Thursday, February 04, 2016

Looking at Things in Context

I stumbled upon a series of "Systems Literacy" videos 
The site as a whole I stumbled on awhile back, and it seems to contain some really useful stuff. 
Background is here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

American Academy of Pediatrics & Climate Change

 "In the 2015 policy statement, the AAP states that:
  • There is wide consensus among scientific organizations and climatologists that the broad effects known commonly as "climate change" are the result of contemporary human activities.
  • According to the World Health Organization, more than 88 percent of the existing burden of disease attributable to climate change occurs in children younger than 5 years old.
  • Climate change poses a threat to human health and safety, but children are uniquely vulnerable.
  • Failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children."

A Refreshing Political Debate

 ""Solar trees," which suspend solar panels over parking spaces in San Diego, collect electricity. Generating solar power like this is just one rung on a ladder the city will have to climb to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2035."

Wow. If you live where i do, Wisconsin, this story is is very refreshing as a local politics story.
I mean, if you are a member of the Chamber of Commerce, who do you back; the utility that is 50% renewables already, or community supported distributed generation?
 ""A thriving business environment is one in which the quality of life is high so that we can attract the best and brightest talent from around the nation [and] around the world," says Sean Karafin with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce."...

Friday, January 22, 2016

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Oooops? (maybe?)

One to keep an eye on...
"If you've got a systematic underestimate of what the greenhouse gas-driven change would be, then you're systematically underestimating what's going to happen in the future when greenhouse gases are by far the dominant climate driver,”

The Paper:

Post and discussion (including one of the paper's authors), on RealClimate about the subject:

Why is Big History Important?

To get the sweep of things, read these:

Information, Entropy, and Progress by Robert Ayres (1994)

Nature: An Economic History by Geerat J. Vermeij (2004)

The River That Flows Uphill: A Journey from the Big Bang to the Big Brain
by William H. Calvin  (1986)

Its about Time

Finally! I have hoped for this since i was a sprout. If you are into STEM, critical thinking, science literacy, systems thinking, etc. take note...

"Big History is an emerging academic discipline which examines history from the Big Bang to the present. It examines long time frames using a multidisciplinary approach based on combining numerous disciplines from science and the humanities, and explores human existence in the context of this bigger picture. It integrates studies of the cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity using empirical evidence to explore cause-and-effect relations, and is taught at universities and secondary schools often using web-based interactive presentations." Wkipedia

Big History NPR story
Big  History TED talk

Big History Project

Bill Gates & Big History

Monday, January 04, 2016

Paul Kingsnorth's Thoughtful Meditation

And apparently controversial.

From 2012:

Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

"Don’t get me wrong: I don’t doubt the potency of climate change to undermine the human machine. It looks to me as if it is already beginning to do so, and that it is too late to do anything but attempt to mitigate the worst effects. But what I am also convinced of is that the fear of losing both the comfort and the meaning that our civilization gifts us has gone to the heads of environmentalists to such a degree that they have forgotten everything else. The carbon must be stopped, like the Umayyad at Tours, or all will be lost."

COP 21: The View from the Dark Mountain





After Paris by Chris Smaje

" The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself. We see that the world is entering an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unravelling, and we want our cultural responses to reflect this reality rather than denying it."

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thomas Lovejoy Lecture at Santa Fe Institute

"Our planet's biology and its climate are inexorably coupled. Warmer and less predictable climates will continue to diminish the planet's biodiversity. But biological systems can be part of a solution. Conservation biology pioneer Thomas Lovejoy will examine the present and possible future impacts of climate change and explore how we might manage both biological and human economic systems to reduce the long-term effects of climate change."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Do You See Change?

