Global Warming: Oceans

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plankton

Will they survive? [the pink sip / Flickr]

Drowning polar bears and balmy Christmases are just the tip of the (melting?) global warming iceberg — and one of the best places to watch the full systemic effects of climate change is in the oceans, which are transforming in dramatic ways:

Acidification: It turns out that the sea, through gas exchange, soaks up over 40% of our annual CO2 emissions. (Without the oceans, we’d already be living the global-warming disaster scenarios currently predicted for the second half of the century.) Dissolved CO2 creates carbonic acid (H2CO3) — think teeth dissolving in Coca Cola. More carbonic acid means fewer free carbonate ions, which are a necessary building block of the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in shells and coral. The bigger significance of this? Coral reefs harbor some of the world’s richest biodiversity; and 25% of all marine life has some part of its life cycle associated with coral. As far as shelled organisms go, it spells potential catastrophe for everything from minuscule zooplankton to lobsters.

Hot water: Warmer water will alter habitat for many species, which will have to adapt or migrate to survive. It will also affect the stratification and upwelling of ocean water, which are critical for phytoplankton. Phytoplankton form the base of marine food chains. They live in surface water, where there’s enough light for photosynthesis, but they also need certain nutrients (iron, nitrogen, phosphate) that are inconveniently located near the ocean floor. So without upwelling, those nutrients don’t reach the surface, and phytoplankton die off. As it happens, warmer surface water can make upwelling much more difficult.

Winds: Climate change will alter weather and winds. And winds in turn affect ocean currents and upwelling. Update 31 Jan 07: There’s also the question of whether warmer ocean surface waters increase the intensity of hurricanes and typhoons.

Sea level: Island nations and low-lying coastal regions will be submerged because warmer water expands; and because melting glaciers and sea ice add more water to the tub.

Thermohaline circulation: This is the very slow global ocean current (with a fun name!) that, among other things, warms the northeast Atlantic and western Europe. There’s debate about how global warming will affect it; popular wisdom points to western Europe freezing.

Some of these disruptions are already directly observable, but many are still in the realm of complex modeling. The bottom line is that no one really knows what will happen to the oceans and the life they sustain; what’s clear is that change has already begun and that there’s no reversing it now, no matter what we do.

Scott Doney

Senior scientist, Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Michael Behrenfeld

Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University

Nancy Knowlton

Professor of Marine Biology and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity & Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD

Extra Credit Reading

Elizabeth Kolbert, The Darkening Sea, The New Yorker, November 20, 2006: “Humans have, in this way, set in motion change on a geologic scale. The question that remains is how marine life will respond. Though oceanographers are just beginning to address the question, their discoveries, at this early stage, are disturbing.”

Press Release, WBGU: German Advisory Council on Global Change: “To keep the adverse effects on human society and ecosystems within manageable limits, it will be essential to adopt new coastal protection approaches, designate marine protected areas and agree on ways to deal with refugees from endangered coastal areas. All such measures, however, can only succeed if global warming and ocean acidification are combated vigorously.”

James Randerson, Tropical seas are threatened by famine as warming quickens, satellite survey shows, The Guardian, December 7, 2006: “Global warming is creating an ocean famine in swaths of tropical and sub-tropical seas, according to research using nearly a decade of satellite data.”

Past global warming suggests massive temperature shift in our future, Mongabay.com, December 7, 2006: “During the PETM, ocean acidification likely caused a mass extinction of phytoplankton by reducing the availability of carbonate ions necessary for marine organisms to build calcium carbonate shells and exoskeletons. Many scientists are concerned that history could repeat itself, especially with current studies showing a steady increase in ocean acidity.”

Kenneth R. Weiss, A Primeval Tide of Toxins, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2006: “Organisms such as the fireweed that torments the fishermen of Moreton Bay have been around for eons. They emerged from the primordial ooze and came to dominate ancient oceans that were mostly lifeless. Over time, higher forms of life gained supremacy. Now they are under siege.”

