Year 4, Month 12, Day 10: Used To Wander Through The Park, Shadowboxing In The Dark…

In my heart I have always lived up the road a bit, in The People’s Republic of Cambridge. The Cambridge Chronicle talks about some of the good guys:

Cambridge —

When it comes to climate change, top-down approaches haven’t worked well, at least not according to a group of environmental organizations at MIT.

Earlier this month, the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence’s Climate CoLab together with the MIT Energy Initiative, the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and MIT Sloan Sustainability, sponsored a conference to explore the role new technology-enabled approaches – like crowdsourcing, social media, and big data – could have in combating climate change. The Climate CoLab is an MIT project that seeks to crowdsource citizen-generated ideas on a range of topics related to climate change.

“Top-down approaches haven’t worked very well,” said Laur Fisher, community and partnerships manager for the MIT Climate CoLab. “Now, new information technologies—especially the Internet—are making it possible to organize and harness the intelligence of huge numbers of people in ways that have never been possible before in the history of humanity.”

By constructively engaging a broad range of scientists, policy makers, business people, investors and concerned citizens, Fisher said the hope is that the Climate CoLab will help develop and gain support for climate change plans that are more effective than past efforts.

“We know how to make real progress on climate change, what we must create is the political will to achieve it. Creating that will require all of us to engage. It can’t be a top-down process,” said Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund president and the event’s keynote speaker. “The arch of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but the line on the graph of global emissions won’t bend until we make it do so.”

This letter is a bit of a hash, but it came out OK, I think. November 28:

To be meaningful, attempts to address climate change must be both polycentric and polytemporal; they must operate on scales of size from individuals to nations, and must reflect both long- and short-term thinking. Crowdsourcing initiatives like that of the MIT’s Climate CoLab are essential; the hegemony of old notions about society, energy and sustainability has delayed progress for far too long. We need dedicated and innovative people, families and communities anticipating and out-thinking the inevitable infrastructural and agricultural disruptions that will accompany an intensifying greenhouse effect. But there is no denying the urgent need for large-scale national policies which can support a wide range of individual, local, and regional initiatives. Unfortunately, as the recent inconclusive Warsaw conference once again demonstrates, the industrialized world’s governments are systemically unable to take the problem seriously.

It will take enormous political will and engagement to wrest the controls of our government from the hands of the corporate interests which no longer even pretend to have our interests at heart. The fossil fuel industry’s grossly disproportionate influence on our political system demonstrates that when it comes to making progress on climate change, oil is not a lubricant.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 12, Day 7: Two Game Wardens, Seven Hunters, And A Cow

The Bellingham Herald (WA) notes a new report on big game’s unfortunate lot under a climate-change regime:

One example in the report is the elk population. The original elk population was estimated at 10 million, plummeting to about 50,000 or fewer by the early 20th century. But efforts led by sportsmen, the report said, have help the nationwide population rebound to about 1 million.

“But today, a changing climate threatens to rewrite that success story,” the report reads. “Severe drought, rising temperatures and greater weather extremes are affecting the health, habitat, and food and water supply of every big game species.”

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist for the federation, was one of the lead writers of the report.

“This is very real, it is happening right now. The success of the past is being challenged by climate change,” he said during a news conference.

Citing moose as an example, Inkley talked about the impact heat is having on populations nationwide.

“Moose become heat-stressed in warm weather, they stop eating, seeking out shelter instead,” he said. “That leads to lower weights, lower pregnancy rates, higher death rates.”

The report is careful not to solely blame climate change for population declines. It also cites habitat loss and predation. But climate change, the report emphasizes, impacts animals in so many ways.

Extreme weather threatens survivability. Animals weakened by declining food sources are more susceptible to disease.

The paper’s website says they’ll take letters only from people who live in their circulation area. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? November 25:

Genuine hunters operate from a position of deep respect for the natural world. So it’s hardly surprising that they recognize a shifting climate’s impacts on local and regional ecosystems all over the planet. As global heating intensifies, animal habitats become less hospitable, and migratory patterns are disrupted. Similarly, forest and plant populations are affected by changes in seasonal freeze and thaw patterns, resulting in disrupted pollination and increased vulnerability to pests. No wonder hunters are worried; their way of life is facing destruction in the wake of an accelerating greenhouse effect that promises only to become more extreme in the decades to come.

