Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
According to the Christian Science Monitor, Valmeyer, Illinois, “was overwhelmed by a 100 year flood event in 1993. Townspeople wanted to stay together and decided to move their town 2 miles away and about 400 feet up.”

Floods are creating havoc in Europe right now, and even where I live, there are daily warnings about rising rivers. These and other dramatic weather events are being blamed on climate change. The problems will only increase, so what to do? For one thing, stop putting everything back the way it was before a flood.

I really admire the pragmatism of oft-flooded Vameyer, Illinois, which bit the bullet and moved the whole town.

Doug Struck has the story at the Christian Science Monitor. “It was 1:30 a.m. Dennis Knobloch stood at the top of a hillside cemetery – ‘that cemetery right there,’ he says, pointing over his shoulder. The water was coming. He and others from the town had worked for weeks, sandbagging levees, bulldozing rock and rubble, to try to hold the swelling river. They had failed. His radio crackled: The last levee was gone.

“ ‘It’s your call, mayor,’ the utility chief said. 

“Mr. Knobloch gave the order: Cut the power. He watched as the town below him – his town – flickered to dark, street by street, engulfed by the night and the Mississippi River.

“ ‘It was the hardest thing I did in my life,’ the former mayor says now. 

“Hundreds of small Midwest towns like Valmeyer were caught in the Great Flood of 1993. Unlike most of the others, the survival of Valmeyer – born anew, 2 miles away in a cornfield about 400 feet higher – is getting renewed interest 28 years later. …

“The planners look at the trends and say a pullback from vulnerable areas is inevitable. Call it ‘managed retreat.’ Last year in the United States, 1.7 million people had to flee natural disasters, and many found they could not return to their homes. The trends are expected to accelerate.

“ ‘Valmeyer remains the poster child of managed retreat in the U.S. up to the present,’ says Nicholas Pinter, a professor and associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at University of California, Davis.

“There have been dozens of complete or partial relocations of towns in American history, Dr. Pinter writes in the journal Issues in Science and Technology. Many were of Native American or Alaskan Inuit communities that were in vulnerable locations to start.

Other towns have repeatedly fled rivers – Niobrara, Nebraska, hauled its houses by horse and wagon away from flooding in the Missouri River in 1881 and moved again in 1971.

“But many proposed relocations did not succeed. Valmeyer did, with a few asterisks. 

“ ‘They made it happen. It wasn’t a bunch of ivory tower or Washington, D.C., experts,’ says Dr. Pinter.

“When the floods overtopped the levees in August 1993, half of Valmeyer, 30 miles south of St. Louis, was plunged under 14 feet of water. The other half on the sloped terrain left houses holding a foot to 8 feet of water. 

“The town had flooded three times before in the 1940s, cleaned up, and survived. This was different. The floodwaters stayed long enough to become fetid, the houses full of rotting debris and mold. A second crest hit a month later.

“ ‘The smell. I can’t describe the smell. I’ll never forget it,’ says Susie Dillenberger, who lived by one of the levees. She recalls barges bringing rock and rubble up the river to try to reinforce the barrier as the water rose. She worked with other volunteers to fill sandbags. She slept with her family in one room in case they had to flee suddenly. … They labored until a mandatory evacuation was declared and the river rose in their vacated houses.

“As the townsfolk waited they stayed with friends or relatives – and eventually in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, quickly nicknamed “FEMAville.” And they met in the school gyms of nearby towns to begin to think of what to do. As the receding river revealed its damage, the concept of moving the whole town took shape.

” ‘We took the idea to the residents,’ recalls Mr. Knobloch, an investment and insurance broker who four months earlier had been reelected mayor. ‘We said we have no idea how to do this, and no idea if it’s going to work. We’re not even sure yet what’s involved. But if we try it, will you be willing to be a part of it?’ 

“Nearly 70% of the people said yes. Many had grown up in Valmeyer, and had families there for two or three generations. ‘They didn’t want to see the town go away,’ he says.

“Soon they focused on a 500-acre cornfield on a bluff 2 miles away. Residents split into a bevy of committees to work with planners, engineers, and architects. Within two months, Mr. Knobloch went to Washington with printed plans drawn up by the townsfolk, and asked for money. The politicians were impressed.

“Eventually, state and federal governments pledged about 80% of the $33 million cost. The town bought the land on the bluff, pulled numbers from a hat to lottery off lots, and began construction. Mr. Knobloch quit his job – his wife, a microbiologist, supported the family – and worked full time through all the permits, planning, and problems of creating a town from nothing.

“They dealt with 22 agencies, unexpected limestone sinkholes, protected bat species, and a hurried archaeological excavation when Native American artifacts were found. …

“Looking back on it now, with what we were able to achieve, to keep the community together and keep the people together – definitely, it was well worth the time and effort.’ “

Read about both upsides and downsides — and about the people who chose to stay put — at the Monitor, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: PCA Architecture.
The Champs-Élysées will be returned to the French people with wider pavements, bicycle lanes, and more green spaces,” says PCA Architecture.

This post is about a more pedestrian-friendly vision for Paris, but as far as I can tell, it’s still in the imagining stage. Covid, ironically, has helped move things along.

Tim Gibson at the B1M describes what it would be like.

“Mayor Anne Hidalgo has given the green light for the city’s iconic Champs-Élysées to be transformed into an urban garden.

“Traffic congestion has seen the famous boulevard lose its grandeur over recent decades, and many local Parisians have abandoned it in favour of more pedestrian-friendly avenues. Hidalgo hopes to bring the road back to its people by removing its outer lanes, widening pedestrian areas, planting more trees and greenery, and creating dedicated bicycle lanes.

“Plans were first proposed in 2019 by local community leaders who begged the government to restore the road to its former glory. …

“The massive overhaul is part of a £225M project to regenerate Paris’ streets and make the city greener and more people-friendly. Throughout Paris, 140,000 on-street car parking bays will be removed and replaced with vegetable allotments, food composting, playgrounds, bicycle lock-ups and more trees.

Local residents have been consulted on what they’d prefer the spaces to be used for.

‘We can no longer use 50% of the capital for cars when they represent only 13% of people’s journeys,’ deputy mayor David Belliard told The Times.

“ ‘We have to plant greenery in the city to adapt to the acceleration of climate change. We want to make the air more breathable and give public space to Parisians who often live in cramped flats.’

“While plans for the rejuvenation of Paris pre-date COVID-19, the pandemic has expedited the entire process. City-wide lockdowns have shifted the perspective of many Parisians – and others around the world. There is a newfound emphasis on public transport, green spaces, parks and community.

“Hidalgo has become a major proponent of the ‘fifteen minute city,’ where all residents will be able to reach necessary amenities such as shops, parks and offices within a fifteen minute walk or bike ride. …

“Copenhagen continued with plans to become completely carbon-neutral by 2025 and have 75 percent of all journeys be done by foot, bicycle or public transport. Like Paris, the city has started transforming many of its parking bays into areas for plants and trees.

