.
Washington's typically detailed directions for constructing the repository provide several important clues to building details. In a letter to his farm manager in May 1787 he lectured:

When you go about the repository for the compost ... if the bottom should not be of good clay, put the clay there and ram it well before you pave it, to prevent the liquid manure from sinking, and thereby being lost.

*This was co-written with Dennis Pogue,

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Home Sick or Solastalgia?

I have been curious why at times I feel anxious, unsettled, despairing, and depressed. In the course of my life I have observed much disconnection, distraction and denial of what we are doing to our planet. Glenn Albrecht has a name for psychological condition.

In a 2004 essay, he coined a term to describe it: “solastalgia,” a combination of the Latin word solacium (comfort) and the Greek root –algia (pain), which he defined as “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home...’

In September, the British trip-hop duo Zero 7 released an instrumental track titled “Solastalgia,” and in 2008 Jukeen, a Slovenian recording artist, used the word as an album title. “Solastalgia” has been used to describe the experiences of Canadian Inuit communities coping with the effects of rising temperatures; Ghanaian subsistence farmers faced with changes in rainfall patterns; and refugees returning to New Orleans after Katrina. 1

Yes, our mind and the health are connected to this earth. So to feel such pain is a normal reaction if we are sensitive to what is happening regarding to our present degradation. From an eco-psychological perspective being numb, overwhelmed or powerless reflects humanity’s current divorced relationship as we diminish our natural eco-systems.

Such mental suffering forces many to explore our collective unconscious so to see how we can best adapt to this tremendous eco-adversity. One course of action is to lessen our consumption and ecological footprint to battle becoming so despondent. Another form of restorative therapy is seeking refuge by going into the woods or other natural surrounding.

Thomas Doherty, a leading ecosychologist as developed a model that which equates mental health with the impulse to “promote connection with nature.” This profound ecological minds-state is one model developed for the American Psychological Association Climate-change Task Force.

As we develop greater consciousness and explore our shadows an organic unification happens. However, difficult or painful such introspection is required to better ourselves and this world. When we separate ourselves from our world, we disconnect from our eco-soul or our earth spirit. Our whole is greater than the sum of many broken parts. Anyway we improve our sense of interconnectedness healing happens. I challenge you to question how or if you are connected to this world? A profound process will follow if you have to courage to venture forth. Otherwise you may become lost in the unconscious violence destroying our larger body's fight to survive.

1 Daniel Smith, “Is There an Ecological Unconscious?” New York Times, 1/27/10

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Put Out Our Global Blaze

If your house started to catch fire, what would you do? Well our Earth is catching fire, and many humans are sleeping through the beginning flames. The world’s future is interdependent on our ability to foresee and forestall this global blaze.

Never in human history have we been faced with such a menacing wildfire. Are we, the human species, going to become burn victims? Are we on the verge of bringing on the sixth great Earth extinction event? Reflecting on the fact that ninety-nine percent of the species that have ever lived on this planet are extinct, you may hear your smoke detector start to scream. Can you feel it getting hotter?

Yes there is truth what Smokey the Bear used to say, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Fires caused by humans are usually the result of carelessness and ignorance. A critical mass of people who are asleep act as small sparks igniting flames throughout our collective home. In order to survive, we must change our mind-set of “independence” into a new “Declaration of Interdependence.” We can’t put out large fires on our own; it requires a group effort.

This ticking time bomb also comports an explosion of human consciousness that is critical for our survival. The facts are clear: the human species is both an endangered and endangering force on this fragile planet. Our exponential consumption of fossil fuels, which took millions of years to form, is being almost thoroughly depleted in just over century. These same fuels are, ironically, capable of quickly transforming civilization into future fossils.

Death of our biosphere and the shutting down of our ecological systems is clearly being documented, and the rates of this destruction are escalating. Every day scientific reports and data reinforce the evidence.

Correspondingly we are witnessing similar collapses in our financial, political, social and psychological systems. For example, the levels of anxiety, stress and mental illness are at their highest recorded levels ever. Other symptoms of social breakdown are everywhere. Just looking at how our leaders have addressed climate change provides ample evidence that any sane individual must do something to remedy things within his or her means, or else one becomes an accessory to the present collective human insanity.

There is a wealth of potential solutions and ways that can contribute to the aversion of destruction. Conservation of our available energy is one key solution. This is the fastest, cheapest and most effective way to reduce carbon emissions: avoid energy loss in the first place. Mindful frugal energy use can have a tremendous effect and create momentum that will quickly diminish the present disaster scenario.

Increased efficiencies in energy use and conservation are bountiful. For example, better light technologies such as compact fluorescents and light emitting diodes (LEDs) can lessen by 25 percent electrical use that lighting taps from our power grid. The list of technologies, both existing and emerging, and innovations are as endless as the magic of human ingenuity and imagination.

Each one us can light a candle to possibility, rather than do nothing and burn our neighborhood down. The creativity, spiritual, artistic, and cultural potential of each of us can help to dampen these climate fires. According to scientists, we have roughly five years to develop the necessary preventative measures to save this planet. We cannot afford to wait.

Each of us must question how we can lessen our global fires. The sooner we get to the flames, the less damage this global blaze will have. As the fire smolders or blazes, we must understand that it is the emissions or smoke that kills first.

As good neighbors we each act as fire fighters, handing along buckets of water in a line to cool down our rapidly overheating planet rather than continue to add to the flames. Only we can prevent global fires.