Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Drastic Action Plan

This article in the Guardian is directed toward the UK - which seems to be light years ahead of the US in their thinking about this. There are some good ideas - he also suggests a rationing system - which I think is going to be necessary as well. He mentions that during WWII - society was able to change very rapidly - factories, the economy. There is no reason we can't do something similar today - once people (and esp. the government) acknowldge the problem and need for solutions.

Drastic action on climate change is needed now - and here's the plan (Suggested by George Monbiot):

...If we're to have a high chance of preventing global temperatures from rising by 2C (3.6F) above preindustrial levels, we need, in the rich nations, a 90% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030.

2. Use that target to set an annual carbon cap, which falls on the ski-jump trajectory. Then use the cap to set a personal carbon ration. Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He or she spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If they run out, they must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his or her quota... Timescale: a full scheme in place by January 2009.

3. Introduce a new set of building regulations, with three objectives. A. Imposing strict energy-efficiency requirements on all major refurbishments (costing £3,000 or more). Timescale: in force by June 2007. B. Obliging landlords to bring their houses up to high energy-efficiency standards before they can rent them out. Timescale: to cover all new rentals from January 2008. C. Ensuring that all new homes in the UK are built to the German Passivhaus standard (which requires no heating system). Timescale: in force by 2012.

4. Ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights and other wasteful and unnecessary technologies. Introduce a stiff "feebate" system for all electronic goods sold in the UK, with the least efficient taxed heavily and the most efficient receiving tax discounts. Every year the standards in each category rise. Timescale: fully implemented by November 2007.

5. Redeploy money now earmarked for new nuclear missiles towards a massive investment in energy generation and distribution. Two schemes in particular require government support to make them commercially viable: very large wind farms, many miles offshore, connected to the grid with high-voltage direct-current cables; and a hydrogen pipeline network to take over from the natural gas grid as the primary means of delivering fuel for home heating. Timescale: both programmes commence at the end of 2007 and are completed by 2018.

6. Promote the development of a new national coach network. City-centre coach stations are shut down and moved to motorway junctions. Urban public transport networks are extended to meet them. The coaches travel on dedicated lanes and never leave the motorways. Journeys by public transport then become as fast as journeys by car, while saving 90% of emissions. It is self-financing, through the sale of the land now used for coach stations. Timescale: commences in 2008; completed by 2020.

7. Oblige all chains of filling stations to supply leasable electric car batteries. This provides electric cars with unlimited mileage: as the battery runs down, you pull into a forecourt; a crane lifts it out and drops in a fresh one. The batteries are charged overnight with surplus electricity from offshore wind farms. Timescale: fully operational by 2011.

8. Abandon the road-building and road-widening programme, and spend the money on tackling climate change. The government has earmarked £11.4bn for road expansion. It claims to be allocating just £545m a year to "spending policies that tackle climate change". Timescale: immediately.

9. Freeze and then reduce UK airport capacity. While capacity remains high there will be constant upward pressure on any scheme the government introduces to limit flights. We need a freeze on all new airport construction and the introduction of a national quota for landing slots, to be reduced by 90% by 2030. Timescale: immediately.

10. Legislate for the closure of all out-of-town superstores, and their replacement with a warehouse and delivery system. Shops use a staggering amount of energy (six times as much electricity per square metre as factories, for example), and major reductions are hard to achieve...

See also: www.monbiot.com

The Stern Report

Simple verdict after a complex inquiry: time is running out

Sir Nicholas Stern was commissioned by Gordon Brown to write a landmark report on climate change, amid growing fears about the human and economic cost of global warming.

Sir Nicholas, an internationally regarded economist, spent more than a year examining the complex problem. After a week of rumours and leaks, yesterday he formally launched his 579-page report. Though dry in its delivery, it had a simple and apocalyptic message: climate change is fundamentally altering the planet; the risks of inaction are high; and time is running out.

Stern report: the key points

The dangers
· All countries will be affected by climate change, but the poorest countries will suffer earliest and most.

· Average temperatures could rise by 5C from pre-industrial levels if climate change goes unchecked.

· Warming of 3 or 4C will result in many millions more people being flooded. By the middle of the century 200 million may be permanently displaced due to rising sea levels, heavier floods and drought.

· Warming of 4C or more is likely to seriously affect global food production.

· Warming of 2C could leave 15-40% species facing extinction.

· Before the industrial revolution level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm) CO2 equivalent (CO2e); the current level is 430ppm CO2e. The level should be limited to 450-550ppm CO2.

· Anything higher would substantially increase risks of very harmful impacts. Anything lower would impose very high adjustment costs in the near term and might not even be feasible.

· Deforestation is responsible for more emissions than the transport sector.

· Climate change is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen.

Recommended actions

· Three elements of policy are required for an effective response: carbon pricing, technology policy and energy efficiency.

· Carbon pricing, through taxation, emissions trading or regulation, will show people the full social costs of their actions. The aim should be a global carbon price across countries and sectors.

· Emissions trading schemes, like that operating across the EU, should be expanded and linked.

· Technology policy should drive the large-scale development and use of a range of low-carbon and high-efficiency products.

· Globally, support for energy research and development should at least double; support for the deployment of low-carbon technologies should be increased my up to five times.

· International product standards could be introduced.

· Large-scale international pilot programmes to explore the best ways to curb deforestation should be started very quickly.

· Climate change should be fully integrated into development policy, and rich countries should honour pledges to increase support through overseas development assistance.

· International funding should support improved regional information on climate change impacts.

· International funding should go into researching new crop varieties that will be more resilient to drought and flood.

(Also has stats for economic impacts)

Meanwhile - OPEC says British climate change report "unfounded"

"We find some of the so-called initiatives of the rich industrialized countries who are supposed to take the lead in combating climate change rather alarming," he said.

"One recent example is the review on climate change that was issued yesterday by the UK government in London."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Kyoto Effects

Overall - the level of emissions of greenhouse gases is rising. But it's encouraging that Germany and Britain were able to reduce their levels 17% & 14%. They probably have lessons for other countries.

Under the 1997 Kyoto accord, 35 industrialized nations have committed to reducing emissions by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States, the biggest emitter, rejects the agreement.

Between 1990 and 2004, emissions of all industrialized countries decreased by 3.3 percent, mostly because of a 36.8 percent decrease in the former Soviet bloc, the U.N. reported. Since 2000, however, those "economies in transition" have increased emissions by 4.1 percent.

Of the 41 industrialized nations, 34 increased emissions between 2000 and 2004, the U.N. reported. In the United States, source of two-fifths of the industrialized world's greenhouse gases, emissions grew by 1.3 percent in that period, and by almost 16 percent between 1990 and 2004.

Among countries bound by Kyoto, Germany's emissions dropped 17 percent between 1990 and 2004, Britain's by 14 percent and France's by almost 1 percent, the U.N. reported.

But Kyoto signatories such as Japan, Italy and Spain have registered emissions increases since 1990. De Boer said such countries will have to make extensive use of Kyoto's market-based programs, such as the Clean Development Mechanism. That program allows northern nations to buy credits from emission-reduction projects in the developing world, which is not bound by Kyoto quotas.

The 41 nations defined as industrialized by the 1992 U.N. climate treaty do not include fast-developing Third World countries like China and India.

On a positive note, the U.N. said the industrialized world is growing more energy-efficient. Between 2000 and 2004, it said, it took 7 percent less greenhouse gas to produce a dollar of gross domestic product.


Sounds like there is quite the big Pagan Halloween celebration in the Asheville, NC area. Some people see the religion as symbolic and some people seem to believe in magic and gods and goddesses (see the Coven's site). The article emphasizes the celebration aspect of it. At any rate - it sounds like fun for Halloween - and it's interesting to think about the historical meanings of the holiday. (Thanks to Hecate for the link).

During Samhain, pagans worship the Earth, ancestors

ASHEVILLE — On Tuesday, members of the Earth Religions, such as Wicca, celebrate the most sacred day of the year.

Known as Samhain (pronounced SOW-in), the day is the final of three Pagan harvest celebrations and a day to commemorate ancestors and others who have died.

“This is the big one for us,” said Byron Ballard, a high priestess and a founder of the Coalition of Earth Religions for Education and Support. “This is the beginning of the Celtic winter and the celebration of our new year.”

The biggest event in the region this year is Tuesday evening on the grounds of Unity Center for Christianity on Fanning Bridge Road in Fletcher. Several thousand people are expected to attend the 12th annual Samhain celebration sponsored by Oldenwilde Coven.

...Deerman said the Oldenwilde Samhain is joyful and reverent.

