WE LIVE IN AN ANTI-ICE AGE

February 25, 2020

In less than ten days a lot of ice has melted from one part of the Antarctic.  Could it be time to sell your oceanside property?

Meanwhile, in California, home owners in fire risk areas are often seeing insurance premiums go up by more than double…or their insurance company simply refuses to renew.  The state legislature is trying to fight back.

I have a friend in rural California, retired.  She and her partner are getting ready to flee the state…their home insurance premium is now prohibitive.

Another California friend, who lives in rural Mariposa near Yosemite, sent me this email: “Fire insurance in much of rural and interface California is now unavailable or out of reach. With it goes the value of your home, since most banks won’t loan until you can demonstrate coverage. So also goes home construction and the real estate business.”

So people may not be selling their homes in Auburn or Tahoe or Grass Valley or Columbia or…any time soon.  Empty lots in Paradise may be gong at Paradise-low prices…

CAN WE FINALLY GET PAST PRETENDING TO BE SPECIAL?

February 19, 2020

I cannot believe there are still allegedly intelligent hominids who cling to the belief that something, or some person, or some tribe,  or some nation or some species is exceptional, is unique, is “the only one.”  True some things are more one way than most things, one species may be slightly faster or heavier or have a few more teeth…but everything in the real world occurs on a scale or in a complex pattern.

Just now there is research indicating some Neanderthal burials may have included flowers.

Just in my life time we have seen evidence that has put to rest the old myths that only Home sapiens made tools, or had language, or made symbols.  I am afraid there is nothing positive that we can claim uniquely for our species, or any of our nations, or smaller groups like tribe or religion or political party.  Yes, we do have nuclear weapons that could destroy most life.  And we are testing the limits of heating the planet to great risk for all concerned, and those oblivious as well.

We are part of nature and nature has been experimenting randomly for billions of years and will go on until the universe  implodes, explodes, reboots or reverts or does all that and more.  Nothing, nobody, no thing, no animal, no group is completely and truly exceptional.  One might be slightly more red or musical or tall or long-lived than others but it is clearer every decade that much of life, much of the universe, much of whatever gathering you choose, that much of anything shares much of its nature with much else.  That much is clear.  We can now honestly abandon that BS about “humans are the only animal that…”
We are just another species that needs THIS earth to survive and if we destroy this planet’s life-sustaining nature, we will be just another failed species.  Trilobite.  Stegosaurus.  Dodo. Neanderthal, flowers and all.  Atlantis.  Sumeria.  Scythia. Pompeii.  Roman Empire. Inca Empire.  Austro-Hungarian Empire. USSR.

MY LAST EVER BLOG ON CLIMATE CRISIS, I PROMISE

August 6, 2019

If you get beyond the mere political and performance news and look at what is happening to our planet, survival is THE ISSUE on our crowded Earth.  From microbes to migration of displaced persons, from charcoal to coral reefs, there is constant change and struggle and a feeling that change is bringing an inevitability.  Is it down the drain?  Over the cliff?  Into the abyss?  To even type the word “hope” seems now almost cynical, like urging somebody to go shopping to make themselves feel better.  We are consuming the planet and destroying its ability to support life, ours along with the gorilla, the coral, the right whale, the ponderosa, the banana we love to eat, the Bachman’s Warbler (oh wait, that one’s long gone).

This will be my final catalog of the climate crisis events.  I find I can no longer read and shrug and vow to move on.  It all looks so awful I almost think the author of The Uninhabitable Planet was just having fun and making us feel false hope…even though his opening line is “It’s worse, much worse, than you think.”

No, David Wallace-Wells (author of above), your book doesn’t even approach my imaginings, my pity for my grandkids, my relief that I am old enough not to be around when we hit 3 degrees Centigrade above the old average, or 4 or 6 or…

Here’s some of the recent stuff, each indicative of what we have to look forward to…and I am not even going to mention the Dengue Fever outbreak in the Pacific.  Wait until that spreads like West Nile or Lyme’s Disease have.

Hardly worth noting that July, 2019, was the hottest month on record.

Meanwhile Greenland used to be a sort of ironic name for that icy land.  No more.

In Brazil the authoritarian regime seems determined to deforest the Amazon, bad in too many ways to count.

The oceans and their living ecosystems suffer, from coral and plankton to whales and sharks.  Beyond mere acidification, heat, deadly algae, pollution, oil spills, upheaval of ocean currents…we now find that climate change is inhibiting creatures for communicating and even sensing their watery world.  This tantamount to taking away all the cells phones in a high school.

Bee deaths continue and we are not sure why or what or how or…  I hope I do not outlast almonds and cherries.

Turns out the meteor that crashed to Earth near the Yucatan 66 million years ago was a disaster that almost didn’t happen.  Yet it did for the dinosaurs and millions of other organisms and allowed the conquest of Earth by our mammalian ancestors and avian cousins.  There will be no swerve in the current extinction event.

