Saturday, December 15, 2007

COP 13 Bali limp noodle


There's news from the Bali meeting. Highlights from the New Scientist blog (thanks to C. Brahic):

Friday: Having being booed by representatives of over 150 countries and countless NGOs and observers, the government of the United States finally conceded to a global consensus on climate change at 14.20 local time on Saturday on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Saturday: And then came the turn of the US. “We are not prepared to accept this formulation.” A stunned silence was followed by a crescendo of boos and hisses. But nations continued to accept the draft until Kevin Conrad, representative from Papua New Guinea, put in words what no-one dared say:

There is an old saying if you are not going to lead you should get out of the way and so I say to the United States: ‘We ask for your leadership but if you are not going to lead, leave it to us. Get out of the way.’”

-- “We have listened very closely to many of our colleagues,” replied P. Dobriansky, chief US negotiator and, after a few more of the dialectic detours which the US delegation has become known for, “we will go forward and join the consensus”.

And so the deal is done."

The NY Times fronts it as Reversal by U.S. yields Climate Plan and sums it up: "In a tumultuous final session at international climate talks in which the United States delegates were booed and hissed, the world’s nations committed Saturday to negotiating a new accord by 2009 that, in theory, would set the world on a course toward halving emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2050."

The UK Telegraph headlined that EU threatened Bush's climate talks, in that if the U.S. hadn't signed on to Bali, then the Europeans would've pulled out of the Exxon Mobil U.S. climate meeting at Honolulu 2008.

C. Glover (Telegraph) comments: "The bunch of Texan incompetents may have finally conceded that climate change is real, dangerous and happening, but no political leadership has resulted. They may have lost the war, but they are going to hold on to their guns."

Financial Times has an article on Gore lashing out at Bush at Bali: "My country is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali," Gore said, "[But] over the next two years the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now."

So the U.S. rolled over like a puppy; the deal was signed, but not before the puppy piddled on the document. BBC has a nice summary of the toothless deal agreed on. BBC reports that Critics are angry at Bush climate plan. BBC further reports that Europe was aiming for firm emission targets and that "the U.S. and Canada, on ideological grounds," were determined to avoid anything firm now.

So: no emissions caps thanks to the U.S.
And so, we must try again, despite the U.S.

Here's the UN portal for the Bali docs; here is the puppy pee-stained resolution that "decides to launch a comprehensive process to enable yadda yadda and scratch their heads until UN Copenhagen 2009.

Meanwhile, as Americans keep motorvating and shopping like there's no tomorrow, their bad carbon breath is changing the PH value of World Oceans. What will the ocean's growing acidity do to world fisheries? What will happen to the fish? NOAA says that increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are acidifying the oceans. Corals, not fish, are the ocean's "canary in the coal mine." As a result, so Science cover story, planetary coral reefs are in trouble. Which is ironic, since 2008 is supposed to be the International Year of the Reef (IYOR). Even more ironic is that NOAA also states that 2007 will be a top ten warm year for U.S. and the globe. Oops.

Last but not least (thanks Dermot at Idleworm), it appears that global warming is melting NORAD.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

the abominable Gringo Square


-- Update 12/13:

The Bali conference has been extended; a EU-led consensus of developing and developed nations has been reached; the U.S. is left behind as the last climate Humean of the planet; the U.S. pulls an Ayn Rand (the limp noodle version) and whines that saving world climate "would be too costly"; the UN thinks they're at the brink of agreement; but the U.S. rejects hard pollution limits because Adam Smith would reject them, too. A humbling post by H. Klein, Bush vs. Humanity at UN Climate Change convention, is at Alternet.

Klein blogs,

The news out of Bali reads like this: the whole world has come together to collectively try to solve mankind's biggest looming problem while the most selfish, greedy power on the globe, the U.S., sabotages every effort. The hatred being generated towards America is unlike anything I have ever seen in my travels, which started in 1969 and have included 4 filled-up passports, almost 100 countries, and over 6 years of living abroad.

-- Original post 12/12:

Today students are turning in term papers (finals week); depending on whether they are more interested in political philosophy, philosophy of science, or ethics, they write on (A) how climate change is a market failure, (B) how the Gaia hypothesis evolved to geophysiology, or (C) whether Deep Ecology is the value system of the future. This was the humanities version of the first climate seminar here (IDH 3100). Later this week a friend from geology and I will generate the syllabus for next term's science version of the climate seminar (IDH 3350). Next academic year the climate seminar at USF will be its own didactic unit, with its own course number.

Halfway around the planet, the UN is in the second week of climate talks at Bali. Here's the Intl Herald Trib's take 12/2 on the eve of the summit. Here's the FCCC's Bali-themed website. Here's the site of the United Nations Climate Change conference in Bali Dec 3-14. Here's the site for webcasts. Worth a look is the Bali Communique by global business leaders, a UK initiative. This resonates with another UK initiative, by British firms urging action on climate, as NY Times reported 11/25. Very cool: the UK Enviro minister John Hutton declared in Berlin on 12/10 the UK government project to switch over ALL British households to a wind energy fed power grid by 2020. Here's more on the UK wind power revolution in the Independent 12/12. On 11/30 NY Times reported on a study by McKinsey consultants detailing how the U.S. can cut 28% of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile the UN Environmental Programme warns that nonaction means poverty. (The UNEP report is here.) As yet, there's no deal in sight in Bali, at least this is how it looked on 12/10. And on 12/7 China scolded the US for not cleaning up its act.

So it appears the Bali conference started off auspiciously, with the new, better, and enlightened government of Australia signing on to Kyoto, what with the cool Aussie Environment minister and all, but unfortunately the United States plays the biospherical asshole again, calling the proposed global emission reduction of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 as "totally unrealistic" and "unhelpful" . Makes one wonder who is totally unrealistic and unhelpful here ...

There's a Bali blog by the good folks at the New Scientist.

Climate change is the perfect philosophical storm, which conspires against everything mainstream U.S. culture represents -- call it


at the upper right,

Adam Smith
-- market failure? no way! --

upper left,

David Hume
-- stop hockey sticks! mistrust causal forcing! --

lower right,

Ayn Rand
-- solidarity? you mad? dontcha love freedom? --

and at the lower left,

the red-eyed Baby Jesus with fangs
-- wreck nature,

pray for rapture,
and don't be left behind!--

The superstructure of college teachers, who, with few exceptions, tend "to slander the outward," as Emerson put it, reinforces the Gringo Square. Over climate change, U.S. college teachers flunk: a sorry blend of narcissism and skepticism; consumerist chickenshits with PhDs but no imagination. The Postmoderns sneer and snicker ("scientists? bunch of liars!"); the Analytics gasp, frown, and scoff ("holistic patterns? that's, like, so over."); and both teams have been driven into the defensive. So Gaia grins and looks at her watch. O, it's late, look at that -- already payback time!

