Monday, December 31, 2012

comment on Bryce & McKibben op eds in WSJ, thanks to a heads up frm Joe Romm

 This is an edited cross post of a comment I wrote at Joe Romm's blog. His blog has the links for both the Bryce and McKibben tests.

Bryce’s weakest point is failure to address climate change damage.
Let’s also tackle his strongest suit, growing global electricity demand, which he presented with an assumption that the global electricity market must be satisfied.
The strongest primary, but not complete, answer is greenhouse gas-driven climate change has the power to sweep away the stability needed to underpin that market for electricity.  Without reliable crops or secure housing and work, the art of supplying electricity deteriorates like a battery without a charger. 

That warning, however dire and true,  does not offer a progressive alternative to the billions of people on this planet who quite accurately link electricity to quality of life, be it street lighting or the controlled air pressure in a hospital operating room or a phone.

Although wind power is a big help for the domestic United States electricity market, we have to face that the burgeoning electricity market is elsewhere; India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, which do not have scoped out big wind resources.
We have to tackle non-fossil alternatives for electricity generation in growing economies around the world, so that Bryce’s one strong point can be defeated.

Friday, December 28, 2012

corporations as people, inverted

As much as I despise the twisted legal construct of 'corporations as people' I think the way to unravel its tortuous nature is to push though cases that emphasize equal protection under the law.

Among these would be an abundance of test cases that expose corporations' tax breaks.

If corporations are people, they should pay tax on gross income, not only on their profit!

Alternately, why not have individuals and families be treated equally with corporations and be able to subtract many more expenses before paying tax on what is left of the income at end of year?

...not bloody likely!

In pushing for correction of this invidious policy of corporations as people, I don't share the libertarian-wrap-around-to-liberal view (ouch) of selective payment of taxes for favored causes, which circumvents the legislative process of hammering out compromise which keeps "We the People" as at least a semi-functional aggregate, "We."

As for how this has anything to do with planning ahead/ Planting Ahead, consider that fossil fuel corporations have exploited enormous tax breaks and tax subsidies and can load lobbying efforts with astounding amounts of money.  They have bought or bullied Congress into quivering dysfunction when Congress should be facing the compelling matter of climate change.

Corporate tax exemptions threaten our ability to protect ourselves through our democratic/federal deliberative process.

There must be more to say.. .....indignation and outrage.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

when metaphor leaves it up to you to fill in the words

Joe Romm, author of Language Intelligence, recently blogged on the use of extended metaphor, reminding readers of Lincoln's powerful metaphor of "A house divided." Joe Romm specifically criticizes President Obama in comparison to Lincoln, calling out, "the failure of Obama to be a rhetorically inspiring leader on climate."

For regular verbal metaphors, I agree. I love quotes that evoke an image, no matter how brief, as in,  "Show me the beef," or "Read my lips."  In contrast, Obama's "Yes, we can," has only a shadow metaphor, a ghost metaphor full of pale images of various kinds of cans. That leaves me in a state of visual confusion.
None the less, I'm going to cut Obama some slack, and he can thank Woody Allen, if he wants to.

Nearly forty years ago, I spent an evening with friends at a Woody Allen movie marathon.  Hour after hour we laughed at slapstick and funny juxtapositions. The next morning, I woke up to the realization that Woody Allen worked a lot with visual, non-verbal, versions of metaphors. In scene after scene, it felt funny, but it wasn't until I verbalized what I'd seen that I saw how many visual puns and metaphors Allen had inserted in his movies.

So how does that give Obama a pass for not being a good rhetorician?

I'd make the case that Obama is a metaphor himself. Once I describe him verbally, as I did the scenes in the Woody Allen movies, then the metaphor comes together - or falls apart - as the case may be. 

Obama could himself be the metaphor for our country's heterogeneity, not quite rootless nor fully rooted, re-inventing ourselves, restlessly on the move, dribbling the proverbial basketball, looking for an opening.  He's the image of the self-created man in a self-created country.  He is a metaphor.

Even so, it wouldn't hurt if he took a hint from Romm.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A fourth R. Return, with a vengeance.

For the Three Rs, I used to say, readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, until I learned Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
I want to add Return.
Lately I've been steamed by the amount of junk that develops because of poor workmanship. I feel angry and  defeated when I have to pay for electronics recycling or at least wait in line at the transfer station to hand it over.

I own what is called an apothecary lamp, an adjustable floor lamp purchased from an Eddie Bauer store in 1997, thinking it would comfort my terminally ill father to have a reading light, and also help the visiting nurse and myself to change my father's medical dressings. The lamp turned out to have an unstable on-off switch and a lack of washers and screws sufficient to keep it from working itself apart in the normal course of adjusting positions.  In the midst of looking after dad, I lost the receipt.
I still mess with the lamp, trying to eke some value out of the purchase, but I'd feel like a million dollars if I could justify packing it up and return it to Eddie Bauer with the message, Since you made it, You reuse it or recycle it!

I feel the same way about a Hewlett Packard combination printer-fax and scanner that became completely dysfunctional in all its categories after a small plastic part in the paper feed broke. It's too late to get money back. What I want is for them to be responsible for having created a complicated piece of trash, with plastics, chemicals, glass and metal, that I feel ashamed to have to take to the dump station and pay to recycle because it is electronics. Darn it, I want HP to have to do the dirty work of taking their contraption apart and disposing of it. 
I'm not a Luddite, but when I buy something I want it to work perfectly and last a long time. Increasingly I need to ask myself, am I willing to see a product through its dysfunctional senescence? Does it "age" well?

I once bought a bottle of wine for six dollars and hid it at the cool damp end of the basement. Over five years later it turned out to be as delicious as the e-bay price of about $27 suggested it might be.  Now why can't we have electronics that do that?!

I want to return the stuff that doesn't grow better with age.
I found the box for the printer, at least.

the Pearl Harbor question.

Joe Romm has again asked what kind of "Pearl Harbor" event would prompt an end to procrastination about climate change.

He writes: "And it certainly will take more than one climate Pearl Harbor.  I fear it will take most of these happening over the span of a few years:

  1. Arctic goes [virtually] ice free before 2020. It would be a big, visible global shock.
  2. Rapid warming over next decade, as Nature and Science articles suggest is quite possible (posts here and here)
  3. Continued (unexpected) surge in methane
  4. A [multi-year] megadrought hitting the SW [and Great Plains] comparable to what hit southern Australia.
  5. More superstorms, like Katrina.
  6. A heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003 one [Russia's in 2010] but hitting the U.S. breadbasket.
  7. Something unpredicted but clearly linked to climate, like the bark beetle devastation.
  8. Accelerated mass loss in Greenland and/or Antarctica, perhaps with another huge ice shelf breaking off, but in any case coupled with another measurable rise in the rate of sea level rise.
  9. The Fifth Assessment Report (2012-2013) really spelling out what we face with no punches pulled."

