Iowa native and a NASA climate expert ,James Hansen, is outspoken on the topic of coal-fired electrical generation.
On Sunday afternoon, under a blistering hot sun and a heat index in the low 90s, James Hansen, a Denison native and outspoken global warming expert, called for a moratorium on coal-fueled power plants in the United States and the creation of a federal carbon czar to monitor taxes levied on businesses for carbon emissions.
"The science is clear. If we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, climate extremes will increase and we will exterminate many of the species on the planet," Hansen said to roughly 250 people during the ReEnergize Iowa rally at Nollen Plaza in downtown Des Moines.
The rally capped a four-day march from Ames to Des Moines organized by the Sierra Student Coalition and other environmental advocates, students and labor leaders.
Article goes on to say that Hansen is created some ripples with his employer
NASA officials and President Bush's administration have threatened to fire him, and the agency has tried to make him clear his statements with NASA's public relations workers.
Originally posted by me in 2003
Kudos to the paper for publishing the article.
The Road Less Pedaled
St. Petersburg Times; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Feb 16, 2003; JEFF KLINKENBERG;
Copyright Times Publishing Co. Feb 16, 2003
At dawn the mean streets of Kimberly Cooper's city swell with traffic. She switches on her bicycle lights. She has three blinking red ones in the rear and a bright white one in front. She climbs onto the saddle and pedals furiously. Soon she is barreling along Martin Luther King.
The Tampa Bay area long has been among the most harrowing places in America to ride a bike. Watching Cooper, it is easy to see why. Honking motorists pass uncomfortably close in the dim light. Cars pull out from side streets without looking. Every once in awhile, a bus creeps by like an ocean liner about to swamp poor Huck Finn on his humble raft.
As a cyclist who has been hit twice by motor vehicles, Cooper ought to be afraid. She prefers the word cautious. "The trick is all about being visible," she says, shouting above the din. "You want cars to see you, to get used to you. If you're predictable, you're in less danger."
Cooper, a tiny gray-haired woman with intense blue eyes, is the Joan of Arc of bicycling. She is the Tampa Bay area's self- appointed advocate for bicycle safety, bicycle rights, bicycle commuting and even free bicycle equipment for the poor. She doesn't want to get killed, but she doesn't want to be intimidated either.
"It's my road, too," she tells people.
She has never gone to jail for the sake of cycling, but in recent years she has paid $800 in fines. Her crime? Not staying far enough to the right in heavy traffic. Some roads are so narrow she feels compelled to take up most of the far right lane rather than ride inches from the curb.
"The problem if you are too close to the curb is that often a motorist will not even notice you or try to squeeze by you," says the voice of experience. "If you're too far right you can also can get hurt if somebody in a parked car happens to open their door. Also, you can run into the curb or bog down in sand. I try to use common sense."
Even cyclists who appreciate Cooper's dedication sometimes thinks she is a daft eccentric. "She's wonderfully unselfish and committed," says St. Petersburg's Rue Morgan, an avid cyclist. "But, oh my God, she scares me to death. She gets right out in the busiest roads with cars."
She will ride anywhere at any time. Five mornings a week she pedals her sturdy Schwinn 9.4 miles to work on congested Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street N and hellish Roosevelt Boulevard. After work - she is a data processor and analyst at a financial company - she rides 9.4 miles home. For about half the year she commutes in the dark.
A surprising number of people commute by bicycle in the Tampa Bay area, about 10,000 according to the latest census. Of course, that's still a tiny percentage of all travelers. The bay area is much like the rest of America, where 98-million people commute by motor vehicle and less than one-half of 1 percent rely on pedal power.
Cooper, 46, uses her bike for more than commuting to her job at Franklin Templeton. She relies on it for everything from trips to the grocery to visits to the doctor. If she needs to go to Tampa or Clearwater for a bicycle advisory government meeting, she wakes early, pumps her tires and hits those mean streets.
"I used to own an AMC Hornet with four bald tires," she says. "I also had a bike, but not much money. What would most people prefer? A woman riding a bike or a woman driving around in a vehicle with four bad tires?"
In 1981 she ditched the Hornet for good. Why hang on? She had no plans to marry or to be a soccer mom. She hated car payments, insurance payments and buying gas. "It was liberating,"she says.
