Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chikungunya, Another Sign of Climate Change in the Virgin Islands?

Mosquito-borne diseases expanding their range. Hurricanes intensifying rapidly. Unprecedented amounts of seaweed washing up on our beaches and covering the sea in the channel between St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Is Climate Change coming to the Virgin Islands early? It is sloppy thinking to connect one incident to Climate Change. The real question and the connection to be made – What are the patterns we see; do they relate to what the scientists are telling us?
Two large concerns climatologists have are sea level rise and coral bleaching. I have not scientifically studied these areas. However, what I have observed and have heard from National Park Services rangers who have studied these areas gives no reason for comfort. Snorkelling at Tamarind Beach and diving off The Wall, I have seen dead coral. Walking Ha’Penny beach for a decade, I have found that it appears to be getting smaller and smaller.
But let’s leave those two concerns alone now. Let’s take mosquito borne diseases. In June of this year, the Virgin Islands had its first confirmed case of chikungunya, by September there were fifty cases. Chikungunya was found in Africa in the early 1950s, moved to India and Indian Ocean islands in the 1980s; now it is in the Caribbean in full force. Of course, we can’t off handily attribute chikungunya to Climate Change. Many factors are involved. What is worth noting is that this spread fits the predictions of scientists and it fits a pattern.
Here is what a report in the Health and Human Rights Journal said earlier this year.  “Chikungunya is a re-emerging arbovirus that causes significant morbidity and some mortality. Global climate change leading to warmer temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns allow mosquito vectors to thrive at altitudes and at locations where they previously have not, ultimately leading to a spread of mosquito-borne diseases.”
Climate Change denialists are correct in saying we can’t prophesize the future. However, human life has thrived because humans have been able to make calculations based on observations and use those calculations to make some good guesses about what is going to happen next. It might not be politically correct or economically comfortable to see what our continued addiction to fossil fuel holds for the future, but wise people should not ignore scientific observations and predictions.
Let’s look at seaweed. Yes, algae blooms come and go. In recent years   ugly green stuff has been growing by the boardwalk near Seaborne.    And it appears to be spreading further down toward Brew Pub. We can let that one go, too. It can be attributed to run-off of sewage in the area and not necessarily attributable to Climate Change, although scientific observations tell us algae of all sorts grows better in warm water.
It is harder to discount the huge amounts of Sargassum seaweed that is piling up on our beaches. It is not there because of sewage run off. John Farchette, who works at the East End Marine Park and a native Crucian, says he has never seen anything like this before.  We can attribute this to changing ocean currents. But guess what, scientists long time ago predicted that rising sea surface temperatures would cause changes in ocean currents.
Maybe, it is time to pay attention to what those scientists are saying. According to them, we are pumping 34 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere with our use of fossil fuel and other human endeavours. Half of that is sucked up by trees and the ocean (which is becoming more acidic, but that is another potential calamity we are too busy to think about now). Each 7 billion tons of CO2 raises the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere by one or two parts per million. The scientists then alarm us with charts showing a correlation between the C02 in the atmosphere and temperature rise. It is easy to question those charts going back hundreds of thousands of years. How do they really know that? This is the place where the science denialist makes his confusion.  Most lay people don’t understand the science behind those charts, so some one can say it is just a scam made up by the scientists to enslave people. Well, if you believe that scientists did not really land a man on the moon, you can believe this is a scam too
However, the argument that Climate Change is a scam gets hard to justify when trends that are predicted get verified with observations -- personal observations as well as those contained in scientific papers.
The scam option also loses credibility when noted that the politicians who advocate the scam position hold their offices because of money supplied to them by those who profit from the use of fossil fuel.
Why are we not taking bold steps to save our environment?
The analogy of the addict is appropriate. The alcoholic or the drug addict ignores the mishaps along the way. The addiction just feels too good to give up. The addict goes until he hits rock bottom. Sometimes, with drastic action, recovery is possible. Sometimes it is too late.

 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Can Small Islands Show the World How To Fight Climate Change?


