Trump undermines solar power, but that hasn’t saved coal

Trump undermines solar power at the peril of us all.

By Lynn Hamilton

United States President Donald Trump has devastated the solar industry in America without bringing back coal jobs.

You may remember that Trump allied himself with coal during his run up to the presidency. And coal families gave him their unthinking votes.

This is personal for me because I live in Kentucky, and I taught for two years in eastern Kentucky. During that time, I received numerous papers from students about job loss in their families due to the failure of coal. The tone of these papers was always a mixture of victim mentality, nostalgia, and blame.

Trouble was: they didn’t always know who to blame. Former President Barack Obama figured as a convenient scapegoat because of his modest federal incentives for renewable energy. And his insistence that the coal industry moderate its damage to the environment. He gave sustainability a fighting chance, in other words.

Trump undermines solar power while coal miners die of black lung

black lung

But the real reason the coal industry is dying is the same reason whale oil went down as an industry: We’re running out of coal, just as we ran out of whales. Secondarily, both industries are far too dangerous to the front line workers, and

healthy lung

coal cannot be harvested without the same measure of cruelty as was exercised in the mass murder of whales. Just ask anyone whose community was devastated by mountain top removal. Ultimately, coal is an unsustainable

resource for energy.

We need to unmuddle some thinking here: Bashing solar has not brought back coal jobs and will not bring back coal jobs. Coal jobs have steadily declined since 2005. Trump undermines solar power at the peril of us all, because we are running out of coal without a plan B for keeping the lights on.

The national media has not come right out and said that the loss of ten thousand jobs in solar last year is the fault of Donald Trump, but to use a trope from John Oliver:

It is.

It totally is.

Solar companies, large and small, were already nervous when Trump was elected. The threat of tariffs shook the confidence of the industry until the reality of tariffs replaced it. The loss of federal incentives for energy improvements also played its part.

Let’s recap why this matters to animals, particularly wildlife. Coal burning causes carbon dioxide emissions which cause climate change. Climate change is the main reason for mass extinctions of wildlife. Climate change is the main reason that monarch butterflies are declining in numbers. Climate change, among other things, messes with migration. Birds and monarch butterflies can’t figure out when to migrate because weather patterns are so disrupted. Cool autumns whisper “Time to fly” to the hummingbird. When the fall comes with eighty degree temperatures in the Midwest, the birds get confused.

Solar energy disrupts climate change. It does not emit carbon dioxide, therefore it does not make climate change worse. When solar replaces coal, it has the potential to reverse the damaging effects of climate change which include wildlife loss.

Even if you don’t care about wildlife, you should care about solar energy and the solar industry. At least if you care about having your television and laptop turned on. We’re running out of coal without having smoothed the way for a replacement source of energy. This is what happens when you mythologize a fuel like coal instead of viewing it as something that was useful in its day.

 

 

Nicotine studies should be done on humans

By Lynn Hamilton

I applaud the United States Food and Drug Administration for its decision to close down a study that killed four monkeys.

Since 2014, the National Center for Toxicological Research has been conducting a study on the affects of nicotine on squirrel monkeys. That study has now been shut down, after pressure from Jane Goodall and animal rights organizations.

Nicotine studies should be conducted on paid, human volunteers, preferably those who are already smokers. Studying small animals to an effort to understand how various chemicals affect humans is not efficient.

I think we all knew that nicotine kills people. And now we know it kills monkeys. Have we actually learned anything new here?

We already know that nicotine is addictive, and we already know that it is a powerful addiction, one that is difficult to overcome.

For further, more refined knowledge on the exact effects of nicotine use, human volunteers should be recruited exclusively. The problem with using monkeys is that:

  1. Monkeys don’t smoke voluntarily outside labs. Humans do.
  2. Monkeys didn’t volunteer to be part of a dangerous experiment. Humans will volunteer for dangerous experiments if well paid.
  3. Monkeys are in no way paid or rewarded for such experiments. Humans will, reasonably enough, demand to be paid.
  4. Subjecting an innocent animal to a substance already known to cause death is morally irresponsible.

Where do service animals pee on a Delta flight?

Delta Airlines have said they will cut back on the rights of passengers to bring comfort animals aboard. The new, proposed rules say that, in effect, only dogs and cats may be brought on board, and passengers will have to give notice 48 hours in advance, if they wish to bring a comfort animal on a flight.

Delta representatives are saying that comfort animals wander the cabin and urinate or defecate in inappropriate spaces in the cabin. Once, a comfort animal bit a fellow passenger.

Animal Rights Channel supports the rights of dogs to serve as therapy and service animals because dogs often seek out and enjoy work, just as humans do. We believe that helping others less fortunate gives meaning to life for both humans and animals. Similarly, we believe that most cats have a strong drive to snuggle with humans, a situation that provides mutual comfort and emotional support to both human and cat. Therefore, many cats are predisposed to be excellent comfort animals as well, and they are unlikely to regard this as work.

