Trump: Is it not the ‘End of the World’?

12 11 2016

Half of America is reeling from a gut punch. A quarter is celebrating what they hope will mean positive economic change. The remainder is ripping off their hoods in joyous devolution to a segregated America.
Many, many of my friends, allies, and acquaintances are scared. This is not, “oh shit, how did Bush get re-elected?” scared. This is far deeper than politics. This is, “will I be safe walking home now?” scared.

What’s terrifying is the sheer volume of very real and probable actions that the president-elect claims to enact “on day one.” Add to that the immediate physical threats from some violent and hateful Trump followers (no, not all Trump followers are violent or hateful, but some are, and that’s enough to change my life), with horrific stories pouring in daily. It’s overwhelming, trying to comprehend all the ways that this might negatively impact my life. I could write an entirely separate post on risks to dark-skinned people, women, non-Christians, LGBTQ folks, etc. But I’m also scared for us all, globally, and you should read on to understand why.


We don’t really know what will happen once Trump steps into the white house. He can change his mind and do the opposite of what he proposed (which, in many cases, was very vague). I believe that this former democrat was actually much more liberal than he purported himself to be in order to get elected. With zero record of any public office, we have absolutely nothing to go on other than his own words- which contradicted themselves countless times depending on his audience.


Much of what will happen over the next four years will, indeed, be infuriating.We will fight. We will march. We won’t sit idly by and watch our rights flushed down the toilet. But with so many fights, how do we prioritize our efforts?

Global Detriment

Many things that Trump has threatened to do can be undone in four years. Many cannot be effectively undone. Most of them will impact America directly, and foremost. But there is another concern that, for me, as a sustainability expert, I find the most troubling.

What Trump plans to do to our planet will be devastatingly irreversible.

If this next president manages to royally fuck up our country, I can always move, because I’m lucky enough to have a college education, relatively little debt, and diverse skill sets. The rest of you struggling to make ends meet are stuck here, suckas! However, if his actions reflect his rhetoric, Trump is slated to make several bold, disastrous moves for the planet. Last time I checked, we don’t have a Planet B, so…. FUUUUCK.

What am I talking about? Let me tell you. For the sake of brevity, I won’t regurgitate the countless pages written by experts on these matters, but a quick google search should fill you in if you doubt any of my facts. And if you’re pretty sure it’s all a hoax by the Chinese government… well… you’re probably qualified to hold a position in Trump’s cabinet, so congrats!


#1- Paris Climate Treaty

paris-climateTrump has promised to back out of this multilateral agreement- involving 196 countries- in which the U.S. committed to carbon emissions reductions in order to curb climate change. This type of agreement takes decades to get all the right players at the table. There’s a very delicate balance, as industrialized nations point the finger at third world countries that are growing ans aspiring to be like us. “Why do we have to cut emissions so much but they are worse polluters than us?!” (Answer: because we’ve been polluting like this for over a hundred years already, we are better equipped to make changes, and it’s our fault that we are in this climate mess to begin with).

We are the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas polluter, after China.

Once the U.S. backs out, it’s likely that countries like Venezuela and India will have a fervor of fresh debate over what their commitments should be. This will stall the progress further, which will delay emissions reductions, and we will progress even more rapidly towards the climate cliff- the point at which our atmospheric CO2 equivalent levels hit a point of no return. We are already dangerously teetering on this edge as we speak. We have no more time to debate this, as summers keep warming, oceans keep rising, coral reefs keep dying, floods and droughts keep devastating farmers, and our costs continue to rise from rapidly increasing insurance claims.

This year is on track to be the hottest on record, blasting past the previous records set in 2015 and 2014.


#2- Federal Oversight

child-laborRemember when the industrial revolution started? Ah, those glory days! There were no regulations back then, and companies prospered! Workers came home coated in soot, inside their lungs too, which is why they commonly died in their 50s and 60s. But government kept out of American lives! Back at home, the kids played outside in fields leaching chemicals from the factory downtown, frolicking in the polluted river next to mysteriously dying fish and frog carcasses. This was before we had a word for cancer, so many people just died of “unknown causes.” Once Trump comes to power, he is expected to appoint a new head of the EPA who chooses to ignore 98% of all scientists warning about climate change. Trump has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form.” He would need congress approval to completely abolish the EPA.

