Tag Archives: environment

E. O. Wilson on preserving biodiversity

5 Mar

This week he publishes his 32nd book, Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, in which he argues that we must set aside half the earth a preserve for non-human life. Claudia Dreifus interviews him in The New York Times:

Q. Why publish this book now?

A. Because a lifetime of research has magnified my perception that we are in a crisis with reference to the living part of the environment.We now have enough measurements of extinction rates and the likely rate in the future to know that it is approaching a thousand times the baseline of what existed before humanity came along.

Reading your book, one senses you felt a great urgency to write it?

The urgency was twofold. First, it’s only been within the last decade that a full picture of the crisis in biodiversity has emerged. The second factor was my age. I’m 86. I had a mild stroke a couple of years ago. I thought, “Say this now or never.”

And what I say is that to save biodiversity, we need to set aside about half the earth’s surface as a natural reserve. I’m not suggesting we have one hemisphere for humans and the other for the rest of life. I’m talking about allocating up to one half of the surface of the land and the sea as a preserve for remaining flora and fauna.

In a rapidly developing world, where would such a reserve be?

Large parts of nature are still intact — the Amazon region, the Congo Basin, New Guinea. There are also patches of the industrialized world where nature could be restored and strung together to create corridors for wildlife. In the oceans, we need to stop fishing in the open sea and let life there recover. The open sea is fished down to 2 percent of what it once was. If we halted those fisheries, marine life would increase rapidly. The oceans are part of that 50 percent.

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Pope Francis on the Environmental Crisis

18 Jun

An article in the NYTimes opens:

Pope Francis on Thursday called for a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, as his much-awaited papal encyclical blended a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action.

The vision that Francis outlined in the 184-page encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He described a relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment, for which he blamed apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness. The most vulnerable victims are the world’s poorest people, he declared, who are being dislocated and disregarded.

It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this encyclical will have on world affairs. The Pope, of course, is not the first public figure to speak out on climate, and it takes more than words to change the world.

But a papal encyclical is not a speech or a white paper, it is the official expression of an institution whose history stretches back two millennia and whose constitutions live on every continent and speak a multitude of tongues. It is thus transnational in scope in a way that perhaps no other document is. And it is a teaching document (emphasis mine):

Francis has made clear that he hopes the encyclical will influence energy and economic policy and stir a global movement. He calls on ordinary people to pressure politicians for change. Bishops and priests around the world are expected to lead discussions on the encyclical in services on Sunday. But Francis is also reaching for a wider audience when in the first pages of the document he asks “to address every person living on this planet.”

Will that happen? And not just on this Sunday, but on many Sundays after, Saturdays too, and Wednesday evenings.

In part we can measure the impact of Laudato Si (Praise Be to You) by the opposition it provokes.

Yet Francis has also been sharply criticized by those who question or deny the established science of human-caused climate change and also by some conservative Roman Catholics, who have interpreted the document as an attack on capitalism and as unwanted political meddling at a moment when climate change is high on the global agenda.

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Taxonomy of a Landscape — re:form — Medium

10 Sep

The photographs are stunning!

The reader is left to infer that Sambunaris has stepped into the cartographer’s shoes as a 21st-century documentarian of human presence in the American landscape. The photos in this book, taken during half a dozen road trips over more than a decade, capture the massive scale of modern industry — mines, dams, freight trains, highways and logistics centers; the pipelines of Alaska and the Mexican border fence. She spent a particularly long period photographing Nevada, Utah, and the town of Wendover, which straddles the state line. She recorded the steam that rises from the ground at Yellowstone National Park, hinting at the massive volcano that sits beneath it. Each image conveys the tension between the epic timescale of geological features and the blink-short span of modern infrastructure’s tenure.

via Taxonomy of a Landscape — re:form — Medium.

This Legendary Accounting Firm Just Ran the Numbers on Climate Change | Mother Jones

10 Sep

Surprise! Surprise!

With every year that passes, we’re getting further away from averting a human-caused climate disaster. That’s the key message in this year’s “Low Carbon Economy Index,” a report released by the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report highlights an “unmistakable trend”: The world’s major economies are increasingly failing to do what’s needed to to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. That was the target agreed to by countries attending the United Nations’ 2009 climate summit; it represents an effort to avoid some of the most disastrous consequences of runaway warming, including food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts, and widespread species extinction.

via This Legendary Accounting Firm Just Ran the Numbers on Climate Change | Mother Jones.

Most Earth species ‘still unknown’, Brazil expert says

27 Feb

“We estimate that there are a total of around 13 million species (known and unknown) in the world,” says Thomas Lewinsohn, a renowned professor of ecology at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Sao Paulo state.

“Out of these, roughly 1.75 million species, including micro-organisms, plants, insects, bacteria and animals, have been described,” he told AFP in an interview.

And it would take 2000 years to describe them all.

via Most Earth species ‘still unknown’, Brazil expert says.

Tim Morton: Chants and the World

6 Aug

From Timothy Morton. The Ecological Thought. Harvard UP 2010, p. 104:

What’s wrong with the “re-enchantment of the world”? There’s nothing wrong with enchantment. It’s the prefix “re-“ that the source of the problem. This prefix assumes that the world was once enchanted, that we have done something to disenchant it, and that we can, and should, get back to where we once belonged. We simply can’t unthink modernity. If there is any enchantment, it lies in the future. The ecological “enchants the world,” if enchantment means exploring the profound and wonderful openness and intimacy of the mesh. What can we make of the new constellation? What art, literature, music, science, and philosophy are suitable to it? Art can contain utopian energy. As Percey Shelley put it, art is a kind of shadow from the future that looms into our present world.

