Americans Across the Heartland are Exhausted and Dejected

Americans across the heartland, on both ends of the political spectrum, are exhausted and feeling dejected for good reason.

In our public lives we have or are living through one big life-altering crisis after another: the turmoil and divisiveness of the Trump presidency, the illness and death of the Coronavirus public-health emergency, and the financial hardships during and after the pandemic.

Then there are the slow-moving crises of weekly weather-related disasters, failing public infrastructures, anxiety over an impending recession, the decline of civility, chaos at the border, erosion of democratic norms, mass shootings, falling life expectancies, extremists on the right and left, and disruptions due to climate change and the need to decarbonize energy. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change August 2022

Along party lines, the US House and Senate passed, and President Biden signed, the most significant and ambitious legislation to date to move the country to a low-carbon future. The bill provides over $370B towards a large number of green energy programs that include: tax credits for purchasing new and used EVs produced in the US, methane emissions penalties, financing for alternative energy programs like hydrogen, tax credits to keep existing nuclear power plants from closing, support to reduce agricultural emissions and capture carbon, help for factories that produce materials used in alternative energy, help for states and local governments to deploy clean energy technologies, and aid for low-income and disadvantaged communities impacted the most by extreme weather and a changing climate. Here’s a closer look at everything that is in the inflation Reduction Act which rightfully should be called the Emissions Reduction Act. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic August 2022

As the month begins, the US continues to be stuck in a plateau of about 400 COVID deaths each and every day. Some 12,500 died in the month of July.  Approaching 2 1/2 years into the pandemic, there have now been about 1,030,000 official deaths in the US and an estimated 6,420,000 across the globe.

More research confirms that COVID struck people of color the hardest, especially in rural America. In the early months of the pandemic, Hispanic and Black Americans died at 2-3 times the rate of White Americans. Many reasons have been cited: the lack of health care providers and hospitals in rural communities, misinformation and denialism, far lower vaccination rates, higher levels of obesity and other comorbidities, and more dangerous lower- income jobs that put them at higher risk of infection. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change July 2022

In what President Biden called a devastating opinion, the US Supreme Court ruled against the EPA by restricting its power to regulate CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants in a way that would result in their closing. The court said the agency did not have the authority to transform the nation’s power grid away from coal. Instead, it ruled that Congress must first delegate that specific authority to the agency, which of course SCOTUS knows very well won’t happen in the current dysfunctional Congress.

The EPA responded by saying there were other paths to accomplish the mission of cutting emissions by half this decade. The ruling also means that individual states and cities will have to do more to decarbonize electricity production for their own residents and businesses. Thankfully, many states like California, New York and Washington are rising to the challenge.  To meet GHG goals, the court’s decision will ultimately place more burden on the private sector to accelerate electrification and decarbonization of their operations and products. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic July 2022

Global health experts estimate that vaccines have saved the lives of nearly 20 million people around the world with 2 million of these in the US. Officially, there have been 6.3 million deaths due to the virus, which many officials think is a gross underestimate.

The BA.5 variant continues to spread around the world and has become dominant in the US, resulting in the majority of new infections. As a result, officials are considering expanding eligibility for a second booster to adults younger than 50.  However, only about a quarter of seniors have taken advantage of a second booster, which would be their fourth shot. The good news is that the variant does not appear to cause serious illness in the vaccinated or to be any more deadly. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change June 2022

The US set an all-time record during the 1Q of the year for renewable energy generation with nearly 250K GW-hours of power, over 23% of total US electricity. Power from solar, wind, and hydroelectric were all up by substantial amounts. Coal-fired power was down, due to plant closures, but another fossil fuel, natural gas, was up at 35% total electricity. Of the 120 new power plants coming online, about 3/4 of them were new wind and solar. Total energy from carbon-free sources, including nuclear, provided 42% of electricity generated during the quarter. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic June 2022

The Biden Administration announced that vaccine shots for children 5 and under could be ready to go before the end of this month, pending final approval from the CDC and FDA. This would be the last group of Americans, some 18 million, to become eligible for vaccines. But it is still uncertain how many parents will avail their families of the shots, given that less than 30% of previously approved 5-11 year olds have been vaccinated. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic May 2022

This month US officially surpassed 1 million deaths due to COVID. President Biden ordered flags to be flown at half-staff and reminded Americans that the pandemic was not over. As if this number was not shocking enough, many health officials say the actual number is substantially higher. The US has the tragic distinction of having the worst death rate due to how the country handled the pandemic combined with the overall poor health and obesity status of its population. As the month begins, an average of 370 Americans are still dying of COVID every day. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change May 2022

CO2 in the atmosphere as measured at Mauna Loa hit another record at 420 ppm. April is the month when C02 is the highest in the Norhtern Hemisphere. The Keeling Curve shows no sign of slowing down and is expected to blow past 430 then reach 440. The last time levels were this high was millions of years ago on a planet that would not have been habitable for humans or the fauna that we now have. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic April 2022

Over 500 million official coronavirus cases have now been recorded across the world in two years since the pandemic began. Public health experts claim the actual number of fatalities, out of a total global population of nearly 8 billion, is likely much higher. As the month begins, the number of new cases per day is still over 1 million with an average of 3,800 confirmed daily deaths. Read More