IBI Watch 3/11/12

11 03 2012

Spring on the Fast Track – What the?!  //

Our latest string of ‘out-of-the-range’ temperatures is in full swing here in Minnesota.  60s this weekend, with some 70s predicted by St. Patrick’s Day.  Sure and everyone is smiling, slap-happy. I feel like we have not earned spring after a virtually nonexistent winter.  And there really is more at play here than a fluke, or a ‘few nice days before we return to normal. ’

Here in Minnesota, Paul Douglas consistently includes a large dose of big-picture truth with his weather reports.  Check his blog here – he has been effectively connecting the weather dots with the long-term climate picture, and sharing an abundance of learning resources concerning man-made climate change.  Here is one of dozens of links that I found interesting.  It connects to a site for the film Chasing Ice, which documents the work of James Balog.  A former climate skeptic, he traveled to the Arctic in 2005 to document evidence of man-made global warming.  I am right now assembling a mental list of denialists I would love to send to the Arctic to continue Balog’s work. Senator Inhofe, your berth is waiting.  Dave Dahl, right this way.  And Rep. Michael Jungbauer, we have a dedicated iceberg, just for you.  Don’t worry about the melting.

Leaving blowhards, and moving to trained experts, an entomologist and a botanist were Ira Flatow’s guests on Science Friday this week.  The topic – changes in the insect and plant world that can be traced to man-made climate change.

But back briefly to Douglas’ enlightening commentary.  A slight problem with his blog is that it contains no dates for links, and the material does not stay up very long.  Here is an excerpt from just last Sunday:

 “If I didn’t know better, I’d say Mother Nature is having a loud, violent nervous breakdown.  America’s weather has always been severe, but this is awe-inspiring and very sad.  The ‘Symphony of Seasons’ is playing wildly out of tune – a Beethoven concerto with a rap-funk beat.  Suddenly the weather maps make no sense.  Mile-wide tornadoes, epic floods, drought; flowers already in bloom in New England . . . We seem to have skipped a month. Or two.

 A warmer atmosphere holds more water, more fuel for storms.   2010 was Minnesota’s wettest year on record.  We also saw 145 tornadoes.

 Uh oh, I feel a climate change lecture coming on.  Spare us a Sunday sermon.  Why remind us?  Because this will be one of the three big stories of the 21st century.  Because someday your grandkids may come up and ask what you knew, when, and what you did about it.

Outbreaks of bizarre weather are a symptom – our atmosphere is running a slight fever.  If you’re not at all concerned, you’re not paying attention.”

Paul Douglas is providing a tremendous public service.  Too bad so few give a damn.


Tar Sands Oil – Its Source and Consequences

The saga of the Keystone XL pipeline – the anticipated conduit for transporting massive new quantities of dirty tar- sand crude to Texas refineries, and then the world market, seems settled, at least for now.  The Senate blocked a latest Republican effort to push the project forward.  But based on history, I say the thing will eventually get built.  The initial debate was actually over what amounts to a side issue – the exact path of the pipe in relation to the Ogallala aquifer.  While that is important, it pales in comparison to the environmental damage full development will do to the Canadian boreal forest ecosystem, which is in turn dwarfed by what releasing all the carbon from mining, processing, refining and consuming the filthy fuel will mean for the atmosphere and global temperatures.

Two presentations tell the story.  First, a TED talk from Garth Lenz.  It includes an impressive slide show of scenes from the natural and devastated lands to the north in Alberta.  Lenz details the largest tailings ponds – 9000 acres, unlined, on banks of Athabasca River – upstream of indigenous communities.  His presentation is called ‘The True Cost of Oil.’


Here is another TED talk from NASA meteorologist and climate activist James Hansen.  He does an impressive job explaining the basics of climate science – adding more CO2 to the atmosphere is ‘like throwing another blanket on the bed,’ creating an energy imbalance.  He also details some of his own experience, explaining how and why he took on the thankless task of fighting the deniers.  His latest book Storms of My Grandchildren, is on my reading list.  How about yours?

Back to Canada.  If you watched the Lenz talk, you have some idea what our neighbors to the north are hell-bent on doing to large swaths of their boreal forest.  It is clear that exploiting all that filthy bitumen will have a major effect on the warming of the planet.  So much so that a key sport that makes Canada Canada may be on its way to extinction, at least outside of climate-controlled arenas.

One more climate change article.  Joe Romm recently posted an illustrative look at the ice-melting pattern in the Arctic.  His article and graphics show how multi-year ice has been disappearing at an alarming and accelerating pace.  Scroll down to the 42-second video loop that tells the story in a moving picture.  This piece also includes another Hansen TED talk, plus a link discussing tornadoes and man-made climate change.