The fact is, enchantment is as more about us than it is about the world. It is WE who are or are not enchanted by the world. But what good does our enchantment do the world?

Not much.

What need does the world have of our enchantment?

Not much.

If there’s disenchantment, that too has more to do with us than the world. If we want to we can get over it. If we can’t, well, no sense it looking to the world. Its got its own problems. It could care less about our disenchantment.

The world, like Old Man River, just keeps rollin’ along. And we can learn to chant anytime we so wish.

Raccoons Chase, Attack Washington State Woman – NYTimes.com

11 Jul

LAKEWOOD, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state woman says she was attacked and bitten by raccoons after her dog chased several of the animals up a tree.

Send that raccoon to Washington, D.C. There’s some politicians there that need its most solicitous and gnawing attention. And check out Pom Poko, a great Studio Ghibli film in which raccoons–well, not raccoons, they’re tanuki, Japanese raccoon-like dogs)–rebel against the destruction of their land. They institute guerilla warfare against the humans.

It could happen here! 

Note: The tanuki are shape-shifters. Rumor has it that Occupy Wall Street was started by tanuki.

via Raccoons Chase, Attack Washington State Woman – NYTimes.com.

An Inconvenient Lawsuit: Teenagers Take Global Warming to the Courts – Katherine Ellison – National – The Atlantic

9 May

Alec Loorz turns 18 at the end of this month. While finishing high school and playing Ultimate Frisbee on weekends, he’s also suing the federal government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The Ventura, California, teen and four other juvenile plaintiffs want government officials to do more to prevent the risks of climate change — the dangerous storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, and food-supply disruptions that scientists warn will threaten their generation absent a major turnabout in global energy policy. Specifically, the students are demanding that the U.S. government start reducing national emissions of carbon dioxide by at least six percent per year beginning in 2013.

Of course I’m glad the kids are doing this. But it’s also sad that they have to do it and that they’re the ones doing it, not their parents.

via An Inconvenient Lawsuit: Teenagers Take Global Warming to the Courts – Katherine Ellison – National – The Atlantic.

Global Warming and the Beginning of the Great Transition

20 Apr

I’ve been thinking about the recent poll showing that a majority of Americans now believe that global warming is real and that it is the cause behind recent extreme weather (as reported in The New York Times):

The poll suggests that a solid majority of the public feels that global warming is real, a result consistent with other polls that have asked the question in various ways. When invited to agree or disagree with the statement, “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States,” 69 percent of respondents in the new poll said they agreed, while 30 percent disagreed.

Not only that, but “one of the more striking findings was that 35 percent of the public reported being affected by extreme weather in the past year.” That is global warming is no longer something affecting only “those people” who live “over there, in that other place far far away from me.” It’s happening here and now, to me!

What’s the ripple effect of these beliefs? William McKibben says ““My sense from around the country and the world is that people definitely understand that things are getting freaky” and his group, 350.org, is planning rallies on May 5 to help people to “Connect the Dots” between the crazy weather we have now and long-term climate change.

Of course those aren’t the only dots that need to be connected. Climate change needs to be connected to energy policy and practices, to farming and ranching and food practices, to relationships between local and global communities, to, well, when you think about it, to just about everything.

Certainly to war and peace. All the time, energy, and resources we throw into way is just thrown away. We need to devote that to saving the earth and thus to saving ourselves and our grandchildren, and their grandchildren.

But first we need to believe that all that must be done. Is this newly emerging consensus on global warming the beginning of that belief? Is this the beginning of the Great Transition?

Renewable Energy Advances in the U.S. Despite Obstacles – NYTimes.com

11 Apr

The outlook on solar is good, for now:

Many business executives, policy analysts and investors say there is a robust future for domestic solar energy distributed in medium-size arrays and on commercial and residential rooftops, especially in markets with high electricity prices or strong mandates, like Hawaii, California and much of the Northeast.

The low cost of solar panels, whose average price dropped 50 percent last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, has helped. So have new financing methods that allow owners to lease systems long term, cutting their current electricity costs with little or no upfront investment. Last year, about 1,855 megawatts of new photovoltaic capacity was installed, according to a report by the association, more than double the 887 megawatts of the year before.

Despite having lost the program that allowed developers to recoup 30 percent of their costs as a cash grant, the solar industry is still eligible through 2016 for a tax credit to be taken over five years, making its future seem in some ways more solid than that of the wind power industry, even though it far outstrips solar already.

Wind is iffy:

Although wind has some of the same advantages, development faces a different set of challenges. Unlike solar power, which can operate efficiently on a small scale, wind projects often make economic sense only if they are huge, but they can end up generating electricity far from where it is needed, throwing up the political, logistical and parochial hurdles of streaming electrons across county and state lines.

Still, plans for enormous projects are beginning to move ahead. One such project, by Clean Line Energy, which develops high-voltage transmission lines, would create enough capacity to take 3,500 megawatts of wind power from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to Illinois and states to the east.

via Renewable Energy Advances in the U.S. Despite Obstacles – NYTimes.com.