Conservative politicians and pundits are all too ready to stigmatize discussion of climate change as mere “politics,” Such a stance is deeply irresponsible. Hunters and environmentalists alike must cooperate to avert a humanitarian and environmental tragedy, not play rhetorical games while the planet burns.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 10, Day 25: Unraveling

The Vancouver Sun notes that there’s trouble in the waters:

A $32-million commercial fishery has inexplicably and completely collapsed this year on the B.C. coast.

The sardine seine fleet has gone home after failing to catch a single fish. And the commercial disappearance of the small schooling fish is having repercussions all the way up the food chain to threatened humpback whales.

Jim Darling, a Tofino-based whale biologist with the Pacific Wildlife Foundation, said in an interview Monday that humpbacks typically number in the hundreds near the west coast of Vancouver Island in summer. They were observed only sporadically this year, including by the commercial whale-watching industry.

“Humpbacks are telling us that something has changed,” he said. “Ocean systems are so complex, it’s really hard to know what it means. For one year, I don’t think there’s any reason to be alarmed, but there is certainly reason to be curious.”

Not a single fucking fish. Not one. What would they do if they only caught one, I wonder? Would it get interviewed on “Oprah”? October 15:

While there can be no doubt that economically-driven overfishing has been a huge factor in the extraordinary collapse of many fish populations, the evidence is now overwhelming that another ingredient in this toxic mix is the impact of climate change. As Earth’s oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they are becoming ever more acidic, which has devastating consequences for many forms of sea life. Furthermore, this change in the water’s chemical makeup is exacerbated by a global increase in temperature — a double-whammy which is forcing many species out of ecological niches they have occupied for centuries or millennia and into a stressful and failure-prone struggle for survival.

The interdependence of oceanic ecosystems is still poorly understood, but the empty fishing nets of the sardine industry provide tangible testimony to the unraveling fabric of aquatic life. By muddling the public discussion of this crucial issue, climate-change deniers in industry, politics, and the media are contributing to an ongoing environmental and humanitarian disaster.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 10, Day 23: Use It Up, Wear It Out

The Sierra Vista Herald (AZ) announces a talk on regional impacts by a local climatologist:

A University of Arizona climate expert will discuss how increasing climate instability will affect the residents and landscapes of the U.S. Southwest during the Huachuca Audubon Society meeting on Oct. 15. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Gregg Garfin, deputy director for science translation and outreach at the UA Institute of the Environment, will outline regional climate change issues and challenges, from strained water resources, to more tree-killing pests, to threats to agriculture, energy, and human health, during his 7 p.m. talk in Room 702 on the Sierra Vista campus of Cochise College.

Garfin’s presentation highlights findings presented in a new book, “Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States,” which details current and projected regional climate impacts and offers information that can help ensure the wellbeing of the region’s inhabitants in the decades to come.

This is a pretty generic letter. I’ve got stuff to do today. October 13:

Arizona and its neighbors in the Southwest aren’t alone in coming face to face with the troublesome facts of change. Everywhere on Earth, people are discovering that the bill for a century-long carbon binge is coming due. Scientists have important predictions for agriculturists — whether they’re monocropping factory farmers in the corn belt or peasants in the world’s poorest nations — and those predictions are unanimously anticipating that unpredictable and extreme weather is going to bring increasingly uncertain harvests. That translates into a humanitarian disaster just around the corner.

There’s may be arguments about the best ways to get ready for the impacts of an onrushing greenhouse effect — but we are absolutely certain to fail if we cannot accept the existence, causes, and harmful potentials of climate change. Corporations who fund climate-denying media figures and politicians are acting in the worst interests of our species, sacrificing the prosperity of our posterity for a few extra points of profit or a flash of fame on the boob tube. Denial is no longer an option.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 22: Why People Tear The Seam Of Anyone’s Dream Is Over My Head

Oceanic ecosystems are coming undone, notes the LA Times:

As climate change heats our oceans, you’d expect temperature-sensitive marine species to flee poleward to cooler waters. So why have some headed to warmer regions toward the equator?

Scientists have solved the puzzle. For the most part, these animals are relocating to cooler waters. But since the effects of climate change can vary widely across regions, sometimes those cooler regions are closer to the poles and sometimes they’re closer to the equator.

In other words, marine animals are still reacting to climate change, but at a local scale. And they’re doing it so reliably that you can actually measure the speed and direction of those changes by watching where animals go, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Just another day in the Solar System. September 14:

As climate change’s effects grow more intense, we’ll see more plant and animal species on the move; the transformation of the world’s ocean populations is just one example of something that’s happening everywhere we look. But the heart of the story isn’t that creatures are traveling to more salubrious locales. The intricacy and variety of Earthly life is created by the interactions between life-forms; local and regional habitats have evolved over thousands of years to support symbiotic relationships in a richly interwoven tapestry.