Miami Herald wrote 11/28 on what global warming will cost Florida, a good first step but too blue-eyed given the AR 4 scenarios. The Guardian reports 12/6 that more than half of the Amazon will be lost by 2020 (the WWF report is here). Destroying peatland releases vast amounts of CO2, so New Scientist posts 12/11. Associated Press reports 12/12 that the Arctic melt has now broken five historic records. Yup, tipping point, baby! There may be no ice on the North Pole in five year's time ... imagine that.

Enough for today. Next week I'll give a few lectures overseas on climate change, cultural evolution, and Enlightenment. A more important lecture is this: Al Gore's 12/10 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Oh, and a fellow Regensburger, the Pope, declared today that he really hates me.

Update July 2008:

... well, maybe His Holiness doesn't anymore. The "he really hates me" link --if you checked you'd know -- goes to an article with the title "The Pope condemns the climate change prophets of doom," by S. Caldwell, 13 Dec 07, in the Daily Mail. So I felt rather condemned by the Pope, which made me sad, since we're both from Regensburg (he taught there; I studied there). But -- tempora mutantur, Summus Pontifex Ecclesiae Catholicae Romanae et mutantur illis. Turns out His Holiness retracts the papal condemnation of the Mad Hun and his Gaia-loving ilk: AP reports 12 July 08 that Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday he wants to wake up consciences on climate change during his pilgrimage in Australia.

Excuse me while I gloat.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

carbon ranking 2007


The British NGO Oxfam released a study that shows natural disasters have quadrupled as compared to 20 years ago, an increase due to global warming.

Oxfam's Report Up in Smoke is here (PDF, 96 p).

Here are data from another NGO, Germanwatch, a Bonn- and Berlin-based think tank and foundation focused on North-South justice, sustainability, and "climate protection" (Klimaschutz).

Germanwatch is affiliated with the US NGO Worldwatch Institute and publishes the European version of the annual State of the World Reports. It gets its funding from the Heinrich-Böll Foundation. Germanwatch releases the Klimaschutz-Index or "climate protection index". Here are links (pdf files) to the reports 2006 and 2007.

The ten largest CO2 emitters, in percent of world emissions, are:

1. USA 21.82 (22.9)
2. China 17.94 (14.9)
3. Russia 5.75 (6.1)
4. Japan 4.57 (4.8)
5. India 4.15 (4.2)
6. Germany 3.19 (3.4)
7. Canada 2.07 (2.2)
8. UK 2.02 (2.2)
9-10. Italy 1.74 (1.8)
9-10. South Korea 1.74 (1.8)

Source: Germanwatch, Klimaschutzindex 2007, table 2, p. 5 (Germanwatch, Klimaschutzindex 2006, table 3, p. 9)

The 2006 global average concentrations of CO2 were higher than ever in measurements coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization. The "climate protection index" by Germanwatch is a ranking determined by the national sum-total figure of per-capita CO2 emissions (50 percent: energy, transportation, buildings, and industry); the national power-related CO2 emissions (30 percent: national status quo); and the climate policy of the country in question (20 percent of the ranking number: domestic and international policies). The index is a ranking of the 56 nations that are collectively perpetrating 90 percent of global CO2 emissions. (For tables, cf. Klimaschutzindex 2007, p. 4-5; for calculations, l.c. p. 8-13).

So here's the Carbon Ranking 2007, with the good guys coming out on top, and the evil guys hitting rock bottom:

1. Sweden
2. UK
3. Denmark
4. Malta
5. Germany
6. Argentina
7. Hungaria
8. Brazil
9. India
10. Switzerland

11. Latvia
12. France
13. Rumania
14. Iceland
15. Belgium
16. Mexico
17. Lithuania
18. Marocco
19. Portugal
20. Norway

21. Slovakia
22. New Zealand
23. Slovenia
24. Bulgaria
25. Czech Republic
26. Japan
27. Poland
28. Singapore
29. Netherlands
30. Estonia

31. Italy
323. Turkey
33. Ireland
34. Croatia
35. Algeria
36. Finland
37. Byelorus
38. Spain
39. Austria
40. Cyprus

41. Greece
42. Russia
43. Indonesia
44. Ukraine
45. Luxembourg
46. South Africa
47. Australia
48. South Korea
49. Iran
50. Thailand

51. Canada
52. Kazakhstan
53. USA
54. China
55. Malaysia
56. Saudi Arabia

Nice going, USA! In ecological terms, you're rock bottom! Under the Climate-Changer-in-Chief, you're worse than Kazakhstan! Hahaha!

Happier news come from Australia, where the Climate-Changer-in-Second John Howard suffered a resounding defeat, and the Labor Party Leader Kevin Rudd won the election. (Note: in contrast to the USA, Australia enjoys fair and square elections -- while Ausssies have electronic voting booths, just like Gringos, they get printed receipts of their vote, unlike the Gringos, which makes it harder to manipulate numbers.) Indonesia, UK, and NZ congratulated Rudd's victory as a victory for Kyoto. Rudd won on a platform charging that Howard "is out of ideas". Rudd also signaled that the Aussies will pull out of Iraq. Meanwhile, water predictions for Queensland are grim, and there's crazy weather in South Australia and Victoria.

New Zealand's glaciers,whose meltoff made news in September, are making more news; NZ's NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) reports that New Zealand's glacier melt is now quantifiable as an 11 percent loss in the past 30 years, and as a 90 percent loss in the 12 largest glaciers in response to global warming, and that without change in the snowline. According to J. Salinger/NIWA, NZ's big twelve "have passed the tipping point."

San Francisco's Bay Area Air Quality Management District is holding public hearings on whether fireplaces should be banned. They will have to ban them eventually since there's no choice -- it's part of the great cultural evolution now underway. Here's a good post by Kunstler on this cultural evolution. Here's the Red Cross advisory for drought-stricken Georgians.

The dollar keeps losing against the Euro. Here's a map of world oil reserves, with each country's size proportional to the amount of oil it owns. The size of Iran!!

