Monday, August 31, 2009

Peak Everything Goes into Food, Water, Basic Metals -- Heinberg in Spokane, 9/17

Heinberg states this in the opening of Peak Everything:

"Nor does the matter end with natural gas and coal. Once one lifts one's eyes from the narrow path of daily survival activities and starts scanning the horizon, a frightening array of peaks comes into view. In the course of the present century we will see an end to growth and a commencement of decline in all of these parameters:
  • Population
    Grain production (total and per capita)
    Uranium production
    Climate stability
    Fresh water availability per capita
    Arable land in agricultural production
    Wild fish harvests
    Yearly extraction of some metals and minerals (including copper, platinum, silver, gold, and zinc) "

Read the introduction here:

  • Richard Heinberg here, in Spokane, via web cast. He gets it. Any group that requests him to appear in person gets charged a whole lot for off-setting his carbon footprint as part of the travel expense against the environment.

Our Global Predicament & the Path to a Post Carbon Economy
Thursday, 9/17 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
600 North Riverpoint Campus, Spokane
Student Academic Center, Rm 20

As hybrid cars gobble rare metals, shortage looms

Worldwide demand for rare earths, covering 15 entries on the periodic table of elements, is expected to exceed supply by some 40,000 tonnes annually in several years unless major new production sources are developed. One promising U.S. source is a rare earths mine slated to reopen in California by 2012.

Forests -- How to Protect Communities from Climate Change

Teleseminar: Why are forests so vital in solving the climate crisis and protecting our communities?

Host: Model Forest Policy Program,

Monday August 31 Scheduled Start Time: 9:00 P.M. Eastern, 6:00 P.M. Pacific
Wednesday Sept. 9 Scheduled Start Time: 3:00 P.M. Eastern, 12:00 P.M. Pacific
Thursday Sept. 17 Scheduled Start Time: 2:00 P.M. Eastern, 11:00 A.M Pacific

Participants will learn how forests are the often most overlooked and cost effective climate solution to water concerns. You’ll learn the most important components of a forest water climate plan, and examples of successful communities.

The training is an overview on how to position your community for future federal climate planning funding assistance. The teleseminar is being offered 3 times and to register go to:

WCC-3 -- World Climate Change Experts Meet Resource Managers and Planners

By Paul K. Haeder*

Ahh, can there finally be a huge break in the way we see business as usual during this week’s WCC-3 in Geneva, which bringing together thousands of remarkable people who collect and analyze climate data and those who manage the world’s land and water resources? Will the US media, mainstream that is, cover this historic event this week? How much traction can climate change and sustainability experts and the thousands of groups working on a post-carbon civilization get from this meeting where business and resources managers meet science?

During the 3rd World Climate Conference in Geneva, August 31-September 4, more than 1,500 policymakers and resource managers from more than 150 countries will join with scientific experts to begin paving the road to construct those actionable and proactive measures so people can begin adapting to a changing climate.

“Part of what we’re doing at the meeting is thinking about what end users need,” Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and head of the U.S. delegation to WCC-3. “Is it data, is it technical assistance, is it analysis and prediction, is it better communication of what’s known, is it decision-support tools? It’s probably all of that … but what are the priorities, what are the most urgent needs?”


  • The Conference sets the stage for nations
    and organizations to identify the needs of
    end users around the world who will directly
    benefit from improved climate prediction and
    information services.

  • The Conference will address the state of
    knowledge and the capacity to mobilize climate
    science globally to advance seasonal
    to interannual to interdecadal climate predictions,
    including current gaps.

  • The Conference will negotiate the principles
    and discuss the mechanisms by which to share
    new advances in science and information
    through global infrastructure for the benefit
    of end users.

The biggest issue now isn’t climate warming deniers or the media creating false dichotomies and buoying up bizarre opinions about climate science. It’s the huge divide between the technical computer modeling data from satellites, ocean monitors and other measuring devices and what planners and civil engineers and policy makers managing areas’ and countries’ resources can do to make the changes necessary to protect people and infrastructure.

This is a multitrillion dollar adventure into the future. And the climate models will be more than computerized predictors of desertification, aquifer desiccation and deforestation. It comes down to where a bridge should and can be built and where water treatment plants should be sited.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its international partners organized the conference to define climate services. The focus will be on climate predictions on a time scale of days to 50 years in the future ― seasonal to multidecadal ― for adapting to climate variability and change.

“It’s not enough for scientists to say, ‘What do we think the users need?’” Lubchenco said. “It’s critically important for the users to help define what they need and how they need it.”

The first World Climate Conference, sponsored by WMO, was held in Geneva in 1979. Three international climate organizations arose from this scientific meeting. One of these, formed in 1988 by WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme, was the Nobel-Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which convenes scientists from around the world every five years or six years to assess the state of the climate.

The Second Climate Conference was held in Geneva in 1990. Meeting participants issued a strong statement highlighting the risk from climate change. Developments here also led to the creation of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international environmental treaty created in 1992, and the Global Climate Observing System, a network of climate and related observations.

We’ve mentioned this before on the PacifiCAD blog – we need a global framework for climate change planning and for creating connectivity to all the climate change services that will be necessary to improve networks of satellites, buoys and other Earth-observation devices that monitor conditions in the oceans and atmosphere. Again, all nations, all communities need to have access to this information and to those climate services.

“The United States will be an active partner in this,” Lubchenco said. “We have a lot to share but we also have a lot to learn. We’re viewing this very much as a partnership with the international community.”

*thanks to Cheryl Pellerin for information in this blog

Time to change 'climate change'

What's clear from Copenhagen is that policymakers have fallen behind the scientists: global warming is already catastrophic

George Monbiot 12 March 2009 14.30 GMT

The more we know, the grimmer it gets.

Presentations by climate scientists at this week's conference in Copenhagen show that we might have underplayed the impacts of global warming in three important respects:

• Partly because the estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) took no account of meltwater from Greenland's glaciers, the rise in sea levels this century could be twice or three times as great as it forecast, with grave implications for coastal cities, farmland and freshwater reserves.

• Two degrees of warming in the Arctic (which is heating up much more quickly than the rest of the planet) could trigger a massive bacterial response in the soils there. As the permafrost melts, bacteria are able to start breaking down organic material that was previously locked up in ice, producing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane. This could catalyse one of the world's most powerful positive feedback loops: warming causing more warming.

• Four degrees of warming could almost eliminate the Amazon rainforests, with appalling implications for biodiversity and regional weather patterns, and with the result that a massive new pulse of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Trees are basically sticks of wet carbon. As they rot or burn, the carbon oxidises. This is another way in which climate feedbacks appear to have been underestimated in the last IPCC report.

Apart from the sheer animal panic I felt on reading these reports, two things jumped out at me. The first is that governments are relying on IPCC assessments that are years out of date even before they are published, as a result of the IPCC's extremely careful and laborious review and consensus process. This lends its reports great scientific weight, but it also means that the politicians using them as a guide to the cuts in greenhouse gases required are always well behind the curve.

There is surely a strong case for the IPCC to publish interim reports every year, consisting of a summary of the latest science and its implications for global policy. The second is that we have to stop calling it climate change.