5:20

When we burn fossil fuels — when we get in our car and we turn it on and we burn gasoline, or we flick an electrical switch and a coal-burning power plant burns a little more coal — not all of the carbon dioxide that we release stays in the atmosphere. About a third of it actually goes into the ocean. And part of the way it goes into the ocean is it gets sucked up into this polar circulation, where you have this deep water sinking at high latitudes. So we’re actually going to be making the problem of the buildup of CO2 and global warming worse if the circulation of the ocean starts to slow down. We basically don’t get the ocean acting as a trap for all of those pollutants, because it’s just not mixing and moving around as fast.

Scott Doney

10:30

We’re already committed to a certain amount of climate change no matter what we do. We’ve emitted a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere already. Most of that, on thousand-year timescales, is going to end up in the ocean. It would be very hard to stop that. Similarly with warming, even if we were to cut off all carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere today, there would be some continued warming, and also some continued sea level rise into the future.

Scott Doney

14:55

And so we plugged all of the incubation data and our understanding of chemistry and our understanding of ocean circulation into some numerical simulations, ran them through a giant computer, and started to look at what the future might look like thirty years from now or fifty years from now. And what we found, at least for some of the coral species and some of the mollusk species, is that for large parts of the ocean, we could expect that those organisms would go extinct by the end of the century.

Scott Doney

29:15

One of things we have a very interesting record of is the changes in the number of anchovettes and sardines that are caught in the Pacific Ocean. And we have a record of these catches over a long period of time, like a hundred years, and we find that the abundance of the anchovies and the sardies fluctuates on cycles of around twenty-five years, and that those are very closely related to warming and cooling events. The warming events are favorable for a sardine regime, and the cooling more for an anchovette regime. So it’s a clear historical record showing the very tight correspondence between climate, productivity, and fisheries.

Michael Behrenfeld

36:10

The diversity of reefs is so high, it’s really hard to keep track of everything that lives with them. People estimate there are somewhere between one million and ten million species that live on coral reefs, but those estimates are crazily vague. They’re based on estimates of how many beetles there are in rainforest trees, on a partial count of things that were living in a tropical aquarium in Baltimore, so we actually don’t have a handle at all even on the basic numbers of species that live on reefs.

Nancy Knowlton

39:35

You can think of corals as the canaries in the environmental coal mine in terms of the health of marine ecosystems, and it is something that people who have gone to warm waters on their vacations to snorkel can relate to. And it’s not just that they’re bone-white, but actually that there’s no living coral at all, and anyone who’s been traveling to Florida or Jamaica or anywhere in the Carribean over the last thirty years has noticed this catastrophic change in these ecosystems.

Nacy Knowlton

47:20

We interact with the oceans a tremendous amount. A large fraction of the world’s population lives near the coast. We depend upon the ocean for fisheries, for transportation, for recreation, and it’s going to be a very different world thirty years, fifty years, a hundred years from now, from what we’re used to.

Scott Doney

Comments

116 thoughts on “Global Warming: Oceans

  1. Someone here (me) desperately avoiding work today. I’m from the Caribbean, and grew up witnessing the effects Katherine describes. I swam and fished and explored the reefs as a child, and within the span of my own childhood saw these same teeming technicolor formations turn into bone-white biological graveyards, with the odd lost parrot-fish nibbling away at a stand of dead coral. The US Virgin Islands one of the areas not only in the Caribbean but the world most afflicted. Farleigh Dickinson has a campus in St. Croix. You might want to speak to someone there.

  2. Great topic. You might want to look at Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest work. The last book in his trilogy about climate change and Beltway politics is due out next month.

    Also, NOAA Fisheries’ NWFSC is doing some excellent work to understand upwelling on the Pacific Coast, in the context of Harmful Algal Blooms.