Cities are particularly vulnerable to climate change.  Too much heat. There is a biological limit to how much heat a Human body can stand and that limit is far below boiling water or baking granola.
And then high water or drought or general social collapse.

Speaking of social collapse.  Human migration will only increase as drought and starvation get worse…it won’t stop at Honduras or Somalia or Syria.  It will be tens of millions of people not mere thousands.

That will cause even more violent nationalism, genocide and racism.  The gunner in El Paso already sees the future as a fight to save his lifestyle from the impoverished hordes because the environment is disintegrating.  Young eco-fascist have leap-frogged the right-wing deniers and grabbed climate crisis as a great reason to kill their enemies.

One bright spot seems to be that the current U.S regime is trying to save us from the worst.  They are blocking information that might upset.  They want to protect us from the unpleasant science that says future crops of rice will far less nutritious because of the heat.  The researcher who did the studies has quit.  Oh well, rice is only the #1 source of starch for billions of people. Let ’em eat cake.

BREAKING RECORDS CAN BE A BAD THING

June 29, 2019

Not only did the French women’s soccer (they call it football) lose to the USA, but the nation saw its highest ever recorded temperature today.  In southern France one town recorded 45.9 degree Celsius (centigrade). Quick conversion for us Yanks, 9/5 x C, plus 32…and you get a Fahrenheit temp over 114 degrees.  Even down in the oven  Sahara they would find that to be warm…and that;s where this weather has come from.

SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING ARE ON FIRE

June 27, 2019

Europe’s biggest forest fire in two decades.
And some of Europe’s hottest June days in recorded history

Meanwhile, climate emergency declared in New York City.  While Dems debate in Miami on what is now the Florida peninsula, likely to become an archipelago with a storied past.  Not only Florida is in danger, and not only New York City.  Nor all the coastal cities in California.  How about Texas?  That homeland for so many professional oil-enriched climate change deniers?

Yet petroleum does not have to morally corrupt as it has in Oklahoma and Texas, Venezuela and Russia, Saudi Arabia and most of the oily parts of the Mideast…oil wealth can lead to good things if there is a honest and conscientious government.  Norway is green.  We shoud all be green with envy.

Covering the climate can be deadly for reporters.  Or, if your are fortunate, you just lose your job, and rise another day.  Neither is good since the US Department of Agriculture doesn’t want you finding out about the possible damage from a hotter planet.

WILL LIFE ON EARTH OUTLAST THE CURRENT VERSION OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM?

June 24, 2019

There are two easily defined words that should begin and end any discussion of our climate crisis and where the planet is heading:  GREED, EXTINCTION.

In the June 7 Times Literary Supplement has two essays focused on the world economy and the climate.  Joseph Stiglitz reviews three new books on the capitalism of the moment with its self-destructive momentum toward ever-greater concentration of wealth, and use of resources without regard to effects on the planet and life.
His opening sentences: “By now it is clear that something is fundamentally wrong with modern capitalism. The 2008 global financial crisis showed that the system as currently constructed is neither efficient nor stable.”
“…while many of these Friedmanite economists have stayed remarkably quiescent in the aftermath of the crisis, the ideology and sets of beliefs they pushed and that bear significant responsibility for the crisis remain alive and well.”
“Paul Collier… in The Future of Capitalism: Facing the new anxieties proposes a tax not only on urban land – on the rents that accrue as a result of the increased productivity from economic agglomeration in our thriving cities – but on the high-income urban workers who share in that prosperity.”
All three books give prominence to the role of the battle of ideas, explaining how misguided theories have won out from the era of Reagan and Thatcher onwards. Block, for example, details the role played by several misconceptions about our economic and political system, beginning with market fundamentalism (what I refer to in my book, Globalization and Its Discontents, 2002, as the almost religious belief that markets, on their own, are efficient, stable and in some sense fair). He rightly shows that, without government constraints, the rich and powerful shape capitalism to give themselves the advantage, undermining competition and exploiting others, eventually undermining the capitalist system itself. [my emphasis] Adam Smith recognized this, but his latter-day followers often seem to forget it.”
This is where the greed becomes central value of capitalism.  CEOs may hold as much stock as any shareholder and thus driving profits, dividends and stock price matter far more than anything else the company does…as long as it doesn’t get caught.  Even so the CEO just bails with billions.

See Countrywide’s loans before 2008,  Perdue’s pain-killers that were also profitable human killers but marketed as non-addictive, VW’s diesel fraud, Deutsche Bank’s money laundering, see most of the publicly traded companies in the US that make no profit but keep borrowing money to make their quarterly reports look good and bolster stock price.

Stiglitz says the current system must be replaced.