“During the April lockdown, London also shifted space on its roads over to bicycles, expanding its network of cycling lanes.” More at the B1M, here.

I’m hoping Alison, who blogs about her adventures in Paris, will weigh in. Carol at cas d’intérêt, too.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Alfredo Sosa/Christian Science Monitor.
Farmers who aren’t climate-action types may nevertheless be proponents of profitable wind energy. In Knox County, Illinois, the farmers above were glad to get a contract with Orion Energy for a 300-megawatt wind farm that is bringing in extra money for them and tax revenues for the county

One precept that my reading of fiction keeps hammering home to me is that people are complicated. A character doesn’t have to be one of the good guys to do something good or one of the bad guys to do something bad. Similarly, in real life, you don’t have to be on one side of a political divide to find value in something the opposing side values.

This article from the Christian Science Monitor provides an example.

Stephanie Hanes writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “For five generations, Andrew Bowman’s family has worked the land in Oneida, population 700-ish – a flat and fertile swath of Illinois his father always said was good for growing crops and kids. Today, he farms soybeans and corn, as well as specialty popcorn, which he sells under the label Pilot Knob Comforts. Mr. Bowman hopes to have a new resource to harvest soon, as well: wind.

“This past year, Mr. Bowman took a lead representing local landowners in negotiating with Orion Renewable Energy Group, one of the many companies installing wind farms across Illinois, to build a new 100-turbine project in his part of Knox County. Clean energy would not only help keep the local school open and support the fire department and library, he says, but would also offer a new income stream to farmers who agree to lease some of their land for the project – some $30 million over 25 years, according to the proposal. …

“For Mr. Bowman, embracing wind power is part of stewarding the land for the next generation – and one of many steps he and his brother-in-law, Matt Hulsizer, have taken to ensure resiliency on their 1,800 acres. They are acutely focused on soil health, low tillage, and reducing fuel consumption; they have tried organic practices and are investigating cover crops to retain nutrients and prevent erosion.

“But none of this is because they are trying to fight climate change.

“They care deeply about the environment, they say; after all, they live and work in it. But they cringe at the cries for climate action, and they bristle when city people suggest their outdoor, low-consumption life is problematic. … If human-made climate change is happening, they say – something they find dubious – they doubt there’s much anyone can do to stop it.

“For them, tending soil and harvesting wind for clean energy – two initiatives climate scholars say are crucial for reducing carbon emissions – is simply about taking the best steps economically

“And that, scholars point out, is a tremendous shift.

“For years, the dominant narrative of climate action was one of trade-offs and costs – that saving the world as we know it meant taking hard steps to reduce carbon emissions, and likely sacrificing jobs and lifestyle in the process. …

“[But] economic shifts, whether around clean energy or electric vehicles, regenerative agriculture or green construction, may be starting to defuse much of the debate over climate change.

“Instead, climate action has merged with economic progress – particularly when it comes to clean energy. And although climate activists say this awakening won’t by itself put the nation on track to meet the Paris Agreement goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, some suggest it is making that path less arduous, while creating new opportunities and connections for those across the ideological spectrum.

“ ‘There’s an argument that’s been around for a long time, that somehow the economy and the environment are at odds and we can’t do two things at once,’ says Bob Keefe, executive director of E2, an organization of business groups focused on environmental action.

‘What we’re seeing today is that there’s never been more clarity about the economic costs of climate change, or the economic potential of climate action.’

“The narrative of “climate versus jobs,” though, is an enduring one. For decades, environmental protection has been presented in terms of extra costs such as regulations on businesses, requirements for companies, and restrictions on activities. While this wasn’t always divisive – the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency were both highly bipartisan measures, for instance – it has increasingly become a dividing line. …

“Where the left has seen necessary checks on industry for the preservation of the natural world, and the potential for a clean environment to lead to new economic prosperity, the right has seen challenges to businesses, job losses, and economic hardship. Both sides have studies that support their views. Climate action has followed a similar pattern. …

“ ‘We’ve seen that constant conversation about jobs versus climate action,’ says Catrina Rorke, vice president of policy for the Climate Leadership Council, a centrist bipartisan group that promotes policies to price carbon. ‘We think it’s woefully incorrect. We think aggressive climate action can actually unlock a lot of economic activity.’

“In large part, says Stephen Cohen, former director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, this is because a climate action economy is simply a modern economy – one that is moving away from a stagnating World War II-era industrial approach and into a newly automated, technologically innovative, and cleaner system. …

“ ‘It’s 100 years later and it’s time to modernize,’ he says. … ‘Most of the farsighted businesspeople – they know all of this. It’s how they think about the world.’

“This isn’t just about fossil fuels versus clean energy, he and others say. From the auto industry’s shift to electric vehicles, with all of the connected grid and battery production, to the construction industry’s work retrofitting old buildings, to wind and solar energy jobs, the impact of climate-connected development is broad. It is also spurring a new wave of innovation and entrepreneurship, scholars say.

“None of this means the end to the underlying political tension surrounding climate action. … Nor does this new economy benefit everyone. In any industrial shift, Dr. Cohen points out, some skills and jobs become obsolete. And when it comes to a climate-connected economy, those hardships are concentrated in particular communities, such as in West Virginia and Wyoming, that were built around fossil fuel extraction. In other words, it’s easy to focus on the story of a coal town dying because of a shift in the energy sector. The hardship is concentrated. It’s harder to tell a story when the benefits are diffuse, and everywhere.

“ ‘The losers are more specific and more easily identified – the winners might not exist yet,’ says Wolfram Schlenker, a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the Earth Institute.

“Still, Americans increasingly see a price to pay if rising temperatures go unchecked. The number of Americans who believe global warming will harm people in the United States a great or moderate amount grew from 51% in 2014 to 61% last year, according to polling by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

“Here in Illinois and elsewhere, most workers have jobs that aren’t directly focused on climate change. But ‘green’ growth, from the booming renewables market to energy-efficient construction projects, is everywhere.  As a trip across the state shows, the positive economic story of industry that could be categorized as climate-related – even if those involved wouldn’t categorize it as such – is getting easier to observe.”

More at the Monitor, here, where among other topics you can learn about the battle between a fungi protein and chicken nuggets.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Reuters.
An Egyptian nonprofit has enlisted fishermen from Al-Qursaya, an island near central Cairo, to collect plastics that have been reducing the catch.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, I recently learned about the enormity of the plastics problem in waters where people fish. The website states: “Plastic accumulating in our oceans and on our beaches has become a global crisis. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences that make up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. At current rates, plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.” Yikes!

New efforts large and small are needed to reverse what’s happening. On Twitter, the World Economic Forum is promoting one of the small efforts, which is how I learned about it.

Reuters reports, “For 17 years, Mohamed Nasar has supported his family of five by fishing in the Nile River near the banks of the tiny island of Al-Qursaya close to central Cairo.

“But the 58-year-old says fishermen like himself catch fewer fish every year as the Nile has become clogged with plastic bottles, bags and other waste.