Of them, 4,5, and 6 would be up close and personal to many Americans, but none of them has the moral indignity of an unprovoked attack.

Joe's revised list is more reminiscent of conditions before Pearl Harbor. In 1940 the fall of Paris shocked Americans, eroding support for isolationism. In 1940-41 American military build up preceded Pearl Harbor. Congress was ready to support FDR's declaration of war by the time of the attack.

In the last two years, combinations of flood, drought, and superstorms have knocked back water transport in the Mississippi and Great Lakes, ranching and farming on the Great Plains, and the security of Atlantic coastal cities. These events shocked Americans and eroded support for denialism.

The next phase could be worse. Continued drought and heat could kink rails, dry up rivers, and reduce both food crops and the ability to move the crops to market.  China could have a famine and call in its chips on US debt, in the form of food. Americans could have to ration food, temporarily, to pay off the debt.

Similarly, an earthquake, war and/or superstorms could disrupt oil import ports, leaving the US to fall back on its vaunted national supply. That could mean scarcity and a price jump.

Neither good. My epiphany a few weeks ago was that we were more likely to see something major in the next 6 to 48 months, than not.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Three breaths

Three slow breaths

1st Breath: What is my primitive brain doing: fight, flight, sex, or sleep?

2nd Breath: What are my emotional brain and short-term memory doing?

3rd Breath: How well is my neocortex doing with critical thinking skills?

I admit this personal practice has little to do with the content of issues of a changed future, it just helps. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

follow the food, o ye cities

The front page of the New York Times featured an image of the Statue of Liberty under water, accompanying an opinion piece about rising sea level keyed to several policy measures:  build seawalls, reduce global warming, move inland.  One example was to imagine the Manhattan skyscrapers rebuilt in Scarsdale.

That image of a successful adaptation by moving a few miles inland is an unchallenging Sunday message to numerous New Yorkers who could easily imagine a commute to Scarsdale without giving up their current homes and lifestyle. No problem!

That is a mistake. Moving NYC to Scarsdale is only about shorelines.
For a hypothetical example, a next-century hub for east coast international shipping could be Quebec City, instead of NYC, given the lower fuel use for water transport via Great Lakes and St Lawrence, and probable shift to crops grown further north, along with manufacturing in cooler climes.  

Beware the dangerously limited imagination that comes from extrapolating only one climate change factor, coastal sea level rise, while forgetting all the others.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Updated: ALS, Alzheimer's and climate change, who knows? who knew?

Alzheimer's and ALS brains contain BMAA toxin.
The BMAA toxin is among a class of chemicals that bind to glutamate receptors.
There are many of those,  and some are are essential to cell function while others are toxic.
BMAA is a "mixed glutamate receptor agonist."
In nature, BMAA toxin is made by cyanobacteria.
Cyanobacteria are part of the food chains for fish and mollusks.
Cyanobacteria multiply in warm water.
The warm water could be the warming ocean, or in the intestines of an individual.

That's the basic version.

Actually, it's more complicated, and more interesting. In recent reports on the brain chemistry, it turns out there is another chemotoxin, methylazoxymethanol (MAM) or cycasin, also implicated in some neurodegenerative disease. Research on MAM reveals a pattern that could explicate more about Alzheimer's, ALS Parkinson's, and also several cancers 

I continue to eat wild-caught fish from very cold water, such as Canadian herring, Icelandic cod, Alaskan salmon.
These fish tissues seem unlikely to have high BMAA loads, but I don't actually know that for sure, do I?

I don't have a family history of Alzheimer's, so following Pablo et al's premise,  the presence of the toxin in my diet might not by itself trigger the onset of disease.

Note the frequent updates are due to continuing exploration of recent literature on the subject. Of note is Brenner's proposition that the toxin-producing bacteria can be among the micro-flora of an individual's intestines. That is neither fish-diet nor a genetic component.  If correct, that opens up research into what could change gut flora composition in the high-risk parts of our population.

Meanwhile the burst of recently published research includes some of the 'how' on a biochemical level -  BMAA acts as a glutamate agonist, interfering with neural firing.

Some cites with links:

Acta Neurol Scand. 2009 Oct;120(4):216-25. Epub 2009 Feb 26.
Cyanobacterial neurotoxin BMAA in ALS and Alzheimer's disease.

Pablo J, Banack SA, Cox PA, Johnson TE, Papapetropoulos S, Bradley WG, Buck A, Mash DC.

The occurrence of BMAA in North American ALS and AD patients suggests the possibility of a gene/environment interaction, with BMAA triggering neurodegeneration in vulnerable individuals.


Are Toxins in Seafood Causing ALS, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's?

"Constituting the foundation of the aquatic food chain, cyanobacteria are a favorite meal of fish and mollusks, which are in turn eaten by us."

Foods That May Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

First, they found that foods rich in vitamin E were associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Those foods include oil-based salad dressings, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, cantaloupe, seeds and nuts.

They also found that people who eat fish at least once a week were 60 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who rarely or never ate fish. The key ingredient, the Rush team believes, is the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish.

From these data, the team made an association between high intakes of saturated and trans-unsaturated fats and Alzheimer's disease. That means it's better to limit fatty meats, full-fat dairy products like butter and milk and vegetable shortening, which is often found in crackers and cookies.

Med Hypotheses. 2012 Nov 9. pii: S0306-9877(12)00461-6. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.10.010. [Epub ahead of print]

Blue-green algae or cyanobacteria in the intestinal micro-flora may produce neurotoxins such as Beta-N-Methylamino-l-Alanine (BMAA) which may be related to development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson-Dementia-Complex in humans and Equine Motor Neuron Disease in Horses.


Dept. of Neurology and Psychiatry, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Montelone Hall, 1438 South Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63104, USA. Electronic address:

Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol. 2012 Nov;156(3-4):171-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpc.2012.07.004. Epub 2012 Jul 25.

The physiological effect of ingested β-N-methylamino-L-alanine on a glutamatergic synapse in an in vivo preparation.


Department of Chemistry, California State University, Fresno, 2555 East San Ramon Ave., MS SB 70, Fresno, CA 93740, USA.


