whether we appreciate

National Press Club asks:

Do you get a lot of complaints about your weather forecasts?

Let’s put it this way:

“I’ve never gotten a Thank You letter for nailing a forecast,” reports Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel, “And that’s after 25 years.”

Cantore adds:

“I used to get the Farmers’ Almanac as a kid…

and then I became a scientist.” !

neurotoxins in the fog

Coastal fog importing mercury from the ocean on to the land.

There’s a ‘wash-out’ of methylmercury — a sort of invisible bathtub ring of fog.

These are unheard of levels…

EPA Will Finally Cut Coal Industry’s Toxic Mercury Pollution

1990 —amended Clean Air Act ordered standards for mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants.

2000 —court decree mandate but the rules were repeatedly delayed.

2006 —Bush rules thrown out by the courts for failing to protect public health.

The health risks of mercury and arsenic are enormously well-documented. In the 21 years since the EPA was ordered to issue these rules, 17 states have independently acted to limit mercury emissions from power plants. Coal-fired power plants alone produce 772 million pounds of airborne toxins every year—2.5 pounds for every American.

Even with this finalized Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule, power plants will have years to comply. Upgrading power plants to cut air toxics is expected to create 31,000 construction jobs to 158,000 jobs installing pollution controls.

do we know we’re doomed?

Has there ever been an era so bleak?

There is an ever louder babble of apocalypse-predicting subcultures, amplified and partly sustained by the internet: peak-oil doomers, who believe the world’s energy supplies will collapse and mass famine will follow; Christians who anticipate an imminent day of rapture when believers will ascend to heaven and non-believers will perish; interpreters of the ancient Maya calendar who, contrary to mainstream scholarship, are convinced that the world will end on 21 December 2012; and traditional survivalists, stockpiling tinned goods and constructing rural “survival retreats” to sit out armageddon….

Václav Havel: “Politics and Conscience”

To me, personally, the smokestack soiling the heavens is not just a regrettable lapse of a technology that failed to include “the ecological factor” in its calculation, one which can be easily corrected with the appropriate filter.

To me it is more, the symbol of an age which seeks to transcend the boundaries of the natural world and its norms and to make it into a merely private concern, a matter of subjective preference and private feeling, of the illusions, prejudices, and whims of a “mere” individual.

It is a symbol of an epoch which denies the binding importance of personal experience including the experience of mystery and of the absolute and displaces the personally experienced absolute as the measure of the world with a new, man-made absolute, devoid of mystery, free of the “whims” of subjectivity and, as such, impersonal and inhuman. It is the absolute of so-called objectivity: the objective, rational cognition of the scientific model of the world.

Modern science, constructing its universally valid image of the world, thus crashes through the bounds of the natural world, which it can understand only as a prison of prejudices from which we must break out into the light of objectively verified truth.

The natural world appears to it as no more than an unfortunate leftover from our backward ancestors, a fantasy of their childish immaturity.

changing half our planet

Global climate change will modify plant communities covering almost 50% of Earth’s land surface.

“While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it’s the ecological consequences that matter most.”

Nearly 40 percent of land-based ecosystems will shift from one major ecological community type to another. For example, forest to grassland, tundra to grassland…

NASA’s projections paint a portrait of increasing ecological change and stress in Earth’s biosphere.

Many plant and animal species face increasing competition for survival, as well as significant species turnover, as some species invade areas occupied by other species.

Most of Earth’s land that is not covered by ice or desert is projected to undergo at least a 30 percent change in plant cover – changes that will require humans and animals to adapt and often relocate.

Reclaiming a desert into a forest by Atul Kulkarni

landfill revolution needed

short but good sum up of how recycling waste is still darn sloppy

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/12/scaling-a-mountain-of-trash/

While recycling for yard waste totals nearly 60 percent, paper 63 percent, and car batteries almost 100 percent, recycling of plastics is stuck at just 8 percent.

That’s because manufacturers produce a bewildering array of plastics — polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and high-density polyethylene, to name a few — that can’t be mixed if they’re to be effectively recycled.

In fact, she said, the seven types of plastics denoted in the recycling symbols stamped on milk jugs, salad trays, and other containers barely scratch the surface. That’s because category seven is an “all other types” category. The Environmental Protection Agency lists 40 types of plastic.

