Tag Archives: climate change

Mourning the Living

RIP Great Barrier Reef
Illustration: Andrew Holder

I have a confession to make. A few days ago, I came across an article that made me lose hope. According to an obituary published on Outside Magazine’s website by writer Rowan Jacobsen, the Great Barrier Reef has died. And though other sources have argued that it still shows some signs of life, even they imply that hope for recovery is slim.

It took me a while to find words to talk about this. One of the most beautiful and important environments on the planet, teaming with life and color, has gone cold and gray. It is a loss so great that I can’t get my head around it. I almost can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. It is so horrific and terrifying that I would rather believe it’s a lie trumped up to scare us into changing our ways. It makes me understand how people could consider climate change a conspiracy theory despite the overwhelming data all around us proving that it’s true.

I won’t ask how we got here. That part is glaring and obvious. The more important question is what do we do now? As for me, the answer is get back to work.

This is a time of mourning, but we can’t let it stop us from doing all we can to prevent future loss, to reclaim all we can of the beauty that seems to be fleeing this world at ever increasing speeds–before it’s all gone.

Even if some part of it survives, the reef will never again be what it was, but there is still great beauty in this world of ours. And there are so many ways to protect what we still have. And so many ways to add more. If not a reef, a painting. If not a crystalline blue sky, a poem. If not a rain forest, a song. Because I believe, as I have said before, that the only antidote to the hatred and fear and destruction in and of this world is to create. Make art. Make love. Plant a tree. Believe.

Don’t mourn the living. Fight for them.

Parable of the Sower

Parable of the SowerTITLE: Parable of the Sower
AUTHOR: Octavia E. Butler
PUBLISHER: Aspect/Warner Books
PUB DATE: 1993 (Trade)
DISASTER: Climate change, economic disaster

It’s 2024 and Lauren Olamina is 15 years old. She lives in a walled and gated suburb of Los Angeles. Water, food, and money are in short supply, and outside the wall people are waiting, trying to break in and steal the little they have.

Lauren’s father, the local minister, does his best to keep the community safe and together, but Lauren knows their shaky security isn’t going to last forever, and that she’s going to have to learn  everything she can to help her survive on the other side of the wall.

This book details the brutal, stark, reality of a world on the precipice of anarchy and violence, but unlike many in the genre, it’s about far more than terror and loss. It explores subtleties of race and gender, and the slender threads that separate the middle class from the poor, and the poor from the destitute, and the wide gap that separate them all from the rich. It calls out corporate greed, takes a searching look at religion, and asks questions about the morality and necessity of funding space programs while people are starving. But it is also about empathy and maintaining our humanity under the worst of circumstances.

Octavia Butler has received multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, a James Tiptree, Jr. Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award in Writing from the PEN American Center, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant, and has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.



Prepping for the B.A.S. Big Three Part 1

Let’s take a closer look at the recent announcement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the Doomsday Clock was moved from five to three minutes to midnight.

The BAS broke their decision down to three main categories:

  1. Looming climate catastrophe
  2. Nuclear modernization (weapons and power)
  3. Emerging technological threat (biotech and cyber attacks)

Which brings us the the question their analysis doesn’t really answer: How do we prepare for these threats?

First Up: Looming Climate Catastrophe

Average global temperatures are rising, playing havoc with world weather patterns, the integrity of the polar ice cap, and habitats–all recipes for disaster. And while they claim climate catastrophe is not “inevitable,” the actions needed to keep the world habitable for humans are not only urgent, but will require changes in behavior, economics, and politics that world leaders, corporations, and citizens have, to date, been unwilling to embrace.

What This Means to Us

Basically, we have two choices:

  • Find a way to get our governments to act–committing to (and following through with) regulations, restrictions, incentives, punishments, ending subsidies, and whatever else it might take to decrease, or, ideally, end, world reliance on fossil fuels


  • Prepare for ever-worsening weather-related disasters, food shortages, drought, and other events that could eventually result in a planet that will no longer support human life

The prepping part is easy. We already know how to do that (and if you don’t, check out TheSurvivalMom.com–she’ll get you hooked up). But if we’re really interested in survival for the long term, we need to make serious effort toward global change with regards to fossil fuels.