The neurotoxin, BMAA (β-N-methylamino-L-alanine), may be a risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's (PD) and Alzheimer's (AD) disease. In vivo experiments have demonstrated that BMAA can cause a number of motor dysfunctions if ingested or injected, and in vitro experiments show that this toxin binds to glutamate receptors with deleterious results. Also, BMAA exists in the human food chain worldwide, and has been detected in the brains of ALS and AD patients. This paper offers the first demonstration by intracellular recording of the effect of ingested BMAA on the postsynaptic response of an identified glutamatergic cell in a living, undissected organism (Drosophila melanogaster), and correlates these observations with the specific motor dysfunctions that result from ingestion. The results suggest that BMAA acts as a glutamate agonist, causing NMDA receptor channels to remain open for prolonged periods of time, thereby damaging the cell by excitotoxicity. The effect on the postsynaptic response became apparent days before the function of the postsynaptic cell (wing beat) became affected. Severely depolarized cells were able to fully recover with the removal of BMAA from the food source, suggesting that blocking BMAA binding in the brain might be a good treatment strategy.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
[PubMed - in process]


Joan Savage 2012 Updated December 11

I sneeze at a viral video with the itchy word "have"

As a climate change hawk I'm probably supposed to puff Al Gore's new sorta-music video, but instead I am going to pan it. It is in that wiry-metallic synthetic faux music created by autotune software.

The autotune makes phrases more catchy through imposed rhythm and repetition, but the scientific knowledge imparted is minimal.  "As CO2 increases, it increases temperature.." is science. That's about it for the science.

"..only earth we will ever have" is partly fact, partly value-laden. 
 Acting as if we "have" the earth got us into this rotten mess.
and "We have to care about" is not science, it is an asserted value, one not shared by all.

It might be slightly more factual to say the earth has us.  We are part of a transient thin layer on its surface.

Thin layer.
We don't "have" a planet, we are part of one.
If we cooperate carefully with planetary conditions,
we might survive as a species for more generations.
No guarantee.
Get over it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Midas revisited

 Too much money buys King Midas' dismay,  inedible and lonely.
Politicians corrupted with love of money have altered our food and water and community.
We are left with something worse than useless.

A Midas' touch is regrettable.

a hedge fund manager's message to scientists

Jeremy Grantham's op-ed in Nature is entitled, "Be persuasive. Be brave. Be arrested (if necessary)," with the subtitle,  "A resource crisis exacerbated by global warming is looming, argues financier Jeremy Grantham. More scientists must speak out."

Core values statement:

Scientists are understandably protective of the dignity of science and are horrified by publicity and overstatement. These fears, unfortunately, are not shared by their opponents, which makes for a rather painful one-sided battle. Overstatement may generally be dangerous in science (it certainly is for careers) but for climate change, uniquely, understatement is even riskier and therefore, arguably, unethical.

Last paragraph:

It is crucial that scientists take more career risks and sound a more realistic, more desperate, note on the global-warming problem. Younger scientists are obsessed by thoughts of tenure, so it is probably up to older, senior and retired scientists to do the heavy lifting. Be arrested if necessary. This is not only the crisis of your lives — it is also the crisis of our species’ existence. I implore you to be brave.
Paper cite:
Nature 491, 303 ()  doi:10.1038/491303a

Friday, November 16, 2012

looking back at a rapid transition, horse collars and assembly lines

I'm intrigued by a question about the economic consequences of a rapid transition.  The question is framed with concern about an economy-wide shift away from fossil fuel.

Although I'm not an economist myself, I come from a family that has included genuine experts.  Versions of the transition question are familiar.  The family had well-honed anecdotes used to kick off a classroom lecture or a Sunday afternoon conversation at home on the subject. My favorite is about horse collars.

In the early 20th century the transition from horse-drawn to motor vehicles was rather abrupt, and not particularly due to a government policy. Some esteemed companies that served horse transportation went through rocky times. One Philadelphia horse collar maker experienced very lean years, and nearly closed its doors. As horse collar sales declined, the owners were in awkward positions with their leather suppliers and their skilled employees. The owners reinvented the company as a manufacturer of leather assembly line belts, a new product at the time, though using the same sources of leather supplies and skilled laborers. It was a difficult period in the company history as the company had to break into the new market of manufacturers that used assembly lines.
The joke ran about the leather factory, They had to tighten their belts so as to tighten their belts.

One of the impetuses to move to cars was that horses were smelly and high-maintenance; as cities became more crowded there were no nearby hayfields left to feed the horses. Similarly cooks initially liked the shift from wood to coal, a fuel that burned hotter and longer than a load of wood, but they hated the coal dust and ashes, and often had little choice as the cost of wood had increased.  How ironic is it that we now realize that cars and coal have nasty downsides, and we yearn for something better still.  The limitations of mining rare-earths for car batteries are in the next round of noticing down-sides.

The social consequences of a rapid shift in energy source were huge in the horse-to-motor phase. Fewer farmers, more factory workers; more public transportation to common destinations like work places or amusement parks, more generic food supplies.  It allowed a deeper socioeconomic ghettoization as the prosperous no longer needed to have staff living nearby in the pattern of rich street and alley. Gone was the need for a stable with a groom living upstairs from the horse; and the cook and maid could come to work by trolley instead of living in the attic.

So in looking ahead, planting ahead, what might occur in a shift away from fossil fuel?

Updated November 19, 2012 Joan Savage

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Resilient Readiness - will we ever get it right?

Resiliency is a word that shows up in conversations about improvement in emergency management, and more generally, adaptation to climate change conditions.   I've read 'resilience' often enough to know that the word is usually policy-speak for, "We want to be ready the next time, but we are vague about what that will be."

I'm frustrated by the columns on resiliency that don't yield a single example of success.

We've gotten some categories that are starting points. Revkin's column on resiliency quotes extensively from William S Hooke, who wants three measures: the equivalent of an NTSB review of emergencies, Environmental Impact Statements on any large project private or public, and public-private conversations on business continuity and insurability.

I look at this and say yes, of course let's not make the same mistake twice (NTSB), let's avoid ventures that endanger others (EIS),  and let's not subsidize foolish investment in high risk locations like a beach (no insurance).   Okay.

But that is a list of prudent decisions within a known system of risks. It doesn't reach the far more ambitious goal of resilience.

What are historic examples of resilient readiness?

That's a trick question.
Selection pressures are not all foreseeable;  neither castles nor antibiotics are infallible.What may seem like perfect readiness can still be side-swiped by a novel factor. Indeed we already know the dangerous dance between microbes and medicine that pushes microbes to evolve into drug-tolerant or drug-resistant organisms; our very efforts at readiness can kick back at us many-fold.

