Candice Hildebrant

In early March, just a few weeks before she died, Candice Hildebrant posted her story.  I will let her tell it in her own powerful words.

Candice was in her thirtys, a tireless advocate for a single payer healthcare system, and an activist in Suffolk county.

Please consider a donation towards a Go-Fund-Me collection to fund future college tuition for a young daughter she leaves behind:  gf.me/u/rviu6w

 


I am one of of the many people in America who is suffering from the broken healthcare system we have in our country right now. Every single day of my life I have to fight against my multiple chronic illnesses. It is a daily struggle that sometimes I win, and many times I lose. I fight these battles every single day, and I fight them with no support from the people in government who are supposed to be there for me.

In my experience the government has looked the other way and ignored the many New Yorkers and even more Americans like me who are in dire straits due to mounting health care costs and coverage gaps.  My family and I are in trouble, and our government officials, who have been elected to speak for us and guide our state and country to a better way, are failing us. We need help and we need it now. We don’t have the luxury to wait and see what plans might come down the road. We need serious health care reform now, otherwise people will lose their homes, their families and their lives.

In January of 2014 I went to my family doctor after having been sick for days. I wasn’t able to breathe, my chest ached and I felt so sick – I thought I had the flu. I was given different medications and told to rest. A week later I was back in my doctor’s office, having gotten worse. Again I was given more medication and told to rest.  I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t get out of bed, I was so sick my husband wanted to take me to the hospital then and there. But we didn’t go – it would cost just too much money, and after all it was just the flu being compounded by my asthma.  So instead I went back to my doctor’s office, where I was told by the doctor there was no other choice – I had to go to the hospital. My lungs weren’t working and I wasn’t getting enough oxygen, so I was taken immediately by ambulance from the doctor’s office to the hospital.

I didn’t leave that hospital for weeks. I was put on a breathing machine while they ran test after test to find out why I wasn’t able to breathe, stand or even sit up. It clearly wasn’t just my asthma aggravated by a virus.  My husband was at a loss, and my young daughter – only 5 at the time – was so confused as to where Mommy had gone and why she couldn’t see me. Eventually I was well enough to leave and go home, still not knowing what had caused this. I was able to be back with my husband and my daughter.  But I still wasn’t well enough to walk on my own, shower on my own, feed myself or even get out of bed by myself.

As a small family in a small apartment with already mounting medical costs, my husband couldn’t stay home from work to care for me. We had no money for a home health aide and our insurance wouldn’t cover one.  This meant my husband would make a lunch for me in the morning, put it in a lunch bag and leave it on the bed for me to eat while he was at work. I was left at home alone, not able to even walk on my own, with a cooler bag containing some food and drink and a commode next to the bed. This was the best my family could do, all we could do.  It took months of living like this before I was well enough to leave my house and go back to work.

Ever since then, I have been sick; I have never fully recovered. I saw doctor after doctor since 2014, trying to determine what was wrong with me – why am I still ill? I visited asthma specialists, pulmonologists, orthopedists, rheumatologists, neurologists, hematologists etc., a neverending parade of specialists. Eventually, over the last three years of waiting and searching and being ill, it was determined I have a variety of chronic illnesses – all of which stem from a double whammy of progressive autoimmune diseases. l was in a desperate search to find the right specialist – if there even was one – that could help me.

Finally I received the answers I had spent five years of pain and frustration struggling to find. I have psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain disorder, PTSD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and asthma – all of which have no cure. I face a lifetime of fighting these illnesses, two of which are progressive.  Since they are progressive I have to receive consistent, regular treatment so I can slow the progression, otherwise it will get worse than it already is. I am a fighter, but I need comprehensive medical coverage so I can effectively fight these diseases! For every one of those doctors, hospitals and medications I needed, there was and still is a cost — a big fat bill associated with each and every one of them.

You see, I have health insurance – “good” health insurance (if any of the health insurance companies we have can be called that) – United Healthcare Oxford.  My daughter and I have this health insurance through my husband’s job. Our insurance has a $2500 deductible per person, per year. Our insurance costs us $368 per month. In addition, I have to pay over $250 per month in co-pays to see my doctors. I take 16 different medications. Each one has a prescription co-pay, and in all, it costs more than $600 per month just to pay for these medications. This means over $1200 per month immediately goes to life-saving healthcare costs, assuming I don’t need any special treatments that month (which I often do), and excluding the $2500 deductible.

Obviously, the crushing costs of all this is not something we have been able to maintain; we are drowning. I have thousands of dollars in debt from medical bills. They go all the way back to the hospital bills from 2014. But this debt isn’t just mine – it hangs over my entire family’s heads. There are times I have to go without the medical treatment I need just to keep the lights and heat on. There are times I have to choose between getting my daughter the basic things she needs, or paying the rent, over the medical care that I need.