She still maintains a driver's license for identification and in case she has to drive. Twice last year in emergencies she got behind the wheel of an anxious friend's car. They didn't crash. On New Year's Eve, Cooper called a taxi after a long day of work that included overtime, a torrential downpour and the possibility of drunks on the road.
Her bike rode in the trunk.
She wanted to make a difference
Cooper is 13 inches shorter than her 6-foot-long bicycle. But sometimes she feels as tall and as powerful as Lance Armstrong.
"Up here, take advantage of this hill and pedal real hard," she calls as her muscular legs churn like pistons on King Street. "We can make the light and build some speed. Sorry, I'm being a mother hen."
It comes naturally. Born in Oregon in 1956, she was raised on a farm and can still imitate the cry of a chicken. She graduated from Eugene Bible College with a degree in religious education and later earned a second bachelor's in social sciences from the University of Oregon.
She wanted to be a teacher, but not just anywhere. She says she wanted to teach in a place where she could make a difference. She spent more than a decade in Haiti, helping the poor with their English. When she decided to move back to the states five years ago, she rejected the idea of returning to an Oregon she found literally and figuratively cold.
"Where I come from, people have a hard time accepting and valuing unmarried, childless women," she says. She remembers spreading a map of Florida on a table, closing her eyes and plunking down a finger. It landed on St. Petersburg.
"When I first got here, I knew nobody and had no money. I got off the Greyhound bus and went to one homeless shelter after another. The last one took me in. I have never forgotten what that was like."
If this were the 19th century, Cooper probably would be living in Concord among those New England Transcendentalists Emerson, Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott. She could almost be one of Alcott's Little Women: earnest, charitable and eager to make society a better place.
Of course, it's 2003, the don't-ask-me-to-sacrifice age. In a Spandex world, Cooper stands out like a scuffed brown shoe.
"Sometimes I feel out of place," she says. "I'm Kimberly Cooper - the weirdo."
Like Thoreau, she marches to a different drummer. She can be a burr under the saddle of even other do-gooders. They may chat about the need to conserve fuel, but they often drive gas-guzzling SUVs. They talk about conserving electricity and water and then take 10- minute hot showers or brush teeth while gallons of precious water pour down the drain.
At the modest garage apartment she shares with her cat, Martin, she lives as simply as possible. She eats low on the food chain, mostly fruits and vegetables, beans and rice. The faucet in her tub is leaking, and until she can fix it, she collects the drip in a bucket. Then she uses the tub water to replenish her toilet tank.
"It's not a big deal," she says. "I should tell you about the water situation in Haiti when I was there, about using 7 gallons or less a day for bathing, cleaning AND flushing the toilet. I'm not as frugal now."
Simplify, simplify, wrote Thoreau. Simplifying her life, she owns a few sticks of modest furniture; her Compaq computer rests on the floor. When she's online, she peruses a dozen Internet cycling sites she has bookmarked as must-reads. When she hankers for a good book, she borrows rather than buys. Lately she has been working her way through Robinson Crusoe, another solitary, self-reliant hero.
And bicycles for all
"I hate head winds," Cooper says. In the winter, she rides against the wind on the way to work, but enjoys a tailwind on the way home.
Lately she has been stopping at the Bike Room, the shop on King Street where she gets her bike maintained. Recently she spent more than $300 on bicycle lights.
"Not for her," says Patrick Ruba, her mechanic. "For other people."
Cooper printed a voucher she hands out to cyclists she encounters riding in the dark without lights. They can redeem the voucher at the Bike Room for a free set of lights. She also has been seeking bicycle-related donations on behalf of the Salvation Army in Clearwater and the Daystar Life Center in St. Petersburg.
"I don't do it just for altruistic reasons," Cooper says in her usual earnest manner. "It's cost-effective. The poor need transportation. I encourage more people to help the poor bike safely. Lights are especially important. If a cyclist without insurance gets hit by a car and goes to the hospital, we taxpayers foot the bill. If a low-income person breaks the law by riding at night without lights, he might get a ticket. If he can't pay the fine, he will go to jail. Taxpayers pay for that, too. In the long run helping people saves money."
When she arrives home after work she reads the newspaper religiously because that's what she believes a good citizen should do. Among other things, she is a tireless writer of letters to the editor about cycling issues. But she has an ulterior motive for subscribing. During frigid weather, newspaper pages and the plastic wrapper are perfect insulation when tucked into bicycle tights.
