July, 2022

Thanks

Much of my climate news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs. Unfortunately he and his pal Michael stopped collecting news at the election of U.S. Unindicted Co-conspirator Forty-Five, which was a frickin' party pooper of a day, I'll tell ya. Their recovery scenario is perhaps more progressive than the Green New Deal (and their book is darkly inspirational, and terribly funny — and free).

Quotes

  • James Baldwin:
    • "People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction…." — Notes of a Native Son
    • "It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." — No Name in the Street
    • "Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced." — As Much Truth As One Can Bear
  • "If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there's no progress. If you pull it all the way out that's not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven't even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They won't even admit the knife is there." — Malcolm X, TV interview, Mar. 1964
  • "… all you can talk about is money, and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!" — Greta Thunberg (address to the UN, 2019)
  • "Poverty is the worst form of violence." — Mahatma Gandhi
  • "The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands." — Genesis 9:2
  • "[Y]ou cannot postpone a rendezvous with reality forever." Nick Cohen, Observer columnist
  • “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” — Voltaire
  • "Any course in US history is inauthentic — worse, is a lie — if it doesn't teach the experiences of people like Fannie Lou Hamer." [ael: me, late to the game…:(]
  • "I want to be a great ancestor…." Overheard on an ACLU zoom call….
  • "A question ain't really a question if you know the answer too." John Prine (Far from me)

And Now for the News:

July, 2022

7/31/2022 — Daniel McGovern Day

  1. US airman who rescued film of A-bomb horrors is honoured at last: Cameraman Daniel McGovern copied footage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki devastation to ensure lessons were learned
    • The footage will be shown again this week and next for the 77th anniversaries of the atomic bombings that obliterated the Japanese cities and showed the reality of nuclear war: blasted landscapes, burnt skeletons, radiation sickness. But those haunting images might not exist were it not for McGovern. As part of the US Strategic Bombing Survey – which studied the impact of bombing – McGovern supervised Japanese and American camera crews in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Back in the US, he saved the footage from suppression by making secret copies.
    • The research has revealed that McGovern bore witness not only to the dawn of the atomic age but also Ireland’s revolution, Franklin Roosevelt’s White House, wartime Hollywood and the so-called Roswell incident that entered UFO lore. His presence at key moments in the 20th century has elicited comparisons to Forrest Gump, the fictional character who stumbled through historical events. “Dan was the most interesting person I ever met,” said McCabe.
    • The fields around Nagasaki were bleached white and the city looked as if a “massive anvil” had flattened it, he later told McCabe. At a ruined school he filmed the bodies of children amid piles of skulls. “Hundreds of kids had been sucked out through the windows. We were always finding bones.” He filmed harrowing scenes at overwhelmed hospitals, including the agony of a 16-year-old boy named Sumiteru Taniguchi. “His whole back just looked like a bowl of bubbling tomatoes.”
    • McGovern also captured the phenomenon of people who had been atomised yet left shadows caused by radiant heat. The two atomic bombs are estimated to have killed more than 200,000 people.
    • Authorities in Washington, however, classified the material as secret in 1946. “They didn’t want the American public seeing the horrors,” McGovern said. He discreetly made copies at the Pentagon. He stored one set at an air force motion picture depository in Dayton, Ohio, and kept another set himself. Years passed – McGovern witnessed rocket tests and debunked theories of aliens at Roswell as “a load of crap” – and then in 1967 a US Congressional committee that included Robert Kennedy asked to see the atomic bomb footage. The material had been declassified but no one could find the originals. McGovern, by now a lieutenant colonel, directed the authorities to his copies.
    • In 1970 the general public got its first glimpse of some of the footage. It had been incorporated into a film called Hiroshima Nagasaki – August 1945 that premiered at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The auditorium was packed. At the end, no one made a sound.
  2. ‘Soon it will be unrecognisable’: total climate meltdown cannot be stopped, says expert: Blistering heatwaves are just the start. We must accept how bad things are before we can head off global catastrophe, according to a leading UK scientist
    • And this is just the beginning, insists McGuire, who is emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. As he makes clear in his uncompromising depiction of the coming climatic catastrophe, we have – for far too long – ignored explicit warnings that rising carbon emissions are dangerously heating the Earth. Now we are going to pay the price for our complacency in the form of storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves that will easily surpass current extremes.
    • “I know a lot of people working in climate science who say one thing in public but a very different thing in private. In confidence, they are all much more scared about the future we face, but they won’t admit that in public. I call this climate appeasement and I believe it only makes things worse. The world needs to know how bad things are going to get before we can hope to start to tackle the crisis.”
    • These changes underline one of the most startling aspects of climate breakdown: the speed with which global average temperature rises translate into extreme weather. “Just look at what is happening already to a world which has only heated up by just over one degree,” says McGuire. “It turns out the climate is changing for the worse far quicker than predicted by early climate models. That’s something that was never expected.”
    • And we should be in no doubt about the consequences. Anything above 1.5C will see a world plagued by intense summer heat, extreme drought, devastating floods, reduced crop yields, rapidly melting ice sheets and surging sea levels. A rise of 2C and above will seriously threaten the stability of global society, McGuire argues. It should also be noted that according to the most hopeful estimates of emission cut pledges made at Cop26, the world is on course to heat up by between 2.4C and 3C.
    • As to the reason for the world’s tragically tardy response, McGuire blames a “conspiracy of ignorance, inertia, poor governance, and obfuscation and lies by climate change deniers that has ensured that we have sleepwalked to within less than half a degree of the dangerous 1.5C climate change guardrail. Soon, barring some sort of miracle, we will crash through it.”
    • “This is a call to arms,” he says. “So if you feel the need to glue yourself to a motorway or blockade an oil refinery, do it. Drive an electric car or, even better, use public transport, walk or cycle. Switch to a green energy tariff; eat less meat. Stop flying; lobby your elected representatives at both local and national level; and use your vote wisely to put in power a government that walks the talk on the climate emergency.”

7/30/2022 — Phyo Zeya Thaw Day

  1. Phyo Zeya Thaw, Burmese Pro-democracy Rapper, 41, Is Executed: A hip-hop star, he was a democracy activist in Myanmar and then a lawmaker. After a military coup, he joined the resistance and was hanged for it.
    • “I will always be proud of my son because he gave his life for the country,” Ms. Khin Win May said. “He is the martyr who tried to bring democracy to Myanmar.”

7/28/2022 — James Lovelock Day

  1. James Lovelock, who theorized that Earth is a living organism, dies at 103:
    • Lovelock's contributions to environmental science included developing a highly sensitive electron capture detector to measure ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere and pollutants in air, soil and water.
    • The Gaia hypothesis, developed by Lovelock and American microbiologist Lynn Margulis and first proposed in the 1970s, saw the Earth itself as a complex, self-regulating system that created and maintained the conditions for life on the planet. The scientists said human activity had thrown the system dangerously off-kilter…. "The biosphere and I are both in the last 1% or our lives," Lovelock told The Guardian newspaper in 2020.
    • Lovelock did not mind being an outsider. He outraged many environmentalists by supporting nuclear energy, saying it was the only way to stop global warming. "Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media," he wrote in 2004. "These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources."
    • "To the world, he was best known as a scientific pioneer, climate prophet and conceiver of the Gaia theory," they said in a statement. "To us, he was a loving husband and wonderful father with a boundless sense of curiosity, a mischievous sense of humor and a passion for nature."

7/26/2022

  1. Climate Change Is Not Negotiable:
    • 23climate-jumbo.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp&w=600
      Illustration by Rebecca Chew/The New York Times; photograph by Tara Moore, via Getty Images
    • The American West has gone bone dry, the Great Salt Lake is vanishing and water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the two great life-giving reservoirs on the Colorado River basin, are declining with alarming speed. Wildfires are incinerating crops in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, while parts of Britain suffocated last week in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • One thing Mr. Biden has going for him is the economic tailwinds created by science and technology, private sector ingenuity and earlier government investment. That includes, prominently, the $90 billion in clean energy investments in the 2009 economic recovery act, which were maligned by Republicans because of the failure of one solar panel manufacturer but have helped yield a spectacular drop in the cost of renewable energy over the last decade — nearly 90 percent for solar power and about 70 percent for wind power, not to mention the emergence of the electric car. (Tesla benefited from a big federal loan from the 2009 investments.) Coupled with coal’s precipitous decline, these technological gains have helped cause a roughly 20 percent drop in emissions since 2005. This puts the United States on track to reduce emissions by 24 percent to 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, according to a recent report by Rhodium Group, a research firm.
  2. Lake Mead Keeps Dropping (NASA)
    • Continuing a 22-year downward trend, water levels in Lake Mead stand at their lowest since April 1937, when the reservoir was still being filled for the first time. As of July 18, 2022, Lake Mead was filled to just 27 percent of capacity.
    • lakemeadchart_2022.jpg

