Archive for January, 2013

El Chupacabra first told you about Promised Land.  Over Christmas break I saw it on opening day in New York City.

Prior to seeing the film, reading articles in Politico on how the natural gas industry was hating Matt Damon for making the film made me want to see it even more (but really, do they like anyone that says anything against them? They’re so sensitive). The film takes place in a small-town farming community in Iowa.  The town is approached by a 9 billion dollar natural gas drilling (aka hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking) company to which Matt Damon is the lead salesman.  Kind of like when Matt was an apples salesmen:

My thought on the film, in one sentence – I was left wanting more.  Don’t get me wrong, I am glad the issue of our nation’s energy received some high profile Hollywood attention (sometimes Al Gore just doesn’t cut it) and made it out in theaters nationwide.  However, I could have seen less Hollywood cheese – romcom, the guy trying to get the girl stuff.

My other criticism of the film was the explanation of fracking – as if it was an agriculture magic trick from a bad street magician.  There was no real explanation of the issues or current concerns that communities are having with fracking (drinking water and air quality are among the top concerns).  I have not come across any agriculture fracking concerns, maybe this was supposed to be a symbolic issue or maybe these communities don’t have enough clout to voice their concerns.  I would have liked to have seen the components involved in fracking depicted in the film – the water and chemicals shipped in, the waste byproducts, and the real concerns that could pose a threat to nearby residents.  Having an accurate picture of the processes involved in fracking educates the public viewers – not some school demonstration by the environmentalist pouring chemicals on farmland then setting it on fire.

Again – I couldn’t be happier that the issue and the potential hazards were brought to light on the national screen and had A-list actors, I just would have appreciated some more accuracy on the issue minus a Jlo romcom scenerio.  If you saw it and have other thoughts, please let me know!  I will be traveling to Australia for the next 10 days and will report back on how they do things down under.

Have a great week.  Cheers.

Read Full Post »

While 2012 was the year of Hurricane Sandy and the supposed “end of the world” as per our Mayan ancestors, it was a great year for sustainable transport.  When I say sustainable transport, I’m not referring to electric cars (although the Tesla from El Chupacabra’s post is pretty awesome) but rather more sustainable/efficient/environmentally friendly means of moving people, especially with in metropolitan areas.  This includes buses, subways, street cars/trollies, monorails, car sharing systems, and the oldest of them all…bicycles.  In 2012, there were countless mass transit systems that began operating all over the world, from Mexico City to Rio de Janeiro, to Washington DC.  I’d like to highlight a few that particularly stood out to me, and give a heads-up for what to expect in the year to come.

Mexico City’s MetroBus Line 4 BRT (photo credit: Protoplasmakid)

In April of 2012, Mexico City finished construction and began operating its MetroBus Line 4.  MetroBus is Mexico City’s BRT system, which moves over 700,000 people every day.  What is a BRT you ask?  BRT stands for Bus Rapid Transit.  Think of it as a subway above ground on wheels.  The busses get priority lanes so they can by-pass traffic, the stations are usually at level with the bus floor and require prepayment, so that boarding and de-boarding at stations occurs much like a subway rather than a traditional bus, and the bus corridors usually cover larger distances, acting as a major transit line through the city.  MetroBus got it’s first corridor online in 2005, and has since grown te system to 4 distinct lines covering a distance of nearly 100km (about 60 miles.)  Besides adding another route to an already very popular system, Line 4 provides access to the airport, and also traverses it’s historic downtown.  Look for MetroBus to get another line up and running sometime this year.

Rio de Janeiro's Transoeste BRT (photo credit: Aaron Minnick)

Rio de Janeiro’s Transoeste BRT (photo credit: Aaron Minnick)

Rio de Janeiro also got on the BRT bandwagon and opened operations on its first corridor in June.  In preparation for the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio is building a brand new BRT system, which will include 4 corridors that will cover a total of 95 miles when all is said and done.  This will nearly doubles the miles of BRR in Latin America, and provide cariocas with an integrated transport system that connects all areas of the city together.  The Transoeste corridor made big news when it was inaugurated during the Rio+20 summit, getting the attention of celebrities like Mayor Bloomberg (maybe NYC will follow suit?)  In the next few years, if you visit Rio de Janeiro, expect to have an amazing selection of transit modes to choose from, from its popular bike-share system, to subway, to a fleet of BRT.