  3. What I think is interesting about the whole global warming topic is this:

    Whan you look at the numbers, including population grown and prosperity growth in developing nations, it’s clear that the sheer SCALE of the problem is enormous. Nothing that anyone has signed up for even comes close to making a dent in it. If the most extreme, radical proposals of US environmentalists were to be adopted wholesale – an extremely unlikely event – it would STILL not be enough to stop the growth in global CO2, or even slow it more than a little.

    But what are the chances we’ll even do THAT much? We’ve had a very warm, snow-free winter here in New England. Our heating bills are low and people are outside playing golf and jogging. And almost EVERYBODY I’ve spoken with comments on how nice it is and how they could really get used to it, etc, etc. This is the liberal northeast and most of my friends are environmentalists like me, or at least lean that way.

    I think the environmental community has been hoping that when people were actually confronted with real, in-your-face climate change, that there would be a groundswell of demand for radical change. I doubt that will happen. To the contrary, I think that public opinion when faced with the choice of warmer weather or truly radical lifestyle changes, which is what it will take, will opt to adapt to the warmer weather.

  4. Global climate change caused by human activity seems appropriate for our times.

    Economists spent decades trying to convince us that humans were rational utility maximizers. Many of us never believed that nonsense, and finally some researchers in economics are starting to acknowledge that humans are neither utility-maximizing NOR rational! Likewise, (mainly but not exclusively Islamic ) suicide bombers punctuate our daily news, signing in from all over the planet to remind us that the human death wish is multicultural and transcontinental. And all of this is not to mention all the people who eat too much and drink too much and smoke too much, and don’t save enough for retirement or get enough exercise.

    Let’s face it: anyone who’s betting that our species will suddenly be gripped by an attack of rational self-interest and stop doing the self-destructive, and planet-destructive things we’re doing, surely has us confused with some other species!

  5. plnelson, I, too, live in New England and the warm weather has been bothering me. I have a December birthday and expect to have seen snow by my birthday each year. I am depressed that it has felt like spring and my bushes are budding, etc. But, I, too, have heard all of my friends and neighbors talk about how ‘nice’ it is. I find it infuriating that they refuse to see it in context.

    Still, if there is nothing we can do, perhaps, adapting is the only survival tool. I mean, short of deciding to eliminate a a larger percentage of the human population, stemming growth and radically changing our consumption habits, what else can we do but adapt?

    The last time I went diving off of Key West, the coral reefs there were deathly white, as well. Very upsetting, yet, no one on the boat even mentioned it. When I said something, it was a non-topic.

    Yes, humans are self-destructive. And destrructive of others. Yet, they are also remarkably resilient and creative problem solvers and self-sacrificing when they have to be. I think the reason we are not seeing people in New England react to this very dreadful trend of warming, is that it extreme enough.It’s easy to fantasize that it’s just New England becoming more like the Caolinas. If food stops getting to the table, homes start floating away or heat becomes unbearable, perhaps then. Perhaps? Our fish supplies are running out and that hasn’t stopped people from eating fish,

    i worry for my daughter. I feel the need to teach her self-sufficiency. How to grow food, build shelter, manage her health and how to live with the planet, not on it. I’m not sure I’m up to the task, really. And she’s just a child living in her world of dreams and playtime. I can’t throw at her the responsibility of survival because those who have come before her have destroyed her habitat.

  6. Someone (maybe in the “new cities” thread) was talking about how everyone seemed destined to move to the SW, because that’s where the most pleasant climate could be found… but if New England becomes a more pleasing, temperate place (with just enough dreadful weather to be unpredictably thrilling & romantic), why, maybe people will want to stay there, instead. A search of climate data from Phoenix, Az has produced a little “hockey stick” of sorts, though. Average yearly temps, in 5-year bunches, (beginning with 1896-1900) hovered right around 70º, until the 1976-1980 figure, which exceeded 72º… and since then (through 1995) the average has stayed above 73º. In all that time, the collection of “average lowest mean temp” for each of the lowest months on record came out to 1925; and the “avg highest mean” at 1985. So that stuff that I’ve heard from the old-timers about “winters were colder, back then” has at least this grain of truth for me, now…