At least we’ll still have a Department of Energy, right? With a darling of the industry- McKenna- at that helm, there surely is zero risk for corruption, of course. Thank goodness we elected someone who has no personal business interests that would conflict with U.S. policy moves. We don’t need check and balances anyway, right? Companies always have our best interest at heart, always do the right thing, never focus solely on profits, and don’t require any oversight, ever.


#3- Clean Power Plan

Fortune magazine is also concerned about Trump’s plans for the world. Trump vows to repeal ALL executive orders made by President Obama. All of them, regardless of which ones are actually successfully improving our lives. Among those, is the Clean Power Plan.

trump-coalThe plan is projected to cut United States power plant emissions 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. “If Trump steps back from that, it makes it much less likely that the world will ever meet that target, and essentially ensures we will head into the danger zone,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which produces global reports on the state of climate science. (By the way, if you’re really concerned about American energy & the economy, you might want to better understand the negative implications of Trump’s Mexican wall & NAFTA threats)

According to the New York Times, he “could target the rules by appointing an industry-friendly justice to the Supreme Court and then refusing to defend the plan when it goes before the court.

He could also direct the E.P.A. to reissue the plan to be extremely friendly to industry. Such a move would also be subject to lawsuits by environmental advocates, which would further drag out the process. And in concert with congressional Republicans, he could decimate the E.P.A.’s budget, crippling its rule-making capacity.”

What about the coal miners? I hate to tell you this, but, much like VHS tape manufacturers, your job is becoming obsolete. Coal has been declining consistently due to market pressures, so if you’re pissed about layoffs, blame the free market. coal_employment_1985_to_2014

#4- Federal Lands

Trump has promised to open up federally protected lands to oil drilling, and pretty much anything else that will make a buck. He probably has no idea what a “proven reserve” is, or the fact that nobody actually knows how much oil is really beneath the snow in Alaska. But he’s willing to sell it to the highest bidder. If that runs dry, he’ll look elsewhere. Big Bend National Park in Texas is 801,163 acres, surely there must be some oil in there somewhere, right? Oil drilling won’t possibly leach into the Rio Grande, will it? No? Let’s try Glacier National Park in Montana next then. What endangered species?

alaskagallery-mendenhall2015So if you ever thought you’d enjoy seeing these expansive parcels of pristine wilderness, you better get there quick. Between melting glaciers and massive oil rigs waiting in the wings to move in, change is upon us. You might want to tell the caribou too.

There is good news. It’s not the end of the world.

Or at least, not the planet. Even the worst case scenario of climate change will only make the planet uninhabitable, so humans could die off, much like dinosaurs did, but not for a hundred years or so. Earth will still keep spinning, with or without us.

The good news? All international companies will continue to reduce their emissions. Most American companies that are already reducing their emissions through energy efficiency projects have realized that emissions reductions = cost savings, and will continue to pursue reductions.

And the shift away from coal has already happened. Low natural gas prices mean that electricity production from coal is cost prohibitive, and power companies are already planning their 5 year transitions to alternative energy sources including natural gas.Killing the Clean Power Plan won’t stop the business trends, but it will slow some of them.

What can we do?

First, self-care. You cannot fight without internal strength, which comes from rest, healthy habits, and love. Then, donate time or money to action groups with legal recourse. ACLU, Hoosier Environmental Council, etc.

Stay tuned in. Sign petitions. March in peaceful protests. Raise awareness.

The challenge is that there are so many alarming changes coming, it’s likely that some will simply get swept under the rug, missed by media while many larger stories dominate the news. Know these 4, pay attention, and fight like hell. We only have one planet, and if we fuck this up, there is no back up


Who Wants to Die While Flying?

7 11 2016

I consider myself an optimist. This is pretty important when you understand the vast array of incredible risks that we all take every single day. I could step in front of a bus. I could get t-boned by a distracted driver. I could be side swiped by a car turning across the bike lane. Or I could be one of those rare cases where there is an aviation catastrophe.


travel destinationsI believe in managing this risk by calculating (sometimes emotionally) the cost-to-benefit ratio. How much positive gain will I get from engaging in this risky behavior? When it comes to driving to work everyday, the benefit is pretty great- or else I’d be unemployed and homeless. When it comes to bungee jumping, the 30 second thrill is not worth the risk of death, at least for myself. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m eighty. Flying, however, is the best way to get to some of the innumerable treasures that our world has to offer, and as a cultural-minded travel fiend, the reward is far greater than the risk. I think…


iataIATA (International Air Transport Association) represents approximately 260 airlines globally, comprising 83% of global air traffic. According to the IATA, “The 2015 global jet accident rate… was the equivalent of one major accident for every 3.1 million flights. This was… a 30% improvement compared to the previous five-year rate (2010-2014) of 0.46 hull loss accidents per million jet flights.” They also inform us that there were 136 fatalities last year, resulting from four turboprop accidents.

