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Posts from the ‘The Planet’ Category

Hope Springs Eternal

In this week's climate-change quiz, we ask: Who wrote the following when discussing how to avoid the growing global catastrophe?

The glass is either half empty or half full. I choose to believe it is half full … Technology both creates unforeseen problems and then sets about solving them. My bet is on human ingenuity.

Was it:

  1. A tech start-up entrepreneur trying to sell a new invention that will supposedly save the world?
  2. A Congress person who's bought and paid for by the oil lobby?
  3. The Executive Director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, Steven Cohen, in a post entitled "Facing the Climate Crisis without Hysteria."

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Endgame – What We Can Do

derrick-jensen-1-032514Derrick Jensen is one of the few people you'll come across who are passionate about both the "environment" and all the living creatures.

(Climate change activists barely ever mention our fellow animals, and most of the humane organizations, including the "no-kill movement", seem blissfully unaware that the entire planet is being killed, not just homeless pets.)

With 20 books behind him – including Deep Green Resistance, a strategy to save the planet before it's altogether too late; and Endgame, which explains why no human civilization can ever be sustainable and that therefore "Love does not imply pacifism" – Jensen is one of the leaders (some say the philosopher-poet) of a growing movement to take action on behalf of all living beings on this planet before there's literally nothing and no one left alive.

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"The Evidence Is Overwhelming"


Scientists tend to err on the side of being ultra-conservative. It's built into the system. Their work is always being reviewed and picked apart by other scientists, so they don't want to be caught out making claims that they can't fully support.

Nor do most scientists want to be seen as advocates. They prefer to see themselves as purveyors of information, not of opinion – especially when it comes to hot-button topics like climate change.

All of which is why the latest report from the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is turning heads. Bottom line: This report is a giant alarm call.

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A Teenager’s Question about Mass Extinction

elizabeth_kolbert-031114At the end of her talk at the Seattle Town Hall about her book The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert takes questions from the audience. The final question is from a boy in his mid-teens. He's the only one at the microphone who's likely to be around when this the extinction process has gone into high gear. So, what does he ask?

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Meet the (Brain-Dead) Press


Various blogs, including this one, have noted that the Sunday morning network news shows have been devoting no more than a few minutes each year to climate change. But this week, in the face of worldwide floods, droughts, snow storms and heat waves, they finally braved the elements, tiptoed up to the plate, and timidly asked: Are we humans really changing the climate?

Here's how it went:

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How to Have a Humorous Discussion about Mass Extinction

the-sixth-extinctionHow do you talk about the end of the world on a comedy show?

That was the challenge for Jon Stewart when he invited Elizabeth Kolbert onto The Daily Show to talk about her new book The Sixth Extinction. (Watch the clip here.)

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Of Marius, Zoos and Prince William

marius-giraffe-021114Bengt Holst is bewildered. He can't figure out why everyone is so upset about his zoo knocking off Marius the giraffe.

Holst is the science director at the Copenhagen Zoo, and it all makes perfect sense to him. He's like the super-logical, totally insensitive husband who can't understand why his "irrational" wife only gets madder when he tries to explain his latest dumb remark.

"A giraffe is not a pet," he told reporters. "It’s not like a dog or cat that becomes part of the family. We do it to ensure a healthy population. It is a wild animal."

As if that explains it.

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What Does Near-Term Extinction Mean?

By now, more people are at least beginning to understand that we have a serious problem with climate change. Scientists used to tell us that we need to stop carbon dioxide going over 350 ppm in the atmosphere. That was considered to be the tipping point – the point of no return. Last year, it topped 400 ppm.

So, where are we at now?

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"I Am Not an Animal" – the signature cry of our species

It's surely the most important question in the world today: Why are we humans driving the Earth into a Sixth Great Extinction – an extinction event that will likely include our own species?

Why, despite the fact that there are more animal protection groups and more environmental organizations than ever before, is the situation for our fellow animals and the whole world of nature getting worse by the day?

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‘The End of Antibiotics – Period.’

For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about "The end of antibiotics? (question mark)" Well, now I would say you can change the title to "The end of antibiotics – period."

That's Dr. Arjun Srinivasan – one of an impressive lineup of doctors and scientists on "Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria", an episode of PBS Frontline that explains how we have come to the end of the antibiotic era. Not "in danger of coming to" the end of the line, but inexorably now arriving there.

Basically, we're returning to the pre-antibiotic era when people routinely died from infections that, for the last hundred years, have been treated with a simple course of penicillin and other antibiotics that followed. 

