twit change, ban the bag, & ellis eye land

Global Warming solutions proposed … in Texas?

Beyond the smog… H-town: breeding ground for climate change action?

What the world knows about Texas:

J.R. Ewing was one ruthless son of a bitch.

George Jr. can bob and weave with the best of ‘em.

and Houston is where Global Warming gets made.

Well, chalk another one up for Energy City: Houston is now also where Global Warming solutions are being proffered, thanks to legislation filed by State Senator Rodney Ellis.



Ellis, you see, is not of the same mind as Governor Rick Perry on the reality of Global Warming.

Perry, who both mocks the notion of GW and misrepresents the science by which we understand it, has warned repeatedly that kicking the carbon habit that is destabilizing the planet’s natural systems will devastate the Texas economy.

In a prepared response to questions provided by the Current, Senator Ellis wrote that:

“We can’t pretend there is no problem. We can’t credibly dispute the science that tells us very clearly that the planet is heating up. If Governor Perry doesn’t want the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act, he’s entitled to that opinion. But I believe the U.S. Supreme Court clarified that EPA has that authority.  Greenhouse gases will be regulated. Texas can either be a leader in developing clean energy technologies or we will miss enormous opportunities.”

The Texas Global Warming Solutions Act, refiled by Ellis for the 2009 Legislative Session after a failed effort to get traction in 2007, would create a state commission to make an accounting of all the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and then help craft policy to begin reducing those levels. It would be quite a task. It has been widely reported that if Texas were its own country (as some would still have it, no doubt), it would rank as the world’s eighth-largest emitter.

To bring those levels down, Ellis’ act would have all state agencies required to account for their greenhouse gas contributions and create plans to reduce them. Private industry would also have to begin to monitor and report their releases.

Ellis appears to share the view of San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger that greening the environment can also mean greening the economy.

“If Texas leaders are involved in finding solutions to global warming, our economy could benefit greatly,” said Ellis. “Look at the wind industry that has brought thousands of green jobs and billions of dollars to the state. Texas has the opportunity to be a leader in solar, biomass, geothermal, and carbon capture from fossil fuel plants. We’ve barely begun to take advantage of the economic benefits of energy efficiency.”

In Alamo City, Hardberger is expected to address residents in his January State of the City address about the progress made by the teams dedicated those past months to forging a sustainable vision for San Antonio’s future development.

Considering our state climatologist is absolutely limp on policy, refusing even to push for a meeting with Perry, a committee committed to actually responding to our climate challenges would be a welcome shift.

Perry the Cockroach? What are these fear-mongers trying to say, exactly?

Enjoy… while you still can.

Ban the Bag

Even if humankind came down sick all of a sudden and fell down dead, so much of what we have built would live on after us. At least for a few years.

You’re lovely wood frame home at the corked end of that traffic-limiting cul-de-sac would be overrun and overgrown in just a few decades. Time and the elements would completely wash it away within 500 years.

Here’s what it would look like as it is overtaken by roaches, rats, and other natural processes, courtesy of the website for the book The World Without Us:

And when all visible trace of humanity has left the building, two reminders of our time on earth will remain: plastics and radioactive waste — neither of which is beneficial to the life forms we would leave behind, either.

Here’s how plasticbageconomics explains the environmental impact of plastic:

The environmental damage caused by plastic bags is enormous. Plastic makes up 80% of the volume of litter on roads, parks, and beaches and makes up 90% of floating litter in the ocean (BEC).In every square mile of ocean there are over 46,000 pieces of plastic. This puts an enormous strain on the environment. The little pieces of plastic act as a sort of sponge for chemicals. They soak up a million fold greater concentration of such deadly compounds as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the notorious insecticide DDT), than the surrounding seawater (Reusablebags.com).

Marine life then eats these pieces and dies. It is estimated that over a 100,000 different birds, seals and whales die every year (Reusablebags.com). After the animal dies its carcass decomposes and the plastic is free to roam the ocean and kill again.

So, is State Senator Leticia Van de Putte’s effort to reduce the amount of plastic passing from our convenience stores into consumer grips a mad dash at marine protection? It’s that, but it’s also economics and the health of our aquifer. Each year, the regional water systems spend thousands of dollars unclogging plastic buildup at their treatment plants. And the bags literally blanket portions of our highways and strip malls.

Senator Van de Putte’s legislation, Senate Bill 338, would require every commercial retailer using plastic bags (including non-profits)  to

1) sell and verbally offer customers reusable bags in place of plastic, and

2) provide plastic bag recycling services.