“What we do has meaning and purpose,” she said.

The event will include a spiral dance, during which participants dance in concentric circles, plus a maze trance dance, tribal music, a costume contest, harp music around the balefires and more. Children can enjoy autumn games such as “bat bowling” and candy corn relay races.

...Today, Pagan religions are emerging again, after centuries of persecution, Ballard and Deerman said.

“There were times we had to call the police because we felt threatened,” Ballard said. “We have had our religious ceremonies picketed and invaded.”

But the religions are growing as people become disillusioned with what Deerman calls “the dominant paradigm.”

“It’s about universal love of the land and knowing … we’re all integrally connected,” Deerman said. “We find the sacred in the land and in humanity.”

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mary Oliver

I found out that the same day I was listening to Robert Pinsky, some other people went up to Indy to hear Mary Oliver. I have been going to listen to local poets in Bloomington every month or two - sometimes they read other poets that they like and that is where I heard about Mary Oliver. There is one poet from England and I can hear in my mind her saying "Mary Oliver" in that accent that only someone from England would have - "Mary ALLover". The name sounds like something holy when she says it.

Anyway - I figured I would see what I could find of Mary Oliver's poems online. There are several at poemhunter.com. I could do without the giant flashing "Fart Button" next to the poems I was trying to read - other than that - it's a useful website for finding poets and poems. Mary Oliver is listed as 29th on their top 500 poets list.

But beyond that - Mary Oliver does express a sort of enlightenment - and understanding of life and our place in it. That is what religion is supposed to do for us. One site refers to her as an "EarthSaint". Jackie Kay blogged "poetry makes us think about who we are". I think that Mary Oliver does that better than most. I think it's a matter of putting into words our essential nature - and things that matter that often go unsaid.

From "When Death Comes":

"When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world"

From poets.org:

"Mary Oliver's poetry is an excellent antidote for the excesses of civilization," wrote one reviewer for the Harvard Review, "for too much flurry and inattention, and the baroque conventions of our social and professional lives. She is a poet of wisdom and generosity whose vision allows us to look intimately at a world not of our making."

Here are 2 of her poems - Daisies and Mockingbirds -


It is possible, I suppose that sometime
we will learn everything
there is to learn: what the world is, for example,
and what it means. I think this as I am crossing
from one field to another, in summer, and the
mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either
knows enough already or knows enough to be
perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead
oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display
the small suns of their center piece, their - if you don't
mind my saying so - their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know?
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;
for example - I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch -
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.


This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.
I mean this

In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
It is my favorite story--
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give

but their willingness
to be attentive--
but for this alone
the gods loved them

and blessed them--
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water

from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down--
but still they asked for nothing

but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning--
whatever it was I said

I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field--
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors--
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pinsky and Layers

I heard Robert Pinsky speak at IU yesterday. He recited some poems. Talked some about them and this and that. I liked the idea of the one of the "Shirt". To keep in mind the history of a thing. Multiple layers of history. Like there are the people who made the shirt, people who made the materials of the shirt, people who made the machines which the people used, the people who designed the shirt, the history of certain plaids that contributed to the history and on and on.


The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes--

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped up to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers--

Like Hart Crane's Bedlamite, "shrill shirt ballooning."
Wonderful how the patern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord. Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
to wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.

I have thought with my layered painting that I could start with images of what is going on in the world and/or historical images - all collaged together. And to some extent that does happen with the planets - using paper maché - layers of newspaper - some with photos - which is then covered up with layers of paint.

But even if I don't actually create a collage of images with are covered up with layers of paint - it is like they are there. Just like the "Shirt" poem. They are there because they are part of my mind. The images/events are part of why I make what I do. They are a part of the world and they are a part of me.

Recently as I was layering on paint - and I had started with some bright colors and then layered over them with other colors. Several of the paintings ended up being shades of blue. I was thinking about psychological layers. Sort of like the metaphor of the layers of an onion being peeled away- the paintings have layers and layers that are built up. Some things become hidden. But there is a richness which develops with the subtlety and shades and textures.

I like to let the paintings develop intuitively. It seems that with this group - many of them have become like water.

Birds in the Afternoon

The leaves are turning but not too many have fallen yet.

The other day I was watching a movie (Walk the Line) mid-afternoon (a rarity) - sitting on my couch overlooking the orchard and woods and saw a pileated woodpecker and an owl. It is a rarity to see either, here.

The woodpecker was pecking at the bottom of a base of a dead apple tree. I got out my binoculars to verify - and sure enough - there were the distinctive white markings - v-like - on it's head and neck. The tree had blown over in a storm and I convinced my husband to leave it for some bird to find - and find it it did. It probably pecked for a good part of an hour. It left quite a hole.

Then a little later I looked out and saw a huge owl sitting in one of the dead trees at the edge of the woods. There are several dead trees where some previous owners had some wire fencing - that must have killed them. The trees are a favorite of various woodpeckers including some of the red-headed variety that nest in the spring. Often I will see a hawk or a crow sitting on one of the bare branches. I hadn't seen an owl in years - and never at this house. I had been hearing one across the valley recently. I don't know if it's the same one. And then this morning I heard an owl in or near our woods behind the house.

I like the sound of owls - and I would be plenty happy to have one or more take up residence and eat some neighboring voles.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"How Close to Catastrophe?"

Saving the Planet Will Require Community Effort

by Bill McKibben

James Lovelock is among the planet's most interesting and productive scientists. His invention of an electron capture device that was able to detect tiny amounts of chemicals enabled other scientists both to understand the dangers of DDT to the eggshells of birds and to figure out the ways in which chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were eroding the ozone layer. He's best known, though, not for a gadget but for a metaphor: the idea that the earth might usefully be considered as a single organism (for which he used the name of the Greek earth goddess Gaia) struggling to keep itself stable....

This homeostasis is now being disrupted by our brief binge of fossil fuel consumption, which has released a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Indeed, at one point Lovelock predicts -- more gloomily than any other competent observer I am aware of -- that we have already pushed the planet over the brink, and that we will soon see remarkably rapid rises in temperature, well beyond those envisioned in most of the computer models now in use – themselves quite dire. He argues that because the earth is already struggling to keep itself cool, our extra increment of heat is particularly dangerous, and he predicts that we will soon see the confluence of several phenomena: the death of ocean algae in ever-warmer ocean waters, reducing the rate at which these small plants can remove carbon from the atmosphere; the death of tropical forests as a result of higher temperatures and the higher rates of evaporation they cause; sharp changes in the earth's "albedo," or reflectivity, as white ice that reflects sunlight back out into space is replaced with the absorptive blue of seawater or the dark green of high-latitude boreal forests; and the release of large amounts of methane, itself a greenhouse gas, held in ice crystals in the frozen north or beneath the sea...

Even without huge technological breakthroughs, which he says are tantalizingly near, the current hardware can be made steadily cheaper. He predicts the industry will grow 20 to 30 percent annually for the next forty years, which is akin to what happened with the last silicon-based revolution, the computer chip. No surprise, too, about who will own that industry -- almost all the solar panel plants are now in Japan and Germany.

You can see signs of this change already. When I was in Tibet this summer, I repeatedly stumbled across the yak-skin tents of nomadic herders living in some of the most remote (and lofty) valleys in the world. They depended on yak dung, which they burned to cook food and heat their tents, and also often on a small solar panel hanging off one side of the tent, powering a light bulb and perhaps a radio inside. Every small town had a shop selling solar panels for a price roughly equivalent to that of a single sheep. Solar power obviously makes sense in such places, where there's probably never going to be an electric line. But it also increasingly makes sense in suburban developments, where new technologies like solar roof tiles are reducing the cost of outfitting a house to use solar power; in any event, the cost of such tiles would be a small part of the government-subsidized mortgage....

But even the widespread adoption of solar power would not put an end to the threat of global warming. The economic transition that our predicament demands is larger and more wrenching even than that. Some scientists have estimated that it would take an immediate 70% reduction in fossil fuel burning simply to stabilize climate change at its current planet-melting level. And that reduction is made much harder by the fact that it is needed at just the moment that China and India have begun to burn serious quantities of fossil fuel as their economies grow. Not, of course, American quantities -- each of us uses on average eight times the energy that a Chinese citizen does -- but relatively serious quantities nonetheless....

