IBI Watch 1/29/12

29 01 2012

Denying Gets Harder Every Day //

As our blissful collective denial of the man-made climate crisis lumbers on, evidence continues to mount about how our greenhouse emissions are dramatically changing the planet today, and what it all means for tomorrow.  Consider this set of maps of how growing seasons have migrated over the past 35 years.  That Mother Jones story reports on updated information from the US Department of Agriculture.  The Star Tribune also covered the changes this week, with a focus on Minnesota.  Bill McCauliffe’s article had the usual marveling by locals at how wonderfully warm things are becoming, and how – oh joy! – we can grow new stuff in our now more temperate garden zone.  Fortunately, we have truth-telling Paul Douglas at the helm in the Star Tribune weather spot.  Check some of his blog entries for the real deal beyond the giddy drop-the-parka stuff.  Note particularly the lack of ice on the upper Great Lakes.  When Douglas takes a break, as he did last week, we get the usual happy patter from his fill-in, Todd Nelson.  And BTW, when it comes to Minnesota winter bottom-out temperatures, the USDA figures may still be underestimating the changes.  The new, warmer zones, place the Twin Cities in the -20 to -25 zone.  Low temperatures for the past three winters, including the allegedly ‘cold’ 2010-11?  -22, -16, -11 (so far this year)  Notice a trend here?  Nah, me neither.

Growing prettier southern flowers in the Northland is one thing, but what about the big picture?  Try this recent New York Times article documents record greenhouse emissions.  And then there is that pesky not-so-permafrost problem.  Credit to Joe Romm, another indispensable climate truth-teller.

With all this going on, careful observers wonder, ‘How can we not see this, and try to do something about it?’  I came upon a useful answer in my reading recently.  It’s the ‘shifting baseline.’  It probably has something to do with our brain wiring, allowing us to deny hardship, soldier on, etc., and it also is a billion-dollar opportunity for the unstoppable planet wreckers, who think of nothing other than locating more fossil fuel and burning it up. . .  and amassing huge piles of profit in the process.  The shifting baseline allows us to think, ‘Sure it’s 60 degrees in the winter in NYC, but hey, the climate’s always variable.’  Or, ‘It sure is cold today – 25 degrees,’ never minding that it is still ABOVE what used to be the long-term average, and is ‘cold’ only by comparison with recent temps that have been 20-30 degrees ABOVE the old long-term averages.

This not-so-new ecological term came to my attention in Julia Whitty’s excellent Deep Blue Home.  She also meticulously, even poetically, describes the fantastic marine world beneath our view, while documenting what we have done to this richness with our wanton destruction and insatiable exploitation.  But that is a story for another post.  On the other hand, should you have time for a televised interview with the Mother Jones science writer, here is your ticket.

Captains and Job Creators

There is nothing humorous about the Italian cruise-ship disaster and its significant loss of life, destruction of valuable resources, and threat to the natural environment.  All the same, if the story that the captain drove the ship off course and closer in shore to show it off, all the while wining and dining a young female, has interesting elements.  Is there a better metaphor for unbridled ego and hubris?  I was thoroughly entertained by the parallels that columnist Al Lewis drew between the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, and celebrated ‘captains’ from other realms.

Feeding the Expanding Family

It’s the root cause of all environmental problems, and at the same time it is not to be discussed.  It is the burgeoning human population – which has passed 7 billion on its way to 9, 10 or even more billion.  At the same time, it is the humanitarian challenge of our age, considering that most of the rapid growth is occurring in countries where most of the population gets by on a bare-bones subsistence diet.  I recommend an excellent Marketplace series on the daunting challenges to feeding the poor while saving the planet.  In particular, check the Philippines story, where authorities have committed to educating and permitting women to choose the size of their families.  A historically powerful institution stands in their way.  What institution?  Think old fat guys in funny hats.

Better Life through Chemicals?

The agricultural revolution has been a massive success – though not unqualified.  Agricultural technology has dramatically increased yields, but at what cost?  Those yields have unarguably allowed the population to expand to its current planet-straining level, and pulled millions of those from poverty.  But the petrochemicals and genetic engineering have their costs – some currently clear and some emerging.

The granddaddy of all GMO companies, has been a driving force behind the use of chemicals and genetic tinkering to boost yields, and also to drive small farmers and other agricultural concerns from the industry.  Here is a Guardian story for some background.  And here is a ballot initiative in California dedicated to a seemingly simple and benign principle – knowing all the details about food products.  Who can argue with that?

Dead Zones Domestic and Foreign

The Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone – caused mainly by runoff from agricultural chemicals – has been much publicized.  But the collective attitude has been more or less a shrug. After all, those porpoises, turtles, fish, etc. – how many Congressmen can they buy?  But what happens when your dead zone is smack dab in the middle of your bordering country?  In other words, your chemical sewer is your neighbor’s backyard?  Such is the situation with the Red River of the North, and Lake Winnipeg.  Should be mighty interesting seeing how this one plays out.

