At the Library
You can only learn so much from a short newsletter that comes out once a week... That's why we've decided to occasionally give you suggestions on books and documentaries that are well worth your time. Here's the first one!
A Field Philosopher's Guide to Fracking
by Adam Briggle
Contrary to what you may think, a field philosopher is not a frazzled hobbit-like man who stops people at the farmer's market to confuse them with clever wordplay. Field philosophy involves looking closely at real world problems and their consequences and acting on the conclusions, rather than stroking one's beard pondering the esoteric from the comfort of the ivory tower.
Adam Briggle, a professor at the University of North Texas in Denton, tells the story of how field philosophy led him to become a reluctant leader in the activist struggle to ban fracking in Denton. He talks about why the humanities are more important than ever in the present day — how there is no objectively right answer to what standard of objectivity to use, and how scientific objectivity can be weaponized (i.e. industry funding studies that ensure they're correct, claiming individuals do not have sophisticated enough equipment to produce a valid air quality analysis, etc).
One of most interesting threads in the book is Briggle's assertion that fracking is the epitome of a "real-world experiment" — a technological wager in which those driving it have no clue what the possible consequences might be. He discusses what makes for an ethical real-world experiment — that those most at risk should consent to that risk, that there should be a system for monitoring and learning from the experiment, and that things should be fixed when they go wrong. He then goes on to explain how fracking (at least how it's practiced today) fails miserably on all three counts.
Ultimately it's a really interesting read that couples a well-reasoned breakdown of the arguments for and against fracking with the underdog story of Denton residents going head to head with the oil and gas industry. It's difficult to fathom the extent of the industry's villainy throughout the process — it would be comical if it wasn't non-fiction. And although the book ends on a high note, with Denton's measure to ban fracking winning in a landslide, the real world epilogue has no such happy ending. Shortly after (in 2015), Governor Greg Abbott (a self proclaimed "small government" guy), signed a bill prohibiting local governments from regulating a range of energy development activities, including fracking. This "small government" act effectively repealed the ban in Denton.
A new report released last week by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication along with George Mason University Center for Climate Change concluded that the number of Americans who believe climate change is happening is higher than ever. The report is based on nationally representative surveys results. The researchers have been surveying Americans on their climate change beliefs since 2008. Here are some interesting stats from the report:
- 73% of Americans think that global warming is happening (up 10% from 2015), while 14% of Americans still do not think that global warming is a thing.
- 62% of Americans recognize than global warming is caused by humans, while 23% do not.
- Only 14% of Americans think it is too late to take any climate action.
- 72% of Americans say that global warming is "important to them personally" (up 16% from 2015, and 9% from early 2018), while 28% say global warming is still not important to them.
- About half of Americans think that global warming is harming people in the US "right now" (up 16% from 2015), or have already experienced its effect, and even more think themselves or people around them will be affected by global warming.
Why You Should Care
Polling like this shows that Americans are increasingly worried about climate change and the effects it can have on their communities. It's no longer a distant problem of the future. Shifts in public opinion are hopeful, although the poll also shows that less than half of Americans feel social pressure to change their habits to combat climate change.
How You Can Help
There are many individual actions you can take, like living car free, avoiding a flight, and eating less meat. Experts also say that collective action is the most important — form groups or join existing groups working to combat climate change. Many cities have a climate action plan, or are in the process of putting one in place, and often ask residents to give feedback. Make sure your voice is heard in your local community. Also, many cities have a Green Drinks chapter, a monthly happy hour with the purpose of meeting other like-minded eco-friendly people. Not a bad place to start.
Businesses Doing Good Things
If you want to power your home with renewable energy but don't know where to start, look to energy consultant-esque companies like Arcadia Power. Whether you rent or own your home, they do the hard work of navigating the renewable energy market for you. Buying renewable energy is comprised of two parts: the electricity itself and renewable energy certificates (RECs). Think of RECs as the currency of green power — a REC entitles you to a certain amount of energy.
When you make a purchase, Arcadia adds it to the overall mix of electricity in your utility's power grid. All power looks the same once on it's the grid, so there's no way to tell where the electricity keeping your lights on actually came from, but the overall effect is the same. This method makes it easy to support renewable energy financially even if don't have any available through your local utility company. It injects more clean energy into the power grid, creates a demand for renewables, and helps you reduce your individual carbon footprint (and that nagging guilt).
"We can't just recycle our way out of the garbage crisis," says the CEO and co-founder of TerraCycle, Tom Szaky. The company launched Loop this week, a partnership with brands like UniLever, Clorox, Coca-Cola, and Nestle that pays homage to the milkman model. Everyday products (i.e. ice cream, cleaning supplies, deodorant, shampoo) are delivered to your door in reusable containers, and the empty containers are picked up to be washed and reused. Loop is starting out with about 300 products in the New York area and Paris. You can add your name to the list online to reserve your spot on the list.
The differences in how Americans commute to work.
Teen removes 50,000 golf balls from the ocean off the coast of Pebble Beach.
UW researchers create a house plant that can remove toxic chemicals from your home.
The dirty truth about oat milk.
Germany will quit coal by 2038.
The cost of US natural disasters in 2018 hits $53 billion.
Oregon's BottleDrop recycling program reaches 90% redemption rate.
How chicken became rich countries' most popular meat.