As I wrote earlier natural systems do provide some clues.
However (suspense, drum roll) although some readers are probably expecting an example of individual resilience, or some kind of  flexible infrastructure, resilience in nature shows up on other scales.

Some keywords to explore further:
Redundancy (the best natural kind you can find).

Planting ahead..

Updated 11-4-2012
Joan Savage

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hurricane Sandy versus Hurricane Hazel

I apologize if this is a bit rough.

Hurricane Sandy, late October, 2012: late season storm, picks up energy from widespread warm ocean surface temperature (SST), achieves areal extent across hundreds of miles, blocked from staying out at sea by a Greenland high, and drawn inland by a low. After doing a lot of damage with storm surge, wind, and flooding, smacked into an Arctic cold front and dropped several feet of snow in the Appalachians and westward.

Hurricane Hazel, mid-October 1954: late season storm, turns landward as a Category III hurricane striking North Carolina, and moved northward through mid-Atlantic states until it too smacked into an Arctic cold front, in that case over Toronto, Ontario.

Hurricane Hazel appeared part way through a period of drought in the mid-continental US, as did Sandy, so that should be scrutinized. What were the Atlantic SSTs in 1954?

What is most obviously different between them is that Sandy covered more surface area than Hazel, with more wind and more suspended moisture.  This is like the oft-repeated metaphor for climate change, the baseball player on steroids, who is doing something bigger-oftener because of the push.

A similarity is that the two storms were both nudged northward and inland by other weather patterns. However, even that should be double checked. The research of Dr Jennifer Francis's team at Rutgers has found a relationship between the melting Arctic and the development of more persistent blocking patterns.

Hurricane Irene turned inland, but earlier in the hurricane season, so the combo of Irene and Sandy may be a sign of things to come.

Instead of a gap of 57 years between 1954 and 2011-2012, we may have more frequent occurrences of late season hurricanes making landfall in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. 

Planting ahead..
Joan Savage, 11-3-2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

street trees and severe weather.1

Take a look at this picture of a street tree partly uprooted by high winds. Although the caption points to how it rests on power lines, I'm impressed with the way the root system peeled up along the curb, revealing shallow and confined roots.
Roots need air and water in their soil environment.  Asphalt and concrete can shut roots off like a lobotomy or ligature blocking their source needs.
Trees are great for soaking up carbon dioxide and other gases,  but they need space for their roots to flourish. (Odd word, flourish, meaning flower.) Perhaps I should say they need space for their roots to be rootish.

politics and geography.1

 Looking at a post this morning that disaster relief might be cut $900 million,  hard on the heels of Hurricane Sandy's hit to New York City and Mid-Atlantic states.

Just think, if both disaster relief and crop insurance were administered by the same federal agency, both 'red' agricultural states that were hit by drought and 'blue' coastal states hit by hurricane would have a basis to cooperate to support such an agency's funding. 

We have at least one other odd agency/geography split as well. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the Mississippi River basin in mid-continent, while the US Geological Survey interacts with many state-run hydrologic management systems to the east and west. 

That's oversimplifying, but the implications for the splits in Congress over funding is huge. 
The implication for what could make Congress more functional and cooperative is also huge.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

uncertainty versus risk

What's the dif? Uncertainty versus risk

Uncertainty is about what we don't know yet, while risk is about what we could lose.

There's both in climate change.

I gather that politicians and other public figures don't like to admit we face risks so they use 'uncertainty' as a euphemism for risk. And if the public figures admit there are risks, they like to talk about the risks as existing somewhere in the future.
I get it that, "one may have uncertainty without risk but not risk without uncertainty," as we can be uncertain about  something like what our colleagues will wear to work, yet that comes with low to no risk of a negative consequence to ourselves. We can be uncertain about when our children will finish potty-training, although as one wag put it, "They usually figure it out before college."
So an uncertainty can slip into certainty with the passage of time; everyone dies sooner or later. But is death a risk if it is inevitable? Perhaps determining the risk of death is better confined to consideration of loss. If someone dies "before their time,"what ever that is,  it is a loss.
On a lighter note, my daughter's cats will almost certainly jump on the kitchen table, which puts the tablecloth and glassware at risk of damage. The only uncertainties left are when and how much damage. 

Yesterday evening's presidential debate included a comment by Mitt Romney on the future of the U.S. military. He rationalized increased military spending saying, "So we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty. And that means a strong military."

I think the current military keep track of the difference between uncertainty and risk. The decisions they make are based on risk assessment.  They need the intelligence gathering to detect danger, and mobilize, not be stuck with fixed assets in the wrong place.
A good strategy to minimize risk is alert observation and flexible response. In contrast, if risks are already known, then prioritize responses and commit more assets one way or the other.

With climate change, the risks (future negative impacts) are becoming clearer, while the residual uncertainty about when exactly those negative impacts might befall or how moderate or extreme they might be, seems to be the refuge of those who don't want a strategy that admits that the risks and unknowns both exist.   Yet it is just as foolish to think of climate change as a known and limited risk with a single solution. Dave Roberts at Grist points to the example of Ho Chi Minh City that built barriers to keep out the rising sea only to discover that revised estimates of sea level rise mean that the ocean will over-top the barriers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

what a candidate's religious eschatology could do to policy

Romney's LDS  religion has a view that "earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance," so his intent to privatize public lands to redirect resources to a few is completely consistent with the rather supple expectation that it could be a divine outcome.

LDS writings:

This reminds me that Reagan turned out to be someone who really believed we were headed forthwith for Armageddon, so to him the ludicrously expensive Star Wars initiative seemed reasonable.

Because of the separation of Church and State, political campaigns do not develop explicit information on a  candidate's world view, or eschatology, yet it might tell us something useful, such as the hindsight about Reagan.

Putting righteousness onto exploitation is consistent with Romney's religious background as well as pleasing his financial supporters, but don't expect the press to tackle the thorny subject of religious belief.

If someone expects the end times to arrive before too long, there's little reason to conserve resources for as long as a  century, much less for another millennium.

Personally I'd like to think humanity could calm down, act more responsible, and inhabit the planet for at least as long as we've already been conscious of our own identity to date, in the range of 100,000 years. In which case, leave the carbon in the ground, and grow plants.

Planting ahead..

Sunday, September 30, 2012

a lesson or two from ecology for planting ahead

Ecosystems survive in various ways, not all of them known.  We have some clues.
A sustainable forest usually has genomic biodiversity and stable patterns of geochemical cycling.
Those adaptations fit a niche of particular climatic conditions. If the climate is disrupted, the webs of biodiversity and geochemical cycling are altered, and the forest can die.
In contrast, a deep cave has very stable geochemical cycling, even if its genomic biodiversity is limited and isolated.  Walk into one bearing the spores of an unfamiliar organism,  and it is changed.