How? According to UN.org:

  • UN Climate Action Identify and reduce your climate footprint
  • Learn more about climate change
  • Speak up–let our government representatives know that you want change

Pretty much what they’ve been telling us for decades to no avail, which means it’s time to get creative:

  • Like the teenagers who are suing the federal government for inaction with regards to climate change (after all, today’s youth are the ones who are going to have to live–or not–with the consequences)
  • Like the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is working to create a municipal electric utility because the current power company, PNM, is not rising to the call for cleaner energy
  • Like the Tiny House Movement, which has people downsizing their (on average) 2600 square foot homes for those with much smaller footprints (typically between 100 and 400 square feet), saving money, energy, stress, and work

Of course it can be hard to to give up the familiar, the comfortable, but it will be immeasurably easier to do it with planning, intention, and choice than it will be to change in response to actual disaster. The technologies, systems, and knowledge we need already exist. Better to embrace a little change-based discomfort now, than the world of hurt that scientists currently believe will begin to descend in about 30 years.

Next time: Nuclear Modernization

Pineapple Express

Flooded roads, downed power lines, all-in-all it’s been a messy day on the California coast, thanks to heavy rains and wind sweeping in from Hawaii.

All in what a recent study analyzing tree rings calls the worst drought in at least 1,200 years.

Although there are 37 times over the past 1,200 years when there were three-year dry periods in California, no period had as little rainfall and as hot of temperatures as 2012-14, the scientists concluded.

Which can make storms, when they do come, even more damaging. The dry earth is less able to absorb the water, so it runs off into low lying areas, including 101 in San Jose, downtown Rhonert Park, and vineyards in Sonoma.

This is exactly the kind of situation that we prep for. Keeping new batteries in flashlights,  having enough food for a couple of days, being able to batten down the hatches on a moments notice, paying attention to the weather reports so you don’t find yourself up to your windshield while driving through a “puddle” on your way to work.

The storm is forecast to continue through Friday night, so please stay safe out there (or better yet, stay in).

Climate Risk Index

Lima, Peru, site of the 2014 UN Climate Summit has been impacted heavily by climate change.  And Peru is not alone. According to a recent study, unveiled today at the UN Climate Summit by environmental group Germanwatch, “extreme weather from climate change impacts poorer nations more than rich ones.” Which is a sad state of affairs, given that the poorer nations contribute significantly less to the human-driven contributors to climate change than do their richer counterparts.

While the report doesn’t address the how and why of it, it does lay out an ambitious get of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to what can be done to reduce loss due to climate change in the future.

Goal Outcome Document OWG

Content related to reducing climatic losses

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Target 1.5 – reduce exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events.

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food secu- rity, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Target 2.4 – sustainable food production systems, resilient agricultural capacity for adaptation to climate change and extreme weather events.

Goal 9.* Build resilient infrastructures, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Target 9.1 and 9.3 – sustainable and resilient infrastructures and retrofitting industries.

Target 9.a – financial and technical support to African countries, LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS to facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development.

Goal 10: Make cities and human set- tlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Target 11.5 – reduce deaths and economic losses from disasters

Target 11.b – create integrated policies that include resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change and DRR, in line with the upcoming Hyogo Framework for Action.

Target 11.c – support LDCs for sustainable and resilient buildings.

Goal 13. Ensure sustainable consump- tion and production patterns

Target 13.1 – strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
Target 13.2 – Integrate measures for climate change into national policies, strategies and planning

Target 13.3 – improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacities on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

Target 13.a – implement the commitment made to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by those in developed countries to a goal of mobilizing jointly and from all sources $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible

Target 13.b – promote mechanisms for raising the capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries, including a focus on women, youth and local and marginalized communities

According to the authors, “The SDGs are expected to become the world’s defining development narrative.” The question is, how?

