Category Archives: environmental news

No. 1 issue? Climate change

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

If someone were to ask me about the top priority facing the president of the United States, I would place climate change at the top of the list of “existential threats” that needs our attention.

Donald J. Trump is a lost cause on that one. He calls climate change/global warming a “hoax.” He pushes for more fossil fuel drilling and development; he has pulled the nation out of the Paris Climate Accords that establishes a framework for cutting carbon emissions; he has been silent on deforestation.

The wildfires that have ravaged several western states are essentially the direct result of climate change. Trump’s answer? He calls on states to sweep the forest floor clean of dead trees that provide fuel for the fires.

This is where Joe Biden can deliver the goods if he is elected president. Oh, how I hope that happens 36 days from now.

He said he would return to the Climate Accords. Biden has vowed to invest in clean energy technology. He vows to work with Congress — where he served for 36 years before being elected vice president in 2008 — to find common ground on legislative solutions to this growing threat to the only planet we can call home.

Trump is clueless. He is feckless. He is reckless in his declarations of “hoax.”

The men will face off tonight in the first of three debates. May the better man — and I consider him to be Joe Biden — return climate change to the front edge of the top shelf of issues that need presidential attention.

Reinvest in renewables

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Politics is everywhere, including places where it doesn’t belong.

As Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden notes, fires and hurricanes don’t discriminate between “red and blue states.” He is seeking to rely on science to determine what the national response should be to fight what he has identified correctly as an existential threat to the nation.

That is climate change.

Donald Trump took office in January 2017 and began dismantling environmental rules and regulations established by the Obama administration. He fought to restore a full-throttle fossil fuel exploratory policy.

What the president ignored is that Obama’s effort to develop clean, renewable energy actually contributed to this nation’s independence from foreign-produced fossil fuels. Do you recall when Republicans blasted Hillary Clinton for saying in 2016 that she intended to eliminate jobs related to the coal industry? They ignored the rest of her statement, which was that she intended to replace those jobs with those associated with renewable energy development.

So it was prior to the time Donald Trump took office.

The Pacific Coast wildfires are the direct result of a changing worldwide climate, as scientists have affirmed. Trump is casting aside those analyses. He said “forest management” needs improvement, which he insists will prevent the explosive fires that have incinerated more than 4 million acres in California, Oregon and Washington.

Joe Biden is vowing for all he is worth to restore the effort to develop renewable energy sources. I haven’t heard him say he would propose ending fossil fuel exploration and development.

We have on our hands a direct national security threat that has nothing to do with terrorism. It has everything to do with the changing climate that is bringing untold destruction in the form of fire, heavy wind, shattering coastal surf.

This great nation needs national leadership from the top of the governmental chain of command. It isn’t getting it from the individual in charge at this moment. I am quite confident we will receive it when we replace him with someone who will listen intently to scientists who know what they are talking about.

Trump denies science … wow!

(Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Donald Trump plastered a silly grin on his mug and then told a California environmental analyst that “I don’t think science knows” about the cause of wildfires that have incinerated millions of acres in three Pacific Coast states.

Trump ventured to California to inspect the damage done by the fires that have scorched about 5 million acres in Oregon and Washington in addition to California. He continues to insist that the way to prevent the intense fires is to practice something called “forest management.” He contends the states aren’t doing enough of it to keep the forests from igniting.

What he ignores, of course, is that much of the timber that has been burned stands on federal land, which comprises a great deal of the real estate in states out west.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom made it clear that in his view there is no “debate” over the existence of climate change. I happen to agree with the governor. I also happen to agree with scientists around the world that human activity has contributed greatly to the changing climate and that we are hurtling toward the point where Earth likely cannot be saved from the catastrophe that awaits.

So, to hear the president of the United States continue to deny scientific findings because he “thinks” science can be wrong displays a level of ignorance that puts the entire planet in dire peril.

Forest management vs. climate change?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Donald J. Trump continues to deny the impact of climate change on our nation and the world.

He went to California today to “inspect” the damage being done by fires that are ravaging the Pacific Coast states.

Does he say a word — anything at all — that recognizes the impact that climate change is delivering to those suffering from Mother Nature’s wrath? Nope. He said states need to do a better job of “managing” their forests. They need to clean them up better, get rid of the fuel that dries up and explodes in flames.

Oh, wait! How does this situation develop? I am going to presume that climate change is bringing about the intense fires.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared that the “debate is over” regarding climate change. I believe the governor is correct. I also believe the president is wrong to focus on forest management as a way to extinguish the flames.