Washington DC’s Capital Bikeshare (photo credit: Kaid Benfield’s Blog on NRDC Switchboard)

Now if you’ve visited or lived in Washington DC in the last two years, I’m sure you caught sight of a bright red bicycle riding around and neat little stations all over.  Those bikes would be Capital Bikeshare (CaBi), DC’s baby bikeshare system that’s showing the world that the US can do bikeshare too.  Bikesharing is a pretty simple concept.  You pay for a memebership, you find a bike, you rent the bike for a period of time, and then return it to another station.  The idea is to provide people with an alternative to owning their own bike, or to give cyclists an option to ride one way, then take another mode of transportation back (think sunny morning but rainy afternoon commute.)  CaBi was debuted in September 2010, with 400 bicycles and 49 stations.  The system was so successful that by its one-year anniversary, CaBi had reached 1 million trips.  Last year, the CaBi system grew exponentially, reaching nearly 200 stations and over 1700 bicycles.

CaBi is an amazing success story for bikesharing in the US.  Overt he winter, CaBi is planning a whole bunch of new stations (54 to be exact) and expects ridership to increase.  Now that bikeshare is a hit in DC, other major metropolitan areas will be following close behind.  2013 will see the launch of the New York City Bikeshare system, as well as the Chicago system.

All of these different transportation modes provide city dwellers with multiple options to move around their metropolis.  Now that more than 50% of the world population lives in urban areas (and this number is expected to keep rising) providing good mass transit and active transit option is key to keep emission down, but also to increase mobility and make cities better places to live.  As I mentioned in my last post, it will be the cities of the world that will lead the climate flight.  I see a bright future for sustainable transport in the years to come.

Read Full Post »

Climate change isn’t real…Right?  After this past year, that’s definitely not a question I would ask Mother Nature if I were you.  If she finds out we didn’t get the message in 2012 that climate change is occurring, I don’t want to know what her fists of fury are going to bring in the years to come to get the point across. To help bring her message home, here is a breakdown of the more impressive record extreme weather/climate events and impacts of 2012:



  • As of December 20, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated that the United States experienced 11 extreme weather events in 2012 that caused at least $1 billion in losses.  This is the second highest number of extreme weather events to occur in one year — record year 2011, and expected to be the second costliest year in aggregate losses from extreme weather events — record year 2005.
  • Hurricane Sandy was the largest hurricane ever observed in Atlantic Basin.


  • A record 65.5% of the continental United States experienced drought in September.
  • 300,000 acres were burned in the largest wildfire ever recorded in New Mexico.



  • Hottest year on record for the United States.


  • Through November 2012, the global average temperature was warmer than the long-term average for a record 333rd consecutive month. To put this into perspective, those who are 27 years old and younger are yet to live during a month when global temperatures were below the 20th century average. (Official December data is still forthcoming, but will undoubtedly extend the streak to 334).
  • U.S. weather stations recorded 356 all-time temperature highs either tied or broken. (Conservative preliminary results. Some analysis suggests 362 all-time highs were observed.)
  • Record 5 to 1 ratio of daily record highs to daily record lows in 2012. (see note for explanation of “all-time” versus “daily”)

NOTE: “All-time” records represent the hottest temperature ever recorded at individual stations.  This is not the same as “daily” record highs and lows, which represent the warmest (or coldest) temperatures recorded for any given day of the year (e.g., the day of January 8th).



  • Arctic Sea Ice extent reached the lowest level in recorded satellite history.


  • Northern Hemisphere land snow coverage was the least amount ever recorded.
  • The Greenland Ice Sheet experienced the largest melt extent in recorded satellite history.
  • Researchers concluded global sea-level rose 60% faster during the last 20 years than projected in the latest assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Sea-level rise rates along the northern half of U.S. eastern seaboard are the highest in the world.