I'm ruminating about this because I'd like to say something useful about strategies for confronting climate change. At some scales, climate change is moving towards the stage of weather extremes, or a form of climate chaos.
People are rightfully anxious about global, and local, food supply. 

Diversify food supply seems like a clue from the forest.
Retain essential geochemical nutrients seems like another clue from both forest and cave.
Be careful when moving species around, a lesson from the cave (and jokes about Noah keeping critters apart on the ark).

This needs updating, but I want to get it out.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Planting ahead - watch the weeds and think of others

In this hot drought of a summer, I watered a garden that responded by producing many tomatoes and zucchini. Nearby, without watering them, the weeds were flourishing.  Some of them are edible, real survival food. Lamb's quarters, pigweed, and a new acquaintance, velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) an immigrant from Asia, all showed up and some of them in abundance.  To my amazement, mint emerged from tough clay soil.

So, why are we stubbornly planting food that was adapted to the old climate when we can see that the Times They are A'Changin?

As long as I have some dollars and access to a well-stocked grocery store, this is the kind of question I pick up and then lay aside, but what about other people, whose resources, and whose choices, are far more limited?

One of the slow-moving tragedies across the globe has been the displacement of locally-diverse agriculture with commodity crops that are vulnerable to both weather and international prices.

{ Favorite references: Patricia O'Brien-Place's masters on "Nutrition in policy and planning: the rural sector (1979)" showed a decline in local nutritional status where commodity crops like sorghum, peanuts or cotton had wiped out the practice of keeping family garden plots. Her dissertation, " Impact of inflation on least-cost diets in the United States (1982)" is technical economics but also instructive.}

Vegetable gardens are vulnerable, to be sure, but a diverse local food supply and hardy plant varieties improve the odds of having something to eat.  Where I live, garden watering is possible. Large-scale irrigation of fields is not. We need all the favorable odds we can get.

It is a race against time for the developers of commodity crop cultivars to generate varieties that can withstand the new extremes, but even so, most food crops are not evolved for the kind of climate chaos we can expect.

We need to pay more attention to weeds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Careless cerium, and zinc-shrinking

A diesel fuel catalyst can inhibit soy plant growth. The catalyst, cerium oxide, inhibits nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live in the root nodules of soy plants. As farm tractors burn diesel fuel, the tractor exhaust containing cerium-oxide settles on the field and becomes part of the soil.

The zinc oxide used in sunscreens and antimicrobial agents makes soy leaves smaller. Zinc oxide can be conveyed to fields in treated sewage solids used as fertilizer.

For article:

"Nanosized pollutants pose crop risks 
Some harm crops or boost plants’ ability to pick up toxic materials through their roots"
By Janet Raloff    (Science News)

metastasis of consequences, Arctic ice melt

 We need to be alert to a metastasis of consequences to humankind and all else, as Arctic ice melt proceeds.

Cross-post of comment I put on Joe Romm's blog.

The multi-year loss of old ice through the Fram Strait should get LOTS more attention.
Research papers in the past twenty years on thermohaline circulation show the importance of a seasonal flow of freshwater from melting ice in maintaining global ocean currents.
The gradual exhaustion of multi-year ice has delayed a metastasis of consequences, of which disrupted ocean currents would be one of those to have a big effect on humans.
It is boggling to imagine what disrupted currents could do, in conjunction with the effects on Jet Stream and mid-latitude weather as already described by Dr. Jennifer Francis.

Please also check my earlier post at Planting Ahead about thermohaline circulation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Climate change happens" vs. "is happening"

Have you not heard, "climate change is happening," spoken as a version of "duh?"

Now I know, and perhaps you know, that the Arctic sea ice summer extent declined sharply, glaciers melted back, mosquitoes live at higher altitude than in previous generations, animal and plant species have moved,  and global temperature measurement has revealed major changes, including accumulation of heat in the oceans.

Mouthful of examples there, yet only a bite.
So, yes, climate change is happening, all the time 24/7, or 365/24/7.

But can we assume that your listener already has seen the evidence, and agrees with your conclusion?   If your listener turns around in their air-conditioned office, orders lunch, and gazes at a pretty park across the street, in that moment does he or she see any sign that climate change, indeed, "is happening?"  Unlikely.

Does your listener understand that the price of ingredients in the lunch was affected by global supply, in turn affected by climate? Or the hours of use of air-conditioning? Or the plant species in the park? Or the odds of severe weather?  Also unlikely.

For many humans, "is happening" refers to a present moment of personal awareness; "It's happening, baby."

I'm leaning towards another phrase with the word "happens," and say,
Climate change happens.
Crop failure happens. Floods happen. Refugees happen.

We have moments when we notice.

In looking ahead, or planting ahead, let's be real about what has happened to date, and take into account both shifted conditions of heat, moisture, insects, etcetera and a shifted level of uncertainty.  

In short, planning for uncertainty, as well as new certainty.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

math while angry, and new vocabulary about the brain

Every now and then I have the embarrassing experience of making a public correction on an arithmetic calculation.
I'm relieved if I catch it before someone else does.

One such event today reminds me yet again that math while angry is often flawed.

It is no surprise that hormones that could make me kick butt get in the way of a tranquil double check of conversion factors and decimal places.  But when I am angry, it usurps other forms of decision making. Duh.

Time to take deep breaths, and oxygenate not only that darling frontal cortex, but also parietal cortex and particularly the intraparietal sulcus, thought to be essential to calculation.  And hope the supramarginal gyrus isn't subvocalizing something completely irrelevant, like, @#^*&!!

Fortunately neuroscientists are looking at these matters. It is encouraging to see the many abstracts that come up in a PubMed search.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

thermohaline circulation and Arctic ice, updated

Take a look at the diminished flow of multi-year sea ice through the Fram Strait as shown in the Yale video. The video portion on the multi-year ice loss is narrated by Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers, yet I would like to have the original source of the data, most likely the NISDC. [This video is also imbedded in a blog by Joe Romm on the Arctic Ice Death Spiral.] The scientists in the video point to the "positive feedback" of an open water Arctic Ocean in summer,  the open water would absorb the sun's energy and accumulate heat during the days of nearly twenty-four hours of sunlight. The white ice cap that we are losing so abruptly had reflected light back into space; the dark open water does little of that.  That's an important point, within the scope of scientific inference.