Meanwhile, Iran's prez wants to trade oil for Euro. US Grunts in Iraq commit suicide. (Note that the US deaths mentioned, 15,000, don't include combat-related fatalities recorded in Germany's military hospitals; neither do they include the classified numbers of mercenaries or "private contractors" KIA.) Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia U), 2001 Economics Nobel Laureate and formerly chief economist of the World Bank, published an informative essay on "the catastrophe that was the Bush administration, called Reckoning: the Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared in an interview that the US is creating the worst of all worlds.

And for those of you who want to know more about PEAK OIL, here's a great 1 min video by the cartoon animator Bruce Woodside (thanks Idleworm!)


Saturday, November 17, 2007

worst case acceleration


The biospherical switch-over is speeding up. "Climate change is going faster than our worst-case scenarios five or six years ago." The United Nations, by the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), and via the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued the Fourth Assessment Synthesis Report (AR4). Here's the draft copy of the AR 4 Summary for Policymakers. News reports are by AP, NYT, Spiegel, IHT, and Nouvel Obs. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon sums up: we're at the tipping point. Immediate steps are needed to avert a global climate disaster.


(1) 11 of the past 12 years rank among the 12 warmest since 1850.
(2) The science is now as solid as it'll ever get.
(3) The expert consensus is unanimous.
(4) Climate change is accelerating ever faster.
(5) Climate change can't be stopped anymore. We can slow it down.
(6) We have 2-3 years to engineer radical, revolutionary change.
(7) AR4 is conservative: expect worse.
(8) By 2020, African crops will be down 50%.
(9) By 2020, up to 250 billion Africans will suffer water shortages.
(10) In 2006, 8.4 gigatons of carbon were put into the air. That is almost identical to the worst case prediction for that year.
(11) If all emissions stopped now -- no more cars anywhere/immediately -- global sea levels would rise 1.5 m (4.8 ft).
(12) If/When Greenland & West Antarctia melt off, global sea levels will rise 12 m (40 ft).
(13) By 2100 temps will rise at least 2-4 C (3.6-7.2 F) with high probability.
(14) By 2100 temps may rise 6.4 C (11.5 F) with some probability.
(15) Up to 70% of all life on Earth may go extinct.
(16) The US tried to get rid of a section of AR4 titled "Reasons for Concern" that offered a litany of likely or possible consequences. (see also here.) Not only is the Bush administration largely responsible for this impending planetary catastrophe; they also tried to cover it up. And yet, no impeachment. Bizarre.

Florida's landmass will shrink, either significantly or dramatically. The Everglades will salt up. We'll lose all the beaches. All of them. The remainder of dry land will convert into scrubland. The regional biome won't absorb the predicted change in precipitation patterns. Today, waiting in some office, I sat near a TV monitor; the talking head called what's happening a "century drought". Florida's rainy season has turned into a bizarre dry season. Things are getting worse in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. There's also a drought in Montana. And in Virginia. The water crisis is on. For the same anthropogenic reasons, climate-change induced precipitation shifts, droughts are hitting South Australia, Western Australia, North New Zealand, and South China's crop-producing regions. There's a suicide wave among Australian farmers. Here's some basic info on climate change and food production, in an interview in the Washington Post.

Meanwhile cyclone Sidr wreaked havoc in Bangladesh.

And the worst power plant with the highest carbon emission of any point source on the planet (43 megatons/year), pollutes in Taizhong, Taiwan.

40 % of Tampa water is used to water lawns.
17 % of Tampa water is lost in leaky pipes.


Friday, November 02, 2007

worsening U.S. climate


It's been less than two weeks since the last real news update (the green revolution speeds up), but somehow the events are, well, speeding up. Let's see what order can be imposed on the melee.

Mexico carries today's headline with the unprecedented surprise flooding of Tabasco state, the inundation of the state capital Villahermosa, the displacement of close to 1 million people, the rescue calls of 300,000 people, and the announcement by prez Calderon, who calls the event one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the country. There's excess water also in the USA, in a spot that had its fill already -- heavy rains flood part of New Orleans. Meanwhile, the fifth hurricane of the 2007 Atlantic season, Noel, soaked the Bahamas 11/1; the death toll is now at 120. Consistent with the expectation of increased seasonal swings, the 2006 season ended with "I" (hurricane Isaac), whereas this season is now at "N".

Climate modeling predicts a growing envelope of weather amplitude variation (in plain English: crazy weather, and worse to come). It also predicts a geographic shift of precipitation patterns -- too wet in one spot/moment; too dry in another spot/moment. So while there are floods in Mexico and Louisiana, there are droughts elsewhere. The NYT 10/21 had an in-depth feature on the dwindling Sierra Nevada snowpack (which provides most of the water for Northern California), the dwindling waters of Lake Mead (ditto Nevada), and the flow reduction of the Colorado River, the point being that the future is drying up. East of the Mississippi, a drought of historic proportions affects Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia as well as parts of the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Virginia. Florida doesn't have enough water for its booming population either, and much of U.S. could see a water shortage.

Meanwhile, there are record-breaking temperatures in NYC, with the city having been on the brink of the warmest October ever. Canada's glaciers hit a 7000 year low. India's tigers are being driven to extinction. The governments of the nordic nations Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Icelands on 10/31 sounded alarm over the melting arctic. And as temperatures rise, Greenland greens.

Carbon emissions force the planetary climate system into a new hot steady state, and the hotter it gets, the quicker soil dries out. With heat comes drought, and with drought comes fire. The California fires of 10/19-26 are now record-holders; the flight of 1 million people by 10/23 was the biggest evacuation in California history. By 10/24, the property damage tallied up to more than US $ 1 billion. The was even a rare voice of dissent in the corporate media -- CNN of all companies admitted that the fires are caused by global warming. The fires produced 8.7 mio tons CO2, more than what, say, the state of Vermont produces in a year, and which creates a positive feedback loop--the more CO2, the more fire, the more smoke, the more CO2. Next to the poop loop, there's the fire loop.

The Nazis in the still-not-impeached gringo government staged a fake press conference at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with FEMA workers playing the part of reporters. When found out, it backfired. Anthropologists and historians of the next century will have to seek their own answer to why gringos are so placid -- I'm at a loss here: the gringo Nazis fake press conferences, and the suburban zombies commute with support-our-troops stickers on their SUVs. No one strikes. No one complains. Everyone's on Prozac. And when some brave citizens do stand up against the gringo perpetration of climate change, it's the protesters that get arrested, and the perpetrators remain unimpeached.

