NC Conservation Network Blog

NCCN blog changes directions

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Feb 10, 2010 11:08 PM
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When the NC Conservation Network launched our blog in the summer of 2003, we were among the first NC nonprofits to utilize this emerging tool. One of the big things we've learned over the years is that technology (and blogs in particular) are constantly changing. We've decided, in keeping with the times, to move our blog-related content solely to our Facebook feed. This allows us to get more information to you in a timely matter, further encourages your discussion, and helps build community — all in one place.

We do hope you'll continue to follow us via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ncconservationnetwork. You do not have to have a Facebook account to view our page — but, you do need a Facebook account if you would like to interact with our page.

Please note that our Facebook posts will still be about the issues, events, people, and news that affect North Carolina’s environment and public health (with some occasional “fun” posts thrown in there too). And, all of our current blog posts will remain on our website (http://www.ncconservationnetwork.org/mainblog) for archiving purposes.

If you have any comments about this change — well, you know the drill — you can post them on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ncconservationnetwork.

Thank you for your continued interest and engagement in protecting North Carolina’s air, water and quality of life.

Endangered Places in the Southeast

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Feb 05, 2010 10:03 PM
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The Southern Environmental Law Center recently released a report on the Top 10 Endangered Places for 2010 in the Southeast. On the list? 2 places in North Carolina: Cape Fear Wetlands and Catawba-Wateree Basin. Check out their website, complete with slideshow, details on each endangered place, and video on the subject.

Animals gone wild

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Feb 03, 2010 04:39 PM
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I was looking back over our last several blog posts and realized it's been awhile since we've posted something "for fun." And while I usually save the "fun" posts for Friday--I figured, what the heck. I'll live on the wild side.

Speaking of wild side, I thought it would be entertaining to post some remarkable videos of animals in the wild (I'm sure your cat and dog are cute, but I'm specifically thinking wild animals). I've embedded two videos below that I find really amazing. Feel free to add a link to your favorite animal video!

Bottlenose dolphins mud-ring feeding

 

 

The Orangutan and the Hound

Obama pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Jan 29, 2010 11:15 PM
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In an article released today directly from the White House website, President Obama pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

"President Barack Obama today announced that the Federal Government will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 28 percent by 2020. Reducing and reporting GHG pollution, as called for in Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability, will ensure that the Federal Government leads by example in building the clean energy economy. Actions taken under this Executive Order will spur clean energy investments that create new private-sector jobs, drive long-term savings, build local market capacity, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in clean energy industries."

The Huffington Post also mentioned it today and provides a good overall snapshot of the pledge if you'd rather not read the entire White House article.

Second warmest year on record

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Jan 28, 2010 11:26 PM

NASA recently released an article regarding temperature, weather, and global warming and cooling. The article, entitled, "2009: Second Warmest Year on Record; End of Warmest Decade", provides a rather detailed look at global warming trends due to several causes. From the article:

"'There’s always an interest in the annual temperature numbers and on a given year’s ranking, but usually that misses the point,' said James Hansen, the director of Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). 'There's substantial year-to-year variability of global temperature caused by the tropical El Niño-La Niña cycle. But when we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability, we find that global warming is continuing unabated.'"

While pretty technical, I found the article interesting; particularly the segment on "Decoding the Temperature Record."

"Climate scientists agree that rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap incoming heat near the surface of the Earth and are the key factors causing the rise in temperatures since 1880, but these gases are not the only factors that can impact global temperatures."

Three others key factors -- including changes in the sun’s irradiance, oscillations of sea surface temperature in the tropics, and changes in aerosol levels -- can also cause slight increases or decreases in the planet's temperature. Overall, the evidence suggests that these effects are not enough to account for the global warming observed since 1880."

You can also check out their Surface Temperature Analysis page to find (and customize in some instances) graphs and maps on temperature trends.

Offshore energy panel meets

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Jan 27, 2010 02:07 AM
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In lieu of today's first meeting of Governor Perdue's offshore energy panel, News14 has posted a poll, asking folks whether or not they support offshore drilling off the coast of North Carolina. Check it out and take the poll (scroll down on the page and it will be on the right next to the Features section). Wanted to share this since I took the poll and was interested in the results!

