Archive for 2007 April

Why Can’t American Forecasters Be This Frank?

The New York Times reports record high temperatures in Europe:

PARIS, April 30 — The month of April was so warm and so dry across Western Europe that it rewrote the weather record books in country after country, national weather services said today, as hot air masses from Africa and the effects of a changing climate combined to drive up temperatures and drive away rain.

April 2007 was the eighth consecutive month of higher-than-normal temperatures in Germany, and the 13th straight month of unusually warm conditions in France.

Reporter James Kanter then quotes a French forecaster, who declares bluntly:

“The sustained period of above-average temperatures across a number of countries is undoubtedly linked to global warming,” said Patrick Galois, a forecaster at Metéo France. May, June and July are also expected to be unseasonably warm, Mr. Galois said.

Why can’t American forecasters speak so plainly? When we had a three-week heat wave in California last summer, with temperatures reaching 118 degrees in the San Fernando Valley, forecasters were uniformly loathe to say anything more than the usual "this is not inconsistent with global warming, but of course we had a 117 reading back in l953, so blah blah blah– "

Yesterday yours truly had the chance to see Bill McKibben speak on his new book, Deep Economy. I asked him a question–essentially, is global warming made in the USA?–and he said yes, it is. He added Europe accepted global warming ten years ago, while we here in America are still struggling with ExxonMobil.

The unwillingness of American forecasters to make the connection between heat waves and global warming is a good example of ExxonMobile’s success and our unwillingness to face the facts.

Here’s Heat_wave_baby_photo_2
 how one European feels about summer in April:

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The Power of Beauty: Sunday Morning on the Planet

This month Sierra magazine features a photographer named Elizabeth Carmel. She’s a little different from the usual nature photographer, in that she uses digital technology, and freely works "to make images that match her memories."

Some of her images are so spectacular they seem a little unreal, or "dreamlike," as the story puts it, but they’re mighty hard to resist, and I treasure a quote she has on one of her sites:

"Beauty reminds us there is hope. Beauty sustains us. Beauty restores us.
The world is extraordinarily beautiful."   
John Paul Caponigro



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The Precarity

Half the people I know don’t have real jobs, or don’t have real jobs most of the time. Maybe it’s even more than half, as most of the people I know are writers, journalists, readers, artists, that sort of folk. I have been fortunate to have a real job reading scripts, but how much longer it will last, I have begun to doubt.

It’s been hard on me.

But last week I came across a nice story in the LAWeekly about a folk singer named Peter Case. Case has been living as a freelancer–mostly on the road–his whole life. He has a book out, numerous records, and he’s moderately famous. (You can hear a full sample of the wonderful Zero Hour from his Plimsouls garage band era on MySpace, but he’s a Mississippi John Hurt-influenced folkie these days, and a good one: check out his guitar playing on "When the Catfish is in Bloom" on iTunes.)

He has a way to describe living the expressive life without a real job: he calls it "The Precarity."

There’s a new word for the freelance life now — it’s called precarity. And what it refers to is that people who are freelance, they can’t tell if they’re working 24/7, or if they’re unemployed. What we’re up against now is an era where everybody’s time is completely dominated, and everybody’s working for free.

There’s a lot more to the piece. Take a look at the interview by Dave Schulman. Here’s Peter Case:


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Bush Administration “Flipping the Bird to the World,” says Former EPA Chief

That’s according to Christine Todd Whitman, the first EPA head for the Bush administration, who like European nations and many other fundamentallly decent folks, believed the Prez when he said on the campaign trail in 2000 that he would reduce CO2 emissions to control global warming.

She blames Dick Cheney.

On a tough-minded Frontline program called Hot Politics that is already making waves for its relentless interview with Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz, Whitman says that the Bush administration was surprised that its abrupt, unilateral about face on CO2 emissions caused so much controversy. But she adds that they didn’t much care, either.

I’m not sure they understood how big a reaction it was going to be, and I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference if they had… The way it happened was the equivalent to flipping the bird, frankly, to the world, about an issue about which (the world) felt so deeply.

She points the finger at Cheney, as did Bush’s first Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who says in "The Price of Loyalty" that Cheney spiked his efforts to launch an anti-CO2 initiative within the administration.