    I remember a Reader’s Digest article, from around the time of the first International Geophysical Year (late 50s?) that had a theory about how the next Ice Age would begin, with a warming trend… and that rising sea levels would open a channel into the Arctic Ocean (between Greenland and Canada) which would melt out the arctic icepack. This would provide a lot of added humidity in the arctic, with the deposition of large quantities of snow on the lands surrounding the Arctic Ocean (which would remain open year-round). This snowpack would begin the buildup to the glacial caps, and our next Ice Age. The theory assumed that it would require above a meter rise in sea levels before this phenomenon could begin, which is a whole lot of water! (Their scenario relied on Greenland and quite a bit of antarctic ice to thaw out, since Arctic Sea ice won’t have much effect, heightwise…)

    The dry, warmer Winter in Asia (that seems destined to provide the Pacific Ocean with a lot of fresh minerals next Spring) isn’t making the farmers & herders there any happier… but places that look certain to keep getting precip, AND a little warmer Winter, on average, may become the subsistence-friendly people’s new magnet (until the glacier shows up). I wonder if there’s anticipation of a “back-to-the-land” rush in central British Columbia, any time soon… ^..^

  7. Alison said: “I, too, have heard all of my friends and neighbors talk about how ‘nice’ it is. I find it infuriating that they refuse to see it in context.”

    Me too!

    Well maybe not all of my friends & neighbors, some like me are Northwesterners who actually like cool rainy weather (and the lush fragrant temperate rainforest it sustains). So I’m not alone but there is a bizarre cultural idea that hot sunny weather is “good” and rain is “bad”. I even wrote to KUOW about their weather reporting once and asked them to please refrain from making value judgments in the weather reports because some of us actually like cool life sustaining rain. I then went on a bit about devastating forest fires and babies roasting to death in car seats to drive my point home. Not that it did much good. I’ve been making a point lately to verbally appreciate our wonderful rain. People who love hot sunny weather probably think I’m as obnoxious as I think they are when they praise stifling heat.

    Regarding the sea: I’ve witnessed local salmon runs become depleted to a point near extinction in my own lifetime. Our resident Orcas are in serious trouble too. Can’t help but be reminded of that moment of truth in the movie Soylent Green when Charlton Heston finds out that the oceans have been dead for a while and that….. Soylent Green is people!

  8. Well maybe not all of my friends & neighbors, some like me are Northwesterners who actually like cool rainy weather

    This is a bit off topic, but . . .

    I work for a company whose two US facilities are near Boston and near Seattle. Stereotypes of Seattle’s legendary raininess are so strong that when associates from our western site visit us in Massachusetts someone will invariably make a joke about them bringing their rainy weather with them. But the irony is that average annual rainfall in Seattle is 39 inches, and average rainfall in Boston is 43 inches.

  9. ..”invariably make a joke about them bringing their rainy weather with them. But the irony is that average annual rainfall in Seattle is 39 inches, and average rainfall in Boston is 43 inches..”

    True, enough… but, in Seattle, it LOOKS & FEELS like it’s going to rain about 8 months of the year. I’m always knocked out by the weather nearer the local ocean (say, Astoria, Oregon), where they’ve gotten 38″ of rain in a single month- and yet it seems hardly 3 days go by that one isn’t blessed with a lovely sunrise (or sunset). Not Seattle, baby… ^..^

  10. Most discussions of environmental issues (including global warming) seem to implicitly contrast Nature (it) and Humanity (us), as if they weren’t all part of one single natural complexity, endlessly full of feedback loops. This probably all goes back to human bullheadedness: the belief that homo sapiens are somehow ‘affecting nature’, rather than just one more aspect of nature. Observing today’s world is like watching a bacterium colonizing a petri dish. The petri dish has a limited amount of nutrient, and the colony is doubling, doomed at some point to exceed its limit, and then collapse. BUT we don’t shout at the bacteria or encourage them to slow their rate of reproduction or expect them to ‘choose’ to do so. We expect humans to act diffferently than the bacterial colony, but if one simply observes the actions of humans, there’s no more reason to yell at them than to yell at the micoroorganisms. If feedback loops exist between humans and their environment that preclude disaster (for humans, since life will continue with or without H. sapiens), change will occur. If such feedback loops do not exist, H. sapiens and their cultural artifiacts will disappear from Terra, to be succeeded by other life forms. Evolution will continue, with or without man, a very small part of the biotic fauna populating our world. AND even if any specific person or groups act in some pro- or anti- global warming manner, the ‘decisions’ of that person or group are simply swamped in the larger currents sweeping through time…

