Congo Kinshasa RPCV Beth Duff Brown writes: Global Warming Effects Hunting for Inuit
Nattaq and other Inuit, the Arctic people of the United States, Canada, Russia, and Greenland - in Alaska where they're known as Eskimos - have been warning the world for more than a decade about the shifting winds and thinning ice. Hunting patterns thousands of years old are in jeopardy. 'Our way of life is at stake,' says Sheila Watt-Cloutier, just nominated with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore for a Nobel Peace Prize for their work on climate change. Watt-Cloutier will argue before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington on Thursday that the United States, as the world's largest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, is violating her people's rights.
While for many global warming is a distant threat, for the Inuit its impact is a reality now. 'It's about real people who live on top of the world,' she said this week before leaving for the hearing. The commission, part of the Organization of American States, has no authority over the U.S. government. But Watt-Cloutier says she's looking for a moral and political victory, to help make climate change a bigger issue in future elections. Nattaq is one of 63 Inuit from Canada and Alaska on the OAS petition she is representing, filed on behalf of the world's 155,000 Inuit. Read more.
RPCV Mike Tidwell's house, once an ordinary 1915 bungalow, has become perhaps the closest thing to a "zero-carbon" home in the area
Across the Washington area, homeowners alarmed about utility rates and greenhouse gases are seeking to slash their power use or produce their own energy from renewable sources. Among them, Tidwell and a handful of others have succeeded in creating homes that require only minimal energy from power plants and fossil fuels. Tidwell, an environmental activist concerned with climate change, has outfitted his home with energy-efficient appliances, a corn-burning stove and solar panels. Now, the two-story house sometimes produces more electricity than it needs and sends the surplus to Pepco's distribution system.
Tidwell and his then-wife started with a $7,500 home-equity loan. They replaced incandescent light bulbs with more costly compact fluorescent bulbs, which work in the same fixtures and provide the same light but use a third as much energy. They bought an EPA-designated "Energy Star" refrigerator, which cost $150 more but used less than a third as much power. For heat, they replaced a natural-gas furnace with a $2,400 stove that burns corn kernels. Because corn consumes carbon dioxide as it grows, burning it doesn't release new greenhouse gases, he said. The corn, of a type used for animal feed, is grown in Mount Airy and brought to Takoma Park in a truck that burns soy-based biodiesel fuel. In town, the corn is stored in a 25-foot-tall silo owned by a community cooperative. In especially cold months, Tidwell has to get a load once a week. Author Mike Tidwell, founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Committee, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Congo Kinshasa. Read more.
Congressman Thomas Petri working on bill to ease global warming
Thomas Petri has co-authored legislation with Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., called the Keep America Competitive Global Warming Policy Act, a bill that gradually imposes restrictions on the carbon-based pollution that many scientists believe is causing global warming. A little over a week ago Petri and Udall met with leaders of major businesses and environmental groups in Washington, D.C., to discuss global warming issues and the framework advanced at that meeting calls for a mandatory cap-and-trade program with specific limits on greenhouse emissions. Petri said businesses that succeed in reducing emissions would be allowed to sell unused emission allowances to other businesses that are having greater difficulty complying with limits.
Petri said the legislation that is being proposed is very similar to what European countries are doing to help the environment but admitted that it would be impossible for every industry to reduce all of their emissions. “The whole idea of making limestone is to heat it, and it emits carbon,” Petri said. “But we need it for cement and a variety of other things. So if you had a one size fits all and you said you can't emit, they would be out of business and it would disrupt our economy. “This is more of a balance approach that will enable people to emit if it is really necessary, but will kind of discourage them from doing it and encourage people to use technology to reduce emissions as much as possible,” he added. “It's a place to start. It doesn't make everyone real happy but it looks like it is going to get pretty broad support.”
Petri admitted there is a large amount of controversy surrounding global warming and that most people think carbon-based emissions have some sort of an effect on the issue. “It is true the Earth warmed and cooled a number of times before people got involved, but it's also true that there has been a big increase in carbon-based emissions into the atmosphere,” Petri said. “Mostly everybody thinks that has some contributing factor to global warming.” Congressman Tom Petri of Wisconsin served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia in the 1960's. Read more.