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"National Geographic" featured Pace University's Dyson College of Arts and Sciences Professor of environmental policy and Hudson Riverkeeper John Cronin in "14-foot fish spotted in river, giving hope to vanished giant’s return"

03/07/2019

"National Geographic" featured Pace University's Dyson College of Arts and Sciences Professor of environmental policy and Hudson Riverkeeper John Cronin in "14-foot fish spotted in river, giving hope to vanished giant’s return"

Sustainable management?

To widen the view of this sonar signal, I turned first to John Cronin, an old friend who’s encountered the Hudson and its biological bounty in more ways than anyone I know. His four-decade-plus career along the Hudson has included commercial fishing for shad (a species now gone from the river), patrolling for pollution as the Hudson Riverkeeper and teaching environmental policy at nearby Pace University.

He sees last summer’s sonar image less as a sign of hope than a reminder of just how profound the near-complete depletion of the Atlantic sturgeon has been—along with the loss of other once-keystone commercial species like the American shad.

The loss is not just of fish but of the relationship communities have with their environment when fisheries are sustainable, Cronin said. He lamented how mismanagement of harvests, even when the science was clear, led to the final crash in the 1990s and then a ban on catches that will persist for many years, if not decades, to come.

In an essay on his Earth Desk blog in 2013, centered on Native American lore around a “sturgeon moon,” Cronin captured the epic scale of the jolt this ancient species has felt in Earth’s Anthropocene age of human impacts.

“Overharvesting of its meat and caviar, pollution, habitat alteration, power plant intakes—the list of insults that humans have invented trump every challenge thrown in the sturgeon’s path during 2,000,000 centuries of life on Earth,” he wrote. “Worth remembering the next time someone passes you the caviar….”

Given the slow maturation and long lives of sturgeon, the losses have been akin to clearcutting an ancient forest, agreed John Waldman, a biology professor at the City University of New York and author of Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and their Great Fish Migrations.

What did he think of the sonar view of a fish as big as the biggest Atlantic sturgeon of any age?

“This makes me think we often don’t really know that much about the status of sturgeon in any river,” Waldman said.

He said the biggest sturgeon are big for a reason: “They’re almost totally cryptic and elusive and this is deep and murky water.”

Sturgeon have been known to leap from the water on occasion, he said, “but it’s not like spotting the humpback whale that was in the lower Hudson a few years ago. They surface every few minutes.”

“It’s a marvelous thing to see, even if just that one for now,” Waldman said.

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"National Geographic" featured Karl R. Rábago, the director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at the Pace Law School in " 3 tests the Green New Deal must pass to work"

02/15/2019

"National Geographic" featured Karl R. Rábago, the director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at the Pace Law School in " 3 tests the Green New Deal must pass to work"

...“If the goal was to change the conversation and you believe changing the conversation changes actions, it’s already a giant check mark in the win column,” said Karl R. Rábago, the director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at the Pace Law School in New York. He’s a useful guide, having been in the trenches for several decades on climate and clean-electricity policy, with much of that time spent in Texas—a state that is a giant oil, gas, and chemicals producer as well as the nation’s biggest producer of wind-generated electricity.

Of course, actions on the ground to reboot America’s energy system—built over more than a century around cheap fossil fuels—require cash, technology, rules and regulations. And that’s where my third step comes in.

Jacobson and Karl Rábago at the Pace Energy and Climate Center both pointed to an emerging model, called Community Choice Aggregation, through which clusters of towns can, in essence, become their own utility, buying all-renewable electricity from various sources through the grid.

More than half a dozen states, including New York, now allow this, said Jacobson. “This means you don’t have to put solar on your roof,” he said. “You can buy 100-percent renewables at pretty much the same cost. They’ve sprung up all over the place.”

Indeed, one of them, Renewable Highlands, is in my part of the Hudson Valley. A tweet by Jacobson led me to it, via a story about Marbletown, a community of 5,500 in the Catskills, which just joined.

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