IBI Watch 5/29/11

29 05 2011

Manmade Climate Chaos – Wild, Unpredictable, Political

This story – which I have held for many years to be the biggest story no one (or not nearly enough of us) is paying attention to – has many angles this week.  (BTW, this is my term for  ‘global warming.’)

First – the ferocity of the recent successive deadly waves of tornadoes is, by all measures, an anomaly.  But is it just a fluke, a freak, as deniers would have it?  Evidence suggests otherwise.  When you keep pumping the atmosphere full of more and more greenhouse gas, you are obviously changing the system.  Climate models show that an atmosphere with more carbon dioxide is more volatile, and generally (but not universally or consistently) warmer.  So is there cause and effect?  That is, a greenhouse-gas-rich atmosphere produces serial waves of tornadoes?  Sorry, no ironclad cause and effect.  But here is the downside.  If we postpone meaningful policy changes until we have universally accepted proof, it will almost certainly prove too late.  So a reasonable society would act prudently, and take precautionary measures.

To start – a look at the debate over whether this storm-ravaged American spring can be blamed on manmade climate chaos.  One local Twin Cities mainstream meteorologist – Paul Douglas – has been talking openly about the connections since the 90s.  Of course, he pays a price with attacks by ignorant trolls, but his commentary is always enlightening.  Among our local big names, he is the one who stands out by talking about the big-picture science.  Next, an article from Maggie Koerth-Baker that considers the question from the standpoint of scientific literacy.  And speaking of scientific literacy, environmentalist Bill McKibben takes us all to task for misunderstanding and mischaracterizing the science.  Third and fourth links are a piece he wrote for the Washington Post and an interview with Democracy Now.  McKibben, of course, tells the dark truth, but manages to have a little fun with a tongue-in-cheek warning – “Do not connect these events!”  The Democracy Now interview opens with a video collage of extreme weather reports.  The final link is a Start Tribune piece about the extreme weather baffling science.  Bill McAuliffe deals us the usual caveats, but to his credit, Paul Douglas’s connection-making comments feature prominently.





Next – Why are so many people so reluctant to take manmade climate chaos seriously?  I am sometimes accused of dwelling on the negative, reading depressing material, looking only at the dark side.  But I think you have to deal with the scientific facts, stare the real problems in the face, if you are to have any hope of change for the better.  First link – how Fox News builds collective, willful ignorance.  Next, a brief review of a new book that immediately hit my reading list.  Kari Marie Norgaard’s Living in Denial considers the question of why such multitudes of ordinary people manage to ignore so much scientific evidence that we are indeed powerfully changing the climate – and even those who ‘get it’ choose not to act to make change.  Finally, a very useful index of science-based answers to contrarian baloney.  It’s the heart of one of the most useful sites on the topic – http://www.realclimate.org




Finally – let’s look at a few examples – local and global – of what is already happening, and what is at stake if we unwisely choose to continue a ‘business-as-usual’ approach to greenhouse gases specifically and the environment generally.  First, a look at what is happening in the world of keepers of honeybees.  As you no doubt know, these crucially important pollinators of plants worldwide are in decline, thanks to our neglect of the environment.  Next, a fantastic view on and under the ice at both ends of the earth.  Please meet Paul Nicklen.  In this TED Talk, he shares his passion for protecting the polar environments.  It includes incredible pictures from his visits to both the Arctic and Antarctic.  The talk runs only 18 minutes, and is worth it.  If you want to invest a shorter time, watch the first five minutes, in which he reveals his transcendent experience at close quarters with an endangered spirit bear.  That’s a bear from the northern forest which has only about 200 comrades remaining.  If you stay with Nicklen – and he is engaging and entertaining – you will be treated to an impressive story of an encounter in the Antarctic with an unexpectedly hospitable leopard seal.  Good thing, too – the leopard seal is 12 feet long and long had a diabolical reputation.  If you watch this TED talk, I hope it comes to mind next time you see stories about the ‘bonus’ that is emerging.  That is, the polar oil and gas deposits that will become available as we foolishly melt the Arctic ice cap.  Remember, as Nicklen points out, all that ice-dependent life is at risk of our marauding.  And finally, a piece written by Johann Hari in the London Independent.  He points out various historical lessons we learned too late.  He sums it up as follows:  ”We have the choice of burning all the oil left and hacking down all the remaining rainforests – or saving humanity.”  Well said.




