I almost stopped writing this feature when the news of the outcome of Copenhagen came out. What was once looked forward to by all environmental activists as one of the biggest steps toward reversing climate change is now looked upon as a giant farce. Maybe I’m being a little too harsh; there were some things that came out of this deal, don’t get me wrong, but in the scope of things it was nothing but a disappointment. First of all, it’s not even a legally binding agreement. The Copenhagen Accords (led by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa), only recognize the need to limit global temperatures rising to no more than two degrees Celsius. How the hell can you measure that? How can you hold high emission emitting countries accountable?
The Accords also outline a goal of providing $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries cope with the impacts of climate change. At what point has treating a symptom instead of the underlying disease ever helped anything? You know what would be less inexpensive, not only in financial terms, but in human lives? Fixing the underlying problem.
That’s it. That’s literally all what resulted from the Copenhagen Climate Summit. Purely cosmetic and not worth the paper it’s written on.
Well at least where politics fail, there’s always something else to buoy hope. In this case, Hollywood came to the rescue. James Cameron’s digital epic “Avatar” opened on Thursday had inspirational environmental overtones, and, considering how much this film has been hyped, will hopefully change the hearts and minds of all sorts of people.
Drama unfolds once again at the Copenhagen Climate Summit as 968 protesters were detained during a rally on Sunday. The demonstration involved anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 people. Violence erupted when some 300 youths wearing black masks started a riot. Police were quickly on the scene and subsequently detained 968 protesters. Many people were detained outside for more than four hours and were not allowed to have medical attention, water, or use the bathroom. One detainee was quoted saying “People were there in freezing conditions urinating on themselves and being held in lines, essentially like animals.”
Meanwhile at the summit, talks were suspended for five hours by an ideological rift between developed and developing countries. When talks resumed, the European Union and the developing nations promoted the idea of an entirely new agreement, replacing the Kyoto protocol. This draft outline currently in the works requires richer nations to cut emissions by 25 to 45% by 2020. This is a good start, but with the summit ending this Friday, countries have yet to agree on even the basic outline. Many countries have yet to arrive, complicating the process further. With any luck, we won’t end up with a half-baked agreement and an abandoned Kyoto protocol. For those delegate’s sakes, they better get to work, those protesters will not be pleased.
Molas Pass in winter, Photo by Coe Roberts
With Wolf Creek reporting five feet of snow in five days everyone should be thinking about getting outside and enjoying it. Most people are flocking to the ski areas, however, if you’re not into the lines or the cost, there are many other ways to have funFor Fort Lewis students, Chapman Hill is now open, and with the freshly groomed powder, there should be a nice base for the rest of the ski season. There are snow makers and a small terrain park. A rope tow makes it easy to enjoy the hill without getting too exhausted. The hill is located along the northeastern edge of the rim. If you’re looking for a little more exercise and a view, then backcountry cross country skiing, or snowshoeing, is the perfect activity for you. Most backcountry trails are free and easily accessible to anyone. If you don’t know of any trails, and you’re a Fort Lewis student, then you could visit the Outdoor Pursuits office in the student life center. Those people with an Outdoor Pursuits membership can enjoy miles of groomed trail across from the Durango Mountain Resort, Purgatory, just by showing their O.P. membership sticker. If you’re not a student then you can try visiting http://www.atwdurango.com/maps. All the trail maps are provided by the San Juan Public Lands Center. Skate skiing is a great exercise and if you can ice skate then you’ll have no trouble picking it up quickly. You must have a groomed track to skate ski, so I would suggest going to one of the local Nordic centers to try it out. Or if you already have skate skis then the Hillcrest golf course has free groomed trails.
The recent snowstorms are a great excuse to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. There are so many ways to have fun, skiing, snowmen, snow angels, snowball fights, and the list goes on.
This may be the most controversial and drama-filled summit to ever grace the modern world. Before the summit even started a few thousand emails were stolen from the Climate Research Unit’s database, followed by a cornucopia of allegations including: withholding scientific information, preventing dissenting scientific papers from being published, deleting information to avoid the Freedom of Information Act, and, last but certainly not least, manipulating data to make the case for global warming appear stronger than it is. Surprisingly, this event hasn’t really affected anyone; the people who were on the fence are still on the fence. People hell-bent on climate reform are just as hell-bent, and likewise for the opposite end of the spectrum. Those conspiracy theorists are bouncing off the walls, however.
