Procrastinators Rejoice! It Isn’t Too Late

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Have you made a New Year’s resolution yet? Are you thinking about making one? If so, you’re among the 44 percent of Americans who, according to a December 2016 Marist poll, say they are likely to make a resolution for 2017.

The Marist survey asked: “What is it that you will resolve to do or not do in the New Year?” (Here’s a link to the poll in case you’re interested in analyzing the data: http://maristpoll.marist.edu/wp-content/misc/usapolls/us161201/Marist%20Poll_National%20Tables_New%20Years%20Resolutions_December%202016.pdf#page=3).

The results of the poll show that many of the most common resolutions involve reducing some kind of consumption. While the top vow is to “be a better person,” resolutions to lose weight (that is, to eat less), spend less money, stop smoking, and stop drinking are also popular. Absent from the survey are resolutions to achieve materialistic goals. Apparently, Americans aren’t resolving to become rich and famous in 2017—or, if they are, they aren’t admitting it.

In addition to resolving to be a better person, people are vowing to improve themselves by exercising more, eating healthier, getting closer to God, going back to school, setting goals, and getting a better job. They say they want to use their time better, increase family time, enjoy life, be kinder to others, and get politically involved. Worth noting is the fact that, with the exception of the 1% who are resolving to get a new house and the less than 1% who want to travel, Americans are resolving to do things in 2017 that are either environmentally benign or environmentally beneficial.

So now that it’s January, and the super-duper, holy-cow(!), consume-like-there’s-no-tomorrow season is behind us, a lot of us are thinking about reducing our consumption of food and other stuff and spending our time involved in more meaningful pursuits. If we follow through with our resolutions, we’ll not only make our own lives better, stronger, and happier, we’ll also be reducing the strain our consumption puts on the natural world.

A Language-Spinner Sees the Light?

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In today’s New York Times, Frank Luntz counsels the winner of tonight’s presidential election to appeal to the common ground that unites us and bring the American people back together.

If you haven’t read his article and would like to, here’s a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/08/opinion/how-to-begin-the-healing.html?emc=edit_th_20161108&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=26749800

I’m glad to see that Frank Luntz is counseling the winner of the election to seek common ground, but I can’t forget that for years he has advised Republicans to use poll-tested phrases to spin arguments to their advantage. Care for an example? He told Republicans never to say “estate tax,” but to say “death tax” instead. Why? Because “estate tax” sounds like something only the rich pay, and “death tax” sounds like something everyone pays — even though the tax only applies to individuals inheriting over $5.45 million. Luntz’s Machiavellian twists of language have been influential in driving Americans into hostile camps. I hope he now turns his talents and attention to coming up with phrases that will help bring Americans back together.

The Urgency of NOW

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After studying environmental issues for decades, I feel responsible to wake up as many people as possible to the fact that procrastinating on climate change is a horrific mistake.  If we wait to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions drastically, we will make it virtually impossible to reverse, stop, or even slow global warming. Why? Because the current level of warming has already begun to trigger positive-feedback mechanisms, and, as the temperature goes up, those mechanisms will trigger more mechanisms, and then the warming will continue to accelerate to levels we don’t even want to think about.

As The Guardian explains:

Scientists are aware of a number of positive feedbacks loops in the climate system. One example is melting ice. Because ice is light-coloured and reflective, a large proportion of the sunlight that hits it is bounced back to space, which limits the amount of warming it causes. But as the world gets hotter, ice melts, revealing the darker-coloured land or water below. The result is that more of the sun’s energy is absorbed, leading to more warming, which in turn leads to more ice melting – and so on.

You can find another positive-feedback example, the release of methane as permafrost melts, in one of my earlier blogs. That post is entitled: IN WHICH I RANT IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Here’s a link to that post: https://sallywengrover.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/in-which-i-rant-in-capital-letters/

For lighter look at positive feedback, you might check out “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” from Fantasia. Here’s a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ait_Fs6UQhQ

Below, you’ll find links to a couple of recent articles about where we now stand in regard to global warming.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/16/april-third-month-in-row-to-break-global-temperature-records

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/11/worlds-carbon-dioxide-concentration-teetering-on-the-point-of-no-return?CMP=share_btn_fb

What Would You Do?

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Fire is a natural part of the boreal forest—an ecosystem dominated by black and white spruce. This species is designed to burn and has cones that release their seeds when under intense heat. (Photo: S. Rupp)Photo by Scott Rupp — http://news.uaf.edu/four-million-acres-burned-questions-alaskas-future/

 

Today, a headline in The New York Times caught my attention. It read:

Global Warming Cited as Wildfires Increase in Fragile Boreal Forest

Here’s a link to the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/11/science/global-warming-cited-as-wildfires-increase-in-fragile-boreal-forest.html?partner=IFTTT&_r=0

And here’s the first paragraph:

Scientists have been warning for decades that climate change is a threat to the immense tracts of forest that ring the Northern Hemisphere, with rising temperatures, drying trees and earlier melting of snow contributing to a growing number of wildfires.

The first paragraph of the article notes that scientists, for decades, have been warning that global warming would lead to fires like the one that recently devastated Ft. McMurray, Canada.

I know from personal experience that scientists have been predicting for decades a future of increasingly common wildfires in boreal forests. Fifteen to twenty years ago, some of my professors were among the scientists who made those predictions, along with a number of other predictions about the effects of global warming. Much of what they foresaw back then is coming true now.

So if I seem like an alarmist regarding the state of the environment, I hope you will put yourself in the place of someone who began studying scientists’ theories and empirical research decades ago and is now seeing researchers’ predictions come true. And while you’re at it, consider that I’ve also learned over the years that we’re in line for ever-worsening ecological and social disasters.

And now, I’d appreciate your advice. If you were me, how would you handle knowing that our best hope of avoiding ongoing ecological catastrophes is to reduce the stress that we’re putting on the planet? What would you do to motivate people to act?

#@&%#$*$!!!

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CNN aired 23.5 minutes of American Petroleum Institute ads over two weeks, compared to just five minutes of coverage about climate change or the temperature

ECOWATCH.COM

Check out the story that goes with the above headline here: http://ecowatch.com/2016/04/26/cnn-fossil-fuel-ads/

 

The fact that time devoted to oil-industry ads dwarfs time spent on climate change is not a coincidence. Advertisers avoid sponsoring environmental stories on news programs, based in part on the supposition that an informed public would demand big changes, and those changes would be bad for business. So the media report environmental stories in inverse proportion to their importance, and the public assumes that environmental degradation isn’t worth worrying about because the media rarely cover it. And the media rarely cover environmental stories because polls show that the public doesn’t realize the importance of such stories, and because advertisers don’t want to foot the bill for environmental stories that could have a negative impact on their bottom lines. 

So, in my little way, I try to inform people about what’s happening. The big media organizations have the budgets and the talent to do a much better job than I will ever do, but they seem to be more interested in fulfilling their responsibility to their stockholders than fulfilling their responsibility to the public.  I, on the other hand, have only to answer to my conscience.

And my conscience tells me that I have a responsibility to talk about what I know.  I’ve been studying environmental issues for over 30 years, and I know that things are bad and they’re getting worse at an accelerating rate. We’re rushing headlong into a chaotic world of our own making — a world of cascading social, economic, medical, and ecological catastrophies. Our children and grandchildren will blame us. They will say, “You knew or should have known that your wasteful activities would create environmental havoc down the road. Why didn’t you do something while there was still time?”