Archive for January, 2013

Wordless Wednesday – The Last Mountain

January 31st, 2013

Keep Biking During Winter

As a native of upstate New York, I know that we have a pretty good deal here in coastal Virginia when it comes to winter temperatures and snow cover. The last few days notwithstanding (it is unpleasant to bike through persistent drizzles and ankle-deep campus floods, not to mention the uncharacteristic snowfall we had last night), the weather at William & Mary is fairly mild even throughout the worst winter months of January and February. Still, it can be difficult to get up and onto your bike in winter, even when you know it is a more sustainable option than driving.

I’ve parked my car over in William & Mary Hall Lot and intend to leave it there, out of the way, as much as possible – partially to avoid the endless fight for resident parking spaces, and also to encourage myself to travel more sustainably even in the dead of winter.

I researched some tips for remaining on your bike during the winter to help keep myself motivated, and wanted to pass on the wisdom to other hesitant cyclists.

Mother Nature Network has a number of wardrobe recommendations for winter cyclists, including warm boots, thin gloves under mittens to keep your hands warm AND enable you to unlock your bike, lots of thin layers (especially wicking materials near your skin to prevent sweat from soaking your clothes), and those extras we might forget like hats, scarves and earmuffs.

Days get darker earlier in winter, so try to make yourself extra-visible by adding lights to your bike, and wearing bright colors. Make sure your bike is in good working order, too, since mechanical problems in winter can lead to much more discomfort than they would in the warmer months.

One of the worst parts of biking in inclement weather is the wet-seat problem. I often leave my bike chained outside buildings for class, only to be rewarded with a wet pair of pants when I travel to my next location. Placing a plastic bag or two over your bike seat can be a fairly easy fix, but these might be harder to come by, since our campus is phasing them out. I’ve been using a bike-seat cover that I crafted out of an impermeable reusable grocery bag. You can also find bike seat covers for reasonable prices online, like these.

For more winter cycling tips, check out the following sites:

Happy riding!

January 18th, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Trash Art in New York City

Wordless Wednesday
NY Garbage by Justin Gignac.


January 16th, 2013

Four More Years: The Environment in Obama’s Second Term

Michelle Obama

With Obama’s second inauguration day arriving in one week, environmentally-minded Americans are looking forward to seeing what the next four years will bring with respect to energy and the environment.

The Obama administration kept environmental issues as a steady, if not a central, priority during the past term. While the administration’s lax stance on offshore drilling safety requirements and enthusiasm for natural gas exploration have been a disappointment to environmentalists, the last four years brought progress on a number of environmental priorities. The Center for American Progress outlined a list of ten energy priorities in 2008, and recently published a summary of the progress that the Obama Administration has made.

The CAP reports that during the past four years, the average fuel economy of cars has increased, we have taken initial steps to limit carbon pollution from vehicles, mercury pollution from power plants has been cut by 90 percent, and investments in clean energy and efficiency have increased.

At the same time, Congress failed to approve a bill to reduce carbon pollution with cap and trade, which passed the House but not the Senate. The same scenario happened with a bill to establish a national renewable electricity program. Although we made some progress in efficiency investments, we have a long road ahead of us.

This election cycle was a positive one for our Senate. The League of Conservation Voters, which campaigns for conservation-friendly candidates, won seven of the eight seats they campaigned for, including those of Mark Heinrich, Tammy Baldwin, and Chris Murphy. They praised the appointment of John Kerry as Secretary of State, but rated the House as “the most anti-environmental House in history.” (Living on Earth, 9 January, 2013.)

Though Obama was largely silent on climate change and the environment during his campaign, he did cite climate change as a major threat in his victory speech. The win of a second term could allow him to place more focus on these issues, especially since he will be ineligible for reelection and more free to exercise his legislative power on controversial initiatives. Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, agreed that the current administration will be tested in “how far it is willing to go in using executive power” for the purpose of environmental protection, because Congress will, despite the Senate wins, likely not be strong enough to achieve the progress we need. (Living on Earth, 9 January, 2013)

In the New York Times article, “A To-Do List for the Next Four Years,” two environmental experts weighed in on what Obama should prioritize in the second term.

Christine Todd Whitman, former Administrator of the EPA, cited Hurricane Sandy as evidence that climate change should be a central focus of the administration. Carol Browner, who directed the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy from 2009 to 2011, and served as administrator of the EPA from 1993 to 2001, cited energy and climate change as “unfinished business” from the past four years. Like Karpinski, she said that Obama can leverage existing energy laws like the Clean Air Act and use his executive authority to reach meaningful change on these issues.

Although the preservation of our environment never rests in the hands of only one person, it looks as though the country’s most powerful man will hold a lot of sway in the realms of energy and the environment for the next four years.

-Sharon Hartzell

Image Source

January 14th, 2013


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