"iSeeChange is a community climate and weather journal. Our groundbreaking environmental reporting platform that combines citizen science, participatory public media, and cutting-edge satellite and sensor monitoring of environmental conditions.
Incubated in 2012 by executive producer Julia Kumari Drapkin at Colorado public station KVNF via AIR’s Localore project, the award-winning iSeeChange has expanded nationwide in 2015. The team is working with media and scientific partners across the country to help audiences document environmental shifts in their backyards and connect to the bigger-picture climate changes transforming all of our lives and livelihoods.
The project’s growing list of collaborators includes NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Berkeley BEACO2N project, Yale Climate Connections, the Allegheny Front in the Western Pennsylvania, KPCC in Pasadena, WDDE in Delaware, Developing Radio Partners, and more..."

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Weather Forecast Add-on

" Your forecast, with climate context. Your weather, explained. Your world, made a little clearer.
WXshift (pronounced "weather shift") is a collection of ​independent journalists, ​climate scientists, and ​meteorologists working to bring you the latest in weather and climate information. 

Our ​daily ​mantra is "come for the weather, stay for the climate​"​ and it permeates every aspect of our work. That means our team is committed to providing you with the most up-to-date weather forecasts, news and information​, all​ with a side of climate context​. 
This​ site is a project of Climate Central, an independent group of journalists, and leading scientists and researche​rs who are committed to communicating the science and effects of climate change. We are a non-partisan, non-advocacy organization and we do not support any specific legislation, policy or bill."

Saturday, December 05, 2015

A Call to Earth

Thanks to David P for the heads up on the first link

Call to Earth
- A Message from the World's Astronauts to COP21

I really hope folks listen.

A couple other things from the Department of Deep Sustainability:

Overview (short film)

Smithsonian presentation 1:16 long (includes the short film linked above)

Overview Effect

Overview Institute

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

U of California Wants to Bend the Curve

I always chuckle when i hear people call California radical or socialist when you are discussing climate change mitigation and adaptation. Since passing the toughest climate change legislation on the planet (still, at the time of this writing) they have also managed to run government budget surpluses.
Whats actually going on, is their economic model is the old fashioned one of grab the next big thing (a California specialty) and make things to fill the need. An example of a state that seems to know the important part (money-wise) of the phrase "rapid climate change" is the word change. Yep, change = both high risk and high opportunity. Good for them.There is a reason they have the 7th largest economy in the world, on their own.

 "The 10 scalable solutions Tuesday, October 27, 2015. More details on each of these solutions can be found in the executive summary of "Bending the Curve." A full report will be published in spring 2016.

Press release and short video:

Web Soil Survey Tool

New to me, thanks Jamie for this one.

"Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world. NRCS has soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nation’s counties and anticipates having 100 percent in the near future. The site is updated and maintained online as the single authoritative source of soil survey information.
Soil surveys can be used for general farm, local, and wider area planning. Onsite investigation is needed in some cases, such as soil quality assessments and certain conservation and engineering applications."
The actual tool interface:

The Great Dithering

Thanks to David for the heads up on this one.

The Economist is the oldest business magazine still in continuous publication (since 1843), and is the original model for all "news" magazines.
I am not surprised they found the best word for our time, that being, dithering...*
The Economist Special report on Climate Change 11/2015

* dither diT͟Hər/verb, gerund or present participle: dithering
Be indecisive.
synonyms:hesitate, falter, waver, vacillate, change one's mind, be of two minds, be indecisive, be undecided...

You Gotta Love This

Monday, November 30, 2015

Resources on Existential Risk

"Modern science is well-acquainted with the idea of natural risks, such as asteroid impacts or extreme volcanic events, that might threaten our species as a whole. It is also a familiar idea that we ourselves may threaten our own existence, as a consequence of our technology and science. Such home-grown “existential risk” – the threat of global nuclear war, and of possible extreme effects of anthropogenic climate change – has been with us for several decades.
However, it is a comparatively new idea that developing technologies might lead – perhaps accidentally, and perhaps very rapidly, once a certain point is reached – to direct, extinction-level threats to our species. Such concerns have been expressed aboutartificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, and nanotechnology, for example...."
The Cambridge University  Centre for the Study of Existential Risk resources page

In Case You Need a Distraction from Climate Change Stuff

From the All of Humanities Eggs in One Basket Department
National Space Weather Strategy