We need to connect more, and the scientific "dots" already exist. 

What I want us to understand - in short - is that an ice-free Arctic could affect "the ability of the ocean’s thermohaline circulation to assume more than one mode of operation (Broecker)" and "The strength of the thermohaline cell will be shown to depend on the amount of sea ice transported from the Arctic to the Greenland Sea and further to the subpolar gyre (Mauritzen, C. and S. Häkkinen)."

The thermohaline circulation is the global movement of ocean currents.  
Arctic sea ice reaching the Greenland Sea has a major effect on thermohaline circulation.
Without sea ice, we are indeed in uncharted waters.

Some sources:
Mauritzen, C. and S. Häkkinen (1997), Influence of sea ice on the thermohaline circulation in the Arctic‐North Atlantic Ocean, Geophys. Res. Lett., 24(24), 3257–3260, doi:10.1029/97GL03192.
A fully prognostic coupled ocean‐ice model is used to study the sensitivity of the overturning cell of the Arctic‐North‐Atlantic system to sea ice forcing. The strength of the thermohaline cell will be shown to depend on the amount of sea ice transported from the Arctic to the Greenland Sea and further to the subpolar gyre. The model produces a 2–3 Sv increase of the meridional circulation cell at 25N (at the simulation year 15) corresponding to a decrease of 800 km³ in the sea ice export from the Arctic. Previous modeling studies suggest that interannual and decadal variability in sea ice export of this magnitude is realistic, implying that sea ice induced variability in the overturning cell can reach 5–6 Sv from peak to peak.

Science 28 November 1997:
Vol. 278 no. 5343 pp. 1582-1588
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5343.1582
Thermohaline Circulation, the Achilles Heel of Our Climate System: Will Man-Made CO2 Upset the Current Balance?
Wallace S. Broecker
The author is at The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA.
During the last glacial period, Earth’s climate underwent frequent large and abrupt global changes. This behavior appears to reflect the ability of the ocean’s thermohaline circulation to assume more than one mode of operation. The record in ancient sedimentary rocks suggests that similar abrupt changes plagued the Earth at other times. The trigger mechanism for these reorganizations may have been the antiphasing of polar insolation associated with orbital cycles. Were the ongoing increase in atmospheric CO2 levels to trigger another such reorganization, it would be bad news for a world striving to feed 11 to 16 billion people.

lost in moderation

The longer that one of my geekier posts stays "in moderation" on another blog, the more the term "in moderation" develops new facets.

Was my post immoderate in its sheer geekiness?  Yeah, probably way too geeky.
Also standard filters kick out posts over a certain length and hold them for review, as well.
And, of course, after the tedious process of finding and cleaning up the citations, did I forget to click on agreeing to the terms of the website? Could have happened.

I'll post the geek post on my blog..

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2016 hot iced tea and reaping the whirlwind

On a humid summer's day, when the last sliver of ice melts in the glass of iced tea, it's time to ask for a new ice cube, or chug down the tea before it rapidly heats up. (See enthalpy of fusion). These are not options when it is an ocean that is about lose its last ice chips and heat up.

In the Arctic, the summer sea ice has kept the Arctic Ocean cool.  Recently Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge, expert on Arctic ice, has alerted the British newspaper, the Guardian, to a revised expectation that the summer Arctic sea ice is likely to be gone by 2016.

The summer sea ice area has shrunk from year to year, in what has been called a death spiral as vividly illustrated by Neven of the Arctic Sea Ice Blog. In September 2012 the sea ice has reached the lowest areal extent since records have been kept.

A correlation between declining Arctic sea ice and extreme weather has emerged. The altered Arctic weather loosens up the northern  Jet Stream which instead of streaking around the high latitudes upper mid-latitudes,  slows down and develops what look like the meanders of an old river. These loops in the Jet Stream act as blocking patterns that hold weather in place for longer periods of time, giving us heatwaves and super storms in the mid-latitudes, with the oddities of colder days further south and other new extremes.  Dr Jennifer A. Francis of Rutgers has been showing the data on the relationship, of which a 16 minute video is a good introduction, hang in there with it and look at the diagrams, even if you tend to glaze over on words like isopleth (a contour line of pressure).

Where does the meltwater go in Greenland?

Greenland ice melt turns out to be more complicated, and better studied, so this is a revision of what I posted on September 18, 2012.

The top surface melt may either move slowly downwards, re-freezing and consolidating in firn, the form of old snow that is compressing into ice, or it may move as meltwater, or perhaps some other fate, for which I have yet to find a study. Sublimation?

The massive surface melt in the summer of 2012 was remarkable because nearly every surface experienced some melting, at least in place.  The scientists monitoring Greenland melt had earlier classified Greenland ice as dry-snow facies, the combined percolation and wet-snow facies, ice facies, transient melt areas and moraine.  Dry snow facies are surfaces where if snow falls, it accumulates, never melting. Percolation facies are surfaces that melt and refreeze, forming pipes and lenses.  The

As a recent abstract by McGrath et al (2013) clarifies, "Extrapolation of this observed trend now suggests, with 95% confidence intervals, that the dry snow facies of the Greenland Ice Sheet will inevitably transition to percolation facies. There is a 50% probability of this transition occurring by 2025."

In the percolation facies is were the lakes and moulins form.
As the Greenland ice sheet melts around the edges and off its top surface, transient meltwater lakes form on the top of the ice at some locations. Sometimes the transient lakes discharge in transient mighty rivers that cut across the ice sheet surface and may join with more permanent rivers or perhaps better-termed seasonally recurrent rivers.  In the summer of 2012 an engorged ice melt river destroyed a bridge in Kangerlussuaq.  How many months of the year do the  ice melt rivers flow? I don't know. How much melt water stays on the ice sheet surface all the way to ground surface and from there to the ocean,  and how much melt water diverts through the moulins to under-ice channels before it reaches the ocean? I don't know those answers, either, and it would be great if someone was gathering real data on those questions.

In other instances, the meltwater lakes accumulate for only a few days or weeks in summer,  then flush themselves down the inverse-chimneys, the moulins, that develop under the lakes and deep into the ice, as the melt water opens up cracks in the ice.  In a moulin, the melt water creates a deep vertical shaft that extends to the base of the ice sheet. The moulin water is thought to travel through under-ice channels to the ocean. How well established is that fate? Does all the water go to the ocean?

Tracking ice melt comes with some tools, as ice melt is fresh water, low in salts and conductivity, and as it is from snow fall, it has a lighter oxygen isotope signature than does seawater.