  11. Good point. There are plenty of places that get more rain than Seattle the difference is in the sustained quality rather than inches. What I love about Northwest rain is that kind of heavy mist that is like rain defying gravity when tiny little droplets float rather than fall through the air giving everything a misty quality with no sharp distinction between what is water and what is air and what is land, little droplets that cling to your hair and fleece like little diamonds, that gently touch your face with tiny little points as if you could feel stars, and give everything a lushious rich quality and freash green smell.

  12. Tom B. obviously I was replying to the Seattle rain in my last post but you make a good point as well. The thing is, we humans are not bacteria although we could be seen as either a cancer or even as white blood cells in the Earth body. The problem is that if our over consumption causes a die off we are going to take a lot of other creatures with us. Hopefully we do have more smarts than the average bacteria and can make some choices to lessen suffering. For example; we can actually choose to control our population by using birth control, or we could just wait around for war, famine and disease. The choice is ours. The Earth will continue without us but we do have some choices that will determine the quality of our lives.

  13. Tom B refers to the belief that homo sapiens are somehow ‘affecting nature’, rather than just one more aspect of nature.

    Tom B thus implies that there is no qualitative difference between H Sapiens and all the other species we co-inhabit the earth with.

    But there MIGHT be a qualitative difference that renders his argument moot. And that would be consciousness. A bacteria might cause some species to become extinct, but there’s no reason to think that it KNOWS it’s doing so. Humans, on the other hand, appear to know that they have already caused lots of specuies to become extinct and are about to cause many more to do so. If consciousness and free will exist then that implies a moral responsibility for our actions that bacteria and weather don’t have.

    The problem, of course, is that, if you want to be intellectually rigorous about it, it’s almost impossible to suggest any plausible basis for free will or to describe consciousness in any terms that don’t reduce it to an epiphenomenon. So Tom might be right after all.

  14. Much of the previous knowledge of thermohaline circulation interruptions that lead climate scientists to predict massive cooling of the European continent is based on catastrophic ice age events that were results of the breaking of glacial ice dams. They were very large disturbances and seem really different from the smaller and more gradual events we are currently experiencing with the polar melt. Though a snowball effect would probably be a healthy adjustment of the earth’s climate and wouldn’t be the first Ice Age survived by humans, no one seems to know just yet if that’s exactly what is in store. Events like the Famines of 1315–1317 or the Summer of 1816 seem more likely similar results.

    UW Professor Peter Ward’s article in the October 2006 Scientific American on Oceanic Anoxic Events brings up some interesting ideas on previous mass extinctions, and how warming sea temperatures can be just as effective as an asteroid at near sterilization. The effects of ocean wide transformations are a lot spookier than rising sea levels and unpredictable weather patterns.

  15. As a long time New Yorker subscriber and reader of Elizabeth Kolbert, I read The Darkening Sea article (11/20/2006 Issue) and as usual noted her bleak prognosis and pessimistic (although a sincere, and meticulous reporter – her reportage is generally fear based) take on planetary change.

    I anthropomorphized the gestalt (the whole is more than the sum of its parts) the oceans comprise, empathized with its group consciousness, and pondered the apparent destruction (deconstruction in the case of calcifying organisms) that many of its components are experiencing due to human or natural action (human beings are part of nature.)