No Fencing out These Enemies

Stephen Foster has done us a service by cataloguing the 20 most powerful, influential (read richest as well) conservatives in America today.  This is a quick read, and includes most of the usual suspects – Koch Brothers, Roger Ailes, Ruppert Murdoch – but also some that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve.  It also includes contact information for the entire gilded gang.  And if you want to know what the formerly shadowy bathtub brawler has in store for President Obama (should he fend off the Romney machine), read this.


Economy Improving . . . Some

Paul Krugman documents positive movement on the economic front.  But with Republicans standing in the way of real economic recovery (they have a hated president to un-elect, after all), don’t expect accelerating progress anytime soon.  And the lack of progress – and frankly, President Obama’s shortcomings, have some who supported him refusing to vote for him this time around.  I personally disagree, and hear echoes of 2000.  Remember that election?  ‘Not a dime’s worth of difference?’  ‘Gush and Bore?’  Though Obama has been far from perfect, and I am personally disappointed in many of his actions, we will live to regret – in a big way – electing Romney or Gingrich, and especially if the Republicans gain control of the Senate and hang onto the House. Here is a short piece written by my friend Jeff Carlson.  If I were a politician, I might say “I approve this message.”


The Haves and the What?!

You just gotta love the spin machine.  I don’t know if Frank Luntz is responsible for the latest, but it really is remarkable.  President George W. Bush – in my view – deserves credit for little, and blame for much, but I must admit he was right when he talked about his base – the ‘haves and the have mores.’  That of course was a clever update on the old ‘haves and have nots.’  But now we have a new one – the ‘haves and soon to haves.’  Thank you, Mitch Daniels!

This oddly reminded me of an old, recently passed popular preacher – the pie-in-the-sky guy.

Here are some alternate views, from David Morris and George Lakey.  See what we can learn from dissecting Republican propaganda – of which the Daniels tall tale is just the latest incarnation.  And learn what we might be able to achieve by being a little more, well, Nordic.  And anyway – even if all of us ‘soon-to-haves’ – we in the 99 percent – suddenly were as rich as the Koch Brothers, would we be a lot happier?  Scientists think not.  But what do scientists know anyway, with their climate change and evolution fantasies?!

An Excessively Bright Idea

This is an obscure cause, but one of my favorites.  If there ever was an easily achievable environmental victory, it would seem to be this one.  Still, the night lights just get brighter and brighter, burning more and more fossil fuel.  Read this fine story by Peter Leschak, about the relationship we could have with the amazing night sky, if only we paid more attention to our energy waste, and got over our fear of monsters in the dark.  This organization knows better.

“Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!”
Robert Burns



Contributed links or content to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Linda White




One response

31 01 2012
Charlotte Wilson

I only just found you today because of a link from “Small Business for Obama…” What you say here is, “it’s all good” as the expression goes…and you have a lot to say – you are even more verbose than I am. But I’ll make my message shorter.

I am very unhappy with President Obama when he claims to be encouraging, searching in earnest for new technology that will save our planet, save our climate, save our economy, stop pollution, eliminate our need for fossil fuels (yes, we will still need oil for fabrics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals), stop damaging our underground water supplies with fracking, etc… But now when we can now deliver this to him on a silver plate he ignores the actual answer. We can have a clean and efficient environment without losing jobs, and we can prove it.

Right now the inventor Peter Sumaruck is powering entire homes off the grid, next will be entire communities. This technology disproves the laws of thermodynamics by creating more energy coming out than is put in, and once turned this power production system will continue to operate for the life of the building – 30 to 50 years. How can a motor/generator operate continually for this length of time Mr. Sumaruck is the only person in the United States to run a motor at cool or ambient temperatures (maybe the only person in the world but we can’t say for those other countries).

This power system operates without fuel, and never any pollution – this is virgin power created on the site so there are no transmission towers and lines.

Our country does not need to worry about losing jobs because with any new technology, new industries always emerge.

Our government has been harassing Mr. Sumaruck since 1991 throught all those administrations, to include more than 12 attempts on his life.

We are not asking a lot – yes it would be nice if President Obama supported Pete Sumaruck’s efforts. Mr. Sumaruck could easily power all federal buildings in America and eliminate all energy costs for these buildings; that would be a savings of billions and billions of dollars.

If you want President Obama to win the election, you may want to encourage him to do this.

But we would be happy if our President would speak to the DOD and the DOE, especially DARPA, and demand that they stop harassing Peter Sumaruck, to include threats to his life and the elimination of his civil rights.

This would make us very happy. This would make the entire world very happy. By the way, Brazil has had Pete’s technology for several years now.

At the end of your column/collection of articles here on this site today, you left us with a quote; let me speak it again for you:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

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