My family lives in an apartment above a store on Long Island.  My husband has a good job. I used to work too until June 2017, and the one and only reason I had been able to keep my job for so long while being so sick is FMLA.  I worked for as long as I was able to, because now that I am enrolling in disability, which my doctors tell me I should have done a long time ago and have hurt myself by not doing until now, we will not be able to afford our apartment or pay our bills.  My disability payment would cover less than one paycheck per month I was receiving while working. That is not enough to cover even the medical costs we have every month.

Every minute I am home I am lying in my bed sleeping or resting.  I am not able to cook, clean, take care of my family, play with my child – none of the things most people take for granted. I cannot even take a shower without becoming tired and in pain. By the time I am done washing my hair my arms feel like they are going to fall off from the exhaustion. This is my life now.

All of this because I am unlucky enough to become a sick person in the lower middle class in New York, in America. People like me are stuck. We used to make too much money to qualify for Medicare or financial assistance, and yet not enough to pay the medical bills and all our other bills without going bankrupt, or going without medical treatments and care we need just to provide for our family.

Now that I am unable to work at all I have filed for disability. I was denied in my initial application. I then had to file an appeal. I have now been waiting over 18 months just to get a hearing date – not even the hearing itself. We are down half of what our family was making. My husband alone is trying to keep this family afloat by working three different jobs. How in the world does the government expect a person who has become disabled to live while their disability application is processed? How are we supposed to pay the rent, the bills, buy food, afford medical treatments? We can’t. This slowly sinking ship has become the Titanic.

I am 35 years old with no savings. We own nothing and have nothing to show for all the hard work my 39-year-old husband and I have put in over the years. Both of us have worked since we were teenagers, and we have nothing to show for it. With the way things are now in our state and country, I don’t see how we ever will.

In this great progressive state and nation, why is this a reality for my family and so many others? How is this allowed to be ignored by so many? How is this the America we have when we know this is not the America we want and have believed in? My family and so many others need your help right now. You can help us by supporting the NY Health Act (A5248/S3577) – a bill here in NY, and supporting a national single-payer, universal health bill federally, such as H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.

I believe these types of bills will save people’s lives. These bills can alleviate the pain and shame associated with being chronically ill by stopping the accumulation of crushing debt that comes with being sick. These bills can help people get the medical care they need without having to choose between providing for their family or going to the doctor. These bills will help people who are afraid to go to the hospital when they are ill because the cost is just too high – and that is when terrible things happen, as I know all too well. You all have the power to do something about this. So I beg of you, stand up for me. Stand up for all of us that cannot stand on our own. Stand up and stop this. Support universal health care – and please, I beg of you, do it now, before it is too late.

Image Credits: Candice Hildebrant
Published on Medium.com

As I sit here in my here in my hospital bed I am trying so hard to not feel that sense of hopelessness that invades at the back of your head. That voice that says “your always going to be sick, just give up”. Well — I refuse to give up, but some days are a lot harder than others. Today is one of those days. I have been in the hospital for 8 days now and they still haven’t said when they are going to discharge me. I have been seen by a neurologist, infectious disease doctor, pulmonologist and am still waiting on a rheumatologist. I cannot tell you how much this situation sucks. All I want to do is be out of this hospital and home with my family.

Right this minute my IV antibiotics are leaking out and I have called the nurse twice to let her know that my IV is leaking all over me. No one seems to care. I am low maintenance, I really am, but come on people — basic care is needed! How is it that I am the only person who finds an issue with the fact that my antibiotics are leaking out of my arm? I have had the same IV in since I came to the hospital. IV’s should be changed every 3 days — I am going on 5 days at this point. It hurts and it bleeds and it’s leaking the precious antibiotics everywhere. I even pushed the call button for the nurse before I started writing this and she still hasn’t appeared. It is so frustrating and infuriating.to be helpless like this and dependent on others, who are frankly failing big time.

I finally got a nurses aid to come in and I told her my IV is leaking and bleeding and her response was “I’ll tell your nurse”. I have heard those exact words before — about 20 minutes ago when I first called for the nurse to tell them my IV is leaking. It isn’t just leaking, it hurts — a LOT. Finally the nurse appeared and said “well that failed at the right time, your antibiotics are done”. Leave it to me to have a fortuitous IV failure.

Being in the hospital all alone day after day is the most depressing thing I can think of. You sit there endlessly with no motivation or anything to do except be in pain. I’m currently in here for pneumonia and the flu — a double whammy. And on top of that, my Psoriatic Arthritis has flared up so badly that I am swollen like a sausage. My hands and feet are three times the size that they should be. I’ve never had a flare up this bad before, but it does make sense that the swelling would come into play because I have been off all my medications for PsA for about a month. You see, I cannot take my PsA medications if I am sick, as they lower and damage my immune system. Therefore, when I am so sick I feel like I’m gonna die, I then get the added bonus of a PsA flare.

The hospital is such a trying place. There are so many people, plus there are so many sounds — the beeping of a million machines. Not to mention the atmosphere — the pain and suffering coming from every room and every look from a person. In the hospital there is no happy, cheery people, just sad and tired patients who want to go home. I am definitely one of those people.