Using "climate change" to describe events like this, with their devastating implications for global food security, water supplies and human settlements, is like describing a foreign invasion as an unexpected visit, or bombs as unwanted deliveries. It's a ridiculously neutral term for the biggest potential catastrophe humankind has ever encountered.

I think we should call it "climate breakdown." Does anyone out there have a better idea?

Friday, August 28, 2009

LEED for New Construction: A Credit-by-Credit Review

Introducing a brand new online offering, bringing you all you need to know about the LEED for New Construction Rating System – right to your own computer. This five-part webinar series will teach you all about the technical requirements of the LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations 2009 Rating System, addressing the rating system’s seven credit categories: Sustainable Sites (SS), Water Efficiency (WE), Energy and Atmosphere (EA), Materials and Resources (MR), Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), Innovation in Design (ID) and Regional Priority (RP). Join us as USGBC LEED Faculty – both experts in LEED and skilled presenters – share personal case examples and demonstrate how credits have been successfully achieved on real LEED projects.

Who should participate: This series is a valuable education a great resource for anyone interested in gaining a solid understanding of the LEED for New Construction Rating System and establishing a foundation necessary to implement LEED. This webinar will be submitted for continuing education through AIA/CES, BOMI, and IFMA, Each session will be registered for GBCI credential maintenance requirements for LEED Professionals (1.5 hours).

LEED for New Construction: A Credit-by-Credit Review
Session One: Sustainable Sites (September 3, 1-2:30p.m. ET)
Session Two: Efficiency (WE) & Innovation in Design (ID) (September 17, 1-2:30p.m. ET)
Session Three: Energy & Atmosphere (EA) (October 1, 1-2:30p.m. ET)
Session Four: Materials & Resources (MR) (October 15, 1-2:30p.m. ET)
Session Five: Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) (October 29, 1-2:30p.m. ET)

Register here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Solar Panels and Climate Change Dynamics

The Vatican's Crusade on Climate Change -2,400 Solar Panels Were Placed on Undulating Roof of the Vatican's Hall

'Only wealthiest will be able to afford solar panels'

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent,0,47,0"> name="movie" value="" />" />" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashVars="videoId=33575328001&" base="" name="flashObj" width="310" height="172" seamlesstabbing="false" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowFullScreen="true" swLiveConnect="true" allowScriptAccess="always" pluginspage="">>

More Sun for Less: Solar Panels Drop in Price

From the New York Times

More Sun for Less: Solar Panels Drop in Price

Religions Going Green, Looking Deeply at Climate Change

By Paul K. Haeder

Why do we take a look at faith (mostly the Christian faith today) and climate change on a blog hosted by a computer software company? The answer is obvious from a sustainability viewpoint. We need all communities within the larger community to plan, organize and build toward a post carbon future. And as a planner and climate change activist in Spokane, I have worked with the Interfaith Council, Spokane Alliance with its Sustainable Works program --

the Unitarian Church, and other community groups that are faith-based to try and work on how their respective neighborhoods can be more sustainable, be less car dependent, be more supportive of local businesses, be a hub of healthy living and great food resiliency, how farmers markets can be sited in the community, and what role the City has with creating public spaces that engender safe places for kids and adults to gather. Many of my good friends in sustainability come from various religious backgrounds, and some are ministers and Jesuit padres. The community gardens, low-income retrofits for more energy efficient housing, and the work on transportation and the aging community in many instance have been spearheaded by religious coalitions.

There are groups fighting for their faith and the earth --

And a few books and films. PacifiCAD's mission is to help customers maximize their technical and creative talents with Autodesk software. Many of our customers are working in engineering, transportation, architecture, design, and technology to advance not only their business bottom lines, but to be great members of their respective communities. More and more cities are coming on board the sustainability train.

As business leaders, we are responsive to the needs of our communities. We hope this blog challenges the reader to think beyond those cultural and technical boundaries in place. Some of the more interesting discussions and community building come from people of faith looking at sustainability and climate change. Jew, Christian, Islamic. Quaker, Baptist, Methodist. Check out this web site on religions around the world coming together to work on climate change.


Here are some books promised earlier:

Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living explores what we should do and why we should do it. Other books on environmental ethics, such as Michael Northcott’s The Environment and Christian Ethics and Sam Berry’s The Care of Creation, are appropriate for understanding this relationship of Christianity to science, climate change, and solutions. Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living has a specific objective: to explore what the Christian faith has to say about the closely linked problems of climate change and sustainable living. Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable living is published by SPCK RRP

Desmond Tutu has a short introduction in The Green Bible. Here’s a Time Magazine quote:

"The poor and vulnerable are members of God’s family and are the most severely affected by droughts, high temperatures, the flooding of coastal cities, and more severe and unpredictable results of climate change," argues Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the foreword to HarperCollins’ The Green Bible, released in hardcover in early October, 2008. "We, who should have been responsible stewards preserving our vulnerable, fragile planet home, have been wantonly wasteful through our reckless consumerism, devouring irreplaceable natural resources."

Thursday, Sep. 18, 2008

The Bible Goes Green for the Prius Age


Green runs through the Bible like a vine. There are the Garden and Noah's olive branch. The oaks under which Abraham met with angels. The "tree standing by the waterside" in Psalms. And there is Jesus, the self-proclaimed "true vine," who describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a mustard seed that grows into a tree "where birds can nest." He dies on a cross of wood, and when he rises Mary Magdalene mistakes him for a gardener.

Now there is a Bible trying to make gardeners of us all. On Oct. 7, HarperCollins is releasing The Green Bible, a Scripture for the Prius age that calls attention to more than 1,000 verses related to nature by printing them in a pleasant shade of forest green, much as red-letter editions of the Bible encrimson the words of Jesus. The new version's message, states an introduction by Evangelical eco-activist J. Matthew Sleeth, is that "creation care"--the Christian catchphrase for nature conservancy--"is at the very core of our Christian walk."

Using recycled paper with soy-based ink, The Green Bible includes supplementary writings by, among others, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope John Paul II, Desmond Tutu and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright. Several of these essays cite the Genesis verse in which God gives humanity "dominion" over the earth, a charge most religious greens read to mean "stewardship."

Others assert that eco-neglect violates Jesus' call to care for the least among us: it is the poor who inhabit the floodplains.

Not all buy creation care's centrality. Says Southern Baptist leader Richard Land: "Sure it's important, but when they asked Jesus what was most important, he said, 'Love your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.' He didn't say anything about creation."

But Land is fighting the tide. Mainline Protestants have long been green, and a Pew Foundation study recently found that 54% of Evangelicals--and 63% of those ages 18 to 29--agreed that "stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost."

There is one catch. The conservative Christians who drive Bible sales don't tend to favor the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) used in The Green Bible. Yet publisher Mark Tauber thinks green Evangelicals will leap the NRSV fire wall. He adds cheerfully: "I wouldn't be surprised if you see so-called big Bible publishers come out with a green edition." If you want to grow a biblical tree where birds can nest, this is a good way to start.
Greenest Cities in America? Is yours included? Read on:
Here’s the entire transcript of Bill Moyers’ PBS special, “Is God Green?” I highly recommend you view the hour-long show, and defer to the transcript if you can’t find that show on climate change and Christianity’s duty to the planet.