In the coldest weather she also wears bike shorts, a T-shirt, a sweat shirt, a wind breaker, a ski mask, two pairs of gloves and two pairs of socks. Always she wears a helmet. In Florida, only children age 15 or under legally are required to wear helmets. But less than half of adult cyclists do.
Approximately 700 cyclists are killed by motorists in the United States every year. Florida is the most dangerous place to ride, with about 100 fatalities per year. Within the state cyclists are most imperiled in Orlando, according to the Mean Streets Report, a national transportation watchdog group. No. 2 is the Tampa Bay area, where 23 cyclists died and another 913 were hurt in 2001.
Why so many? the Tampa Bay area has a growing number of cyclists, a growing number of motorists and basically a finite number of roads, including many that were originally intended only for the use of motor vehicles.
"Things are actually getting better," says Cooper, who serves on a handful of citizen groups. Some major roads now include bike lanes. A few counties, including Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus, maintain bicycle trails that stretch for miles. Years ago, nobody wore helmets; now at least some do. Generations past told kids to ride against the flow of traffic; nowadays almost everyone knows it's safer to ride with the flow. Bikers are getting smarter, in other words. And many motorists no longer are shocked to encounter a cyclist on a busy road.
But Cooper thinks safe cycling has a long way to go in the bay area. She takes her vacation, a day or a half-day at a time, over the course of the year to attend government meetings where bicycle safety issues are discussed. She is on the Bicycle Advisory Committee for Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Citizen's Advisory Committee for Bike-Pedestrian Master Plan.
Many meetings take place in Clearwater, the county seat, 21 miles by bike from her home. After a meeting she often rides 13 miles to her office near Roosevelt. She locks her bike, goes inside and takes a shower.
If she were the cycling czar of the Tampa Bay area, she would require that all businesses have sturdy bike racks and showers for employees.
Why not take the bus?
From behind the wheel, King Street is just another busy road in the Tampa Bay area. From the seat of a bicycle, at 7:30 a.m., it is one mean street.
Cars whiz by over the speed limit. Horns honk. Glass waits in the gutter. Sure enough, Cooper takes up a goodly share of the far right lane. She slows up motorists directly behind her. Most are patient. Some despise her.
Sometimes people ask why she just doesn't take the bus. She did, but it took hours. She can ride to work in 40 minutes. Sometimes she is asked why she doesn't stick to side streets. She has. They're slow, too. Plus they are dark, and she fears getting mugged. After 6 wind-in-the-face miles, she arrives at Roosevelt. Only 3.4 miles to go. If you made a list of the 100 scariest cycling roads in the Tampa Bay area, Roosevelt would be near the top. Some motorists, probably a minority, actually stick to the 55-mph speed limit. Most go faster. Lanes end or merge or suddenly become right-turn only.
Cooper pedals calmly. She gives crisp hand signals to indicate every move. If a light turns red, she stops. If she has to yield, she yields.
"Cyclists have every right to share the road," she says. "But we are also obligated to obey the laws. I do the best I can."
On days when she is tense, cycling burns off tension as well as calories. Obesity is a problem in her family; years ago she was fat, too. Now she doesn't worry.
Riding, she waves to a woman she sees on the same bus stop every work day. She waves at motorists she sees every day at the same intersection at the same time. She doesn't have a radio - serious cyclists know it is against the law to wear headphones - but she does enjoy the songs of cardinals and mockingbirds between passing cars. Occasionally she encounters a confused gopher tortoise. She jumps off her bike, stops traffic, and helps the turtle cross the road.
"Kimberly looks at the world a little different than most of us," says Mike Farrell, an avid cyclist who lives in Largo. "She really wants to change the world for the better. She's the real deal."
One summer day she helped a stranded motorist whose cell phone was dead. Cooper pedaled to the nearest phone and called police. She often stops to clear discarded pipe and metal off the road. She doesn't want to get a flat tire, either.
Road kill violates her sense of smell. Dead possums, raccoons, dogs and cats often come to final rest near the curb. But there is a happier kind of road kill, too. She has found, and returned to their owners, lost wallets and a case that contained $135 worth of compact discs.
Cyclists are her family
The road less traveled doesn't always lead to a community called Inner Peace. Sometimes the road ends at Lonesome Town. "I'm very shy and am a champion blusher," Cooper says. Small talk comes with difficulty; she isn't the type of person to chat glibly about Sunday's game or who was nominated for Academy Awards. She is more comfortable talking about world hunger or safe cycling.