Tonight is my daughter’s concert — she plays the violin. And I’m not going to be there! I have never missed an event of hers — come hell or high water I am always there. Unfortunately this time I am going to miss it, and it is killing me. The fact that I am missing one of her performances hurts more than all the pain I am in now combined. She is my reason, my everything, and I feel like I am letting her down. Logically I know that there is no way I can be there, and she knows that too. My husband promised to record the show so that I can see it.

I saw the show — she was amazing! I am so proud of her. I wish so much that I was there in person to tell her that.

I have a feeling that I am getting out of here soon — I just need one more test and a good result on it and I can hopefully blow this Popsicle stand. I know I just need to keep reminding myself that this is temporary. I will be out of here before I know it and my family will be waiting for me. That thought is what gets me through the day — the knowledge that I am missed by my family and that they want me to come home. Well, I am coming home as soon as I can!

Posted in ACA, Health Care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wendell Potter on ‘Medicare For All’

Medicare For All: A Conversation with Wendell Potter
by Francesca Rheannon
The campaign against Medicare For All is being fueled by health insurance cash to politicians.
The health insurance industry is mounting a full court press against Medicare For All. Former health insurance industry executive and whistleblower Wendell Potter says one big way they’re doing that is by making sure their talking points are repeated by politicians who have taken big donations from them.
Potter had an inside seat to the process when he was a health insurance executive for Cigna. He blew the whistle on the industry with his books, Deadly Spin and Nation On the Take. He went on to found the website Tarbell.org, which does investigative journalism on the healthcare industry.
I spoke with Wendell Potter for my radio show Writer’s Voice about the health industry’s talking points against Medicare For All and how he counters them. What follows is part of that interview, lightly edited for reading. I started out by asking Potter who were the different players in the health care industry that are involved in the campaign against Medicare For All.
Wendell Potter: There’s this front group that was formed last year by health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and big hospital chains through their trade associations, the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals, which is the for-profit hospital organization and they’re pooling their money–-all these parts of healthcare–-to finance collectively this campaign against Medicare for All.
Francesca Rheannon: Why are the hospitals against Medicare For All?
WP: The hospitals are against it because they’ve got a good thing going. One of the things I often tell people is that it’s not really accurate to think that health insurance companies are really all that much in the game to control healthcare costs. They’re not. They can’t, for one reason or another, nor do they have an interest in doing it, because the more healthcare costs go up, the more money they are able to demand from us in terms of premiums.
Hospitals are in on the game, in that, because health insurance companies cannot really control health care costs, the hospitals can pretty much have their way with them. So they like the system as it is. They get more money from private insurers than they do from the current Medicare program or from the Medicaid program, and it’s because of the weakness and the smallness of individual private insurance companies.
FR: So, what are the industry talking points that politicians, including some Democrats, are using?
WP: Some of the talking points are that this country can’t afford Medicare For All, that it would cost too much money and that so many Americans get their coverage through their workplace.
Those are talking points directly from the insurance industry and this partnership that I mentioned, to scare people, to make them think that this is really not something that we should strive for, that we shouldn’t even give it any consideration.
It is true, most Americans who are not enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid or some other public program do get their coverage through private insurers. That’s the way it’s been for in this country for many, many decades. But it doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. And the reality also is that many people who are enrolled—in fact probably a majority—of people enrolled in private insurance plans through their workplace, are finding that their coverage is increasingly less valuable, even though they’re paying more for it every single year.
So, I know that in reality a lot of people are very dissatisfied with what they’re getting for the high premiums they are paying and they’re having to pay more and more out of their own pockets these days for coverage, even if they have insurance. But that’s one of those talking points. It is to try to make policymakers and the public believe that for some reason our employer based system is sacred, that we can’t touch it.
FR: Yes. I remember the last time I got health insurance through an employer, they instituted a new program called Value Plus and I used to joke that it was more like Value Minus, because I was paying a lot more for a lot less.
WP: Right. In fact, my last CEO in the health insurance business, at Cigna, was asked by someone what kept him up at night and he said it is the worry that employers and individuals will wake up and question the value proposition of health insurers and I think employers and individuals are waking up to question-–and rightfully so: what value do the private insurers actually bring to this country? One of the things I used to have to do for a living was was to try to make people believe that we had a reason to exist, but increasingly employers in particular are questioning the reason why we have this middleman in the equation in the first place.
FR: Let’s go to some of the other talking points. Cheryl Bustos, the new head of the DCCC, has said that a $33 trillion price tag for Medicare For All is just too much.
WP: Well, that actually is only part of the number that this think tank–-actually a conservative think tank–-came up with. So she’s quoting that. But even that think tank said that is at least $2 trillion less over ten years than what it would be if we continue with the current system. So in other words, even that—yes, that’s a big number—but it’s over ten years, first of all. And what she did not say was that that would represent less money than the country would spend on healthcare if we go to Medicare For All than if we don’t.
The reality is that this year, we’ll spend three and a half trillion dollars on healthcare as a country. So if you multiply that by ten, you’ve already gotten over $30 trillion. And that is just based on the assumption that there will be no medical inflation, which of course you have to factor in. So if we stick with what we’ve got, we will be spending a lot more than $33 trillion over the course of the next ten years.
FR: Now, the third talking point is “think of all the jobs that are going to be lost for people who are processing all those claims—or denying all those claims.