There's another way of saying what is missing here. Almost every idea that might bring us a better future would be made much easier if the cost of fossil fuel was higher -- if there was some kind of a tax on carbon emissions that made the price of coal and oil and gas reflect its true environmental cost. (Gore, in an important speech at New York University last month, proposed scrapping all payroll taxes and replacing them with a levy on carbon.) If that day came -- and it's the day at least envisioned by efforts like the Kyoto Treaty -- then everything from solar panels to windmills to safe nuclear reactors (if they can be built) would spread much more easily: the invisible hand would be free to do more interesting work than it's accomplishing at the moment. Perhaps it would actually begin to operate with the speed necessary to head off Lovelock's nightmares. But that will only happen if local, national, and international officials can come together to make it happen, which in turn requires political action....

The technology we need most badly is the technology of community -- the knowledge about how to cooperate to get things done. Our sense of community is in disrepair at least in part because the prosperity that flowed from cheap fossil fuel has allowed us all to become extremely individualized, even hyperindividualized, in ways that, as we only now begin to understand, represent a truly Faustian bargain. We Americans haven't needed our neighbors for anything important, and hence neighborliness -- local solidarity -- has disappeared. Our problem now is that there is no way forward, at least if we're serious about preventing the worst ecological nightmares, that doesn't involve working together politically to make changes deep enough and rapid enough to matter. A carbon tax would be a very good place to start.


I thought that the yak-skin tent nomads with portable solar panels was esp. interesting. Interesting to know that such alternatives are catching on in other places even if they are not very common here yet.

Global Pagoda

Asia's spectacular monument of gratitude

Air travelers over Mumbai will soon have something spectacular to goggle at: a cloud-high view of the golden Global Pagoda, the world's largest stone monument and the first dome inhuman history of this size without any supporting pillars.

The completed massive main dome of the Global Pagoda, to seat more than 8,000, is to be officially inaugurated this Sunday in the presence of many Indian leaders, including possibly Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This 100-meter-high monument, expected to be one of Asia's major tourist attractions, bridges Vipassana - an ancient path to liberation from all suffering - to the complexities challenging the world today. About 100,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony on the island of Gorai in suburban Mumbai, including guests from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and other countries.

In the morning, authentic relics of the Buddha will be enshrined in the Global Pagoda, atop the largest meditation hall on the planet...The Buddha bone relics were offered by the government of Sri Lanka and the Maha Bodhi Society in India in 1997, and have been awaiting this October day when the main dome of the Pagoda is ready. Another set of relics is being sent by the Indian government.

The Buddha relics had a long journey, from India to the London Museum, where the British colonial rulers of that time took them before World War II. The relics were returned to the subcontinent after strong but peaceful protests broke out in Sri Lanka over disrespect shown to the relics by placing them in a museum....

The Global Pagoda symbolizes the resurgence and quiet but rapid worldwide spread of Vipassana, the practical quintessence of the Buddha's non-sectarian, universal teachings. Residential Vipassana courses, from beginners' 10-days to advanced 60-days, are being offered without charge from more than 130 established Vipassana centers and innumerable non-center venues. Courses are run on voluntary donations and services of grateful previous students who wish to share the benefits with others.

...The inner dome and outside serrations are constructed from Jodhpur stone, historically known for its longevity and used in many Indian structures. About 15,500 cubic meters of Jodhpur stone and 46,000 cubic meters of rubble stone have been used so far, equivalent to a 120-kilometer-long line of trucks filled with the stones.

Posterity will look upon the Global Pagoda with awe similar to that evoked by the pyramids of ancient Egypt, besides the universal message of peace and purity that Asia's new monument of gratitude symbolizes.

Black Cloud Over Cairo

Black cloud reappears over Cairo

For the seventh year running, a mysterious black cloud has appeared over Cairo, triggering serious health concerns for the polluted city's 16 million residents.

Emissions of nitrogen dioxide, which cause serious health risks above certain levels, have reached record heights in the city, from the banks of the Nile, past the industrial suburbs of the delta and even in the desert areas.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that presence of more than 200 mg of nitrogen dioxide in the air is a great health risk.

But in Egypt, the levels have reached as high as 305 mg in the Cairo district of Qolali and 482 mg in Giza.

Worse still, the levels of the potentially toxic gas have soared to a staggering 700 mg in the northern city of Qaha, in the industrial zone of Qaliubiyah.

Cairo has one of the highest rates of pollution, ten times higher than global indicators defined by the WHO in October, making it one of the most polluted cities in the world together with Karachi, New Delhi, Beijing, Kathmandu and Lima.

...Environment minister Maged George has accused the local councils of failing to prevent their farmers from burning the hay, the customary method of clearing the way for new crops, as recycling or simply moving the stuff is too expensive.

...Exhaust fumes from 1.6 million cars, which include some 80,000 beat-up taxis, are also to blame, particularly this year when the black cloud coincided with the month of Ramadan, notorious for its traffic jams, authorities said.

And the high concentration of factories, like the cement factories of Helwan and Tebbin in southern Cairo, are also responsible for the surging pollution which kills 5,000 annually in the capital, according to hospital sources.

...Very high temperatures, no rain, little wind and sand blowing in from the desert all contribute to turning the overcrowded megalopolis into an urban inferno, something the authorities are increasingly desperate to fight.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Javan Rhinoceros & Hairy-nosed Wombats...

are some other animals in addition to jellyfish (and various other slimey things) that are doing well in spite of - or because of - the current state of the world. Their populations are on the rise in Australia.

Humans living far beyond planet's means: WWF:

Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 on current trends, the WWF conservation group said on Tuesday.

Populations of many species, from fish to mammals, had fallen by about a third from 1970 to 2003 largely because of human threats such as pollution, clearing of forests and overfishing, the group also said in a two-yearly report.

"For more than 20 years we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive lifestyle that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path," WWF Director-General James Leape said, launching the WWF's 2006 Living Planet Report.

"If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us," Leape, an American, said in Beijing.

People in the United Arab Emirates were placing most stress per capita on the planet...

"People are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources."

"Humanity's footprint has more than tripled between 1961 and 2003," it said. Consumption has outpaced a surge in the world's population, to 6.5 billion from 3 billion in 1960. U.N. projections show a surge to 9 billion people around 2050.

It said that the footprint from use of fossil fuels, whose heat-trapping emissions are widely blamed for pushing up world temperatures, was the fastest-growing cause of strain.

Leape said China, home to a fifth of the world's population and whose economy is booming, was making the right move in pledging to reduce its energy consumption by 20 percent over the next five years.

"Much will depend on the decisions made by China, India and other rapidly developing countries," he added.

The WWF report also said that an index tracking 1,300 vetebrate species -- birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals -- showed that populations had fallen for most by about 30 percent because of factors including a loss of habitats to farms.

Among species most under pressure included the swordfish and the South African Cape vulture. Those bucking the trend included rising populations of the Javan rhinoceros and the northern hairy-nosed wombat in Australia.


See also the BBC version with graphics (part of their Planet Under Pressure features):

Global ecosystems 'face collapse'

Meanwhile Miami is running out of room for all the Mega-Yachts that people want - so an "Island Home" is being built for them.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Sustainability "Debate"

Wikipedia has a "Sustainability Debate Guide". This is one of the questions:

What is the connection between global warming and sustainability? Is global warming a moral or engineering problem?

One answer they post:

“The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless.” (Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post, Wednesday, July 5, 2006 p. A13)

I think that that approach reflects the sort of thinking that got us into this mess to begin with. It's the idea of elevating technology and industry over valuing life and even common sense.

There could certainly be some engineering answers that would be helpful, like alternative, non-fossil fuel (including non-nuclear) energy sources, as well as super-efficient homes, cars, and other products. But some of that exists now and people don't use them when they are available - some don't know about them.

The moral question is a matter of values. Of sustainability being a priority. Of people being willing to sacrifice some measure of comfort for the well-being of the whole. Part of that solution is a matter of more individual action - but also a matter of public policy that is almost completely at odds to what we have now. That public policy needs to reflect a new morality. Public policy - ie. laws and incentives should reward those people and companies that are creating and using solutions and punish those who are not—who continue to pollute needlessly. You might think that that is being done now - but it isn't.

Energy companies are being rewarded for doing the same things they have always done. And there is no expectation that they improve their methods.

Pollution at the levels that are currently being allowed should not be tolerated. The EPA had laws that would have reduced pollution from coal plants by 90%. The Bush administration rolled back the enforcement of those laws another 15 or so years. The technology exists NOW to reduce the pollution - including the mercury pollution of coal plants - through the existing engineering solution of "scrubbers" (this solution has been around for 25+ years). It takes government policy and it's enforcement to make the use of the engineering solutions happen.

