Year 4, Month 11, Day 21: Just A Closer Walk With Thee

The Rutland Herald reminds us that, as usual, Bill McKibben is ahead of the curve:

Watching changing weather patterns from his window, McKibben felt compelled to organize students and then neighbors into, now a worldwide grass-roots organization campaigning to stop the proposed cross-country Keystone oil pipeline and encourage financial divestment from fossil fuel companies.

During a summer and fall bookended by two headline-grabbing White House protests in 2011, McKibben spent more nights in jail than at home. Read his new book, “Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist,” and you’ll learn such efforts are having an impact — on him.

“Shaky. Unnerved by it all. Overwhelmed. Frustrated and a little resentful,” he reveals in the 272-page hardcover by New York publisher Times Books. “A writer, if you think about it, is someone who has decided their nature requires them to hole up in a room and type. You can violate your nature for a while, but eventually it takes a toll.”

A hero of our times. November 11:

Bill McKibben is exemplifying in his own life something that all of us are going to find out within our lifetimes: our version of “normal life” is one that takes a stable climate for granted. What we can all anticipate for ourselves, our children, and their descendants in turn is that as the greenhouse effect’s consequences intensify, the routines, privileges and perquisites of civilization will come increasingly under threat.

When he talks wistfully of how his life as a climate activist has “violated his nature” as a writer, Bill speaks for any of us who can see beyond the immediate future. The threats looming over the coming centuries are going to force us to abandon the people we’ve worked so hard to become, instead focusing our energies on the single massive global struggle to halt the next great extinction before it halts us.

Like Mr. McKibben, we’re all going to have to put aside many things we love doing if we are to save our species and the web of life in which we are embedded.

The world doesn’t owe us a living — but we owe the world our lives.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 20: More Than A Few Bugs In The System

There’s a problem at the site of Flight 93, out there in the wilds of Pennsylvania:

PITTSBURGH (AP) – The grove of hemlock trees around where United Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11 is being attacked by an insect that wasn’t there 20 years ago, and some scientists say it’s an example of how climate change combines with other factors to cause environmental damage.

The problem at the Flight 93 National Memorial in southwestern Pennsylvania doesn’t involve superstorms or melting polar icecaps, but rather hemlocks battling the slow, deadly spread of a tiny creature that has only one natural predator in eastern forests – extremely cold winters.

The hemlock wooly adelgid is about the size of a match head, and for thousands of years it didn’t exist on the East Coast. Native to Asia, the insects lay their eggs on the underside of hemlock branches, and the young insects feed on the sap of the trees, often causing them to lose needles and die within five to 10 years.

Left to their own devices, hemlocks can grow to over 150 feet tall, and the dense evergreen branches create a cool, shaded environment that some liken to a forest cathedral. The tree has long flourished from the Carolinas to Maine, but after the first adelgids were discovered in Virginia during the 1950s, some areas suffered heavy die-offs.

I did a version of this letter a year or more ago, making the same point WRT pine beetles in Colorado. November 10:

Conservative politicians and their media enablers expend a lot of energy demonizing “illegal aliens”, but their ire would be better directed at the undocumented visitors who are doing genuine and profound damage: the non-native species which cross our borders in huge numbers as a consequence of climate change. The wooly adelgids now ravaging hemlocks at the site of Flight 93’s crash are a case in point.

If Republican lawmakers could overcome the anti-science biases of their tea-party constituents, they might be able to recognize the existence and causes of global warming — and we might have a chance to combat adelgid infestations and the larger climatic forces which trigger them.

What has happened to the GOP? After nurturing these parasitic ideologies for decades, America’s erstwhile “party of business” is now infested with virulent xenophobia and anti-intellectual hysteria, leaving our nation paralyzed in the face of grave and profound threats.

Warren Senders

Bandra Concert, August 21, 2013

The music this evening was just gorgeous. Mukta Raste’s beautiful theka was inspiring and supportive, and Ravindra Lomate played excellent sangat on harmonium. The Bandra Base is a once-in-a-lifetime room: small, sympathetic, filled with excellent resonance and history. Dee Wood, proprietor of the Base, made the farmaish for Malkauns. I’m glad he did; this performance came out with lots of bhaav.