    Change is just that change and it is we who place the values on whether a change is beneficial or not, usually in direct proportion to how this affects me or how one FEARS that it will affect them or those things with which they identify and empathize.

    One of the tenets of Buddhism is: Everything is in constant change and not lasting. I am not a Buddhist (although I laud many aspects of that philosophy)and would amend the lasting part to say lasting, but transformed into other entities which may or may not be re-cognized in our perception.

    The fact notwithstanding that change is neutral (except as we charge it) does not give one carte blanche to violate Absolute Morality http://www.radioopensource.org/is-god-in-our-genes/#comment-8573#comment-8573 By employing conscious intent to live a balanced life abiding by those tenets to the best one’s ability, change is only negative (to you) if you believe it is or permit it to be.

  16. plnelson has posited on several threads here (Allison as well on this thread sees it as a last resort) that adaptation to our environment is basically the only practicable solution to the conundrum of global change – they are correct. The myriad species that survive due to or irrespective of millennia of so-called catastrophic/clysmic change are a testament to adaptation.

    Allison notes humans are adaptable and resilient and I would argue despite PLN’s contention to the contrary, they are rational (rationality is a function of one’s beliefs, and system of logic – one person’s rationality may be another’s insanity.) Humans act in a manner consistent with what they believe is beneficial to their situation, even altruism that seems to contravene one’s best interest is rational because it is believed that another’s welfare trumps their own cost/benefit calculation.

    As far as adapting to the apparent ocean’s changes, sea creatures that survive may be ones that aren’t particularly exploitable by humans and we pay the price for previous exploitation, and the climatic changes that accompany the transformation will force adaptation and relocation/migration of large portions of the populace.

    Those who successfully adapt will possibly learn from the experience and live more harmoniously with the environment but as plnelson and Allison state: Human beings for whatever reasons may act in ways they (pln & Allison) regard as self-destructive and less ideal and so may not heed history (if indeed hindsight proves the changes were entirely human caused and not merely exacerbated.)

    Again as plnelson states: The sheer SCALE of the problem is enormous…[even] If the most extreme, radical proposals of US [or world] environmentalists were to be adopted wholesale – an extremely unlikely event – it would STILL not be enough to stop the growth in global CO2, [and possibly other catalysts] or even slow it more than a little. [brackets are my modifications].

    No matter what path we follow, it’s either adapt or opt out. In the words of David Byrne Same as it ever was.

  17. plnelson says: If consciousness and free will exist then that implies a moral responsibility for our actions that bacteria and weather don’t have… The problem, of course, is that, if you want to be intellectually rigorous about it, it’s almost impossible to suggest any plausible basis for free will or to describe consciousness in any terms that don’t reduce it to an epiphenomenon.

    From an engineering viewpoint and analysis (we’re both S/W engineers), I generally agree in principle with many of plnelson’s assessments on the underlying nature of the multitudinous topics he comments on here (I however tend to wax more optimistic as to the prognoses for the future) and his critical facility is well developed, but (you knew there had to be a but) there are several of his points with which I take issue.

    The propositions:

    1.) That because there is no scientific basis for intangible human phenomena, e.g., the existence of “free will” and a number of other not easily quantifiable aspects of the human experience due to the lack of an objective lens. Then labeling it as an epiphenomenon (which is a 2nd order hand waving analysis for that which exists but the mechanisms are not understood – by science.) Intellectual rigor and scientific rigor are not the same and where science goes awry is when it dismisses the intellectual rigor as necessary to its advancement. There is as yet no scientific basis for time or life, intelligence, creativity, dreams, love, beliefs, predilections, penchants or desire etc. in humans or any of the nature of things that constitute wetware. Biological and chemical processes can be observed and predicted to a degree as they are subject to physics but science cannot answer the question of how a “special” collection of electrons, protons, and neutrons can be “randomly” ordered to form all things from “inert” matter to an entity who is currently labeled plnelson

    2.) That consciousness is an emergent epiphenomenonal result of neural activity, a conclusion that is neither intellectually nor scientifically rigorous.