The majority of citizens are in favor of having pollution reduction solutions implemented. The polluters are not in favor. The polluters are paying off the politicians so that the policy is not implemented. The politicians and polluters who are responsible should all be held accountable. That would be a demonstration of values and morality.

Thomas Linzey made the argument that our laws and government was set up with the intention of favoring the rich. It was essentially set up so that the rich get richer and the poor get pollution. Of course pollution affects everybody - and global warming will also affect everyone. Some people want to put a rosy face on it and say that it will improve the climate in some places. And that may be so in limited cases. But in the meantime - many species will go extinct from not being able to adapt - plus the food supply and water supply - besides the the health of the planet and therefore, ourselves will increasingly be adversely affected.

The time to create solutions and implement actions is not 20 years down the road when the state of the planet is much worse -but right now (25 years ago when people were talking about these same things would have been a better time).

It's like health care. New solutions are created to solve problems all the time - but the ones that exist are not even necessarily being used by the majority of people - they are out of the reach of affordability. If engineers create solutions that are not going to be used - because their use is not supported by the government - because the gov't continues to subsidize unhealthy and irresponsible practices - they are of no use at all. If anything should be subsidized - it is the solutions - not the problems. We need a way to make the solutions affordable.

The mentality of those in power to believe that the wonderful inventions of the age are for THEIR benefit - for THEIR glorification and power-enhancement does not work with the sustainable morality mentality. That mentality requires that solutions be implemented across the globe - across all economic levels - and that people give up their illusions of granduer based on having more and better stuff than other people.

I think rationing would be a good idea. Everyone would get so many energy units to heat or cool/cook with/etc. and people will have to buy/build houses that can be heated/cooled with their allotted units. Instead of building horribly inefficient and monstrous houses. It may come to pass that single-familiy houses now that are big enough for 10 families will come to house 10 families who could pool their heating rations.

We need a morality based on simplicity and health - for ourselves and the planet. It is the opposite of the consumerist more-is-better mentality that is peddled in the USA.


I listened to many of the Bioneers speakers Saturday and Sunday that were broadcast by Satellite to places around the country including Bloomingon, Indiana (through The Center For Sustainable Living) and Vernal, Utah. I've been to Vernal - I have ancestors from there - it's quite the small town. I was surprised it was one on the 16 places on the Bioneers circuit.

I think the first speaker I heard, TZEPORAH BERMAN, "Corporate Campaigns and the New Environmentalism: Places, People and the Fate of our Last Great Forests" may have been the most inspring. I was impressed with the efforts she described - working with the group, Forest Ethics, to save 5 million acres of Forest from logging in British Columbia along the coast. And her willingness and ability to "turn our corporate adversaries into allies".

One of the Forest Ethics campaigns is against turning the Boreal (and other) Forests into mail order catalogs (and newspapers) in general and against Victoria's Secret's 365 million catalogs they send out in particular. For the people on the mailing list - what people can do is to send back the mail order form with the note to be taken off of their mailing list. Get on their email list if you want to know what a company is selling.

We used to get dozens of mail-order catalogs at Christmastime, esp. Not so much, anymore, since we moved. Besides the catalogs - there is a massive amount of waste associated with the Sunday paper ads. Ads that I rarely look at, anyway. One of these days - I may go to just getting the local paper online, as I get the rest of my news. To save paper, trees and all.

Another esp. intereting speaker was, THOMAS LINZEY "Turning Defense into Offense: Challenging Corporations and Creating Self-Governance".

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Worldwide Poll about Torture

From the BBC - One-third support 'some torture'

Although 59% were opposed to torture, 29% thought it acceptable to use some degree of torture to combat terrorism

More than 27,000 people in 25 countries were asked if torture would be acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives.

Some 36% of those questioned in the US agreed that this use of torture was acceptable, while 58% were unwilling to compromise on human rights....

Israel has the largest percentage of those polled endorsing the use of a degree of torture on prisoners, with 43% saying they agreed that some degree of torture should be allowed....A majority of Jewish respondents in Israel, 53%, favour allowing governments to use some degree of torture to obtain information from those in custody, while 39% want clear rules against it.

But Muslims in Israel, who represent 16% of the total number polled, are overwhelmingly against any use of torture.

Meanwhile opposition to the practise is highest in Italy, where 81% of those questioned think torture is never justified.

Australia, France, Canada, the UK and Germany also registered high levels of opposition to any use of torture.


I think that torture is a form of terrorism. I don't think it makes sense to say that you are "against terrorism" - but torture is ok sometimes. You might as well say that terrorism is justified sometimes, as well, at that rate.

As for the people in Israel who legitimize torture - to me that is saying that state terrorism is ok - but it's not ok if you are essentially powerless to begin with. I think that State sanctioned torture is worse than other forms of terrorism - precisely because of the power that States do have to abuse.

And in the case of the United States - that power to abuse is essentially unlimited.

A Matter of Minds

I have been noticing a variety of articles today. I thought this was interesting for summing up current attitudes...

From: "The Ancient Greek Cosmological Principle"

"In present times this other tendency reappears as an attempt at reducing all spiritual phenomena to intellectual ones, all intellectual to mental, all mental to biological, all biological to chemical, all chemical to physical, and all physical to the unified theory of all interactions. The entire content of the Universe thus is comprised in one set of mathematical equations - what a lofty goal!"


"Healing Children with Attentional, Emotional and Learning Challenges"

An interesting discussion of sensory issues that some children develop and her recommnedations. Esp. movement (she doesn't mention yoga - but it would certainly fit) and the use of senses and hands-on activities. I don't think that it can be assumed that people with sensory issues were esp. sedentary - but that being sedentary would not be helpful - is the main thing.

"I also support an educational environment that teaches our children about the world using all of their senses including vision, hearing, and especially hands-on learning experiences. Our culture and even some educational institutions, with their reliance on television, computers, and videogames for teaching, are not developing our children’s minds and senses. Competitive sports in the very young child overstimulate and activate the “stress” nervous system. Sugar filled foods, a lack of essential Omega 3 fatty acids (found in cod liver oil, fish, walnuts, flax seed oil, algae, dark green leafy vegetables and breast milk), inadequate sleep, a sedentary lifestyle (where children ride in cars instead of walking) are all making it hard for children’s neurological pathways to be myelinated and formed. In addition, toxins in our environment, including mercury in some of our vaccinations, also may have affected these sensitive pathways."

Neurological pathways and perceptions. Reducing the world to brain pathways and mathematical formulas. The idea of reality as it is being experienced. Not hiding from the senses - from experiences. While Mathematics can be a wonderful thing - and it's interesting that people can figure out exactly what part of the brain is doing what - that concept is pretty far removed from experiencing life. Life, as it is experienced is not 1s and 0s.

Like with the sensory issues. It can become pretty easy to experience the world vicariously through the television, computers and games. They may be good for some things - but they may prevent people from experiencing real life. And the less one experiences real life - the more difficult it can become. Esp. if you have a tendency to develop odd sensory reactions and other similar such things.

As the second article mentions - some of the problems (including sensory issues) could be due to environmental toxins. There was also an article today in the New York Times about various man-produced products - some as benign as shampoos, or things with lavendar and tea tree oil - as well as things like testosterone creams that inadvertantly have been causing puberty in preschoolers. At least with those things - when the cause was identified - the problems were resolved for the most part.

It's one thing to try to understand reality / be able to interact with it. There is the sense that people are so intent on compartmentalizing reality and reshaping reality to suit their purposes that our grasp on reality is getting lost. That which brains have normally been able to do without our conscious effort - like sensing things - are beyond our ability to control. Knowing where the 1s and 0s go is not the same as being able to control or affect those things in the brain. The best we may be able to do to control our minds is to eat the right things, be active, avoid poisons. The things that people have been doing forever.

Maybe some people figure they will get inside of people minds and fix them - as if they are mathematical equations - when they don't work right. I find that difficult to believe - but then I didn't think I would be sitting here with a computer on my lap - 25 years ago.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lightning Farms

Alternative Energy: When Lightning Strikes

We've all witnessed the raw power Mother Nature can produce during a summer shower....Now, Alternative Energy Holdings plans to be the first company to tap into the natural energy produced by a thunderstorm. The company says it has successfully developed a prototype which can collect power from the ground area surrounding a strike. This power can then be converted into electricity and sold through existing power grids. In 2007, during the peak lighting months of July and August, the company plans to test a mobile full-scale lightning farm. On average, a lighting bolt carries one million kilowatts of electrical energy. When a significant amount of each strike is harvested over a period of four to seven years, the company says, a lightning farm could produce and sell electricity at $0.005 per kilowatt hour. This price, substantially lower than current market value, also comes without the environmental consequences most energy sources carry.