National Space Weather Action Plan 

What is "space weather" 

NOAA Forcast/Prediction Center

NOAA Space Weather Enthusiast Dashboard:


Should be streaming by this evening, CDT

"Diplomacy And Debate At COP 21 Paris Climate Talks
World leaders converge in Paris for the big climate talks. We’ll look at what it will take to get a global climate agreement..."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Law and Forgotten Liberty

Mosaicin Library of Congress representing both the judicial and legislative aspects of law. The woman on the throne holds a sword to chastise the guilty and a palm branch to reward the meritorious. Glory surrounds her head, and the aegis of Minerva signifies the armor of righteousness and wisdom.

A very interesting legal history of corporate powers in the United States:
Coates, IV, John C., Corporate Speech and the First Amendment: History, Data, and Implications (February 27, 2015). 


This Article draws on empirical analysis, history, and economic theory to show that corporations have begun to displace individuals as direct beneficiaries of the First Amendment and to outline an argument that the shift reflects economically harmful rent seeking. The history of corporations, regulation of commercial speech, and First Amendment case law is retold, with an emphasis on the role of constitutional entrepreneur Justice Lewis Powell, who prompted the Supreme Court to invent corporate and commercial speech rights. The chronology shows that First Amendment doctrine long post-dated both pervasive regulation of commercial speech and the rise of the U.S. as the world’s leading economic power – a chronology with implications for originalists, and for policy. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals decisions are analyzed to quantify the degree to which corporations have displaced individuals as direct beneficiaries of First Amendment rights, and to show that they have done so recently, but with growing speed since Virginia Pharmacy, Bellotti, and Central Hudson. Nearly half of First Amendment challenges now benefit business corporations and trade groups, rather than other kinds of organizations or individuals, and the trend-line is up. Such cases commonly constitute a form of corruption: the use of litigation by managers to entrench reregulation in their personal interests at the expense of shareholders, consumers, and employees. In aggregate, they degrade the rule of law, rendering it less predictable, general and clear. This corruption risks significant economic harms in addition to the loss of a republican form of government."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Miami Boom

Will ingenuity & entrepreneurship save the day?

 " Climate change and Miami. We’ll look at the city’s booming real estate market and its future in a time of rising seas."

The Friday musical interlude:
 Can-Utility and the Coastliners

Tis the Season

I thought I should explain myself. Why I use the phrase “recreational killing”, instead of “hunting”  and my view on “hunting”.

Note: I am not against “hunting” in principle, (what I call recreational killing). I am not against what I do call hunting, at all.
In early adolescence I worked a summer in a slaughter house, and also worked as an assistant to a large animal veterinarian for another summer, I probably know in more detail than the reader, where my animal protein actually comes from. I am myself, on omnivorous scavenger.  I frequent restaurants, grocery stores, etc. (Scavenging is both a carnivorous and a herbivorous feeding behavior in which the scavenger feeds on dead animal and plant material present in its habitat.)
Therefore, i do not hunt, nor do i take part in recreational killing. My personal choice on this is based on two reasons:
First, I already, just by living as part of a large, technologically advanced society place a lot of pressure on wildlife via our land use practices that i as a member benefit from. I feel better not adding to it.
The second reason is simply an aesthetic one. I find wild life to be more interesting when they are alive. So i prefer to observe them.

I do have quarrel with the allowed technology of recreational killing, and this is also addressed below. But I do not act on that quarrel, as if for some bizarre reason I got my way, it would reduce tourism and other revenues, which are important in my area and that for my conspecifics, would outweigh other matters.

A disambiguation of hunting terms

Terms for “hunting”

 In the spirit of George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, I am proposing the following disambiguation of “hunting/hunter” when describing a human behavior set, for the 21st century.

Pursuing any non-domesticated living organism with the intention of killing it for eating, necessitated by poverty. (Hunter: one who hunts)

Recreational Killing:
Pursuing any non-domesticated living organism, other than another human, with the intention of killing it for any reason other than eating it, necessitated by poverty. (Recreational killer: one who recreationally kills).

