Bill McKibben has written 15 books, most recently Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist. Now a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, he co-founded 350.org, the largest global grassroots organizing campaign on climate change. Here are some excerpts from his inaugural Jonathan Schell Lecture:
I arrived at The New Yorker at the age of 21, two weeks out of college, alone in New York City for the first time. The New Yorker was wonderfully quirky, of course, but one of its less wonderful quirks was that most people didn’t talk to each other very much, and especially to newcomers 50 years their junior. There were exceptions, of course, and the foremost exception was Jonathan. He loved to talk, and we had long colloquies nearly every day, mostly about politics.
Ideas—not abstract ideas, but ideas drawn from the world as it wound around him—fascinated him. He always wanted to dig a layer or two deeper; there was never anything superficial or trendy about his analysis. I understood better what he was up to when I came, at the age of 27, to write The End of Nature. It owes more than a small debt to The Fate of the Earth, which let me feel it was possible and permitted to write about the largest questions in the largest ways. [...]
We are destroying the earth every bit as thoroughly as Jonathan imagined in the famous first chapter of The Fate of the Earth, just a little more slowly. By burning coal and oil and gas and hence injecting carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, we have materially changed its heat-trapping properties; indeed, those man-made greenhouse gases trap the daily heat equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions. That’s enough extra heat that, in the space of a few decades, we have melted most of the summer sea ice in the Arctic—millennia old, meters thick, across a continent-size stretch of ocean that now, in summer, is blue water. (Blue water that absorbs the sun’s incoming rays instead of bouncing them back to space like the white ice it replaced, thus exacerbating the problem even further.)
That’s enough heat to warm the tropical oceans to the point where Sue and I watched with our colleagues in the South Pacific as a wave of record-breaking warm water swept across the region this past spring, killing in a matter of weeks vast swaths of coral that had been there since before the beginning of the human experiment. That’s enough heat to seriously disrupt the planet’s hydrological cycles: Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, we’ve seen steady increases in drought in arid areas (and with it calamities like wildfire) and steady, even shocking, increases in downpour and flood in wet areas.
It’s been enough to raise the levels of the ocean—and the extra carbon in the atmosphere has also changed the chemistry of that seawater, making it more acidic and beginning to threaten the base of the marine food chain. We are, it bears remembering, an ocean planet, and the world’s oceanographers warn that we are very rapidly turning the seven seas “hot, sour, and breathless.” To the “republic of insects and grass” that Jonathan imagined in the opening of The Fate of the Earth, we can add a new vision: a hypoxic undersea kingdom of jellyfish. [...]
Against this crisis, we see sporadic action at best. We know that we could be making huge strides. For instance, engineers have managed to cut the cost of solar panels by 80 percent in the last decade, to the point where they are now among the cheapest methods of generating electricity. A Stanford team headed by Mark Jacobson has shown precisely how all 50 states and virtually every foreign nation could make the switch to renewable energy at an affordable cost in the course of a couple of decades. A few nations have shown that he’s correct: Denmark, for instance, now generates almost half of its power from the wind.
In most places, however, the progress has been slow and fitful at best.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Gen. Petraeus, one of the people on Trump’s list for Secretary of State, has to check with his probation officer before leaving western N.C. pic.twitter.com/ay64N3JYIQ
Ã¢Â€Â” Brad Heath (@bradheath) November 30, 2016
BLAST FROM THE PAST
At Daily Kos on this date in 2005—Secret prisons, the EU, and a very strong warning:
Little by little, over the last year or so, we’ve begun to learn the extent of the Bush administration’s War on TerrorTM as waged by the CIA. I’m not referring to something they’d put on their website. I’m talking about “extraordinary rendition”, the practice of transferring terrorism suspects to interrogation camps, often in countries where torture is legal.
Recently, the extent of the CIA’s rendition program has become clearer, as a number of European countries have reported that they suspect the CIA has been using their airports – without permission – for their rendition flights
On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin reminds us how much danger Medicare is in. More cuckoo Trump tweets. Contract clause could sink Trump’s DC hotel. No self-dealing safeguards for the inaugural committee. LePage as mini-Trump. Plus segments from John R. & Brian Munroe!
Brothers Jason and David Brenham are no stranger to anti-Christian witch hunts. In 2014 they were set to host their own show on HGTV called “Flip It…
Hollywood A-lister Mark Wahlberg sat down recently with Task and Purpose, a website geared toward American veterans. Having previously starred in the critically acclaimed “Lone…
I posted on Facebook about the CA Dems achieving a supermajority in both the Assembly and the Senate. One of my favorite liberal friends posed the following response/questions: California got a Democratic majority AND reclaimed the title of the sixth largest economy in the world. You move back to California to share in that prosperity and whine about the one sane State in America moving | Read More »
The post “CA Dems Got A Supermajority, And All I Got Was This Lousy Bullet Train” appeared first on RedState.
Planetary missions are expensive to start with and risky to execute at every point thereafter. So it’s no wonder mission planners seek to minimize danger. For 12 years NASA’s robotic explorer to Saturn called Cassini has been studying the solar system’s most famous celebrity along with its many moons and flashy golden rings. But it will soon dive into the planet’s turbulent atmosphere and disappear forever. Which means it can now take much greater risks. First up is a pass so close to the rings that some of the millions of members making them up may be visible:
Grazing the edges of the rings also will provide some of the closest-ever studies of the outer portions of Saturn’s main rings (the A, B and F rings). Some of Cassini’s views will have a level of detail not seen since the spacecraft glided just above them during its arrival in 2004. The mission will begin imaging the rings in December along their entire width, resolving details smaller than 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) per pixel and building up Cassini’s highest-quality complete scan of the rings’ intricate structure. …
During its grand finale, Cassini will pass as close as 1,012 miles (1,628 kilometers) above the clouds as it dives repeatedly through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings, before making its mission-ending plunge into the planet’s atmosphere …
We’ve never seen a gas giant’s cloud tops from a mere thousand miles away! Given Cassini’s sharp camera eyes, we’ll see complex storms and mysterious eddies rendered in gold comparable to the detail that can be viewed of the Earth’s fluffy white formations from the International Space Station. Then, early next Fall, Cassini will dive right in. NASA hopes to capture images to the last kilobyte.
NASA is a great agency. It would be a shame if something happened to it.
It’s getting tedious pointing out the United Nations and their love affair with dictators and tyrants. Fidel Castro is no different. Despite inflicting decades of harm to his country and his people, there are still people praising him as though he were a beacon of light in a dark world. Many citizens in Cuba live in a dark world because they can’t keep the electricity | Read More »
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