I would rather see Alternative Energy Holdings putting their money and energy into these sorts of things - I'm afraid that they will use money investors would want to see invested in this - into their nuclear power plants. Which don't seem like the kind of thing that private business has any business being responsible for, anyway.

Galaxies Colliding, Stars Spinning Off

A lot of analogies are being made to fertility and birth from this story of the two galaxies colliding and stars spinning off. And this image does look rather like a fetus. This article from Space.com seems to explain the photo the best...

A cosmic clash between two galaxies yields a stunning look into the birth of billions of stars.

Known as the Antennae galaxies, these two merging objects have spent the last 500 million years fusing into one. This image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope is the sharpest ever of the galactic smash-up.

The Antennae are two spiral galaxies pinwheeling into one another, with the resulting collision spurring the formation of bright, compact stellar groups known as super star clusters. The collision itself is among the nearest to Earth, as well as the youngest example of crashing galaxies.

Almost half of the objects seen in the Antennae galaxies are young clusters with tens of thousands of individual stars. The orange blots to the left and right of this image’s center are the only reminders of the Antennae’s two galactic cores, and sport old stars swathed in filaments of dark dust.

The blue areas are active star-forming regions nestled within pink hydrogen gas....

Also from yahoo ->

Most of these clusters, created in the collision of the two galaxies, will disperse within 10 million years but about 100 of the largest will grow into "globular clusters" -- large groups of stars found in many galaxies, including our own Milky Way.

The Antennae galaxies, 68 million light years from Earth, began to fuse 500 million years ago.

A light year is the distance light waves travel in one year -- about 6 trillion miles.

The image serves as a preview for the Milky Way's likely collision with the nearby Andromeda Galaxy, about 6 billion years from now.

"World's pollution hotspots mapped"

A US-based environmental charity has documented what it calls the 10 most polluted places on the planet (more info about each at link).

The Blacksmith Institute says three of the hotspots are in Russia, with the remainder dotted in various countries.

Heavy metals such as lead are the main sources of pollution, with 10 million people affected across the locations.

The institute surveyed scientists and environmental bodies across the world to compile its list, and is running clean-up projects in some of the sites.

The charity has focused largely on locations where people are affected by the pollution.

As reported in Part 5 of a 6 part series at the BBC:
Planet Under Pressure

Part 1: Species under threat
Part 2: World water crisis
Part 3: Soaring energy demand
Part 4: Can the planet feed us?
Part 6: Tackling climate change

I am somewhat suspicious about this. Maybe it's fine. But I wonder if it's meant to give people the sense that there are just 10 really badly polluted places (and none of them are in the US) - when so much of the world is suffering from so many ill effects - the results of people's actions and inactions.

"Year One of the Empire Bush"

"Resistance is Illogical" From Juan Cole, 10.18

Bush and a supine, cowardly Congress shredded the US Constitution on Tuesday, abolishing the right of a court review (habeas corpus) for some classes of suspect. Suspect, mind you, not proven criminal.

In other words, we have to be confident that George W. Bush is so competent, all-knowing, and inherently just that we can just trust him. If he says someone is an enemy combatant, then he or she is. No need to check with a judge about why he or she is being held. And then Bush can have the suspect tortured to make him confess, and can convict him on the basis of the coerced confession, all in secret...

Basically, Bush can issue them what the French kings used to call lettres de cachet.:

' In French history, lettres de cachet were letters signed by the king of France, countersigned by one of his ministers, and closed with the royal seal, or cachet. They contained orders directly from the king, often to enforce arbitrary actions and judgements that could not be appealed. . .'

We Americans made a revolution against such arbitrary practices of the French and other Empires.

Meanwhile Bush Paraguay Land Grab Incites Unease (nearly 100,000 acres).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Guilin Chinese Painting Academy

There is a wonderful art exhibition at the IU Art Museum from painters from the Guilin Chinese Painting Academy.

I especially liked the paintings of Xu Fang. They are quite traditional in style - but there was something that seems modern about them - the colors maybe (the tall painting here - only the colors aren't right). She wrote that she was painting "the subtlety of heaven and earth" and expressing the "vitality of nature". And "I am devoted to to painting wildflowers, plants, birds and insects." I wish there had been translations of the calligraphy on the paintings.

Some of the other painters had more modern aspects incorporated into their style. There was quite a variety. The show is up until December 17, 2006.

A clip from the press release:
Against long odds, Guilin artists seek to find an authentic voice for contemporary China

The artists of the Guilin Chinese Painting Academy, who will stage a historic exhibition at the Indiana University Art Museum later this month, are devoted to carrying on the more than 300-year tradition in China of influential Guilin painting.

They're also seeking to give life to a contemporary school that merges traditional Chinese painting techniques with Western art styles that didn't emerge in China until the country opened its doors to outside influences in the 1980s....

The self-selected artists of the Guilin Academy explore the human condition and a rapidly changing China through a fusion of Chinese painting techniques and ideas of Western self-expression, said Judy Stubbs, the Pamela Buell Curator of Asian Art and the coordinating curator of Conspiring with Tradition. Their work includes silk scroll, traditional ink and calligraphic paintings.

"While many of these paintings are lovely to look at, it is wise to remember that at one time, not so long past, art of this nature would have been seen as subversive and even dangerous," she said.

For about 30 years -- from the founding of Communist China in 1949 to the "opening" of the country in 1979 -- Chinese artists were limited in what art they could view and create. Landscapes, birds, flowers and portraits were viewed with suspicion by the government, and paintings affiliated with the country's imperial past were labeled as corrupt, Stubbs said....

The artist of this piece, Bai Xiaojun, says in his statement, "The spirit of ink and wash painting connects with the universe. The movement of ink and wash on paper best demonstrates the yin/yang and solid/void of the universe ...".

From the Herald Times (subscription) article about this Brush with tradition: Landscape has been a crucial aspect of Chinese art for generations. The revolution in China interrupted this tradition by favoring social realist painting, depicting scenes of smiling, hardworking peasants and factory workers.

It a heck of a thing when painting wildflowers in considered subversive. Maybe it's that connection to the universe and all.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wind Turbines Making Headway

It's been quite the windy day here today - so it was interesting to come across these two articles about Wind Turbines - one for home use and the other for use on commercial buildings. I have long thought that it makes far more sense to install wind turbines where the energy is actually being used - like on or near buildings - instead of far out in the water or on top of remote hills.

Home wind turbines turn fashionable in Britain

A mere breath of a breeze disturbs the quiet of autumn in south London and the wind turbine on the gable of Donnachadh McCarthy's home turns lazily....

"I have exported 20 percent more electricity than I've imported this year," he said. "The average carbon footprint is 8.5 (metric) tons in the (European Union), whereas mine is less than half a ton."

McCarthy has long tried to stay at the forefront of British green power generation.

Last November, he made a small media splash as the first Londoner to gain permission to put a turbine on a house that already boasted an array of renewable energy devices.

The UK company Windsave is selling these online for home-use at Do-it-yourself stores.

From their website - the UK Government is offering these incentives:

Grants are available for renewable energy projects (up to 30% of the installed cost of a wind turbine or solar water heating panels). You can find out more about these at www.lowcarbonbuildings.org.uk.

There are also Governmentfunded schemes providing up to £2,700 to households on certain benefits to improve their heating and energy efficiency. The scheme is known as ‘Warm Front’ in England, ‘Warm Homes’ in Northern Ireland, ‘Warm Deal’ in Scotland and ‘Home Energy Efficiency Scheme’ in Wales (see www.direct.gov.uk for more information).


'Micro' wind turbines are coming to town

Rather than build farms of towering wind turbines in rural areas, some companies are designing "micro," or small-scale, turbines that fit on top of buildings. The idea is to generate electricity from wind in urban or suburban settings.

"We want to integrate these small wind turbines on buildings in plain sight," said Paul Glenney, director of energy initiatives at Monrovia, Calif.-based AeroVironment. "We think this can really communicate the generation of clean electricity."

The Sun

By way of Cosmic Variance:

This is a photo of the sun. Not taken with the usual medium for viewing the sun (photons), but taken with neutrinos. Partly at night. Through the earth. It was photographed by the Super-Kamiokande experiment in Japan with 503.8 days and nights of exposure.

"Making a Difference in the World"

I saw Sheila Watt-Cloutier being interviewed on UCTV. She was very impressive in her vision and her demeanor. She talked of educating and influencing and treaties that she has worked on getting countries to ratify.

"Sheila Watt-Cloutier is an Inuk, the first female President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and an international activist on climate change."