We worry about the risk of flying, even though 865 times more people die in automotive vehicle crashes. 

travel-safetyc0d9ce5ac576df97483b6a43b350f5feIn contrast with the 136 fatalities from plane crashes, “38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads, and 4.4 million were seriously injured[i], meaning 2015 likely was the deadliest driving year since 2008,” according to the National Safety Council. (On a separate note, I bet their logo is being revamped, at least in Colorado, after slews of stoners came knocking on NSC’s door looking for herbal relief). These increasing numbers make sense, as the economy has recovered, and more people are working, along with decreasing gas prices allowing more leisure driving, our risks naturally go up with more cars on the road.


At first blush, I read the IATA stats and thought to myself, “Oh, I actually expected that number to be higher than that.” Until I read on… IATA continues, “The loss of Germanwings 9525 (pilot suicide) and Metrojet 9268 (suspected terrorism) that resulted in the deaths of 374 passengers and crew are tragedies that occurred in 2015. They are not, however, included in the accident statistics as they are classified as deliberate acts of unlawful interference.”


Now, I don’t know about you, but in a global economy where more and more acts of terrorism are making the news, this certainly gut-checks as a very real and serious risk that should be included in my risk assessment every time I get on a plane. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that anyone who ‘looks like a terrorist’ in my security line is deserving of interrogation, and indeed we need to do more work to end racial profiling. Rather than focusing on who may be increasing my risk, for the sake of this article, I prefer to focus on the numbers. That flight statistic above jumps to 510 deaths if you include those two horrible tragedies, which, although devastating for those who suffered, is still dramatically lower than vehicular deaths.


So, flying is still relatively safe. But how can I make it even safer?


Not all airlines are created equal. The risks inherent with flying may dramatically go up depending on who you choose to fly with. Since we know that the risk of actually dying is relatively low, we can broaden out focus to the other implications- injuries, delays, and slight inconveniences due to mechanical failures either on the ground or in flight.


One airline is 4x more likely to have a major breakdown during your flight. Do you know which one it is?


According to a recent Tampa Bay Times article, Allegiant airline, while quite affordable, is one to avoid. “In 2015, Allegiant jets were forced to make unexpected landings at least 77 times for serious mechanical failures.” Thankfully, none of these resulted in fatalities, but the sensation of thinking you’re about to die, would surely start your vacation off on the wrong foot.


The Times continues, “Forty-two of Allegiant’s 86 planes broke down in mid-flight at least once in 2015. Among them were 15 forced to land by failing engines, nine by overheating tail compartments and six by smoke or the smell of something burning.”


While this is enough to make me decide to pay the extra $32.58 for a slightly more reliable carrier, how can you know which choice is a better one? Especially when making connections internationally on airlines you’re not familiar with, what can you do to minimize your risk of delays, cancellations, and emotional trauma of living through a mechanical failure in mid-flight?


Safety by region

The good news is, overall, the risks are improving. Per IATA again, almost all regions exhibited improved safety performance in 2015 compared to the respective five-year rate 2010-2014, (North America being the exception) :

Jet hull loss rates by region of operator

  1. Africa (3.49 compared to a five-year rate of 3.69)
  2. Asia-Pacific (0.21 compared to 0.56)
  3. CIS (1.88 compared to 3.14)
  4. Europe (0.15 compared to 0.18)
  5. Latin America and the Caribbean (0.39 compared to 0.92)
  6. Middle East-North Africa (0.00 compared to 1.00)
  7. North America (0.32 compared to 0.13)
  8. North Asia (0.00 compared to a 0.06).

Looking at these regional comparisons, I’d suggest dong a bit more research before booking a flight in Africa. The above numbers are for jet planes, and as we learned earlier, turboprop planes are far riskier. So what about those numbers globally?

