Support a farmer, eat heartily, and stomp to some great music

Hamburgers on the hoof wade and feed in a pasture creekFarm Aid 2012 is Saturday, Sept. 22, at Hersheypark Stadium. This is Year 27 of the event begun in 1985 by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp – Dave Matthews joined the team in 2001 – to raise money for programs that support family farms in their competition with land developers and huge factory farms.

I was raised on a farm, of sorts. There was Mom, Dad and four of us youngsters, and a 50-foot by 100-foot patch that kept us in veggies. We grew corn, asparagus, beets, carrots, and several other crops. And we picked crab apples from the Bates’ tree, bought raw milk from the Ellises.

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Report says GHG cuts could be significant with more taxpayer money and different measuring

Study says fossil-fueld vehicles will be here for foreseeable future.A National Petroleum Council report chartered by the U.S. Secretary of Energy says fossil fuel-powered engines will be the motive power for the nation’s transportation machine for the foreseeable future.

Ya think? Gasoline-powered vehicles sold this year will need gas at least 10-12 years from now to keep them tooling down the road.

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“Seen any deer?”

I let him eat, and he let me shoot.A few years ago, a friend and I took a week in Colorado, driving through the back roads of the Rockies, generally following one of our favorite country music artists – and premiere writer of environmental songs – on what we termed “The Ultimate San Juan Oddysey.” The trip took us above the tree line, to long defunct silver mines, historic avalanche sites, Silverton (via the Durango and Rio Grande narrow gauge railroad), and Black Bear Road, (“You don’t have to be crazy to drive this here road, but it helps.”).

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Some encouragement required

American wind farms mean American jobs and cleaner air.I’m watching an old black and white movie on television, “Cow Country,” made in 1953. It’s about times economic change in the 19th Century West, and cattlemen having a rough time adjusting.

Their situation was like oil companies of the 21st Century saying wind and solar will not work – because it’s easier and more profitable to keep doing what they’re doing than figure out how to do something new.

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Coal, nukes, fracking and 16.9-ounce plastic bottles

A reservoir outflow is dry and rocky with water in the impound more than two feet below normal.Throughout this nation’s history, we have counted on a plentiful supply of water.

With 75 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, goes the old adage, clearly man was meant to spend 75 percent of his time fishing.

Unfortunately, with 75 percent of the planet covered by water, the majority of the Earth’s surface, once warmed, will stay that way – or get warmer.

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PA Voter ID could fire up the Dems

Many long-time voting seniors may be excluded by Voter ID lawsDuring my tenure on the planet, I have witnessed numerous outcries directed toward those who would have a national identification card. Such an affront was OK for the less civilized and freedom-loving of fellow nations, but we would not be subjected to such insult.

Opponents of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law say about 10 percent of the state’s voters will be disenfranchised (and) more likely to be Democrats. But throwing the 2012 presidential election to the Republican ticket isn’t the only goal.

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Behind Door 1, Voter Fraud; behind Door 2, Global Warming

White mountains of northern New Hampshire are nearly snowless.I suppose there is room for some question about whether global warming is even partially manmade. After all, scientists say, the entire globe once was a spinning molten mass.

Then, most of the northern hemisphere was blanketed in miles-deep ice. Next it became warm enough to reliably grow crops while encouraging some of its human inhabitants to, at least part of the year, wear warm clothing. So it’s getting a little warmer. What’s the big deal?

Of course, it does seem a little incongruous that certain politicians would exhort their compatriots to believe science, and then legislate denial of science that says the earth is becoming warmer and humans are helping it happen.

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EVs closing in, slowly, on their niche

More of these are needed to make electric vehicles attractiveElectric Vehicles are coming – as soon as the charging stations are built and the price comes down. They have the mirror image of the problem Marcellus Shale drillers having.

Nissan Leaf  has sold about 1,400 of its all-electric LEAF so far this year, down about 70 percent from 2011 sales. The company only sold 370 of the “clean” little commuter cars in April.

High entry price, commuter-centric miles-per-charge, and few charging stations hinder rapid market expansion.

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Look what I found (and what I didn’t)

A catbird chick, without even many feathers, sits on a bicycle chain, apparently pondering whether to reach the pedalsSometimes you just know something. You can’t prove it, but you know it’s true.

Thus it was with a catbird (at least I think it’s a catbird) in our front yard. Somewhere in the shrubs is a nest. I know that because Mama bird flitters around and squawks and tries to convince me the nest is where it ain’t, so I’ll not detect where it is.

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Nero plays while …

Nero plays while the planet burnsIn the past couple weeks, the evening news has been occupied with obesity, Distracted Walking, and appropriate attire for women playing Olympic beach volleyball.

NBC anchor Brian Williams had the first two items. For more than a week, aided by a steady parade of guest experts, he told us of the consequences of being obese. The obesity stories ran nightly until, I am certain by sheer coincidence, came the announcement of a new miracle drug that just might make everyone slim and sexy.

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Appeals court says municipalities may tell frackers where to go

Commonwealth Court says municipalities may keep wells away from homes, schoolsFor years, Pennsylvania’s municipalities have held zoning power within their borders. As long as they provided a place within their borders for all legal land uses, they were allowed to tell developers of all stripe where to go.

