IBI Watch 7/29/12

29 07 2012

The Joke’s on Us    //

Why is no one laughing?  The irony is palpable.  Here we are in the US, the nation with the most powerful (still) economy in the world.  That economic strength is built largely on technological innovation.  And that technology depends on harnessing science.  And now our country has become the capital of science denial – especially when it comes to climate change, which by the day becomes clearer as an existential crisis.

First, a few bits of the newest evidence that man-made climate change is just that – a problem that will become a threat to civilization as we know and love it, if we fail to act decisively and soon.  Here is a New York Times piece that explores how climate change endangers our infrastructure (already threatened by our anti-tax mania).  This article from Think Progress lists ten ways we are spoiling our own fun by wrecking the climate with our greenhouse gases – ice loss, massive dust storms, rising food prices, that sort of inconvenience.  And here is a piece suggesting we are ‘screwed.’  Maybe – if we are stupid enough not to act.  Only got time to read one link?  I recommend this pointed commentary by Paul Krugman, who doesn’t often wade into the climate crisis.  I especially like the way he explains a key James Hansen concept, the ‘climate dice.’  That one effectively debunks (if you are paying attention) a favorite denialist canard – ‘How can there be global warming?  It’s shivering cold today/this week/this month (fill in the blank).  Oops, the cold month fable no longer works.  Sorry, Rush.

Note that most of the inconvenient weather chaos and pain detailed above is right here in the good old US of A, where we have allowed pignorant pundits and oil-soaked politicians to spin a web of false controversy – effectively forcing our country to abdicate what should be its leading position in fighting this battle.  Hence the irony, but also the opportunity.  Opportunity?  Yes.  Climate change has not been real for many Americans because its immediate and imminent effects have not been front and center – they have been someone else’s problem. Desertification in Africa and Australia?  Don’t bother me.  Rising ocean in some Pacific paradise?  Who cares, anyway?!  Icebergs in the Arctic?  Give me that remote control, will ya?!  But that may be changing.

I have told many a young person that, were I their age, I would be furious at people my age for allowing this situation to spin so far out of control.  But what about people just a little younger than me, a baby boomer?  This study of Generation Xers is concerning but hopeful.  The ‘hopeful’ certainly doesn’t come from the documented resignation among 30- and 40-somethings, but rather from the high percentage of people who ‘get it.’  That is fertile ground for action.  This Grist article starts as a rant about how so few seem to care about global warming, but includes good ideas for getting the point across and sparking action.  Science Friday ran a very useful segment on science and policy.  Ira Flatow interviewed Shawn Lawrence Ott, David Gergen and Michael Lubell.  They tried not to be overtly political, but that is hard when one of our two major parties has decided to attack science and deny reality.  And to move the discussion to the big picture, check out the latest video installment from Annie Leonard, her Story of Change.  It’s all about adding the missing component in bringing about change.  You will have to watch to find out what that is.

 

Teasing out the Awful Climate Truth

Easily the most dramatic recent climate change story is the sudden, massive Greenland melt.  Here are an NPR story and one from the Guardian for anyone who has been totally fixed on the Olympic startup.  So – predictably, skeptics, be they pignorant or honest outliers, fixed on the cyclical nature of such melting – the old ‘it’s happened before, so shut up’ routine.  Or – ‘don’t worry, it’s caused by the warmer ocean, not atmospheric carbon’ – as if that were comforting.  But denial gets tougher all the time, almost by the day – see this new story from Marketplace’s Sustainability desk.  Here is the actual study cited – it includes a short video presentation by one of the scientists.  And just because it is such an excellent source of science and policy ideas, here is a blog that I just discovered recently – Climate Bites.  Just as reality does!  As Pogo said, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’

 

Unregulated Mayhem

The United States is responsible for 80% of the gun deaths recorded in the most advanced 23 countries combined.  I believe most Americans would support reasonable controls on weapons, particularly semiautomatic assault rifles.  As in so many other areas of public life since 1980, we have drunk the deregulation Kool-Aid when it comes to firearms, at great cost to public safety.  We really do live in Wayne’s World . . . but we don’t have to, says Michael Moore.

 

Voter Suppression

Heard about the Jimmy Crow Road Show?  Doonesbury is doing a public service by providing daily coverage.  Check these fan reactions.  Here is a sober reaction from commentator Leonard Pitts.

 

Learning Not Compulsory, but Strongly Recommended

I particularly liked this recent Star Tribune column on evolution by Peter M. Leschak.  How often do you see a writer publicly document a learning process that turned in a completely unexpected direction, causing a complete change of perspective?  Big kudos, Mr. Leschak!  His experience reminded me of one of my favorite climate change books, the brilliantly titled The Weather Makers.  The author, scientist Tim Flannery, says he was a climate change skeptic.  That was before he delved deeply into the science.

 

Planting the Future

Scientists say one of the best ways to mitigate manmade climate change is to protect forests, and plant new trees.  That’s what this project is all about.  It’s also a good time to remember the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who died nearly a year ago.

 

“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”  – Albert Einstein

 

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN

 

Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Connie Simon

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