7/24/2022

  1. California Oak fire remains uncontained as Al Gore warns ‘civilization at stake’ : Blaze exploded on Friday and quickly grew to 11,900 acres in size as Gavin Newsom declares state of emergency for Yosemite area
    • Discussing the ferocity and fast-growing nature of the blaze, the former vice-president Al Gore, long a campaigner for action on the climate crisis, warned: “The survival of our civilization is at stake.” The US climate envoy, John Kerry, told the BBC the White House was still considering announcing a climate emergency, adding that Joe Biden was prepared to use “every tool available to him” to tackle climate change, including executive orders.
    • Gore, who was vice-president to Bill Clinton between 1993 and 2001, spoke to ABC’s This Week, repeating his warnings over rising global fossil fuel emissions. “We’re seeing this global emergency play out and it’s getting worse more quickly than was predicted,” Gore said. “We have got to step up. This should be a moment for a global epiphany.” Climate scientists, he said, have for years warned that “if we don’t stop using our atmosphere as an open sewer, and if we don’t stop these heat trapping emissions, things are gonna get a lot worse. “More people will be killed and the survival of our civilization is at stake.”
    • On Saturday, the Oak fire sent up a pyrocumulus cloud so large it could be seen from space. Its smoke plume has darkened skies for hundreds of miles and caused air quality advisories to be issued as far away as Barstow, between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Kim Zagaris, an adviser for the Western Fire Chiefs association, told the LA Times: “When you get a pyrocumulus column, it can pick up a pretty good-sized branch and actually draw it aloft into the column and in some cases drop it a mile or two miles down the head of the fire, which starts additional spot fires.”
    • Felix Castro, a meteorologist with the US National Weather Service, said the region had experienced 13 consecutive days of triple-digit heat with relative humidity of 8% or 9%. Vegetation had reached near-record dryness, he said, in what scientists estimate to be the most arid 22-year period in at least 1,200 years. “Our drought indices are about as low as they can get, including the last two to three years, for much of our region, with the greatest dryness in the Sierra,” Castro said.
  2. Silence Brought Me a Community and an Escape: Society maintains that I am broken because of my deafness. I consider myself fortunate to have been given this ability to turn off the sound.
    • Every evening when I return home, I rush into my house and rip my hearing aids out of my head. No matter where I’ve been, the routine is the same. Sometimes I’m in such a hurry I can’t even stand to cycle through the settings on the power button, so I pop open the battery doors instead. Then I stash them on a high bookshelf out of reach of my toddler, where they stay until the next time I venture out. Taking out my hearing aids is a relief, not unlike freeing my feet from a long day in dress shoes, except the thing being squeezed is my brain. I choose to wear hearing aids in a variety of work-related or social situations, but they create a dull throbbing around the circumference of my head. For all the technological power and benefit the aids provide, lately I’ve found their greatest value is in the pleasure of removing them.
    • My hearing loss was a slow progression over the next decade. It would take even longer for me to unlearn the prevailing wisdom about the deaf world that I had internalized, and learn to listen to other deaf people — and myself — instead. I spent my high school years trying to pass, clinging to normalcy and worrying that losing my hearing would threaten the friendships I had forged in musical spaces. When I finally found the deaf community and American Sign Language (ASL), I realized that silence didn’t have to mean isolation — it could mean community and conversation, just as sound had before.
    • “The deaf don’t believe in silence,” writes the deaf poet Ilya Kaminsky in his collection “Deaf Republic.” “Silence is the invention of the hearing.” I offer a revision: Fear of silence is the invention of the hearing. I don’t believe in silence as a void. It’s additive, forcing me inward to engage with my thoughts without distractions, challenging me to participate in the world differently, to use my remaining senses to their fullest, in ways I certainly wouldn’t if I had remained hearing.
  3. The audacious PR plot that seeded doubt about climate change: Thirty years ago, a bold plan was cooked up to spread doubt and persuade the public that climate change was not a problem. The little-known meeting - between some of America's biggest industrial players and a PR genius - forged a devastatingly successful strategy that endured for years, and the consequences of which are all around us.
    • On an early autumn day in 1992, E Bruce Harrison, a man widely acknowledged as the father of environmental PR, stood up in a room full of business leaders and delivered a pitch like no other. At stake was a contract worth half a million dollars a year - about £850,000 in today's money. The prospective client, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) - which represented the oil, coal, auto, utilities, steel, and rail industries - was looking for a communications partner to change the narrative on climate change.
    • Though few outside the PR industry might have heard of E Bruce Harrison or the eponymous company he had run since 1973, he had a string of campaigns for some of the US's biggest polluters under his belt. He had worked for the chemical industry discrediting research on the toxicity of pesticides; for the tobacco industry, and had recently run a campaign against tougher emissions standards for the big car makers. Harrison had built a firm that was considered one of the very best.
    • Terry Yosie - who had recently been recruited from the American Petroleum Institute, becoming a senior vice-president at the firm - remembers that Harrison began the pitch by reminding his audience that he was instrumental in fighting the auto reforms. He had done so, in part, by reframing the issue. The same tactics would now help beat climate regulation. They would persuade people that the scientific facts weren't settled, and that alongside the environment, policy makers needed to consider how action on climate change would - in the GCC's view - negatively affect American jobs, trade and prices. The strategy would be implemented through an extensive media campaign, everything from placing quotes and pitching opinion pieces (so-called op-eds), to direct contacts with journalists.
    • In a document dating from around 1995, shared with the BBC by Melissa Aronczyk, Harrison wrote that the "GCC has successfully turned the tide on press coverage of global climate change science, effectively countering the eco-catastrophe message and asserting the lack of scientific consensus on global warming."
    • The same year as the Kyoto negotiation, Harrison sold his firm. Rheem decided that public relations wasn't the right career, while Yosie had long since moved on to other environmental projects for the firm. Meanwhile, the GCC began to disintegrate, as some members grew uncomfortable with its hard line. But the tactics, the playbook, and the message of doubt were now embedded and would outlive their creators. Three decades on, the consequences are all around us. "I think it's the moral equivalent of a war crime," says former US Vice-President Al Gore of the big oil companies' efforts to block action. "I think it is, in many ways, the most serious crime of the post-World War Two era, anywhere in the world. The consequences of what they've done are just almost unimaginable."
  4. What extreme heat does to the human body: Climate change is making parts of the world too hot and humid to survive
    • A term we rarely hear about, the wet-bulb temperature reflects not only heat, but also how much water is in the air. The higher that number is, the harder it is for sweat to evaporate and for bodies to cool down. At a certain threshold of heat and humidity, “it’s no longer possible to be able to sweat fast enough to prevent overheating,” said Radley Horton, a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
    • “Humid heat risks are grossly underestimated today and will increase dramatically in the future,” Horton said. “As locations around the world experience previously rare or unprecedented extremes with increasing frequency, we run the risk that our previous messaging about extreme heat risk — already woefully inadequate — will fall further short of the mark.”
    • The wet-bulb temperature that marks the upper limit of what the human body can handle is 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius). But any temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) can be dangerous and deadly. Horton and other scientists noted in a 2020 paper that these temperatures are occurring with increasing frequency in parts of the world. To put things in perspective, the highest wet-bulb temperature ever recorded in the Washington region, known for its muggy, unbearable summers, was 87.2 degrees (30.7 Celsius).
    • ObservedGlobalExtremeHumidHeat-washington-post.png
    • “It’s very clear during a heat wave, more people do die of heat stroke,” said Zachary Schlader, an associate professor at Indiana University Bloomington who focuses on thermal stress and the human body. But even more die of heart-related conditions. “The body responds [to heat] in such a way it could make the organ vulnerable.”
    • Merely surviving in those conditions depends on your place in society and what that affords: access to air conditioning, insulated homes, jobs that don’t require extreme physical exertion under the sun and policies in place to protect you from dangerous conditions. “As humans, we have learned to adapt,” Cavazos said. “The problem is the cost. Some will not survive.”

7/23/2022

  1. Rio Grande runs dry in Albuquerque for the first time in 40 years: A stretch of the Rio Grande near Albuquerque that supplies farmers with water and a habitat for an array of aquatic life is drying — an unsettling sighting of climate change’s effects in a populous U.S. city.
    • After three consecutive years of extreme drought conditions, officials had feared a historic dry spell, but heavy rain in late June offered a brief respite. Still, an arid July and triple-digit temperatures scorched any hope. As of Thursday, more than 73 percent of New Mexico is under an “extreme” or “severe” drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
  2. WHO declares monkeypox a global health emergency as infections soar
    • The move to label the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the highest level of alert the WHO can issue, is expected to marshal new funding to fight the outbreak and to pressure governments into action. More than 16,500 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 74 countries. “In short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters Saturday.
    • Tedros said that one of the reasons he moved to declare a global health emergency is the potential for stanching the outbreak, which is overwhelmingly concentrated in men who have sex with men.

7/21/2022

  1. Brutal heat from Phoenix to Boston triggers alerts for 100 million:
    • More than 100 million people in the Lower 48 states are under heat alerts on Thursday amid relentlessly sweltering temperatures that have soared as high as 115 degrees in recent days. About 60 million Americans in at least 16 states are set to experience triple-digit highs Thursday; an additional half-dozen states could see the mercury reach the upper 90s.
    • The U.S. heat wave, which has set at least 60 records, peaked this week as a historic bout of exceptional temperatures killed more than 1,000 people in Europe. Britain set a record-high temperature Tuesday as several stations exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time ever. While summertime is bound to be hot, the trend toward increasingly severe and long-duration heat events bears the fingerprint of human-induced climate change.
  2. Europe is overheating. This climate-friendly AC could help. Heat pumps are efficient and eco-friendly. So why are they so rarely used?
    • Bearing a misleading name, heat pumps are two-way air conditioners that move warm air from inside a home to the outside, keeping dwellings cool in hot months. In winter months, they do the reverse, taking heat energy from outside and pushing warm air in…. Estimates show that 90 percent of Japanese households use heat pumps to heat and cool homes, contributing to a 40 percent drop in the country’s electricity consumption over the past decade. In Italy, the government effectively pays citizens to use the technology; homeowners can get 110 percent of their heat pump cost reimbursed.
    • In the United States, about 16,000 air conditioning units are installed daily on average. Researchers from CLASP and Harvard University predicted that if over the remaining decade, all houses installing central air conditioners bought a subsidized heat pump instead, consumers would save approximately $27 billion on heating and cooling bills, while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 49 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2032.
    • Because heat pumps cost a lot, spending the money might seem difficult. And because most people purchase air conditioners and heating units when they’re forced to, they often have little time to decide what to buy, Schneider said. They end up with what’s common in stores or recommended by maintenance professionals. “If you are in a heating or cooling emergency … you are going to take whatever’s in stock,” she said. “There needs to be a way for HVAC installers to increase their stock of this technology and to know about it.”

