October 21, 2019

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

Of all the Sesame Street songs I’ve hummed and whistled to over the years, Going For A Ride is my favourite.

It runs over three verses.

A line in the first verse: “Gonna sit behind the wheel.”

In the second verse: “Gonna speed along the track.”

In the third: “Gonna sail the ocean blue.”

There’s already been a lot of ‘wheel’ and ‘track’ in my life, but not nearly enough ‘ocean blue’. So it’s always the third verse that comes to my mind when I think of the song.

Oh I’m going for a ride

I’m, gonna sail the ocean blue

And I’m gonna be a captain

And I’m gonna have a crew

Gonna sail the seven seas

On the water I will float

‘Cause I’m going for a ride

And I’m riding in a boat.

Well, that’s just what we did the week before last, my wife Brenda, our daughter Gaia, and I — we went on a cruise of the western Caribbean starting and ending in Miami. 

Our first cruise ever.

Getting away from our old selves

It was all about getting away, of course. Away from our same old selves. Away from the people around us who have their own vested interests in us being safely and predictably our same old selves. Away from this place which has played such a crucial role in shaping our same old selves.

Going on the cruise did the trick, even without any of us being the captain and having a crew.

There was no need to keep asking “How am I doing?” The question quickly became, “How’s the world doing?”, and the world replied, “Never mind how I’m doing. You wouldn’t understand anyway. I just am.”

That was good enough for me.  

There was the early morning stroll through the neighbourhoods around our Miami hotel with proof at every corner that things can be different, that the plants we can only cultivate inside up here do thrive outside down there, that coconuts do grow on trees, that Spanish-speaking people really are reclaiming Miami after they lost it to the United States two centuries ago.

Living in a floating village

There was the novelty of making a cabin our home for a week, of learning to find our way through the lanes and alleys of a floating village, of getting to know all kinds of people we’ll never see again. 

We were constantly torn between differences and similarities. No familiar whirling and screeching of sea birds greeted us as we docked at Cozumel Island off the Mexican coast, yet, like the wind-swept barrens of Newfoundland, the low-lying island was covered with its own kind of tuckamore, a tangle of dwarf palms and tropical trees. 

On the jungle trek to cave tubing in Belize we were shown a palm tree which carries small red berries that self-ignite after dropping to the ground and cause wild fires that regenerate the forests. There was also the killer tree which smothers other trees by wrapping itself around them.

The caves are mile-long tunnels with underground streams moving darkly past underground beaches, the walls and ceilings gnarled and twisted with formations that make you wonder how solid rock can flow. Next thing you find asking yourself what comes first in this crazy world, flow or pattern. And while you drift through another cave past another underground beach you realize there’s no either or, it’s all the same, flow and pattern are like energy and matter – two faces of the same thing.

While watching the sun set from our cruise ship balcony, we figured out how the ancients of Egypt and of the Americas came up with the same idea of building pyramids. 

No wonder they worshipped the sun

Was it the Egyptians who crossed the Atlantic and taught the Mayans, as some believe? Was it the Mayans who crossed first and taught the Egyptians, according to others?

It doesn’t have to be one or the other in this case either. Both the Egyptians and the Mayans were sun worshippers and would have noticed on their respective horizons how some sunsets send out shafts of rays that rise like pyramid-shaped altars over the sea and earth.      

In Roatan we spent the day on a small island set up as a sanctuary for rescued animals, while a reluctant jaguar gets dragged to the beach every day so tourists can have their picture taken with it in the water.

On the sandbar inside the barrier reef off Grand Cayman Island we swam with sting rays and weren’t sure who was mobbing whom, they us, or we them. 

The reef itself is slowly dying and looked through our snorkeling masks like a ruined city with tumbles upon tumbles of broken structures stacked on top of each other.

Nothing was obvious yet everything exotically self-explanatory. 

Amid all this diversity of being, our same old selves simply shrank away. And that was the whole point.

They came back though.

Not a single four-letter word of frustration passed my lips while we were on the cruise. I counted at least a dozen on my first day back to work.

So be it till the next ride.

Excerpt from:

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

Occupy Activist Who Was Jailed After Clearing of Zuccotti Park Now Works to Reform Prison

Menacing police dogs and correctional officers in bulletproof vests greeted activist Cecily McMillan when she returned to Rikers Island last week. Stacks of disposable zip-tie handcuffs, omnipresent during Occupy Wall Street, dangled from their belts at the ready. While the sight was familiar to the Occupy activist, recently released from 58 days in the jail following a highly controversial trial, the show of force surprised her—after all, she was just there to deliver a stack of paper.