WP: Right. And I think it’s a talking point to obscure the reality that the work that they do makes it, in many cases, impossible for the rest of us, the many millions of us, to get the care that we need. A lot of these folks, as you pointed out, are employed to try to avoid their companies paying claims. Because we have a multi-payer system, which is unique in the world, insurance companies not only have armies of employees who are in the business of determining whether or not someone should get coverage for whatever it is a doctor recommends, but you also, on the provider side, have to have armies of people who do nothing more than deal with insurance company bureaucrats day in and day out. So you’ve got these tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people who are employed in our healthcare system who do not do anything to make us better or to help us with our health. In fact, in many cases it keeps us from getting the care that we need.
Insurance companies have employed literally tens of thousands of nurses who are not providing care, but they are working for these big insurance companies, in many cases standing in the way of the care that we need, And medical doctors as well. So in my view, those folks have been trained as caregivers; they should be back at the bedside or providing care in offices, rather than making it more difficult for us to get care.
The other thing is that most of these big insurance companies have diversified over the years. They have other lines of business that are really quite profitable and are growing. So it’s a fallacy to say that they would go out of business if we move tomorrow to a Medicare For All plan.  Some people would need to be retrained and some, like doctors and nurses, could go straight away to work at a better place, in my opinion.
FR: Some of the 2020 Democratic candidates are saying that instead of Medicare For All, which is too hard to get, we should just go for universal coverage and that we can do it with the kinds of plans that, let’s say, Switzerland has or Germany or Holland, where there are private nonprofit insurance companies that the government pays and bargains with.” So what is the best way to do health care for all?
WP: I’ve heard that too. Obviously my response is, why in the world would you not want to do the best job? Why would you want to emulate another country that, yes, they have achieved universal coverage, but they’re kind of runners up with us in terms of how much they spend on healthcare. We spend almost $10,000 per person per year on health care, which is twice the average of other developed countries and we have worse outcomes than most of those countries, so we have very little to show for all that we’re spending. But Switzerland comes in second in terms of the amount of money that the country spends on healthcare. Germany’s not too far behind.
The thing that is distinctive about those countries is that the insurance companies or sickness funds, as they may be called, are heavily price regulated. They’re all nonprofit entities. And we moved far away from that kind of structure many decades ago. So insurance companies would be just as resistant to a proposal that would force them into nonprofit status as they are to Medicare for All.
Why do we want to do a half measure? Why do we want to postpone what is inevitable, which is moving to a single payer healthcare system? And it is the one system of those that are proposed that not only would get us to universal coverage but would save us the most money.
In fact, when the Affordable Care Act was being debated, policy makers knew that we needed to try to do something about healthcare costs, while also trying to achieve the goal of universal coverage. They decided during the Obama administration to go first for universal coverage and deal with healthcare costs later. We see now where we wound up. We wound up with a bill that does a great deal of good in terms of bringing a lot of us into coverage, but there’s still about 30 million of us who are uninsured.
And the other problem is that a fast growing percentage of us are under-insured, because of the way that law is structured, and the insurance industry has been going in the direction of moving every last one of us into high deductible plans. And increasingly, those of us who are low and moderate income have trouble meeting our deductible. So we go without care. That’s the definition of underinsurance. So why don’t we just do something that really gets us to where we need to be rather than just continuing to tinker with the system that has failed us for many years?
FR: And the other thing that I’ve heard coming out with some of the candidates are proposals to decrease the Medicare eligibility age to 55 or 50. In other words, an incremental approach. The other one is make it possible for businesses and people to buy into Medicare. What are your thoughts on those proposals?
WP: Well, you know, it would be better than not doing anything, I guess. But again, why do you want to settle for something that is not as good as you can try to get?
FR: Well, the reason is politics.
WP: The reason is politics. But as I said, you can expect as much resistance to that as you would to going boldly. In fact, an American historian was interviewed on TV not too long ago saying, if you look at American history or history broadly, you’ll see that sometimes it’s easier to achieve sweeping change by bold views than by incremental change. Incremental change can be incredibly tough to pull off. Sometimes bold measures are more successful.
But back to that specific proposal, instead of simplifying the system, it just adds greater complexity. And you would keep the insurance industry in place maybe indefinitely. It is our multi payer system and the complexity of our system that is at the heart of our problem with costs being out of control.
It also does nothing to curb the practice of the health insurance industry to limit the choice of doctors and hospitals we have in these so called limited or narrow networks that are in vogue among the companies. Almost all of them have limitations to the doctors and hospitals you can see. And they’re forcing you to pay more and more for prescription medications by putting more and more drugs in tiers that require that you pay more out of your own pocket. Why do we want to keep a system in place that makes us pay more for care out of our own pockets, even if we have insurance, and to pay more and more every year in premiums? That doesn’t make sense to me. And I can’t imagine why policy makers would propose that we keep a system like that in place just because it might be easier politically.
FR: This is affecting cancer drugs too, isn’t it?
WP: Yes. In fact, I draw your attention to a piece that is on Tarbell now written by a leading oncologist from MD Anderson in Houston about the cost of oncology drugs. And it’s just extraordinary what has happened to the price of pharmaceuticals broadly, but in particular for cancer drugs. And insurance companies are just largely on the sidelines because they are not large enough. None of them, even the biggest, have enough clout to really do anything to control drug prices. All they are able to do is require that we take one drug as opposed to another that our doctor might have recommended, or again, shift those medications into tiers that make us pay more. So they’re not controlling costs, they’re shifting more of the cost to us. And in many cases, as this doctor who wrote that piece pointed out to me, he has seen patients die for economic reasons. They just simply can’t figure out the resources to get the medications or the treatments that they need.