What’s happening back home?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I lived in Oregon for my first 34 years of life on this Earth.

Not until this year have I seen the devastation that is occurring at this moment in my beloved home state.

I am heartbroken. Moreover, I am aghast at the scope of the fires that have swept through entire neighborhoods in the southern part of the state. I saw the pictures this morning out of Phoenix, a town near Medford. Words escape me.

What are we to make of the destruction that is threatening the Pacific Coast region? Washington is ablaze, as is California. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants to label the fires “climate change fires,” not just “wildfires.” Inslee ran briefly for president this year, vowing to make climate change the signature issue of an Inslee administration. He won’t get the chance to set federal policy as president, but he is making a valid point about what climate change is doing to my home state and the states that border it north and south.

Will the federal government pay attention? We can be assured that Donald Trump won’t listen to the pleas of the governor he called a “snake” earlier this year. I doubt he’ll listen to Oregon Gov. Kate Walsh, or to California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Their biggest “sin,” along with Inslee, is that they are Democrats who also happen to believe that Earth’s climate is changing and that human activity has contributed greatly to what is happening at this very moment to their states.

I, too, believe climate change has exacerbated the destruction from the flames. I also want the federal government to step up its fight against the factors that have contributed to the unfolding tragedy.

I am enough of a realist to understand that the feds’ involvement will remain muted as long as Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office. Let the peril facing our good Earth be just one more reason to send the current president packing.

Where is the concern about fires?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I watch the news a good bit of every single day, so I am compelled to ask: Has Donald Trump said a word in public about the fires that are destroying homes along the Pacific Coast of the United States of America?

Has he offered a word of concern? Have there been expressions of sadness? Of empathy? Has he offered a full federal response to assist the states that are battling these fires?

If he has, then it got past me.

Hey, I know the states of Oregon, Washington and California all are governed by Democrats. Donald Trump once referred to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as a “snake” back when Washington was ground zero of the growing coronavirus pandemic.

He chastised California officials for allegedly failing to enact sound fire-management strategies when that state erupted a year ago from wildfires.

Oh, and let’s not forget the invective Trump has hurled at Oregon Gov. Kate Brown over the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland that have turned violent.

So now the states are on fire. Flames have incinerated entire neighborhoods in the southern Oregon town of Phoenix. Firefighters are pushed to the limits of their endurance throughout California.

Where is the president of the United States? Hello, Mr. President? Your fellow Americans are suffering!

Let’s start with climate change

Donald Trump has labeled a number of existential threats as a “hoax.” Thus, he has refused to deal with those threats.

If he gets the boot on Election Day and vacates the presidency next January, I am hoping the new president, Joe Biden, will take charge of those so-called “hoax” issues and start to deal forthrightly with them.

Let me start with climate change.

It’s real, man. Earth’s climate is changing to the detriment of every living creature inhabiting this fragile planet. Donald Trump has refused to recognize the threat. He continues to push for fossil fuel development, which necessarily spews more carbon emissions into the air.

Trump decided shortly after taking office to roll back the water and air quality regulations enacted by President Obama. He just could not stand the idea of Obama’s imprint being left on anything.

Trump doesn’t discuss climate change. He doesn’t feel the need to call our collective attention to the reality that Earth’s average annual temperature is rising; that the polar ice caps are melting; that sea level is rising; that coastal communities are being threatened; that nations’ deforestation endangers nature’s habitat and deprives the world of vegetation needed to replace the oxygen being consumed.

Joe Biden pledges to return the United States to the Paris Climate Accords. He promises to put climate change front and center on his agenda of issues with which to tackle. I intend to hold him to those pledges, although I have far greater faith in Biden keeping his word than anything that flies out of Trump’s mouth.

We have just one planet, ladies and gentlemen. We need to care for it. We need to cherish it. A new president can deliver on the need to deal head-on with a serious existential threat to our very existence.

Littering provokes militancy

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — I am married to an anti-littering militant.

I have known it for the nearly five decades of our married life, but I saw it on full display on a morning walk along the Texas Gulf Coast.

We sauntered onto the beach from our fifth wheel. Immediately, she became incensed at what she saw … and what she began to collect on our stroll. I figure we must have picked up close to a 40 pounds of trash on our walk of several hundred yards.

I am proud of her, as you might surmise.

The point she made struck home with me. Why come to the great outdoors, enjoy nature and then soil it with this kind of trash? We understand fully, though, that a lot of trash washes ashore from offshore — from seagoing vessels and from the oil platforms one can see from the beach.