America's Darwin awards now abound: Japan quits helping out with the neocon middle east adventure; Turkey no longer loves the U.S.; taking the global lead in the fight against climate change, the EU memberstates France and Britain are ready to lay out eco-friendly tax cuts; the U.S. torture methods were first used by the Gestapo (not exactly an winning ticket); the last days of the Petro-Dollar have arrived; Iran sells oil for Euro; the US dollar is in free fall against the Euro; the US threatens Iran with war; the new-and-improved corporate science in the US urges pregnant mothers to eat perfectly safe mercury-laden fish; the climate-changer-in-chief vetoed health care for American children, oil prices will likely to stay very high (funny that so few of my students ever talk about "peak oil"); America is past its zenith; the gringo-Nazis' foreign policy collapses; the most expensive commuter cities, with the dumbest infrastructural design, are Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and (yeah!) Tampa. [Full disclosure: the mad hun commutes by bicycle and doesn't belong to the ownership society.] And here's a slide show of the ten most livable cities on the planet, none of them in the continental U.S., of course.

UK's The Guardian launches a new website with information how to reduce one's carbon footprint. Kunstler, of The Long Emergency's fame, posted a well-informed essay on the US Darwin awards called assumptions.

There's even a paleontological datum to note: until two weeks ago, we've known that the worst of all mass extinctions in the Earth's history, a quarter billion years ago, the event that ended the Permian and cleared the way for the Triassic, was due to climate change, and I've taught so only a month ago in the classroom. Turns out that not only one, but actually four out of the past five mass extinctions (at present, we are the cause of the sixth) were associated with greenhouse phases rather than icehouse phases. The researchers, predictably not in the U.S., are at York and Leeds; the paper's in Proceedings of the Royal Society B; you can get the non-technical info here; the paper (PDF file) is here. O yes, and an environmental audit for the UN, by UNEP, published 10/26, declares humanity's very survival being at risk. You can access the detailed Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-4) here. The world's carbon sinks are losing the ability to soak up emissions. As George Monbiot reminds us in his review of Cormac MacCarthy's The Road:

-- our dependence on biological production remains absolute.

Have a nice day.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

climate philosophy web


The Mad Hun is counting replies to the invitation sent out a few days ago. The invitation reads: "As climate change turns into a new reality, it is acquiring philosophical significance. I would like to set up a listserv for philosophers interested in climate and its implications. Participants will trade relevant and timely information about conferences, calls for papers, publications, and research issues. Please send your name with preferred email, institutional affiliation, and position (e.g. professor, grad student, etc.) to Kindly put "philosophy & climate" in the subject line of your reply. Members on the list will receive monthly electronic updates about climate-related items in our profession. Thank you very much for your consideration. Sincerely, Martin Schönfeld, PhD; Professor of Philosophy; University of South Florida"

Now I set up a data file for the first newsletter (coming soon). The statistics are nice. There are replies from colleagues at institutes and universities in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lesotho, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and USA.

The Climate Philosophy Web is now going to be tied to the University of Akureyri, the University of Auckland, Queen's University Belfast, Freie Universität Berlin, Universität Bern, Birkbeck College London, Bogazici University of Istanbul, Vrije Universiteit Brussel/Université Libre de Bruxelles, Cambridge University, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), Cardiff University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Charles Sturt University, Clemson University, Colorado College, Cornell University, Technische Universiteit Delft, Universität Dortmund, Durham University, Drexel University, University of East Anglia, University of Essex, Flinders University, European University Institute-Florence, Universiteit Ghent, Harvard University, University of Hertfordshire, University of Hull, Imperial College London, Indiana University, Keele University, University of Leeds, University of Leicester, National University of Lesotho, University of Liverpool, University College London, Royal Institute of Philosophy London, London School of Economics, University of London, Université catholique de Louvain, University of Malta, University of Manchester, Université de Montréal, National Chi Nan University, Newcastle University, New School for Social Research-New York, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, University of Nottingham, Oxford University, University of Queensland, University of Reading, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Universita di Pisa, Simon Fraser University, University of South Florida (well, obviously!), University of Southampton, Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm, Universität Stuttgart, University of Tennessee, Towson University, Public Admin Institute for Turkey and the Middle East, Tuskeegee University, Universiteit Twente, Vaxjo Universitet, University of Victoria, University of Wales, University of Washington-Seattle, and Universität Zürich.

I suspect some of this outpouring of intellectual solidarity and willingness to explore new philosophical vistas must be compassion for sea-level Floridians who will lose their dry land sooner than they think. But then again, climate change is going to be felt at all of the addresses listed above, and with the possible exception of our friends in Sweden and Iceland, no one will benefit. Thanks, G W Bush! Speaking of the climate changer in chief, here is a great clip: the gringo Nazi points out that we're in Iraq since "Mandela is dead! Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas!" (watch here).

Meanwhile, the White House severely edited global warming impact testimony. And finally, here's a funny account of the peak oil conference at Houston, the most nature-hating city in the universe -- and the destination of the outgoing USF neocon provost.

Ah, life is good.


Monday, October 22, 2007

the Green Revolution


The pendulum is now swinging in the other direction. It seems the political bob reached the end of its anti-environmental swing in 2006 here, when USF nuked the Environmental Science and Policy Dept. (which is now a program in Geography), because, so the university's provost to the department's head, "the environment is not a political priority anymore". That was then. But now, the provost is packing her bags to leave for Texas, an appropriate destination of neocons on the retreat, and the former departmental chair and me are designing a team-taught seminar on climate change for the Honors College, intended as a requirement equal to the humanities seminar and the seminar in natural science. The kids might need the information sooner than thought, according to Rolling Stones.

Meanwhile, drought conditions are spreading through the U.S.; November is predicted to have above-normal temperatures; supply concerns push oil to a new record; Miss Universe rejects fur; China will build a large wind power plant; global warming starts to divide the republicans; world climate science silences the skeptics; the U.S. Senate is going to propose a bill on global warming; Switzerland's conservative politics goes green; only idiots drink bottled water; California is going to sue the Bush administration over a law to limit carbon emissions; even the corporate news channel CNN takes stock of a planet in peril; suddenly ordinary cement is contextualized in terms of carbon emissions; and even the notoriously corporation-friendly Tom Friedman turns over a new, green leaf.

Then again, the empirical context truly sucks, so the speeding up of the green revolution (and the USF provost's retreat to neocon haven) comes as no surprise. Each of the real news is bad. First, the Energy Watch Group issued a report today according to which oil production peaked already in 2006. Second, Mama Gaia's self-regulation is starting to fail -- oceans soak up less CO2 than before, which means that the oceans' ability to work as carbon sinks is shrinking. You're not misreading this. This is as frightening as it sounds, and all the trends to date point in Lovelock's direction. What to do? The logic is ruthless: zero emissions are needed to avoid a catastrophe.

In Philosophy, South Carolina's Clemson University leads by example: here's a call for papers (deadline Nov 30) for a conference on human flourishing & restoration in the age of global warming. More power to you guys! Meanwhile the Florida Philosophical Association is going to meet in Tallahasse Nov 9-11, but the organizers selected only papers on topics they've done in the past -- not a single paper on climate. What a bummer. Despite our conference here in 2006, despite the accelerating green revolution, and despite the lousy climate news, Florida philosophers are not yet willing to reflect on CLIMATE as a notion.

But they will do so sooner than they think.


Monday, October 15, 2007

climate Nobel 2007


You got to admit that this is cool.

Makes me twice as proud of our students and my colleagues who created last year's First Int'l Conference on Climate & Philosophy -- in 2006, such a step took guts for Americans, particularly in Florida.

Now I extend my condolences to the losers.

My heart goes out to the climate-changer-in-chief, who was in Crawford trying to fire up his chainsaw (but he was out of oil).

I wish I could give his Nazi sidekick a hug, who left to snarl at an undisclosed location in a Blackwater ICBM bunker.

I truly feel for the oil tanker lady, what with Russians telling her that Gringos who torture have zero moral authority, and Turks telling her that they'll like to invade Iraq.

Here's the Nobel Committee's SPEED READ
on why the winner is the winner.

From the Mad Hun in Tampa: congratulations!

In other news, PetroChina is now the 2nd largest company on the planet, after the big Nr. 1, Exxon Mobil. Well, when the water runs out, there'll always be oil. Or not. Meanwhile the bombing of Appalachia for coal continues on this side of the Atlantic, while on the far side, the Eurostar is getting up to speed in the U.K. Sea levels, on both sides, are expected to rise 2 meters/6 feet. And even that estimate may be too low. Oh, and Der Spiegel reports on the U.S. hostility to the Nobel shared by Gore and the UN IPCC. And here is Krugman's media review about republican hatred of the 2007 Climate Nobel.

Last week an odd thing happened in the Climate Seminar. I was testing the honor students on language skills, firing off terms such as "biome" or "bleaching" or "insolation" (with an "o") at them. They flung definitions right back at me, as quick as you could blink.

I only stumped them with truly cruel words such as inselberg, waldgrenze, baumgrenze, and, yes, kampfzone (my favorite), before moving on to another question. Consider E O Wilson and J Lovelock. Both founded new reseach programs. In both cases, the fields of inquiry they opened are not their turf -- Wilson's an entomologist, Lovelock a meteorologist -- and each of the new fields is a fusion of two older fields -- Wilson fused sociology and biology to sociobiology. So what fields did Lovelock fuse? Clearly the Gaia hypothesis is about the Earth; Earth, in Greek, is "geos," so geology is field # 1. And field # 2? Um ... no? Well, think "Gaia" -- what does that stand for, heuristically, conceptually, or (hint!) functionally? No? OK, try this: think about medicine or biology, and tell me what specific discipline deals with functions, oscillations, rhythms, feedback loops, pulses, or the processes that constitute health and life of an organism (or super-organism, for that matter). Blank stares.

Would you believe that quick and articulate students who know their benthos, deme, gyre, and tolerance limit like the backs of their pants, didn't guess "physiology"? I mean what's up with that? Won't this compute? We're talking about Lovelock's simple insight that the biosphere is a self-regulating system, with a persistent yet far-from-equilibrium atmosphere -- that Nature involves cycles (like the carbon cycle) and contains circulation networks (like ocean currents). But none of the honor students linked "physiology" to Earth sciences in the context of climate change. That is profoundly strange.

Only in America. Another cultural marker, then: the set of causes explaining the US Republican delay in grasping CLIMATE CHANGE adds up to the following ingredients -- first, the self-love of First World Babies only interested in themselves or their inner child, blind and deaf to environmental outsides, and thus in cognitive denial of NATURE (Americans on Goethe and Climate Change" 1/10); next, the freeze-frame image of nature by monotheists raised to believe in a creation that's done and hence static ("The Christian Climate Delay" 10/10); and now, the blank stares about physiological aspects of the biosphere -- blank stares that define the mechanical dualists of the Far West who liken nature to a machine or a clockwork and so wouldn't think of geophysiology.

So here you have it. A Nobel and a new word: Geophysiology.

Remember it. Cultural evolution depends on it.

Update 2008:

Here's Gore's televised Nobel acceptance speech (22 minutes)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Christian climate delay


Another ten days have gone by, and some news want to be organized. That'll be the first part for today. Last time's questions -- on why "CLIMATE" or "NATURE" do not compute in the protestant American mind; on how neocon Gringos think differently; or on why the shouts of "global warming" have fallen on deaf Republican ears for 15 years -- need clarification. That'll be the second part.

First, the news. The Arctic melt unnerves the experts. Which is to say that the arctic heat wave stuns researchers. The UN warns that climate disaster is upon us. Record news come from Melville Island, with its thawing, changing contours, and a temperature of 22 C (71.6 F) at a place where until last year 5 C (41 F) had been normal. Meanwhile in Greenland, glacial acceleration has begun. If all of Greenland melts, world sea levels will rise by 7 m (23 ft).

John Howard, the smarmy Bush from Down Under, said the climate "shift" is no cause for panic. That's nice to know. The NOAA folks predict another warm winter for the U.S. The U.S. has lost its aura of competence. Europeans are angry after Bush climate speech "charade". Bush tries, but fails to change his image on climate change. The Republican Logo has become more sincere, looking now like an elephant going to jail. This year's Chicago Marathon was definitely too hot to finish. The greenest cities on the planet are Stockholm, Oslo, Munich, Paris, and Frankfurt. And here's a short video clip of the trains not allowed in the U.S.

fastest train in the WORLD 500 Km/h - video powered by Metacafe

So then. Why are neocon Gringos so clueless? It certainly didn't help to have been the most powerful nation. Anybody would have become a tad self-complacent. So it's no surprise that climate change caught this society off guard. Add to this the fact that the US Republicans are the world's top consumers, and you get a culture out of whack, which left a sane give-and-take attitude behind for the sake of an insane take-and-take-more posture. You wind up with an acquisitive society, of needy, narcissist, and oddly frightened people, in love with their self-reflection and only seeing the world as their oyster.

That the world can be seen as such is a Biblical tenet, and the neocon USA happens to be the most extreme Christian society on the planet. Other peoples caught on to the ramifications of Climate Change more rapidly simply because they're not trapped in the Republican beliefs. The reason neocon Gringos had been so slow on the uptake ties to the articles of their faith. They believe that Nature was made in one act of creation, and after the deed was done, nothing's supposed to happen anymore. Nature is not supposed to change afterwards; that would violate the faith and be plainly unfair. Conservative Americans find it already painful to accept the evolution of life. But to accept the possibility of an evolution of nature is just too much to ask. Republicans grow up with the trust that Nature is like a dead ticking clockwork, with moving parts, but overall steady and inert. That now Nature emerges, instead, as a dynamic, organic, and self-regulating structure, and that the watch is melting, in Daliesque fashion, right as we look, is something White Anglo Protestants couldn't react to since it goes against their social identity. Perhaps the Global Village shouldn't have expected a proactive attitude from US Neocons either. So perhaps we shouldn't judge too harshly. It's already bad enough that Nature is reordering itself. It must be worse for Republicans to discover, through simply following the news, the flaws in their faith.

Then again, is such a conclusion fair? Should one let U.S. Christianity off the hook so easily? E. O. Wilson's 2006 The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth is the appeal by a scientist to a Christian -- not the other way around. J. Lovelock's 2006 The Revenge of Gaia contains a 1988 quote by Mother Theresa who said, "Why should we care about the Earth when our duty is to the poor and the sick among us. God will take care of the Earth." All the pious talk about becoming good stewards notwithstanding, that is the reality of Christendom. How embarrassing. In the end it will boil down to this. The world's children, when grown up and struggling with the burden of climate change put on their shoulders by God's Own Country, the U.S. of A., will ask you what you did, here and now, in 2007, when the biospherical trendlines had already become as obvious as a pie in the face. They will ask you angrily, because you cheated them out of their future. Imagine you reply in defense of Joe Six Pack, "well, I come from a normal home; we just thought the way everyone did, so how could I have known any better."

Would the kids let you off the hook with this answer?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Goethe & climate change


The Arctic melt has reached a tipping point. The fight for the top of the world has begun. The UN Climate Change Conference 2007 will take place 3-14/12 in Bali, Indonesia. And here are the top 100 ways global warming will change your life.

Why is the climate revolution taking so long? The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is 15 years old. The Kyoto Protocol is 10 years old. A global majority wants action. But in the initial gathering 9/24 for the Bali talks, the U.S. president was a no-show. Instead, he hosted his own meeting to derail the UN climate talks. That U.S. policies cause planetary climate change does not trouble Americans. They have not impeached Bush. Why does the USA delay the international response to climate change? Why does the notion "CLIMATE" or the word "NATURE" not compute in the Republican mind? Compared to other cultures, how do neocon Gringos think differently?

Recently an odd thing happened at work that may be part of the answer. We had a guest here, a philosophy professor from up north, who talked about a poem by J. W. v. Goethe, who is for us Krauts what Shakespeare is for Gringos. The poem is called "Wanderer's Nightsong". It's the second poem with this title; the first one he wrote on the slope of a forested mountain in 1776, a year famous for another event. This poem here he wrote on the wall of a hunting lodge in 1780.

"Wanderer's Nightsong II" was quite popular; the romantics put it on their flag; Schubert & Liszt wrote music for it, and today it survives as a lullaby. Milan Kundera translated it:

On all hilltops
There is peace,
In all treetops
You will hear
Hardly a breath.
Birds in the woods are silent.
Just wait, soon
You too will rest.

A bit creepy, eh? Fast forward 227 years to here & now, or to USF a week ago, and enter a cultivated American professor who reflects on what the poem may mean. To the general approval of his American audience, he declared that the poem is about The Subject. Forget hilltops and treetops. It's not about mountains, trees, birds, or sunsets--it's not about the outdoors in general, or The Object, or The Other; -- no, said the American, the poem is about people. It's about us. It's about our feelings. It is about the Self. And the other Americans sat there, obediently nodding, and thoughtfully wrote it down: Goethe is "me". The last sound of the poem, the hooting "you-too" voice coming from the evening forest is not an owl either -- Uhu in German; Goethe's original "ruhest du" puns on it -- no; who speaks there, so the American scholar from up north, is the child.

So the Global Village has been waving large-lettered signs that say "Global Warming" and "Climate Change" and "Biosphere" and "Hello?" at the USA for 15 years, and only now & ever so slowly are the Gringos coming around. That's an entire culture, nearly five percent of the global village, operating like this professor who just minds his Subjectivity and wonders about the inner child when reading on Nature.

Oh, and then there was this blackout and the denatured consumers got scared at the sight of the Milky Way. Tell that to Goethe.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

blood, oil, & climate


Mama Gaia is laughing at us. She's just thrown yet another feedback loop our way. Step on the carousel and hold on tight. Record Arctic heating equals thawing Tundra soil, which, regrettably, equals melting Mammoth goo. This equals massive Methane output, which equals, well, record Arctic heating. And round we go. The deposits of frozen elephant dung had been sequestered but the melt puts the glop back into the cycle. Word has it that there is a lot of CH4-releasing excrement, so much that it'll join forces with the darkening polar albedo to speed things up even faster. Call it the poop loop.

Somehow September is good for the soul -- it's confession time! But first the records. The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, after the three climate records jointly held by Dean and Felix (thanks to Henrietta in the Pacific), sprung a fourth climate record on us with Humberto, which evolved in 16 hours from tropical depression to full-scale hurricane landfall. The AP newsblurb notes that this evolution "was faster than any storm on record" and says "meteorologists were at a loss to explain" this. O really? It's still a big mystery, eh?

How about this: after the record-breaking 2007 drought in California, and LA without a drop of rain since April, the Angelenos are now battening down for a winter storm and temperatures 15 degrees below normal when it's barely fall yet. In Colorado, the bears are freaking out. In Montana, Glacier National Park, with 150 glaciers in 1850, has now 26 left.

Or this: South Asia is experiencing a monsoon that is the worst in decades, and that has by now cost more than 3,000 lives.

Or this: Australia, after suffering through an unprecedented drought, passed new regulations that made some water cuts permanent.

Or this: Africa suffers record rains; Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and the Sudan have declared emergencies because they are hit by unusual weather patterns.

Or this: the Arctic tipping point of the last post is no hallucination--ESA satellites "witness the lowest Arctic ice coverage in history"; the melt is happening so rapidly that it triggers earthquakes in Greenland; the Northwest Passage is completely ice-free, and Greenland eskimos have started farming potato and broccoli.

The new reckoning is that while the US republicans, their media serfs, and the gringo consumers were off in lala land, not even the United Nations got it right, because the UN IPCC predictions had been too conservative. Already in March, the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel (PhD physics), called the situation five minutes past midnight. Today, a University of Melbourne researcher, the "Australian of the Year", declared that climate change is worse than feared. A researcher with the UK Met Office and co-chair of the IPCC working group dealing with the necessary corrections states that destructive changes in temperature, rainfall, and agriculture were now forecast to occur several decades earlier than thought. The IPCC report states that the outlook is grim.

Shell concedes that peak oil is around the corner. The corporate press admits that Dick Cheney vehicles were not such a good idea after all. The alternative press admits that the suburban lifestyle, favored by many self-described liberals, wasn't such a great idea either. Nor is eating meat, by the way; bad news for Atkins-diet loving Americans. And the U.S. Federal Reserve acknowledges that Iraq was a blood-for-oil gamble. With oil money draining from Bagdhad and flowing toward Kurdistan, even the corporate confession is in: the gamble is lost.

To the chagrin of the postmodern presidency, for which truth is spin, Greenspan fessed up: true to his principles as an ethical egoist, he had been the one who advised the White House that the removal of Saddam was "essential" to secure oil supplies. Greenspan published the admission noted throughout the world: "I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows -- the Iraq war was largely about oil."

Right now, the price of oil stands at $83 a barrel, at 2,000,000 refugees, at 1,200,000 civilian deaths, and at 3,800 military deaths, and wrenching, brutal personal costs, such as this and this.

Meanwhile the Brits call the climate-changer-in-chief a jihadist and reveal that a journalist appears to be dying in the concentration camp offshore Florida; the French are blowing the whistle on US concentration camps in Poland and Romania ; and the Germans report that calling for impeachment gets you tasered in Florida. Amnesty International calls out the Senate for not restoring habeas corpus. The blood-for-oil traders Bush, Cheney, and Altair Voyager are not in jail, but at least the Pope refuses to meet with thugs. And thanks to the climate-changer in chief, his snarling Nazi sidekick, and the oil tanker lady, the dollar is in free fall.

And the worst thing about all this is that it's so unnecessary. My battered old copy of the Field Guide to Florida, by the National Audobon Society, has an entry on global warming effects on page 19 that says it all. That copy was published in 1998. We could have decided to evolve to a higher IQ then, and many nations gave it a try. But the US neocons didn't want to; they flamed Kyoto and shot down the Bonn meeting. The ideas of climate dynamics, human-nature interplays, and deep ecology just don't compute. They don't fit the protestant work ethic and the postmodern relativism of the consumer society.

So now the species lost ten years, with the USA jerking off the Global Village.

Mama Gaia is laughing at us.

Call it the poop loop.


Monday, September 10, 2007

edging to the tipping point


Since the first observation of a hurricane with sustained winds faster than 250 km/h, in 1928, there were only four storm seasons that began with a Category 5 hurricane (1958, 1977, 1980, and 1992). Until 2007, that is. Dean made landfall three weeks ago, August 21. It was the first hurricane of the year and the first to max out the Saffir-Simpson scale since Wilma 2005. Wilma, incidentally, scored a record of her own two years ago, with a pressure of 882 mbar near Cuba (10/19/05), the lowest ever measured in the Atlantic, and noticeable in Tampa. See Monica 2005, Wilma 2006.

Hurricane Felix made landfall September 4. Felix is this year's winner of 3 (yes, three) climate records. The second hurricane of the year was also a Category 5 hurricane. Multiple C 5 storms had formed three times in the Atlantic since measurements started (1960, 1961, & 2005), but never before did any season kick off with two C 5's in a row. That's unprecedented--and a new record. Felix's second climate record is the speed by which it spun up from a depression to a Category 5: a mere 51 hours, quicker than any storm on record ever. Three's the charm, and Felix wins the blue ribbon by being the first hurricane ever observed making landfall at the same time as another hurricane, with Henriette in the Pacific. Thank you George Bush!

Speaking of the climate changer in chief: on September 7, he had a bad day at the APEC meeting in Australia. With his blood-for-oil mind, he thanked his hosts for inviting him to the OPEC meeting and praised the valor of the Austrian army killing people in Iraq. And that is the leader of the U.S., unimpeached and out of jail, six years after 9-11. Go figure. The climate changer in chief and his downunder crony released a declaration on climate change (pdf) that states "aspirational" goals. There are an "aspirational global emissions reduction goal" (p. 2), an "aspirational goal of a reduction in energy intensity" (p. 3 and 4), an "aspirational goal of increasing forest cover" (p. 3 and 4), and last but not least "this aspirational goal" (p. 4). I hadn't even heard of the term before coming across this declaration. Basically, it means that they "aspire" to think about getting ready to consider a goal. What goal? Beats me. Something to do with planting trees, using less power, and making less of a stink. As they put it: "we agree to work to achieve a common understanding on a long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal to pave the way". Great! How about signing on to Kyoto instead, eh? The pompous nonsense was condemned here and here.

The clock's ticking. Just tonight news came in that we've reached the first tipping point. So James Lovelock is right after all. Thank you George Bush! This is it: arctic ice the size of Florida gone in six days. So. Put yourself in space and look at the planet from afar. Guess what happens to ocean temperature in the sunshine when white ice turns into black water. After we had to learn what the climate changer in chief means with "aspirational," now it's time to study up on the meaning of "albedo". And "feedback loop."

Good luck.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

back to school: more blisters


My apologies to the random surfer and the Homeland Security guys for no posts since Mayday. Labor Day is just around the corner. Meanwhile the data are in about the climate records of early 2007. The data are also in about Greenland's spring arriving weeks earlier.

The poor blistering orb keeps blistering. Let's see what's going down.

Currently there are record heat waves in Tennessee, Georgia, California and Japan. There are record floods in the U.S. Midwest, Bangladesh, and North Korea. Recently there were record forest fires in Greece and on the Canary Islands, which now leads to carbon feedback loops on their own: the more CO2, the more warming, the more fire, the more CO2 ... you get the picture. Glaciers are retreating at record pace in Switzerland and the Himalayas, even on Mt Everest. Texas spiders living in subtropical Texas now behave like their tropical cousins. Oh, and the deserts are spreading too.

The University of Illinois reports that arctic ice is lower than ever. The Norwegian Polar Institute reports that the Northwest Passage is nearly ice free for the first time since record keeping began. This is how it looks:

In Milan, in June, a G8 meeting on pollution caps to curb climate change ended in failure. Americans keep perpetrating climate change as happily as ever but at least they're now catching on. The domestic edition of Newsweek 8/13 led with a story on the "well-funded naysayers who still reject the overwhelming evidence of climate change," with a look "inside the denial machine". Better late than never, eh? Yet, the U.S. denial machine still works well enough to sabotage the U.N. climate talks at Vienna August 27-31, which just "ended in a cloud of discord".

Philosophy in the English-speaking world remains a mixed bag. The Journal of Global Ethics, published by Blackwell, committed itself to an issue on Climate Ethics, which is a step in the right direction. Perspectives on Science, published by MIT, however, doesn't regard climate studies as a perspective meriting philosophical discussion in a topic issue. Let's give them time. They'll come around.

In Tampa, the administration of the University of South Florida has quietly rescinded the Flaggenbefehl. The patriotic banners have disappeared from the classrooms. Perhaps even the republicans have gotten tired of their fascist decor. The flag-free lecture halls made returning to classes very agreeable. Meanwhile the first ever course on climate change is being taught, by the Mad Hun, for the USF Honors College. Speaking of South Florida: here's a map of southern Florida's 20ft/6 m inundation by 2107, at least as they're expecting it at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Arizona and NASA .

In Baghdad, meanwhile, more innocents keep dying at the hands of the invaders. The blood-for-oil trade continues. Centcom at Tampa continues to send soldiers and bullets to the middle east. In fact, it was the summer of the "surge", with more troopers fighting and more innocents killed than ever. The things one needs to do to maintain one's SUV lifestyle are highly ridiculous.

In Washington, the climate changer in chief and his snarling Nazi sidekick remain unimpeached.

The Chevron lady, oil tanker Rice, still draws a paycheck too.

The postmodern manipulator, Karl Rove, is out of a job but not yet in jail.

The attorney general, Torture Gonzalez, is out of a job too but not yet in jail either.

I guess the Americans aren't ready to play the blame game yet. Let's wait a little while and see what happens. Oh, and then there's Felix.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

a plea to engineers


Today the French broke a speed record with a train zipping along at 575 km/h (357 mph), which is great news for environmentalists. The engineers at Alstom (France) posted a video of the run--you have to see it to believe it ...

This is the future, and the future is better than Americans might hope. U.S. politicians collect paychecks from the oil companies, blister the climate, and drive in their bricks-on-wheels with stickers that say "support our troops," "hating the planet," or "Believe in Jesus, not in climate climate," but the evil cowboys in their black hats are now finally riding into the sunset, to the relief of the six billion other people on the warming globe.

Meanwhile, intelligent transportation designs are being embraced around the world. For the voyeuristically inclined, here's eye-candy from abroad: first the German Intercity Express 3T ...

... or the Japanese Nozomi Shinkansen 500 ...

... and the newest bullet online, the Taiwanese Gao-Tie 700:

Talk about guilt-free high tech! This is how it works. First you construct a straight and level pathway via tunnels and viaducts. Next you lay down the track, but not like you see in the U.S.--the ties are supposed to be concrete, not some toxic creosote-drenched wood, and the rails are supposed to be continuously welded ribbons of steel, not some clickety-clack iron strips. Intelligent transportation design means a third step: you plant catenary poles, string overhead wire, and flip the switch, with energy preferably from clean hydroelectric power. (If you don't have hydroelectric plants, go nuclear power, compared to fossil power, and in light of climate change, it's the lesser of two evils.) And now you can run your electric trains. Windows and doors are soundproof and airtight to create a quiet ambiente and to avoid popping eardrums at high speeds and inside tunnels. So lean back, sip your red wine, watch the catenary poles blur into thin air, and enjoy clean, civilized travel at 300 mph.

Trains are for smarties. Here's why. Trains and cars use energy for motion, and both spend most of their energy to overcome friction and resistance. A train is a long snake of boxes on wheels that plows through the air. An automobile is a single box on wheels that overcomes wind resistance individually. A bullet train can carry a thousand people. A cargo train can carry a hundred containers. Trains face wind resistance only at the trainhead. Compare that to the energy expenditures of a thousand single cars or a hundred single trucks. Each of them faces wind resistance at its own bumper, hood, and windshield. The individual movement of isolated boxes is not efficient. There's more: trains have steel wheels on steel rails, with tiny points of contact (steel doesn't give). Wheel surface and rail head are polished smooth; there's little friction (which is why trains can't stop at railroad crossings). Roadways and automobiles, though, are designed for quick acceleration and short brakepaths. So cars and trucks use inflated rubber tires with huge contact areas (inflated rubber gives). The tire profile and the roadway surface aren't smooth; rubber has high friction, and blacktop feels like sandpaper. It has to be this way, otherwise driving wouldn't be safe, and trucks couldn't stop at railroad crossings. Automobiles are the least energy-efficient and the most power-hungry mode of transport ever designed.

Ecologically sound ground travel is no technological problem. But environmental air travel doesn't have a technological solution yet. We have friends, families, and jobs around the world. We need to fly. But flying adds to the carbon load and worsens the world climate. All commercial airplanes in existence use fossil fuel. Clearly, this is retarded. Here's a plea to the engineers at Airbus and Boeing: can you gals and guys come up with better flight power designs? Can you build us clean planes? Please? Like, now? So, I beg you, start thinking outside the box, break out the slipstick, and start doing some real, creative, and future-oriented work.

Clock's ticking.