Is it part of the freshwater runoff accumulation found in the seas near shore? Apparently yes.
The East Greenland Current  and in consequence, the West Greenland Current, are affected by plumes of glacial melt water that can be detected far into the current by oxygen isotope studies.

Is the meltwater also pooling in the great central lowland of Greenland that is hidden under the ice? The data from the 1990s did not suggest that it was. The  Greenland  ice core samples from GISP, GSIP2, GRIP, NGRIP, and NEEM did not hit a lake of any sort before approaching bedrock. 

However the times are a-changing. In the summer of 2012, the entire top ice surface of Greenland had a melt layer, unlike previous years' observations in which center of the continental sheet did not lose a layer. This years' loss of annual ice record is as startling as if a geologist could watch the loss of a geologic stratum.

Also in this past year, researchers at the other pole were able to drill down in Antarctica, to the ancient Lake Vostock, deep under the ice sheet.  Is there another lake like Vostock forming under Greenland's melting ice sheet?
Like Antarctica, Greenland has a low bedrock area in mid-sub-continent as much as 500 meters below current sea level.

Researchers suggest that the Greenland meltwater from surface lakes may be lubricating the icesheet's bottom surface. With the slopes of that mid-continent depression, not all the ice sheet would slide towards the sea.
Two to five areas of Greenland bedrock have channel patterns linking the mid-continent depression to the sea.
These channels could unplug at some point in the mix of sea level rise and ice melt.

For now, the Greenland ice cores suggest, but don't prove, an absence of a preexisting mid-continental lake.

Perhaps it's one of those answers that is all of the above or some of the above.

In breaking news on November 30, 2012, a report published in Science, A reconciled estimate of Ice-Sheet mass balance,  shows that Greenland's ice sheet is melting five times faster than the models had predicted.

Most recent update May 22, 2013. Joan Savage

Spencer Michels, the bald tire of PBS climate change coverage

Who does not know some person who re-treads his or her outdated information base, trying to move around on bald tires, and worse yet, without admitting to the dangerous limitation?  

In contrast,  I have a good friend who went through hard economic times with a worn-out pair of shoes and worn tires on his car, but gosh, he knew! No kidding. 

I'm calling for the retirement of a journalist who doesn't seem to know he's become the bald tire himself, slipping up on news stories. It's too late for him to put the brakes himself.

As an aging person myself, I am on the alert for "What am I missing" pieces, and I hope someone diplomatically pulls me aside if my data base is worn out, before an accident could happen. 

 P.S. Reminder to self: El Niño is coming in, so I expect a slushy winter ahead and it is literally time to shop for snow tires!

Posted to Climate Progress:

Spencer Michels is a journalist's version of bald tire, running on old information, slipping up, and apparently unwilling to brake himself. 

PBS didn't persuade him to retire (pun intended) before he slid off the road and brought embarrassment to PBS. 

Posted to the PBS Ombudsman, Michael Getler:

I protest the openly biased Spencer Michels' piece on climate change shown 9-17-2012 on The News Hour.
Spencer Michels himself used the term, “climate change believers,” not one of his interviewees. Given the common meaning of the word believer, as faith-based rather than fact-based, Michels has revealed a bias of his own. He stepped beyond the ‘balance’ convention of counterpoint interviews.

Michels gave a lot of airtime to a blogger, Watts, whose assertions have been disproved, without Michels bringing forward the facts that discredit Watts.

Michels routinely reports from San Francisco, and claims to “hooked on California’s water” (“California Water: Old Song, New Lyrics” PBS News Hour, August 2, 2012). He neglected and still neglects to mention that the California Department of Water Resources predicts that the snow pack that supplies San Francisco is expected to decline by 25% by 2050.

He is failing to keep up with the information base on the most influential news story of our time. Climate change affects food and water, affects economies, and affects governments.  The Pentagon has already identified climate change as a security threat.

It is overdue for Michels to retire from PBS. 

Also, for your own sakes, get a better researcher on climate change on the News Hour staff, one who can understand scientific abstracts as well as policy statements.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Climate Change Tree Atlas may offer some clues for gardens

The US Forest Service has developed an interactive Climate Change Tree Atlas that meshes climate-change models with the needs of tree species.

Because foresters and arborists wait multiple years for a harvest (oh the lovely thoughts of fruit and nuts, and maple syrup, as well as wood products)  the USFS model has a longer time frame than  USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

It seems boggling to imagine doing for garden vegetables what the USFS did for trees, but I can dream.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


I take asphalt for granted, most of the time.

Summer is the season for road work, when asphalt gets ripped up and replaced. Following the detours prompts a slight awareness that roads in upstate New York are not at all like stone Roman roads. Roman roads were and are obviously bumpy, but capable of function for centuries with little maintenance.  New York asphalt roads have the winter disease of pothole-making as well as the unnamed summer disease where the asphalt softens up and ripples downhill in slow motion. The New York asphalt roads don't live as long as as a stone Roman road. But I hardly think of that factor in the usual course of errands in a car.

What gives a yet greater pause for awareness are parking lots, vast parking lots. Each has been created from those molecules of crude oil that are too branched or long-chain to be convenient for combustion or making plastics. The sheer volume of parking lots is a piece of evidence of how much petroleum has been drawn from the earth.  The roads I see only a bit at a time, but the dimensions of a big-box store parking lot gets to me.  I have to wonder how many people are like me, casting a fleeting glimpse at the vastness of the parking lot before ducking into the more manageable almost cosy dimensions of a car interior.

As the world consumes more difficult deposits of petroleum, the cost of new asphalt mix has jumped. This is somewhat counter-intuitive, as the bitumen from tar sands is dense like asphalt.

I hope to update this post over time as I find more statistics about asphalt, and explore the consequences to earth covered by asphalt.  How do street trees get enough air and water to their roots when only a little neck of open soil is left around their trunks?  The rest of their root system is largely under concrete or asphalt.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Part of the journalist’s challenge is getting to know her or his readership to develop the sense of “we,” as we face a crisis together.
One of the best pieces of advice that came out of Y2K was to make peace with our neighbors, because not a one of us has all the tools of survival.
We can face this.
Fear preys on those who feel they are alone.

I also posted this at Climate Progess.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Don't get your hopes up for a Heinrich event

In Heinrich events, glacier-bergs carried sediment and fresh water out to sea. In melting, the bergs left detritus on the ocean floor and the fresh water altered the thermohaline circulation for thousands of years, knocking down global temperature by as much as 2C on average.  The two most recent Heinrich events were 14,000 ybp and 8,200 ybp.  As global warming proceeds, people watch Greenland and Antarctica and wonder if it could happen again.