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Glacier Before and After


This was the Muir Glacier in Alaska in 1882. And here it is side-by-side with a photo from the exact same spot, taken by Bruce F. Molnia in August, 2005:

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Why Boulder, Colorado?


With huge floods in Colorado, fires in California, twin hurricanes on the two coasts of Mexico, and all the other weather catastrophes of the summer season, we're already way beyond the question of what's happening and why. The big questions now are how rapidly is the climate catastrophe unfolding, and what regions are going to be hit worst.

Colorado, it turns out, is in a kind of anti-Goldilocks zone.

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Are You a Martian?

mars-1-090313 mars-2-090313
Mars today, and how it may have looked in its early days with what astronomers believe was a large northern ocean.

Ladies, you may not, after all, be from Venus. There is now more evidence that all life on Earth – not just men – may be from Mars.

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Snuggling Up with the Keystone XL Pipeline

Syncrude Aurora Oil Sands Mine, north of Fort McMurray, Canada.

The arguments against digging up the tar sands of the northern U.S. states and Canada and sending the oil through the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf Of Mexico have been laid out in great detail by hundreds of environmental experts like Bill McKibben and former chief NASA scientist James Hansen.

The tar sands represent another ecological disaster, any which way round you look at it. More fossil fuels, more wreckage of the land, more greenhouse gases spewing into the atmosphere just to dig the tar out, and more oil spills all along the pipeline.

Of course, those who will profit most by digging up the tar and then selling it to a world of oil addicts have their counter-arguments at hand. And one of the more hilarious (if it weren't so completely untrue, shocking and sad), comes from business pundit and CNBC host Larry Kudlow:

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Naming Storms After Climate Change Deniers

Here's a splendid notion from an organization called Climate Name Change. They're proposing that hurricanes and storms should no longer be named after folks like Sandy, Katrina and Andrew, but after the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Darrell Issa, who have sold out to the climate change denial lobby.

The World Meteorological Office, which names storms, will doubtless be leery of doing this. Still, you can sign a petition that will be sent to them, saying:

As scientific evidence shows that climate change is creating increasingly frequent and devastating storms, and with climate scientists declaring these extreme weather events as the new normal, we propose a new naming system – a system that names extreme storms caused by climate change after the policy makers who deny climate change and obstruct climate policy.

Days in the Life of a Forest Fire

Videographer Matt Johnson witnessed the three enormous forest fires that made up Colorado's West Fork Complex Wildfire in June. He writes:

I stayed a little ways northeast of Pagosa Springs, which happened to be right in the middle of the three fires.  At any time, there were at least two fires burning within five miles of where I was staying.  I’ve seen videos and photos of wildfires before, but experiencing them in person is completely different.  I have never seen such a powerful event up close like this before, it was truly humbling.

Over the course of the week I shot 21 Timelapses of the raging fire against the backdrop of the beauty of Colorado, and I used all of them to make this video. 

Advanced-Stage Humanitis


What a month! And August is not even over. On top of the dozens of raging forest fires, flooded cities and other daily disasters, here's some of the bigger picture that scientists and governments have been reporting this month: Read more

Global Warming As Sung by a Violin

A climate change "violin sonata"

Last week, I posted the video of Daniel Crawford's "cello sonata" on climate change – one note per year from 1880 to 2012. Two other climate researchers have produced a similar composition, and theirs covers 600 years of climate variation.

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The Earth from Saturn


A distant view of Earth from NASA's Cassini spacecraft , which has been exploring the Saturn system since June, 2004.

You can barely see a very slight bulge in the dot that's Earth, but some close-up magnification reveals the Moon:

earth-moon-from Saturdn-072313

The first photo of Earth from that far out was captured by Voyager 1 in 1990:

earth-from Saturn-voyager-072313

Voyager launched from Earth in 1977 and recently left our solar system and entered interstellar space.

All boldly going where no one (well, at least no one from here) has gone before.

What to Call the Royal Baby: Canute?

If you’re betting on the name of the baby boy just born to royals William and Kate, probably best go with James or George, the top favorites.

But I’d vote for another name: Canute. The famous Danish king ruled England from 1016 to 1035, and is best known for his legendary encounter with the ocean, where he commanded the waves to stop advancing.

The purpose of the operation was to point out the folly of human arrogance – and we could use a little of that wisdom right now. So giving the newborn the name Canute would be a novel way of turning public attention to what his future – and ours – has in store.

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