Twitter Accounts: @WritersVoice
On Facebook & LinkedIn
Posted in Health Care, Medicaid, medicare, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The People You Meet Picking Up Beach Plastic

IMG_1465

Serenely beautiful, surreal, spiritual. 

Three weeks on the sugar-white sands of Tulum, contemplating the sometimes jade, sometimes topaz, sometimes evening blue Caribbean.  On days when the sea was perfectly flat and clear you could watch the sting rays and barracudas swimming around.  Yes, near you. 

My husband swam every day.  I sat under a big green shady coconut palm. 

Every morning I would pull a bag from my beach tote and for a few minutes collect all the plastics strewn along the high water mark.  Mostly straws, cigarette filters, broken colored plastics, an occasional water bottle.  I always filled up my bag. 

In mid-afternoon our favorite beach vendor would appear.  Jorge, the “coconut king” (anointed by an Hawaiian visitor, he told us), would saunter over in his faded cutoffs, straw hat, a bag of ripe cocos hoisted on his shoulder, a short machete in his belt, smiling.  Cold coconuts!  His secret, he said, was the special inland farm where he carefully hand selected 100 or so cocos each week, storing 20 overnight in his refrig.

I loved his friendly smile, but his most endearing feature, for me, was:  he offered bioplastic straws!  A big selling point with Americans, he said.  Hey, even made in Mexico!

Jorge wasn’t always so environmentally conscious.  It was his girlfriend, Alejandra who changed him. He used to smoke, he said, and Alejandra would pick up the plastic filters he threw on the ground. What are you doing that for? he used to scold her.  She just kept picking up his filters until finally he started to himself, and eventually quit smoking altogether.  He wanted Alejandra to meet us, but she is sick alot.  She has chronic asthma.

 

IMG_1093.JPG

On the last few days of our stay, I noticed a slim figure in a black bikini also collecting washed ashore marine debris.  As she approached us a fellow ran towards her with a huge black bag.  For you, here, take this, he offered.  I guess it was that tiny bikini.  

Of all things, it turns out she was from Southold, 20 miles from my place in Orient.  Her main residence is New York, with a business as a sustainable fashion activist directing brands and clients into the circular eco friendly movement.

Standing in paradise, we commiserated about plastic pollution, so much ending up in the ocean.  I told her about this new group I’m involved with, just getting started in Southampton: Drawdown East End.  I’m in, she said.  And I promised to let her know when we start our community outreach and weekly drop-in meetings, upcoming film festivals, etc. 

Plastics is one of the top 100 solutions listed in Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.

These 100 top solutions are already working somewhere, proven methodologies, best practices, to avoid, reduce or sequester CO2 from the atmosphere, in other words, drawing down carbon and reversing global warming.  

Bioplastic is solution #47.  Not to be confused with so-called biodegradable plastics made from petrochemicals, or eco/recycled plastics (plastics made from recycled plastic materials rather than raw petrochemicals), bioplastics are made from all-natural, renewable raw materials, such as corn starch. (California requires labeling, by law, to keep the terms separated, why not New York?)  The Drawdown scientists and economists analyzed that the production of plastics will double between now and 2050. Their growth model revealed that an aggressive growth of bio-plastics to capture 49% of the market, could avoid gigatons of carbon emissions (4.9 gigatons in their analysis.)   That is why bioplastic is solution #47 out of 100. 

On a shoestring budget Drawdown’s Paul Hawken pulled together scientists, economists and research fellows to see if we already had the means and techniques at hand to reduce C02 by halting emissions, conservation, efficiency, sequestration and substituting fuels with renewable clean energy.  His inspirational book is a plan, a path, a map, that measures and models growth solutions inviting us all to see climate change as an opportunity.  An opportunity to get in on a new fast-growing clean economy, an opportunity for better health, an opportunity for us all to take meaningful actions for a positive future.