‘The fish get caught in the bottles, and they die,’ said Nasar.

“A local environmental group named ‘VeryNile‘ has asked the island’s fishermen to use their boats to collect plastic bottles from the river. VeryNile says it buys the bottles at a higher price than the general market price on offer from traders or recycling plants.

“The initiative provides a sustainable solution for helping to clean up the Nile, while providing an additional source of income for fisherman like Nasar.

” ‘This job helped us a bit. We come and collect about 10 to 15 kilos (of plastic bottles), we get about 12 Egyptian pounds ($0.7682) for each,’ Nasar said as he sat in his boat collecting bottles. …

“Another fisherman, Saeed Hassanein, said cleaner Nile water would mean more fish.

” ‘On the one hand, the Nile is cleaner, and on the other hand the fisherman now has more than one source of income,’ he said.

“With the help of more than 40 fishermen, VeryNile has over the past year collected around 18 tons of plastic bottles, most of which were sold to recyclers.” More at Reuters, here.

The World Economic Forum, which defines itself as the “international organization for public-private cooperation,” is increasingly focused on addressing the consequences of global warming, and I hope it is serious about that. It’s easy to feel cynical about the forum’s annual conference for the world’s rich and powerful — called Davos because it takes place in Davos, Switzerland — but I have to believe it’s helping to make both the problems and the possible solutions more widely accepted. Besides, I know there are many altruistic people on the staff, like my friend Kai, who was one of them several years ago.

In a recent podcast, Radio Davos discusses initiatives tackling climate change, calling the current decade “the decade of ocean science, and one in which we must get on track for net-zero by 2050.”

So there’s that. Meanwhile, in Egypt, impoverished fishermen are pulling out plastic that corporations, cruise ships, and too many individuals keep dumping.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Photographic/Scenic Ireland/Alamy via the Guardian.
Burning peat increases global warming, which is why commercial operations are closing, but undisturbed bogs have always been great for keeping carbon
from the atmosphere.

My father-in-law was in the peat moss business back in the day. The Philadelphia company he worked for and later ran was called I.H. Nestor. It sold peat mostly for agriculture, but you may know that peat was also burned for heat, especially in Ireland. My friend, the late great James Hackett, and his family always heated their home with peat, with unfortunate consequences for their health.

Today’s story is about the historical value of peat bogs, an aspect that has been mostly unrecognized until now.

Chris Mooney writes at the Washington Post, “Long before the era of fossil fuels, humans may have triggered a massive but mysterious ‘carbon bomb’ lurking beneath the Earth’s surface, a new scientific study suggests. If the finding is correct, it would mean that we have been neglecting a major human contribution to global warming — one whose legacy continues.

“The researchers, from France’s Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences and several other institutions across the globe, suggest that beginning well before the industrial era, the mass conversion of carbon-rich peatlands for agriculture could have added over 250 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of more than seven years of current emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

“ ‘Globally [peatlands] are only 3 percent of the land surface but store about 30 percent of the global soil carbon,’ said Chunjing Qiu, a researcher at the laboratory, a joint institution supported by French government research bodies and the Versailles Saint-Quentin University, and the first author of the study published Friday in the journal Science Advances.

“The new finding of an ‘ignored historical land use emission’ suggests that even now, we lack a complete understanding of how the Earth’s land surfaces are driving and modulating the warming of the planet. … Scientists have long worried about the potential for massive amounts of carbon being released by northern permafrost, where ancient plant remains lie in a kind of suspended animation beneath the surface. But the peat threat is very similar; in fact, peatlands overlap considerably with permafrost regions.

“Peatlands are a particular type of wetland, one in which dead plant matter does not fully decay due to the watery conditions, and thus accumulates.

In its normal state, peat slowly pulls carbon out of the atmosphere — unless you disturb it.

“If a peatland is drained — as has occurred for many centuries to promote agriculture, especially the planting of crops — the ancient plant matter begins to decompose, and the carbon it contains joins with oxygen from the atmosphere. It is then emitted as carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse warming gas. …

“To try to get around the problem of missing historical records, the new study simulates the Northern Hemisphere (outside of the tropics) over thousands of years to determine where peat would have likely developed. Over time, the computer model will begin to include growing agricultural activities. It can then be used to analyze different scenarios for how frequently such developments may have occurred on peatland.

“In a middle-of-the-road scenario, where humans would have regularly grown crops on peatlands, the study finds that some 70 billion tons of carbon (over 250 billion tons when converted to carbon dioxide) would have been lost from the soil.

“Importantly, the analysis does not cover all the peatlands across the globe: It only considers Northern Hemisphere peatlands from the year 850 CE onward. Massive losses of tropical peat are even now occurring in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, for instance, so global losses will be higher. …

“The study is ‘a broad modeling approach with many assumptions, which can all be individually questioned and debated,’ added Hans Joosten, who leads a peat research group at the University of Greifswald in Germany. ‘But the overall message that remains is that drainage of only a small part turns the entire northern peatland resource into a net carbon source.

‘Though peatlands indeed are carbon sinks in their pristine state, they should also be seen as carbon bombs, which explode whenever they are damaged. Keep them wet!’ …

“The new work underscores that major gaps remain in how much we know about the human contribution to climate change, even as we are trying to halt it. With poor understanding about peat locations, and poor reporting about land conversion, experts say, many countries can’t fully account for peat emissions even now. That could raise questions about what has been happening in their land-use sector.”

More at the Post, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: The Guardian.
Sister Brigid Arthur, 86, and Anj Sharma, 16, are among a group who secured a judgment from the Australian federal court that found the government has a duty to protect young people from climate change.

If you ever feel powerless to do anything about climate change, consider how an 86-year-old nun and eight Australian teenagers stopped a massive new coal mine in its tracks by persuading a court that the needs of youth need to be addressed first. Fingers crossed that the success is more than temporary.

Adam Morton writes at the Guardian, “The federal court of Australia has found the environment minister, Sussan Ley, has a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis in a judgment hailed by lawyers and teenagers who brought the case as a world first.

“Eight teenagers and an octogenarian nun had sought an injunction to prevent Ley approving a proposal by Whitehaven Coal to expand the Vickery coalmine in northern New South Wales, arguing the minister had a common law duty of care to protect younger people against future harm from climate change.

“Justice Mordecai Bromberg found the minister had a duty of care to not act in a way that would cause future harm to younger people. But he did not grant the injunction as he was not satisfied the minister would breach her duty of care.

“David Barnden, a lawyer representing the children, said it was a historic and ‘amazing decision’ with potentially significant consequences.

“ ‘The court has found that the minister owes a duty of care to younger children, to vulnerable people, and that duty says that the minister must not act in a way that causes harm – future harm – from climate change to younger people,’ he said outside court.

‘It is the first time in the world that such a duty of care has been recognized, especially in a common law country.’

“He said Bromberg had indicated he would now take submissions before making further declarations about what the minister’s duty of care may mean for whether the mine extension could go ahead.