Planning for a Changed Environmental Future – or Not

An article in the New York Times this week provides some hope in this government-averse time.  Chicago, which suffered through a major heat wave in 1995, and which is projected to be more like Baton Rouge within the next few decades, is making major infrastructure investments.  This can occur, of course, only in municipalities, states and nations that are led by the forward-looking, science-respecting elected officials.  For comparison’s sake, I am also linking to a few recent examples of contrary leadership on environmental and other issues.  That is, the army of the greedmeisters, masquerading as populists.  We close this section with an insightful piece by just about the smartest conservative thinker you will find anywhere – David Brooks.  He spotlights wise, bipartisan leadership – in Britain!







A Northern Poll Tax – Dead for Now, Undead Later?

One of the mad endeavors currently pursued by the Minnesota legislature, currently controlled by Republicans, is requiring official picture identification to vote.  The GOP is selling this to the public under the guise of ‘common sense’ and ‘prevention of voter fraud.’  Fortunately, our governor sees it for what it is – first, a costly solution in search of an ephemeral problem (voter fraud has proven over and over again to be a fantasy), and a partisan power grab (guess which party’s interests would be harmed overwhelmingly by requiring voter ID).  Dayton vetoed this back-door poll tax. Of course, our versions of Tom Delay (remember the “Texans for a Permanent Republican Majority?”) will not give up – expect a constitutional amendment referendum.



Consumer Protection – Battle Royal

Judging by the ferocity of the Republican attacks against Elizabeth Warren, you would think we had no financial crisis in 2008.  You would think the financial industry was behaving in a completely responsible, above-board fashion.  You would think all was well with the working class, and she had proposed banning capitalism in favor of communism.  The truth is, her quest – to establish and then lead an empowered Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – flies in the face of the Republican agenda.  That would be, of course, to completely eliminate all regulation and enable and empower all industry, especially the financial industry. I hope you will read these stories and sign the linked petition.  The second link – the NPR story – is especially recommended.




Originalist Sin

I have long thought that the ‘originalist’ interpretation of the Constitution – spearheaded by the likes of Antonin Scalia – is really a front, a fig leaf , for corporatist policies.  Here, for your consideration, is a thoughtful argument that the very ‘originalist’ approach is contrary to what the Founders would have wanted.  For background, I am also linking to an explanation of the originalist movement.



The Most Fundamental Environmental Issue – Misrepresentation and Action

The first linked story about human population growth is not all bad.  It gets into growth around the world, and compares countries.  What irks me about it is the misleading headline.  It suggests a reduction in the growth rate here in the US might be a problem.  So far from the truth.  It also provides an opportunity to look into the work of two important organizations working on population issues.  They have my support and deserve yours.  The final link takes you to a hugely informative site – National Geographic has dedicated an entire series to an alarming milestone.  It rightly asks this question: “There will soon be seven billion people on the planet. By 2045 global population is projected to reach nine billion. Can the planet take the strain?”





Modern Military Life

To honor Memorial Day, two sensitive treatments of the experience of today’s American soldiers.  First, John Gorka’s Writing in the Margins.  This is very well recorded and worth your time.  Gorka is a very thoughtful, talented singer songwriter who deserves more attention.  Listen to the story of how he wrote the song.  For the second, a fine performance of “Day After Tomorrow” by Joan Baez.
This great song was written by Tom Waits – whom I strongly recommend to you, whether you can stand his raspy, wrecked voice or not.



“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.”  — Gore Vidal


Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Dave Vessel




3 responses

29 05 2011
richard cornell

Hi Mike

Once again, congratulations to your dedication to this project.



29 05 2011
Mike Murphy

Thanks, Rich! A labor of love. And you know something about that, friend! We are due for a lunch, seems to me. Watch for an invite!

8 06 2013
video downloader

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