Much of what Moyers covers is the issue of Mountaintop Removal and those people in communities in the south that see those mountains and forests and streams as their god’s creation to be protected, not blown apart and fouled. Below is an article on a great activist fighting this sort of coal mining.

There is an evangelical green blog to see how people of faith fit into the climate change mitigation:

And so called people of faith are asking Obama to stop mountaintop removal --National Council of Churches :

Activist Battles US Coal Companies Over Mountain Top Removal Practice

West Virginian Maria Gunnoe's backyard is nestled in the Central Appalachian mountains, home to some of the most environmentally-devastating mountain top removal mining. Gunnoe is fighting to stop these mining practices from ruining the landscape her family and many others have lived off of for generations. VOA's Julia Ritchey talked with Maria in Washington, D.C. about her struggle and why more Americans should care about their energy future.

Maria Gunnoe and her family have lived for five generations in Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. Coal companies are the lifeblood of this regions' economy and many of Gunnoe's family have worked in underground coal mines. But mechanization has led to a more controversial practice environmentalists say harms the environment.

"There is a 52 percent chance that when you flip on your light switch, you're blowing up the mountains where we live at," Maria said.

Coal companies cut down the trees on the mountain before using explosives to get to the coal beneath. Leftover debris is dumped into surrounding valleys. The industry defends the procedure, known as mountain top removal.

In 2000, Gunnoe says a coal company started blasting a ridge behind her home. Gunnoe filmed a mountaintop removal, which covered her land in dust and debris. She says she realized she had to stand up for the land her family uses for food, water and home grown medicines.

Toxic elements such as cadmium, lead and arsenic, can end up in groundwater.

She says the process often results in flooding nearby and that toxic elements such as cadmium, lead and arsenic, can end up in groundwater.

Gunnoe alleges, over the years, coal workers have killed family pets as well as harassing her and her family. "They don't care about these people," she said. "And they will look at you in your own home, they will look at you and say, 'If you don't like it, you leave.'"

Maria was the sole resident from her community to testify in court against a coal company operating mountain top removal sites in her county. The company was ordered to halt dumping debris into new valleys.

"I feel like that I'm fighting for my children's future. I want my children to have a good life," she insists. "And in order to do that, I have to protect my rights so that they'll have the same rights."

Gunnoe was one of six recipients to receive the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco.

Gunnoe believes that too many Americans are still unaware of where their electricity comes from. But, she says, by educating the public and fighting for her mountains, sustainable energy can one day flow from Appalachia just as coal has for over a century.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to the Psychology of Change, Habit, Global Warming

By Paul K. Haeder

We’ll let Galileo and Darwin have center stage – read the blog below. However, it is compelling that the American Psychological Association will have out early this fall a booklet on the psychological barriers humans have to accepting, understanding, and discussing Climate Change. The APA has written a 230-page report (see below pdf) on what it is that causes people to reject understanding and accepting, with some amount of common sense and ease of cognition the realities of climate change and the Sixth Mass Extinction.

It’s a psychological conundrum that Darwin faced -- rejection and doubt -- as did Galileo. Too many thousands of scientists and thinkers in the past have faced anti-intellectualism, and today with this huge growth in web sites that look and sound legit and a media that cover aberrations in any theory or argument, independent scientists face a fellow citizenry and other power bases who have become and more more less inclined to read, think and go outside the consumer-driven box to make sense of the world. It takes discipline to read up, study, and process many of the scientific processes associated with Climate Change and Natural History.
Here're the stats on US reading habits:
* 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
* 42% of college graduates never read another book.
* 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
* 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
* 57% of new books are not read to completion.
* Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.
Here are the stages of climate change inertia proposed by psychology:

Uncertainty -- uncertainty over climate change reduces the frequency of "green" behavior.
Mistrust -- most people don't believe the risk messages of scientists or government officials.
Denial -- a huge percentage of people believe climate change is not occurring or that human activity has little or nothing to do with it, according to various polls.
Undervaluing Risks -- A study of more than 3,000 people in 18 countries showed that many people believe environmental conditions will worsen in 25 years. So, is it a “not around my historical corner" way of thinking? That changes can be made later, so why worry now?
Lack of Control -- Ahh, this is the debate about individual choice and individual action. Can making one less car trip daily do much? Stop eating dairy and meat for one day a week? Well, people have been trained to not understand numbers and the sheer force of collective action, collective IQ.
Habit – This is a human curse because ingrained behaviors are extremely resistant to permanent change while others change slowly. Habit is the most important obstacle to pro-environment behavior. And, consumer-driven choices and habits are the toughest for people to break.
So, we will discuss this huge APA report that covers the six basic questions below. It’s an important study, the psychology of climate change:

Section 1: How do people understand the risks imposed by climate change?
Section 2: What are the human behavioral contributions to climate change and the psychological and contextual drivers of these contributions?
Section 3: What are the psychosocial impacts of climate change?
Section 4: How do people adapt to and cope with the perceived threat and unfolding impacts of climate change?
Section 5: Which psychological barriers limit climate change action?
Section 6: How can psychologists assist in limiting climate change?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Telescope, a Church, an Earthworm, a Revolution --

By Paul K. Haeder

He refined the device he obtained from the Netherlands, and his eight-power telescope proved Copernicus correct (the earth and planets revolved around the Sun) and he saw the moon was pock-marked, not smooth, and that Jupiter has moons.

It’s been a heck of a year, with the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth 200 years ago, his book, On the Origin of the Species published 150 years ago, and Galileo’s telescope’s birthday Aug. 25, 1609.

Galileo spent the last 10 years of his life under house arrest, as the Catholic Church took his findings to be more than hierarchal. It was in 1992 when the Catholic Church softened its stance on Galileo. Reading Dava Sobel’s Galileo’s Ghost shows the true nature of Galileo’s struggle to prove his worth, his value to science and his struggle with the isolation of his genius. His daughter Celeste wrote 120 letters from the convent her father put her into. Her life and his were entwined in the complications of his time, a father's guilt for giving up his three illegitimate daughters, and his own doubts. Sobel’s book’s subtitle says a lot about his time 400 years ago, and our own with the misinformation and so-called astroturfing by the American Petroleum Institute denying the very science that got them the geology to exploit fossil fuel in the first place: a memoir of science, faith, and love. Add superstition to the list for Galileo's time and our own now as we try and center discussion and thought on climate change.

So, hats off to Galileo’s Venetian telescope and findings. Four hundred years ago the force of discovery changed the course of math, philosophy, technology. We’ll cover more of Galileo and Darwin, whose explanation of natural selection as a mechanism that made evolution plausibly able to explain the origin of species -- without reference to a creator -- set a new path toward the science and technology we have today. No snapping fingers. No intelligent design. We are a world that is based on humanity’s skills to figure out how some of the world works. Darwin set the stage for all scientific work. According to the eminent late evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, "Eliminating God from science made room for strictly scientific explanations of all natural phenomena; it gave rise to positivism; it produced a powerful intellectual and spiritual revolution, the effects of which have lasted to this day."

Galileo faced being burned at the stake for his intellect, his findings. The current Pope has attempted to appreciate the value of Galileo, but, alas, revisionism is what propels Benedict to proclaim Galileo great.