“Whitehaven Coal had a different interpretation of the judgment. In a statement to the stock exchange, it did not mention the duty of care finding, and said it welcomed the court dismissing the teenagers’ attempt to block Ley from approving the mine extension. …

“Speaking for the children, 17-year-old Ava Princi said it was ‘thrilling and deeply relieving’ that the justice had recognized the minister had a duty of care. …

“She said though an injunction was not granted the case was ‘not over yet. … There will be further submissions on what the duty of care means for the minister’s decision and the mine.’ …

“The court heard the expansion of the mine could lead to an extra 100m tonnes of CO2 – about 20% of Australia’s annual climate footprint – being released into the atmosphere as the extracted coal is shipped overseas and burned to make steel and generate electricity.

“In his judgment, Bromberg said the evidence presented to the court showed the potential harm the children could face due to global heating ‘may fairly be described as catastrophic, particularly should global average surface temperatures rise to and exceed 3C beyond the pre-industrial level.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

It may not be over, but a finding for children and their future is important, and when added to other recent judicial decisions described in the Guardian article, there’s some reason for hope.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Jim Maragos, US Fish and Wildlife Service, CC BY-NC 2.0.
The Ocean Panel is a group of 14 countries looking to protect 100% of their ocean areas by 2025. Pictured: a coral reef in the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

I don’t know which aspect of this story is more hopeful: that there is time to save oceans or that 14 countries have pledged to collaborate. On anything.

From the radio show Living on Earth: “The oceans are facing serious and growing threats, including climate change, overfishing, plastic pollution and more. But a group of 14 world leaders called the Ocean Panel is committing to transform the ocean from victim to solution, by sustainably managing 100% of their ocean areas by 2025. Jane Lubchenco is the Deputy Director for Climate and Environment for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as a co-chair of the Ocean Panel Expert Group that helped ground this vision in research. She joins Host Aynsley O’Neill. …

“O’NEILL: Before she took her White House job, [Jane Lubchenco] spoke with us about the vision and work of the Ocean Panel. Jane, welcome back to Living on Earth!

“LUBCHENCO: Thanks, Aynsley, it’s a delight to be here.

“O’NEILL: Now, when we look at how we currently manage the oceans, why does the world need this total transformation in management? …

“LUBCHENCO: We’ve treated a lot of these problems issue by issue. And part of the message that the Ocean Panel leaders heard is the need for integrated solutions that consider the whole suite of human activities. The other major thing that I think they heard was that a smart future is not just doing more of the same. It’s actually doing things differently, being much smarter about how we fish, much smarter about how we produce energy, much smarter about how we transport goods around the world. And so much of what is in their new, exciting Ocean Action agenda is doing things smarter, more effectively, more efficiently, and also doing things more holistically. …

“In September of 2019, we had a new report that came out from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There was a special report on the ocean and the cryosphere, and it painted in very depressing detail, all of the ways that the ocean has been massively affected by climate change and ocean acidification. … The same week, the Ocean Panel unveiled a report. … The report that the Ocean Panel commissioned, looked at a variety of ocean-based activities and asked simply, what is the potential for mitigating climate change? And they found enough data at the global scale to analyze five categories of activities. And when they added up how much they could get from each of those five, they came to the astounding conclusion that it might be as much as 1/5 of what we need, by way of carbon emission reductions to achieve the 1.5 degree centigrade target of the Paris Agreement by 2050.

So that’s huge. You know, a lot of those activities weren’t even on the table. And here, we find that they actually could play a very significant role in helping to turn things around in terms of climate change.

“O’NEILL: So Jane, you mentioned five ocean-based activities to help mitigate climate change. Could you go through those for us, please?

“LUBCHENCO: So the first one was increasing renewable energy from the ocean, and that’s a big one. Most of that is going to likely be wave energy, but it might also be tidal, it might be current, it might be thermal, depending on what part of the world you are in.

“The second category was making shipping less polluting. So 90% of the goods that are traded globally travel by ocean and currently, that’s pretty polluting. Its dirty fuels contribute significantly to greenhouse gases. But it is technologically possible to decarbonize shipping, and that could have a huge benefit.

“Number three is focusing on what we call blue carbon ecosystems. So these are coastal and ocean ecosystems, such as mangroves, salt marshes, or seagrass beds, that are little carbon engines that are just sucking carbon out of the atmosphere like crazy. Those habitats; mangroves, sea grasses, salt, marsh beds, can not only remove but then sequester as much as 10 times as much carbon as an equivalent area of forest, for example. And we’ve currently lost about half of them globally. So here is an opportunity to actually protect the remaining ones, but also to restore those that have already been degraded.

“The fourth area for ocean based activities to mitigate climate change comes from focusing on a little bit greater efficiency with aquaculture, mariculture operations, a little bit greater efficiency with fisheries. But the big one in this category is really shifting diets globally, away from animal protein on the land, and including animal protein from the sea, instead of that animal protein from the land.

“And then the fifth category was simply sequestering carbon on the seabed. And the panel who looked at these five categories, said that the first four, they felt completely comfortable recommending that they be pursued aggressively. Smartly, yes, but aggressively. This fifth one, carbon storage in the seabed has a lot of questions still about technical and environmental impacts. And so they recommended further study for those. …

“This is not really sacrifice. It’s being smarter about doing things. I think people are familiar with the concept of greater efficiency when we think about energy. You know, much of the focus for mitigating climate change has been focusing on how do we use energy more efficiently. And there have been tremendous advances in energy efficiency of our appliances, of our automobiles, of our transportation systems. That same concept of being more efficient, is what underlies a lot of the transformative actions that are in the ocean action agenda. So yes, this is an incredible opportunity. And it’s my belief that these 14 nations that have embarked on this journey of discovery and now journey of action will have such success with what they are proposing that others will say, oh my gosh, I want some of that too.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters.
From the
Christian Science Monitor news roundup: “Managing director Kimani Muturi shows off a TexFad hair extension made from banana trunk fibers near Kampala, Uganda, April 3, 2021. When finished using it, consumers can compost the product. The company also makes rugs and other handwoven textiles.

When in the air-conditioner season I stop to think about how much we all depend on fossil fuels, I worry that we will never be able to halt global warming. But then I read stories from around the world about inventive people doing what they can, and I remember the underlying wisdom of “one and two and 50 make a million.”

Lindsey McGinnis at the Christian Science Monitor has scoured the news media for signs of progress in a variety of areas, including the environment.

“Researchers from the University of Maryland and Yale have made a breakthrough in the search for sustainable plastic alternatives, developing a wood-based bioplastic that disintegrates in a few months. … The new bioplastic is created by using a biodegradable solvent to deconstruct wood powder found at lumber mills into a slurry, which can then be shaped into common plastic products, such as shopping bags and other packaging.