"I finally joined Toastmasters so I could learn to think faster on my feet," she says. She has no family to nurture her. "Well, cyclists are my family."
They would mourn her, wouldn't they? Or would they ask: "What did she expect?"
Twice she almost bought it. The first time happened in 1998. Bicycling on Roosevelt toward work, she needed to cross the interstate off-ramp. "I should have looked a second time," she says. She got broadsided, slid over the hood, and rolled across the paved road shoulder with a cracked helmet. An ambulance took her to the emergency room, but she was released hours later, lucky to be alive.
The next year, she got hit on King Street at 90th Avenue N. That day she thinks she was too close to the curb. The driver of a Ford pickup, eager to turn left, watching approaching traffic, didn't notice her pedaling along the curb. She banged into the side of the truck. Her bruises were treated at the emergency room.
Now she automatically assumes a motorist will pull into her path without looking. She feels unsafe until making eye contact.
She is the queen of eye contact. A stranger who meets her glance likely will receive a brochure about safe cycling. Visitors to St. Petersburg art shows, blues fests and food extravaganzas often encounter Cooper and her brochures standing next to her bike.
Many motorists, at least along her route, have gotten used to her over the years. They seem to appreciate her determination and wave hello. Of course, others are unhappy about sharing the road and let her know. Occasionally someone will drive only inches behind and honk insistently. Others scream and salute her with a middle finger.
Sometimes, she encounters the angry soul at the next traffic light and takes advantage of a teaching opportunity. She knocks on the window and smiles. If the driver opens the window she hands over a "Share the Road" brochure.
"Oh, Kimberly scares me," says Tampa's Patrick McNulty, a longtime member of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club. "One of these days she's going to tap on the window of somebody who is eager to exercise his Second Amendment rights. She's going to get shot."
In tense situations, Cooper relies on her cool charm.
"But I'm human," she says. "Sometimes I'm tempted to answer. 'Hey, I'm riding a bike. I'm exercising. You're fat. You have high blood pressure. Your arteries are clogging up. You're the one who's gonna die!' "
Instead she smiles and hands the sputtering motorist a brochure.
"Have a nice day," she says and pedals away.
Kimberly Cooper's rules for safe cycling
1. Always wear a helmet and bright clothing.
2. If you ride in the dark, use lights. Legally you are required to equip your bike with a white light on the front visible for 500 feet. On the rear you are required to have a reflector and a red light visible for 600 feet. I use three blinking lights in back and always carry spare batteries.
3. Always ride with traffic.
4. Stay to the right, except to pass. Be cautious near parked cars and on narrow roads.
5. Never wear headphones.
6. Give clear hand signals.
7. Always make eye contact.
8. Obey all traffic laws.
At 7 a.m., Kimberly Cooper starts at Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street and 11th Avenue N in St. Petersburg. The speed limit is 35 mph.
Heading north, major intersections include 22nd Avenue N, 38th Avenue N, 54th Avenue N, Gandy Boulevard and finally, Roosevelt Boulevard. Each intersection presents hazards, such as cars making turns.
King Street is a four-lane roadway, but its lanes are narrow. If Cooper stays far right, next to the curb, cars passing her are so close she can reach out and touch them. Or she can ride farther left in the lane, which causes cars to line up behind her and honk.
The left turn onto Roosevelt Boulevard from King Street is extremely hazardous. Once she's on Roosevelt she will be passed by traffic traveling 55 mph. She rides mostly on the shoulder, but it's filled with broken glass and other debris, including dead animals.
The intersection of I-275 and Roosevelt requires great caution. Fast-moving vehicles are getting on or off the interstate. Drivers seldom expect to see a bicycle. Cooper was hit by a car there a few years ago and had to go to the hospital.
As she enters the Carillon Complex (at about 28th Street N) Cooper fights heavy traffic, especially in the morning. The complex is home to a number of financial corporations. People are hurrying to work. In a few places, there are "right-turn-only" lanes. She has to stay to the left of them, which puts her in limbo between fast- moving traffic to her left and frantic "I'm about to turn" motorists to her right.
Cooper reaches the bike rack at her business. She locks up, goes inside, takes a shower and is at her desk by 8 a.m.