Ms. Watt-Cloutier has also been involved with the issue of toxins (persistent organic pollutants, or POPs) in the arctic environment. There has been an increasing problem with seal meat - and other meats that are hunted in the arctic.

From an article from the CBC:

Research done by the federal department of Indian and Northern Affairs shows that Inuit women throughout the territory of Nunavut have DDT levels in their breast milk that is nine times higher than what it is in southern Canadian women.

The UN's Craig Boljkovac says Meeka and other women have every reason to be worried about the food they eat. Over the past few years, he's read and reread the studies on persistent organic pollutants, many of which were done by Canada's federal government. The most recent one was done by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States.

The studies all conclude that the vast majority of POPs are coming from places much further south. In the case of DDT, most of it originates in tropical areas of Africa, Asia and Central America.

There, DDT is still used in large quantities to control malaria, which kills more than a million people a year. DDT was banned in Canada, the United States and most developed countries in 1972. But poorer countries still rely on it. They see it and other chemicals, such as PCBs, as a way to develop their societies and improve their economies...

In the capital of Nunavut, Iqaluit, the problem of DDT poses a painful dilemma for Sheila Watt-Cloutier. She's the president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Canada....

Although DDT was never used in large quantities in Canada's Arctic, there are other persistent organic pollutants that are to this day being released into the environment here. They're called dioxins and furans. At the Iqaluit garbage dump, ravens and seagulls pick at the bits of food and anything else that's remotely edible. The smoke never seems to drive them away...

Garbage is being intentionally burned, space is at a premium in the Iqaluit dump, but you can repeat that scene in every community in the North and very many in the south as well. The problem with that is every time you burn plastic in an open fire, if it contains chlorine, and most plastics do, you create POPs...


Articles about Ms. Watt-Cloutier winning the Sophie Prize in relation to her activism are here and here.

This is her answer to a question at the COMMONWEALTH NORTH FORUM
ALASKA WORLD AFFAIRS COUNCIL about the Inuits changing their lifestyle:

Well, the thing with climate change, when people say well, you'll have to adapt to the situation, the problem with that is that we are adapting. We already are adapting to situations, many of our hunters are and so on. But changes are going to happen so fast that there won't be that adaption period. We can't go from meat eaters to weed eaters overnight or growing from hunting, subsistence to becoming farmers. That's just not a reality that anybody can deal with.

And already us Inuit of the arctic, what has taken many people about 350 years to adjust to this new way of life, some like in our region, as I say I grew up on a dog team the first 10 years of my life, many of my people were still living in snow houses and iglooiuks (ph) when I was born. And to think that in the 52 years since I was born we felt as though we've lived three lifetimes in that. It's happened so quickly. And we're reeling from that change. And my worry is that this next wave of tumultuous change to our climate could have potential to wipe us out very quickly, not just in terms of us the people, but our wildlife.

We don't know the body burdens of toxins in the polar bear. We don't know the body burdens of toxins in our marine mammals. And with global warming coming and adding to that do we know a tipping point? How much of our animal and wildlife and our flora and fauna can take such rapid change?

And so we the people, too, I mean we might be able and we already are adjusting to many changes, but you know, even our systems and the way our body is we have enzymes that are meant to be eating meat. You know, not certain other foods that we don't ingest well. That's the way that we're all made under this universe. And that's why we live in certain areas of the world. Certain things we can adjust to, other things we can't, not that rapidly.

And so it's the rapidity of the fast way in which things are happening that worries me more than anything because are, in essence, a very adaptable people. We're a hunting people who have adjusted and adapted to seasons and to different settings for a long, long time. And that's our strength, but in situations like this there's going to be tipping points, I believe, that will start to happen very quickly that we should be aware of. And that window in which to make drastic cuts is about 10 to 15 years. Let's do it now because international communities take that much time to do something effectively, to make changes to their policies.

Countdown to 300,000

As of this moment - the US population is estimated at 299,993,825 (12:27) - see: U.S. POPClock Projection.

There is a net gain of one person every 11 seconds.

Tomorrow morning is when it turns to 300,000,000 - rather like a car's odometer turning over.

It was 250,000,000 just back in 1991.

200,000,000 in 1968.

150,000,000 in 1950 and

100,000,000 back in 1914.

The future projection for 400,000,000 is app. 2045 - here. Though if we maintained a similar gain - of 50,000,000 over 15 years - it would be more like 1935. Depending on population growth and immigration, disease and whatnot.

An article on the 300,000,000 milestone @ ENN.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Great (Film) Expectations

I guess I am expecting too much - to want to see movies that show women as people in equal proportion to men - who are actors in their lives. Esp. when looking for mainstream movies - but even at the local Cinema store. I suppose there are some there - if a person looks hard enough. As it is - 95% of the Directors in their featured "Director" section are men (I guess that is not surprising since "only 5% of Hollywood features are directed by women").

We tend to get the less big-name movies - but I still notice time and time again that the vast majority of the actors are males - and it is men who are the people whose lives the movie revolves around. The woman are often either goofs - or the conquest - or the token shrill. This isn't news to anyone who has been paying attention - it's just that lately I have been paying more attention.

Movies that I have watched lately include "The Big Lebowski" and "Clerks". In the "The Big Lebowski" - you have the bowling group - which included the laid back Dude and the instigator. "Clerks" had a similar scenerio - with the laid back "dude" and the instigator/provocateur. In both - the women seemed to be there mostly to create problems - though in "Clerks" - there was some exploration of relationships - not all that different from any of the mainstream so-called "chick flicks". It's so normal for movies to be mostly centered on men - that when they are not - some people have to use a derogatory term to describe them (so that there are even less successful?).

I also watched "Million Dollar Baby". By mainstream standards - it's a very good movie - won the academy award for best picture. About a woman boxer. I suppose someone could say that the reason there were so few women in the film was to show that she was a lone woman boxer in a man's world. And it did have that feel to it. At the end - even though the movie was supposed to seem empowering about carrying out ones dream - she was turned into a helpless victim - dependent on her father figure.

Another movie we watched recently was "Familia". It's in the genre of Art/Foreign and Drama and didn't follow the typical American patriarchal script. It's nice to have a library that carries that sort of thing. But even though it was a woman centered movie - it was largely about women being victims - sometimes from themselves - but mostly from men. Through rape, intimidation, men who impregnate and run, have mutliple wives. So the men didn't look so good. They mostly presented problems to overcome (not so unlike the "Clerks" movie in reverse).

The New York Times had an article yesterday, Wall Street Woos Film Producers, Skirting Studios. It's about successful producers working directly with the financers who won't be concerning themselves with artistic content. No doubt - they won't concern themselves with how women are represented - as long as it sells. A result for moviegoers is that they could begin to see even more thrillers, comedies and horror movies at the multiplex — the types of movies Wall Street favors, because of their more predictable payoff.

This does not sound good at all for movies that treat women as people equally to men. Esp. when you have this mainstream attitude that movies with mostly men are normal movies - whether they are thrillers, comedies and horror movies or dramas - and movies where women account for a reasonable portion of the people/power in the movie are considered "chick flicks".

Anyway - all of this inspired me to see what I could find online. Among other things - I found Women Make Movies, Flicker (with independent movies online) and Jump Cut (who critique movies for their social and political context). And the site of filmmaker Jennifer Proctor Nanoramas that I linked to - as well as from her site a great site on sounds -> Acoustic Ecology that links to all kinds of great sound sites.

It's time to search out more independent filmmakers - esp. those who are able to cast women in a favorable light. The filmmakers who are all about the money are not the ones to do it. With the sort of system that we have - women who make movies that even when "equal" - sell less - will never be the power brokers in the culture. The culture is stacked against equality.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Orbital Debris - Graphics

From the NASA Photo Gallery...

LEO images

LEO stands for low Earth orbit and is the region of space within 2,000 km of the Earth's surface. It is the most concentrated area for orbital debris.

GEO images

The GEO images are images generated from a distant oblique vantage point to provide a good view of the object population in the geosynchronous region (around 35,785 km altitude). Note the larger population of objects over the northern hemisphere is due mostly to Russian objects in high-inclination, high-eccentricity orbits.


It's weird to think about people creating a "ring" for the earth - sort of like Saturn, only different. But that is certainly what it looks like.

"Imagine Earth without people"

This article at NewScientist looks at how the earth would recover if all of a sudden there were no more people living on earth. It would be the end of light pollution, energy production, excess CO2 and various pollutants. Various ecosystems would be able to recover. The article talks of some species, like house sparrows, that would no longer be supported, others would thrive in their place. Here are just a few snips...