Nascar, Politics, and Bowl Games

by dan — last modified Jan 22, 2010 07:39 PM

When President Obama gives his upcoming State of the Union address we will hear those famous words uttered: "Ladies and Gentlemen: the President of the United States." After the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding campaign contribution limits, one has to wonder if in 3 years we will hear something slightly different: "Ladies and Gentlemen: the President of the United States presented by AT&T." As the new president enters the magnificent chamber of the Cheetos House of Representatives, filled with both House members and members of the Flomax US Senate, it may be a good time to pause and wonder where it all went wrong.

On Thursday the Supreme Court made a sweeping ruling regarding the treatment of corporations and limitations in campaign spending placed on them by numerous laws. [Note that you can download the entire ruling (Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm'n) from the Supreme Court website.] The Roberts Court, which pledged to follow precedent and decide only narrow issues of law to avoid so-called "judicial activism", went far beyond the narrow issue of the case in its ruling to make drastic changes to the law. The actual issue of the case involved part of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act that prohibited "electioneering communications" paid for by corporations or unions from being broadcast or transmitted 30 days before a presidential primary and 60 days before the general election. The case was brought by a conservative non-profit group Citizen's United, that wished to air a scathing documentary about Hillary Clinton on the eve of presidential primary elections. Their argument was that this provision allowed the Federal Election Commission to limit free speech.

Instead, the Court went back and reevaluated the entire treatment of corporate contributions in campaign finance. For decades there have been laws limiting the ways that corporations may participate in political campaigns. Essentially, the law allowed limits to be placed on personal contributions directly to a candidate, however, there is no limit on contributions that an individual makes on their own. Individuals are free to spend as much as they want in support of a given candidate so long as they purchase the airtime, ads, etc. themselves. This policy, however, did not extend to corporations, and laws routinely placed limits on the amounts and times when a corporation could spend to support a specific candidate. Thursday's ruling essentially breaks down the distinction between corporations and people for free speech purposes in campaign finance and election spending.

It appears a corporation could now spend whatever they want, whenever they want, in support of a specific candidate, so long as they do not give directly to the candidate. Justice Stevens, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor, read his dissent from the bench (a rarely exercised act used to express extreme displeasure in the Court's ruling.) He stated that the ruling was "profoundly misguided" and that "[t]he court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation." According to the NY times article, President Obama concurs as he:

"...called [the ruling] “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

This ruling could have a chilling affect on the environmental community given the fact that many of the opponents of environmental regulations are large corporations. Politicians will now not only fear they will not get corporate donations by supporting a certain issue, but will also fear that supporting an issue may result in a corporation spending millions to campaign against them during the next election. For the sake of knowing where we stand, I propose that politicians should be required to wear NASCAR jumpsuits and adorn their desks with the logos of those who paid to get them there. At least then we will all know who they really represent. When a Senator votes to allow drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge we can simply look at the giant Exxon emblem on their jacket and know who placed the vote. While the ultimate ramifications of this ruling remain to be seen, don't be surprised if we look back at this day with nostalgia as we do on New Year's Day now, when you look at your buddy and say "I remember back when the Peach Bowl was actually called the Peach Bowl and not the Chick Fil-A Bowl."

Massachusetts, climate, and change

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Jan 21, 2010 07:16 PM
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[The following blog post was cross-posted from our friend's 1Sky's blog where it was originally posted by Gillian Caldwell.]

Exactly 365 days after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, we in the climate movement certainly don’t seem to have hit our stride. In fact, that’s a bit of an understatement: the compromises of ACES, the slow pace in the Senate, and the disappointment of Copenhagen have left many activists and volunteers disillusioned and unsure about the best path forward.

And now, in a year when we hoped to start anew, we suffer yet another blow: the election last night of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat that Ted Kennedy held for over 35 years.

Losing a vote in favor of bold, comprehensive climate legislation and replacing it with a politician who has specifically stated his opposition to a comprehensive cap and trade program is bad. Even worse is the "conventional wisdom" that cap and trade simply isn’t popular enough to pass or that the Democratic Congress will be too gun shy to move forward any legislation that would actually benefit real people with real problems.

