Hard to believe the first Earth Day was forty years ago. I was working at a suburban library system then in San Mateo County. At a library program where my friend Tibby Storey and I sang my song “Don’t,” somebody did a slide show, and the only photo I remember was of huge truckloads of new cars coming across the Sierra. Every few weeks my then husband and I would gather up aluminum cans thrown out of cars parked along the drive around the top of Bernal Heights which went past our house. He would sell them to a processor on his way to the flea market down the peninsula because there was no local collection point, much less curbside recycling.

Having lived 75 years gives me a certain perspective. I’ve seen us go from rationing gas and collecting tin cans, suet, newspaper and tin foil during the Second World War to throw-away everything and drive to the suburbs in the fifties and back now to recycling and some attempts at smart growth. I’m reading an article in the April Scientific American that tells me that in my lifetime the population of the world has more than doubled and the use of fossil fuels has quadrupled. (I just read somewhere that the Pentagon is the world’s largest single user of oil, so “Don’t” is as relevant as ever.)

The Scientific American article is telling us about other tipping points besides global warming. Two concern the ocean: climate change is not only warming the oceans but making them more acid, due to carbon dioxide dissolving in the water. This will make it more difficult for coral and other ocean life to make their calcium carbonate shells. At my birthday show the Organic Chorus sang my song about coral, “Only a Polyp,” and you can hear it here thanks to the CD the sound crew at the Freight so kindly made of my show. The photo is by Pamela Stoneham, showing us singing it again at WoMaMu.
         Only a Polyp, © 1998 by Nancy Schimmel

The other ocean tipping point, which we have already gone waaaaaaay over, creating huge dead zones in the Caribbean and other places, is nitrogen pollution. This comes from overuse of fertilizers and under-processing of animal wastes from feedlots. Organic farming and grass-grown meat are as necessary to maintaining a recognizable earth as solar panels and wind farms. Unfortunately, the rise in growing corn for ethanol will send more nitrogen down the Mississippi, enlarging the Caribbean dead zone.

Like ethanol, building nuclear power plants is a “solution” that creates more problems.  I just sent a letter to my senators about the climate bill: 
Dear Senator,
Unlike many voters, I'm old enough to remember when the nuclear industry was trying to site a reactor on Bodega Head, near an earthquake fault. We stopped that one, but I don't relish having to attend more demonstrations at seventy-five years of age to try to control this irresponsible industry. If the federal government buys insurance for them, why should they be responsible?
Please keep subsidies to nuclear power out of the climate bill. We can do it all with wind, water, geothermal and small hydro, if we just stop wasting power. 
Send your own letter at:

I was at a small party yesterday in a house in the hills with a great view of the bay. Two friends were saying they had met in the anti-nuke movement of the seventies. Somebody asked “Do you think your actions did any good?” I gave my usual answer, “We’re all still here.” But the sight of the bay made me think of another answer. I reminded folks of the plan to fill in a third of San Francisco Bay for building sites that was defeated in the early sixties by Save the Bay.
I thought about that again walking Molly at Point Isabel this morning, looking out over the bay in perfect weather, sipping a one-shot medium decaf latte and munching on a Semifreddie’s bran muffin. Thank you, Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin and Esther Gulick and your thousands of supporters, for saving the bay for all of us. And thank you, Sit and Stay Café, for making dog-walking even more pleasant.


Good heavens! Somebody in the neighborhood is playing “The International” on the trumpet! (I’m blogging in the backyard.) Oh, I think I know who it is. One of the neighbors plays in the Mime Troupe band. I love Berkeley.

©2010 by Nancy SchimmelC75EAFB6-DE6D-4540-8071-DD244D69F1FB.htmlhttp://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5502/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2255http://www.savesfbay.org/historyhttp://www.yelp.com/biz/mudpuppys-tub-and-scrub-sit-and-stay-cafe-richmond
Here are the Organic Chorus coral polyps, building a maze (hands clasped) for the groupers and neons (hands wiggling) at WoMaMu. Corals are the poster life-forms for ocean warming.
Sunday, April 18, 2010