7/20/2022

  1. DNA on Discarded Coffee Cup Leads to Arrest in a 1975 Homicide. Lindy Sue Biechler was stabbed 19 times more than four decades ago. The authorities in Pennsylvania said a coffee cup that David Sinopoli, 68, discarded this year provided investigators with crucial evidence
    • In 1997, investigators submitted the underwear worn by Ms. Biechler at the time of her death to a DNA lab, which confirmed that it contained semen, and then uploaded the DNA profile to Codis, a national DNA database maintained by the F.B.I.
    • In December 2020, Cece Moore, a genetic genealogist who works with Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia company whose services include novel DNA-based forensics, was given a DNA sample from the crime scene by the authorities. The DNA tests from the person showed that he had many recent immigrant family members from Italy.
    • Ms. Moore found that there were about 2,300 residents of Italian ancestry living in the area at the time of Ms. Biechler’s death. From there, she further narrowed the pool of potential suspects to those whose ancestors had lived in Gasperina, Italy. Then, using newspaper archives, public search databases, social media, court records and other resources, Ms. Moore determined that Mr. Sinopoli, who has Italian ancestry, was a possible suspect, in part because he had lived in the same apartment building that Ms. Biechler had. She said at the news conference that she had later submitted a “highly scientific tip” to the authorities.
    • Investigators surveilled Mr. Sinopoli, eventually following him into the airport. There, they retrieved a coffee cup that he had discarded.
  2. Alarm as fastest growing US cities risk becoming unlivable from climate crisis: Some of the cities enjoying population boom are among those gripped by a ferocious heatwave and seeing record temperatures
    • Some of the fastest-growing cities in the US are among those currently being roasted by record temperatures that are baking the more than 100 million Americans under some sort of extreme heat warning. More than a dozen wildfires are engulfing areas from Texas to California and Alaska, with electricity blackouts feared for places where the grid is coming under severe strain. San Antonio, Texas, which added more to its population than any other US city in the year to July 2021, has already had more than a dozen days over 100F this summer and hit 104F on Tuesday.
    • Phoenix in Arizona, second on the population growth rankings compiled by the US census, also hit 104F on Tuesday and has suffered a record number of heat-related deaths this year. Meanwhile, Fort Worth, Texas, third on the population growth list, has a “red flag” warning in place amid temperatures that have reached 109F this week.
    • “There’s been this tremendous amount of growth and it’s come with a cost,” said Jesse Keenan, an expert in climate adaption at Tulane University. Keenan pointed out that since the 1990s several states have gutted housing regulations to spur development that has now left several communities, such as in Scottsdale, Arizona, struggling to secure enough water to survive. “The deregulation is really catching up with communities and they are paying that price today,” Keenan said. “We are seeing places run out of water, no proper sub division controls to ensure there are enough trees to help lower the heat and lots of low-density suburbs full of cars that create air pollution that only gets worse in hot weather. We’ve reached a crunch point.”
    • “We are seeing the limits to growth and housing affordability and the impacts of poor quality decision making of where and how to build. We are paying the price for all that now.”
  3. Brutal heat dome moves east, with Central Europe set to swelter:
    • A heat wave that brought record temperatures to Britain and parts of France is forecast to move eastward across Central Europe on Wednesday, with scientists warning of “very high levels” of ozone pollution on the continent.
    • As some experts pointed to the role of human-influenced climate change in the record-shattering temperatures, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres convened a “moment for nature” on Tuesday. “Our ways of life — based on producing, consuming, discarding and polluting — have brought us to this dire state of affairs,” Guterres said in a video message. “But, since human activities are at the root of this planetary emergency, that means we also hold the key to the solutions. Now is the time to transform our relationship with nature and chart a new path,” he added.
  4. More Mountain Glacier Collapses Feared as Heat Waves Engulf the Northern Hemisphere: Researchers spot a vast new crack on a crumbling Italian glacier that killed 11 people earlier this month, as warming temperatures and snow droughts take a toll on alpine icefields.
    • Glaciologists are tracking a new crack, about 650 feet long and more than 100 feet wide, that has appeared in a different part of the glacier, intensifying concerns that such unpredictable threats could become more frequent and widespread as global warming intensifies heat waves and deprives the icefields of the snow needed to replenish them. On average, high mountain areas are warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

