Monday, April 27, 2009

A good story

Here's a BBC story about a family in England that did a year-long experiment in cutting their carbon footprint. Give yourself half an hour to watch this inspiring tale - you might want to give up your car, go vegan, and eschew future flying vacations. Not? Well, even half measures are better than none. Give it a look. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

100 months

I recommend reading about this European initiative that Guy brought to my attention. In February I posted a quote from Prince Charles in which he referred to this figure. We are now down to 92 months, or about 7.5 years.


We calculate that 100 months from 1 August 2008, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will begin to exceed a point whereby it is no longer likely we will be able to avert potentially irreversible climate change. 'Likely' in this context refers to the definition of risk used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to mean that, at that particular level of greenhouse gas concentration, there is only a 66 - 90 per cent chance of global average surface temperatures stabilising at 2o Celsius above pre-industrial levels.1 Once this concentration is exceeded, it becomes more and more likely that we will overshoot a 2o C level of warming. This is the maximum acceptable level of temperature rise agreed by the European Union and others as necessary to retain reasonable confidence of preventing uncontrollable and ultimately catastrophic warming. We also believe this calculation to be conservative. The reasons why and the assumptions behind our conclusion are detailed below. "

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The other side of the tracks

Some miles after I left Tuscaloosa I began to feel some hostility toward me and my motor home. I'd put up a sign in the window saying "WAKE UP to the CLIMATE EMERGENCY" and I saw people driving up to my vehicle, when it was parked, to check the sign. Unfortunately I never had the chance to ask people what they were thinking, but it didn't seem friendly.

In the Birmingham area I spent the first two days in a poor southwest section of town, and described some of my observations in the entries from those days. Then I crossed into the northeast section of the city, a beautiful place with many wealthy neighborhoods and gorgeous homes. The businesses were much more interesting and attractive.

As I walked north into the rural area, I realized I was in a more settled and economically viable farm country. 
A few days earlier I'd heard on NPR that Alabama farmers were up in arms due to a rumor that the EPA plans to charge a head tax on cattle because of the methane. I wondered if the hostility I was sensing came from that connection of global warming and taxes. If they read my flier they would see that climate change activists support small farms and recommend shopping and eating local. 
Not everyone is a farmer; in fact most of the rural dwellers probably commute into town, causing traffic congestion 15 and 20 miles out of town, near the interstate exits. 

I continued to feel hostility toward me and for the first time I was asked to leave one shopping center where I wanted to park for the night, and was also rejected at a gas station. One police officer, from whom I requested information on parking in the village, did not return my greeting when I said "Good morning," and treated me with utter condescension. That day as I walked in the beautiful countryside I felt a Joyce Carol Oates edge, as if at any moment reality could take a twist for the worse. 

On April 15th there was a lot of talk on radio about tea parties and the signs below seemed to capture the worst attitudes of the far right. 

The truth is that I am safe and sound, and that entering the little library in the town of Springville was like a breath of fresh air. I learned that people couldn't remember the last time they had their heaters on so late in the year, and that the other librarian didn't come in early because she was caring for three baby goats born overnight. One woman told me that she and her husband moved up from the Alabama Gulf Coast after damage to their business and home from nine hurricanes, culminating in Ivan, convinced them to leave. "But the coast is very beautiful and most people, including my parents, stay and rebuild," she said. 

I'm leaving tomorrow for two weeks back in Bethlehem, but I will be back in early May to continue the Climate Walk.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Highway 11 approaching Birmingham

Yesterday I walked through Bessemer and Midfield, the suburbs just southwest of Birmingham. Highway 11 spreads out into a handsome four lane boulevard with a grassy median, making me think that once upon a time it made the citizens of the city proud. Now however it's been abandoned to the folks that have a hard time making ends meet. All the photos below were taken in one mall, less than 100 feet from each other.

I walked many miles of this road, encountering few other walkers and just a handful of people waiting for the bus, which comes, one rider told me, once every hour and 20 minutes. I saw people shopping in little convenience stores, picking up their children from daycare, enjoying burgers, chicken and biscuits at fast food joints. I saw endless numbers of closed shops and abandoned homes. Folks greeted me in a friendly manner and I never felt threatened, even when walking in what could be termed as 'wastelands.' But I felt a mounting outrage as today I continued to walk into Birmingham with no relief from the decay and blight. 

(Continued below)

Signs of hope

     "The Southeast's Largest Black Weekly"

I saw bright spots along the way, signs that people keep their hope and their pride even through bad times.

How will climate change affect the people who live in this area where I've been walking? The heat will devastate many, food will become more scarce and expensive, clean water might become less available, violence may escalate. Already the economic crisis has crashed down hard on the poor, and, of course, this part of Alabama is just one of the many thousands of communities around the world that have no resources but their own determination and hope to face the coming climate crisis. 

I imagine using the wealth and human power of our nation that is currently going into war efforts to battle instead the poverty and blight where so many Americans live. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Looking back on a cold day

I'm hibernating, actually sitting out this cold snap in the library of Tuscaloosa where I've returned for a few hours because the cold wind discouraged me from walking. Maybe this afternoon I'll walk a few miles.

I want to celebrate some of the things I've enjoyed in the last month. First of all, I want to thank all the wonderful people who've offered me their hospitality, starting with Dora, Jamie and Nina in McNeill, MS, who I mentioned in the blog at that time. A few days after my stay with them I drove over to Magee (Maghee), MS, to visit Green Party members William and Lynn. They gave me space for my van, an electrical hookup, dinner and conversation. That was on Tuesday, the night before a tornado devastated Magee. William writes, I'm happy to report, that they and their dogs were not affected by the storm even though it passed by so close, on the other side of town.

This weekend I was treated to wonderful hospitality be several Unitarian Universalists in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. For the first time people joined my WALK, going four miles with me through Tuscaloosa. I've added a new category to the Support page on my website for Co- Walkers.  

I have to celebrate this sidewalk in Livingston, AL. It followed Highway 11 right out of town for almost three miles! Later I was told that the sidewalks of Livingston were in the Guiness Book of Records at one time. 

I've been looking for signs of economic activity in rural Mississippi and Alabama. In addition to cattle, goat and horse farms, and the replanting of forests, I hadn't seen much else that I recognized , but this week I admired the fine pecan orchard above and noticed this ranch with two oil pumps (one white and one black on either side of the tower). It surprises me that I don't see more farming of food and other agricultural products. Maybe it's too early in the Spring.

If you haven't seen it already, check out the article in the Tuscaloosa News about my walk.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

First media coverage of Climate Walk

I just discovered that the Picayune Item, a small daily newspaper in Picayune, Mississippi, printed an article about my WALK on Saturday, March 21. The interview was on Monday of that week and I had looked for it on Tuesday and Wednesday. By Saturday I had moved out of their circulation area and assumed that they'd decided not to run the story. I think Ginger Schmidt, the reporter, did a good job and I'm very pleased. Here's the link:

Hopefully tomorrow The Tuscaloosa News will print an article with photographs. A young reporter sought me out along the road and interviewed me while we sat in the gypsy wagon. Two photographers caught up with us and took some photos in the van and a few of me walking along the Highway 11.

Much more than my personal pleasure in these articles is my satisfaction that they bring attention to the Climate Change Crisis. I'm hoping that the WALK will get more and more media coverage. If the human interest angle serves the purpose of getting people to pay attention to the issues my goal will be achieved.