“Plastics are a big, messy, difficult problem,” MacBride said. “It is not a simple subject with no simple answers.”

pollution top 10

The toxic top 10:

  1. Mercury pollution from gold mining
  2. Lead pollution from industrial parks
  3. Pesticides from agriculture
  4. Lead smelting
  5. Chromium pollution from leather tanning
  6. Mercury residue from other mining
  7. Lead pollution from mining
  8. Lead pollution from improper battery recycling
  9. Arsenic in groundwater
  10. Pesticide manufacturing and storage

Notably, groundwater arsenic is the only naturally occurring pollution problem—and it is in ninth place.

wisdom’s wake

Alanis Obomsawin said in 1972:

“Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency.

“When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”

dirt, food, people, money

Yes.
This is a purple cauliflower.

Andy sez:

Organic farmers act on the belief that if they care for the soil then the soil will care for them. Care of the soil does not end, or even begin, with adding fertilizer.

Soil is a living thing, an ecosystem, a complex bioactive medium, and a renewable resource. Each plant family draws a certain spectrum of minerals and nutrients from the soil, and each plant family attracts and hosts certain pathogens.

Organic growers rotate crops to avoid depleting the soil or increasing the population of pests. At Mariquita Farm we take each piece of ground on a cycle through the Alliaceae, Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Fabaceae, Gramineae, the Solanaceae etc. These Latin words are only botanical words for common plants; we rotate crops from the onion family, through the carrot family, the lettuce family, the cabbage family, the beet family, the squash family, the pea family, the corn family, the tomato family, and so on.

Crop diversity is intelligent soils management.

the bumper boulders

There’s 2 questions here.

One.
Why are these boulders rubbed smooth on their sides?
There’s no rain or rivers here.

Two.
How did these boulders move to the valley bottom.
There’s no rain or rivers here.

They’ve been jostled side-to-side by earthquakes. Yes, grinding against each other —ten ton dancing raindrops pushed over the desert floor more than a million years. Neato. Nifty. Wow.

Surfed a seismic wave lately?

anything for more stuff

via How To Save The World, er, how to cope with an upcoming 11 billion

I’m a believer that most people really do want the best for the world. It’s only the psychopaths, people seriously damaged some time in their past to the point that they lack all empathy and conscience and are utterly ruthless in their ideologically-driven activities, that we need to watch out for. The Cheney-Bush gang are the most notable examples, but on the corporate side the Koch brothers and this motley crew of wacko supporters are the standard-bearers.

demote the farmer

grok this !

the-worst-mistake-in-the-history-of-the-human-race

Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history.

Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.

Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history.

In contrast, we’re still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it’s unclear whether we can solve it.

fifth ocean ahead

Watching head of the Navy on C-Span last night. [August 19] He said the Arctic will be an open ocean in 25 years; that this is one of the major events of the 21st Century, and that a broad series of adjustments are necessary, and are being implemented.

Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations:
The region is “extraordinarily important for our Navy, for our military, and for our nation.

There is a phenomenal event taking place on the planet today. We haven’t had an ocean open on this planet since the end of the Ice Age.

“So, if this is not a significant change that requires new, and I would submit, brave thinking on the topic, I don’t know what other sort of physical event could produce that.”

Previous news release: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=64474

naught lawn

The Oak Park Outlaw
… she gardens her front yard
… city sends citation
… war ensues

The scofflaw, Julie Bass,
Rejected trees and grass,
And took to life of crime
With parsley, sage and thyme.

Her crime is avant garde:
The beds in her front yard
Contain illegal greens,
Like peppers, peas and beans.

Thank God the planner saw
Within the public law,
A means to prosecute
Before she planted fruit.

The plaintiff, Kevin R.,
The Oak Park planning czar,
Will see the line is toed
By pointing to the code.

But folks can misconstrue
What’s ‘suitable’ to do,
So Kevin has deferred
To ‘common’ as his word.

And what is more unique
Than cucumber or leek,
When planted in a bed
Where grass should grow instead.

Uncommon as they are
Outside a mason jar,
She’ll need to clear her yard
Of broccoli and chard.

Then justice will prevail,
And Oak Park can exhale,
Devoid of squash and kale,
With Julie safe in jail.

wrong about wolves

Oops. We’ve been wrong about wolves.
Wrong about dogs too says John Bradshaw via Salon: How we came to misunderstand dogs.

Throw out the choke chain and shush those dog whisperers.

But it’s fascinating to learn that the influential studies about wolves — which have so heavily influenced how we treat dogs — were seriously flawed.