7/19/2022

  1. The Secret History of Women in Coding: Computer programming once had much better gender balance than it does today. What went wrong?
    • As a teenager in Maryland in the 1950s, Mary Allen Wilkes had no plans to become a software pioneer — she dreamed of being a litigator. One day in junior high in 1950, though, her geography teacher surprised her with a comment: “Mary Allen, when you grow up, you should be a computer programmer!” Wilkes had no idea what a programmer was; she wasn’t even sure what a computer was. Relatively few Americans were. The first digital computers had been built barely a decade earlier at universities and in government labs.
    • Wilkes quickly became a programming whiz. She first worked on the IBM 704, which required her to write in an abstruse “assembly language.” (A typical command might be something like “LXA A, K,” telling the computer to take the number in Location A of its memory and load it into to the “Index Register” K.) Even getting the program into the IBM 704 was a laborious affair. There were no keyboards or screens; Wilkes had to write a program on paper and give it to a typist, who translated each command into holes on a punch card. She would carry boxes of commands to an “operator,” who then fed a stack of such cards into a reader. The computer executed the program and produced results, typed out on a printer.
    • Often enough, Wilkes’s code didn’t produce the result she wanted. So she had to pore over her lines of code, trying to deduce her mistake, stepping through each line in her head and envisioning how the machine would execute it — turning her mind, as it were, into the computer. Then she would rewrite the program. The capacity of most computers at the time was quite limited; the IBM 704 could handle only about 4,000 “words” of code in its memory. A good programmer was concise and elegant and never wasted a word. They were poets of bits. “It was like working logic puzzles — big, complicated logic puzzles,” Wilkes says. “I still have a very picky, precise mind, to a fault. I notice pictures that are crooked on the wall.”
    • In late 1964, after Wilkes returned from traveling around the world for a year, she was asked to finish writing the LINC’s operating system. But the lab had been relocated to St. Louis, and she had no desire to move there. Instead, a LINC was shipped to her parents’ house in Baltimore. Looming in the front hall near the foot of the stairs, a tall cabinet of whirring magnetic tapes across from a refrigerator-size box full of circuitry, it was an early glimpse of a sci-fi future: Wilkes was one of the first people on the planet to have a personal computer in her home. (Her father, an Episcopal clergyman, was thrilled. “He bragged about it,” she says. “He would tell anybody who would listen, ‘I bet you don’t have a computer in your living room.’ ”) Before long, LINC users around the world were using her code to program medical analyses and even create a chatbot that interviewed patients about their symptoms.
    • Almost 200 years ago, the first person to be what we would now call a coder was, in fact, a woman: Lady Ada Lovelace. As a young mathematician in England in 1833, she met Charles Babbage, an inventor who was struggling to design what he called the Analytical Engine, which would be made of metal gears and able to execute if/then commands and store information in memory. Enthralled, Lovelace grasped the enormous potential of a device like this. A computer that could modify its own instructions and memory could be far more than a rote calculator, she realized. To prove it, Lovelace wrote what is often regarded as the first computer program in history, an algorithm with which the Analytical Engine would calculate the Bernoulli sequence of numbers. (She wasn’t shy about her accomplishments: “That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show,” she once wrote.) But Babbage never managed to build his computer, and Lovelace, who died of cancer at 36, never saw her code executed.
    • This dynamic was at work in the development of the first programmable digital computer in the United States, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or Eniac, during the 1940s. Funded by the military, the thing was a behemoth, weighing more than 30 tons and including 17,468 vacuum tubes. Merely getting it to work was seen as the heroic, manly engineering feat. In contrast, programming it seemed menial, even secretarial. Women had long been employed in the scut work of doing calculations. In the years leading up to the Eniac, many companies bought huge electronic tabulating machines — quite useful for tallying up payroll, say — from companies like IBM; women frequently worked as the punch-card operators for these overgrown calculators. When the time came to hire technicians to write instructions for the Eniac, it made sense, to the men in charge, to pick an all-female team: Kathleen McNulty, Jean Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Frances Bilas and Ruth Lichterman. The men would figure out what they wanted Eniac to do; the women “programmed” it to execute the instructions.
    • After the war, as coding jobs spread from the military into the private sector, women remained in the coding vanguard, doing some of the highest-profile work. The pioneering programmer Grace Hopper is frequently credited with creating the first “compiler,” a program that lets users create programming languages that more closely resemble regular written words: A coder could thus write the English-like code, and the compiler would do the hard work of turning it into ones and zeros for the computer. Hopper also developed the “Flowmatic” language for nontechnical businesspeople. Later, she advised the team that created the Cobol language, which became widely used by corporations. Another programmer from the team, Jean E. Sammet, continued to be influential in the language’s development for decades. Fran Allen was so expert in optimizing Fortran, a popular language for performing scientific calculations, that she became the first female IBM fellow.
    • Such was the hunger for programming talent that a young black woman named Arlene Gwendolyn Lee could become one of the early female programmers in Canada, despite the open discrimination of the time. Lee was half of a biracial couple to whom no one would rent, so she needed money to buy a house. According to her son, who has described his mother’s experience in a blog post, Lee showed up at a firm after seeing its ad for data processing and systems analytics jobs in a Toronto newspaper sometime in the early 1960s. Lee persuaded the employers, who were all white, to let her take the coding aptitude test. When she placed in the 99th percentile, the supervisors grilled her with questions before hiring her. “I had it easy,” she later told her son. “The computer didn’t care that I was a woman or that I was black. Most women had it much harder.”
    • If we want to pinpoint a moment when women began to be forced out of programming, we can look at one year: 1984. A decade earlier, a study revealed that the numbers of men and women who expressed an interest in coding as a career were equal. Men were more likely to enroll in computer-science programs, but women’s participation rose steadily and rapidly through the late ’70s until, by the 1983-84 academic year, 37.1 percent of all students graduating with degrees in computer and information sciences were women. In only one decade, their participation rate more than doubled. But then things went into reverse. From 1984 onward, the percentage dropped; by the time 2010 rolled around, it had been cut in half. Only 17.6 percent of the students graduating from computer-science and information-science programs were women.
    • What Margolis discovered was that the first-year students arriving at Carnegie Mellon with substantial experience were almost all male. They had received much more exposure to computers than girls had; for example, boys were more than twice as likely to have been given one as a gift by their parents. And if parents bought a computer for the family, they most often put it in a son’s room, not a daughter’s. Sons also tended to have what amounted to an “internship” relationship with fathers, working through Basic-language manuals with them, receiving encouragement from them; the same wasn’t true for daughters. “That was a very important part of our findings,” Margolis says. Nearly every female student in computer science at Carnegie Mellon told Margolis that her father had worked with her brother — “and they had to fight their way through to get some attention.”
    • A 1983 study involving M.I.T. students produced equally bleak accounts. Women who raised their hands in class were often ignored by professors and talked over by other students. They would be told they weren’t aggressive enough; if they challenged other students or contradicted them, they heard comments like “You sure are bitchy today — must be your period.” Behavior in some research groups “sometimes approximates that of the locker room,” the report concluded, with men openly rating how “cute” their female students were. (“Gee, I don’t think it’s fair that the only two girls in the group are in the same office,” one said. “We should share.”) Male students mused about women’s mediocrity: “I really don’t think the woman students around here are as good as the men,” one said.
    • As programming was shutting its doors to women in academia, a similar transformation was taking place in corporate America. The emergence of what would be called “culture fit” was changing the who, and the why, of the hiring process. Managers began picking coders less on the basis of aptitude and more on how well they fit a personality type: the acerbic, aloof male nerd. The shift actually began far earlier, back in the late ’60s, when managers recognized that male coders shared a growing tendency to be antisocial isolates, lording their arcane technical expertise over that of their bosses. Programmers were “often egocentric, slightly neurotic,” as Richard Brandon, a well-known computer-industry analyst, put it in an address at a 1968 conference, adding that “the incidence of beards, sandals and other symptoms of rugged individualism or nonconformity are notably greater among this demographic.”
    • Lurking beneath some of this sexist atmosphere is the phantasm of sociobiology. As this line of thinking goes, women are less suited to coding than men because biology better endows men with the qualities necessary to excel at programming. Many women who work in software face this line of reasoning all the time. Cate Huston, a software engineer at Google from 2011 to 2014, heard it from colleagues there when they pondered why such a low percentage of the company’s programmers were women. Peers would argue that Google hired only the best — that if women weren’t being hired, it was because they didn’t have enough innate logic or grit, she recalls.
    • But if biology were the reason so few women are in coding, it would be impossible to explain why women were so prominent in the early years of American programming, when the work could be, if anything, far harder than today’s programming. It was an uncharted new field, in which you had to do math in binary and hexadecimal formats, and there were no helpful internet forums, no Google to query, for assistance with your bug. It was just your brain in a jar, solving hellish problems.
    • The result is an industry that is drastically more male than it was decades ago, and far more so than the workplace at large. In 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 26 percent of the workers in “computer and mathematical occupations” were women. The percentages for people of color are similarly low: Black employees were 8.4 percent, Latinos 7.5 percent. (The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey put black coders at only 4.7 percent in 2016.) In the more rarefied world of the top Silicon Valley tech firms, the numbers are even more austere: A 2017 analysis by Recode, a news site that covers the technology industry, revealed that 20 percent of Google’s technical employees were women, while only 1 percent were black and 3 percent were Hispanic. Facebook was nearly identical; the numbers at Twitter were 15 percent, 2 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
    • On a spring weekend in 2017, more than 700 coders and designers were given 24 hours to dream up and create a new product at a hackathon in New York hosted by TechCrunch, a news site devoted to technology and Silicon Valley. At lunchtime on Sunday, the teams presented their creations to a panel of industry judges, in a blizzard of frantic elevator pitches. There was Instagrammie, a robot system that would automatically recognize the mood of an elderly relative or a person with limited mobility; there was Waste Not, an app to reduce food waste. Most of the contestants were coders who worked at local high-tech firms or computer-science students at nearby universities. The winning team, though, was a trio of high school girls from New Jersey: Sowmya Patapati, Akshaya Dinesh and Amulya Balakrishnan. In only 24 hours, they created reVIVE, a virtual-reality app that tests children for signs of A.D.H.D. After the students were handed their winnings onstage — a trophy-size check for $5,000 — they flopped into chairs in a nearby room to recuperate. They had been coding almost nonstop since noon the day before and were bleary with exhaustion. “Lots of caffeine,” Balakrishnan, 17, said, laughing. She wore a blue T-shirt that read “WHO HACK THE WORLD? GIRLS.” The girls told me that they had impressed even themselves by how much they accomplished in 24 hours. “Our app really does streamline the process of detecting A.D.H.D.,” said Dinesh, who was also 17. “It usually takes six to nine months to diagnose, and thousands of dollars! We could do it digitally in a much faster way!”
  2. ‘It goes up like tinder’: unprecedented blazes envelop Alaska: Across the state, 264 individual fires are burning and it is on track to break its 2004 record of 6.5m acres destroyed
    • The strikes connected with a landscape ready to burn. Willows and alders in the state’s forests have grown thicker and taller, while black spruce, another tree common in the forests, grow larger and work up the hills. Meanwhile, warmer temperatures have increased vegetation on the tundra. “At the end of the day, you just have more material to burn,” Thoman said. The climate crisis is playing a part in the changing conditions, Thoman said. “It’s not only Alaska. Across the board in the Arctic and the sub-Arctic, you’re seeing this increase in fires. Taking into consideration the lightning, the drought, the early snowmelt – there’s just no doubt the warming planet is playing a huge role in this.”
  3. Europe’s heatwave moves north as UK braces for hottest day on record: Temperatures also forecast to rise in the Netherlands and Belgium as wildfires continue to rage in southern parts of the continent
    • Expectations are now high that on Tuesday the British record of 38.7C could be broken and 40C breached for the first time, with experts blaming climate change and predicting more frequent extreme weather to come…. In France, a host of towns and cities recorded their highest-ever temperatures on Monday, the national weather office said. The mercury hit 39.3C in Brest on the Atlantic coast of Britany, in the far north-west of the country, smashing a previous record of 35.1C from 2002. Saint-Brieuc, on the Channel coast, hit 39.5C beating a previous record of 38.1C, and the western city of Nantes recorded 42C, beating a decades-old high of 40.3C, set in 1949.
    • “We’re climate change refugees,” Théo Dayan, 26, told Le Monde after fleeing his home near the village of La Teste-de-Buch. Jean-Luc Gleyze, the head of the local fire service, said: “We’re not reaching out and touching global heating – it’s hitting us full in the face.”
    • During a visit to the south-western region of Extremadura on Monday morning, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, paid tribute to Gullón Vara and said the events of the previous week were further evidence of the climate crisis. “I want to make something very clear,” he said. “Climate change kills: it kills people, as we’ve seen; it also kills our ecosystem, our biodiversity, and it also destroys the things we as a society hold dear – our houses, our businesses, our livestock.”
  4. This heatwave has eviscerated the idea that small changes can tackle extreme weather: Dangerous heat will become the norm, even in the UK. Systems need to urgently change – and the silence needs to be broken (George Monbiot)
    • Can we talk about it now? I mean the subject most of the media and most of the political class has been avoiding for so long. You know, the only subject that ultimately counts – the survival of life on Earth. Everyone knows, however carefully they avoid the topic, that, beside it, all the topics filling the front pages and obsessing the pundits are dust. Even the Times editors still publishing columns denying climate science know it. Even the candidates for the Tory leadership, ignoring or downplaying the issue, know it. Never has a silence been so loud or so resonant.
    • We do not deserve this. The billionaire press and the politicians it promotes may deserve each other, but none of us deserves either group. They are constructing a world between them in which we have not elected to live, in which we may not be able to live. On this issue, as on so many, the people tend to be far ahead of those who claim to represent us. But those politicians and media barons deploy every imaginable wile and ruse to prevent decisive action from being taken.
    • They do so on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, animal farming, finance, construction firms, car manufacturers and airline companies, but also on behalf of something bigger than any of those interests: the power of incumbency. Those who hold power today do so by stamping out challenges, regardless of the form they take. The demand to decarbonise our economies is not just a threat to carbon-intensive industry; it is a threat to the world order that permits powerful men to dominate us. To give ground to climate campaigners is to surrender power.
    • The problem was never that system change is too big an ask or takes too long. The problem is that incrementalism is too small an ask. Not just too small to drive transformation; not just too small to stop the tidal wave of revolutionary change rolling in from the opposite direction; but also too small to break the conspiracy of silence. Only a demand for system change, directly confronting the power driving us to planetary destruction, has the potential to match the scale of the problem and to inspire and mobilise the millions of people required to generate effective action.
    • Some of us know what we want: private sufficiency, public luxury, doughnut economics, participatory democracy and an ecological civilisation. None of these are bigger asks than those the billionaire press has made and largely achieved: the neoliberal revolution that has swept away effective governance, effective taxation of the rich, effective restraints on the power of business and oligarchs and, increasingly, effective democracy. So let’s break our own silence. Let’s stop lying to ourselves and others by pretending that small measures deliver major change. Let’s abandon the timidity and tokenism. Let’s stop bringing buckets of water when only fire engines will do. Let’s build our campaign for systemic change towards the critical 25% threshold of public acceptance, beyond which, a range of scientific studies suggests, social tipping happens. I feel clearer about what effective political action looks like than I have ever done. But a major question remains. Given that we have left it so late, can we reach the social tipping point before we hit the environmental tipping point?

