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Friday, May 30, 2008

the sleepers awaken

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Remarkable in the past month had been the tacit admission that the Bush junta deserves no respect. From the "Neanderthal"-remark in the German government to the statement by Indian officials on Bush's "widely known ignorance" to the silence in Washington DC -- there is change in the air. A problem is being understood. Today (5.30) the New York Times reports that Under Pressure, White House Issues Climate Change Report. The news is that,

The Bush administration, bowing to a court order, has released a fresh summary of ... research pointing to large, and mainly harmful, impact of human-caused global warming in the United States. (...) Under a 1990 law, presidents must submit a report to Congress every four years summarizing what is known about impacts of climate change ... on the United States. The last such assessment, undertaken in the Clinton administration and published in 2000 ... was attacked by ... industries ... References to it were deleted from some government reports by ... the [Bush] White House. Environmental groups sued to force the completion of a new study. In court, the White House contended that a series of ... studies requested by .. Bush in 2003 ... satisfied the 1990 law, but Judge ... Brown ... rejected that assertion ... and ordered a comprehensive assessment to be published by the end of May. ...

Senator John Kerry ... who was the lead author of the 1990 law, strongly criticized the White House: "The three-year delay of this report is sadly fitting for an administration that has wasted seven years denying ... climate change ... In these lost years, we could have slowed global warming and advanced clean energy solutions, but instead America's climate change strategy has been at best rhetorical, not real."

A small step, sure; forcing the climate changers to release an uncensored climate report is not the same as forcing them to stop climate change.

Another small step occurred a few days ago in the context of Dow Chemical Co.'s decision to raise its prices by up to 20% to offset the soaring cost of energy. The AP article (5.28), Dow: Country in "true energy crisis"; ups prices, cites the CEO of Dow Chemical:

"Washington has failed to address the issue of rising energy costs and ... the country now faces a true energy crisis, one that is causing serious harm to America's manufacturing sector and all consumers of energy," Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical's chairman and chief executive, said in a written statement.
Some CEO told the truth, and more than that: the group the Bush junta claims to represent, Big Business, Big Money, and Big Oil, is breaking up. The synergy of the Big Three, helped along by gun smiths, mercenaries, foot soldiers, and lords of war, was stable only as long as its members closed ranks against reality and had their media deny what was plain to see for us little guys. Freedom, including the freedom of information, relies on powers divided and walls broken up. Truth is like a weed: it flourishes in cracks, but cannot thrive on a smooth wall. Cracks are good.

A key moment happened last fall (9.18.07 Greenspan clarifies Iraq war, oil link), when the former Federal Reserve Chairman admitted,

I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.
Such remarks, trivial as they are, open cracks. Trivial: the Bushists gave us an avoidable energy crisis. Trivial: what's good for oil people isn't necessarily good for manufacturers. Thus truth sprouts.

J├╝rgen Habermas articulated the principle of communicative action: just let people freely talk things out , and the ensuing data flow will be self-correcting and promote Enlightenment. One could add that it's remarkable how Enlightenment builds upon insights of the duh! variety. Perhaps one could say that Enlightenment is a Whole that's more than the sum of its parts, and that the extra amount, distinguishing a whole from a sum, is the energy that goes into the trivial (and thus absolutely true) parts working together as a rational field.

End of the month update:

Well. Maybe I'm too optimistic.
After all, look at the actual report the US government was forced to release: which bad & anti-gringo word is censored in the title?

The title is:
A Report of the Committe on Environment and Natural Resources: Scientific Assessment of the Effects of Global Climate Change on the United States (National Science and Technology Council, 2008).

... And no corporate media picked up on this!

The American Disenlightenment continues.


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Thursday, May 22, 2008

climate review May

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Biospherical information appears to be jelling into a new structure. This new structure is bad news for many people. For some it means diminishing wealth; for others it spells longer odds for survival; for most if not all it represents decline. Yet this matrix reload carries the promise of hope. Finally things aren't ambiguous anymore.

And clarity permits orientation at last. Even the US Republicans sense that they are the problem, not the solution. Everyone knows they've been in charge, and look what they've done. Regardless of whether your reference-frame is people, country, or world climate, US Republicans have devolved to cowboys in black hats. And their leader into a fool. Which is not new, of course. What's new is that everyone is now fine with it. On 5.13. International Herald Tribune reported that "Indians bristle at US criticism on food prices", with passages such as this:

I don't know who advised the president on his recent comments," [former World Bank economist] Agarwala said, but his analysis is "subprime." Bush's "ignorance on most matters is widely known and openly acknowledged by his own countrymen," The Asian Age argued May 5 in an editorial, but he must not be allowed to "get away" with an attempt to "divert global attention from the truth by passing the buck on to India."

The German government called Bush a "Neanderthal" last month, and everyone pretty much agreed. Environmental minister Polke, who made the remark, was not reprimanded by Chancellor Merkel; it didn't become an issue in the parliament; the German media didn't mind; the German public was fine with it as well. Add to this that American media reacted in kind. No US politician complained. The Neanderthal remark didn't provoke the ambassador to Germany to lodge a complaint either. And now Indian officials, so the IHT article, called Bush out as a fool -- and it's the same spiel all over again. No one in India seems to disagree. To my knowledge, the ambassador to India didn't disagree either. Domestically, papers picked up the story, but again, everyone is holding their peace, including Republican politicians.

I take this as a sign that enlightenment is attainable.

The first step to solving a problem is recognizing you have one. It's instructive to see how the analogy between Bush and Hitler is now breaking down (and, by extension, the analogy between Republicans and Nazis). German Nazis failed to question Hitler's authority and so invited their Darwin Award 1945. American Republicans, by contrast, have started to question Bush's authority and thus may still be able to avoid the national collapse that had been prepared by their subservience to the climate-changer-in-chief since 2000. Now, eight years later, members of Bush's own party desert their Neanderthal Fool; even McCain is planning a climate change tour.

Hope is in the air.


Best quote:

It is important to remind ourselves that we are privileged to live at the most exciting moment of creative opportunity in the whole of the human experience. The future is in our hands. Now is the hour. We have the power to turn this world around. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

David Korten, Navigating the Great Turning from Empire to Earth Community, 5.25.

Best link: the Ultima Tower (home page is here; post in Wired)






CLIMATE EVENTS

All salmon fishing banned on West Coast: the closure of commercial and recreational fishing for chinook salmon in the ocean off California and most of Oregon was announced by the National Marine Fishery Service. It followed the recommendation last month of the Pacific Fishery Management Council after the catastrophic disappearance of California's fabled fall run of the pink fish popularly known as king salmon. It is the first total closure since commercial fishing started in the Bay Area in 1848. ...

Two parched years -- punctuated by the driest spring in at least 150 years -- could force districts across California to ration water this summer as policymakers and scientists grow increasingly concerned that the state is on the verge of a long-term drought ...

Break in global warming? (Der Spiegel) According to German scientists the global heating observed in the recent years may be suspended in the next decade. This break is caused by a natural oscillation of currents in the Atlantic ocean, so Keenlyside and his colleagues at the Leibniz Institute in Kiel. Starting with 2020, rapidly rising temperatures will continue ... (Der Spiegel) Temperatures are rising worldwide, but for now there might not be any new heat records. German scientists draw a surprising conclusion in a new climate prognosis: in the coming ten years, the weather may well be cooler than previously thought ... cf. BBC. ... see Nature abstract with link to "Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector".

Book tip: C Barnett: Mirage: Florida and the vanishing water of the Eastern U.S. (U Michigan 2007)

CLIMATE POLICY

... United Nations criticized from indigenies for carbon trading 5.6.
.. H E Daly: climate policy from 'know how' to 'do now' 5.13.
... an epidemic of extinctions: decimation of life on Earth 5.16.
... possibly "billions wasted on UN climate program" 5.25.

GLOBAL MILIEU

... Three Chinese banks in world's top four 4.30.
... White House admits fault on 'Mission Accomplished' banner 4.30.
... China builds its large-scale future 5.1.
... China opens one of world's largest bridges 5.1.
... Exxon oil production falls dramatically 5.2.
... Gore calls Nargis a 'consequence' of climate change 5.6.
... Oil at $ 122 5.6.
... Oil at $ 126 5.9.
... Norway island stores wind power for still days 5.13.
... India to America: eat less, Fatties 5.15.
... Obesity contributes to global warming: study 5.15.
... Oil at $ 128 5.16.
... Prince Charles: 18 months to stop climate change disaster 5.18.
... Oil at $ 133 5.21.
... survivalists are preparing 5.24.

ENLIGHTENMENT

... GM crops: less food than conventional equivalent 4.20.
... April U.S. car sales show shift to smaller cars 5.1.
... Students are leaving fundamentalist Oral Roberts University 5.2.
... Americans ditch SUVs 5.3.
... Asian bank in food crisis warning 5.3.
... DOE report: wind could power 20% of US grid by 2030 5.12.
... climate change in Washington? 5.13.
... gas prices boosts mass transit in NYC and Denver 5.10.
... M Kelley & P Raskin: a better future 5.10.
... Germany debates subsidies for Solar Industry 5.16.
... San Francisco first in nation to charge a Pollution Fee 5.21.
... FBI files indict Bush, Cheney as war criminals 5.23.
... Pesticides: Germany bans chemicals linked to bee death 5.24.

DISENLIGHTENMENT

... BP and Shell post big profits in era of record oil prices 4.29.
... Friedman: dumb as we wanna be 4.30.
... Republican-caused defeat for Tampa and Orlando rail 5.3.
... Friedman: who will tell the people? 5.4.
... Florida teacher accused by Christians of wizardry 5.7.
... extreme gringo SUV commuter zombies (with pictures) 5.12.
... Americans leery of bicycles despite gas price jumps 5.16.
... Drop in US life expectancy shows US health care failure 5.18.
... "The invasion of Iraq (...) has trebled the price of oil 5.25.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

the bicyclist

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Today, on the way to campus, the long-desired finally happened.

I saw another bicyclist.

I cut across the 7-11 Citgo parking lot as usual, weaving my way through the gasoline stink of burbling behemoths, snarling SUVs, and humongous hummers. Confused carnivores yammering into cell-phones looked up to the posted prices: $ 3.71, $ 3.81, and $ 3.91, with diesel at the nearby Shell at $ 4.21. A behemoth suddenly backed away from the pump. I stared at a giant incoming bumper: support-our-troops-and-jesus-saves. Gripped the handlebar brakes.

When I looked up again, I saw him.

A slim human was bicycling. Gracefully he cut across the lot in the other direction. He had dark eyes and a black beard. He was clad in white and wore a turban. While he looked warily at gringo-machines, he maintained an air of peace.

Respectfully we greeted each other.


the solar promissory note 2008:

In the same vein, I wish that one day -- in Tampa, the Temple Terrace patch between university and river -- I can record the first ever sighting of the first ever solar panel in the Sunshine State. Wouldn't that be something? Imagine: gringo roofs with solar panels! But ah, Mad Hun, solar energy in the sunshine state? Crazy kraut!





postscript 10 June 2008:

Since this post one month ago, there had been no other bicyclist. Gas is now at $ 4.21 and diesel at $ 4.79. It seems I remain the only velocipedaling commuter along Fletcher Avenue and 56th Street. Was the respectfully greeted Sikh gentleman just an apparition?

I am still "The One".



postscript 26 September 2008:

I saw a bicyclist today!




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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bush, climate, and "Nargis"

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Cyclone 01B was born on 4.27 in the Bay of Bengal, east of the Indian Ocean, as a depression that deepened later in the day. On 4.28, the infant storm, named "Nargis", hovered over warm ocean waters, gained strength, opened an eye, and grew to a category 1 hurricane. On 4.29, she moved westwards, intensified to category 2, and faced Bangladesh. Then her strength flagged, the eye blurred, and she lost direction. She curled from west to north. On 4.30, she recuperated, turned east, and faced Burma. On 5.1, Nargis reopened her eye and accelerated to category 3, now spinning toward the Burmese coast. On 5.2, cyclone Nargis peaked as the equivalent of a category 4 hurricane. She made landfall in the Irrawaddy delta and swept inland. Weakening, she curved north to Rangoon. Finally she washed out, a day later, on the mountain slopes dividing Burma from Thailand.

Numbers are still soft around the edges. BBC reported 5.5. that the Burmese storm toll 'tops 10,000'. On 5.6, BBC cited Burmese state media with news that more than 20,000 had been killed, more than 40,000 were missing, and 1,000,000 are homeless. On 5.7 word had it that 100,000 may have died.

In terms of toll, Nargis was the worst storm in Asia for 20 years, since a 1991 hit on Bangladesh, and the worst storm on the whole for a decade, since Mitch hit Central America 1998.

In terms of force, Nargis was not as bad as she could have been. This was not a cat 5 storm. The cat 4 peak lasted less than a day. Nonetheless, the human toll is terribly high. Why?

I count five reasons that appear to have made things worse.


I.


The oppressors of Burma's citizenry classified the emerging information. Instead of evacuating settlements right after the storm vector pointed to Burma, two days before landfall, the lugnuts in charge just watched the disaster unfolding and kept media free of news, for security reasons. And now, with corpses bobbing in the water, the uniforms may take a page from Karl Rove's 2005 Louisiana manual and broadcast in Burmese, "let's not play the blame game". Both Katrina and Nargis were bad, not extreme, yet the toll for both was extreme, not bad. Both governments were caught with their pants down. Both governments ignored warnings. The Myanmar junta is the Mickey Mouse version of the Bush regime. The Myanmar junta dismissed warnings of the storm track, not trusting evil foreign weather stations; the Bush regime dismissed warnings of climate change making New Orleans' levees insufficient, not trusting evil rational scientists. The toll, in both cases, is extreme, in part because the leaders rejected information instead of acting on it. If you want to delete the first cause, lift information control. Closed societies kill. Open societies don't.


II.


Consider the damage done to coastal ecosystems prior to the cyclone. BBC headlined this cause 5.6., citing ASEAN's secretary-general, with mangrove loss 'put Burma at risk'. Storms like Nargis arise over warm water. The ocean has no barriers to growth. Storms whip up waves and vent until they blow themselves out. But dry land is an obstacle course. Each toppled tree, each hurled object, each downed wall bleeds wind energy away and helps to exhaust the force. A hurricane at the coast is just a rainstorm farther inland. The sea-land interface is vulnerable. Yet on the latitudes relevant here (Rangoon on the 19th, New Orleans on the 29th parallel), the interface tends to have natural protection. On the seaward side are mangroves, belts of biomass, which absorb wave and wind energy. On the landward side are wetlands, bluegreen sponges, which soak up further incoming energy and cushion weather blows. Eliminate mangroves (as done in Burma) or wetlands (as done in Louisiana, by National Geographic 206.4, October 2004, p. 89, "at a rate of 33 football fields a day"), and the hammer falls on a naked beach, flooding and flattening houses, killing people. Stopping beach development and restoring coastal ecologies saves lives.


III.


The toll is extreme because population density is extreme. Consider the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. There have been waves caused by seaquakes since the dawn of time. There is nothing odd about tsunamis. Yet that tsunami killed a quarter million people -- which is the worst known tsunami toll since humans evolved on Earth. Still, don't blame the tsunami. Blame the species: world population quadrupled in the past century and is on the verge of doubling once more, with the greatest density along tropical coastal regions. Hence the toll. If we want to minimize the third cause, do reverse engineering. You can't tell people not to live at the coast if they make their living there coast. But you can decrease (slowly and over time, to be sure, but still, better than nothing), coastal density by decreasing overall density. And you can decrease overall density by lowering reproduction rates. You can do so by empowering women -- gender equality, as UN demographers know, is the best tool for family planning -- and by evolving new sexual mores. The species is suffering from a baby glut just when we're running out of things, including real estate. We need to learn, and teach, that sex, at least in the 21st century, serves recreational purposes only, and may lead to procreation only under exceptional circumstances. If we don't want to keep seeing huge tolls , then lets trim our fat numbers and leave 19th century values behind.


IV.


But we can't quite blame all these baby-making folks. After all, as UN studies show, they prefer to make less babies, and they request assistance. The third reason needs to be qualified by a fourth factor: population density in developing nations is higher in part because of the Mexico City Policy by US president Bush 2001. Sure, we might argue that Myanmar wouldn't have let any of the NGOs affected by the gringo Gag Rule in anyway. But are we certain? Extreme tolls are made possible by high density, and preserving high density has been possible by the unilateral global implementation of the Mexico City Policy reinstated by the US. And even if Myanmar were the exception to the rule, the rule would still hold that the US since 2001 is guilty of aiding and abetting planetary overpopulation; that due to the US president, worldwide sex has led to more babies, and that due to the US president, a greater share of the babies born are babies dying. Thus blame Bush. If you want to delete the fourth factor of the toll, at least in categorical terms, rescind the Mexico City Policy.


V.


Finally, blame Bush again. That Nargis happened is natural. But without Bush Nargis may well have been weaker. While the rest of the world is trying since Kyoto '97 to ease up on the oil addiction and to expand into carbon-neutral energies, Bush has done the opposite: he rejected Kyoto, dismissed until a few months ago the causal link of oil use and climate change, deepened American dependence on fossil fuels, ordered the resource-driven invasion of Iraq 2003, and had his minions sabotage binding emission caps at Bali 2007. Compared to the USA under Bush, there is no nation on the planet that drives as much, that farts so many greenhouse gases into the air, and that is as guilty of perpetrating planetary climate change. The measly five American percent of the total world population have created one third of global greenhouse gas emissions; the same five percent, under Bush, have prevented efficient carbon management; the same five percent, under Bush, are to be held accountable for a perfectly avoidable third of the heat our species has sunk into the seas. The same five percent, under Bush, are consequently to be blamed for a third of the climate-change-induced rise in more frequent and more intense seaborn storms. And this includes Nargis. Thus blame Bush. And while this may sound strange today, chances are it won't, in the not-too-distant future, to international tribunals and courts, when the litigation for damages starts. The right thing to do, for doing one's share towards preventing another disaster of Nargis' magnitude, is not just to donate to relief efforts, but also, and finally, to impeach the climate changer in chief.

It's never too late to do the right thing.


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Postscript 25 August 2008:

Four months after the catastrophe, International Herald Tribune publishes an article, "Ghosts amid the wreckage in Myanmar," which reviews the situation. 138,000 are dead or missing. 800,000 are homeless. Nearly half of the assistance pledged has yet to appear. The Junta blocked aid for three weeks. The Irawaddy delta is "a vista of ruin and debris, where human and animal bones and the last decomposing bodies still cluster the edges of waterways."

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