The show of force that landed her behind bars came during the chaos of the 2012 clearing of Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street had made encampments to protest an alarming, broad trend of injustice in banking, housing and other matters. In a physical struggle, she says she was groped from behind by a police officer and reared back with an elbow as a reflex, but the courts decided that was assault on a police officer.

After her release from Rikers Island on July 2, McMillan immediately launched an ambitious campaign to improve conditions she witnessed in the Rose M. Singer Center, the women’s jail at Rikers. The petition she delivered on Aug. 15, which amassed more than 10,000 signatures, demanded adequate mental and physical healthcare for female inmates, access to an accountable grievance process, education and vocational programs, an end to a newly-enforced 9 p.m. lockdown procedure, and an end to solitary confinement.

Commissioner Joseph Ponte, to whom the petition was addressed, didn’t meet McMillan and her fellow demonstrators at Rikers that morning, sending the Department of Correction’s Director of Media Relations Robin Campbell in his place. McMillan refused to hand off the petition to Campbell until they negotiated a sit-down meeting with Commissioner Ponte to discuss the demands, set to take place Aug. 25.

“We asked for an inch and they gave us a mile,” said a pleased McMillan when we spoke the day after the successful demonstration at Rikers. “Going over the [Rikers] bridge is a drastic act, but that’s what we had to do. You have to literally stand in solidarity with the people you want to help.”

Activism is nothing new to McMillan, whose was union organizing in Madison, Wis., before her participation in Occupy Wall Street. But her time served in Rikers reinvigorated her interest in women-backed collective action and sparked a dedication to the cause of incarcerated women.

“I’ve never been in a position in society where 50 women of different cultures and different backgrounds, different languages, have had the time and the space and the conditions to come together as women,” McMillan said. “Rikers is the only place I’ve ever felt that against one unified problem, and it was an incredible feeling of female solidarity.”

In recent months, the spotlight has shone brightly on the problem that inspired that unity. A disturbing Department of Justice report following three years of investigation highlighted the plight of juvenile offenders at the jail, concluding that a “deep-seated culture of violence is pervasive throughout the adolescent facilities at Rikers,” and noting that “the systemic deficiencies identified in this report may exist in equal measure at the [adult] jails on Rikers” as well.

According to McMillan and others, there is no question that this violence extends well beyond the juvenile facilities. Of particular concern to McMillan is the “medical and mental health malpractice and negligence” suffered by women in the Rose M. Singer Center. To address the issue, McMillan explained the women are “organizing heavily on the inside,” and are “building towards having a woman in every single dorm to investigate every single infraction by medical and mental health personnel, as well as correctional officers.”

Outside the jail on Aug. 19, a coalition of city council members, activists, and criminal justice experts joined McMillan to call on the NYC Board of Corrections to fill two vacancies with permanent positions for a former inmate and a former correctional officer to add perspective to the Board’s work. ;

“People closest to the problem are closest to the solution,” said Glenn Martin, a formerly incarcerated criminal justice reform advocate and founder of JustLeadershipUSA who joined the roundtable discussion to advocate for the two new positions.

“I have three stab wounds on my body, and all of them come from time spent on Rikers Island,” added Martin. “I’m telling you, not much has changed.”

In the midst of such violence and darkness at Rikers, McMillan found an unexpected source of motivation to work harder than ever for change.

“There’s a certain equalizing factor in the humiliation, degradation, and abuse of prison,” she said. “It’s a parallel experience that takes away all of the alienation and competition, and leaves you with a sense of camaraderie and community.”

Camaraderie or not, the reason for the closeness that forms the community is the struggle.

“I’m not saying that it wasn’t horrific or abusive, but in that moment you had nothing to do but unite together in order to keep your humanity.” While McMillan and her team have their work cut out for them, she has her sights set ahead. “My activism has taken a direction I always hoped it would go. I just want to keep moving forward and getting closer to what it means to be human.”

Related stories on TakePart:

Thousands of Occupy Protesters Were Arrested. But Were They Guilty of Crimes?

Some European Prisons Are Shrinking and Closing—What Can America Learn?

At 24, He Got Life Without Parole for Mailing LSD—and He’s Not Alone

A Prisoner Had a Hand in the Chèvre You Bought at Whole Foods

The Real-Life Stories Behind ‘Orange Is the New Black’

Original article from TakePart

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Occupy Activist Who Was Jailed After Clearing of Zuccotti Park Now Works to Reform Prison

How Google Street View is Tackling Methane Leaks

Steven Hamburg, chief scientist at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), contributed this article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Throughout history, maps have played a critical role in shaping decisions — helping people determine where they are going and how to get there. Now, maps are defining a way to address methane leaks, a potent contributor to climate change. Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach have just launched a series of maps that show methane leaks from natural gas pipelines under city streets in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island. The new tool has the power to greatly improve how cities and utilities can minimize methane emissions.