Until the post on Darwin’s importance to science, here are books on Chuck –
Steve Jones’ Darwin’s Ghost

One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought
Mayr, Ernst. Harvard University Press, Reprint Edition (2005).

Charles Darwin, Geologist
Herbert, Sandra. Cornell University Press, (2005).

Inside the Beagle with Charles Darwin
Macdonald, Fiona. Enchanted Lion Books, (2005).

From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books
Wilson, Edward O. (Editor). W. W. Norton, (2005).

Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society
Wilson, David. University Of Chicago Press, (2003).

Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life
Eldredge, Niles. W. W. Norton, (2005).

The Tree of Life
By Peter Sís
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003

It might seem surprising to begin a column on books about Charles Darwin with a children's title (age 8 and up), but this delightful volume is a superior introduction for all readers to the great naturalist. The delicate drawings and diagrams -- displaying animals, plants, instruments, portraits, maps -- lend to the book the flavor of a gorgeously illuminated medieval manuscript. Peter Sís's images, like Darwin's own writings, invite the reader to observe carefully and make connections. The emphasis on detail comes across best in a cross-section of the Beagle, the ship that took Darwin around the world. This is a book to think with and an ideal way to escape the mindless polemics (and hero worship) that will inevitably crop up during the 2009 bicentenary of Darwin's birth on Feb. 12. Give it to your kids, if you can stop looking at it long enough yourself.

The Beak of the Finch
By Jonathan Weiner
Knopf, 1994

The theory of evolution, for all its generality, is founded on the observation of tiny differences in plants and animals. The classic instance involves "Darwin's finches" from the Galápagos Islands. These exceptionally variable birds range in type from the bark-stripping vegetarian to the blood-drinking vampiric (preying on another Galápagos bird, the booby). It is often assumed that the finches provided Darwin with on-the-spot evidence that clinched the case for evolution. But this is a myth. To watch "evolution in action" among the finches, as the biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant began to do in the 1970s, has taken almost unimaginable patience. In "The Beak of the Finch," a classic of science writing, Jonathan Weiner brings to life the scientific process as practiced both in Darwin's era and among modern Galápagos researchers. We watch as the Grants measure barely perceptible differences in the lengths of beaks, gather tiny drops of blood for DNA sequencing and trace birds over many generations. There is no better way to understand the character of Darwinian science.

The Politics of Evolution
By Adrian Desmond
University of Chicago, 1989

London in 1837, where Darwin moved soon after the Beagle voyage, was a modern Babylon: dirty, noisy and dangerous. It was in this bustling metropolis, not on a tropical island or in the rural isolation of his later home in Kent, that he forged the theory of evolution. Adrian Desmond's "The Politics of Evolution" shows why it matters that Darwin began his speculations in London during a turbulent era of political and religious reform. Forget polite academic discussions and salon conversations about divine design; the ideas Darwin was contemplating in the 1830s were threatening and divisive. When "On the Origin of Species" was finally published in 1859, it came into a very different scene, causing little of the uproar it would have prompted two decades earlier.

Charles Darwin
By Janet Browne
Knopf, 1995, 2002 (two vols.)

There are several fine biographies of Darwin, but Janet Browne's two-volume work is the best at capturing the genteel and peculiarly English tone of Darwin's life. The early chapters might almost be taken from an undiscovered Jane Austen novel: We watch an aimless young man emerge as a leading naturalist and daringly speculative theorist. Browne draws on the comprehensive edition of Darwin's correspondence, which is being prepared by an international team at the University of Cambridge. The biography's second volume, which opens with the publication of "On the Origin of Species," traces Darwin's ability to turn fame to account in spreading his ideas. Few long biographies are so successful at maintaining interest and energy right to the end.

Darwin Loves You
By George Levine
Princeton, 2006

Does Darwinism strip the world of meaning, reducing life to cutthroat competition and cold calculation? Fundamentalist atheists and evangelical Christians generally agree that it does, but such a perspective is far too narrow. In this highly personal book, the literary historian George Levine argues that Darwin's work, with its generous language that invites interpretation, has the potential to create aesthetic and moral value. Darwin writes of flying squirrels, pouting pigeons, peacocks' tails and the instincts of ants. But he also encourages wonder at small things, gradual forces and the power of individual action in a world of life and possibility.

Book blurbs by James A. . Secord, the editor of Darwin's Evolutionary Writings (Oxford, 2008), the director of the Darwin Correspondence Project and professor of the history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin is a book for everyone who has ever wondered about who this man was and what he said. Drawing from Darwin's secret "transmutation" notebooks and his personal letters, David Quammen has sketched a vivid life portrait of the man whose work never ceases to be controversial.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Science, Media, Books, The Rock of Ages --

By Paul K. Haeder

We’ve seen on this blog a plethora of resources and books to help engage in intellectual reasoning and forward thinking. Not just about climate change. But about education, about narrative framing, about the subtexts of how science, technology, and social change can influence economics in a sometimes runaway competitive marketplace called capitalism. No matter where one might fall on the political spectrum, it’s still the duty of all citizens to grasp reality, knowledge, science, and the systems around them and those influencing them.

Here are two books that help us frame the conversation about problem solving, global tipping points and the regional systems that are under stress that effect not only humanity, but the entire ecosystem James Lovelock devised as the Gaia Theory. We need to look at the realities of the so-called Superpower’s educational grounding, and that of the folk already out of school making decisions after consuming the so-called "fair and balanced" news of the day tied to peak energy, water, food, and climate change. Here are some startling facts about North Americans:

More than 46 percent of Americans think the Earth is around 7,000 years old, and they not only reject evolution even as HIV as a species of virus exhibits grand evolutionary techniques, as do those amphibians "going asexual" after years of exposure to toxins, but they mock it, fabricate ideas behind it, and turn their world of superstitions and half-truths into the book of the dead for their offspring. These adult Americans who are part of the public polarizing climate change have never met a scientist (only 18 percent of all Americans have) and more than half can’t name a living scientist role model.

More than 55 percent of polled Americans believe they have personal angels protecting them: And, in a Pew poll, the researchers found that more than 68 percent of Americans believe that "angels and demons are active in the world"; 20 percent say they've had an encounter with an angel or a devil.

The media, the blogs, the general conversation in America have gotten more and more disconnected from the realities of science and natural history and nature and astrophysics, even medicine. We are becoming a culture of a general population that doesn't know how things work, how the world works, and those select few who do.

We have to blame the messenger, and in their new book, Unscientific America : How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future, Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum give us a look at the realities of our digital age, Marshall McLuhan's "the medium is the message" part of today's consumer media illumination: for every five hours of cable news, less than one minute is devoted to science. And we know what the majority of that news encompasses.

Here’s an excerpt from Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s book:

Rethinking the Problem of Scientific Illiteracy

As Mark Twain put it, “The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.” Take the army of aggrieved parents nationwide who swear vaccines are the reason their children developed autism and who seem impossible to convince otherwise. Scientific research has soundly refuted this contention, but every time a new study comes out on the subject, the parents and their supporters have a “scientific” answer that allows them to retain their beliefs. Where do they get their “science” from? From the Internet, celebrities, other parents, and a few non-mainstream researchers and doctors who continue to challenge the scientific consensus, all of which forms a self-reinforcing echo chamber of misinformation.