“Other experimental bioplastics have often lacked the strength to compete with petroleum-based plastics, but the scientists say their product showed high mechanical strength during tests, the capacity to hold liquid, and resistance to ultraviolet light. At the end of a product’s life, the bioplastic will quickly decompose in soil, or can be re-slurried and used again. Source: New Atlas, Nature Sustainability

“A startup in Uganda is making consumer products from edible banana plant material that would otherwise go to waste. Uganda is sub-Saharan Africa’s top producer of bananas and plantains, with an estimated 75% of all farmers growing some form of banana. They typically leave the stalks to rot after harvesting fruit. That’s where TexFad saw an opportunity. The company, which launched in 2013 and employs 23 people, runs the stalks through a machine to create long fibers, hangs the leathery strands to dry, and uses the material to create products such as carpets.

“Last year, the company made $41,000 in sales, and the managing director expects TexFad to double production in 2021 to 2,400 carpets, some of which will be exported to customers in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States for the first time. The company also creates hair extensions (used ones can be composted) and is working on a process to soften the fibers for use in clothing. Source: Interesting Engineering, Reuters

“A global network is helping reroute dangerous refrigerants before they leak into the atmosphere. Freezers and refrigerators have housed some of the most potent greenhouse gases, including the compound known as R12, a chlorofluorocarbon with roughly 10,000 times the destructive potential of CO2. The refrigerants pumped into modern units are better, but still pose global warming potential. When disposed of improperly – either knowingly or unknowingly – these gases are released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

“Tradewater, a company that collects and destroys greenhouse gases and sells the carbon offset credits, is coordinating with governments and businesses around the world to dispose of the gases safely. Its teams are sometimes called ‘chill hunters’ or ‘ghostbusters’ for the way they track and trap the gases, transferring them from discarded refrigerator cylinders into a large container. Tradewater then incinerates the recovered gases. The group reports that 4 million to 5 million metric tons have been kept out of the atmosphere so far. Ángel Toledo has run a waste disposal plant on the edge of Guatemala City for 16 years, but only dealt with refrigerant gases since 2018. ‘It’s like a dream, helping the environment … [by preventing these] gases from reaching the atmosphere.’ Source: BBC.”

More at the Monitor, here. I am not a Christian Scientist, but the Christian Science Monitor newspaper has a long and illustrious history for objective reporting, especially on international news, although I believe they don’t cover health news.

Read Full Post »

Photo: United Airlines via Flight Global.
United Airlines will invest in carbon capture to try to limit the bad effects of its fuel on the climate.

It would be better for the planet if we all took fewer airplane trips, but consumer demand just keeps increasing. Especially after the pandemic, everyone wants to get away by plane. So here is an alternative way to deal with aviation pollution. Would love to know if you regard this as a good solution.

Steven Mufson reported for the Washington Post in January, “United Airlines is … backing carbon capture — the nascent technology designed to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“United Airlines is the first major U.S. air carrier to take a step toward trying to remove some of the greenhouse gases spewed by it and every other airline, pollution that is driving up global temperatures.

“For United, it’s an alluring project. Governments, particularly in Europe, are beginning to crack down on emissions from airlines. Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time regulated greenhouse gas emissions from commercial aircraft. … United is increasingly focused on its voluntary goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 — good publicity at a time of growing alarm about climate change.

“But it may also be placing an early bet that carbon-capture technology could — with the help of federal tax credits — prove profitable. …

“Steve Oldham, chief executive of Carbon Engineering, which has developed carbon-capture technology, said United is taking an unusual approach to decarbonization. ‘When most are thinking they have to stop emissions, here you have a very credible company with a real need saying that the best way of dealing with emissions is removing them,’ he said.

“A lot is at stake. If global airlines were lumped together as one country, they would rank among the world’s top five or six emitters of carbon dioxide, according to the International Energy Agency. Aviation accounts for 3.5 percent of the planet’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions, a recent Manchester Metropolitan University study says. At high altitudes, the planes leave behind contrails of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, water vapor and soot.

“When it comes to commercial aviation, there are no low-carbon alternatives. In the summer, a small white-and-red all-electric-powered Cessna e-Caravan flew safely over Washington state — for only 28 minutes. The plane had room for nine, but only the pilot was on board.

“Solar-powered flights are even less practical. A plane called Solar Impulse 2 went around the world over 14 months, but it could only hold the pilot in an unheated, unpressurized phone-booth-size cockpit whose single seat doubled as a toilet. The plane flew at an average of 30 miles per hour to maximize energy savings, and, despite an enormous wingspan, it was only able to carry the equivalent weight of one automobile.

” ‘The aviation sector is one of the hardest to decarbonize,’ Oldham said. ‘Planes require fuel and burn a lot of fuel. At high altitude, the impact of those carbon emissions is greater than if they were released on the surface.’

“So United says it will become a partner in 1PointFive, a joint venture designed to finance and deploy a large-scale direct-air-capture plant. The firm, formed in August by a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum and Rusheen Capital Management, will use technology created by Carbon Engineering.

“The name 1PointFive refers to the U.N. goal of limiting the average increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial times. Constraining global warming to that level could avert the most catastrophic fallout from climate change, scientists say. The company will build its first plant somewhere in the Texas Permian Basin, an area rich in shale crude oil and natural gas.

“Occidental, the biggest oil and gas operator in the Permian, will take the carbon dioxide from the air and pump it into old wells to extract more oil. Legislation gives firms a $35-a-barrel tax credit for this capture and use. Occidental will leave the carbon dioxide underground; it has said it has enough geologic storage capacity to bury 28 years worth of U.S. emissions. …

“Scale remains a problem. United has improved its fuel efficiency by more than 45 percent since 1990, the year often used as a benchmark for climate-oriented energy savings. It has added aerodynamic fins on wingtips, used only one engine when taxiing on runways and bought planes that weigh less. But the number of travelers has soared, and airline fuel consumption has gone up. The federal Energy Information Administration estimates that jet fuel demand will more than double by 2050.

“Each carbon-capture plant will take up about 100 acres and capture 1 million tons, equivalent to the work of more than 40 million trees. To put that into perspective, worldwide emissions are 40 gigatons. Offsetting that would require 40,000 carbon capture plants. …

“David Victor, a professor and climate expert at the University of California at San Diego, said, ‘The airlines are an example of a sector where firms are starting to see the writing on the wall … and a lot of them don’t know what to do.’ “

More at the Washington Post, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Kevin Bacher / NPS, Flickr CC BY 2.0.
A Student Conservation Association crew is all smiles as they work to restore a trail in the popular Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park.

I love the way the radio show Living on Earth zeroes right in on whatever environmental issue is most important at any given time. In this episode, it discusses federal plans to tap civilians concerned about climate change — kind of the way FDR tapped civilian energy during the New Deal.

Host Steve Curwood talks to Washington Governor Jay Inslee about how a climate corps could aid conservation, combat climate disaster, and help save energy.