Then when the summit finally started, a leaked “Danish text” caused a rift between the industrialized and developing countries right off the bat. This Danish text was a secret draft agreement set forth by Denmark, the United States, and the United Kingdom. This agreement would hand even more power to rich nations, sideline the United Nation’s climate negotiating role, and abandon the Kyoto protocol. Clearly the intention for this secret draft is to muscle it through when Obama arrives next week.
Lumumba Di Aping of Sudan, chair for G77 (group of 77 developing countries), made it clear an equitable and just deal would not be achievable without the cooperation of the United States. He then backed an innovative idea for industrialized nations to free up around $200 billion dollars of unused foreign exchange reserves issued by the International Monetary Fund to help poorer countries cope with global warming. Di Aping then raised a provoking question directed towards the United States Congress: “You approve billions of dollars in defense budgets: why can’t you approve $200 billion to save the world?”
With 110 countries due to arrive next week, the progress will certainly be subdued, but luckily the developing nations have hit the ground running, formulating some innovative ideas, and India revealing a target to curb its carbon emissions.
Stay tuned later this week for more updates on the Copenhagen Climate Summit.
Durango Transit Bus at Fort Lewis College, EC File Photo
Sustainable Services and the City of Durango
One overcast afternoon in Durango, my roommate and I were organizing a pile of scrap wood and old aluminum framed windows. The orange and yellow aspens around us were whispering of the looming winter and the gray woolen sky was threatening of snow, and we were getting ready to grow some food in our garden. Sound strange? While most people in town are covering their gardens and prepping them for next spring, we are laying down fresh compost and sowing seeds in hopes of having fresh greens throughout the winter.
I became inspired to try and extend the growing season for my own garden after taking a tour of the 4-season demonstration greenhouse the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center is currently experimenting with. The dome shaped greenhouse is equiped with insulation around the base to keep frost from creeping in through the ground, a 900 gallon tank of water to absorb heat during the day and radiate it through the night as well as solar powered fans that blow warm air underneath the raised beds. Having virtually no budget to work with and no hopes of putting an elaborate green house together, I did what college students do best and started doing research and scavenging for materials. If we chose hardy winter crops we would only have to keep the temperature inside our structure above 32 degrees. I decided to build a “cold frame” which is essentially a green house that is about 18”-24” tall with a glass roof and wooden sides. I went with this idea because of how adaptable it is and I could get most of the materials for free. After acquiring two aluminum framed windows that a classmate had lying in his shed and six 8 foot long 2×8’s which were remnants from the neighbors deck they had torn down. My roommate and I then built a 7 foot by three foot box that stood about 16 inches tall and the windows fit perfectly on top of. This design allowed us to grow about 20 square feet of greens during the colder months of the year. We placed the cold frame in the section of our garden that would get the most sun and buried one end a couple inches to make the frame slightly south facing so it would catch more sunlight. Then we dug a trench about 6 inches wide around the frame and packed it with straw to stop the frost from creeping in through the ground. On the inside of the cold frame we placed a few gallon milk jugs we had spray-painted black to capture the heat from the sun during the day and release it at night. Then we chose some hardy cold weather crops like lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, spinach and scallions to plant inside the cold frame. We chose these crops because they can withstand much colder temperatures and they need much less light to grow. So they are very appropriate for the cold nights and short days we have here in the San Juans.
It is now early December and the romaine lettuce and the mesclun mix we planted are flourishing. It seems that the insulation we put in the ground and other precautions we took to keep the temperature up at night was really working. One night we got about 5 inches of snow and the next morning when we brushed the snow off the cold frame we found it to be 40 degrees and steamy inside.
After seeing the results from the simple cold-frame we constructed I would definitely recommend those out there who love gardening and growing food look into building their own cold-frames, row covers, or a greenhouse in their back yard. There is a ton of information out there on how to extend the growing season in your area either by investing in an elaborate greenhouse or using the simple measures I took. Let me tell you there is nothing more satisfying than pulling a fresh and organically grown salad from your backyard in December. If you would like more information on how to extend your growing season or what crops are good to grow in the winter: the internet, your local library and the FLC Environmental Center would be great places to start looking.
Good Luck and Enjoy!
– Alex Pullen