7/18/2022

  1. Humanity faces ‘collective suicide’ over climate crisis, warns UN chief: António Guterres tells governments ‘half of humanity is in danger zone’, as countries battle extreme heat
    • Wildfires and heatwaves wreaking havoc across swathes of the globe show humanity facing “collective suicide”, the UN secretary general has warned, as governments around the world scramble to protect people from the impacts of extreme heat. António Guterres told ministers from 40 countries meeting to discuss the climate crisis on Monday: “Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction.” He added: “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.” [ael: my emphasis]
    • Guterres also sharply criticised the “multilateral development banks”, institutions including the World Bank that are funded by taxpayers in the rich world to provide assistance to poor countries. He said they were not fit for purpose when it came to providing the funding needed for the climate crisis, and that they should be reformed. He said: “As shareholders of multilateral development banks, developed countries must demand immediate delivery of the investments and assistance needed to expand renewable energy and build climate-resilience in developing countries. Demand that these banks become fit-for-purpose. Demand that they change their tired frameworks and policies to take more risk … Let’s show developing countries that they can rely on their partners.”
  2. U.K. braces for record temperatures as ‘heat apocalypse’ hits Europe:
    • British authorities declared a national emergency and for the first time issued a “red extreme” heat warning for large parts of England, while France’s meteorological service placed a stretch of its Atlantic coast under the highest-possible alert level. Heat records were toppled in several places in France and Britain on Monday. More records could fall later in the day or on Tuesday, with Britain expecting temperatures of up to 106 degrees (41 Celsius) — far above the current record of 101.7 degrees (38.7 Celsius), which was set in 2019. Temperatures in France were expected to top 104 degrees (40 Celsius).
    • The U.K. Health Security Agency issued a Level 4 heat alert, its highest level, warning illness and death could occur “among the fit and healthy.” Public health officials predicted that thousands of excess deaths could occur, even as some skeptics considered it hype. Conservative Party lawmaker John Hayes told the Telegraph newspaper that “this is not a brave new world but a cowardly new world where we live in a country where we are frightened of the heat.” [ael: good Lord. Just shoot that man.] But Britain isn’t designed for extreme heat.
    • In London, workers wrapped the historic Hammersmith Bridge over the River Thames in silver insulation foil to protect the cast-iron spans from cracking. Transportation officials advised passengers to stay away and ordered trains to slow down as maintenance crews were on the lookout for steel tracks bending and buckling. [ael: cowardly bridges and rails! Just stand up!]
    • But as climate change progresses, the increasingly brutal heat islands that build up in urban areas could pose risks that may be beyond conventional solutions — even today, the difference in temperatures between Paris and its greener surroundings can at times approach 18 degrees (10 Celsius). People living in poorer areas, who are more likely to live in unrenovated buildings and without easy access to green spaces, are particularly affected. Many of the elderly residents who died in recent heat waves in France were at home and not in nursing facilities.
  3. The terrifying truth: Britain’s a hothouse, but one day 40C will seem cool (Bill McGuire): This extreme heat is just the beginning. We should be scared – and channel this emotion into action
    • In the decades ahead, summers are set to get ever hotter and last longer, overwhelming the other seasons, and reducing winter to a couple of dreary months punctuated by damaging storms and destructive floods. Blistering heat will be the default weather for July and August, when a combination of high temperatures and humidity will make sunbathing and working in the open extremely unpleasant and potentially deadly. Our poorly insulated homes will provide little respite as they are turned into unliveable heat-traps. Camping out in gardens and parks will become commonplace as baking nights make sleeping indoors impossible. Inevitably, increasing numbers of people will flee the cities to escape the heat-island effect that will transform them into unbearable saunas. A general migration northwards and uphill can be expected, as cooler conditions become a big property selling point.
    • A confluence of desiccating drought, torrential rains and battering hail, flooding and new pests that thrive in the heat will take a massive toll on crops at a time when frequent harvest failures and climate wars will mean an erratic and unreliable supply from overseas. We have already seen price hikes and gaps on supermarket shelves as a consequence of the Ukraine conflict. Climate breakdown will bring far worse. One study predicts that by 2050 the world will need half as much food again, while crop yields could be down by as much as 30%. This is nothing less than a recipe for widespread hunger, social unrest and civil strife, and the UK is unlikely to be immune.
    • Heat and drought will be the signature conditions of hothouse Britain, but there will still be rain. In the summer, downpours fed by convective storms will be so heavy that little rain will penetrate the ground, most of it flowing over the surface to feed lethal and destructive flash floods. Autumn and winter will see frequent incursions of powerful, damaging, storms and so-called atmospheric “rivers”, bringing rains that last for days on end, overwhelming catchments and driving river flooding on a biblical scale.
    • Coastal communities will fight a losing battle as bigger and more frequent storm surges, increasingly powerful waves and a remorseless hike in sea level supercharge cliff erosion and permanently swamp low-lying terrain. Sea level is now rising by a centimetre every two years, which is more than double the rate for the period 1993-2002. Within 80 years it will certainly be more than a metre higher, and could have climbed by 2m or even more. This would bring the North Sea far inland, threatening especially low-lying communities such as the Lincolnshire towns of Boston and Spalding.
    • If you are terrified by what you have read, then I have done what I set out to do. Too many of us still think that global heating will just mean that the world will get a bit warmer and that somehow we will muddle through. This is plain wrong. So be scared, but don’t let this feed inertia. Instead channel the emotion and use it to launch your contribution to tackling the climate emergency. Things are going to be dreadful, but – working together – we still have the time to stop a dangerous future becoming a cataclysmic one.
    • Bill McGuire is professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at UCL and a climate activist. His latest book Hothouse Earth: an Inhabitant’s Guide is published on 4 August

7/16/2022

  1. Manure-Eating Worms Could Be the Dairy Industry’s Climate Solution: The worms devour pollutants in dairy wastewater and even prevent greenhouse gas emissions, making such a system a boon to water quality and a possible alternative to digesters.
    • Royal Dairy cleans and reuses its water more than 10 times before the water leaves the farm. The dairy has also cut its nitrate pollution and lowered its greenhouse gas emissions, all thanks to a new kind of wastewater filtration system powered by worms. Every day, half a million gallons of farm wastewater is pumped through a gigantic bed of earthworms. The worms, wiggling in wood chips and shavings, feast on the liquid manure and wastewater, removing nutrients and harmful chemicals from the stream. The water then percolates through a layer of crushed rock, collects at the bottom of the worm bed, and travels out an exit pipe for Austin Allred, the farm’s owner, to use on the farm once more.
    • Vermifiltration has also been shown in some cases to reduce methane emissions on dairy farms. Methane, a greenhouse gas far more powerful than carbon dioxide, is a byproduct of cow manure and cow burps. On dairy farms, methane is released into the atmosphere or captured by a manure digester. BioFiltro’s study, for example, found that the system reduced methane emissions on the dairy by 97 percent when compared to a dairy without an emissions containment system. A 2022 study out of Washington State University found similar results.

7/14/2022

  1. The world’s longest-lived trees couldn’t survive climate change:
    • The trees’ needles glowed a flaming orange; their bark was a ghostly gray. Millar estimated that the damage encompassed 60 to 70 percent of the bristlecones on Telescope Peak…. In a study published this spring, she and fellow researchers showed that the West’s worst drought in at least 1,200 years had critically weakened the trees. Voracious bark beetles — a threat to which bristlecones were previously thought immune — delivered the death blow.
    • After outlasting millennia of disruptions and disaster, human-caused climate change is proving too much for the ancient trees to bear. Rising temperatures have caused an explosion in the populations of insects that threaten the trees and undermined their capacity to defend themselves, scientists say. Although Great Basin bristlecone pines are not considered at risk of extinction, cherished specimens and distinctive populations are struggling to survive.
    • A new study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, found that climate change has pushed almost a quarter of Earth’s best-protected forests to a “critical threshold” for lost resilience — the point at which even a minor drought or heat wave could tip them into catastrophic decline.
    • RTZEEXACZAI63C7LFNHEQGYVAA.jpg&w=540A 4,853-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine tree, known as Methuselah, at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of Inyo County, Calif., in 2021. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
    • No organism on Earth is known to live as long as the Great Basin bristlecone pine. The oldest documented tree, a well-hidden specimen nicknamed “Methuselah,” after the long-lived biblical patriarch, was a sapling when the ancient Egyptians built their pyramids more than 4,500 years ago. Even the relatively youthful trees in Death Valley are older than gunpowder, paper money and the English language.
    • The secret to their survival is their ability to withstand what others cannot. They exist at higher elevations than almost any other tree, thriving in the rocky, meager soils near rugged mountain peaks. Their branching root systems and waxy needles help them make the most of scant water. They produce a thick resin that traps insect invaders and quickly patches wounds. Their genomes, which are nine times as long as a human’s, contain a multitude of mutations that give them a better chance of adapting to changing conditions.
    • The scientists think the trees had been so stressed by drought that they could not fend off attacks they once would have vanquished with ease. Climate analyses showed that 2020 soil moisture levels in Death Valley and the Wah Wah range dipped to their lowest levels in at least 40 years.
    • Arid forests around the globe have experienced a devastating loss of resilience in the past two decades, according to the analysis published Wednesday in Nature. Satellite imagery shows that these ecosystems are less able to bounce back after a fluctuations in weather or periods of drought. Tropical and temperate forests — the steamy Amazon, the North Woods of Minnesota — are in similar decline.
  2. Temperatures soar to 115 in Europe as heat wave expands: Amber heat warnings have been posted in England, which could near its highest temperature on record: 101.7 degrees.
    • Extreme heat has already spread over Portugal, Spain and France, where highs have reached record-setting highs around 115 degrees (46 Celsius). Red warnings are in effect for much of Portugal as hot conditions bolster the risk of wildfires. More than 20 blazes have erupted in Portugal, western Spain and southwest France, according to Reuters.
    • Instigating the heat is something called a “cutoff low,” or a low-pressure system that has become pinched off from the jet stream. It’s analogous to paddling a boat through a pond and watching a whirlpool shed off the oar and continue spinning aimlessly. In this case, the low is a self-sustaining swirl of counterclockwise-spinning winds wrapped about a lobe of high-altitude cold that’s whirring around a few hundred miles southwest of Portugal over the open northeast Atlantic.
  3. Once nearly extinct, bison are now climate heroes: Indigenous tribes are leading the effort to bring back the bison — a victory not only for the sake of biodiversity, but for the entire ecosystem they nurture
    • The bison’s quiet munching does more than nourish their bodies — it’s one of many things they do to nurture their entire ecosystem, one that is increasingly under threat from climate change. Grazing bison shaving down acres of vegetation leave more than dung behind: Their aggressive chewing spurs growth of nutritious new plant shoots, and their natural behaviors — the microhabitats they create by rolling in the ground, the many birds that forged symbiotic relationships with them — trickle down the food chain. Once bordering on extinction, bison now serve as a great provider for their ecosystems, standing as an example of the ways in which animal conservation and ecological protection can work in tandem.
    • Bison, called buffalo by some Indigenous peoples, are mammoth creatures. Weighing up to 2,000 pounds, they are the largest land mammal in North America. Their giant horned heads balance on hulking sloped shoulders. This massive upper body sits on spindly goat-like legs, lending them an otherworldly quality — more Minotaur than moose. Despite their size, they have a gracefulness to them.
    • The herd in Oklahoma is approximately 625 animals, but when large herds move synchronously across the land, they create what scientists have dubbed a “green wave.” The bison’s vigorous grazing stimulates plant growth, creating a flood of new vegetation that follows in the bison's wake to be "surfed” by animals large and small. Green waves can be so dramatic that some — such as the one created by Yellowstone’s bison herd — can be seen from space.
    • Bison suffer from the effects of climate change, too. Warming temperatures have caused bison to shrink, according to several recent studies. That’s because climate change acts on the grasses they eat, reducing the protein content. One study found that for every 1 degree Celsius the temperature warmed, male bison weighed on average 20 pounds less. (The climate is expected to warm by nearly 3 degrees Celsius by 2050.)
    • Still, many experts in the bison world are hopeful for the future. The ongoing restoration of this animal is a rare success story in nature conservancy. To go from a few-hundred bison to several- hundred-thousand nationwide in little more than a century is astounding. This triumph has in turn brought about the resurgence of local flora and fauna in the regions in which bison are found, including native grasses and rare insects.
  4. As drought shrivels Lake Powell, millions face power crisis: With water levels falling ‘lower than thought possible’ at Glen Canyon dam, energy production could halt as soon as July 2023
    • Alongside Nevada’s Lake Mead, Powell is one of the two largest reservoirs in the nation, holding 24m acre feet of water and spanning the Arizona-Utah border, and together they provide a vital water supply to a combined 40 million people in the south-west. Lake Powell is also a major source of hydropower: the vast pressure of the Colorado River traveling through the Glen Canyon dam’s 15-foot pipes, which spins turbines and then powers eight generators, produces cheap and clean energy for as many as 5.8 million homes and businesses across seven states.
    • But dwindling water levels at Lake Powell, which is now at 28% of its 24m acre-feet capacity, have put the Glen Canyon dam at risk. In March, water levels fell below 3,525 feet – considered a critical buffer to protect hydropower – for the first time. If the lake drops just another 32ft, the dam will no longer be able to generate power for the millions who rely on it.
    • “It’s a gigantic warning,” says Lisa Meiman, a spokesperson for the Western Area Power Administration (Wapa), a federal company that provides wholesale hydropower to 15 states through 57 dams, including Glen Canyon. “The rapid decline of Lake Powell has been surprising. There’s no doubt we are heading towards a drier future.”
    • Several unprecedented changes are already in place. Over the next year Lake Powell will hold back 500,000 acre-feet of water usually sent to Lake Mead – further squeezing supply on the lower basin states – and for the first time will receive an extra 500,000 acre-feet from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming, one of a handful of much smaller water bodies that can be drawn on.
    • Lake Powell’s power woes come as the Colorado River basin’s climate is rapidly changing. Called the “lifeline of the south-west”, water flow in the Colorado river could drop 30% by 2050 and 55% by 2100 due to greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2017 study. Currently, 66% of the western US is experiencing severe or extreme drought.
    • Yet political division over water use and management has slowed progress over how to respond. Many point to the role of the multibillion-dollar agriculture industry, which accounts for 79% of water use in the south-west. Others say municipal consumption must change in what is effectively a desert region, as Las Vegas looks to crack down on garden turf, which requires regular irrigation, and increase the use of recycled water. Meanwhile, some leaders have insisted on the right to continued use.