Humans are undoubtedly the most dominant species the Earth has ever known. In just a few thousand years we have swallowed up more than a third of the planet's land for our cities, farmland and pastures. By some estimates, we now commandeer 40 per cent of all its productivity. And we're leaving quite a mess behind: ploughed-up prairies, razed forests, drained aquifers, nuclear waste, chemical pollution, invasive species, mass extinctions and now the looming spectre of climate change. If they could, the other species we share Earth with would surely vote us off the planet.

..."The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better," says John Orrock, a conservation biologist at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California.

...All things considered, it will only take a few tens of thousands of years at most before almost every trace of our present dominance has vanished completely. Alien visitors coming to Earth 100,000 years hence will find no obvious signs that an advanced civilisation ever lived here.

...But these will be flimsy souvenirs, almost pathetic reminders of a civilisation that once thought itself the pinnacle of achievement. Within a few million years, erosion and possibly another ice age or two will have obliterated most of even these faint traces. If another intelligent species ever evolves on the Earth - and that is by no means certain, given how long life flourished before we came along - it may well have no inkling that we were ever here save for a few peculiar fossils and ossified relics. The humbling - and perversely comforting - reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.


I was thinking recently how up to now - it's been the sign of "great" civilizations that left lasting monuments to themselves. It would be interesting if the opposite mentality took hold. The less stuff left for future archaeologists, the better.

"Clean Coal" ?

I heard Brian Schweitzer speaking at the National Press Club (through CSPAN). The topic was the Energy Supply.

It was nice to hear someone with a plan besides going to war. He was pretty clear that Americans can either figure out how to be energy sufficient or we will be fighting for oil in the Middle East for years to come. The idea that any use of fossil fuels would ever be clean sounds like a pipe dream, though. Conservation and alternatives (outside of oil, gas, coal, and nuclear) seem like the way to go.

This article @ Plenty Magazine sums up some of his ideas:

Brian Schweitzer, governor of Montana, believes the U.S. can decrease its dependence on foreign oil, and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases pumped into the air, through conservation, bio-fuels, and clean coal. Montana has 35 percent of the nation’s coal—120 billion tons, which Schweitzer says could fuel America’s needs for 35 years—which will likely be in greater demand as oil prices refuse to drop. Therefore, Schweitzer is interested in using technologies that minimize CO2 emissions from coal combustion and building an infrastructure to safely sequester the gas underground.

Today, coal-fired power-plants produce more than half the country’s power and emit a third of our CO2. To combat the pollution, some new coal plants are being built as integrated gasification combined cycle power facilities, which allow coal to be converted into a gas to fuel electric turbines and produce a fraction of the smog, soot and mercury emissions of a traditional plant. A couple of these are planned for Montana, and one is being built in West Virginia, another big coal state represented at the meeting.

It's a dang mess - what has been happening in West Virginia. What with tearing down mountains to get the coal. I suppose that that would be part of the plan - he didn't mention it.

The New Excuse

I saw something like this coming - but this is an amazing demonstration of blatantly imperialistic arrogance (as seen quoted at Informed Comment 10.12)

' On Wednesday, George W. Bush again laid out his rationale for declining to consider a drawdown of U.S. forces. . . Bush added, "We can't tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East with large oil reserves that could be used to fund its radical ambitions or used to inflict economic damage on the West."

IOW - so now that the Bush administration has managed to inflame violence in Iraq (I think this was the goal all along) - and since Iraq has such vast resources - we must control those resources - so the "bad" guys don't. Amazing.

And if anyone falls for that line of thinking - that is really sad.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Snow Crab down 85 % in 6 years.

I think that is a frightening statistic. One solution is that more people could stop eating (as much) wildlife. That's not the answer that the fishermen are looking for - but it may be the best answer for the planet and sea-life in the long term.

Ecological upheaval on the edge of the ice

From the Bering Sea - As the research vessel Thomas G. Thompson steamed toward St. Paul Island, crab fisherman Wayne Baker was holed up in the tiny Alaskan harbor, waiting for a break in the weather.

It hadn't been a great season so far.

"I've never seen so many blanks," said Baker, who set pots for four days without pulling up a single crab.

St. Paul is a speck of land in the Bering Sea, the treacherous expanse of water that separates Siberia and Alaska near the top of the world.

Since Russian fur-traders came seeking otter pelts in the 1700s, this northernmost reach of the Pacific Ocean has created fortunes and claimed the lives of mariners drawn by its astounding bounty of marine life. Whales, walruses, seals - one species after another was slaughtered to the verge of extinction, yet a wealth of living resources remained untapped.

Today the Bering Sea yields half of all seafood harvested in the United States. The annual catch is valued at $1.7 billion. The bulk of that money goes into the pockets of fishermen and processing companies based in Seattle - a 12-day sail from St. Paul.

But the nation's richest ocean ecosystem is in the midst of a major upheaval, and scientists suspect global warming is at least partly to blame. Researchers like those who spent a month this spring on the University of Washington's Thompson are trying to figure out what the future holds for the region called America's "fish basket."

Crabbers like Baker are already feeling the effects.

In the past six years, snow crab catches have dropped 85 percent. Most other crab species are in a similar slump. Overfishing is probably a factor - but not the only one. Biologists also have documented a northward shift of crab populations, away from warming waters in the traditional fishing grounds of the southern Bering Sea.

Fur seal numbers are dwindling, despite a 20-year-old ban on commercial hunting. Stellar sea lions were declared endangered in 1997. Seabirds that once flocked to the region by the millions are in precipitous decline.

The changes coincide with rising water temperatures and shrinking sea ice cover.

"In the Bering Sea ... rapid climate change is apparent, and its impacts significant," scientists concluded in the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.

...For creatures adapted to a frozen world, the loss of ice can be catastrophic.

Walruses and so-called ice seals haul out on floes to give birth and rear their pups. As the area that freezes each year shrinks, the animals are forced farther north and into deeper water. More walrus pups are being abandoned - a possible sign that adults can't reach the bottom anymore to fetch clams.

Short-tailed shearwaters migrate more than 9,000 miles from Australia, trusting the normal interplay of ice, sunlight and water temperatures will guarantee a feast of tiny shrimp when they arrive. In 1997, a half-million of the albatrosslike birds starved to death because off-kilter weather triggered a chalky algae bloom that obscured their prey.

Fish also are highly selective about temperature, which varies with the amount of ice.

"It only takes a little bit of warming to change from a place with seasonal ice cover to no ice cover," Hunt said. "That's why these high latitudes are expected to be the places where long-term global warming shows up first and has its most profound impacts."

The Alaskan Arctic is replete with evidence of global warming, from forest fires to melting permafrost and shifting whale migrations. But those changes mainly affect local residents. What happens in the Bering Sea reaches into the Seattle economy and world seafood markets.

..."They're very aware that global warming could have significant impacts, but the scientists aren't able to give them any firm predictions," he said. "The industry is focused on the here and now."

Over the past few years, scientists have discussed what climate change might mean for fishing worldwide. But concrete answers remain elusive because marine ecosystems are still so poorly understood.

Even in Alaska, where the fisheries are considered the best-managed in the world, biologists can't predict how a tug on one part of the ecological web will reverberate through the others....

The Cypress Mulch Problem

It's one of those things that seems so innocuous - cypress mulch - used in gardening as a groundcover. It cuts down on weeds - the use of herbicides, etc. But because of the damage being done through it's harvesting - as this essay describes - people need to find an alternative.

The problem as described in Mulch Madness (from the New York Times):

Towering cypress once covered much of southern Louisiana — 1,000-year-old trees darkened ancient, moss-laden, water-saturated forests. These wetlands not only gave the bayou its flavor, its culture and its mystery, they also acted as critical natural “speed bumps” for major storms.

It’s been estimated that every 2.7 square miles of wetlands reduces storm surge by a foot, and yet over the last century Louisiana has stripped away 1,900 square miles of swamp, an area the size of Delaware. Evidence shows that such improper land management, reducing the cypress-tupelo swamps to a small fraction of their original grandeur, worsened flooding in New Orleans during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Yet at a time when the nation should be investing billions to restore the Gulf Coast’s wetlands for protection against future storms, these cypress swamps continue to face many challenges, including development, saltwater flowing in and rising water levels. The most dangerous threat of all, however, may be garden mulch — the stuff that gardeners usually use to protect their plants.

As they exhaust the cypress forests along Florida’s coast, mulch companies are moving into Louisiana with shady operators among them grinding up entire cypress forests, 70 percent to 80 percent of which will never grow back. This is hurricane protection lost forever — habitat and flood control converted to quick cash, one bag of mulch at a time.