“…creating this new system will only happen through politics – which, in turn, is why the future of capitalism, our democracies and the world are inextricably linked. We’ve seen what misshapen capitalism has done to democracies in the US and elsewhere, and how the resulting electoral perversions then distort our economies. The sad reality is that matters could get worse. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is merely the latest authoritarian on the global scene.

“If we are to achieve an ethical capitalism, we need an ethical politics, which respects the basic tenets of democratic values. Again, that’s not likely to happen on its own. We can see this clearly in the US, where the right has been engaged in a systematic agenda of disenfranchisement and disempowerment – limiting voting for citizens who oppose the right’s ideas, limiting (through gerrymandering) opponents’ ability to translate votes into political power…. This is especially easy in the US, where highly politicized Supreme Court justices on the right read into the Constitution new rights for the wealthy and fewer rights for ordinary citizens: for instance the right of rich corporations to make unbridled campaign contributions while circumscribing the rights of workers to organize or individuals to sue corporations who have abused them[money as speech!]…

“These three books naturally ascribe a key role to the power of ideas. But interests matter as well. Economics is about growth but it is also about distributive battles – and as Trump’s devastating Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 illustrates, the latter proved more important than either ideas or growth. A small state is a handmaiden to these interests. Citizens with economic power simply don’t want a state that would prevent them from exercising that power. Businesses that exploit others don’t want a government capable of preventing them from engaging in nefarious activities, or of redistributing their ill-gotten gains. Oil, chemical and coal companies don’t want a state powerful enough to stop them from destroying our planet.

“In its attempts to circumscribe the state, the right also destroys the ability of a nation to do what it must for all its citizens to prosper… In their selfishness, even those at the top may be hurting themselves: they would be better off with a smaller share of a larger pie, and they, like everyone else, would benefit from a more stable and sustainable economy and society. Not to mention a habitable planet.”

“It is now time to find a path between incrementalism on the one hand and violent revolution on the other. A radical change in economic and power relationships is possible. It is also existentially urgent. This is the only thing that will save capitalism from itself and from the capitalists who would unwittingly destroy it, and the Earth along with it.”

The second essay is by Naomi Klein.   She makes a cogent argument for a Green New Deal.  Environmental and economic problems are  linked and cannot be separated she argues.

“…global emissions continue to rise alongside average temperatures, with large swathes of the planet beset by record-breaking storms and fires. The scientists convened in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have confirmed precisely what those African and low-lying island states long since warned: that allowing temperatures to rise by 2 degrees is a death sentence, and that only a 1.5-degree target gives us a fighting chance. Six Pacific islands have already disappeared beneath the rising seas this century.”
“…Europe, Australia and the United States have all responded to the increase in mass migration – intensified by climate stresses – with brutal force, ranging from Italy’s de facto ‘let them drown’ policy to Donald Trump’s war on an unarmed caravan from Central America. Let there be no mistake: this barbarism is how the wealthy world plans to adapt to climate change.”
Her conclusion is that now, with youthful activism in mind, “when other young people are finding their climate voice and their climate rage, there is finally a handful of political leaders able to receive their message, with an actual plan to turn it into policy. And that might just change everything.”

Greed and extinction.  They go together.  The bumper sticker that pertains: Change or Die.

 

CLIMATE REPORT–2018

November 24, 2018

Every four years American government scientists are supposed to issue an assessment of climate change and its effects.  This one is a doozy.  Here’s National Geographic’s summary: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/climate-change-US-report0/

SMOKE, WINE GRAPES AND A DROUGHTY FUTURE IN THE WEST

October 5, 2018

What sort of population upheaval awaits the American West?  Effects of forest fires lead to job loss at theatre festival. 

TINY ISLAND WITH UNCERTAIN FUTURE, PEACEFUL PRESENT

August 12, 2018

Perhaps one of the most relaxed places on earth is endangered a tiny island off South America. No crime, no police, little money.  Peace.

No cars, no traffic besides boats.  No airport, no buses, no lawns and no lawn-mowers. No mosquitoes. Checking on sewer system…

You want to see a short, documentary?  Click here.

LET’S KILL MORE BEARS AND WOLVES

May 22, 2018

Make America trigger-happy again  as in the frontier days.  Shoot first…

The Trump Administration has proposed lifting a ban on shooting grizzly cubs and various ways of slaughtering wolves in Alaska.  Great white hunters rejoice.

All the current shooting mania abroad in our land makes me think we need a constitutional amendment: legislatures, Congress, governors and White House may NOT have any stricter gun controls or safety measures than are found in the poorest public school district in Mississippi or any other red state with minimal taxes.  It is time for the right-wing rich politicians to have to live like the poorest of our citizens, right?

In fact, I’d rate a grizzly both rarer and more beautiful than any pro-gun politician I can think of.  If we allowed shooting of as many pro-gun pols as we do grizzlies…bet conservation would get very popular even within the Republican Congress, though I note they did nothing after one of their own was shot on a softball field…maybe all they need is Trump’s blessing and lots of prayers…