7/12/2022

  1. Nearly $2tn of damage inflicted on other countries by US emissions: Research puts US ahead of China, Russia, India and Brazil in terms of global damage as climate expert says numbers ‘very stark
    • The huge volume of planet-heating gases pumped out by the US, the largest historical emitter, has caused such harm to other, mostly poor, countries through heatwaves, crop failures and other consequences that the US is responsible for $1.91tn in lost global income since 1990, the study found. This puts the US ahead of China, currently the world’s leading emitter, Russian, India and Brazil as the next largest contributors to global economic damage through their emissions. Combined, these five leading culprits have caused a total of $6tn in losses worldwide, or about 11% of annual global GDP, since 1990 by fueling climate breakdown.
    • [ael: this is what the the pathetic lot of self-centered, oblivious Americans don't like to hear: that, through our insipid actions, we've caused a lot of damage to others. Who, us?!]
    • The Dartmouth researchers combined a number of different models, showing factors such as emissions, local climate conditions and economic changes, to ascertain the precise impact of an individual country’s contribution to the climate crisis. They looked for these links over a period spanning 1990 to 2014, with the research published in the journal Climatic Change.
    • “The chief impediment to claims by one country against another for climate damages isn’t their scientific basis, it’s their legal basis,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. “Countries enjoy sovereign immunity against most kinds of lawsuits unless they have waived it.” This impasse means some sort of negotiated deal remains the most likely way that the inequity of climate impacts is ameliorated. “It’s a positive step that this study is beginning to quantify the harms these national actors, we can see the scale of harm is enormous,” said Carroll Muffett, chief executive of the Center for International Environmental Law.
  2. Great Salt Lake in Utah hit a record low water level for second time in less than a year
    • Three decades ago, the Great Salt Lake covered about 3,000 square miles. Now, at its lowest level ever recorded, it covers less than a thousand. The decline has led to air quality issues in the midst of historic drought conditions. "All the minerals from the mountains, all the heavy metals from the mountains have been coming into this lake for thousands of years, and if the lake bottom is completely dry, then the wind picks up and creates dust storms that carry those heavy metals into the air and spread them around to urban areas like Salt Lake City," Footen said.
    • "I was looking at heavy metals and unfortunately we found very high concentrations of arsenic in the soil," he said. "And arsenic is concerning for a variety of reasons. It can lead to lung cancer, skin cancer, bladder cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes." Preventing arsenic-contaminated dust storms requires getting more water into the Great Salt Lake. But that's no easy feat when Utah is in a megadrought, with more than 20 years of below average precipitation.
  3. Rate of Arctic warming faster than previously thought
    • Several recent studies indicate the Arctic is now warming around four times as fast as the rest of the globe. It’s a substantial update: Until recently, scientific papers and news reports alike have typically stated the Arctic is warming at two to three times the global average.
    • The study, led by Petr Chylek of Los Alamos National Laboratory, examined temperature data from the year 1960 onward. It focused on the geographic circle north of 65 degrees latitude, just slightly wider than the area typically referred to as the “Arctic Circle.” When looking at the last two decades alone, the study finds, the rate of warming appears to have hit four times the global average. The findings “stand in contrast to the widely-held conventional wisdom … that the Arctic is ‘only’ warming around twice as fast as the global mean,” the researchers state.
  4. Could This Ancient Farming Technique Be a Climate Solution? Terracing has been used for centuries to help prevent fire, moderate temperatures, and make farming possible even when water is scarce.
    • These walls stretch in lines of stacked stones without the use of cement or mortar. They hold up beds of soil and create terraces, strips of flat land along slopes. These structures store heat during the day, and at night, when the sea breeze encounters the warmth of their surface, moisture condenses and forms dew. The stones help channel these precious tiny water drops into the wall’s drainage system and distribute them to the thirsty soil.
    • Terraces require heavy labor that cannot be easily mechanized and have largely fallen out of use, despite their popularity across nearly every continent. But the undergoing climate crisis has revitalized terracing as a valuable form of adaptation both in places where rainfall is increasing or intensifying, as well as places it is decreasing, according to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on solutions for land degradation.
    • She believes Mediterranean islands have a lot to teach in terms of resiliency, being set apart from more complex supply systems. “Of course, we had some very bad years too,” she says. “All the island suffered a lot.” But she holds out hope the terraces will help them survive future dry spells. Such farming techniques, developed in places with few resources, offer important hints for the future, she says. “As I see it, terraces might let us preserve the landscape as well as feed us at a micro and localized level.”

7/11/2022

  1. How hot is too hot for the human body? Our lab found heat + humidity gets dangerous faster than many people realize:
    • Heat waves are becoming supercharged as the climate changes – lasting longer, becoming more frequent and getting just plain hotter. One question a lot of people are asking is: “When will it get too hot for normal daily activity as we know it, even for young, healthy adults?” The answer goes beyond the temperature you see on the thermometer. It’s also about humidity. Our research shows the combination of the two can get dangerous faster than scientists previously believed.
    • Scientists and other observers have become alarmed about the increasing frequency of extreme heat paired with high humidity, measured as “wet-bulb temperature.” During the heat waves that overtook South Asia in May and June 2022, Jacobabad, Pakistan, recorded a maximum wet-bulb temperature of 33.6 C (92.5 F) and Delhi topped that – close to the theorized upper limit of human adaptability to humid heat. People often point to a study published in 2010 that estimated that a wet-bulb temperature of 35 C – equal to 95 F at 100% humidity, or 115 F at 50% humidity – would be the upper limit of safety, beyond which the human body can no longer cool itself by evaporating sweat from the surface of the body to maintain a stable body core temperature.
    • file-20220624-14-jt7lbq.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=516&fit=crop&dpr=1
      Similar to the National Weather Service’s heat index chart, this chart translates combinations of air temperature and relative humidity into critical environmental limits, above which core body temperature rises. The border between the yellow and red areas represents the average critical environmental limit for young men and women at minimal activity. W. Larry Kenney, CC BY-ND
    • A recent study focusing on heat stress in Africa found that future climates will not be conducive to the use of even low-cost cooling systems such as “swamp coolers” as the tropical and coastal parts of Africa become more humid. These devices, which require far less energy than air conditioners, use a fan to recirculate the air across a cool, wet pad to lower the air temperature, but they become ineffective at high wet-bulb temperatures above 21 C (70 F). [ael: their final word:] All told, the evidence continues to mount that climate change is not just a problem for the future. It is one that humanity is currently facing and must tackle head-on.

7/10/2022

  1. New Study Identifies Rapidly Emerging Threats to Oceans: The push to extract materials and food from the oceans at industrial scale menaces vulnerable communities and biodiversity
    • The goal of what the research team calls a horizon scan is to try to prevent ecological catastrophes. Many of the emerging menaces are linked with global warming, including runoff from areas burned by wildfires, the potentially toxic effects of new biodegradable materials intended to replace plastics, lithium mining from ocean-bottom brine deposits and a rise in toxic metal contamination driven by ocean acidification.
    • The research, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, also warns that many fish will move away from the hottest equatorial ocean regions, leaving a dead zone that diminishes food security for millions of people in developing countries, who rely on fish for daily nutrition. Where fish do remain, global warming appears to reduce their nutritional content because in warmer oceans, plankton produce fewer fatty acids for the fish to consume.
    • When the mesopelagic fish come up to the surface to feed, “they take the carbon in the phytoplankton and algae they eat, and, defecating at depth, the carbon sinks to the ocean floor and gets sequestered,” Thornton said. By ingesting the surface species, they’re ingesting calcium carbonate, “which, to be blunt, makes their poo heavier so it sinks.” But their role in storing carbon at the ocean bottom is only emerging because scientists “didn’t appreciate the sheer numbers and biomass of these species,” she said.
  2. In Your Enthusiasm for Planting, Don’t Forget About the Trees: Trees can take a lot of punishment, but they have their limits. Here’s how to work around them safely.
    • When Mr. Roddick lectures these days, he frequently ends with an ecological message: “Plant trees, mostly natives — and save as many old ones as you can.” Those he recommends include sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), often promoted for its summer flowers and fall foliage, although he loves “its winter aesthetics, all gnarly, with seedpods hanging down.” This is a tree he likes to see planted in a group.
      • At Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s native flora garden, he came to appreciate the showy bark of the shade-adapted striped maple or moosewood (Acer pensylvanicum).
      • The botanic garden has a redbud (Cercis canadensis) collection, too, and in front of their Brooklyn home, he and Ms. McMackin planted the purple-leaved cultivar Forest Pansy, for the hundreds of hearts that hang from its branches.
      • Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), good for small gardens, features fragrant white spring flowers and yellow fall color (as well as blue fruit on female plants). One downside: It is susceptible to the emerald ash borer.
      • Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) has it all: flowers, fall color and fruit, with a custardy texture and complex flavor.
      • And Mr. Roddick wouldn’t be without fast-to-establish sassafras (Sassafras albidum), which has distinctively shaped leaves that fire up in autumn. Yes, it requires management to discourage the formation of a colony. But then again, a whole stand of sassafras wouldn’t be so bad, he allowed: “I would spend my whole fall just sitting underneath there.”