"Flipping the bird to the world." Sounds like Cheney speaking to Pat Leahy on the Senate floor, doesn’t it? More soon as I see the program.

(HT:    Dateline Earth)

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Bee News and Views

A couple of weeks ago, based on a small study (pdf) at Landau University in Germany, it was widely reported that cellphones were causing disorientation among bees and a collapse of bee colonies.

The collapse of a high percentage of bee colonies around the country is real, but not unprecedented, and today–based on research right here in California–it’s being reported in the LATimes that the culprit is not cellphones, but a fungus.

Still, the truth is, the experts aren’t sure of the cause, and–to their credit–are willing to say so.

Researchers have been struggling for months to explain the disorder, and the new findings provide the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.

But the results are "highly preliminary" and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. "We don’t want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved."

Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country — as well as in some hives where bees had survived. Those researchers have also found two other fungi and half a dozen viruses in the dead bees.

The invaluable newspaper also runs a nice long story from Joe Robinson on bees in the garden. The story points out that living with bees is not difficult or dangerous, which is certainly our experience. We have plenty of all sorts of bees and wasps around, and have been stung only a handful of times in sixteen years, and almost always by wasps, not bees. Robinson talks to experts who offer tips on how to attract the three main species of inoffensive wild bees (bumblebees, wood-nesting bees, and solitary bees, which nest in the ground) to your garden. Mostly this means making sure they have flowers they like, such as lilacs. But also:

"If you can find a corner of your yard that can strategically be made messy, that works very well," entomologist Mace Vaughn suggested. "That helps provide nest sites for bumblebees. They need places where the ground’s not being turned over year after year. In my yard all I have to do is clear away some grass."

Need a messy place in the yard? Not a problem. Come on over, Mr. Pollen Pants.

UPDATE:    Onion Radio News has an announcement from the President about "those bees who are no longer with us."


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Rock and Roll Will Never Die–Even on a Warming Globe

Here’s some good news. The wonderfully un-great Spinal Tap will do a reunion gig as part of Al Gore’s rock concert series to raise money and consciousness against global warming.

"They’re not that environmentally conscious, but they’ve heard of global warming," [explained their number one fan Rob Reiner.] "Nigel thought it was just because he was wearing too much clothing – that if he just took his jacket off it would be cooler."

Rock on, Nigel!


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Dick Cheney’s Earth Day

The Onion on Dick Cheney: still funny, as my editor likes to say, and too good to give away the punchline.

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Global Warming Extinction: One Species Takes Note

Does Toles know something the rest of us don’t?

As far as I can tell, the GOP has little interest in global warming, and no interest in preventing the extinction of vast numbers of our fellow mortals. Despite the fact that numerous anecdotal accounts suggest that the younger generation is turning against the GOP, mostly that seems based on the war in Iraq. But Tom Toles, the Wa-Po editorial cartoonist might know more…I’ll search the Wa-Po site and see what I can find.


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Earth Day: Remember This

A winter day in Yosemite, courtesy of a local photographer named Larry Janss, tutored by Ansel Adams:


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Happy Birthday, John

Here it is April 21st, John Muir’s birthday, and here is a quote from Muir’s notebooks about another great Scot’s birthday, Robert Burns. Like nearly all Scots, Muir was a huge admirer of Burns, and on his birthday in l906, wrote a long appreciation of him. Here’s the part I want to highlight, from the great "John of the Mountains," his unpublished journals, put out by biography Linnie Wolfe in l938:

The man of science, the naturalist, too often loses sight of the essential oneness of all living beings in seeking to classify them in kingdoms, orders, families, genera, species, etc., taking note of the kind and arrangement of limbs, teeth, toes, scales, hair, feathers, etc., measured and set forth in meters, centimenters, and millimeters, while the eye of the Poet, the Seer, never closes on the kindship of all God’s creatures, and his heart ever beats in sympathy with great and small alike as "earth-born companions and fellow mortals" equally dependent on Heaven’s eternal love.

And that’s the glory of Muir, who despite his remarkable scientific achievements, never lost sight of the "wee, helpless things," including the field mouse; the sheep, the cattle, the wounded hare, the "unfortunate daisy." The vastness of his love became the vastness of the landscape he loved, as in this picture of the Muir Pass from Yodod, looking back towards Lake MacDermand. Still miss you, Johnny.


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