Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Exchange of Messages with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Dear Ms. Zawacki:

Thank you for your e-mail yesterday to staff of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Environment Program. I am the director of the DDCF Climate Change Initiative, which is the grant-making program most relevant to your comments and inquiries.

At the outset, I should emphasize that neither I nor other members of the Environment Program staff have expertise regarding topics such as ethanol and acetaldehyde. Instead, the focus of the Climate Change Initiative has been on greenhouse gases (GHG) and various GHG abatement options.

We share your desire for the rapid deployment of green energy. To that end, the foundation has made approximately $37 million in grants over the last three years to help build a clean energy economy. Specifically, the Climate Change Initiative supports analytical work that informs technology innovation policies. These are the domestic and international policies that are needed to help foster technological innovation in the energy sector and accelerate the emergence of new clean-energy technologies. More information on the Climate Change Initiative and our grants can be found here: http://www.ddcf.org/page.asp?pageId=675.

Although we have not made any grants specifically related to ethanol (pro or con), and we generally do not focus on the transportation sector or liquid fuels, I hope that you’ll see that DDCF has made a substantial commitment to de-carbonizing the economy.


Andrew Bowman

here is the response I sent:

Dear Dr. Bowman,

Thank you very much for your response to my message. I do appreciate that DDCF has made a substantial commitment towards green energy which is, of course, the ultimate solution towards harmful greenhouse gas emissions, of which acetaldehyde is but one of many.

Your answer however begs a couple of questions. Of course I do not expect anyone in your organization to be cognizant of the effects of acetaldehyde, because very few people are. But now that it has been brought to your attention as quite possibly THE key component in an array of threats to trees and other vegetation, the first question is what can and should DDCF do about it?

Transitioning to a clean energy economy will mean very little if it takes so long that all the vegetation is destroyed and all the people and animals have starved to death. I understand that seems hyperbolic but if you looked at the pictures I took at Duke Farms, I think you would have to understand it is actually just factual.

The second question is, since SOMETHING is massacring the trees at Duke Farms (and the idea asserted earlier that Duke Farm trees are declining due to advanced age is frankly ludicrous - aside from the demonstrable fact that very young saplings are dying at the same rate as older trees, species such as maples and oaks and other such hardwood species are programmed to live for centuries, literally) what is the Board obligated to do to determine the cause of the widespread damage?

I maintain that the Board must actively seek out experts in atmospheric chemistry AND botany who have the expertise to determine what is killing the vegetation at Duke Farm, and everywhere else in the vicinity, in order to determine its next course of action and funding.

I apologize if I appear to be cranky on this subject and I assure you I am not targeting DDCF or singling out your organization. I have been writing letters to dozens of scientists, government agencies, and conservation groups over the past year, for the simple reason that I have children and I really don't want them to spend the rest of their lives in a hot barren desert scrounging for food and water.

Climate change is a vast subject and there are more aspects to it than most people care to think about. But given the particular mission of your foundation, and the condition of your property, I think you should give some serious consideration to the evidence I have put before you.

And I would be happy to help in any way I could. For instance, I have information about a rather new infrared camera developed in Europe that takes photos of trees and much like a CAT scan of people, reveals the flow of heat and can be used to diagnose problems before the condition is symptomatic and irreversible. I would very much like to see funding for a study using that camera to reveal the interior condition of trees.

De-carbonizing the economy is essential. But I doubt it will happen until people understand what they really face if we DON'T de-carbonize. Losing trees, birds, and butterflies, and apples and cherries, and shade and wood, might just do it. The sooner the public and policy makers figure out that pumping millions of tons of poison into the atmosphere has very bad consequences, the sooner we can go into warp speed to transition to carbon neutral (actually, carbon removal).

You at DDCF are in a position to lead this enlightenment - you have the basic understanding, the funding, and the mission.

I encourage you to deploy your resources because from what I have seen, the ethanol industry has no hesitation in going full throttle to expand their dominion, heedless of the health consequences to life, plant or animal.



1 comment:

  1. They're a step or two behind you. Their entire focus is on CO2. You have found convincing evidence that ozone and possibly ethanol, not CO2, is causing the trees' distress.

    The very nice to send an Email Doctor Bowman's area of expertise can't begin to address your concerns. Emailing the head botonist and arborist could get better results. They may have information on the specific health of plant life at the Farms. Your suggestion of the tree MRI might interest them.

    If I could offer another note on composition, try to say it in four or five paragraphs.


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