One of Hawken’s research fellow talks about the 3 levels of empowerment:

  1. Personal – what you can do personally, with your family and those you influence, to draw down carbon.
  2. Community – what you can do with friends, neighbors, local businesses, non profits, in your community.
  3. National and international – what national policy changes can you advocate and vote for, what’s working in other states, other countries?

I’m inspired to take the next step.  I’m looking around to see how I can not only collect marine debris plastic, as I always do, but, in addition, to scale up, use best practices, be part of the solution, i.e. change my plastic habits .  They are just habits, after all.  I can stop, conserve, substitute.  I can stop buying, stop using, I can find substitutions with bioplastics, I can use real stuff.   

As I look around, I see so many like-minded others refusing plastics and finding substitutes. I feel empowered by our growing can-do community.   I’m empowered by my new knowledge, my power of the purse, my power of personal choice.  #StopSingleUse.  #ReduceReturnRecycleREFUSE!   #UseRealStuff.

Here’s some local, national and international resources and good news:

 

Mary Morgan, Orient

For more info: DrawdownEastEnd@gmail.com

 

Posted in climate change, Environment, long island, sustainable energy, Uncategorized, water quality | 8 Comments

Release the Mueller Report

Attorney General William Barr missed Tuesday’s congressional deadline to #ReleaseTheReport, so Move On organized 300 events accross the country to protest.

Even Rachel Maddow got in on the act!

On Long Island there were rallies in Mineola and in Patchogue each attended by about 70-80 demonstrators.  Here are some pictures.
The response from those driving by was overwhelmingly “thumbs up”.
20190404_171214
20190404_170725
20190404_175219.jpg
IMG_2753
IMG_2752

 

IMG_2350
IMG_2353

IMG_2368

IMG_2357

IMG_2360
IMG_2363
IMG_2354
IMG_2369
IMG_2346.jpg
IMG_2358.jpg
IMG_2349.jpg
IMG_2361.jpg
IMG_2352.jpg
\
IMG_2364.jpg
IMG_2342.jpg
IMG_2356.jpg
IMG_2347.jpg
IMG_8244[1]
IMG_2359.jpg
Posted in Russian connection, Trump, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Extreme Weather: Monster Storm Ulmer

Reporting from Harrison NE, 4 PM.

I am on what was supposed to be a leisure trip: my first transcontinental drive from coast to coast, New York to Calfornia and back.  It turns out that I got caught in super storm Ulmer, a monster winter storm.

This morning I started out in Chadron NE, against advice from the locals.  I drove about 20 miles west to  Harrison NE, within a few miles of the Wyoming border.  I was driving 30 miles an hour.  In Harrison the visibility was essentially zero.  A complete white out.  Fortunately I found an open motel with a room.  By now all shops, gas stations, restaurants, etc. were closed.  It’s now 3 hours later. There are 4-foot snow drifts accross highway 20.  And no traffic at all. The winds are fierce.  According to the TV Weather Channel, the wind gusts are over 90 miles per hour: hurricane force.

This storm is immense covering 7 states.  In Nebraska’s panhandle all roads have been closed.  The airport in Denver has been closed since 10AM, 1500 flights were canceled. In Denver hundreds of thousands of homes have lost power.  The wind gusts have knocked a train off a bridge and cars/trucks off the highway.  Take a look at this video:

Truck knocked over in Amarillo TX   by 70 mph cross winds

Screen Shot 2019-03-13 at 4.18.54 PM.png

Locally, one of the biggest concerns is major loss of cattle.  I had noticed the many cattle ranches driving west through Nebraska.  It is clearly a leading local industry.  However the cattle herds are outside and unprotected.  Moreover it is calving season. While adults can survive this kind of weather, newborn calves can not.  Estimates on TV are that 16,000 – to 80,000 cattle may die.  The Nebraska state governor has make Chinook helicopters available to drop off livestock feed in areas that the ranchers can’t get to.  I found some more info (below) via google:

Blizzards take a terrible toll on livestock. For both humane and economic reasons, stockmen should take necessary precautions in advance of severe winter storms.

MOVE LIVESTOCK, ESPECIALLY YOUNG LIVESTOCK, INTO SHELTERED AREAS. Shelter belts, properly oriented and laid out, provide better protection for range cattle than shed-type shelters, which may cause cattle to overcrowd, leading to overheating and respiratory disorders.

HAUL EXTRA FEED TO FEEDING AREAS before the storm arrives. Storm duration is the largest determinant of livestock losses; if the storm lasts more than 48 hours, emergency feed methods are required. Range cattle are hardy and can survive extreme winter weather providing they have some nonconfining type of shelter from the wind and are able to feed at frequent intervals.