7/9/2022

  1. ‘Disturbing’: weedkiller ingredient tied to cancer found in 80% of US urine samples: CDC study finds glyphosate, controversial ingredient found in weedkillers including popular Roundup brand, present in samples
    • The report by a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that out of 2,310 urine samples, taken from a group of Americans intended to be representative of the US population, 1,885 were laced with detectable traces of glyphosate. This is the active ingredient in herbicides sold around the world, including the widely used Roundup brand. Almost a third of the participants were children ranging from six to 18. Academics and private researchers have been noting high levels of the herbicide glyphosate in analyses of human urine samples for years. But the CDC has only recently started examining the extent of human exposure to glyphosate in the US, and its work comes at a time of mounting concerns and controversy over how pesticides in food and water impact human and environmental health.
    • Sheppard co-authored a 2019 analysis that found glyphosate exposure increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and also co-authored a 2019 scientific paper that reviewed 19 studies documenting glyphosate in human urine. Both the amount and prevalence of glyphosate found in human urine has been rising steadily since the 1990s when Monsanto Co. introduced genetically engineered crops designed to be sprayed directly with Roundup, according to research published in 2017 by University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers.
    • More than 200 million pounds of glyphosate are used annually by US farmers on their fields. The weedkiller is sprayed directly over genetically engineered crops such as corn and soybeans, and also over non-genetically engineered crops such as wheat and oats as a desiccant to dry crops out prior to harvest. Many farmers also use it on fields before the growing season, including spinach growers and almond producers. It is considered the most widely used herbicide in history.
    • Monsanto and the company that bought it in 2018, Bayer, have maintained that glyphosate and Roundup products are safe, and that residues in food and in human urine are not a health risk. [ael: hmmm… that's odd.] They are at odds with many researchers and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organization, which classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015.
    • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken the opposite stance, classifying glyphosate as not likely to be carcinogenic. But last month a federal appeals court issued an opinion vacating the agency’s safety determination and ordering the agency to give “further consideration” to evidence of glyphosate risks.

7/8/2022

  1. ‘Fonio just grows naturally’: could ancient indigenous crops ensure food security for Africa?: Calls are growing to invest more in the continent’s traditional grains as a way to break its reliance on imported wheat, rice and maize
    • Only breaking at midday to refuel on peanuts and palm wine, the village works methodically as a unit to grow fonio – a precious grain crucial to their diets that only takes days to germinate and can be harvested in as little as six weeks. Though laborious, growing fonio, one of Africa’s oldest cultivated grains, is simple and reliable, say Kamara’s Bedik people. It grows naturally, they insist, where mainstream crops such as wheat and rice are harder to cultivate. It is also well adapted to the climate, nutritious, tastes good and can be stored far longer than other grains.
    • The benefits of fonio are so marked that academics and policymakers are now calling for the grain – alongside other indigenous foods, such as Ethiopia’s teff, as well as cassava and various millets and legumes – to be embraced more widely across Africa to improve food security.
    • “In sub-Saharan Africa, the diets were not wheat-based. They’re shifting; they’re becoming wheat-based, unfortunately, which is leading to non-communicable diseases, obesity and all sorts,” says Ghanem.
    • “You have lots of indigenous crops – like teff, fonio, sorghum – that people still eat today but have been neglected by funding agencies, the international research organisations, but definitely not by consumers. And it’s now that we should invest in these because they could close that [food] gap.”
    • Michel Ghanem, an agronomist who co-founded the Forgotten Crops Society, is calling for more investment in these neglected foods.
    • Edie Mukiibi, vice-president of Slow Food International, which campaigns to protect threatened local food cultures, says imperialism imposed "monoculture" farming on Africa and other colonised regions of the world, destroying biodiversity in agriculture. Mukiibi says that under colonialism, large tracts of land were taken over for plantations growing cash crops for export, such as sugar, tea and cocoa, while in the 20th century the “green revolution” promoted the idea of farming high-yield grains to tackle hunger. “The plantations kept on growing, supported by the colonial governments in the global south, and they did not contribute to biodiversity. They cleared large areas of diverse land, which initially was covered by the traditional intercropped African farming systems or the ‘milpa’ systems in Latin America, like in Mexico,” he says. This, Mukiibi adds, changed diets because people could no longer forage on land cleared for the plantations. He says the indigenous grains are far better suited to surviving when grown together with other crops, unlike mainstream imports, which require the ecosystem to be adapted to ensure the right conditions.

7/5/2022 — Clifford L. Alexander Day

  1. Clifford L. Alexander, Adviser to Presidents, Is Dead at 88: He was the first Black secretary of the Army — just one of many jobs, both high- and low-profile, that he held over nearly 20 years in government.
    • “Cliff saw his role as secretary of the Army as a key extension of the civil rights movement, and he inaugurated and enforced policies that were spectacularly effective in achieving his goal,” the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a longtime friend, said in a phone interview. “The fact that the United States military is, perhaps, the most integrated institution in our society can be traced to the foresight of Clifford Alexander.”
    • Mr. Alexander was among the few Black leaders to be openly critical of President Bill Clinton, arguing that he engaged with race superficially and only when it was politically expedient. But he was a major supporter of Barack Obama, both as an adviser and as a campaign surrogate during Mr. Obama’s run for the White House in 2008. Coincidentally, his daughter, who was then a professor of poetry at Yale and a longtime friend of the Obamas, read her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at Mr. Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
    • “Cliff was an American original — a civil rights trailblazer whose eyes were never shut to injustice but whose heart was always open,” Michelle Obama said in a statement. “He was like a father to me and an inspiration to Barack. We admired the way he fought and learned from the way he led.”
    • Mr. Alexander’s mother, Edith (McAllister) Alexander, was also active in the city’s life and politics. She served several mayors as an adviser on civil rights. She is believed to have been the first Black female elector at a Democratic National Convention, in 1948. After attending the Fieldston School, a private high school in the Bronx, Mr. Alexander studied government at Harvard, where he was elected the first Black president of the student council. He graduated in 1955 and received his law degree from Yale in 1958.
    • Not long after Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson brought Mr. Alexander into his circle to act as a liaison to the civil rights movement and, in particular, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. Alexander soon became Johnson’s closest adviser on race relations, entrusted with lining up support in the Black community for the president’s legislative priorities and helping shepherd Black nominees through Congress, including Robert C. Weaver as the secretary of housing and urban development and Thurgood Marshall as a Supreme Court justice.
    • Among his tidbits of advice was the following, on the importance of getting people to pay attention to you. “Very few senators or members of Congress do things just because it’s right, or we’d have a far better world than we have today,” he said in a 2017 interview for the Kunhardt Film Foundation. But, he added, “If you can show somebody why it is in their interest, they may do some things.”
  2. Cleaning a Dirty Sponge Only Helps Its Worst Bacteria, Study Says: Microwaving your dirty sponge will only kill some of the bacteria on it, leaving the strongest, smelliest and potentially most pathogenic strains.
    • Bacteria are everywhere, so it’s no surprise that a kitchen sponge would be full of them. But previous research had underestimated a sponge’s quantity and range of bacteria. By looking at the DNA and RNA in samples from 14 used sponges that may be as dirty as the one sitting in your sink right now, Markus Egert, a microbiologist at the University of Furtwangen in Germany, and his team identified 362 different species of bacteria living within them. And the scientists were surprised to find how densely microbes occupied such close quarters: About 82 billion bacteria were living in just a cubic inch of space.
    • The thrifty among us may try to clean a sponge that starts to stink, but it’s probably time to let it go. Disinfecting it, as many have tried, does not necessarily work. You can microwave a sponge, throw it in the laundry or dishwasher, douse it in vinegar or other cleansing solutions or even cook it in a pot. But the researchers discovered more of the potentially pathogenic bacteria, like Moraxella osloensis, on the sponges collected from people who said they routinely disinfected them. “When people at home try to clean their sponges, they make it worse,” Dr. Egert said — similar to how people can encourage antibiotic resistant bacteria if they don’t follow the doctor’s orders. He says if you can’t clean it perfectly, it may be best to replace it with a new one every week or so — especially “if it starts to move.”
    • But if you would rather not create that much waste, run it through a laundry machine at the hottest setting using a powder detergent and bleach and then use it somewhere other than the kitchen that is less hygiene-sensitive, like the bathroom.
  3. Climate change intensifying, not triggering, northern heat wave: climatologist: Senior climatologist says current northern heat wave a function of heat dome over region
    • Dave Phillips is a senior climatologist with ECCC. He said what's important is the duration of the heat warnings. "One day events happen all the time, but to get them for a pattern that sets up and locks in and doesn't move, then that is troublesome," Phillips said. He pointed to Norman Wells as an example saying the Sahtu community could see seven days in a row "if not longer" of temperatures above 30 C. "I don't think there's been a place in Canada this summer that can say they've had more than five days above 30 degrees."
  4. Top secret D-Day map of Omaha Beach goes to Library of Congress: Detailed map was carried ashore during the WWII invasion of Normandy
    • Joe Vaghi's top secret map of Omaha Beach survived the stormy trip across the English Channel that day. It was stuffed in a pocket of his overalls as he hurried across the Normandy tidal flats under enemy machine-gun fire. The map made it through the explosion of an enemy artillery shell that killed a comrade and set Vaghi's clothes on fire. And it lasted with his penciled notations intact as he directed men coming ashore in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, yelling into his megaphone: "Move Forward!" Joseph P. Vaghi Jr., a Bethesda architect who died in 2012 at the age of 92, cherished the map in the years after the war. Its meticulous detail had saved his life, he told his family.
    • DDayMap.jpg
    • It seemed a miracle that Vaghi survived, a Navy buddy later told his son. “It was almost like something protected him,” Vaghi’s son, Joseph P. Vaghi III, said his father’s friend related. “He was a tall man. … He had a megaphone. He was up and down the beach. … How he didn’t get killed no one knows to this day.”
    • “The Germans were in their pillboxes and bunkers high above the beach on the bluff and had an unobstructed view of what we were doing,” Vaghi recalled in a later account for the U.S. 6th Naval Beach Battalion website. “The atmosphere was depressing.”
    • “The map was the one thing that he said: ‘The most important thing in my life besides my wife and my kids has been this map. It got me on that beach, and got our group on that beach safely that day,’ ” the younger Vaghi said.
  5. The Water Wars Come to the Suburbs: A community near Scottsdale, Arizona, is running out of water. Amid the finger-pointing, the real question is: how many developments will be next?
    • The best gossip you're likely to hear in Rio Verde Foothills, Arizona, is about water. Last month, when a few residents stopped by Karen Nabity's sprawling, high-ceilinged home, the talk quickly turned to wells. "My neighbor two lots to the east of me just got done putting in a nine-hundred-and-sixty-foot dry hole," John Hornewer said. Two women exchanged a horrified look. "How much did they put up, cost-wise?" Leigh Harris asked. "I felt so bad I didn't even ask," Hornewer said. "I would venture to say it's forty thousand dollars on a craps table that just crapped out." "Same thing with the lot across the street from me," Cindy Goetz said. "Nine hundred feet, no water. And now the guy starts building."
    • Most Foothills residents draw their water from wells, but several hundred homes sit on land without reliable access to water, so the inhabitants rely on cisterns, which they fill with a delivery from a water truck every month or so. When Cindy Goetz moved to Arizona from Illinois, in 2012, she had never heard of hauled water. “But I did some research on it—you know, is a well better, or is hauled water better? And my decision was, hauled water is better,” she told me. “A well can get contaminated, it can run dry. How about just pay a little extra to have someone bring it in from the city? It’s already drinkable. I asked [my real-estate agent] and he said that it’s done a lot in Arizona. And it wasn’t like a homestead out in the middle of nowhere. There were streets and power and phone lines and all that. I assumed it would be O.K. It wasn’t presented as, ‘By the way, it could stop.’ ”
    • Then, last August, the Department of the Interior issued its first-ever formal water-shortage declaration for the Colorado River. A few months later, Scottsdale became the first city in Arizona to announce that it had entered Stage One of its drought-management plan. (Several other cities have since followed suit.) The city asked Scottsdale residents to decrease water consumption by five per cent. It also informed the water haulers that, starting in 2023, they could no longer buy Scottsdale water to deliver outside city limits—including to the Rio Verde Foothills.
    • After all the discussions I’d had with Foothills residents about water scarcity, it was disconcerting to drive down the community’s mostly unpaved roads and see dozens of new houses under construction. Despite the ruptures within the community, the one thing that everyone seemed to agree on was that there was way too much development in the Rio Verde Foothills. Last year, Maricopa County added more residents than any other county in the country. “Well, yeah, it’s because they’re issuing building permits with no water,” Nabity said. “We are building way beyond our means.”
    • As the January 1st deadline approaches, many Foothills residents still don’t know where their water will come from. The uncertainty and drama that keeps Nabity up at night doesn’t seem to be dissuading newcomers, though. “I just sold my daughter’s house, next door,” she said, shaking her head. “We got two great offers in, and neither of them cared about the water situation. They believe that the county is not going to let five hundred homes next to one of the wealthiest cities go without water.” ♦