The use of the “sport/sportsman” words re these behaviors.
Using these terms in re hunting or recreational killing behaviors does not make any sense. “Sport” is a physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively. This makes sport a subset of the class “game”. In a game, all sides know it is a game. Prey does not know it is a game, and for prey, it is definitely not a game.
Efficiency, Predation, and Recreational Killing:
A reflection on the technology generally allowed for recreational killing, and the annual harvest of the White Tail Deer in Wisconsin

Human's are the main predator of the White Tail, but their method is biologically inefficient. What i mean by efficient in this context is “hunting” that selects for the injured, sick, old, slow, the very young  etc. Efficient “hunting” makes for healthier, fitter prey.
Certainly on our ancestral landscape we were efficient hunters during a lot of our history, and the Kalahari Bushmen still do it the old fashioned way (Google around on Kalahari Bushmen “persistence hunting” Here is a neat video of the technique).

The traditional top predator of the White Tail Deer was of course, the Wolf. Wolf and their prey co-evolved. Wolves can read by scent and sight the slightest signs of which deer in a group has an injury or sickness, or is an infant, therefore, is easier to take down. In a sense they are the ultimate meat inspector for deer. The predator prey relationship is all about biological energetics. The wolf is an obligate hunter. From a wolf's instinctual "point of view", what food can i get with the least expenditure of energy and least chance of damage to myself?

Despite not being obligate hunters, we have centered our technique of hunting and recreational killing on the same measure as the wolf; kill with the least expenditure of energy and least chance of damage to myself. Therefore we use projectile weapons of various types. This, and all the bait piles, cameras etc. creates a "hunt" wherein being able to pick out the biologically "easy" deer irrelevant. From the deer’s perspective; it by recreational behavior, hunting behavior or vehicular collisions, we are their main predator now. But we are grossly inefficient, biologically speaking. Our land use behavior that results in a predominance of meadow/field woodlot edge areas, favors the deer presence also.

So, why should we be surprised, or concerned about the rise of CWD? We have created a White Tail population which is the perfect home for disease growth. There are lots of them, mostly not as "fit" as their ancestors, and they tend to clump together more during rest periods due to our control of the landscape. CWD is probably just the first problem we have noticed.
So what can we do? Probably nothing.

First, the “hunt” is a part of the tourism economy. If the participants were limited to say, the tools of the Bushman, there would probably be fewer participants, and therefore less  revenue flow from the participants.

Obviously the easy, direct way is to make sure there are a lot more wolves. Unpaid meat inspectors that do not need labs to spot and take out the sick. But our archaic instinct based antipathy towards non-human top predators make that unlikely.

Modern persistent "hunters" chasing an antelope

A proposal long term solution, and generally, a biologically useful approach to recreational killing (it would take a long time to get to efficiency)

So if we wanna be the top predator, we have to change, if we want to be efficient. No seasons, no bag limits, no age or gender restrictions. Year around recreational killing.  No traps, bait piles, cameras etc. And most importantly, no projectile weapons. Handheld weapons only. Knives, clubs, spears etc. Run them down. Fitter deer, fitter killers.
After many, many years, perhaps we would regain the sight hunting skills of our ancestors, or at least that of the Kalahari Bushmen?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Fusion of Degrowth & Ecomodernism?

 Child-like scrawl by me

More to come on this one....Think i will call the idea, Growing Up
While thinkin about stuff i thought back to what my usual winning strategy when playing SimEarth (a game that James Lovelock was adviser for) back in the day.

BTW: you can play it online apparently...

From the baby & the bath water department

Re Degrowth vs Ecomodernism
 An interesting series of posts, here. Excerpt:

Poster 1
"While I completely agree with this critique of the Ecomodernist
Manifesto, I can't help thinking that the debate here is missing some
big picture synergy between the two arguments. We need to zoom out a long way to see this though, let me explain.