Autopsies of cattle killed by winter storms have shown the cause of death to be dehydration, not cold or suffocation. Because cattle cannot lick enough snow to satisfy their thirst, stockmen are advised to use heaters in water tanks to provide livestock with water and feed after prolonged exposure to winter storm conditions.

 

 

Surpisingly, no one on the weather chanel is talking about the cause of superstorms like Ulmer, in particular climate change.  Here is what I found (but there is much more):

Monster storms more frequent, more severe,  this from Australia!

Are Hurricanes Becoming Stronger and More Frequent?

Hurricanes Likely to Get Stronger & More Frequent: Study

Intense Storms Have Become More Common

Storms are Getting Stronger

The last reference is from NASA.  They explain:

“Storms feed off of latent heat, which is why scientists think global warming is strengthening storms. Extra heat in the atmosphere or ocean nourishes storms; the more heat energy that goes in, the more vigorously a weather system can churn.”

“Already, there is evidence that the winds of some storms may be changing. A study based on more than two decades of satellite altimeter data (measuring sea surface height) showed that hurricanes intensify significantly faster now than they did 25 years ago.”

“There is also evidence that extra water vapor in the atmosphere is making storms wetter. During the past 25 years, satellites have measured a 4 percent rise in water vapor in the air column. In ground-based records, about 76 percent of weather stations in the United States have seen increases in extreme precipitation since 1948. One analysis found that extreme downpours are happening 30 percent more often. Another study found that the largest storms now produce 10 percent more precipitation.”

“William Lau, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, concluded in a 2012 paper that rainfall totals from tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic have risen at a rate of 24 percent per decade since 1988. The increase in precipitation doesn’t just apply to rain. NOAA scientists have examined 120 years of data and found that there were twice as many extreme regional snowstorms between 1961 and 2010 as there were from 1900 to 1960.”

“But measuring a storm’s maximum size, heaviest rains, or top winds does not capture the full scope of its power. Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developed a method to measure the total energy expended by tropical cyclones over their lifetimes. In 2005, he showed that Atlantic hurricanes are about 60 percent more powerful than they were in the 1970s. Storms lasted longer and their top wind speeds had increased by 25 percent. (Subsequent research has shown that the intensification may be related to differences between the temperature of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.)”

 

Today I could have ended up in a roadside ditch blown off the road while driving on black ice. Whether over-worked police and rescue teams could have responded in time?  Who knows.  Climate change feels up close and threatening.  Stay safe!

 

More on Ulmer now also reported by WaPo here.

Posted in climate change, Environment, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Oil Giant Takes Climate Change Seriously

This is hilarious:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=34&v=D1BOWxFMT5Q

 

And this is serious:

BY STEVEN MUFSON,  The Washington Post, March 5th

The chief economist of one of the world’s biggest oil companies is urging other companies to take climate change seriously — and sooner rather than later. 

If not, it might be bad for business. 

That’s the warning from BP’s Spencer Dale, who made the rounds in Washington last week explaining the business case for finding a solution for the warming planet.

“All the climate arguments are real, urgent and important,” Dale said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Despite working for one of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels, Dale said the longer the world waits to address rising emissions, the more “draconian” the changes in the global economy will have to be.

“How do I run a business, how do I make a business plan if I know that the path I’m on is unstable?” Dale asked.

For a multinational energy firm operating in dozens of countries, that could mean having to scrap assets, Dale said.

The provocative economist spent more than a decade working for the Bank of England before joining the oil giant. At the end of February, Dale led the publication of BP’s annual energy outlook, which is widely anticipated among energy industry followers.

At the center of the report’s most likely scenario for the future is the tension between the pressing need to slash carbon emissions and the growing demand for energy as the global population grows and seeks better livelihoods.

The best way to deal with that, Dale said, is to boost the energy efficiency of buildings and other systems.

Still, in all of BP’s scenarios, oil would still be widely used in 2040. The amount could vary from 80 million barrels a day to 130 million barrels a day — a huge gap. Yet even the low-end scenario would require trillions of dollars of investment just in petroleum over the next 20 years.

Indeed, history shows how hard it has been for societies to move from one form of power production to another, Dale said. Previous energy transitions have taken about four or five decades, he said.

It took almost 45 years, for example, for oil to go from 1 percent of world energy in the late 1800s to 10 percent. It took natural gas more than half a century to catch on.

Renewables will penetrate the global energy system faster than any fuel in history, Dale said, going from 1 percent to 10 percent in just 15 years.

But BP’s analysis suggests that is not fast enough to stem the growth of climate-warming emissions. Even though new renewable energy will satisfy about half of the new energy demand, carbon dioxide emissions are likely to increase by about 10 percent instead of falling sharply as needed to stem climate change.

Overall, global energy demand probably will grow by around a third by 2040, slower than the previous 20 years but still enough to make it difficult to lower greenhouse gas emissions as needed.

Around 80 percent of that increase in demand will come from the developing world, yet a substantial proportion — two-thirds — of the world’s population will still consume low amounts of energy 21 years from now.