The anti-vaccination advocates are scientifically incorrect; there’s little doubt of that at this point. But whether they could be called “ignorant” or “scientifically illiterate” is less clear. After all, they’ve probably done far more independent research about a scientific topic that interests and affects them than most Americans have.

The same goes for other highly informed, and deeply wrong, groups—the global warming deniers, anti-evolutionists, UFO obsessives, and so on.

Ignorance isn’t their problem, and neither is a lack of intellectual engagement or motivation. Anyone who has ever discussed global warming on national radio—as Chris has done countless times—can expect to be besieged by callers who don’t accept the prevailing scientific consensus and have obviously done a great deal of research to back up their prejudices. If anything, such individuals want to make a show of their erudition and proceed to rattle off a mind-boggling string of scientific-sounding claims: Global warming isn’t happening on other planets; urban heat islands (cities) thwart global thermometer readings; the atmosphere’s lowest layer, the troposphere, isn’t warming at the rate predicted by climate models; and the like.

Or consider the late Michael Crichton. He was a brilliant science fiction novelist, screenwriter, and movie producer who backed up his best-selling narratives with considerable scientific research. Yet in his late-life novel State of Fear, he penned a wholly misleading and revisionist attack on the science of global warming. Faced with such people, intellectually driven and empowered as never before by the profusion of “science”—good, bad, and awful—on the Internet, one soon recognizes that the lack of scientific knowledge probably isn’t our real problem.

Almost inevitably, improvements to our educational system are put forward as the primary solution to the problem of scientific illiteracy. It is a lofty goal, of course, and nobody is against improving K-12 science education. But to look to education alone as the silver bullet is to write off as unreachable anyone who has already graduated from the formal educational system. That includes vast stretches of the population, including most voters, our political and cultural leaders, and the gatekeepers of the media.


Ahh, if that book isn’t enough to turn Teddy Roosevelt or Aldo Leopold and John Muir and Rachel Carson in their graves, let’s look at Larry J. Schweiger’s Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth. Schweiger taps into the same issues covered in Unscientific America – denial and head-in-the-sand fear.

Look, James Hansen, America’s climate change expert with NASA, spoke about this big intellectual gap between science and policy makers. On June 23, 2008, twenty years after he first warned Congress about the earth’s warming tied to human activity, Hansen said that “a wide gap has developed between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific communities and what is known by policymakers and the public.”

Schweiger brings up the reality of our superficial consumer-driven sound byte world. An important paper published in the September 2006 issue of Nature by Katey Walter

warned that melting permafrost in Siberia – we’re talking about 10 million square kilometers – is releasing five times the amount of methane previously estimated. Walter led a US-Russian team of scientists to study this area and the frozen methane thaw. She likened it to a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. That is, threatening the world’s climate.

Mainstream media did not cover this report, but did cover the supposed killer of JonBenét Ramsey with TV trucks in Boulder, Colorado and bouffant hair dos probing the police officials about this or that fluid.

Two good books for our shelves, but also for the empowerment of citizens to get it right and hold accountable county commissioners and school board reps and city councilwomen who see the earth as flat and the heavens filled with water. Here’s an excerpt from Schweiger’s book:

In the Absence of Light

A few years ago, we invited a group of low-income children from urban Pittsburgh to visit a distant natural area in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, for an owl watch. As night fell, the children became startled as they got their first glimpse of the myriad bright stars set in a clear, black sky. These kids had never seen a night sky in the absence of ambient light. Urban haze and light pollution had completely blocked their view of the heavens and dimmed their sense of the magnitude of creation.

Shallow news coverage causes most Americans to underestimate the urgency of the threat of global warming. Television’s failure to adequately cover the climate threat, along with the deliberate opacity created by massive oil and coal advertising, masks the vivid realities of the situation, much like the haze and light pollution blocked out the reality of the night sky for those urban kids.

The television has been described as a weapon of mass distraction. On hearing about the methane leaking from the Siberian Sea, one Canadian blogger mockingly wrote, “Runaway climate change? Massive methane release off Siberia? Nah, let’s talk about Wall Street instead!” Meanwhile, on “the upper decks of our ‘Titanic,’ everyone is worried stiff about a crisis on Wall Street.”

Denial is a too-common human tendency, especially around global warming. On June 23, 2008, twenty years since he first warned Congress that human activity was causing the earth to warm, James Hansen warned that a “wide gap has developed between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific communities and what is known by policymakers and the public.”

I have often wondered why so many media outlets have developed an excessive and endless fascination with fallen stars, kidnappings, rapes, and other violent crimes to the exclusion of news that we can actually use. Perhaps it is because Americans en masse watch that mindless stuff over and over again, thus supporting it and demanding more of it. Besides, that type of “news” is simple and cheap to produce and does not take a rocket scientist to present. Tabloid journalism, replayed continuously for days, weeks, and months on end is apparently profitable. “Infotainment” is not journalism. Networks and cable channels focus on making news shows more entertaining to pump up ratings that link to greater advertising revenues. Former vice president Al Gore described this in his book The Assault on Reason as “a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.”

This excerpt was reprinted from the book Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth by Larry J. Schweiger with permission from

Fulcrum Publishing

Finally, we have a glimmer of hope in the upcoming PBS series on the National Parks systems and the people and ecosystems behind and within them. Maybe this Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan series can rekindle some of the spirit in the American mindscape to propel us as a citizenry to rethink how grand the scape of time is, how that rock at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is more than a blip in time.

But before we end this blog with the Ken Burns-PBS series information and links, let’s look at the underpinning of much of what we will see in the two books featured above – Science versus Junk Science: The edges of knowledge being pushed with new technology, and then the Creationist view of the world:

University of Colorado at Boulder Grand Canyon may be as old as dinosaurs, says new study
Study by University of Colorado at Boulder, California Institute of Technology pushes back assumed origins by 40-50 million years

The Grand Canyon may be as old as the dinosaurs, according to a new study by the University of Colorado and the California Institute of Technology

New geological evidence indicates the Grand Canyon may be so old that dinosaurs once lumbered along its rim, according to a study by researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the California Institute of Technology.

The team used a technique known as radiometric dating to show the Grand Canyon may have formed more than 55 million years ago, pushing back its assumed origins by 40 million to 50 million years.

The researchers gathered evidence from rocks in the canyon and on surrounding plateaus that were deposited near sea level several hundred million years ago before the region uplifted and eroded to form the canyon.

A paper on the subject will be published in the May issue of the Geological Society of America Bulletin. CU-Boulder geological sciences Assistant Professor Rebecca Flowers, lead author and a former Caltech postdoctoral researcher, collaborated with Caltech geology Professor Brian Wernicke and Caltech geochemistry Professor Kenneth Farley on the study.

"As rocks moved to the surface in the Grand Canyon region, they cooled off," said Flowers.

"The cooling history of the rocks allowed us to reconstruct the ancient topography, telling us the Grand Canyon has an older prehistory than many had thought."

The team believes an ancestral Grand Canyon developed in its eastern section about 55 million years ago, later linking with other segments that had evolved separately.