NOAA Paleoclimatology Program page on Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events:

 The 2C estimate is from Elsa Cortijo et al (1997)  "Changes in sea surface hydrology associated with Heinrich event 4 in the North Atlantic Ocean between 40° and 60°N"

A blog post from Spike this weekend at Climate Progress quotes a sciencedaily on ice saddle melt that is associated with abrupt shifts in thermohaline circulation. Backtracking to the original Grigoire et al. abstract, the authors estimated saddle-melt between domes of continental glaciers was in the order of "nine metres of sea level rise over 500 years."

From the abstract we might infer that the authors only estimated added ocean volume due to continental surface melt, without further addition of volume to include ocean thermal expansion due to the natural warming at that time. But they might have.  In our present circumstances, the ice saddles of both Antarctica and Greenland should be of interest.

In my observation, increased climate instability is knocking down agriculture long before a Heinrich event could be expected to kick the earth's temperature back down a few degrees.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stitch in Time before Solar Flares Zap Nine?

The solar cycle is due to peak in 2013, and with it brings the greater likelihood of electromagnetic pulses (EMP) from the sun, and their geomagnetic consequences.

Given the great dependence on electricity for communications and control systems, I'm wondering what the odds are of a multi-month blackout.
Suppose North America was brought to a halt, electrically speaking, while Asia went unscathed. Or vice versa.
Nearly everything depends on something electric. 

In the UK a government adviser is urging a 'hardening' of electrical systems, particularly the UK's National Grid.  Seems like a good Stitch in Time, Saves Nine.  Wonder who is listening. 

National Grid in the UK is also running the grid in upstate New York and parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, so this is of more than passing personal interest to some in the US.

The challenge of subterranean fires

Russian subterranean fires have been burning at roughly the same latitude as Poland, UK and southern Canada; they are mid-latitude organic soil fires, not Arctic.
Further south, in US this year the Duck Lake fire in Michigan and the Muskego muck fire near Bucyrus, Ohio have both been partly subterranean fires.
In the Muskego fire, "The fire was most likely caused by spontaneous combustion. As peat moss decomposes, it heats up. It was so hot and dry that it caught fire, Canterbury said." (Bucyrus Telegram Forum)

Drying out organic soils is a fire hazard.

More from Bucyrus:
"Two other options for extinguishing the fire -- flooding the field or digging the fire up -- are not feasible because of the conditions of the ground and the lack of water sources available.
There isn't a big enough water source close to the area to flood the field, and because the ground is unstable, almost quicksand-like, trucks would be in danger of getting stuck. With ground temperatures anywhere from 200 to 400 degrees, digging up the fire is out of the question as well."

From Newberry, Michigan:
"When underground organic mass such as swamp peat (a heavy turf of decayed vegetation and moss) catches fire, said Chingwa, "it doesn't even look like it's burning. It just looks like dry leaves, but it's extremely hot. And it can move across large areas without you even knowing it.”  Benjamin Reeves, IBT

Monday, August 27, 2012

A note on We, Us and the language of email

What is it about an earnest email that tells "you" (they mean me) to do something or other? 
I do not deserve such a subordination of my decisions to the minds of others.

What ever happened to us? I mean, whatever happened  to "we?" 
I like the ring of, "We the people," and like that.

When Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, he said, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers...," and a moment later, "We are engaged in a great civil war..,"  leading us to conclude together that, "we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

I am waiting for my copy of Joe Romm's book, "Language Intelligence." I can tell from the posts of his enthusiastic reviewers that they have yet to learn to use inclusive language as well as did Lincoln.  They write that "you" should get the book. 

But should we? I might write about it after I've read the book.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mixed tides for New Orleans

Hurricane Isaac is projected to head for New Orleans with a landfall between 8 PM Tuesday and 8 PM Wednesday.  What a gloomy thought.  

Wondering how tides could work for or against the latest fate of southern Louisiana and New Orleans, I found a webpage of tides on the Louisiana coast and bayou area.  The tides around there are "mixed" high and low tides that occur once a day each and not with an obvious progression from day to day.

Natural-born presidents of a sort

My dad was pleased when the New York Law Review and the Congressional Research Service indicated that GEORGE Romney could run for president of the USA.  Now, George Romney was born to US citizens who were part of a Mormon community in Mexico.  His opponents claimed that if Romney hadn't been born on US soil, he wasn't natural born. The law review took Romney's side in effect, as it argued that being a natural-born child of a US citizen residing anywhere was still natural-born.  As dad pointed out, that meant that a child born on an airplane over the mid-Atlantic or in the Philippines could still be eligible to run for president, provided that the child never subsequently relinquished his or her natural-born citizenship, as acquired from a biological parent with US citizenship at the time of the child's birth.

The 'hiding in plain sight' part of Barack Obama's birth certificate is his birth mother's US citizenship.
It doesn't matter where he was born geographically!
His father was Kenyan, no doubt, but Barack Obama never sought or claimed Kenyan citizenship.  
What counts is that Barack Obama was born to a US citizen and he never relinquished his US citizenship nor claimed another. 

This is why when MITT Romney ineptly joked to his hometown Michigan audience about no one asking for his birth certificate, he was really messing around.    Mitt was in his late teens when his father George ran for president, so Mitt is old enough to remember the eligibility challenge.  What would count on Mitt's birth certificate is if his parents were US citizens (they were), not being born in Michigan.

What could make life interesting is a candidate for US president who was born on US soil when neither parent held  US citizenship.  The amnesty offer for children born in the US to 'illegals' could create a constitutional crisis. 

It would be smart to plan ahead and think it through.

Spin not the Arctic sea ice death spiral

The Arctic sea ice shrank this summer to the smallest surface area in human recording.
Joe Romm at Climate Progress has been posting on the implications.
The National Snow & Ice Data Center has multiple images of the changes.

Loss of sea ice is loosening up the spinning top of the world, unraveling the Jet Stream. The Jet Stream  now loops further into the mid-latitudes, creating blocking patterns  that shape droughts, heat waves and inundations.  Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University gave a succinct presentation for scientists about the Arctic and extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere.  Those with sufficient motivation are encouraged to watch.


Welcome to Planting Ahead. 

The name Planting Ahead stuck with me when I'd been thinking about the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, a cooperation among three Mohawk Nations. They plant black ash trees in diverse locations to preserve the tree species from the invasion of the Emerald Ash Borer and from the northward advance of climate change.  The Mohawks on the ATFE are certainly not in denial about the dangers, and they aren't waiting for a external policy shift to fix things. I admire their presence of mind.