So after soaking in the catastrophic factoids of 2012, can we all agree that this is not a future world we want — or can afford — to live in? While there’s no chance I give up alcohol in 2013, I hope you’ll join me in a New Year’s resolution to move on from the “ignorance is bliss” and “instant gratification” mentality that has left us +20 pounds overweight and in this climate change mess.  Instead, let’s take up Nike’s “Just Do It” attitude this year and tackle those long-term challenges by joining the gym and committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Noticeable results won’t come easy or overnight in either case, but we’ll end up looking better and living longer in the long run.


Read Full Post »

Spinach fans  – Happy New Year!  We hope you enjoyed the holidays (please, no more Christmas cookies).  The Team is back and we’re ready to enlighten you in the next week with issues we think are a priority for 2013 and with a wrap up of 2012’s successes/issues of concern.

With that idea in mind, let me get things started.  If you have not heard, the current Administrator (head honcho, el presidente for my fellow spanish spinach writers, commander in chief) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa P. Jackson (LPJ), has announced that she is going to resign from her post for President Barack Obama’s second term. It has left a few people saying

Momma No!!

While others, maybe some with the business and industry sectors, are doing

The Carlton dance. I bet they’re wearing pleated chinos too.

Regardless of the reactions to her departure, there is no doubt that LPJ came to EPA with an agenda.  LPJ grew up in New Orleans and went to Tulane University (shout out to Nola and TU!) and then worked for the State of New Jersey’s Department of the Environment after completing her graduate degree at Princeton (hi Pam).  I presume having connections to both of those states were eye openers to how industry-environment relations function (in those states probably favoring industry).  What LPJ sought to do however, and I as the Greenlight could not agree more, was to show how protecting the environment relates back to our health.  Under LPJ’s direction, when new EPA rules were proposed so were the number of asthmas and premature deaths prevented, human lives saved, and the number of tons of carbon removed from the atmosphere (I bet even more figures were included!).

But most importantly, LPJ sought to eliminate toxic exposures felt by vulnerable communities – this term is called environmental justice (ej, or as the movement recently says environmental injustice).  Traditionally these are minority, low-income communities that disproportionately bare the impact of toxic air and water from nearby facilities; they typically have little political clout to voice their concerns and as a result face serious health impacts, such as cancers.  LPJ reinvigorated the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (started under Bill Clinton, then stopped by George W. Bush) which convened 17 federal agencies to include EJ into their agency missions and programs. The EPA Care program, and other new federal agency program offices have issued new grants and trainings on technical assistance and research tools to aid communities obtain the basic rights to clean air and water they deserve.  Just like many other community leaders have done for decades.

In LPJ’s term at EPA, the agency issued environmental penalties to not only be monetary, but restorative (e.g., tree planting, technology retrofits), and to me passed three big things that could be tied to her agency legacy (I’m always the legacy tribute writer here).  Though there are other successes, the mercury and toxics standard for power plants, the new auto fuel standards for 2025, and the soot rule for boilers and cement kilns were, to me, LPJ’s and EPA’s three biggest rules.  The Natural Resources Defense Council did a nice write up on LPJ’s legacy too.

So, what about 2013 and 2014, and the next EPA Administrator?  My personal thought is that the next Administrator could be Bob Perciasepe (LPJ’s current Deputy Administrator) or Gina McCarthy at the EPA Office of Air and Radiation.  Since the person must be approved by Congress, these are no easy shoes to fill, Bob and Gina could be the least controversial.

For 2013 – Matt Damon already took a swing at the fracking debate (the natural gas industry so hates him right now(my film review to come next week)).  EPA announced that it will publish findings of its fracking study in 2014; however, I suspect information will be leaked on fracking before the final 2014 findings are released.  You can track the EPA Fracking Study here. The Keystone Pipeline is another pending issue that could get approved or denied this year.  President Obama said he would address the Keystone Pipeline after the November 2012 election.  Those are my top issues that will be addressed, while I think there are many others, to me, these are the most realistic that will be addressed this year.  We’ll let you know what happens!

Enjoy your weekend. Cheers.

Read Full Post »