With interest already being expressed by a colleague about carrying companion legislation in the House, Van de Putte expects action. And she plans on coming back within five years to ban the bags completely.

The Senator said she first stirred to anti-plastic sentiment when she achieved a lifelong dream of visiting the Galapagos Islands a year ago. As a supremely protected site, no plastic was allowed on the islands, she said.

Then one day more recently she was unwrapping some meat that had been first wrapped in plastic before it was placed in her reusable shopping bag and her son, an environmental sciences major, yelped.

“Mom! Those take a thousand years to break down!” he objected.

And with a new grandchild in the world, she said she is doubly motivated to do good by the environment. Otherwise, “in 20 years, he’s going to ask me, ‘Why did you let this happen?’” she said.

While cities across the country try to address the challenge of plastic, there is, as yet, no statewide policy governing the ubiquitous castaway tools in Texas. So, until we can get on with banning the bag, we’ll just have to make its toxic life as miserable as humanly possible.

[For more about plastic’s impact on the ocean environment, watch this important video from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.]

Twit for Change

She wrote cutely about her husband’s affinity for leftovers. ‘Oh, the big goof!” we can hear Suburban Mom guffawing with a shake of the head as fresh disposable plastic storage containers dance in the frostless fridge.

I responded that my leftovers are actually left on the stove to gently mold over before being warmed for consumption again the next day. She “unfollowed” me immediately.

See, we weren’t friends — just mutual followers in the microblogging world of Twitter. And, let’s be clear here, she followed me first.

It’s strange how relationships form and fracture in micro-blogging communities. As the stream of observations, from the inane to the completely obtuse, roll down the screen, participating in the Twitterverse like getting a snapshot of the noosphere, that philosophized metaphysical realm of group thought now technologically redefined simply as The Cloud.

Suburban Mom wasn’t to be. But, to the platform community’s credit, I’ve maintained longer relationships with folks that are even further distance from my particular ideological stripe. What connects us is an appreciation for community. So far, that group appreciation has guarded our world from the flame-warring of too many Internet chat rooms and news sites.

Recently a fellow Twitteratti accused me of writing under the influence of too much caffeine. The poster may have been on track there, though it was unclear if he was critiquing a particular story or my writing in general. As we popped refining notes back and forth, understanding came slowly. All said, I came away if not a better man, per se, one that had been reminded to shape up my news writing by offering links to additional resources and actionable options.

My most recent feature on terminally ill Rafael Garcia, my new friend said, is a bitch. BUT WHAT CAN WE DO?

The media miasma that is around-the-clock news cycles merging with exploding Webshots of rehashed and recontexualized around-the-clock news cycle offerings has folks overloaded and shell-shocked, according to several recent studies. That condition requires news writers to dig dipper into context — and offer solutions for the steady stream of bad-news nuggets we dish.

The sense of personal power is vital to communal, democratic functioning. Without it, expect nothing but increased governmental oppression and withering rights.

While Rafael’s story was the first in which I was careful to include action links at the bottom, I must continue mea culpas for any past damages my unanchored mouthiness has created. And by way of update and encouragement, I write this morning:

Rafael’s hard case, thank you for asking, is nearing resolution. Methodist Children’s administrators are working to set the family up with the home nursing care by early January. But during this turbulent past month, the family has suffered a lot. Those who offered words of encouragement were deeply appreciated. I was particularly touched to hear that 22 UPS employees based at the Callahan-410 office had pooled their money to buy Rafael a Wii system to help him keep his upper body active and healthy until he is home again with regular physical therapy.

Very kind.

While this individual case appears headed toward something like resolution, fixing health care in Texas is obviously a much larger fight.


Here are three things you can do to help those repairs get made:

Write your state representatives. Find your representatives.

Urge them to support Judith Zaffarini’s work to eliminate the state waiting lists.

Join Health Care for All Texas.
You can even start a San Antonio chapter and work overtime for universal health care in the Lone Star State.

And keep on us. We cover a broad range of stories at the Current and won’t always be right on top of the latest policy shift — especially on stories we may not have updated in a few months.

We need your story ideas, tips, and commentary. You can show you want to end suffering simply to joining in the conversation, pushing our stories up Digg, or emailing them to your friends and acquaintances.

You may even want to enter the Cloud and throw some shouts out on Twitter. To appropriate an old Kinkyism: Why the hell not?

Go ahead: Follow me on Twitter. You’ll thank me (or hate me) for it in the morning.

[Cross-posted at the San Antonio Current’s Curblog.]

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One response to “twit change, ban the bag, & ellis eye land

  1. Pingback: From deep in the heart of Texas, a Global Warming Solutions Act « texasvox·

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