"It's a complicated picture because different segments of the canyon appear to have evolved at different times and subsequently were integrated," Flowers said.

The ancient sandstone in the canyon walls contains grains of a phosphate mineral known as apatite -- hosting trace amounts of the radioactive elements uranium and thorium -- which expel helium atoms as they decay, she said. An abundance of the three elements, paired with temperature information from Earth's interior, provided the team a clock of sorts to calculate when the apatite grains were embedded in rock a mile deep -- the approximate depth of the canyon today -- and when they cooled as they neared Earth's surface as a result of erosion.

Apatite samples from the bottom of the Upper Granite Gorge region of the Grand Canyon yield similar dates as samples collected on the nearby plateau, said Caltech's Wernicke. "Because both canyon and plateau samples resided at nearly the same depth beneath the Earth's surface 55 million years ago, a canyon of about the same dimensions of today may have existed at least that far back, and possibly as far back as the time of dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago."

One of the most surprising results from the study is the evidence showing the adjacent plateaus around the Grand Canyon may have eroded away as swiftly as the Grand Canyon itself, each dropping a mile or more, said Flowers.

Small streams on the plateaus appear to have been just as effective at stripping away rock as the ancient Colorado River was at carving the massive canyon. "If you stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon today, the bottom of the ancestral canyon would have sat over your head, incised into rocks that have since been eroded away," said Flowers.

The ancestral Colorado River was likely running in the opposite direction millions of years ago, she said.When the canyon was formed, it probably looked like a much deeper version of present-day Zion Canyon, which cuts through strata of the Mesozoic era dating from about 250 million to 65 million years ago, Wernicke said. From 28 million to 15 million years ago, a pulse of erosion deepened the already-formed canyon and also scoured surrounding plateaus, stripping off the Mesozoic strata to reveal the Paleozoic rocks visible today, he said.

The prevailing belief is that the canyon was incised by an ancient river about six million years ago as the surrounding plateau began rising from sea level to the current elevation of about 7,000 feet. The new scenario described in the GSA Bulletin by Flowers and her colleagues is consistent with recent evidence by other geologists using radiometric dating techniques indicating the Grand Canyon is significantly older than scientists had long believed.


The National Science Foundation and Caltech funded the study

Versus the other view, the earth as less than 10,000 years old view --
Did Noah's Flood Cover the Himalayan Mountains?

by John D. Morris, Ph.D.

Few doctrines in Scripture are as clearly taught as the global nature of the Great Flood in Noah's day. Genesis clearly teaches that "the waters . . . increased greatly . . . and the mountains were covered" (Genesis 7:18-20).

Through the centuries, few Christians questioned this doctrine. The Bible said it, and that was enough—until the late 1700s that is. For the first time the globe was being explored—the extremely lofty Himalayan Mountains were surveyed, capped by Mt. Everest at 29,035 feet in elevation.
Did the waters cover them? Is there enough water on the planet to do so? The questions seemed so far-fetched that many European churchmen dismissed the idea that the Flood was global, adopting the local flood concept which still dominates Christian colleges and seminaries today.
Like dominos, other doctrines soon began to fall—the young age for the earth, the special creation of plants and animals, and the inerrancy of Scripture.

We now know, of course, that the earth has plenty of water to launch a global flood. It has been calculated that if the earth's surface were completely flat, with no high mountains and no deep ocean basins, that water would cover the earth to a depth of about 8,000 feet. But is there enough water to cover a 29,035 foot mountain?

The key is to remember that the Flood didn't have to cover the present Earth, but it did have to cover the pre-Flood Earth, and the Bible teaches that the Flood fully restructured the earth. "The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (II Peter 3:6). It is gone forever. The earth of today was radically altered by that global event.

That Flood accomplished abundant geologic work. Eroding sediments here, redepositing them there, pushing up continents, elevating plateaus, denuding terrains, etc., so that the earth today is quite different from before. Today even mountain ranges rise high above the sea.

Mt. Everest and the Himalayan range, along with the Alps, the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Andes, and most of the world's other mountains are composed of ocean-bottom sediments, full of marine fossils laid down by the Flood. Mt. Everest itself has clam fossils at its summit. These rock layers cover an extensive area, including much of Asia. They give every indication of resulting from cataclysmic water processes. These are the kinds of deposits we would expect to result from the worldwide, world-destroying Flood of Noah's day.

At the end of the Flood, after thick sequences of sediments had accumulated, the Indian subcontinent evidently collided with Asia, crumpling the sediments into mountains. Today they stand as giants—folded and fractured layers of ocean-bottom sediments at high elevations. No, Noah's Flood didn't cover the Himalayas, it formed them!

Thus we find the Biblical account not only possible, but also supported by the evidence. A pre-Flood world with lessened topographic extremes could have been covered by the Great Flood. That Flood caused today's high mountains and deep oceans making such a flood impossible to repeat. This is just as God promised, back in Genesis.
"New museum says dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark"
More discussion about creationism and the age of earth:

******************************************************************************* For a look at Intelligent Design's proponents and others who disagree with Creationism as science, read this interesting forum:

For more scientific consensus on the age of Earth, go to the US Geological Survey:

And the book, The Age of Earth, by G. Dalrymple


Coming to PBS September 27, 2009

Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales — from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska — The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background — rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy. It is a story full of struggle and conflict, high ideals and crass opportunism, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration - set against the most breathtaking backdrops imaginable.

The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a six-episode series directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

breaking news --- To Tax, Ban, or Live with the Plastic – Seattle Voters Reject a Tax in Favor of . . . Using Bags for Poop, Trash and Totes?

By Paul K. Haeder

So my significant other today said, “Well, that was no surprise . . . I don’t see how you are so shocked.” Yeah, well, I thought the 20 cent fee would have stuck. You know, Seattle with all those David Suzuki and Alexandra Cousteau and Bill McKibben talks. The mayor and council who are looking toward some sort of horizon on growth containment. The activists who like bikes and want to be leaders in the country. King County’s Bluer than Blue citizenry. Something would have pointed to a successful bag tax.

I wasn’t shocked, and, well, I wasn’t disappointed that the tax was voted down today. It’s more emblematic of a larger problem in the global warming, sustainability, ecological footprint movement. Representative of all the work we have to do to educate people on ecological footprints. How we need to work with all sorts of groups – the low income, the religious community, the business community.

So, green Seattle, whose residents are known for taxing themselves for parks, libraries, bike lanes, defeated the 20 cent fee on plastic and paper disposable store bags. There seems to be a reason why -- the Progressive Bag Affiliates, part of the American Chemistry Council, spent $1.4 million to overturn the ordinance, which is precedent- setting for both the city as the largest contribution to a local ballot measure in history. Supporters of the tax, which the Mayor and council voted for last year, raised about $93,000 against the Referendum One backers. So much of the media came out against the 20 cent tax. There were some really silly things said about the tax. And mudslinging.

Go see Chris Jordan's work on photographing consumption:

ACC is gleeful on their web site as they posted breaking news on this story.

But this is a teachable moment – yes, the misinformation campaign was pretty wide ranging coming from the so called Progressive Bag Affiliates. Tax supporters have learned that the approach next time is just forwarding an outright ban.