In the earliest studies of wolves, going right back to the late 19th century, they put wolves together in zoos. I think, for its time, the science was perfectly valid, but they did construct these wolf packs assuming that wolves you put together in a zoo would form a society which was typical of wolves. And then it emerged — really, didn’t emerge until the 1990s, when it became possible to really keep an eye on wild wolf packs with developments like GPS — that families should behave completely differently to groups of animals that are not family.

It’s basically the conception, now, that the wolf is an animal that breeds [a lot like] many other social species, birds and all sorts of things, not just mammals. The young, when they grow up, have essentially two choices. One is to stay and help their parents raise the next generation, the next litter. The other one is to leave. Staying behind is genetically very good because they share genes with their parents. When those conditions are good, it’s a sensible strategy to stay around for a couple of years. Help your parents, learn a bit more, and then go off on your own. And that’s essentially the way that the wolf biologists now conceive wolf societies. Family-based units. Also, voluntary. I think the key point is it is voluntary.

The young, the so-called subordinate or submissive animals, are not there because they’re being compelled to stay by their parents, by a diet of aggression. They’re there voluntarily and, in fact, have to almost ask their parents if it’s OK to stay every now and again. Because, of course, they are competing for food and so on. So it’s turned the whole idea of wolf society on its head.

And you believe positive reinforcement is always the way to go for dogs in all situations?

With all the research we’ve done — I’ve worked a lot with the military, and with dogs used in places like prisons to sniff out narcotics, I’ve worked with people who train dogs for obedience competitions, and with people who train guide dogs — most of them now use positive reinforcement. The research, there’s not very much of it, but the research that’s been done all points in the direction of the dog is much more reliable if it’s been trained with reward, whether it’s been trained to help a blind person around or whether it’s been trained to attack terrorists. The dog that goes into that because it’s fearful of its handler is less effective, and particularly less predictable, than the dog that’s been trained that biting somebody’s arm is fun, which is how they do it. So, I’ve obviously not been privy to every single bit of training that the military have ever done, but most of what I’ve seen has been very much focused on positive reinforcement, and seems to be very effective.

yesterday’s good life?

Dana Blankenhorn asks: Now that we can terraform the Earth, what kind of Earth will it be?

In order to keep growing it needs to be a prosperous Earth. And it’s becoming more prosperous. Did you know that one-third of the people in Africa are now considered ‘middle class’ – that is, they have enough that they can think about the future, educating their children, even limiting their numbers. China recently crossed a line and now has more of its people in cities than in the countryside. India has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty just in the last decade. Brazil is the new China. Latin America is becoming wealthy.

This is all good news. It doesn’t feel that way when your job gets outsourced, when you see growing competition for every opportunity, but it is in fact good news. Competition fuels growth. We are going to see an acceleration of growth over the next decades the likes of which the world has never seen. You think you’re lucky? Your kids are going to be luckier still.

Umar Hague asks: What if, just maybe, our way of life is an Opulence Bubble?

Here’s what I mean by opulence bubble: our conception of the good life, as I’ve discussed with you, has been centered on what I call hedonic opulence — having more, bigger, faster, cheaper, now. But we might be finding out, the hard way, that the pursuit of lowest-common-denominator industrial age stuff might have been steeply overvalued, in terms of its social, human, and financial value. And now, it’s coming back down to earth.

Here’s what I don’t mean by opulence bubble: that global GDP’s going to collapse tomorrow, and continue to crater for decades, until we’re back to hunting with stone axes and singing by firelight. Nor that we should aim to stop growth dead in its tracks, and preserve ourselves in a perma-cocoon, with shades of the Amish, where life in the distant future is, well, exactly the same as it is today.

Rather, what I mean is that “more, bigger, faster, cheaper” doesn’t necessarily add up to or equal “better, wiser, smarter, fitter, closer.”

The plain truth might be that we’re living beyond our means because our way of life atrophied our means.

black is the ocean

Paul Handover, from Arizona:

Most people when they think about it have, at the very least, feelings of guilt or denial in terms of what humans are doing to the planet’s environment that humans require for survival.  Many of us know in our hearts that it is probably not good news but maybe really thinking about it can be put off for a little longer!

It’s almost as though we know that those aches and pains are a sign of something potentially dangerous to our health but, hey ho, I’ll put off seeing the doctor for a little bit longer.

Then the day comes when one goes to the doctor and he confirms your worst fears; what you really knew deep in your heart.

Thus it is with the planet.  Most of us know that we have been treating the planet as an inexhaustible resource for the sole benefit of mankind and to hell with the future.