Mora bolere – vilambit teentaal
Banwari mori manata nahin – drut teentaal
Tarana – drut teentaal

Warren Senders – voice
Mukta Raste – tabla
Ravindra Lomate – harmonium

August 21, 2013
The Bandra Base, Bandra, Mumbai, India

Peer na jaanire – vilambit ektaal
Man man ab to man – drut ektaal
tarana – drut teentaal

Warren Senders – voice
Mukta Raste – tabla
Ravindra Lomate – harmonium

August 21, 2013
The Bandra Base, Bandra, Mumbai, India

Year 4, Month 11, Day 19: Playing To The Tide

I know people in Portland, Oregon. They like it there.

Electric car charging stations in Hillsboro. Transit-oriented development on 82nd Avenue in Portland. Revitalizing downtown Beaverton as a walkable neighborhood. A new park in Gateway. A walking trail in Rockwood. A community-based bus system in Wilsonville.

Those are among many local initiatives that are already fighting climate change by encouraging alternatives to private motor vehicle trips, according to a report from Metro, the regional elected governments. Similar projects will become increasingly important as proof mounts that human activity is responsible for global warming, the report explained.


Metro found that most of the initiatives are rooted in the 2040 Growth Concept Plan adopted by the regional government in 1990 to guide development. The document encourages growth in designated urban centers and along existing transportation corridors. Since it was adopted, cities in the region have amended their state-mandated comprehensive land use plans to include many of the concepts. They include increased transit options and an emphasis on “active transportation” options such as walking and bicycling.

The state has directed Metro to adopt a regional plan for meeting its 2035 greenhouse gas reduction target. The council will consider a range of options based on the results of case studies later this year. The final scenario, to be adopted in December 2014, could well include elements from all of them.

Funding will be a challenge, however. Metro is projecting a shortfall of up to $26 billion to build and maintain needed infrastructure in the region over the next two decades. Although many ideas are being discussed — including encouraging private investment in public infrastructure projects — regional leaders have yet to agree on financing plans.

Good on ya, kids. November 9:

Yes, getting ready for the impacts of planetary climate transformation will be expensive. But the likely costs of preparing for the new climatic reality pale into insignificance compared with those of inaction. This is true at all levels: individual, local, regional, national, and global initiatives to anticipate the impacts of the accelerating greenhouse effect will undoubtedly call on our resources and resourcefulness in ways we’ve never before experienced — but will mean lives saved, infrastructure protected, and civilization strengthened. The alternative — failure — is simply unacceptable.

Self-styled “fiscal conservatives” must recognize that advance planning — like Portland’s admirable local preparations — is always less costly than hasty and uncoordinated after-the-fact responses. When we learn about climate change, we can begin to plan ahead for what seems likely to be a complex and dangerous future — and as the bumper sticker says, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 18: These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You

The Tennessean runs an Op-Ed deploring the state of our media:

It is often the case that what is absent from the nightly news sheds more light on media priorities than what is actually covered.

The lack of any serious coverage, for example, of a topic that is front and center in most other countries is one indication of very low media quality. It’s the reason that I have had to read about the release of the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change from foreign news sources, such as The Guardian, or by reading selected U.S. sources online.

The efforts of the IPCC represent one of the largest consensus-building undertakings in human history, and deal with an issue that affects not only the present, but also future generations. The panel’s exhaustive work, both pro bono and peer-reviewed, produces policy guidelines for world leaders. As has been the case since the group’s founding in 1988, the recent report continues to confirm the dire predictions for life on this planet under the business-as-usual model.

A key update in the report is the change of a 90 percent confidence level to 95 percent concerning man’s role in the changing climate. Converging to a 95 percent level of confidence from such a diverse body of scientists is no trivial matter, and impossible to write off even for the most relentless of conspiracy theorists.

Nothin’ to see here, folks. Move along. November 8:

In an extraordinary mixture of journalistic irresponsibility and simple laziness, American news media and their financial enablers have succeeded in trivializing and minimizing what is unarguably the most important issue of our times. Observe their ludicrous false equivalence, which “balances” the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists with the unsupported rhetoric of petroleum-industry shills. Observe their relentless coverage of electoral horse-races and scantily-clad starlets, while a crisis of global proportions builds unremarked. How have we come to this pass?

For decades, the oil and coal industries have funded conservative “think tanks” which supply our media outlets with authoritative-sounding voices stridently rejecting the findings of climate scientists. They do this to perpetuate an economy built on convenience and consumption (while, oddly enough, reaping profits higher than any in our nation’s history).

America’s “can do” reputation is in tatters thanks to this ill-conceived strategy of calculated ignorance and greed. The time for denialism is over; the first step in solving the problem of climate change is to recognize its existence.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 17: There Is No Greater Love

The Boise Weekly assesses climate impacts on Idaho:

Winter in Idaho is many things: bracing, frustrating, stunningly beautiful, exhilarating, inversion-stricken, way too long or way too short. No matter how the season measures up, it remains one thing: the climatic engine that drives everything else for the rest of the year.

In the West, water rules all, and in a place like Idaho, where roughly 80 percent of the annual precipitation comes in the form of snow, the entire economy–even the lifestyle–is tied in some way to winter. From irrigating crops to moving water down the rivers for recreation, and from flood management to supporting the water needs of a growing population (and keeping things green enough that the whole area doesn’t burst into flames every summer), everything depends on winter snows and the spring runoff they create.

But what if Idaho winters went the way of the dodo? What if continued climate changes mean that winters heat up and seasonal snows become a memory told in tales that start with the phrase, “When I was a kid…”?

The Bad News

While there are still some skeptics out there, the majority of scientists now agree that the world is experiencing climate change and that its effects vary by location. In Idaho, forecasting models predict that winters will continue to get warmer and, because of that, most of the precipitation in the Treasure Valley will come in the form of rain, with snows limited to higher and higher elevations.

This also means that hot, dry summers will likely continue to be the norm, but without winter snows and spring runoff, the strategy for coping with those conditions will have to change.

“Everything here ties back to water and our ability to keep it,” said Scott Lowe, associate professor in the Department of Economics at Boise State University and director of the Environmental Studies Program.

“This nexus of water, energy, agriculture … we have an understanding of it, but people in the Treasure Valley don’t realize to what extent it’s intertwined,” Lowe said.

Nobody does, sir. Nobody does. November 7:

When it comes to confronting the troublesome facts of climate change, Idaho’s farmers aren’t alone. All over on Earth, we’re waking up to the realization that that the tab for a century-long binge on fossil-fuels is coming due. Whether they’re monocropping food factories in the corn belt or sharecropping peasants in nations like Bangladesh, agriculturists are discovering that the predictable seasons and stable regional environments that made productive farming possible are being compromised — often enough to trigger crop failures or drastically reduced yields — by the consequences of an accelerating greenhouse effect.

To prepare for the coming decades of increased climatic instability, we need arguments; we need a vigorous public discussion of coping strategies, risk assessment, and scientific findings. But we don’t need any more arguments about the existence, causes, and harmful potentials of climate change; that subject is as settled as (for example) the link between smoking and cancer.

The oil and coal industries still supporting climate-deniers in our media and politics do not have the best interests of our species at heart; they sacrifice our collective future at the altar of profit.

Warren Senders

Yes, No, Maybe? (Trombone Duet)

This trombone duet was composed out of a need to write more music for trombone, because trombones are awesome. I was very fortunate to have Bob Pilkington and Jim Messbauer doing this version of the piece. There’s another performance from a JCA concert with Pilkington and David Harris; I’m going to try and find that and upload it too, to facilitate side-by-side comparisons for all you trombone geeks out there.

Horn Gamelan (1990)

Back in my college days, I began working on a piece which would employ my very rudimentary understanding of gamelan structure to a brass ensemble. I worked on “Horn Gamelan” for a long time, filling in hundreds of teeny-tiny notes on a big folder of score paper, then copying out all the parts by hand. There were five sections, all timbrally more or less identical. The piece was performed in 1981 at a concert I produced at Boston’s Studio Red Top, a performance space run by Cathy Lee. That evening was a sort of “graduation recital” for my final year at Campus-Free-College (Beacon College).

For a long time after that the score lay dormant. In 1990 I was awarded a little grant from Meet The Composer, and part of it allowed me to resurrect Horn Gamelan. I picked the two best movements, wrote a fanfare/introduction (which included a sitar improvisation by my wife Vijaya) and an interlude which evoked some of the timbres of Sundanese music, and had a nice performance that evening. Somewhere I have a videotape of it…wish I could find it!

Here is the recording of my revised “Horn Gamelan” from its 1990 performance. Hope you enjoy it!

Year 4, Month 11, Day 16: It’s As Plain As The Face Underneath Your Nose

The Capital Press (WA) talks to farmers, who are worried about water, not the bigger picture.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Water worries carry more weight than climate change for two Western Washington farmers.

Dairy farmer Jay Gordon sees too much water, and he doesn’t know whether to blame coal-burning in China or a warming Earth, but “for a bunch of us in the Chehalis, the question is over: It’s raining more.”

Gordon and his wife own a 600-acre dairy on the Chehalis River that his family homesteaded in 1872. The river has flooded many times during that span. The most recent major floods, in 2007 and 2009, left vast areas of farmland and a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 underwater.

“The river gauge shows earlier floods, more floods and higher levels,” he said. “We’ve had four 100-year floods in 23 years’ time; 75 percent of the highest floods were in the past 23 years.”

He said fellow dairy farmers have told him, “I can’t handle one more of these. This is getting old.”

Gordon, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation, spoke during a recent symposium on “Climate Change and the Future of Food.” Symposium sponsors and coordinators included Washington State University, the University of Washington, government agencies, conservation districts, researchers and a shellfish producer.

Henry Bierlink, executive director of the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, said he doesn’t see climate change as a high priority.

“Everyone in ag knows about adapting to change,” he said. “It’s down on the list of worries.”

Uh-huh. November 6:

To worry about water while dismissing climate change is to obsess over symptoms while ignoring the sickness that causes them. A transforming climate cannot be separated from the state of water resources, whether they’re in the American West, the steppes of Central Asia, or the heart of the Amazon. A hotter atmosphere evaporates more water, creating higher humidity conditions while adding energy to the system as a whole. The result: more precipitation, less predictability — both conditions which make agriculture more difficult.

The phrase “climate change”, while an accurate description of a global phenomenon, doesn’t adequately convey the local and regional consequences of the accelerating greenhouse effect. Some areas will experience devastating droughts — while elsewhere on the globe, that missing water will be flooding villagers and drowning fields. Extreme and unseasonal storms, wilder temperature swings, and significant loss of necessary biodiversity are just some of the symptoms we can expect in the coming decades as our increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2 make their impacts felt.

The future of water is inextricably linked to the future of our planet’s climate; to dismiss or downplay the connection is like fixating on birthday parties — while ignoring the processes of aging.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 15: Gotta Walk The Line

The Central Pennsylvania Patriot-News runs a good op-ed by CCL’s Richard Whiteford:

Scientists believe that we can’t allow the preindustrial global temperature to rise higher than another 2 degrees Celsius or human survival will be very challenging. We are almost half way there now.

The oil, gas and coal industries and their paid henchmen like the Heartland Institute and certain bought politicians distract the public with red herring issues like claiming that switching to clean energy will hurt the economy, kill jobs, and cause energy shortages.

What is mostly overlooked by them and the media is that if humans want to survive on this planet we have to stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible.

Scientists say that we can’t put much more than another 565 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere without disastrous results. At this time, financial analysts calculate that there is already 2,795 gigatons of CO2 contained in readily available oil, gas and coal reserves. That’s five times more CO2 than we can afford to burn and expect to survive yet the plan remains to drill baby drill!

There is enough carbon in the Canadian Tar Sands oil deposits to send the global temperature above the 2 degree limit. That is the reason environmentalists are protesting the Keystone XL Pipe Line. We just can’t afford to burn that carbon and expect to survive.

Have a nice day. November 5:

As the evidence supporting both the reality and the danger of anthropogenic global heating continues to mount, the anti-expertise wing of American conservatism finds itself increasingly isolated. Propped up by mountains of fossil-fuel cash, the science-denying politicians and media figures are still muddying the national discussion of an accelerating global emergency with debunked “facts,” cherry-picked statistics, and — all too often — outright lies.

Why? The answer lies in the intersection of two factors. First, the short-term fiscal motives embedded in the language of corporate charters; companies are required by law to focus on profits above all other objectives. Second, the pro-apocalyptic orientation of fundamentalist religion, which eagerly embraces notions of a fiery Armageddon while rejecting the inconvenient conclusions of scientists. With one providing the money and the other providing the zealotry, these two combine to create a political force which is impervious to logic, data, or the notion of good environmental stewardship.

Eventually, of course, they will lose. The laws of physics and chemistry will overcome fanaticism and greed alike. The question is whether the rest of us will survive the consequences of this toxic blend of cupidity and stupidity.

Warren Senders