  1. Africa (4.53 compared to a five-year rate of 18.20);
  2. Asia-Pacific (2.07 compared to 2.36);
  3. CIS (0.00 compared to 17.83),
  4. Europe (0.00 compared to 1.63);
  5. Latin America and the Caribbean (0.00 compared to 5.38),
  6. Middle East-North Africa (0.00 compared to 13.88);
  7. North America 0.51 compared to 1.38).

Again, Africa is statistically a far riskier place to fly, if wanting to avoid plane failures. However, the IATA provides additional insight, breaking down one region into far more interesting data, stating that, “North Asia had the worst performance (25.19 compared to 5.90), reflecting two regional hull losses, one of which was fatal,”  which also reflects far fewer total prop plane flights in that area.


What about XYZ Airline?


I recently booked a flight to Sri Lanka, where I am presenting at the International Conference on Sustainable Built Environment. In order to get there, I had several options for how to fly and where to layover. For weeks I did new flight searches on Mondays and Tuesdays (when most flights are slightly cheaper), and the layovers and prices kept changing. One week the best option was Istanbul (which I vetoed based on the terrorist attack there), one was Abu Dhabi, one was Qatar- all were regions I’m vastly unfamiliar with, and would need to research to be safe being:

  1. an American
  2. a woman
  3. a gay person

2016-11-07_8-48-56I almost pulled the trigger on Abu Dhabi, until I researched the airline, only to read horrible reviews about constant delays, cancellations, and lack of communication with stranded passengers. I learned this through, a website for frequent travelers to rate airlines subjectively based on their experiences.


Ultimately, as the dates grew closer and prices started to rise, I made a split second decision to buy a flight that saved me $500 below any other option. I checked out the airline review, which was far more positive than the other options. I clicked the submit button, and it was done. In December, we will be flying Turkish Airline, with a 9 hour layover in Istanbul. 


We had talked about this option weeks earlier, and opted to not take it because of the risks. Just earlier this year, 43 people died in a tragic attack at the airport. This is not the first airport bomb, of course. And after each incident, the wounded entity rallies support to beef up security, ensuring that this target will be far less likely to be targeted again. Instead, the insidious terrorist groups will likely move to an easier target… at least, that is part of my personal risk assessment. With this in mind, and after reading such terrible reviews of the other affordable options, I got swept up in the rush of finding a cheap flight, and just went for it… perhaps without fully thinking it through.


So… my flight should be relatively smooth, but what about the layover? Will we dare to travel outside the airport, into the heart of Istanbul? Will we be at higher risk of being targeted? Is it worth it to see the awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia?? We will likely never have the chance to do so again…

Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya), The Church of Holy Wisdom,

I’ll report back in January to let you know what it’s like to be an American woman traveling around Istanbul for a day with you wife.



Trump v. Clinton: The Fear of Bad Temperament in Foreign Relations

4 11 2016

Our Facebook feed has been filled with memes about controversial policies that have everyone up in arms leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The candidates themselves are being busted during debates for saying non-truths (aka ‘lies’). And while these political statements may amount to mostly bravado, with no political will to actually pass any of these ridiculous measures, there are some truly scary ramifications that will come from our next President of the United States.

Believe it or not, the U.S., while being fairly isolated geographically, no longer lives in an insular world. What we do, who we threaten, which international efforts we support, all has dramatic impacts on our national security and our local economy. This is the 21st century, folks. We live in a rapidly changing, completely global economy, and there’s no turning back. We cannot simply say, “eh, we don’t like you guys, and we are going to stop talking to you and just pretend you don’t exist.”


Besides alienating ourselves from our international allies, there is a far greater threat to having a leader with no foreign policy experience or knowledge. It’s only a matter of time, I suspect, before “the best temperament” gets us in deep waters with political enemies who possess very real weapons of mass destruction. There’s a reason why we value the term “diplomat.” The leaders of this free nation must be calm, cool, and collected, and capable of seeing the long term ramifications of off the cuff comments about foreign dictators. POTUS simply cannot speak their mind without any filter. This is NOT a tit for tat world we live in, when it comes to foreign policy. Our leaders need to have skin as thick as bark, to choose what is right for our country, not to impulsively react in defense of their personally bruised ego. This has been a long standing element of civil international discourse, and it is not something that can be easily compromised.


Imagine, a world in which the President of the United States gets his feelings hurt & lashes out vindictively every time someone disagrees with his approach…







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