But before we all start investing in houseboat stocks and declaring the planet permanently doomed, I think it’s important to remember a few key facts about where we are and that, as a movement, we still have immense power and certain very powerful themes on our side.

First, it’s important to note that Brown has not always been consistently opposed to comprehensive climate solutions. In fact, he voted in favor of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as a Massachusetts state senator. He did attempt to disown that vote last fall when running in a Republican primary, but it shows that there is some possibility of dialogue.

More to the point, studies have shown a clean energy jobs bill could provide 38,000 new jobs in Massachusetts alone and 1.7 million nationwide. With America still mired in a recession and 10 percent unemployment, any senator should think twice about voting against a bill that creates jobs. That is especially true for a senator who will have an extremely tough reelection fight in 2012 and is representing a state overwhelmingly in favor of bold climate legislation.

Looking at the larger picture, we must remember that passing comprehensive climate legislation was always going to be a bipartisan endeavor. Unlike health care, the Administration’s top domestic issue, we were never going to impose complete party discipline on Senate Democrats. Republican votes are necessary to the passage of any climate bill. That means that the loss of one senator matters less for climate than it might for other issues -- even if that senator was the nominal 60th vote for the Democratic caucus.

Most important though, is not getting bogged down in the day-to-day vote-counting grind, but remembering some of the overarching themes that compelled voters towards certain politicians in the last few years of frustration and hope.

After all, Brown did not win yesterday’s election solely based on one small comment against climate legislation (or health care or any other number of specific issues). Rather, there are a number of intersecting reasons and themes that can account for his surprise victory. Among the biggest, I believe, is the fact that the Massachusetts electorate saw him as the candidate most likely to bring about change. For better or for worse, many voters in Massachusetts viewed him, like they viewed Barack Obama the previous year, as the politician most likely to shake up the status quo that they felt has done nothing to address their problems.

While it’s depressing on one level that a candidate who adopted a very anti-progressive platform could be temporarily seen as an agent of change, it’s also encouraging on another level for the environmental movement that this desperate need for change is still a dominant factor of American political life.

After all, the very heart of the clean energy reforms that 1Sky and other progressive groups are pushing are a change from the corrupting, failed status quo of Big Oil and Dirty Coal. Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans want clean air and water, a clean energy economy, and an end to the threat of climate change -- and that is what our push is all about.

The most important thing we can all do right now is remind our politicians of this basic fact: we need to be as loud as possible, as active as possible, and organize as much as possible. We need to flood their offices with calls to remind them that -- contrary to some media conjecturing about the state of a Senate climate bill -- millions of Americans still firmly support a transition to the clean energy economy and warding off a climate disaster.

Great news for our friends on the Catawba!

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Jan 20, 2010 10:42 PM
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From Carolina Newswire:

"Establishing significant reductions in the amount of water transferred out of the Catawba River during drought conditions has enabled the Protect the Catawba Coalition and Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Inc. to reach an agreement with the cities of Concord and Kannapolis to resolve the appeal of the Interbasin Transfer (IBT) granted Concord and Kannapolis by the State of North Carolina.

[...]

Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman approved of the settlement, stating “When coupled with the amendments that the North Carolina General Assembly made in the IBT law, this agreement will ensure the future protection of the Catawba River and its environment, while assuring adequate access to water by Catawba River basin residents and our neighbors."

Congrats to our friends at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation! For more information, check out this article.

A look into "green jobs"

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Jan 15, 2010 11:41 PM

These days, the term "green jobs" has become common rhetoric in the environmental community. And while the concept of "green jobs" may be easy to explain, how do they work? Where do they come from? How can we make new ones? Here is an article from our friends at 1Sky who give us a clearer picture of the green jobs landscape:

http://www.1sky.org/about/1sky-solutions/green-jobs

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As of February 10, 2010, the NCCN blog has moved solely to our Facebook page. Please check us out there!

The NC Conservation Network blog is about the issues, events, people, and news that affect North Carolina’s environment...

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