Archive for climate change

This Bitter Earth

Posted in Ecological resilience, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2015 by rgwallace

The most turgid of radicals have ripped liberals for aestheticizing injustice at the expense of struggling against it. The dig — beating the Adornian plowshare into a fundamentalist sword not out of place in Palmyra — isn’t unconditionally untrue. But try laying that line on Boots Riley or Nina Simone.

Here the pop chanteuse Charlotte Church takes part in Greenpeace’s daily vigil outside Shell headquarters in London — a month-long ‘Requiem for Arctic Ice’. Church, presented here borderline White Lady Jesus, sings Dinah Washington’s adaptation of ‘This Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight’.

And bitter it is. NASA reported earlier today it had revised its estimates of sea level change by century’s end: three feet, with ten feet in the century to follow a distinct possibility. As Caroline Reid frames it,

One of the contributors to sea level rise is the melting of ice sheets. The biggest is the Antarctic ice sheet, which covers an area of almost 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles) and is larger than the United States and India combined. Over the last decade, it has shed an average of 118 gigatons of ice a year – no small amount of water. Smaller, but by no means less important, is the Greenland ice sheet. Covering a more modest 1.7 million square kilometers (660,000 square miles), it has actually shed almost three times as much ice over the last decade as the Antarctica sheet – 303 gigatons a year on average.

Appealing to the hearts of Shell executives is an utter waste of time, save as a feint for a different audience, but there is expanse enough in a resistance movement to mourn and organize. Might we still find honor in a revolutionary Sehnsucht?

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It’s Official

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , on May 13, 2014 by rgwallace

According to two just-released scientific reports–here and here— the West Antarctica ice sheet, all 2.2 million km3 floating attached to the continent, is now officially disintegrating. The NASA animation above shows recent glacier dynamics–increasing velocity and decreasing elevation–along the Amundsen Embayment.

Melt off is now thought irreversible and will likely increase the global sea level ten feet over only a couple hundred years.

Our generation’s Kollektivschuld, unique among Earth’s species extant and extinct, isn’t just that climate change is anthropogenic, but that we could have done something about it and chose not to.

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Whipsaw of Damocles

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2014 by rgwallace

Last week I gave a talk on climate change and pandemic influenza at the University of Washington. My presentation was a part of the Biological Futures in a Globalized World series held at the Simpson Center for the Humanities.

I was initially dubious about a connection between the crises until, as these things go, I investigated further. There appear a number of mechanistic relationships tying together the two catastrophes.

There may be a number of ways out of the jams as well, as millions of farmers around the world are advancing alternate futures right out from underneath agribusiness.

UPDATE. We should add another possible connection between climate change and influenza not in the presentation.

According to Shaman and Lipsitch (2012), the last four pandemics (1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009) were preceded by La Niña conditions that, changing patterns of waterfowl migration, may have rejuxtaposed serotypes and prompted new reassortants. As Mother Jones‘ Kiera Butler points out, reporting on this year’s H1N1 (2009) influenza, climate change affects the El Niño–Southern Oscillation.

Missed Anthropy

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , on October 9, 2012 by rgwallace

A brilliant blue jay is springing up and down, up and down, / On a branch. / I laugh, as I see him abandon himself / To entire delight, for he knows as well as I do / That the branch will not break. –James Wright (1963)

A trailer for David Quammen’s new book, Spillover, detailing the pathogen blowback our environmental destruction has set off, elicited a number of like-minded comments,

Earth, healing itself.

The Tibetans say that Mother Earth will shake us off the way a dog shakes off his fleas.

I could say Earth isn’t a person (or a dog), but even a well-deserved allegorical warning needn’t be served with such resplendent misanthropy. We’d hope all parties–even pro-sustainability–would recognize we are–the planet–an integrated ecosystem. Indeed, even if our entire race of ‘fleas’ were wiped out tomorrow, by our impact Earth’s biospheric trajectory would still be altered forever.

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Red River

Posted in Ecological resilience, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2011 by rgwallace

It is the height of hubris to think we could [destroy the planet]…God is not capricious. He’s given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything. –Minnesota State Representative Mike Beard (R-Shakopee)

Sims Reeves: Plantin’ and readin’, plantin’ and readin’. Fill a man full o’ lead, stick him in the ground an’ then read words on him. Why, when you’ve killed a man, why try to read the Lord in as a partner on the job?Red River (1948)

It’s been a bastard of a winter in Lake Wobehere, Minnesota way, where men are men and sheep passive-aggressive.

The Twin Cities have already suffered 80+ inches of snow, seventh heaviest snow season since record keeping began, with more storms likely in the meteorological queue. The snow (and cold) may be part and parcel of a shift in the North Atlantic Oscillation, which usually sequesters the worse of winter to the Arctic Circle.

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Imperial Storm Scientists

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2010 by rgwallace

The Red Army Faction was a communist guerilla group operating 1970-1998 in, of all places, West Germany. The RAF engaged in a variety of operations in the 1970s, including assassinations and bombings, primarily around the German government’s material support of the U.S. war in Vietnam.

As depicted in the Baader-Meinhof Complex and this BBC documentary, the RAF and the West German government entered a spiral of mutual self-deception. Each told itself the lies necessary to defeat the other. However inaccurately depicted in the films, truths, spoken and lived, were sacrificed for the victory neither side could achieve:

The scope of the RAF’s bombing campaign outpaced its initial public support and sharpened the fascistic reaction the group claimed its enemy. Supporters think the latter repression emblematic of RAF’s success but they’d be hard pressed to claim even a moral victory as the German people acclimated to, and even openly supported, a burgeoning police state. Post-Nazi Germany meanwhile suffered a funktionshäftling‘s shame killing dissidents, however violent, in the name of colonial liquidations ruthlessly conducted abroad.

If only American fallacies were so rottenly principled.

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