Questions That Hover


The following is a reblog of a post that many people seemed to enjoy the first time through. i Hope you enjoy it!


Sally Wengrover, Ph.D.

My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. B., was one of the best teachers I had in elementary school, but she often intimidated me, and I’m pretty sure she intimidated the other kids, too.

One afternoon, she lectured for what felt like several cold, dreary months on the topic of winter wheat. The first time around, she said something like: “Winter wheat. Farmers plant it in the fall. It sprouts before the ground freezes. It waits out the winter, starts growing again in spring, and is ready to be harvested in early summer. That’s winter wheat.” Then, without missing a beat, she repeated what she had just finished saying. . . . And then she said it again.

After umpteen iterations of the story, which varied only in minute details, Mrs. B. pushed back her chair, stood up, and said:

“All right, class. What’s the name of the crop that Kansas farmers plant in…

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4 Articles about the Paris Accord


In case you missed them, here are links to four articles about the consensus agreement reached in Paris yesterday:

Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris


Climate Accord Is a Healing Step, if Not a Cure


Protesters Are in Agreement as Well: Pact Is Too Weak


The Climate Path Ahead

They Paved Paradise


Climate change is a gargantuan environmental problem, but it’s not our only environmental problem. By focusing obsessively on it, we blind ourselves to problems occurring in the periphery.

That point came to mind as I read an article in today’s New York Times, entitled: “Despite Push for Cleaner Cars, Sheer Numbers Could Work Against Climate Benefits.” If you’d like to read the article, you can find it at:

The article notes that the number of cars “on the world’s roads is on pace to double — to more than two billion — by the year 2030. And more likely than not, most of those cars will be burning carbon-emitting gasoline or diesel fuels.” Why? Because many of those cars will be sold in places like India and China that lack “the ubiquitous electric grid required for recharging electric vehicles.”

So all those additional cars on the road will be spewing billions of additional tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, making it harder to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions, and that’s a problem — no doubt about it. But it’s a problem that can be fixed. All we have to do is phase out the production of fossil-fuel powered vehicles and create a ubiquitous green-energy electric grid. Of course, doing those things will be difficult, but not theoretically impossible.

But there is at least one related problem that an electric grid and electric cars can’t solve: species extinctions due to paved-over habitats. A higher rate of extinctions is inevitable, because with more cars, we must have more roads. Twice as many cars will mean twice as many roads. And we’ll also need to devote more space to parking lots and garages and gas stations and salvage yards and auto parts stores, and on and on.

So, when we’re looking for ways to cope with climate change, we need to remember that environmental problems are interrelated. While we’re working on one issue, we should take a step back and ask ourselves if our proposed solutions will paper over flaws that are more intrinsic.


Three Articles on Climate Change Politics


Today, I’d just like to pass along links to three articles that I read this morning.

The first is from WIRED.

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You can find the article at:

The next article is from The New York Times.

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Find the rest of the article at:


Finally, the op-ed below is by Paul Krugman. It also ran in today’s  New York Times.

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The entire article is at:

Setting “Comfortable Lows” for Consumption


With winter approaching, now seems like a good time to rerun this old post . . .

Sally Wengrover, Ph.D.

In a recent op-ed article for The New York Times, Ken Ilgunas describes how, when winter weather arrived, he experimented with the thermostat in his house to find the lowest setting he could tolerate. As it turned out, he found he could cope with the thermostat set at 45 degrees as long as he wore multiple layers of clothing and wrapped himself in a down sleeping bag. While he never actually enjoyed the cold, he eventually adapted to what he called his “comfortable low,” and discovered “that one’s sense of comfort can be redefined with a bit of grit and resourcefulness.”

Well, I don’t bring up Ilgunas’s article to make the point that we all need to set our thermostats to the point where we see our breaths whenever we exhale. I hope things never get so bad—environmentally or economically—that we’re forced to lower our thermostats to 45 degrees. As…

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