7/4/2022

  1. Are Some Processed Meats Worse for You Than Others? : Here’s what the experts say.
    • In 2015, the World Health Organization announced that processed meat was “carcinogenic to humans,” citing “sufficient evidence” that it caused colorectal cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund International recommends eating little, if any, processed meat, and limiting red meat to about three portions (or about 12 to 18 ounces) per week. It’s important to limit intake of red meat — most commonly beef and pork in the United States — even when it’s not processed, because it’s tied to not only cancer, but also heart disease, stroke and an overall risk of death. (In its 2015 announcement about processed meats, the W.H.O. classified red meat as “probably carcinogenic.”)
    • Processed meats have also been linked with an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and dementia. One large 2021 study performed in Britain, for instance, concluded that for every additional 25 grams (or about one ounce) of processed meat in a person’s daily diet, the risk of dementia increased by 44 percent, and that of Alzheimer’s disease increased by 52 percent.
    • In the end, the processed meats that are worst for you are the ones you might find yourself eating routinely, rather than those you eat as an occasional treat. Which means: Every now and then — at a baseball game or a family barbecue, for instance — go ahead and have a hot dog. Just don’t make it a regular habit.
  2. Explosion of life on Earth linked to heavy metal act at planet’s centre: Formation of solid iron core 550m years ago restored magnetic field and protected surface
    • At the centre of the Earth, a giant sphere of solid iron is slowly swelling. This is the inner core and scientists have recently uncovered intriguing evidence that suggests its birth half a billion years ago may have played a key role in the evolution of life on Earth. At that time, our planet’s magnetic field was faltering – and that would have had critical consequences, they argue. Normally this field protects life on the surface by repelling cosmic radiation and charged particles emitted by our sun.
    • But 550m years ago, it had dropped to a fraction of its current strength – before it abruptly regained its power. And in the wake of this planetary reboot, Earth witnessed the sudden proliferation of complex multicellular life on its surface. This was the Cambrian explosion, when most major animal groups first appeared in the fossil record. Now scientists have linked it to events at the very centre of the Earth.
  3. Is your smartphone ruining your memory? A special report on the rise of ‘digital amnesia’: ‘I can’t remember anything’ is a common complaint these days. But is it because we rely so heavily on our smartphones? And do the endless alerts and distractions stop us forming new memories?
    • The Cambridge neuroscientist Barbara Sahakian has evidence of this, too. “In an experiment in 2010, three different groups had to complete a reading task,” she says. “One group got instant messaging before it started, one got instant messaging during the task, and one got no instant messaging, and then there was a comprehension test. What they found was that the people getting instant messages couldn’t remember what they just read.”
    • “I became really interested in whether the constant distractions caused by our devices might be impacting our ability to actually not just accumulate memories to begin with, but transfer them into long-term storage in a way that might impede our ability to think deep and interesting thoughts,” she says. “One of the things that impedes our brain’s ability to transfer memories from short- to long-term storage is distraction. If you get distracted in the middle of it” – by a notification, or by the overwhelming urge to pick up your phone – “you’re not actually going to have the physical changes take place that are required to store that memory.”
    • Smartphone use can even change the brain, according to the ongoing ABCD study which is tracking over 10,000 American children through to adulthood. “It started by examining 10-year-olds both with paper and pencil measures and an MRI, and one of their most interesting early results was that there was a relationship between tech use and cortical thinning,” says Larry Rosen, who studies social media, technology and the brain. “Young children who use more tech had a thinner cortex, which is supposed to happen at an older age.” Cortical thinning is a normal part of growing up and then ageing, and in much later life can be associated with degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as migraines.
  4. Spain and Portugal suffering driest climate for 1,200 years, research shows: Effects of human-caused global heating are blocking vital winter rains, with severe implications for farming and tourism
    • Most rain on the Iberian peninsula falls in winter as wet, low-pressure systems blow in from the Atlantic. But a high-pressure system off the coast, called the Azores high, can block the wet weather fronts. The researchers found that winters featuring “extremely large” Azores highs have increased dramatically from one winter in 10 before 1850 to one in four since 1980. These extremes also push the wet weather northwards, making downpours in the northern UK and Scandinavia more likely. The scientists said the more frequent large Azores highs could only have been caused by the climate crisis, caused by humanity’s carbon emissions.
    • Spain also is the world’s biggest producer of olives and a major source of grapes, oranges, tomatoes and other produce. But rainfall has been declining by 5-10mm a year since 1950, with a further 10-20% drop in winter rains anticipated by the end of the century. Other research has projected a 30% decline in olive production in southern Spain production by 2100 and a fall in grape-growing regions across the Iberian peninsula of 25% to 99% by 2050 due to severe water shortages. Research in 2021 also linked the Azores high to the summer monsoon in India.
  5. Summer in America is becoming hotter, longer and more dangerous
    • Summer temperatures in Reno have risen 10.9 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, since 1970, making it the fastest warming city in the nation during the hottest months, according to an analysis by the nonprofit research group Climate Central. For two consecutive summers, smoke from blazes burning in California has choked the region, sending residents to the emergency room, closing schools and threatening the tourism industry.
    • WK34ZVOB55EFTFP4SZXMPFDOPY.jpg&w=600
    • Scientists say the recent spate of severe summers is a clear change from previous generations. The average summer temperature in the past five years has been 1.7 degrees (0.94 Celsius) warmer than it was from 1971 through 2000, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But some parts of the country have been much harder hit, with the West showing a 2.7 degrees (1.5 Celsius) increase.
    • This year, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center’s three-month outlook through September suggests there will be hotter-than-normal temperatures throughout much of the country, with a punishing heat dome building over the western and central U.S. in coming days. As heat bakes the country, drought is expected to grip parts of the nation’s Corn Belt and the Middle Mississippi Valley. The country is also facing the likelihood of another active wildfire season and the seventh straight above-average Atlantic hurricane season.
  6. Transporting food generates whopping amounts of carbon dioxide: Moving fruit and vegetables in refrigerated vehicles is particularly emissions-intensive.

What's going on: 2022

What went on: 2021

What went on: 2020

What went on: 2019

What went on: 2018

What went on: 2017

What went on: 2016

What went on: 2015

What went on: 2014

RClimate Examples

  • Here's the 10-day weather forecast for Mattawa, Ontario, where we have a farm, away from the noise of that blowhard tRump, the once-and-always-liar-in-chief. I try to spend as much time as I can on the farm.
  • Public News Service - Environment
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    • Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world. HANNAH ARENDT. From the Introduction to “Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism”, by Henry Giroux.
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