A particular type of fish moving where the water is cooler doesn’t sound like that big a deal — but it could easily spell disaster for other species in an interdependent oceanic environment. When the web of life unravels in one location, it will have impacts everywhere. With billions depending on the seas for their sustenance, the news of ecosystem disruption is bad news for everyone.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 18: Sweet Sister Morphine

The Edmonton Journal talks about the Cold Lake catastrophe and the response from First Nations people:

EDMONTON – The chief and council of Cold Lake First Nations want a tour of traditional lands contaminated by four recent surface releases of bitumen emulsion from oil wells, says the First Nations industry liaison.

“We have many concerns because that’s our traditional territory,” said Christine Chalifoux, who works as liaison between Cold Lakes First Nations and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. “As always, our concern is how much damage is done to the land and the wildlife that is out there.”

After a spill reported June 24 affecting 40 hectares of land at Canadian Natural’s Primrose South location, as well as three other spills at its Primrose East location this spring, the Alberta Energy Regulator ordered the Calgary-based producer to stop a process using steam to melt bitumen, allowing it to pool into wells before turning off the steam and pumping out the bitumen.

Both projects are on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range about 240 kilometres east of Edmonton. That range, Chalifoux said, has been federally recognized as part of the First Nation’s traditional territory.

This is utterly tragic. July 26:

The apparently unstoppable bitumen leak that is rapidly destroying Cold Lake is a demonstration of the dangers inherent in allowing our planetary energy economy to become so heavily dependent on fossil fuels. There is a grim pathology evident in the behavior of all who participate in this system — everyone from corporate CEOs and their government enablers to ordinary consumers who need to drive to work.

Rationalizations, evasions, manipulations, and thoughtlessness are all depressingly common characteristics of addicts, and it is time to start calling our relationship with carbon-based fuels what it really is: an addiction. A junkie doesn’t care about the lives he destroys or the lies he tells, as long as he can get his next fix — and our petroleum-powered consumer society is likewise unconcerned about the destruction of regional ecosystems like that centered on a beautiful Alberta lake — we’ve gotta have that oil, whether it’s good for our long-term well-being or not (hint: it’s not).

The Earth itself — a small planet in an obscure corner of a minor galaxy — is increasingly vulnerable to the climatic consequences of our addiction. We all live on the shores of Cold Lake.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 25: Nothin’s Gonna Bother Me Atoll…

The Wyndham Weekly (Austrialia) writes about a newly released study that suggests coral may have a hope in hell after all:

Rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change are unlikely to mean the end of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef, according to a new scientific study.

The Cell Press journal Current Biology this morning published what it says is the first large-scale investigation of climate effects on corals and found while some corals were dying, others were flourishing and adapting to the change in water temperatures.

For the study researchers identified and measured more than 35,000 coral colonies on 33 reefs across the length of the Great Barrier Reef to see how they were responding to warming ocean waters.

In results they have described as ‘‘surprising’’ the study found while one species declined in abundance, other species could rise in number.

One of the researchers, Professor Terry Hughes from James Cook University, said while critical issues remained he now believed rising temperatures were unlikely to mean the end of the coral reef.

‘‘The good news is that, rather than experiencing wholesale destruction, many coral reefs will survive climate change by changing the mix of coral species as the ocean warms and becomes more acidic,’’ he said.

‘‘That’s important for people who rely on the rich and beautiful coral reefs of today for food, tourism, and other livelihoods.’’

He said earlier studies of climate change and corals had been done on a much smaller geographical scale, with a primary focus on total coral cover or counts of species as rather crude indicators of reef health.

The problem with good news… Sent April 15:

While a recently released study on coral reefs’ potential for survival in a climate-transformed world reassuringly suggests that oceanic acidification and global warming may not mean extinction, it should prompt us all to work harder on controlling and reducing the planetary greenhouse effect. Gigantic coral colonies like the Great Barrier Reef may well continue living even as their ability to form structures is compromised by higher pH seawater — but this good news cannot be our civilization’s newest excuse for inaction.

Just as the long-term health and prosperity of coral reefs is compromised by climate change, humanity will find its long-term health and prosperity to be surprisingly vulnerable. While we clever apes will surely figure out ways to go on living, our species faces significant dangers from the rapidly emerging effects of the past century’s worth of atmospherized carbon. In the long run, perhaps we are all coral.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 2: Boo Boo?