Why care about methane?

A recent tide of scientific studies, such as a recent study of emissions in Pennsylvania, have examined how methane — the primary component of natural gas — is escaping from the natural gas supply chain. Such research has made it clear how much that leakage is affecting global carbon dioxide levels.

One of natural gas’s potential benefits over other fossil fuels is that, when burned, it produces less carbon dioxide — half as much as coal — to yield the same amount of energy. If used wisely to rapidly displace dirty coal-power plants, for example, natural gas could help the country dramatically reduce overall greenhouse-gas emissions. 

Unburned, however, methane is 84 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after it is released. While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. If too much methane escapes along the supply chain — anywhere between the well and the end user — it could postpone the climate benefits of fuel switching, a delay we can ill afford. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, roughly one-third of methane emissions in the United States come from the oil and gas industry, and one third of the warming we are currently experiencing comes from anthropogenically released methane in the atmosphere — addressing methane leakage in the natural gas supply chain is critical. 

With great data comes great responsibility

For our analysis of methane emissions from local distribution pipes, Google equipped three Street View cars with methane analyzers and drove through large portions of Boston, Staten Island and Indianapolis collecting methane concentration data, GPS data and wind speed and direction data every half second. Our science team, in partnership with Colorado State University (CSU) researchers, developed a first-of-its-kind algorithm to translate the patterns of concentration data collected by the Street View cars into methane-leak rates for individual leaks. These data and the accompanying maps are designed to help the public, utilities and regulators better understand the pattern and scale of urban methane leaks. 

For example, we observed one leak per mile of road driven in Boston and Staten Island, a borough of New York City. Depending on the size of those leaks, the climate impact over the next 20 years — for each leak — ranged from the equivalent of driving a car 100 miles every single day up to driving more than 9,000 miles every day. These data will allow utilities to better prioritize which leaks to repair or pipes to replace, enabling them to get rid of the larger leaks much faster than was possible before. 

Helping utilities help themselves 

The local utilities — like National Grid, the utility in both Boston and Staten Island, and Citizens in Indianapolis — helped validate the data and provided insight into where their repair efforts should be targeted. Leaks even larger than those we saw in our surveys are of the greatest public safety concern; but those leaks are usually identified and fixed quickly. Smaller leaks are monitored by the utilities, but can go unfixed for long periods of time, spewing significant amounts of climate pollutants into the atmosphere. The new methodologies developed to produce the maps hold the potential to benefit both public health (as leaks can sometimes trigger explosions) and the climate.  

In addition to providing a picture of leak rates across cities, these maps clearly show the value of investing in a modern natural-gas infrastructure. Older pipes made of cast iron and unprotected steel can corrode as they age, making them more vulnerable to leaks. Plastic pipes, which are used in newer systems, are more durable over time and leak much less. The 200-times-lower frequency of leaks in Indianapolis, versus Boston and Staten Island, clearly indicates the value of Indianapolis’s decision to upgrade to plastic pipes.  

Investing in newer infrastructure pays off three-fold: 

  • Minimize safety risks from explosions;
  • Climate benefits; 
  • Keeps marketable product out of the air and in the pipeline.

In the early 80s, the utility Citizens in Indianapolis made replacing the city’s aging pipelines a priority. Today, pipes vulnerable to corrosion make up only one percent of Indianapolis’s local distribution system, and leak rates there are congruently low. Our efforts found only five leaks in the pipelines examined — one leak for every 200 miles mapped. While Boston, where about half of the pipes are made of materials vulnerable to corrosion and have been in the ground for more than half a century, averaged roughly one leak per mile mapped.

EDF has focused on “finding the ways that work” for almost 50 years, and this collaborative mapping project is indicative of our commitment to tapping the power of science in pursuit of effective solutions. This project takes a major step toward providing local gas-distribution utilities and regulators the scientific tools to better understand methane leaks and should spur meaningful local efforts to reduce emissions of climate pollutants — with more opportunities for effective action. By continuing our collaborations with Google, CSU, local utilities and the public, we can broaden the scope of what we know, map more pollutants in more cities and spark changes to slow the planet’s warming. 

Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

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How Google Street View is Tackling Methane Leaks