But fracking developers did not want township leaders deciding whether the wells would be allowed near a school, or a pipeline under homes.

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Pocket change: Fracking industry invests $23M in Pa legislature, reaps $1T profit

Fracking money pours from a golden faucet into capitol dome inverted to be a funnelAccording to a release last week by MarcellusMoney.org, the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has spent $23 million in direct contributions to favored legislator campaigns and lobbying efforts since 2000.

The big winners in the Cash for Legislation sweepstakes between 2000 and April 2012 were:

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“UnClean Coal” not listed on billboards

Coal heaped and waiting for customersKing Coal loudly proclaims its place in our society, from the employment it claims to offer to the electricity it sends to our homes. Billboards along the Interstate insist that coal – often referred to as “clean coal” – is the way to go for continued prosperity and energy independence.

But the billboards and television commercials leave out some established, and troubling, truths their supporters hope we will not notice lurking behind those huge signs.

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Wind helping blow coal away – in the U.S., anyway

Wyoming and Pennsylvania have some of the most reliable wind in the nationThe largest wind farm in the world may be coming to the Wyoming prairie. And smaller farms are in the works offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Wyoming project would comprise up to 1,000 turbines, generating enough electricity to serve a million homes. The project, in two groups of turbines named, respectively, the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre sites, would occupy about 2,000 acres of public and private land south of Rawlins. Together, the two farms could replace two coal-fired generating plants in nearby Nevada.

The Bureau of Land Management has completed the final environmental impact statements …

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City kid, Country kid and Real Maple Syrup

(This piece first was published as a guest column on The Green Grandma, July 10, 2012. It will continue there after the jump.)

Someone asked recently what could be done about Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision in 2010 that allows unlimited money to be spent on presidential campaigns – as long as the donors don’t actually talk with the candidate about where and how to spend it.

Last week SCOTUS affirmed that decision with an addition: the same rule – there is only the one – applies now to state campaigns.

The answer to the writer’s query is simple. About the decision, nothing. Contrary to the opinion of at least one politician, the Supreme Court, by definition, has the last word. Until a new Supreme Court changes it. Those who say they want to follow the U.S. Constitution need to read that part; it’s in there.

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Save gas, clear the air, promote retail traffic and get a little exercise; downtown pedestrian-only should be an attractive idea

Kloggers perform in a pedestrian-only stage area in Burlington, Vt.A recent thread about sidewalk cafés in Philadelphia reminded me of a thread I’ve followed many years in the town where I live – making a portion of downtown pedestrian-only. The idea benefits everyone who shops, works and even breathes in the burg that tries it.

It’s a hard sell, though. We Americans have a long independent streak.

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Community shows a way to reduce water use

Hillside development features rooftop solar panels and natural wastewater treatment

(This column was first published on Rock The Capital, Oct. 21, 2011.)

It is said that that much of the county in which I live is only 30-45 days away from drought. The land beneath the houses and pavement is nearly solid – compacted dried clay virtually incapable of storing water.

We turn on our tap and water issues forth, which we use to drink, wash ourselves and our dishes, and flush away our waste. Most of us remain unconcerned about how long that sequence will continue.

In 1998, one group of South Central Pennsylvania residents had a different idea. They created a community designed from the start to minimize demands on natural resources, including water. It seems to be working.

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The hidden cost of food

Fields of crops becoming ready for pickingMen and women are picking tomatoes to earn 50 cents for each 32-pound bucket, $50  to hand pick more than two tons of tomatoes in a 12-hour day.

Of course,  cheaper isn’t always better. The idea leaves thousands of farm hands needing taxpayer support for food stamps and medical care because their wages will not cover the expense.

For one more penny a pound, the person who picked it can see a doubling of her wage, but it’s hard convincing grocery chains and restaurants it’s the right thing to do.

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Pennsylvania’s parallel governments: a journey to The Outer Limits

Two Pennsylvania capitals side by sideFor decades, science fiction has been telling of parallel universes. I was introduced to the idea in my youth by “The Twilight Zone,” a weekly television show that ran 1959 – 1964 and featured people in strange situations – often in places they thought they recognized, but were not where they thought they were – their home town, but with no people, for instance.

Or “imagine, if you will,” as show host Rod Serling would say, finding yourself on the street where you lived. You walk up to your home and are met by – yourself. It’s you, your wife, your child, your dog – and none of them know who you are.

Sometimes the evening news resembles reruns of those old shows. We recognize the representatives we voters sent to Harrisburg to oversee the state’s operations, but they seem not to recognize us. It’s as though we live under parallel governments.

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The Sky is Pink

White puffy clouds float through a pink sky“With the gas-bearing Marcellus Shale formation underlying 50 percent of the state (of New York), and with the gas industry proposing upwards of 100,000 gas wells (in the state), (Gov. Mario Cuomo’s decision to repeal a moratorium on fracking) could fundamentally transform New York.”

With that, producer/director Josh Fox opens an 18-minute video foray into the dangers of fracking for natural gas. Fox was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010 for “Gasland,” a documentary about the hazards of fracking, and is working on a full-length sequel, “Gasland 2.”

In his new short video, Fox says all the chemicals and gas often do not remain confined to the well casing and pipelines, and the industry knows the dangers they deny exist.

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