Brady Montz, Seattle chairman for the Sierra Club and a spokesman for the pro-fee group, said Wednesday that San Francisco considered a fee before becoming the first city in the nation to ban plastic bags in 2007. "We'll see far more cities going for a ban," he said. "That's probably the way the battle is going to shift." [Seattle P-I]

This massive plastics industry opposition didn’t sway Edmonds, Wash., and Palo Alto, Calif.. Both cities have recently passed bans on plastic bags at retail stores in recent months. Here are the stats, from around the globe, on bags:

· According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.

· Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic.

· Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.

· In a dramatic move to stem a tide of 60,000 metric tons of plastic bag and plastic utensil waste per year, Taiwan banned both last year.

· According to the BBC, only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled.

· According to the WSJ Target, the second-largest retailer in the U.S., purchases 1.8 billion bags a year.

· As part of Clean Up Australia Day, in one day nearly 500,000 plastic bags were collected. Unfortunately, each year in Australia an estimated 50,000,000 plastic bags end up as litter.

. The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.

· Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. The bag will pay for itself if your grocery store offers a $.05 or $.10 credit per bag for bringing your own bags.

· Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC one group harvests 30,000 per month

Hire More Spin Doctors, Censoring Science, Stashing the Spy Photos of Melting Glaciers

By Paul K. Haeder

We are at a crossroads in the environmental and climate change movements. "We need more transparency, more educated people in the mainstream, and more policy makers smart enough to know how old the world is, what climate and weather are and how burning fossil fuel is polluting our world from ocean to atmosphere," is what the scientists, educators, NGO’s and citizen groups are say.
So, how can some things about the rapid glacial melt or those anoxic dead zones in oceans or the particular species that are falling closer toward extinction be held secret? All of that information has to be shared, not held back or covered up.
We hear about green collar jobs, about this mandate for a green economy, but the real challenges is to have a cadre of green thinkers – systems thinkers who have at their fingertips knowledge and tools to build change.
Luckily, food security, peak water, global grassroots movements, and sustainability are at the top of most countries’ lists, and not only academic folk are leading the charge to figure out what's at stake and what is damaged. This sharing of information is global, and the Internet and our advanced travel and communications networks allow for each respective country's grassroots and educational frames to share the information to make sense out of the multiple systems being effected by unsustainable human living.

What I'm getting at in this post is that we have in place in this country a security network that is in place to help with homeland security and to carry forth the military ventures we are currently engaged in. That network also has had a chance to gather scientific data tied to global warming.
The five e’s of sustainability must be adhered to and practiced by all sectors of our society, including the military. Almost at any cost: the cost of putting up another climate satellite and at the cost of engaging the US military in programs that do work to help plan for climate change. This year's appropriations for the military is the largest ever: $533.7 billion, up 4 percent from 2009. This figure excludes money for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The budget includes an additional $75 billion for "overseas contingency operations"--meaning Iraq, Afghanistan and other missions--for 2009 and $130 billion for 2010.
People are wondering what sort of things must take place to shape a budget that is realistic and for the good of the country’s homeland security – climate change, tipping points, and envirogees, both internal and external. Many are advocating military satellites and military expeditions tie into the fight to understand ecology and climate change.

Now, let's go into another favorite topic now being looked at by the spin doctors and spin watchers: Energy and Economy are the drivers of many corporations who look at “greenwashing” as a way to move into sustainability.

“Don't Get Duped By "Eco-Pornography"

That greenwashing is a type of subterfuge, a type of memory washing. Again, the Five E’s – Environment, Equity, Education, Energy, Economics require honesty, not spin and a smoke and mirrors game. Green tricks are a way to control markets, not heal an ailing planet. Environment and Equity seem to pay the largest price of this sort of exploitation. Finally, Education seems to be the only conduit to a systems approach to understanding earth systems and human relationships with each other and the other several quadrillion members of planet.

We’ve seen information about High Fructose Corn Syrup’s negative effects on the body suppressed by some corporations with the assistance from government entities – state land grant institutions. And independent research on GMOs can be quashed by corporations –

NYT – “Biotechnology companies are keeping university scientists from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of the industry’s genetically modified crops, according to an unusual complaint issued by a group of those scientists.”

The global warming foot dragging of politicians goes way beyond misinformation campaigns perpetrated by CNN or FOX News via some political flaks. The entire gamut of issues or also called debates tied to sustainability – like organics versus industrial food – has to filter through some powerful derailing obstacle courses and traps and minefields set by the government, the corporations and the media.

Just yesterday, a friend’s 56-year-old mother came at me with a bit of vindictive and ire – “That TV special I saw about organic food versus industrial food convinced me never to eat organic food again.” There is no contextualization, no steady discussion of what she meant, no breaking down any points or sub-points – it’s all about some TV special going after organics. I’m not sure if it’s a story on how industrial farms and the pollution from CAFOs contaminate organic spinach. Or if the Chinese market for organic food was exposed because of the carbon footprint of moving that stuff over here is huge, or if some reporter’s questioning of the requirements of organics in foreign countries came out of the mainstream TV piece. Or if there was some single scientist saying that sprayed bell peppers grown in mass production and picked early in the industrial model has the same vitamins and nutrition of bell peppers that are grown in rich soil, that are tended by hand, that never see or feel the fog of pesticides and artificial fertilizers.

In any case, there is a sort of anger out there against science, policy experts, and those working to expose global warming’s impacts now and in the future. There is a percolating cauldron of information about global warming, and sustainability, that people react to strongly. This is counter intuitive, some of this, or the default is that what the industrial model or corporation gives us must be the right model and anything else is cultish or hippie based. The media have been at fault, as is our government at times, admittedly so.

"U.S. organic food industry fears GMO contamination"

Or, what about that claim that scientists working independently have an axe to grind, or it’s all Al Gore’s fault to perpetrate a conspiracy to have the USA go communist by selling inconvenient truths.

Look, we’ve got this great opportunity now to move along the education sluice and bring back a sense of wonderment and awe in the work scientists and researchers do to find truths. We have now a former U of Oregon zoology professor heading up our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and she is steeled to get the ball rolling on educating her government and her people about Global Warming. And supporting science and going to bat for the scientists and the research and materials needed to study and act on global warming.

She has worked on this research for years before taking the helm of NOAA earlier this year. As the Earth warms, sea levels will rise and the salt content of the oceans will change, as will the ability of the oceans to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These changes will interact to affect atmospheric circulation, storm track, storm intensity frequency, and the frequency and distribution of droughts. The combination of sea level rise and harsher storms will more severely impact coastal communities and habitats.

There is no doubt the oceans are warming. Analysis of data from 1945until 2000 from different oceans around the world shows a general increase in ocean temperatures. This has enormous consequences for many different plants, animals, and microbes that live in those ocean basins. “We only know some of the consequences that are underway,” she said. That plays out in warmer water precipitating bleaching coral which has increased in frequency and severity.

Satellite images from 1979 compared to 2000 show that the arctic ice is melting. Consequences of the melting arctic ice to many arctic species are likely to be severe. The impact will be felt by plants and animals as well as indigenous peoples. Polar bears are one example of an animal that is threatened because of changes to ice patterns impacting their ability to hunt seals.