Island populations may bear the brunt of climate change more than other populations, so it should be no surprise that some islands have ramped up efforts to convert to non-fossil fuel energy sources. In the brief span of five years, the U.S. Virgin Islands have cut their oil consumption by 20 percent.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Life on St. Croix with no Gasoline


St. Croix resident Archie Corbett has figured out how to cut his gasoline use almost to zero. In 2014 he bought an Elf.  By legal definition the Elf is a bicycle, but as Archie drives it around the island it works as good as a car.
It has a solar-charged battery that assists his pedalling. He often keeps the vehicle going as fast as any U.S. Virgin Island road can take.
He not only saves on gas money, he gets good exercise. But if he is lazy he lets the battery charged by solar panels on the roof do all the work.
Click below for video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qYcf6GJ78E

Monday, October 6, 2014

RT Park brings comfortable efficiency to building on St. Croix UVI campus



    RTPark’s 64 West Center building on St. Croix’s University of Virgin Islands campus is the first public building in the Virgin Islands to achieve LEED® Silver Certification. Officials were notified of the achievement by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in August, according to Denise Kurg, RTPark’s Deputy Director of Facilities and Operations.

Touring the building recently one was not reminded so much of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Instead, one was immediately struck by the building’s comfort – the building location, catching the easterly breeze, made it feel cool; the use of natural lighting in most spaces was restful for the eyes. All this was in the shelter of walls, roofs and windows that don’t attract heat.

What does this energy efficiency, renewable energy and comfort cost in a new building? Estimates are that construction costs for such a building compared to one that did not give any consideration to energy efficiency or the environment are an additional 20 per cent. But that bad news evaporates quickly. Projections show that those extra costs can be retrieved by energy bill savings within three years. After the payback period, the energy savings are pure profit.

RTPark’s 64 West Center achieved LEED certification by incorporating sustainable strategies throughout the project’s design, construction and operational phases, including energy, lighting, water and material uses, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to a healthier environment for visitors and tenants, and lowers costs.  The project included design features such as:

·       A northsouth orientation of the building’s main wing, to minimize southerly exposure and take advantage of prevailing easterly breezes

·       A light exterior color, to reflect daylight radiant heat

·       Storm water and rainwater management systems, to reduce facility water demands

·       Permeable pavements, vegetated conveyance swales, biofiltration, and underground detention in rain tanks

·       Underground cistern facilities, to collect rain water

·       Reduced energy demands, through solar water heating, natural daylighting, and highefficiency lighting and cooling systems

·       Renewable energy sources, including a roofmounted photovoltaic (solar array) system and wind turbine, reducing energy demand on utility power

·       The use of recycled and sustainable materials, including in kitchen and bathroom countertops, restroom partitions, and in furnishings and wood finishes

·       The use of polished concrete floors

·       The use of locallyproduced and procured materials, including landscape vegetation, concrete benches, and artworks

“RTPark’s 64 West Center was the first of what now are several sustainable initiatives underway on the campuses of UVI,” stated University of the Virgin Islands President Dr. David Hall.  “Environmental design and energy efficiency are key priorities for this institution because they are crucial to our Territory’s well-being and the promises of the future.”

“The 64 West Center project has fostered collaboration and visionary leadership from the moment design got underway in 2006,” added David Zumwalt, RTPark’s Executive Director.  “It changes the way buildings will be built in the USVI, and is a landmark for St. Croix and for the future growth of RTPark.”

The University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park (RTPark) is an economic development entity operating under a legislative mandate, and policy guidance from the University of the Virgin Islands, to develop a technology sector in the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information, visit www.uvirtpark.com.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Energy Development
in Island Nations

Ha'Penny Beach October Sunset


December 12, University of Virgin Islands, St. Thomas

Almost three years ago, the U.S. Virgin Islands, with the promised help of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, set out to reduce fossil fuel consumption 60 percent by the year 2025. The islands have since made significant progress. 

Energy project developers will give the public an update on that progress at this day-long workshop. Speakers will also address upcoming Initiatives of the Caribbean Green Technology Center and the Water and Power Authority’s ViEnergize Business Services Unit.

To attend please RSVP to Lucy Estephane at lucy.estephane@eo.vi.gov or call 713.8436, St. Croix or Molissa Brin, 714-8436, St. Thomas.


If you are a vendor or resident who would like to highlight a project completed in the last three years, contact Don Buchanan at don.buchanan@eo.vi.gov.  The Energy Office is producing a slideshow that will highlight the efforts in the private sector.