Tuesday, April 28, 2009

climate review April

--updated 4.30., 5.1., 5.3.--
--thanks for all your links--

Spring is in the air, and with it, unease on how things will continue. America is becoming less sustainable by the month. Recognition suddenly dawns. A grassroots effort at changing things is converging with initiatives from the top. Green is the new bandwagon of the Global Village, and America is finding itself looking rather Brown.

Considering how wrong the past eight years had been, with the US roll-back of environmental law and sabotage of a climate consensus, the effort at change is totally welcome. But action is so overdue, and so much ground was lost, that whatever is done looks ridiculously small. The problem is not that the past eight years had been a time of inertia that stopped civil evolution; the problem is that the clock had been turned back. We don't start where we had been in 2000. We start where we had been in 1960. So right now we are at this weird place in history where the reversal of Bushism means progress so modest it sounds bizarre. Political headline of the month would be, Americans discover torture is a crime. Green news of the month (on Appalachian coal) would be, Americans reluctant to blow up their own mountains. And climate news of the month would be, tired of being climate crunchers, Americans wanna make nice.

In Florida, the SUV-induced drought deepens. April's new rule is that home owners are not allowed to water lawns anymore until further notice. Problem is that lawns do alright in cool, moist places with four seasons, like Britain, Belgium, or Bavaria, but are completely out of place in a subtropical place with only two seasons, wet and dry, like Florida. Maintaining lawns here requires huge amounts of pesticide and herbicide, and huge amounts of fresh water. Go to any hardware store with a plant annex, and you'll find enormous stacks of toxic chemicals, usually right at the checkout counter. That's the gringo style of gardening: drive with your Hummer to the gardening center to get weed killer for your astro turf. Half the drinking water in the Tampa Bay area is diverted to keep suburban lawns nice and green. Disallowing this, at least for the time being, is a step in the right direction, but it is a step so modest that it would sound bizarre anywhere else. Some companies are advertising their services to spray-paint lawns green. Anthropologists, you must visit Tampa!

Trying to live with a small carbon footprint here is weirdly difficult. For one thing, all the electricity in the grid comes from fossil fuel plants. April's utility bill contained a flyer with another headline that fits the bizarrely modest pattern: "Tampa Electric announces 25-megawatt solar agreement." To put this in perspective, in the Sunshine State, this means (a) they'll start building it in 2011; and (b) that, I cite, the solar photovoltaic array will "serve the electric energy needs of more than 3,400 homes." Yes, that's 3,400. The same mail brought a flyer called "Saver's Digest" with an advertisement about advertising (!) in said flyer, showing how the Tampa Bay area, consisting of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Hernando counties, divides for marketing purposes into 19 zones consisting of 35,000 households each. With the exception of three nuclear power plants -- Crystal River to the north, Turkey Point to the south, and St Lucie to the west -- Florida is fossil all the way. Windless at a breezy ocean, and no sun in the Sunshine State, baby. Roof solar collectors are unknown here, and there are no wind turbines anywhere. But hey, we've got lotsa gas stations!

And so it goes. Saver's Digest, indeed. Junk mail is a fact of life; US postal workers are required, by federal law, to deliver junk mail to your mailbox. (You can write marketing companies and request your name to be taken off their mailing lists, and good luck with that!) Living here means to attract waste like iron filings go to a magnet. And then you can only throw it away again, or recycle, if you're lucky. Recycling, however, is not encouraged either. There is no pickup; you need to bring your junk to the nearest recycling center. Trashing or recycling exhaust your choices; there is no such thing as reusing. If you purchase a glass bottle, you can't return it to the store for washing and refilling; no, gringos are only allowed to toss it in a recycling container, so that it will be crushed, heated, melted, and made into a new bottle. Smart, eh? Anthropologists, study Tampa!

One good thing I've noticed are new bus stops. But even they are surreal: a bus stop, here, is a stick in the ground. There is no posted schedule, none. The bus comes when the bus comes. If it comes. Apparently you're supposed to just wait and hope for the best. Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot. Waiting you're supposed to do standing. In the dirt. There are few sidewalks, after all, and not every stop has a bench. And none are roofed. So taking the bus in Tampa means a sunburn, or a shower. The idea, clearly a Republican design, is to punish you for being Green, poor, and enlightened.

On the campus of the University of South Florida, the student newspaper reports that support grows for planning a mass transit system ... while the Global Village has full-blown transit networks running for decades already. (Here's a link to cool bullet trains.) In the Provost's Office, discussions on a School of Sustainability continue, and faculty voices that judge sustainability "a dumb idea" are being drowned out by a more enlightened emerging consensus. But how many years will go by before such a School would be up and running? Four? Eight? And what's Florida climate going to be like four or eight years down the road? What plants will grow here four or eight years down the road? What bacteria and algae will bloom in the ocean then? How long will it take before sea water breaches the lining of the rapidly depleting Florida aquifer? And then what?