“CURWOOD: The modern CCC harkens back to the Civilian Conservation Corps created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s. FDR’s CCC put some 3 million men to work in conservation efforts. … Today a Civilian Climate Corps could put people to work reducing the risk of forest fires, restoring wetlands, planting trees, and weatherizing homes both in the United States and abroad. During the Democratic primary, several of President Biden’s opponents also proposed a climate corps. Among them was Washington state Governor Jay Inslee. … Welcome back to Living on Earth, Governor!

“Let’s say that you were to take a look at your own state of Washington for some examples of the kind of work that the CCC would do. You’ve had horrendous wildfires, so I imagine you’re very interested in thinning the forests, the fuel that can add to those. Where else might it be especially useful?

“GOV. JAY INSLEE: Everywhere. This is a ubiquitous opportunity, because anywhere there’s a house, there is an opportunity to reduce energy wastage. And that’s the first place you get clean fuel, the very cheapest, first, most productive fuel, clean energy … stop wasting it. So helping people rehab their houses, get more insulation into their homes, starting with those who are in low-income homes, who frequently are living in places that just waste humongous amounts of energy, so these poor folks are trying to make huge energy payments to the utility company. … Then a part that I think hopefully is more focused on vocational skill development … to really focus on a long-term career, not just in the climate corps. That might be as exotic as, you know, learning how to maintain electric vehicles, because that’s we’re going to be driving. …

“CURWOOD: Many young people I speak to are desperate to do something to deal with the climate emergency, which they see as this humongous freight train barreling at them out of the future, and no way to jump out of the way. …

“INSLEE: I hear this as well, how do I plug in? What do I do? Where do I go, you know, what, you know? And this is just perfect to capture that huge energy that’s out there. [We] want that energy to be released. And I think this climate corps is a way to do that. It will help as well build, you know, public support, political support. …

“CURWOOD: The original Civilian Conservation Corps under FDR reinforced some social injustices, and even segregated black and white corps members into different camps, and there weren’t a whole lot of women that were involved in this. How can this new CCC help progress towards greater equity in our society?

“INSLEE: You’ve put your finger on a very important point. One is the most obvious one, which is economically to give people more economic opportunities. And I’m convinced it will do that big time. [Also] we have so many children, urban children particularly, who’ve never had experiences in the natural world. And giving them these experiences in a vocational setting is life changing for people. …

“My dad and mom used to re-vegetate alpine meadows on the slopes of Mount Rainier during the summer. They ran a group called the Student Conservation Association. [They] were kids, mostly from the East Coast, who came out to Mount Rainier National Park. [Once] they got that shovel in their hands, and once they spent a night in the tent, they were conservationists for their whole lives.”

More here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Stuff.
To meet methane goals, New Zealand must cut the number of sheep and cows by 15 per cent, the Climate Change Commission’s decarbonisation blueprint says.

Although I’m eating a vegetarian meal tonight, I’m disappointed in myself for not coming up with lots of interesting vegetarian recipes during lockdown. I had plenty of time to think about it. Part of my problem is that my Covid-era delivery services didn’t offer many prepared vegetarian meals, but it’s a weak excuse. Fortunately, my daughter-in-law knew I was interested in anything vegetarian and often added me to her shopping.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, they’re way ahead of everyone as usual — not only in terms of trying to cut back on livestock emissions but addressing many other aggressive climate-change goals.

Olivia Wannan writes at Stuff, “Whether you work on the land, in a factory, an office or are still in school, life in 2035 will look significantly different under the Climate Change Commission’s decarbonisation blueprint.

“[If] the Government follows it to the letter., by 2025, you’ll be eligible for a public transport card offering discounted fares until you’re 25, to encourage low-carbon transport habits that may last a lifetime. …

By 2023, the Government’s emissions standards will start to bring lower-carbon cars into the country. The ban on petrol and diesel cars will also be in place as early as 2030. By 2035, both restrictions will also be influencing the second-hand car market, so if you do become an owner, the vehicle will be a lot greener than the cars on the road today. …

“Between now and 2035, you may be one of the thousands of employees that will transition out of carbon-intensive industries and into new jobs. … If you work in an at-risk industry, you’ll be eligible for government support to be re-trained for other roles. If you’re tangata whenua, you’ll be able to opt for education and training developed by Māori. By 2035, many Māori workers will have already transitioned to new industries, with the job gains outweighing losses. …

“The renewable electricity sector will be busy – the country requires one new wind farm to be built almost every year to meet the increased demand for power, plus new transmission lines. …

“By 2035, most truck drivers will be behind the wheel of a low-emissions vehicle, after the battery technology has developed enough to cover longer distances. But there will be fewer trucking jobs, as more freight will travel by rail or sea. … You’ll be twice as likely to head to the office by bike or on public transport, compared to today. If you still want to drive to the CBD, you may have to pay a congestion charge, with your cash helping to fund lower-carbon forms of travel. …

“By 2035, your office must be a pleasant place to be in all seasons, courtesy of energy efficiency standards for new and existing buildings. Building owners will have ditched coal in all heating systems by 2030. Natural gas will be phased out after that. …

“Across the country, dairy and meat farmers will reduce animal numbers by 15 per cent between 2020 and 2030. However, this isn’t an across-the-board cut. The efficiency gains you’ll make on your farm will probably differ to what your neighbours achieve. It’s the collective effort that matters.

“This could mean changing your farm management. You’ll need to use the plans, advice and tools developed by the agricultural industry partnership with Government, He Waka Eke Noa – though this guidance won’t be finalised until 2022. You may require reliable internet to precision-manage your farm, so you should have access to broadband by 2023 at the latest. …

“A farm might take a look at the efficiency gains required and choose to replace its cows and sheep with horticulture. An additional 20,000 hectares of land will grow grain, fruit and vegetables by 2035.

“Farmers staying in the meat or dairy business will carefully manage their use of nitrogen fertiliser (which creates the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide) and supplementary feed, which will cut expenses. Some will try their hand at regenerative farming, which aims to create healthier soil and land.

“Sheep farms will select rams that carry the genes to produce less methane when food is digested. The widespread uptake of low-methane sheep breeds will cut the country’s agricultural methane by 3 per cent by 2035. …

“If you have unproductive land sitting around, you’ll be able to access public funding to plant it with native trees. Nearly 250,000 additional hectares of sheep and beef farmland will be afforested by 2035. Combined with a ban on native deforestation in 2025, you’ll more frequently spot native birds and lizards, particularly if you fence off your bush and undertake pest control.

“Collective action will allow New Zealand to continue to promote the comparatively low-carbon credentials of its dairy and meat to international markets. …

“Buildings will be increasingly constructed using timber, which is less emissions-intensive than concrete and steel. By 2025, new natural gas connections will be banned. A decade after that, remaining gas appliances for cooking or heating will be increasingly costly. Because the domestic carbon price will steadily rise, the average annual gas bill will cost $150 more in 2035 compared to 2020.

“In comparison, the price of electricity will drop during the 2020s, after the Tiwai smelter closes. It’ll gradually rise again towards the end of the decade but should stay lower than today’s costs. …

“Remote and Māori communities will be able to access funds to build their own solar generation.”