Krugman: More Stimulus and Education

Paul Krugman comes through regularly with insightful ideas that in another time might have been thought of as sensible and mainstream prescriptions.  Ah but that was then -this is now.  Consider these two.  In the first, the Nobel laureate explains what our US government should be doing to get the economy going again, and probably would be doing if President Obama were not hobbled by Congress.  If you don’t think that is true, just compare with Krugman what conservative hero Ronald Reagan was able to achieve using Keynesian principles back in the distant past of the 1980s.  In the second, he bemoans the modern Republican Party’s disdain for support of education, especially public education.  You have to love the Orwellian title of this piece.  Could it be just part of the strategy?  That an ignorant public is more likely to vote for pignorant (pretend ignorant) politicos like Inhofe, Cantor, McConnell, Bachmann, etc.?  Hey, let’s make college costlier, and close more libraries!


Tools and Projects 

Some years back, I worked with a gun enthusiast.  Jake sometimes wore a baseball cap with this logo – a handgun with the motto “It’s my right.”  When anyone was listening, he would ‘teach’ us:  “All this anti-gun talk is foolish.  A gun is nothing but a tool – like any other tool.  It’s meant to do a job.”  Can’t argue with that.  And it works like other tools.  You buy the big table saw, and you find projects to make use of it.  With the proliferation of guns (tools) in private hands following November 2008, and more recently as well, we need projects.  How about this one?  Or what about this one in Minnesota?  Fortunately, Minnesota’s governor thought better of this project.  Now here is a ‘gun’ project I could stand behind.  It actually might make public transit more enjoyable!


Walk at Your Own Risk

Over the last two weeks, I beat one of my favorite dead horses – the foolishness of 7000-pound vehicles designed to haul nothing more than ass.  I did not intend to write about SUVs at all this week.  But then this news story came along.  It’s not mentioned in this coverage, but I saw another piece that had the distracted Excursion driver say the pedestrian was ‘below his sight line.’   Note – the tank was moving forward, and the driver claimed a walking man could not be seen from his perch in the turret, er, uh, cab.  That same story said he would likely not be charged with any violation – not even inattentive driving.  Only in America . . . the rest of the world sighed in relief.


Pink Slime with that Burger?

The news had a little reminder this week about how strange our industrialized food supply is.  What’s for lunch?  Beef trimmings treated with a special condiment – ammonia.  Popular name?  Pink slime.  This stuff has been rejected by big fast food providers.  So what’s the news?  What Ronald McDonald can’t stomach, the nation’s schoolchildren must.  Yum.

This little story connects nicely with an opinion piece in AlterNet this week.  Jill Richardson notes that we export unhealthy fast food and snacks, while we import quality.  She also points out that healthy food is generally more expensive than unhealthy in America – because of our agricultural policy.  This piece does a nice job of looking at that big picture of America’s food industry, as well as how our unhealthy food habits affect the workings of our health system.  It even includes a word that’s new to me –‘obesogenic.’


Want to educate yourself on our food system?  I learned much from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.


Jewish Buddha Meditations

I ask forgiveness from my Jewish readers for stealing some of your humor.  These were just too funny not to share.  And hey – I have sometimes been praised for my Groucho impersonation – I don’t even need the fake nose.

  • Be here now.  Be someplace else later.  Is that so complicated?
  • Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip, joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the third sip, peace; with the fourth, a Danish.
  • Wherever you go, there you are.  Your luggage is another story.
  • Accept misfortune as a blessing.  Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems.  What would you talk about?
  • The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Oy.
  • There is no escaping karma..  In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited.  And whose fault was that?
  • Zen is not easy.  It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have?  Bupkis.
  • The Tao does not speak.  The Tao does not blame.  The Tao does not take sides.  The Tao has no expectations.  The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao is not Jewish.
  • Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.
  • Let your mind be as a floating cloud.  Let your stillness be as a wooded glen.  And sit up straight.  You’ll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.
  • Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers. Each flower blossoms ten thousand times. Each blossom has ten thousand petals. You might want to see a specialist.
  • Be aware of your body.  Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.
  • The Torah says, Love your neighbor as yourself. The Buddha says, There is no self. So, maybe we’re off the hook.


“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.”

– Barbara Ward


Contributed links or content to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Lucinda Plaisance




2 responses

11 03 2012

Re: “… you have some idea what our neighbors to the north are hell-bent on doing to large swaths of their boreal forest,” please keep in mind that it’s not all Canadians who want this. Indeed, it only seems to be our not-very-prime minister and the Albertans (the Texans of Canada). Lots of people from across the country flock to the tar sands for well paid work, but even some of them are starting to oppose the projects. We’re all fighting hard to stop the pipelines that will carry bitumen to the west coast of Canada. Conspiracy theory alert: some think that American enviro foundations are funding our opposition to the pipelines here in Canada so that the oil can go to the US to be refined before being shipped to Asian markets. Anyway, know that there are many, many Canadians fighting all of the pipelines to hell.

22 03 2012
Graffiti Moon

H.A.A.R.P. has been very active over the past 4 weeks. Here’s link:


Click on “1 month” on left of page, then click ‘update.’

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