Erik Hoffner

Erik Hoffner works for Orion magazine and is also a freelance photographer and writer. Follow him on Twitter: @erikhoffner.

Doom and gloom blowback

Start with CFLs, and let the lightbulb go on

Today's post on how gloom and doom messaging backfires -- on Katya Andresen's excellent nonprofit marketing blog -- backs up David Roberts' posts on fear-based messaging being bad for green issues here and here. It's more important to empower people than scare them, Andresen says. Grist keeps a good balance in this regard. I think she's right on the money: Go negative with caution. You must give people the feeling that they have the power to help, not the feeling they are helpless or that your issue is intractable .... If you scare with scale, you'll lose. If you empower with feasible steps, you'll make social change ... I feel the same way about apocalyptic messages about global warming. I feel powerless to stop the flooding of the world. Ask me to buy different light bulbs, however, or take some other action that is feasible, and I will. We can't stop climate change with just CFLs, but encouraging folks to do so opens a window into a deeper conversation about what else we must do.

Wind-loss, wind-gain

On the heels of last week's apparent defeat of the proposed Hoosac Wind project in mountainous Western Massachusetts due to environmental (wetland) concerns, Massachusetts' new governor has put his voice behind further offshore wind projects. The timing is interesting.

Mountaintop removal and clean water: Kinda at odds

DC lobbying effort May 12-16

Citizens from Appalachia were at the UN's meeting on sustainable energy policy this week to challenge the clean-coalers, and were received really well by the other delegates. Coal advocates were hard-put to refute the evidence that coal kills communities. Now the effort moves to D.C. from May 12-16 for the 2nd Annual Mountaintop Removal Week lobbying effort. Organized by Appalachian Voices, the effort will advance the Clean Water Protection Act toward passage and help end mountaintop removal coal mining. Call your senator or rep to support this effort and/or take action here. 'Cuz when you blow off a mountain's top and dump it in the valley, it's gonna foul the water a wee bit. This bill is as much about social justice as it is about the environment.

Metrofarming in the NYT

Coming to a city near you?

The New York Times ran a story this week on a grassroots effort that aims to demonstrate the potential for growing food in our cities. NY Sun Works' Center for Sustainable Engineering has a sustainable energy and hydroponics project floating on a barge in the Hudson River, and it's causing a minor buzz ...

Peak coal, peak bees

Trends on an ever-shrinking planet

I was at Coop Power's excellent annual renewable energy summit in western Massachusetts recently. Richard Heinberg was there as a presenter. He discussed his well-regarded peak oil projections, and he then put that curve next to his peak uranium and peak coal projections. That visual drew gasps from the crowd -- especially the peak coal bit. Sure we've got lots of coal, but its quality ain't what it used to be, and won't go as far. Check his data. This got me thinking of all the indexes we might put forward to track important trends on this ever-shrinking planet. The next one I'd promote, given our perilous reliance on the mobile hives that are driven from farm to farm to pollinate our crops, plus this winter's mysterious honeybee population crash, would have to be peak bees. And how about peak freshwater. What would you propose?

MTR at the UN this week

Press conference on Tuesday in NYC

A delegation of grassroots groups from around Appalachia will be at the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development meetings this week to discourage further MTR abuse and advocate for alternatives (More on them here: New Yorkers, turn up for this if you can:

Grassroots good

Paul Hawken on the remaking of the world

Paul Hawken's new book Blessed Unrest is a much-needed analysis of the movement that's poised to change the world as we know it. It's a must read, (excerpted here in Orion magazine) even if you're not a self-described grassroots activist. In it, he states that "the movement to restore people and planet is now composed of over one million organizations" working toward ecological sustainability and social justice. Maybe two million. And that: By conventional definition, this is not a movement. Movements have leaders and ideologies. You join movements, study tracts, and identify yourself with a group. You read the biography of the founder(s) or listen to them perorate on tape or in person. Movements have followers, but this movement doesn't work that way. It is dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely independent. There is no manifesto or doctrine, no authority to check with. Like we witnessed with the success of Step It Up 2007, the movement can't be divided because it is composed of many small pieces, forming, gathering, and disbanding quickly as need be. The media and politicians may dismiss it as powerless, but "it has been known to bring down governments, companies, and leaders through witnessing, informing, and massing." This is one of his main conclusions:

Food Chain Radio: great edible audio

I'd like to recommend Food Chain Radio to all you people who like to eat. This podcast/broadcast is freely available and fascinating, delving into the implications of our appetites: everything from factory farming and CAFOs to irradiation and poisoned pet food. The most interesting recent show available at the link above is called Grandma's Wartime Kitchen, which discusses a time of rationing when oddities like knuckle of pork and stuffed beef heart became culinary treats by necessity (WWII), and asks, "What will we eat if times get tough again?" More vegetables, hopefully, but it's an interesting topic as we contemplate the possibly big planetary changes ahead.

New island ‘made’ by global warming

In the same week that science discovers a new, earth-like planet, we get a new island off the coast of Greenland. From The Independent: The map of Greenland will have to be redrawn. A new island has appeared off its coast, suddenly separated from the mainland by the melting of Greenland's enormous ice sheet, a development that is being seen as the most alarming sign of global warming. Yikes.