The Journal News: Balancing energy, water needs will demand soul-searching by environmentalists | LoHud.com

The Journal News: Balancing energy, water needs will demand soul-searching by environmentalists | LoHud.com

Pace’s environmental round-table discussion “Hard Choices in Hard Times,”  the first in the series “OnCampus at Pace University,” was the inspiration for an Earth Watch column by Greg Clary, the environment writer for The Journal News.

From the column published October 21, 2011:

I got two bills this week that didn’t seem connected until I heard John Cronin speak Tuesday night at Pace University.

One was my village water bill — $74.59 for a month — and the other $63.62 for a tank of gasoline that will last about a week.

No need to do the math. In rough numbers, the cost to power a five-person sedan for a month is nearly four times higher than the cost of meeting the water needs of a three-bedroom house.

Cronin, speaking at an environmental forum on Pace’s Pleasantville campus, said the relationship between energy and water needs to change if we’ve got any chance of surviving ourselves.

“There are alternatives sources for energy,” said Cronin, the former Riverkeeper who now heads up the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries. “There are no alternatives to water.”

Cronin was speaking with fellow environmentalists Glenn Prickett of the Nature Conservancy, New York Times “Dot Earth” blogger Andy Revkin and Robert Goldstein, a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a former attorney for Riverkeeper.

The group was weighing the question of environment vs. economic development and was surprisingly tough on a social movement that arguably got its start fighting for a cleaner Hudson River.

“The environmental movement needs to do some soul-searching of its own,” said Prickett.

“We were protecting nature from people in the last century. In the coming century, we need to protect nature for people and look ahead to how we’re going to feed and supply power for 9 billion people by the end of the century,” he said. “The challenges are going to be significant.”

Balancing off energy and water is going to be one of those challenges and it affects many more elements of our daily lives than we might realize.

To get the electricity that Indian Point puts out every day, the nuclear plant has to use 2.5 billion gallons of water from the Hudson to cool its operation.

Regardless of whether you support or oppose Indian Point, it’s kind of hard to make a case that using that water isn’t having some effect on our habitat. In fact, there are legal hearings going on in Albany that ultimately will help decide that question.

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It’s the same with PCBs and General Electric.

There’s the controversy over whether the insulating material should be dredged out of the Hudson, but it’s also difficult to make a case that nature is better off with polychlorinated biphenyls lying on the bottom of the river.

“They’re limiting each other, not enhancing each other,” Cronin said about energy and water. “Nothing we do in our houses reduces that conflict. What’s missing is innovation.

“We need to lobby industry,” Cronin said, pointing out that he recently was telling that to environmentalists who spend their time lobbying Congress.

“But they won’t listen to us,” Cronin said he heard from his colleagues.

He shot back.

“Is Washington listening to us?”

Cronin believes those on the green side of the aisle need to reach across and pressure innovators to include the environment in their balance-sheet calculus.

“We have to start getting to the true costs of energy. The answers aren’t in the environmental regulations,” he said. “We undervalue human life and that’s worse than undervaluing nature. We have to make some moral decisions. We’re not going to protect the planet if we don’t protect its dominant species.”

It’s the same with PCBs and General Electric.

There’s the controversy over whether the insulating material should be dredged out of the Hudson, but it’s also difficult to make a case that nature is better off with polychlorinated biphenyls lying on the bottom of the river.

“They’re limiting each other, not enhancing each other,” Cronin said about energy and water. “Nothing we do in our houses reduces that conflict. What’s missing is innovation.

“We need to lobby industry,” Cronin said, pointing out that he recently was telling that to environmentalists who spend their time lobbying Congress.

“But they won’t listen to us,” Cronin said he heard from his colleagues.

He shot back.

“Is Washington listening to us?”

Cronin believes those on the green side of the aisle need to reach across and pressure innovators to include the environment in their balance-sheet calculus.

“We have to start getting to the true costs of energy. The answers aren’t in the environmental regulations,” he said. “We undervalue human life and that’s worse than undervaluing nature. We have to make some moral decisions. We’re not going to protect the planet if we don’t protect its dominant species.”

Balancing energy, water needs will demand soul-searching by environmentalists | The Journal News | LoHud.com.

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