The September 27 issue of Billings, Montana, Gazette reports on a new study that highlights climate change’s probable effects on Yellowstone National Park:

The weather in Yellowstone National Park could feel more like that of Los Angeles in 60 years if climate change continues to accelerate, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Under that “medium high” climate change scenario, the average summer temperature in the nation’s first national park would rise by 9.7 degrees by 2070.

Stephen Saunders of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, lead author of the report that was underwritten by the Bozeman-based Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said “9.7 degrees of additional heat would totally transform the ecosystem.”

A climate like LA’s, huh? Old Faithful — with rats, pigeons and roaches. Rock’n’roll!

Sent Sept. 28:

The numbers in environmental predictions can be misleading. When we hear, for example, that Yellowstone National Park may be nine degrees warmer by 2070, it’s relatively easy to dismiss; after all, temperatures can vary by far more than that amount in a single day, so what’s the fuss about?

But that nine-degree figure conceals some of the worst ravages of climate change. Hot weather evaporates more water, boosting the moisture content of the air and making extreme precipitation more likely — catastrophic floods, infrastructure-crippling snowfalls. An increase in average temperature doesn’t just mean the mercury goes up; it means wilder swings, hotter hots and colder colds.

Yellowstone is home to richly complex and unique ecosystems — micro-communities of life that are found nowhere else on the planet. Uniqueness, of course, implies vulnerability. If, as the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization report suggests, the park’s summer climate in 2070 could resemble that of today’s Los Angeles, it’s a fair bet that many of the plants and animals that have made it a worldwide tourist attraction aren’t going to survive.

The politicians and media figures who promote the denial of climate change are sacrificing our shared national heritage for their own short-term enrichment — a grotesque betrayal of the public trust.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 10: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

The Charlotte Observer notes that climate change is having an impact on regional bird populations as well as forests:

Each December a hardy flock of birdwatchers scatters across Mecklenburg County for the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which has tracked bird movements for more than a century.

Here’s what the numbers say about Charlotte’s birds: They’re moving north as temperatures warm. Eighteen of the 20 most common backyard species spotted last Dec. 27 have shifted their winter ranges northward over the past 40 years, national data show. The average distance was 116 miles.

It seemed to me that if our species had remained in closer touch with the ecosystems of which we are a part, we would probably not have fucked things up so badly to begin with.

Sent May 1:

It’s unsurprising that close observation of patterns in the natural world reveals the impact of climate change; the subtle and complex interrelationships between the various forms of Earthly life are profoundly interwoven with climatic factors. We must also recognize that as industrial culture has grown over the past several centuries, humans have become increasingly separated from the environment and oblivious to its transformations. This distance from nature means that for most of us, “climate change” is something scientists and the media discuss, not something we observe in the ecosystems around us. Northward motion of bird populations and crippled spruce forests are just two examples of global warming’s impact — but when Americans are more likely to see nature on TV than in real life, the shape of this terrifying threat will remain hidden until the changes are too big to ignore. At which point it will be too late.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 2, Day 15: Consider How Small You Are

The San Jose Mercury News runs a piece on how climate change is affecting California’s redwood trees; their growth requires fog, and the changing temperatures are reducing the sea mists which have been part of their life cycle for centuries.

A report recently issued by the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association concludes climate change could affect the formation and presence of fog along the entire Pacific Coast, and that in turn could stunt the giant redwoods.

“It’s a concern that has been floating around the park service: How do you deal with the fog issue?” said Neal Desai, associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association Pacific Region. “The redwoods at Muir Woods are the iconic trees, and the fog is their lifeblood.”

Another recent report issued by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization in Colorado looking at the impact on state parks comes to the same conclusion — and says it’s already happening.

This was a good opportunity to pull out the “old things deserve respect” meme and take it for a spin again.

The endangered redwoods embody one of the core lessons that humans need to learn from our changing climate. People come from all over the world to spend time in the majestic groves of Muir Woods, because there is a great peace to be found in the company of the oldest living things on the planet. These trees were hundreds of feet tall when the pilgrims landed on the Atlantic coast; they command our respect, admiration and careful stewardship. We should adopt a similar attitude towards the world’s supply of fossil fuels: the sunlight of the Carboniferous Era, geologically transformed into a barrel of oil, a pound of coal. Whether it’s excess plastic packaging, thousands of hours spent idling our automobiles, or other forms of conspicuous consumption, we’re wasting some of the oldest resources available to our species. Watching the redwoods struggle, it’s increasingly obvious: our profligacy is backfiring on us.

Warren Senders