BP has said it wants the federal government to take action, having endorsed a $40-a-ton nationwide tax. But that doesn’t mean the company always supports carbon taxes in practice. BP spent more than any other company last year to defeat a carbon-fee ballot initiative in the state of Washington that the company said was “poorly designed.” The proposal ultimately fell short with voters in November.

 

 

Posted in climate change, Environment, Paris Climate Accord, Uncategorized, wind energy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Spring is Looking Up. March 15 #FridaysForFuture, April 4-23 #DrawdownEcoChallenge

IMG_1984

Students at the Climate March in Washington, DC, April 2017

March 15th. The Ides of March, notable to the ancient Romans for settling debts, as a holy day when sheep were sacrificed, and of course, a day to beware, as a seer warned Julius Cesar.

What is this year’s prophecy? 

Does it appear in hastags?  #FridaysForFuture, #ClimateStrike, #SchoolStrike4Climate, #WhateverItTakes.

Or on twitter?  “The youth are rising and they want their future back” wrote a GreenPeace campaigner.  Or in the forecasting of 16 year old Greta Thunberg, “I want you to panic.  I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.  And then I want you to act.” 

Read all about it, and listen to some very articulate kids, all ages, talk about why they are protesting by skipping school in Playing hooky to save the climate: why students are going on strike, Greta Thunberg’s #FridaysforFuture movement has inspired kids in dozens of countries to demand action on climate change by Umair Irfan of VOX. https://www.vox.com/2019/2/21/18233206/greta-thunberg-student-school-strike-climate-change

I am pleased, thrilled really, that students are transforming into climate activists, organizing with social media, putting skin in the game, so to speak, demonstrating their commitment and facing possible school (and parental?) punishment  — spotlighting the urgent need for us to all act now. 

I hope to encourage parents of school children to say what Greta’s mom and dad said to her a year ago when she started waving her protest sign in front of the Swedish parliament on Fridays: as your parents we don’t approve of your skipping school to protest, it is illegal, and against school rules, but we won’t stop you.  (They, in fact, as a family, have made healthy carbon-free changes in their food, land-use, energy and transportation choices.)

The school strike has been debated in our Drawdown East End meetings, causing near arguments.  As of now our Friday workshops at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton have ended.  But we continue to organize around ways we can use Paul Hawken’s Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming as a framework to promote the most effective, suitable, and economically beneficial opportunities for our communities and our families.

I admit, I’m a bit nervous thinking that the first public thing we do, what we might become known for, is advocating school strikes, rather than our in-the-works mission statement: igniting, inspiring and assisting our communities in taking action on climate change, with its cascading economic, health, and security benefits.

So I asked “shouldn’t we get some parents on board if we’re going to go public and advocate this?”  “We can’t wait!  The whole point is no one is listening, but they will listen to the kids” came the cry back at me. 

I’m thinking of Greta who gave a TED-talk last year recounting when she was 11:  she stopped eating, lost weight, sunk into depression, was unable to attend school, after she learned about irreversible global warming and saw nothing being done, only denial.  Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, she now only speaks about critical issues, climate is #1, and in black-and-white terms.  Thus “we can’t change the world by playing by the rules, the rules have to be changed.  Could this be a foretelling? 

What I love about the discussions we’ve been having at Drawdown East End is they are so positive, impact-driven and can-do.  We are learning through Drawdown about the best practices and technologies that are already working to substitute, conserve and even sequester CO2 emissions.  The 100 top solutions are offered as an invitation to build, innovate and effect our change to a renewable energy future with cleaner air, better health, more involved communities, and a humming economy. 

For Greta and her #SchoolStrike4Climate I’ll be positive and impact-driven, too.   I will enthusiastically support #FridaysForFuture.  And I will also ask: 

  • Why not march to change your school into a climate-ready school through culture and curriculum? 
  • Why not pledge to do something every day, personally, with your family, friends, school, community to reverse global warming? 
  • Why not petition your school to implement a Drawdown curriculum?  drawdown.org

 

Here are some great resources:

1) Climate Change Connection What Your School Can Do https://climatechangeconnection.org/resources/climate-friendly-schools/what-to-do/

2) The EPA’s What You Can Do at School https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climatechange/what-you-can-do-school_.html

3) UNESCO’s Getting climate-ready: a guide for schools on climate action https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000246740

Maybe you have a resource or best practice you’d like to share?

 

And, finally, April 4th-23rd.   A free, fun, friendly challenge to join — individually, with friends, as a family, as a class, as a school. 

The 21-day international Drawdown EcoChallenge is a free competition and educational program focusing on carbon reduction actions we can all take.  It starts April 4 and already over 2,000 people on 400+ teams have signed up.  

We invite you to join our local team, Drawdown East End.  

To register: https://drawdown.ecochallenge.org/teams/drawdown-east-end

For more information on Drawdown East End contact:  DrawdownEastEnd@gmail.com

Posted in climate change, Education, Environment, Paris Climate Accord | Tagged , | 6 Comments