We need detailed satellite images to work on this issue of global warming, no matter where it takes us, the research, that is. Is it too late? That question is relevant, but we have to have a steady resolve to figure out the intensity, severity, timing and consequences of and mitigation for those consequences of ice melt and warming seas and warming air and land.

We failed as a technological power to get a much-needed satellite up into orbit in February 2009 – a NASA satellite carrying instruments to produce the first map of the Earth's carbon emissions crashed near Antarctica three minutes after lift-off. This instrument was designed to measure carbon emissions at 100,000 points around the planet every day, providing a super high quality of data compared to the 100 fixed towers currently operating as a land-based carbon measuring network.

As reported in this blog, the space race, the man in the can kind, is being decried by earth science scientists because we need to study earth and to work on earth’s systems, not get people to the moon. Additionally, the National Academy of Sciences reported that the environmental satellite network is at risk of collapse.

Lubchenco reiterated that warning because the ageing satellite fleet is not being replaced at a time when climate data is crucial to any sort of planning.

"Our primary focus is maintaining the continuity of climate observations, and those are at great risk right now because we don't have the resources to have satellites at the ready and taking the kinds of information that we need. We are playing catch-up."

She knows her science -- zoology and oceanography -- is applicable to climate change research and Lubchenco is Obama’s voice to bring climate change to the boardroom, classroom, Pentagon and local, state and federal agencies.

The canary in the mineshaft for ag, as mentioned in a previous blog here, is grape growing and the wine making art. For the Arctic, it’s the polar bear. For the globe, it’s our oceans. Almost half of the carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere thus far by human activity has been absorbed by oceans. Oceans are now phenomenally more acidic. It doesn’t take Lubchenco’s degrees to see that we have to be “seriously concerned.” Acidity determines the ability of many species to make their skeletons and shells. Animal and plant life in the ocean are being challenged. Sea stars, sea urchins, mussels, clams, oysters, and corals are all impacted be ocean acidity.

Lubchenco ramifies this point: “The information we have from the last few years is suggesting that most of the changes that were predicted are changing at faster rates than expected.”

Those dead zones around the world, impacting large fisheries, are partially attributed to global warming and to human land use: “We think it’s likely that this new phenomenon in the most productive fishing waters is in fact likely to be related to climate change.”

Professor Lubchenco is adamant about working on climate change as it affects all systems, but in particular, our seas: “The predicted impact and the surprises lend urgency to the call for reducing green house gas emissions.”

Suzanne Goldenberg and Damian Carrington of the UK Observer hit the world with this story:

“Photos from US spy satellites declassified by the Obama White House provide the first graphic images of how the polar ice sheets are retreating in the summer. The effects on the world's weather, environments and wildlife could be devastating”

"The pictures, kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush, were declassified by the White House last week. President Barack Obama is currently trying to galvanize Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

One particularly striking set of images - selected from the 1,000 photographs released - includes views of the Alaskan port of Barrow. One, taken in July 2006, shows sea ice still nestling close to the shore. A second image shows that by the following July the coastal waters were entirely ice-free.

The photographs demonstrate starkly how global warming is changing the Arctic. More than a million square kilometres of sea ice - a record loss - were missing in the summer of 2007 compared with the previous year.

Nor has this loss shown any sign of recovery. Ice cover for 2008 was almost as bad as for 2007, and this year levels look equally sparse.”

Ahh, so Americans have to deal with yet another conspiracy revealed and validated – important data has been kept from not only the average Joe Blow or Sally Garcia, but from scientists.

Censoring James Hansen (US’s chief climate change expert working for NASA) was indeed one of Bush’s ways to shunt Dr. Hansen’s huge influence on global climate change science. Now the US taxpayer paid-for satellite’s used by DOD have been employed to photograph the melting ice but those images have been locked up in what amounts to this huge vault of censorship and subterfuge. Go to these two places for more information on the Hansen story:

"Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming"

Dr. James Hansen is widely regarded as the leading climate change scientist in the country. For the past twenty-five years, he has headed NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Just over a year ago, Dr. Hansen went public with a charge that made headlines around the world—that the Bush administration had been trying to silence his warnings about the urgent need to address climate change. Dr. Hansen joins us in our firehouse studio. His story is detailed in a new book by author Mark Bowen titled Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming. Mark Bowen joins us from Massachusetts.


January 8, 2008

James Hansen has been widely described as NASA's leading climate scientist; he's been studying the topic for more than three decades, and he began speaking publicly about the threat of global warming almost 20 years ago.

Just over a year ago, he went public with a charge that made headlines around the world: The Bush administration, Hansen said, had been trying to silence his warnings about the urgency of the need to address climate change.

Now, writer and scientist Mark Bowen has written a book on the affair. It's called Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming.

Now, go to National Public Radio’s Climate Change site for their mainstream media reports.

Okay, back to those spy photos of melting ice and drowning bears – the resolution of the images, according to Thorsten Markus of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, are key to understanding the summertime ice dynamic of the Arctic. "This is the main reason why we are so thrilled about it. One-meter resolution is the dimension that's been missing."

Suzanne Goldenberg and Damian Carrington write: “Disappearing summer sea ice poses considerable dangers, scientists have warned. Ice shelves are used by animals such as polar bears as platforms for hunting seals and other sea creatures. Without them, they could starve. In addition, ice reflects solar radiation. Without that process, the Arctic sea could warm up even more. The phenomenon threatens to set off runaway heating of the planet, say climatologists.”

Even before [Lubchenco’s] warning, scientists were saying that America, the world's scientific superpower, was virtually blinding itself to climate change by cutting funds to the environmental satellite programs run by the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

So, the money from DOD and pork barrel programs for defense contractors might be moved toward this climate modeling work? Not really. The NOAA wants $390 million more in its 2010 budget “to upgrade environmental satellites, and help make data more available to researchers and government officials.”

Can this funding occur with a veil of secrecy over the eyes of policymakers, constituents and the lame media pundits who still poke fun at Gore, climate change experts, and the reality of inundated coastlines and lost island.

And, finally, how does China and the USA negotiate some climate change agreement ahead of the Copenhagen summit when this obfuscation and propaganda overwhelm Americans and Chinese alike? A memorandum of understanding? Hillary Clinton wouldn’t release it, but she says the document shows the USA and China were committed to tackling climate change.

“It also provides our countries with direction as we work together to support international climate negotiations and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy," she said at the signing ceremony.

These are two of the world’s biggest pollution-producing countries. Plus, Beijing holds about $800 billion to $1 trillion of US treasury securities, while Washington is facing its largest budget deficit ever. Washington needs Beijing, the world's third-largest economy, to keep buying its debt to finance a budget deficit that is expected to reach $1.8 trillion by the end of the fiscal year in September 2009.

Let’s see – economic growth, expansion of resource extraction/exploitation in other countries, pushing into more and more markets, consumption as a primary driver of economy? That’s not a prescription for climate change solutions or mitigation. Nor is keeping scientific data, including spy photos of Alaskan waters and the like, secret going. A more informed population can begin to make the hard decisions surrounding climate change/global warming/peak oil/and freedom of information.

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Paul Haeder

Fuse Washington

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