Year 3, Month 11, Day 3: Don’t Think Of An Elephant!

Those crazy Kansans are at it again:

Kansas State Board of Education races this year are shadowed by an emerging conflict over science standards for public schools — and it’s not all about evolution.

Climate change is emerging as a potential political flashpoint in Kansas and possibly 25 other states working with the National Research Council on common standards. If adopted, the guidelines could encourage public schools to spend far more time teaching students about the Earth’s climate and how human activity affects it.

Kansas state school board candidates are used to questions about the state’s science standards because of past debates about how evolution should be taught, but the possibility of a similar debate about climate change is a new twist as the Nov. 6 election approaches. Five of the board’s 10 seats are on the ballot, and three races are contested.

The winners, along with the hold-over board members, are expected to vote on new science standards early next year. At least a few conservative Republicans in Kansas are wary of what the standards will say about climate change amid support from educators and scientists for addressing the topic more thoroughly than in the past.

“When you’re looking at 100 scientists, you’ve got 90-some, high 90s, that have no question about climate change, and so for them, they have no problem with that being in,” said John Richard Schrock, a veteran biology professor at Emporia State University.

But, he acknowledged, to others, “It looks political.”

We are sooooooo fucked. Sent October 27:

As the East coast prepares for an oncoming superstorm, and the corn belt struggles to recover from a season of devastating drought, it beggars belief that climate-change denialist positions are under serious consideration for inclusion in Kansas’ science curricula. If, as the Emporia biology professor notes, the subject “looks political,” that’s not because it’s under any serious scientific dispute, but because a group of cynical, profit-hungry opportunists have exploited a complacent and complaisant media to push the spurious notion that there still remains any meaningful dispute about the existence, causes and genuine dangers presented by climate change.

Conservatives’ conflation of scientific methodology with religious doctrine is revealing. For these folk, the notion of a gradually-strengthening scientific consensus supported by empirical evidence and the logical analysis of data is simply another dogma. Americans should reject such thinking as more appropriate to an earlier, and far more barbaric, chapter in human history.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 6: What The Framp?

The Monterey County Weekly runs a devastating piece by Dan Linehan titled, “We are almost completely f%#&ed— Al Gore rallies citizen deputies to break through climate-change denial while there’s still (a little) hope.” Read the whole thing. Excerpt:

If Al Gore’s environmental truth was inconvenient before, now it’s outright uncomfortable.

Last year was the earth’s hottest on record. Ever. 

That triggered extremes: A drought-generated dust storm reached 50 miles wide and 6,000 feet tall, engulfing Phoenix, Ariz. Tropical Storm Irene hit Killington, Vt., which has a ski mountain tall enough to see Canada – and it’s not too often you see the words “tropical” and “Canada” in the same sentence. Typhoon Megi dumped 45 inches of rain on Taiwan in 48 hours, forcing more than 350,000 people to evacuate.

And this year has scorched 2011. Over a recent month-and-a-half stretch, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 1,692 counties disaster areas due to drought, with about 80 percent of the country’s agricultural land affected. This comes after Russia stopped exporting food due to weather-related crop failures and resulting shortages. The worst drought in more than 100 years hit both North Korea and South Korea. On July 15, Kuwait hit an all-time high of 128.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

National Geographic reports that between 1998 and 2011, there have been 87 severe weather events in the U.S., and each caused at least $1 billion in damages, though they were comparatively modest economically compared to Hurricane Katrina, which topped out at $146 billion. The total disaster price tag nearly doubled the cost of the previous 16-year period. 

Severe weather events, like stronger hurricanes, harsher droughts, wilder floods and fiercer firestorms, are happening with greater frequency. Scientists have been warning us that this – the wallop of planet warming hitting harder and more frequently – was coming.

Good, if agonizing, stuff. Sent September 29:

There is no “solution” to global climate change, because the metastasizing greenhouse effect and its epiphenomena are not one, but a multitude of problems. What we face is a richly complex set of puzzles: how to survive in a rapidly transforming environment, how to slow (and perhaps reverse) that transformation, and how to recognize the processes that have brought us to this point in our civilization’s history.

The key, as always, is education. We as individuals and as a society must understand the factors contributing to climate change: the physics of the greenhouse effect, the chemistry of methane and carbon dioxide, the immediate and long-term costs of fossil fuels, the inherent contradictions of an economy built on a model of continuous growth, and the relentless pressure of an increasing human population.

And, while learning, we must act — as individuals, as families, as communities, as states, as nations, and as a species under threat. Oherwise, the climate crisis will offer only a “final solution.”

Warren Senders

A Great Tree Has Fallen: Asad Ali Khan, R.I.P.

This Tuesday, June 14, the world of music lost a great spirit.

Ustad Asad Ali Khan, one of the few remaining performers on the ancient Indian stringed instrument called the Rudra Veena, passed away after suffering a heart attack in the early hours of the morning.

He performed an austere and sober style of music, an instrumental version of the vocal style known as Dhrupad, which dates back to the 11th century or so. The Rudra Veena, or Been, is considered to be one of the oldest instruments of Indian tradition; it has its own origin myth, which states that the instrument sprang full-blown from the forehead of a meditating Lord Shiva. It is interesting that Asad Ali Khan, whose name makes his Muslim ancestry evident, saw no religious conflict in embracing this story; ecumenicism in Indian musical traditions is alive and well.

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Year 2, Month 2, Day 17: Dumber-er-er-er

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes a newly released study on climate change’s projected impact on Wisconsin: 6-7 degrees of warming by 2050. Sounds fairly dire, no? Now just look at the comments.

Mailed Feb. 8. This is the letter that prompted the obscene phone call of this past Monday.

The failure of our country’s educational system is nowhere more abject than in the areas of science and mathematics — a statement easily verified by glancing through the online comments on the recent study from scientists at the University of Wisconsin dealing with the projected impact of climate change on the state. If our science education had been of higher quality, there would be far fewer people confusing “weather” with “climate.” If our mathematics classes had done their job, we wouldn’t see endless confusions of terms like “average” and “mean,” or such consistent misunderstanding of the statistics of probability. A scientifically-grounded, research-based study projecting a six to seven degree rise in temperature should cause at least a little alarm, even among people who aren’t paying attention. Instead, the alarms are in the minds of the paranoids who suspect a nefarious global conspiracy of climatologists, (led by Al Gore, of course).

Warren Senders