The Global Climate Risk Index 2015 is available for your viewing pleasure in PDF format at Germanwatch.org.


* Note that the above table was pulled directly from the report in its entirety. Missing numbers were not included in the original.

U.N. Climate Change Conference 2014

Today representatives of more than 190 nations began talks as the U.N. Climate Change Conference opened in Lima , Peru.

The ultimate goal of the talks is to restrict the rise of global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to the pre-industrial (1861-1890) average. However, scientists have reportedly said that the goal is now unrealistic, as average global temperatures have already risen 0.8 degree Celsius and could rise by another 3 degrees in coming years.

Avaneesh Pandey, “Global Warming: U.N. Climate Summit to Begin in Peru Amid Dire Predictions by Scientists,” International Business Times

Peru is one of the countries hardest hit by climate change:

  • 70% of the world tropical glaciers are in Peru. They have lost more than 20% of their mass in just 30 years.
  • Andean cloud forests have been losing plants and animals to extinction at alarming rates.
  • Although some industrial farms flourish in the warmer weather, subsistence farming suffers.

According to geographer Jeffrey Bury of UC Santa Cruz, “The people with the least intensive climate lifestyles are suffering the most.”

To learn more about why, check out this NASA video “A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2.”

Plague, Snow, Bomb

As difficult and often scary as last night’s events in Ferguson were, they were not the only devastation that happened this past week.

  • In Madagascar, an outbreak of plague has killed more than 40 people–2% of these cases have been pneumonic plague, a significantly more contagious variant that spreads though cough.
  • Buffalo, NY was hit by a lake-effect storm that dumped 7 feet of snow and killed at least 13 people in just a few days. The city is now threatened with flooding as the snow melts.
  • In Kabul, Afghanistan more than 40 people were killed by a suicide bomber at a volleyball match. Two soldiers were also killed in a separate incident.

It’s hard to look at that list plus last night’s events and not feel like all but one could have been prevented*–by fighting institutionalized inequality and racism, by addressing healthcare quality and living conditions…by… I don’t know what to say about Afghanistan or about war in general. I have to believe that there is some alternative to sending in troops and killing soldiers and civilians alike. But what that might be, centuries worth of smarter minds than mine have failed to identify. Then again, maybe smart isn’t what’s called for in any of these circumstances. Maybe what’s called for is empathy.


* If we take a hard look at humanity’s role in climate change, we could probably include Buffalo, too.

Climate Change

On Sunday November 2, 2014 the UN panel on climate science issued a new report on global warming. Its goal: To help drive participation in and completion of a new international climate agreement.

Despite growing efforts in many countries to tackle the problem, the global situation is becoming more acute as developing countries join the West in burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said here Sunday.

Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.

Justin Gillis, “U.N. panel issues its starkest warning yet on global warming,” The New York Times

Climate change is no longer some distant uncertainty. It is here now. And as governments continue to delay action, the window of opportunity for slowing looming catastrophe is rapidly closing.

If our governments don’t act, what can we as individuals do? It’s pretty clear that recycling cans and shortening showers, doesn’t amount to even a drop in the bucket. What we’re going to need is a rapid, widespread grassroots movement in which we find a way to end, cold-turkey, our addiction to fossil fuels. But the truth is, that kind of change is hard, even for those of us who want to change. So where, if anywhere, does our hope lie? Quite possibly with our kids.

GWE 110214 2 from StoryPortrait Media on Vimeo.

Risk to National Security

Last week it was the UN Climate Summit connecting climate change to human health. This week it’s the Pentagon calling climate change an “immediate risk” to national security. According to the report:

Climate change poses the potential to destabilize countries, sow the seeds of violence, and even cause wars…and could trigger anything from “infectious disease to terrorism.”

Apparently it’s one thing to lose a couple of species and a few hundred lives a year to “bad weather” but it’s another thing altogether when there might be a war to prep for.

Then again, these are the same people who use zombies to help train future troops for possible catastrophes. Which is actually pretty smart.