The Environmental Protection Agency has finally begun to require permits for logging in southern Louisiana, which has still not stopped the wholesale clear-cutting of cypress forests....

So in the meantime, the safety of our nation’s already depleted wetlands comes down to sellers and consumers of cypress mulch.

Big mulch retailers — like Lowe’s, Home Depot and Wal-Mart — have been slow to take real action about the mulch in their stores. But all three companies should put into place formal, meaningful policies that guarantee their cypress mulch comes from sustainable sources rather than the imperiled swamps of the Gulf Coast. Many retailers have done so with lumber and they can do it for cypress mulch.

Until then, consumers would do best to avoid cypress mulch altogether, switching instead to mulches made from pine bark, pine needles or straw. These work just as well and do not have the same environmental impact.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mirror Neurons

I think this is an example of how technologically obsessive our culture is - when we need "scientific proof" that people empathize with each other and exactly which neurons are responsible for that. At the same time - it is pretty interesting.

From the article, Friends for Life: An Emerging Biology of Emotional Healing

Mirror neurons track the emotional flow, movement, and even intentions of the person we are with, and replicate this sensed state in our own brain by stirring in our brain the same areas active in the other person.

Mirror neurons offer a neural mechanism that explains emotional contagion, the tendency of one person to catch the feelings of another, particularly if strongly expressed. This brain-to-brain link may also account for feelings of rapport, which research finds depend in part on extremely rapid synchronization of people’s posture, vocal pacing and movements as they interact. In short, these brain cells seem to allow the interpersonal orchestration of shifts in physiology.

I have long had the sense that if family or friends support what I do (or not) - even, or esp. the verbally unexpressed - that that can have an effect on what I do and what I feel about what I do. People are told that they have to own their feelings - and that is true - but people also have to be aware that what they think and feel about people who are close to them - has an effect - both positive and negative - as the case may be.

I noticed Hecate saw mirror neurons as explaining what people think of as "magic" or "energy work." It's also about emotional support that people feel in illness or other trying times. The act of praying (no matter what one's religion) could be a means of bringing people together - getting each others neurons on the same page - a positive page. And if people are led by those who are feeling positive as opposed to negative - that can make a huge difference.

I have found that the Quaker meetings can be powerful experiences - there is much time spent when people are silently focused on "God" - which can mean basically - the positive and positive possibilities. When there are core people who embrace a sort of harmony and that is communicated - it makes a difference - and I think that others who are open to it can benefit from it. I think that this study would support the idea of having small, religious groups where people know each other pretty well - so that they can have more of a positive effect on each other. Like the coven that Hecate talks about. Friends can also fill that role for each other.

Extinction Report

From Newsweek.
It's odd that this
is the Cover story
for Europe, Asia,
and Latin America
- while the US edition
has a photo of Bush
looking stupid.
Everyone should
know by now that
Bush is ridiculous
(actually that is too
nice of a term for him).
I would rather learn
about the frogs.

(You can also see the National Geopgraphic article from last January - Frog Extinctions Linked to Global Warming)

Why the Frogs Are Dying

Climate change is no longer merely a matter of numbers from a computer model. With startling swiftness, it is reordering the natural world.

Draped like a verdant shawl over Costa Rica's Tilarán Mountains, the Monteverde cloud forest has long been a nature lover's idyll. Hidden birds flirt to the whisper of rushing streams and epiphytes tumble from the mist, while delicate flowers bloom impossibly from the jungle's maw. With luck you might even catch the iridescent flash of the resplendent quetzal, the elegant symbol of the Central American rain forest.

There's one member of this pageant that won't be turning up, however: the Monteverde harlequin frog. Named after its palette of yellow, red and black, this miniature amphibian—a member of the genus Atelopus—had thrived in these Costa Rican mountains for perhaps a million years. Yet the last time

J. Alan Pounds, an ecologist who has studied the cloud forest's wildlife for 25 years, spotted one in Monteverde was in 1988. Its cousin, the golden toad, went missing about the same time. Indeed, the more scientists search, the grimmer the situation looks. A study by 75 scientists published earlier this year in the journal Nature estimated that two thirds of the 110 known species of harlequins throughout Central and South America have vanished.

...The trouble at Monteverde only heightened a mystery that had scientists stumped for years: why do whole species of wildlife disappear in apparently pristine parks and nature preserves? There had been no shortage of theories to explain the demise of the harlequins, from acid rain to an overdose of ultraviolet rays. By the late nineties, attention shifted to the chytrid fungus outbreaks, which many amphibian experts concluded were the smoking gun. But Pounds wasn't satisfied. After all, it wasn't just harlequins, but all kinds of amphibians that were dying. And if the chytrid disease was killing the frogs, what was behind the deadly outbreak?

In time, Pounds learned that the fungus flourished in the wet season and turned lethal in warm (17 to 25 degrees Celsius) weather—exactly the conditions that climate change was bringing to the cloud forest. More important, he found that 80 percent of the extinctions followed unusually warm years. "The disease was the bullet killing the frogs, but climate was pulling the trigger," says Pounds. "Alter the climate and you alter the disease dynamic."

...On the ground, Pounds's team has noticed a dramatic decline in the population of lizards, and some snakes like the cloud-forest racer and the firebellied snake, which once fed on the harlequin frogs. The loser, again, looks to be the quetzal, which is already capturing fewer frogs and lizards—a key protein and calcium source for its nestlings. "When interactions between species are disrupted, the outcome can sometimes be devastating," says Pounds.

...Pests are the big winners in a warming world. A parasite called the nemotode, which dies off in the heat, has compensated by breeding faster, which causes fertility to plunge, or even death, among infected wild musk oxen. A kidney disease has flourished in the warming streams of Switzerland, ravaging trout stocks. Meanwhile, the oyster parasite, a scourge to shell fishermen in Chesapeake Bay, has crept all the way to Maine because of milder winters. Though there's little hard science linking climate change to farm pests, most agricultural experts say it's a matter of connecting the dots. "There is good evidence that warmer conditions favor more invasive species," says David Pimentel, who studies invasive plants and pests at Cornell University. "Invasive plants can compete with native varieties and cause extinctions."

...One of the most besieged of all the specialists is the polar bear, which hunts seal from floating chunks of sea ice. Warmer currents in the Arctic Ocean have hastened the breakup of ice floes and forced the bears to swim greater distances for their meals, putting them at risk of drowning or starving. Already bear watchers say the average weight of polars in Hudson Bay has dropped from 295kg to 230kg—near the threshold below which they stop reproducing. Polar bears now top most green groups' endangered lists.

More than polar bears will be in trouble if atmospheric temperatures rise two more degrees—far from the worst-case climate forecasts. The Greenland ice shelf would melt, posing a threat to a whole web of life that depends on ice, including plankton, which feed fish, which are eaten by seals, which are meals for both polar bears and Inuk hunters. In the Southern Hemisphere, many researchers have already linked sharp declines in penguins like the rock hopper, Galápagos, blackfoot, Adélie and the regal emperor to warmer ocean currents, which have flushed away staple food supplies like krill, a coldwater crustacean.

The loss of creatures is alarming enough. What about losing an entire ecosystem? For most of the last two decades, Stephen Williams, a tropical ecologist at James Cook University in Australia, has been studying the evolutionary biology of the Australian rain forests. The sprawling experiment was meant to plot how wildlife evolved in the mountainous cloud forests along the coast of northeast Queensland, where thousands of unique animal and plant species have thrived for 5 million years. But when Williams ran his data through a computer model, testing for a modest rise in world temperatures (3.5 degrees Celsius over a century), he was floored. By 2100, his team concluded, up to 50 percent of all species would be gone. "I expected to see an impact, but this was shocking," says Williams.

(The same issue has a related article - Oceans: Last Chance for Fish)

Meanwhile - this new bird species was found in Columbia. Dubbed the Yariguíes brush finch, the small bird was first found in 2004 in an isolated region of the eastern Andes mountain range known as the Serranía de los Yariguíes.

And one in India. Named Bugun liocichla, the small bird is described as a type of babbler, a diverse family of birds that usually live in tropical forests.


It's a small thing - but we just finished our frog ponds. When we moved into this place 3+ years ago - (it having been abandoned) there were hundreds of tadpoles and one big frog in the bottom of the old above-ground pool. We didn't want to mess around with a pool - but I liked the idea of having the frogs - so we got rid of the pool and replaced it with frog ponds. There is one frog there now - I'll be curious to see how it goes next year.