It will likely to be hard to achieve all that, even with the less environmentally friendly biomass use and burning of “renewable” wood. But I think they are taking this seriously.

More at Stuff, here. Hat tip: Svein Tveitdal, @tveitdal, on twitter.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Bee and Tom Rivett-Carnac.
A painting by Bee Rivett-Carnac in the free digital children’s book
What happened when we all stopped.

Children are really good at understanding the need to protect Nature. When I read about this free book and the video featuring Jane Goodall, I knew they would make good ammunition for kids needing to convince skeptical adults. The Covid angle was cool, too, and made the book seem even more timely.

Rohini Kejrwal has a report at Hyperallergic.

“ ‘No time for sorry, we’re building tomorrow,’ writes author, climate policy strategist, and former Buddist monk Tom Rivett-Carnac in his new and free digital book, What happened when we all stopped. The book emerged during the lockdown as a collaboration between Tom and his sister Bee Rivett-Carnac, who illustrated his poem.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the entire world was forced to stay home, it became an opportunity for Mother Nature to heal, for the smog to melt, the birds to sing, and the rivers to run clear. As the world began to phase out lockdown measures, Tom’s message to his readers, young and old, was this: Let’s choose well.

“Talking about the inspiration, he says:

‘The creative process is just a mystery to me. But I was thinking a lot and feeling inspired by the idea of a trillion trees — this idea that we can replant a trillion trees and reforest the earth. There were no planes in the sky; people were noticing the birds and remembering a better way of living. It was a strangely optimistic time, and the book was written out of a hope that we need to do things differently.’

“One evening, he sat and wrote the poem in a stream of consciousness. A few edits later, he invited Bee to illustrate it. ‘We were at Mum’s house in Devon, having breakfast, when Tom asked me if I’d fancy illustrating his poem. …

“Bee chose the medium of watercolor paintings to create a sense of lightness and depict the connection to nature. … Being someone who divides her time between spending time with her children, gardening and illustrating, and her shamanic practice, her personal style naturally lent itself to the inspiration and imagery for the book. To make the poem more accessible to children, she introduced two primary characters — a little girl and an owl — who carry the story forward. …

“As the book shaped up, it opened the door to further collaborations. It was developed into a beautiful, animated poem by TED-Ed, an auxiliary of the renowned conference organization geared toward teachers and students. Jane Goodall, celebrated anthropologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, offered narration. …

“The two collaborations happened fairly organically, owing to Tom’s role as the UN’s chief political strategist and his work as one of the architects of the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change. …

“Tom reiterates that the book is a reminder of the urgent need for change. ‘The next 10 years are the most consequential in the history of humanity. We have to do something, or we’ll lose control over the climatic systems and never get it back,’ he says. ‘We need to reclaim a sense of agency in climate change, which has been deliberately undermined by fossil fuel companies.

“We all have a choice as to who we want to be during this time. Do we want to look back 30 years from now and say we gave up because it was difficult or say that we did everything possible to make a difference even if we don’t succeed? And why won’t we succeed? Real, genuine success is possible!’ he wraps up, firm optimism in his voice.”

More here. Check out the illustrations. Especially the owls.

Read Full Post »

Photos: Sea Forest
Asparagopsis is a species of Red Algae that can fight global warming. When eaten by cows, it releases bromoform, which reduces methane production and limits how much CO2 goes into the atmosphere.

It isn’t hard for me to give up eating beef — but milk? For one thing, my doctor wants me to drink it. I do know that cows and other livestock are not helping with our global-warming problem, and that’s a worry. Here’s something that could help.

Tatiana Schlossberg writes at the Washington Post, “One of the most powerful weapons in the fight against climate change is washing up on shorelines around the world, unnoticed by most beachgoers. It’s seaweed. Specifically, Asparagopsis taxiformis and Asparagopsis armata — two species of a crimson submarine grass that drifts on waves and tides all around the world’s oceans.

“It doesn’t seem like much, but it could practically neutralize one of the most stubborn sources of a powerful greenhouse gas: methane emissions from the digestive processes of some livestock, including the planet’s 1.5 billion cows, which emit methane in their burps.

“Reducing methane from livestock, and cows in particular, has long been a goal of scientists and policymakers but is especially tricky: How do you change a fundamental fact of animal biology in an ethical way that doesn’t affect milk or meat?

“In lab tests and field trials, adding a small proportion of this seaweed to a cow’s daily feed — about 0.2 of a percent of the total feed intake in a recent study — can reduce the amount of methane by 98 percent. That’s a stunning drop when most existing solutions cut methane by about 20 or 30 percent.

“Meanwhile, growing seaweed used for the feed supplement could also help sequester carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas, and reduce ocean acidification, because the plant sucks up carbon in the water as food.

“Rob Kinley, the scientist who identified asparagopsis as a methane inhibitor, said it might just be the most promising way to eliminate methane emissions from livestock in the next decade.

“That’s significant because livestock overall account for about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with nearly 40 percent of that linked to methane from the digestive process, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. …

“In a study published in 2016, Kinley and his co-authors found that asparagopsis virtually eliminated methane emissions in lab trials. When a cow eats grass or other fibrous plants, microbes inside its rumen, or first stomach, use carbon and hydrogen from the fermentation of those plants to produce methane, which escapes from the cow mainly through burping, although about 5 percent is released through flatulence.

“Asparagopsis and other types of seaweed have specialized gland cells that make and store bromoform, an organic compound. When the blurry red seaweed is freeze-dried, powdered and sprinkled as a garnish on a cow’s meal, bromoform blocks carbon and hydrogen atoms from forming methane in the stomach.

“In response, the cow makes more propionate, a fatty acid that helps produce glucose in the metabolic process, allowing the animal to more efficiently grow or to produce more milk. That may enable farmers to use less feed and save money. …

“Some evidence suggests that herders in ancient Greece fed their cows seaweed, as did many in 18th century Iceland. The most recent effort began when

Joe Dorgan, a farmer on Prince Edward Island in Canada, observed that his cows that grazed on seaweed that rolled up on beaches had better pregnancy success, produced more milk and suffered less from mastitis than cows that didn’t eat seaweed.

“Before Dorgan could sell the seaweed to other farmers, the Canadian government required proof that it was safe, said Kinley, who was then at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and was hired by Dorgan. …

“Dorgan’s seaweed reduced methane by about 18 percent, [but, he says,] ‘The light came on for me that there’s probably a seaweed in the world that’s better than that.’ …

“A number of companies have been working to make asparagopsis taxiformis and asparagopsis armata into commercial products that can be added to animal feed. … While their approaches differ, they share an urgency in getting asparagopsis to farmers, something they recognize is not easy. It’s a challenge to figure out how to grow and process asparagopsis at scale and in a way that will translate into higher earnings for farmers.”

At the Washington Post, here, you can read about four companies that are working on this.

Cows by the sea.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Jay Godwin
At a 2018 LBJ Library Future Forum, climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a professor at Texas Tech University, discusses how climate change is affecting Texas.