It is, however, questionable whether ducks, snakes, and other smaller brained animals should be subjected to air travel. The stress of such travel could be damaging to the animal, and small comfort to the human.

In complaining about service animals, Delta representatives have said nothing about whether they supply a place for service animals to urinate and defecate. Flights are often delayed, as we all know, and even well-trained animals can only hold on to their body waste for so long. AnimalRightsChannel.com has put in a request for information from Delta’s communications department to answer this question.

 

 

The health benefits of trees

By Lynn Hamilton

Most people want to live on a green leafy street with plenty of tree canopy, whether they live in the suburbs, the country, or the inner city.

But now it’s official: a greener street makes you healthier. Omid Kardan, a professor and researcher with the University of Chicago, conducted a survey of residents in Toronto, comparing the health of those who live on tree-rich streets to the health of those on streets more barren of trees.

The results might surprise you. Even in a big city like Toronto, residents in leafier parts of town reported better health. Specifically, their blood pressure was lower, and they were more likely to have a healthy weight. Blood sugar issues, such as overly high glucose, were also fewer in the tree covered streets.

That’s significant because high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity lead to a host of major health problems such as heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, kidney failure, and liver failure, to mention the most problematic. Obesity, in particular, is a frequent predictor of death.

As we know, better health leads to a longer life. But it also gives you more energy and zest for day-to-day living. As few as ten additional trees on a city block give its residents a health boost equivalent to being seven years younger.

There are any number of ways that trees in a residential neighborhood can affect health. They trap pollution that might otherwise find its way into a home. Trees absorb noxious particulates as well as gasses. In 2010, a forester by the name of Dave Nowak found that trees prevented over 600,000 cases of respiratory distress and prevented at least 850 deaths in the United States.

Trees also reduce the chances of flooding and the myriad of health problems that arise from a flooded basement, such as mold and toxic bacteria. They reduce summer heat and encourage people to get outside and take a stroll or a run around the neighborhood. People who get such moderate exercise are more likely to be healthy, maintain a normal weight, and live longer, happier lives.

The recent Toronto study filtered out variables such as diet, age, income, and education. Kardan admits, of course, that he can’t screen out every variable. It could be the case that healthier people choose to live on more tree-lined blocks. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore his findings. And they are backed up by other studies.

Researchers in Japan studied the effects of time spent on Yakushima island, a locale known for its rich biodiversity and lovely tree canopy. These Japanese scientists found that trees and other plants throw off beneficial bacteria and oils that we inhale. When these beneficial elements enter our systems, they fight off toxins and malevolent bacteria that can, otherwise, make us sick.

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation offers some further observations on the link between trees and human health. The beneficial bacteria that trees exude is called phytoncides. They are a sort of natural insect repellant. Trees throw off phytoncides to discourage termites and other tree-destroying organisms from dining on the trees’ trunks.

Because of these phytoncides, even a short, three-day stay in a forest increases the number of beneficial white blood cells, also known as “natural killer cells,” in a person’s body. The presence of these white blood cells improves a person’s immunity to disease and infection.

Admittedly, much of the benefit people derive from trees is psychological and emotional. But it is also well known that our mood and emotions directly impact health. Stress causes a whole list of negative health concerns including hypertension, accelerated heart rate, and overeating. Increased rates of cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream have been linked to stress. A walk in the woods or a stroll down a tree lined street definitely alleviates stress and increases a sense of well being, while providing very real and physiological health benefits. And you don’t have to hike in a remote, old-growth forest to reap the results. Even looking at pictures of trees is calming, though not as beneficial as a walk in a leafy neighborhood.

Trees are especially meaningful to children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD typically find it difficult to concentrate, and they often do poorly in school because they lack an ability to focus. For decades, children diagnosed with ADHD were routinely put on one or more drugs to help them succeed academically and socially.

Scientists and doctors now believe, however, that spending time among trees is a tremendous help in alleviating the symptoms of ADHD. Such therapy has the advantage of being affordable and it doesn’t have the inevitable side effects of pharmacological treatment. Schools that are built near a small forest or which incorporate a forested area in their construction have the potential to greatly help students with ADHD.

You might be surprised to learn that trees are beneficial to hospital patients, especially people who have experienced a serious illness or undergone major surgery. Hospital patients suffer not just from the complications of their illness, but also from stress, lack of privacy, and fear. Even a view of trees out a hospital window can make a positive difference in a patient’s recovery. Patients with a view of greenery have fewer postoperative complications, science has discovered. They also have shorter hospital stays and don’t need as many addictive pain medications.

The United States had an unfortunate occasion for studying the impact of trees on health. Since 2002, the emerald ash borer, a tree destroying beetle, has devastated the country’s ash trees. Studies found that, in neighborhoods where ash trees had to be removed, there was a serious spike in lung disease- and heart disease-related mortality.

In fact, the Atlantic reports that trees are so important to human health, they save Americans $6.8 billion dollars in health care per year.

More research is definitely needed on the relationship between trees and human health. But, in the meantime, one of the best things you can do for your family and your neighborhood is to plant a tree.