If humanity is ever to become a space faring race, traveling through the solar system and beyond, our capabilities and attitudes will likely have much in common with an advanced future version of what the Ecomodernists are describing (i.e. an enhanced and expanded version of the growth economy with a core technology driven view). I blogged on this idea back in 2013:
What this Ecomodernist Manifesto is doing is effectively applying this
future space faring human race's capabilities to the here and now (and doing so before we have that capability, before we need to and in a situation where it is definitely not our best option).

What they are ultimately missing is the recognition that humanity is part of nature and that all life on earth is operating in a closed and finely interwoven and interdependent system. This view is fundamental
to maintaining humanities and all life on earths richness and strength (i.e. we are traveling on space ship Earth and humanity has rightly or wrongly managed to grab the controls).

Lets not screw it up (a steady state economy would be a safe approach from here), but lets also not lose sight of the bigger opportunities beyond Earth and the technologies and capabilities that vision will require. I also hope that humanity can grow some humility combined with what might be described as spirituality in the process. A good place to start would be recognizing that humanity and all life (or more specifically consciousness) is probably just the universe waking up and looking at itself in wonder."

Poster 2, Reply from Short Attention Span Theatre:
"You really need to stop living in your fantasy world of space exploration. Degrowth is about connecting with nature and becoming a more tight-knit society, not about becoming space pioneers."

Another's Meditation on the Ecomodernist vs Degrowth debate

From the blog A Chemist in Langley: 

Part 1

Part 2:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A bit of Third Culture Training

From one of my favorite websites...

"The Edge Foundation, Inc. is an association of science and technology intellectuals created in 1988 as an outgrowth of The Reality Club. Currently, its main activity is contributing to the website, edited by publisher and businessman John Brockman. The site is an online magazine exploring scientific and intellectual ideas."

Edge Master Class 2015: A Short Course in Super Forecasting

Speaking of Walter Truett Anderson...

"If you’re getting dizzy spells trying to figure out how the world works these days, Walter Truett Anderson’s latest book – Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be (Harper & Row, 1990) – could come as something of a lifeline. The book’s subtitle sums up its contents: "Theatrical Politics, Ready-to-Wear Religion, Global Myths, Primitive Chic, and Other Wonders of the Postmodern World." In it Anderson describes how most of what we consider to be "reality" is socially constructed (hence he’s a "constructivist"), how pluralism is now a fact of contemporary life, and how the political and cultural structures we’ve created are being rocked by our growing disbelief in systems of belief. ..."

Shill or Serious? The Question of the Rose

"We are as gods and might as well get good at it."
Opening sentence of the Purpose of the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968

Thanks to Su for the heads up on this one.
Ecomodernism? A Manifesto?
"As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene. A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world."

A piece on the Manifesto by someone who thinks it is wrong*

And, a "Degrowth" response to the Manafesto (thanks Jerry for the link )

The creators of the Manifesto?

SourceWatch entry on the Breakthrough Institute

A presentation by an institute fellow

Google Scholar search string on ecomodernism

"You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." 

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Are these related precursors? (a straight question, i do not know)
Whole Earth Discipline

Reconstructing Earth: Technology and Environment in the Age of Humans

"I am not here to argue that the human species ought to take responsibility for evolution on the planet, and begin through public and private institutions to make collective decisions about such matters. If that were the question to be decided I would advocate that we put it off for a few centuries or more--let things run themselves while we get accustomed to the idea of evolutionary governance, develop the appropriate ethics and myths and political structures, and perhaps mature a bit. However, that is not the question before us, since we are already governing evolution. This is the great paradox about the threshold: It is not out there ahead of us somewhere, a line from which we might conceivably draw back. We are well across it. To say that we are not ready for evolutionary governance is equivalent to saying that a teenage child is not ready for puberty; the statement may be true, but it is not much help." 
By the author,  Walter Truett Anderson.

*In which the writer employs the classic America hyperbolic trope; offering a fine illustration of Godwin's Law