In the early 1980s, the General Land Office launched its anti-littering campaign, labeling it “Don’t Mess With Texas.” The phrase over time has been perverted to connote some sort of macho statement about Texas and Texans. However, it means simply that we shouldn’t toss litter onto our landscape.

I get it, and I assure you my bride certainly gets it.

Let me be clear on this matter: We are proud supporters of our state parks. We intend to see them all before we no longer are able to haul our fifth wheel around our immense state. I also am proud of the way Texas Parks & Wildlife cares for our parks. TP&W does a stellar job of keeping them well-groomed, which makes them so attractive to us.

It’s no one’s fault here at Sea Rim State Park that the beach is littered with too much trash. The fault lies with the nimrods who come here, as my wife says, to “enjoy nature” only to sully it with their trash. The fault also lies with the seagoing vessel crews and the dipsticks who work on those platform way out there on the horizon.

To those who aren’t as careful as they should be about disposing of their trash, be forewarned: Don’t mess with Mrs. Kanelis.

‘Vancouver, Vancouver … this is it!’

When you grow up in a part of the world full of natural beauty highlighted by snowcapped peaks all along your eastern horizon, you take for granted that they’ll always be there … as in always.

Forty years ago today, that notion changed for those of us who lived west of the Cascade Range, a long string of volcanic peaks stretching from British Columbia to Northern California.

Mount St. Helens blew apart on May 18, 1980. I was at home in Portland, Ore., about 50 miles south-southwest of the peak. We couldn’t watch the event occur in real time, as the sky was overcast that Sunday morning (yes, imagine that, if you can). But oh brother, we knew about it.

There are things in life you really don’t expect to witness or experience up close. An erupting volcano, to be honest, was not on my list of life experiences. However, that day it damn sure did etch itself into my memory.

The peak began rumbling to life in March. The ground beneath the then-9,677-foot summit in southwest Washington was quaking regularly. The peak began collapsing as craters formed atop the pristine summit of Mount St. Helens. I was editor of a small daily newspaper in Oregon City. We felt compelled to cover the story as it was developing. One of our reporters, David Peters, drove to near the peak with his fiancée to visit with a young man assigned by the U.S. Geological Survey to study Mount St. Helens’ evolution from dormant to active volcano.

The young man was David Johnston. He gave Dave Peters a statement that proved hauntingly prophetic, which was that if the mountain were to blow up then and there, they all would be killed. Happily for my friends, it didn’t. They returned home and Dave wrote a wonderful story for the newspaper.

I had another thrill, flying in a single-engine airplane over the summit that day as the mountain was quaking and shuddering. Only after we returned to my acquaintance’s hangar in Mulino, Ore., did I learn that federal aviation officials clamped a no-fly restriction for miles around the summit. They didn’t bust us, for which I will be grateful.

Then came the blast that changed the history of the Pacific Northwest. The mountain’s north face slid away from a huge earthquake, releasing an torrent of ash, fiery gas and rock. Thousands of acres of virgin timber were destroyed. Spirit Lake filled with logs and all manner of volcanic debris.

David Johnston radioed immediately to his USGS headquarters, “Vancouver, Vancouver … this is it!” 

Then he was gone. The pyroclastic flow from the beastly mountain incinerated the young volcanologist in an instant.

Oh, man. The memory of it all.

Happy Earth Day … if only we could cheer it this year

I have been fond of wishing everyone a Happy Earth Day, which I have done repeatedly on this blog.

This year it’s different. It’s vastly different, in fact. We acknowledge the 50th anniversary of Earth Day under a severe, foreboding and ominous cloud brought to our good Earth by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fifty years ago we began setting aside a day to celebrate the only planet we have. Earth is home. That’s it. We have to care for it. President Nixon founded the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, vowing to exert greater emphasis on ways to protect our precious Earth.

Here we are today. Our worldwide economy has effectively been shut down by the viral infection that has killed hundreds of thousands of human beings.

The “good news,” if you want to call it such, is that our air has gotten much cleaner as we have driven far less. We have nowhere to go. Our motor vehicles are parked.

OK, so the air is cleaner. We still have water pollution issues. We have deforestation that leads to global warming and climate change. We’re still throwing too much trash into landfills. We still are using too much fossil fuel that also spews pollution into the air.

Our minds and hearts, at the moment, are directed at fighting the pandemic. I am all for that effort, to be sure. I do not want to rush into a return to “normal living” while the virus is still infecting and killing human beings.

I do want to wish everyone once more a Happy Earth Day, although I understand completely that our attention is being diverted to more immediately urgent matters.