Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top Ten Environmental Predictions for 2018

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In another end of the year On the Brink tradition, here are my top environmental predictions for 2018. Do you have any others? If so, add them to the comments on the blog. My crystal ball tells me that the year ahead will be an important one and that the environment will take a major role in national and world discourse.

1. Greater environmental activism. Given my top environmental news stories of 2017 which showed that it was a very bad year for U.S. environmental policy, I predict greater environmental activism in 2018 which will be expressed through protests, support for environmental groups, and the voting box.

2. Green segregation. While the U.S. government has moved away from environmental protection policies, many states and local governments have not. As a result, some places will continue to have very strong environmental protection and some places will not. The result of this will be that the very people who support the current administration will be the ones who are largely impacted by the decline in environmental protection.

3. Other nations gain competitive advantages in green technology. Many other parts of the world are moving much faster on green technology than the U.S. at the present moment. While we had a considerable advantage for a while, we are losing ground fast due to the pullback in support for alternative energy at the federal level.

4. Expanded electric car infrastructure funded by states, local governments, and the private sector. While the U.S. has its head in the sand on alternative energy, car manufacturers are moving rapidly to add plug in technology to cars. Expect to see much greater plug in infrastructure advance in some areas.

5.  More reckoning on nuclear energy. We have many old nuclear power plants and we store a tremendous amount of nuclear waste at those sites. Many will be closing in the next several years. Expect to see pressure ramped up to deal with nuclear waste and the costs of sunsetting old power plants.

6. More pipleline protests. There are a number of pipeline projects underway around the world. Expect to see more protests in the coming year as construction advances.

7. Indigenous rights and the environment. 2017 was not a good year for indigenous rights and the environment. From the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline project to the shrinking of national monuments that were created to protect indigenous religious sites, Native Americans had some major losses this year. Expect to see significant push back in the coming year.

8. Water crises. Many areas of the world are running out of water. Expect 2018 to be the year that we see some significant impacts in places like Yemen.

9. More evidence of climate change; greater isolation of climate change deniers. The evidence for climate change keeps piling up. Expect to see more evidence emerge in 2018 as climate change deniers start to feel the heat.

10. Green aviation technology advances. Airline manufacturers are working hard to green flying. Expect to see more green technology advance that will make flying less impactful on the environment.


I have to say that I didn't do that well with last year's predictions. Check them out here. Will I do any better this year? Stay tuned! Thank you for visiting this site in 2017 and I look forward to interacting with you in 2018. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Top Environmental News Story of 2017

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Each year On the Brink lists the top environmental news stories of the year. However this year, there is only one story that makes the list: the destruction of U.S. federal environmental policy. Certainly there are other interesting stories out there (for example this one from Africa where the Africa Development Bank is moving rapidly to promote green energy across the continent), but the abrogation of many important environmental rules/policies by the current presidential administration is really the top new story of the year. Here are but ten examples of the destruction of policy:

1. Withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and general climate change denial as many climate-related natural disasters happened.

9. Attack on the Endangered Species Act including the delisting of the grizzly bear (there are only 700 of them).

I could have added many more stories from a number of agencies, but I think these 10 stories provide a clear example of the significance of the shift away from environmental protection. The impact of these rollbacks will be felt in the coming years and I am certain that there will be improvements in the future as the pendulum swings back. It is also worth noting that many of these actions are deeply unpopular and will have a near-term political price. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Most Popular On the Brink Posts of 2017

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A big thanks to all the readers of On the Brink over the last year. Readership of the blog continues to grow and I really appreciate all of you for visiting and sharing posts. Below is a list of the top three blog posts of 2017. There were some surprises in the mix. One never knows which posts will get the attention of the Internet.

By far the most popular post of the year was The Inevitability of Donuts and Green Energy and Why Coal Is Like Mariah and Renewables are like Bruno. This post brought together a bit of autobiography with some commentary on public policy. It is interesting to reflect on how this post still reads since it was written early in the year. I still believe its message is accurate. Renewables are as exciting and of the moment as Bruno Mars.

A short piece, China Outpaces the World in Global Renewable Energy Investments, came in as the second most popular piece of the year. There is a real concern that the U.S. is losing the technological edge on innovation in renewables.

The third most popular piece was Blacksmiths and Artisanal Coal. It highlighted that coal was a dead industry and that attempts to prop it up will fail like attempts to prop up old technologies have failed in the past.

It is interesting that the three most popular posts all had something to do with energy. Two of the three had a bit of autobiographical information.

Of course, my series on the National Monuments remain popular as does my series on circumnavigating Long Island.

I look forward to more posts in the year ahead!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Castle Mountains National Monument

Today I continue my series on all 129 U.S. National Monuments. This is in follow up to my series that featured open access photos of all of the U.S. National Parks. In the coming years, I will highlight open access images all of the U.S. National Monuments in alphabetical order.

Today's featured monument is Castle Mountains National Monument in California. This is not one of the monuments that is under review for delisting as per executive order by the president. Following the photos is a list of U.S. National Monuments previously featured on this blog. This is one of the newest national monuments and was just designated by President Obama in 2016.

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Previous On the Brink posts in the National Monument Series:

Admiralty Island National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agua Fria National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
California Coastal National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Saturday, December 2, 2017

New Tax Bill Bad for the Environment

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As reported in many places, the new tax bill has all kinds of bad things in it for higher education (including increasing taxes on graduate students 400%), but it also opens up drilling on the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

The weird thing about this one is that this was put in the bill specifically to get the vote of Senator Murkowski of Alaska. It was essentially the only way that they could get her vote on the tax bill.

In other news, the EPA just reversed policy and is now allowing hard rock miners (those that mine for things like gold, silver, copper, etc.) to essentially walk away from their mines without environmental remediation.

It was not a good week for the environment or the long-term public health of the nation.