Some people think religion is incompatible with science, but that depends on the individual and the particular field of science you’re talking about. One of my brothers is both devout and a scientist. And at his Zoom retirement party this past year, I learned he wasn’t the only one in his lab.

A woman who heads up an important climate change center is Texas is another example. Sarah Kaplan wrote about her at the Washington Post.

“ ‘What world have I brought my child into?’ the new mom pleaded. ‘What can I do to make sure my baby isn’t brought up in a world that’s being destroyed?’

“It was 2019, and climate researcher Katharine Hayhoe was at a church breakfast in Fairbanks, Alaska, when a young woman tapped on her shoulder and confessed that she was terrified. Ever since the birth of her daughter, the young woman said, she couldn’t stop worrying about the threat of a rapidly warming planet.

“ ‘That heartfelt question is one I thought I could only really answer as a fellow mom,’ said Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University and an evangelical Christian who has spent years trying to educate the public about climate change.

“Hayhoe told the Alaska woman the same thing she sometimes had to tell herself when she worried about her own son’s future: Channel your fear into action. Talk to your friends and family. Advocate for change in your town, your church, your school, your state. Now, Hayhoe aims to replicate that exchange on a much bigger scale.

“Along with five fellow climate scientists who are also mothers, she has teamed up with Potential Energy, a nonprofit marketing firm, to launch Science Moms, a $10 million campaign to educate and empower mothers to do something about climate change.

“Advertisements featuring Hayhoe and the female scientists will air on national TV and online for the next month. The initial push will be followed by ads in several key states where the effects of climate change are already being felt, including North Carolina, Arizona and Wisconsin. …

“In one video, Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Melissa Burt narrates a montage of images of her 4-year-old daughter, Mia, juxtaposed with footage of a hurricane.

“ ‘You don’t have to be a climate scientist to want to protect the Earth,’ she says. ‘And for Mia, I want you to know that I worked really hard to be a part of the change and to make it a better place for you.’

“The campaign also has a website featuring facts and resources, including links to books on talking to kids about climate and a form for contacting elected officials. …

“Mothers are the ‘sweet spot’ for inspiring social change, said John Marshall, a veteran marketing executive and consultant and a founder of Potential Energy. They have a long track record of political activity: Mothers Against Drunk Driving helped lower the legal limit for blood alcohol content in drivers. Moms Demand Action has lobbied for initiatives to prevent gun violence. …

“His research suggests that mothers are not more vocal about the warming threat because they’re not confident they understand the science and are unsure of what to do about it. That’s where Science Moms comes in.

‘Moms trust moms,’ said Burt. She hopes that viewers will see her — a Black woman who studies the warming Arctic and presents at scientific conferences but also cooks spaghetti for her family and gardens with her daughter — and feel represented.

“ ‘I want to connect with moms who look like me. … We are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. I just want other moms who look like me to know they have a role in combating this crisis,’ she added.

“Science Moms is funded through donations, including large gifts from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and former Nature Conservancy chief executive Mark Tercek. The group says it will be the biggest educational awareness campaign around climate since Al Gore’s $100 million ad blitz about the issue in 2007. [The] group cannot engage in political campaigns or seek to influence legislation.

“Marshall will measure success in heightened awareness of the threat posed by global warming and increased willingness to take action. He said his aim is to double the proportion of Americans who say they are ‘alarmed’ about climate change — a number that hovers around 26 percent, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. …

“Hayhoe hopes the ads will help counter the climate misinformation and misconceptions that so many Americans are exposed to: claims that it only affects polar bears (weather-related disasters cost the United States $95 billion and killed more than 200 people last year); assertions that the climate is always changing (in 4.6 billion years it has never warmed this fast); accusations that other countries are more at fault (the United States is the largest historical source of planet-warming emissions). …

“ ‘What we want to do is empower other moms to become messengers in the most-trusted category, which is friends and family,’ she said. ‘I really believe that using our voices is the way we can make a difference.’ ”

More at the Washington Post, here.

Read Full Post »

herrera-3-624x543402x

Art: Diana Beltrán Herrera
The artist makes birds and other wildlife from paper and in recent years has started to use her art to support nonprofits fighting for the environment.

Although it is not new for artists to celebrate nature — a compulsion dating at least to prehistoric cave paintings — there’s a new sense of urgency in the era of global warming.

In a 2018 article in the New York Times, for example, 12 artists described how the crisis is influencing their work.

Here artist Xavier Cortada explains to the Times why he made a work showing residential street numbers underwater. “In response to South Florida’s vulnerability to rising sea levels, the village of Pinecrest, Florida will encourage its 6,000 households to install an ‘Underwater HOA [Homeowner Association]’ yard sign (similar to the 18- by 24-inch ‘Home for Sale’ yard signs used by realtors) on their front lawns during the first week of December. I numbered each yard sign from 0 to 17 feet (the municipality’s land elevation range) to show how many feet of melted glacial water must rise before a particular property is underwater.” Oy.

860_climate_change_and_artArt: Xavier Cortada
This painted sign is a marker that someone can plant in their yard showing that the property would be underwater with a sea-level rise of five feet.

Meanwhile, the fascinating website This Is Colossal has for some years been following the amazing paper creations of Diana Beltrán Herrera as she expands from birds she knows to environments she has never seen to helping nonprofits battle climate change.

Grace Ebert writes, “In 2012, Bristol-based artist Diana Beltrán Herrera [began] sculpting impeccably layered paper birds and other wildlife as a way to record her surroundings. Her lifelike pieces continuously have captured nature’s finely detailed and minuscule elements, like the fibrous texture of feathers and the veins running through leaves.

“Today, the artist has expanded the practice to include exotic species and environments she’s never seen up close, developing her paper techniques to express the more nuanced details of the shapes and textures she studies in biology books. Now focusing on the structural elements of fungi, fruit, and florals, Beltrán Herrera shares with Colossal:

‘Paper as a medium for documentation allows me to register and create notions and ideas of subjects that I have not experienced in real life but that I can experience when a sculpture is completed. I like this approach because it is not harmful, and through my work, I can show and tell my viewers about the things I have been learning, of the importance of nature just by researching and making it myself.’

“Much of her work centers on conservation efforts and environmental justice. For example, a recent commission by Greenpeace UK bolstered the organization’s Plastic Free Rivers campaign. ‘I am constantly looking for more subjects that are relevant to the times we are living in, so that through my work I can communicate important information that can educate or just make things more visible.’ …

“Her hope is to merge graphic and digital design with her paper pieces, potentially adding in animation, as well. Ultimately, her goal is to dive into larger projects. ‘I don’t see my work as something I want to know how to make and stay safe, but as a challenge, that will always allow me to wonder how to execute and create things that were never made with paper,’ she says.” More.

Other Colossal articles on the artist’s work can be found here. Follow her on Instagram, @dianabeltranherrera.

A musical composition created from climate-change data is another example of using an art to raise consciousness about the current state of the natural world.  From the website Science News for Students.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: