Year 4, Month 3, Day 10: Goin’ Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is a Gannett news service for the New Paltz area in New York. They’re noting the evidence of “season creep.”

The high temperature on a recent day amid the forest and ridges of the Mohonk Preserve in Ulster County was 29 degrees; the low was 17.

The preserve’s conservation science director, John Thompson, noted the readings from two thermometers hanging inside a white wood box behind the Mohonk Mountain House resort. His pencil scribblings on a slip of paper would be added to the preserve’s collection of more than 42,000 daily weather observations, a streak begun when Grover Cleveland was in the White House.

That once-a-day trek to the weather box — through the hotel, down the porch steps and past the dock on Mohonk Lake — is a constant in the scientific effort to document climate change and its impacts on the natural world. Studying when annual plant and animal events happen is known as phenology, and growing evidence points to climate change affecting nature’s calendar.

Aaaaaand the hits just keep on a’comin’. Sent March 1:

Humanity has grown and prospered on an Earth with a stable and for the most part benign climate. The steady movement of the seasons and the overall predictability of the weather made it possible for us to build an agricultural lifestyle, to feed our steadily increasing numbers, and to nurture a nascent civilization into a complex web of global interdependence. We are what we are today because we have cooperated with the planet’s natural cycles over spans of millennia.

And what happens when we stop cooperating? We’re about to find out.

Over the past century, our industrialized culture burned eons’ worth of fossilized carbon, releasing into the atmosphere in a geological instant the CO2 that had accumulated over hundreds of millions of years — a trauma to the global environment whch can be recognized in local and regional ecosystems where plants and the insects which fertilize them are no longer in synchrony with one another. We ignore the warning signs of climate change at our peril.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 28: Right Now, Over Me…

The Loveland Reporter-Herald (CO) runs a thoughtful op-ed by a smart young man named Reid Maynard. He’s in high school:

Before opening our discussion, let us leave some baggage behind. Let us release prejudices regarding media misinformation, sensationalism and hypocritical vice presidents.

With minds unhindered, let us approach the table and discuss climate change. Much passionate argument emerges in this debate with logic and demagoguery on both sides, but it presents high stakes and sacrifices for all generations: adult, youth and child. Therefore, we must carefully consider the subject without the stain of bias.

The existence of climate change is no longer a debate. Simply observe modern evidence, such as the fact that nations now dispute maritime boundaries in the Arctic as shipping routes emerge where ice once reigned. Today, politicians and pundits argue about causes. Most researchers agree that human activity exacerbates this phenomenon, accelerating change beyond natural pace. Others dispute anthropogenic change and insist that mitigation creates unacceptable costs. Throw in lobbyists, profiteers and screaming extremists and we have painful gridlock.

I could have done without the dig at Al Gore. But rahne do, he’s a good kid. We need more like him. Feb 19:

When it comes to the long-term future of our species, we ignore the voices of the young at our peril. Even as the market-driven consumer economy encourages us to adopt the short-term mindset of immediate gratification, thoughtful young people cannot ignore the damage this is doing to the planet and the environment upon which all of us depend. They see, all too clearly, that a lifestyle based on continuous consumption will end by consuming us all; as Reid Maynard demonstrates in his op-ed column, they understand that there are no easy options.

And what of us, their parents and grandparents? If we are prepared to accept the facts of global heating — no matter how uncomfortable, disquieting, or inconvenient — then we can collaborate with our children in solving the problems of survival and prosperity in a transformed world. On the other hand, if we reject the science of climate change because it conflicts with our preconceptions and ideologies, we are no longer partners, but adversaries.

It’s up to us.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 22: The Fire This Time

USA Today links the sensitive fee-fees of the god-botherers to the environmental crisis in a touching piece entitled, “God and Climate Change.”

Today, new prophets tell us that our modern sins will lead to rising seas, stronger hurricanes and longer droughts. If we don’t reform our sinful ways, global catastrophe on a biblical scale looms. Billy Graham could hardly have said it better.

Hearing God’s call

In traditional Christian theology, there are two direct ways to access the thinking of God: the “Book of the Bible” and the “Book of Nature.”

Until Charles Darwin, Christians believed that the earth was not much changed from its creation about 6,000 years ago, meaning the design of the natural world offered a glimpse into the mind of God. John Calvin would thus write that God “daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe.” The plant and animal kingdoms are “burning lamps” that “shine for us … the glory of its author.” To eliminate a species or damage the earth is to limit our knowledge of God.

In some ways, environmentalism should be seen as a secularized version of Calvinism, minus God. Obama has brought God back into the environmental conversation, even if his theological knowledge is incomplete.

Go ahead. Tell me I’m angry. Tell me something I don’t know. February 14:

To the extent that their creeds encourage them to act in the interests of our collective survival, religious believers are important participants in the struggle against devastating climate change. But the sword of faith cuts both ways; the fact is that most major world religions deny the reality and finality of the world, viewing it instead as an illusory prelude to a hypothetical afterlife. Whether in the extreme form of those eagerly anticipating the fiery Armageddon described in Revelations, or in the less apocalyptic thinking of religious liberals who simply wish that death wasn’t so, um, deadly, these eschatologies are ultimately incompatible with the idea of long-term sustainability.

Climate change is a global phenomenon unintentionally created by human behavior and detected by human perceptions; it won’t be solved by the prayers of the faithful but by the concerted work of billions of humans seeking to preserve their shared planetary heritage.

Warren Senders

Someone who really should know better…

…sent me this stupid chain email:

An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly.

“Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”

And then she went back to reading her book.

Ha Ha Ha!!!

Christians 1, Atheists 0.


I sent back the following:

And the atheist said, “I don’t know everything about animal digestion, but we can ask a scientist who does.” Fortunately the person in the seat behind them was a zoologist specializing in digestive processes, who was able to supply them with the needed information.

The little girl then turned to a Priest, a Mullah, a Rabbi and a Pandit who were conveniently seated elsewhere on the plane and asked them about deities, heaven, hell, and life after death. Naturally they could not agree on anything beyond the “irrefutable fact” that everyone else’s views were wrong.

A religious riot broke out on the plane that ended when competing eschatological factions beat one another into bloody pulp, terrorizing the other passengers. All participants were arrested. Unfortunately the little girl was severely injured in the fray and has not yet regained consciousness.

No answer to her concerns was ever provided, although the questions about shit were both answerable and answered.

Year 4, Month 1, Day 28: The Autograph Of The Beast

Thomas Lovejoy tells us in the NY Times just how f**ked we are, in a column entitled “The Climate Change Endgame”:

WHETHER in Davos or almost anywhere else that leaders are discussing the world’s problems, they are missing by far the biggest issue: the rapidly deteriorating global environment and its ability to support civilization.

The situation is pretty much an endgame. Unless pressing issues of the biology of the planet and of climate change generated by greenhouse gas emissions are addressed with immediacy and at appropriate scale, the matters that occupy Davos discussions will be seen in retrospect as largely irrelevant.

This week, in Bonn, out of sight and out of mind, international negotiators will design the biodiversity and ecosystem equivalent to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A full eight years have passed since President Jacques Chirac of France acted as host at a meeting in Paris to create this “Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.”

Progress has been painfully slow. Only now is the “platform” and its work program — to assess status, trends and possible solutions — being designed. In the meantime, rates of extinction and endangerment of species have soared. Ecosystem destruction is massive and accelerating. Institutional responsiveness seems lethargic to a reptilian degree.

I hate these sports terms. Sent January 21:

If we are to overcome our culture’s systemic aversion to addressing the ever-more-urgent climate crisis, we should stop using the lexicon of sports and entertainment. When Thomas Lovejoy refers to the ongoing and accelerating environmental collapse as an “endgame,” or James Hansen opines that carbon release from the Canadian tar sands would be “game over” for the climate, the terms carry with them the suggestion of another round, a second chance. This framing is also consistent with the notion, derived from Abrahamic religious tradition, that our life on Earth is but a prelude to another phase of existence, an afterlife of bliss and rectitude.

Well, for all the times that afterlife’s been invoked, it’s never been verified, and the “game over” awaiting our children on a drastically warmed planet will be more like a catastrophic football riot writ large than the anodyne mulligan the phrase implies. Earth has no “reset” button.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 1, Day 25: Here Comes Science!

Now THIS is a damn good idea — Naomi Oreskes, in the Washington Post:

But President Obama can move independently of Congress to address this critical issue: He can mobilize scientists through the U.S. national laboratory system.

There is a powerful precedent for the president to take this route. The core of the national laboratory system was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the Manhattan Project to address an earlier threat to American safety and security: the possibility that German scientists were going to build an atomic bomb that could have been decisive in World War II. Scientists brought the issue to the president’s attention and then did what he asked: They built a deliverable weapon in time for use in the war.

While historians have long argued about the seriousness of the threat of a Nazi atomic bomb, there is no question that at the time it was viewed as imminent. Today we face a threat that is somewhat less immediate but far less speculative. An obvious response is to engage the national laboratory system to study options to reduce or alleviate climate change, which the president could do by executive order.

Let’s defuse the Carbon and Methane bombs. Sent January 18:

A national call to scientists is precisely what is needed in the face of the metastasizing threats posed by climate change. A negative consequence of the Industrial Revolution has been the consumption of many millions of years’ worth of fossilized carbon in a geological instant, with concomitant consequences for our biosphere and our civilization. But another consequence is the rapid expansion of human intellectual resources; thanks to leapfrogging technological advances, we’ve made strides of understanding and insight into the nature of our universe that even a few decades ago would have seemed beyond the wildest imaginings of science fiction.

If there are solutions to the greenhouse effect and its destructive epiphenomena, they won’t be found by those so-called conservatives who’ve carried out a multi-decade campaign against scientific understanding and method, but by climatologists, physicists, chemists and other experts working together for the common benefit of our species and our posterity.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 1, Day 23: Preacher Went a-Hunting, Lord, Lord, Lord.

The Miami Herald runs a McClatchy article on the increasing desperation of the people who actually give a shit:

WASHINGTON — Just before he and other environmentalists marched to the White House on Tuesday, climate change activist James Hansen warned he wouldn’t be able to be arrested with them this time. Hansen, a NASA scientist by day and an activist on his own time, had to be available for a press conference in the afternoon announcing that worldwide temperatures in 2012 were in the top 10 hottest ever recorded.

“I’d be honored to be arrested with you,” Hansen said. A few hours later, he declined to discuss politics on a conference call with reporters, but he outlined how he and other government scientists arrived at their calculations as well as their concerns about future warming trends.

But as President Barack Obama approaches his second term, some of the country’s largest and most influential environmental groups and best-known advocates have drawn up blueprints for the White House to address climate change and its attendant problems: rising sea levels, droughts, more severe storms and acidic oceans. Despite doubts from others about how much could be accomplished in the coming years, they’re calling for the president to crack down on big polluters with tougher emissions rules, to reject the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s tar sands, and to stick to higher new fuel efficiency standards for cars. Other groups want the White House to encourage energy innovations that would curtail emissions.

And some, like the religious leaders who rallied Tuesday on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, said there’s nothing left to do but pray. Among their prayers: that Obama would hear their pleas and have the courage to emerge as a leader on climate change.

The prayer angle led me to go Old-Testament cute for this letter. Sent January 16:

While prayers may have benefits for those who are doing the praying, their efficacy in the measurable world remains unproven. Perhaps environmentalists’ fervent supplications will soften the hearts of our corporate and political pharoahs, who have thus far been obdurate in their refusal to consider the implications of a runaway greenhouse effect on the complex civilization humanity has built over many thousands of years. And then again, perhaps not.

Ultimately, our fate will not rest in the hands of a deity, but in our own collective ability to restore sobriety to a society drunk on fossil fuels and distracted by ephemeral entertainment. Massive investments in science and technology are necessary; human ingenuity just might solve some of the most pressing problems of climate change, but only if it’s well-funded — and treated with something other than the arrant disdain showed by the anti-science pharisees now occupying the halls of congress.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 1, Day 22: Just Wait Till Your Father Gets Home

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette joins the chorus of shrill hippies:

Mother Nature is trying to tell us something and every passing year her message becomes more urgent. That is the takeaway from the news that 2012 was the hottest year in the history of the contiguous United States.

The politicized community of climate change deniers will always find a way to deny the obvious, but more and more the obvious just won’t be pushed out of sight. The situation has become a grim variation of the punch line to the old joke: Who are you going to believe, the climate change deniers or the evidence of your own eyes — or, in this case, the temperature of your own skin?

Plainly, something is seriously wrong with the weather and the climate systems that form it. You don’t have to be a scientist to recognize this. In Pittsburgh, you just have to remember the winters of yore when ponds were frozen and winter sat heavily on the landscape for weeks.

As it happens, the world’s scientists are overwhelmingly united in the belief that the planet’s climate is changing and mankind’s release of carbon-based pollution has had a hand in it. The fallback position of the skeptics is that the facts can be explained in terms of natural rhythms that have always occurred. That is progress, the place where a sensible debate might begin.

Shhhh. Sent January 15:

Mother Nature, that tedious scold whose messages we’ve so successfully ignored for decades, is at it again — this time with the assistance of climate scientists: people who’ve devoted their lives to figuring out exactly what it is she’s trying to tell us. And Mom is mad, because not only have we denied any responsibility for completely trashing our home, we’re refusing to help her clean up.

American conservatives have moved so far away from measurable reality that even the most blatant signals from our traumatized environment are misinterpreted. On one hand, climatologists who’ve been predicting for decades that the metastasizing greenhouse effect would trigger extreme storms and anomalous weather — just like the extreme storms and anomalous weather we’ve been experiencing. On the other hand, evangelical preachers blaming it on gay marriage, and libertarians denouncing attempts to avert catastrophe as unpardonable infringements of their freedoms.

No wonder Mom’s angry.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 1, Day 21: I Do Not Believe You Are An Idiot. My Choice Of Verb Is More Accurate: I KNOW You’re An Idiot.

The Anchorage (AK) Daily News reprints an Op-Ed from the Kansas City Star of a few days ago, titling it “The Costly Ignorance Of Climate”:

The overwhelming number of scientists who believe in climate change scored another “victory” in 2012.

Unfortunately, because of timid political leadership in the United States and around the world, the war against global warming is still being lost.

Scientists have long warned that man-made greenhouse gases are heating up the Earth. They added more evidence to their arsenal when the contiguous United States recorded its hottest year ever in 2012. The average temperature was 55.3 degrees, smashing the 1998 record by one full degree, an incredible leap given the usually small changes in these kinds of measurements.

The New York Times reported other worrisome facts: 34,008 daily high records were established at U.S. weather stations but only 6,664 record lows in 2012.

Worldwide, the average temperature is expected to come in as one of the 10 warmest ever, with all of those occurring in the last 15 years.

Always happy to mock the faithful. January 14:

There’s no doubt among people who pay attention to the evidence that climate change is a dangerous reality. Self-styled “skeptics” confuse incomprehension with intellectual honesty; the root of the problem lies in a word we hear too often in the discussion of the burgeoning greenhouse effect and its consequences. “Believe.”

Scientists’ relationship with reality is vastly different from the faithful’s relationship to their religions. You’ll never hear a religious adherent say that they’ve evaluated the data and are prepared to accept their creed’s validity within two standard deviations, and you’ll never hear a climatologist say they “believe” in climate change. Scientists accept the evidence for climate change because they understand how that evidence was collected and analyzed, and their evaluation of other possible explanations for that evidence suggests that the consensus explanation is the correct one.

To conflate the concepts of belief and understanding is to do both science and religion a disservice. And when this confusion makes concerted international action on global climate change less likely, it makes risible religion’s claims to moral ascendancy.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 1, Day 10: The Moans Of The Damned

The Whittier Daily News (CA) speaks about the question of faith and the environment:

Throughout all of California and the rest of the country, the faith community has been working for many years to preach the gospel of good stewardship of our shared environment.

Amid theological differences, we have fostered a shared sense of purpose and urgency that unites us in solidarity with our local and global communities, especially those most vulnerable to climate change.

The action that results from this shared sense of purpose goes far beyond a congregation’s four walls. People of faith bring shared principles – such as working for the common good, caring for our neighbors, and working for economic justice – into the public policy arena.

For example, the California faith community strongly supported the passage and implementation of Assembly Bill 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This bill, which was fully implemented on Jan. 1, 2013, aims to cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, addressing both global -climate change as well as regional air pollution.

But even policy change in itself is not enough to address the crisis we are currently facing as people of faith struggle with the power to indelibly alter God’s Creation and affect the lives of many generations that come after us.

The environmental crisis is at root a spiritual crisis. To remedy this we must begin to build a new relationship with the earth. That means answering the call to be good stewards of Creation and understanding that the “environment” is not a nebulous “out-there” reality; rather it is intimately connected with our lives and our spiritual development.

This value system is not incompatible with economic growth. On the contrary, the clean technology sector is a major factor in building California’s economy. According to a recent Next 10 report, the clean tech sector grew by 53 percent from 1995-2010, while jobs in the wider economy grew by 12 percent. When we care for the environment, we are caring for the health, livelihood and economic situation of our neighbors and ourselves.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning. Sent January 5:

Attempts to reconcile the demands of long-term sustainability with Christian theology are more complex and problematic than they seem at first blush. While many modern Christians have rejected the notion of Armageddon, a substantial number still advocate for a final apocalypse; a concluding spasm of terrifying violence yielding to a paradisical afterlife for true believers.

The sustainability so desired by environmentalists is predicated on the notion that humanity’s future is open-ended, that our species has a place in the web of Earthly life and a part to play in the long-term history of our universe. These wholly laudable concepts are on a collision course with the notion that the world is destined to end conclusively and explosively, providing an eventual reward for the faithful. For the “faith community” to credibly preach environmental stewardship, it must direct its attention to the many self-described Christians who still hew to End Times theology.

Warren Senders