Meanwhile the State legislature is planning more budget cuts, and this time they may well cut to the bone. Furloughs and layoffs are options, since no one knows how to fund education anymore. The war criminal and climate-changer Bush spent all the money; USF Professor Al-Arian is still in jail; and yesterday was commencement.


"climate crunch"
editorial staff, news feature, Nature, vol 458, 30 April 2009


"It is not too late yet--but we may be very close."
editorial, "time to act," Nature 458, 1077-1078

"The economic crisis, climate change, the food crisis, and the energy crisis are the results of the decay of capitalism, which threatens to end life on the planet."
Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela etc.: Declaration of Cumaná, 4.24.

"Wall Street is no longer, in any real sense, part of the private sector."
Paul Krugman, money for nothing, 4.26.

--blast from the past--
"Tomorrow it'll be too late do what we should've done a long time ago."
Fidel Castro, speech at 1992 Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro apr 09


November 3-6, Aarhus University, Denmark
Climate Change as Challenge for Intercultural Inquiry on Values
An international, interdisciplinary research conference; global dialogue conference series, 2009, call for papers deadline May 31 (homepage)


Germany hottest April in 120 years 5.1.
Antarctica ice chunks break away 4.30.
rising seas threaten renowned French coast 4.26.
China pollution in cities 'extremely severe' 4.23.
US national parks threatened by climate change 4.9.
Earth warming faster, a trigger for 'dangerous' climate change? 4.8.
Arctic sea ice thinnest ever going into spring 4.6.
Antarctica ice bridge ruptures 4.5.
Arctic sea ice melts faster than expected 4.2.


Island nations want to fix 1/3 of climate via Ozone Treaty 4.30.
US climate bill may be delayed 4.27.
US seeks reins in new set of climate talks 4.25.
Latin America: declaration of Cumaná 4.24.
US shares common climate purpose at G8 talks 4.23.
Canada supports Bolivia's call for a Mother Earth day 4.22.
Indigenous People's Global Summit on Climate Change 4.21.
US: EPA takes first step towards climate regulations 4.17.
UK climate policy not up to scratch 4.6.
Australia urges new phase for climate talks 4.1.
Europe will suffer despite climate measures 4.1.


Earth: planning for Int'l Day of Climate Action October 24 4.30
California approves carbon reduction in transport fuels 4.24.
air pollution 'helps plants blunt climate change' 4.23.
New York carbon sequestration plan 4.22.
no price hike on 2010 Toyota Prius; cheaper model to come 4.21.
US vision for high-speed rail network 4.16.


climate chaos predicted by CO2 study 4.30.
... editorial, "time to act," Nature 4.29.
... Allen et al., "warming by cumulative emissions" Nature 4.30.
... Meinshausen et al., "limiting global warming to 2C" Nature 4.30.
... Schneider, "the worst case scenario" Nature 4.29.
... staff "climate crunch: a burden beyond bearing" Nature 4. 29.
... staff "climate crunch: sucking it up" Nature 4.29.
... staff "climate crunch: great white hope" Nature 4.29.

Lovelock was right: Earth's climate can suddenly flip over
... cf. Nisbet et al, "shifting gear, quickly" Science 4.24.

wildfires add speed to global warming 4.24.
Grossfeuer heizen Weltklima massiv auf 4.24.
... Bowsman et al., "fire in the Earth System" Science 4.24.

there is going to be more Lyme disease 4.23.
... Gatewood et al., "climate and tick seasonality" AEM April

climate change costly for Illinois agriculture 4.10.
... staff, "hotter fields, lower yields," Environm. America 4.9.


In honor of 4-20:
Paul Armentano, cannabis slows down cancer 4.24.
... lung cf. A Pree, et al., Nature Oncogene 27: 339-346
... prostate cf. L Ruiz et al. FEBS letters 458: 400-404
... breast cf. S McAllister et al., MCT 6:2921
... pancreas cf. A. Carracedo et al., Cancer Research 66:6748
... brain cf. M. Guzman et al., Br J Cancer 95:197-203

NYT op ed, end the university as we know it 4.27.
UN: US is obligated to prosecute Bush administration 4.24.
US Rasmussen report poll: capitalism or socialism? 4.9.
... 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better
... 27% of American adults are not sure
... 20% of American adults believe socialism is better
Sci Am: China earthquake may have been man-made 2.3.


Michael Moore, bernie madoff, scapegoat 5.1.
Ian Angus, action on climate change? Cuba si! 4.30.
Bill Scher, at the 100 day mark, climate is losing 4.29.
Chris Hedges, Obama has missed his moment 4.27.
Ralph Nader, where's my change? 4.25.
A Revkin, US industry ignored its scientists on climate 4.23.
Economist leader, a glimmer of hope? Not! 4.23.
C H Smith, Obama's secret plan 4.22
MIT: Republicans misusing climate science paper 4.2.
D Kucinich investigate Executive Assassination Ring 3.13.

We have ninety-one months left.

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