    3.) That no matter what one thinks, Darwinian Evolution “hardwires” anything or has a scientific basis or is a fact (again neither intellectually nor scientifically rigorous.)

    4.) That “hard evidence” i.e., unassailable cause and effect can be adduced to support conclusions about subjects which are for all intents and purposes irreducibly complex, (even though in principle soluble) or the conclusion is invalid although it may well be. Hard evidence is seldom needed to validate or invalidate opinions, a system of mutually agreed upon logic is usually enough to expose fallacious reasoning or inconsistency.

    5.) That working for (other than collecting enough signatures to achieve a ballot position) or raising money for a candidate has any demonstrable effect on the election outcome (or a way to determine it was due to or despite any number of variables) and that an elected official will act in any other than their best calculation as to what they believe is in their best interest or that beyond a symbolic statement of one’s desire, a vote for a candidate has any effect. (As he has noted – especially in MA)

    6.) That others’ actions are responsible for anything other than their own realities. One chooses to be affected or not by how one responds to whatever experience one meets/creates.

    Other than sundry quibbles, I enjoy his far ranging analyses and his renaissance-man abilities. (Check out his website for his amazing bio.)

    Peace,

    Jazzman

  18. Thanks, Jazzman, for “clarifying” certain aspects of plnelson’s assertions (proposals)- and saving me from diving in, meself. (i used to own an epiphone- and lauded its tonality… but, smitten, now, I’m holding out for an epiphenomenonality.)

    The above-mentioned “Ocean Anoxic Events” appear to be the main source of petroleum deposits world-wide; and the rapid burning off of petroleum deposits appear to be a possible major contributor to these “OAE”. Does this make the “Industrial Age” a kind of complex stand-in for a spate of volcanic eruptions in strategic places, that will facilitate a lot of extinctions, so that there will be a lot of coal & oil later on, so that some creature can refine & complicate the process even further? (or is this simply so ironic that I should be gargling magnets?)

    People are screwing with the sea creatures, as part of our ceaseless hunting/ gathering (& complicated by our technological proficiency, coupled with an eternal desire to get something for “nothing”- and our fear that, if we don’t, we’re dumb- and someone else will, and we’ll die). Beyond the sea’s edges, and surface, we’re screwing with the oceans other ways, too, most likely…

    When I planted trees along the West Coast, years ago, one of the fantasies around the fires (or back booths of bars in Logger Country) was a scheme to replant the Atlas Mountains. (Some of these were elaborate- eg piping the burnt-off waste gas from Libyan oil wells into the foothills, to fire kilns to make bricks out of glass… and make walls to provide shade and protection from scouring sand for our seedlings there… busy busy!) We figured that, if the Atlas could be reforested, that it would change the climate below the Sahara to be more amenable to habitation (and I don’t think any of us knew that the winds off the Sahara were what brought hurricanes to Florida).

    Sometime in my later ‘subsistence’ years of planting I found an article that proposed that the logging (by the Chinese, mostly) of the Tibetan plateau in the 800-1100s (with no plan for forest regeneration) had eventually led to a snow-covered, semi-permanently cold environment there, and created an albedo effect that altered the jet stream- leading to a change in rainfall patterns “downstream” in the (presently) arid SW US- causing the demise of the farming cultures, there. The jetstream, and high-pressure “cells” (such as the standing cold, dense air above the Tibetan Plateau) affect ocean currents- and are also affected by them, since there are two (or 3) fluid bodies in contact, all sharing some drivers- but also responding individually to others. My point is that activities (other than commuting to work in vast numbers, and leaving the heat on at home) can affect the oceans; and that there may be some ecological “fixes’ that can ameliorate our impact (despite our oil- coal- & forest-burning proclivities). One that I’d love to try is a revegetation scheme along the arid coast of Peru & northern Chile, where the cold upwelling could (potentially, anyhow ) cause enough fog to “water” certain species that have adapted to that regimen (eg Sitka spruce, redwood, etc)… but it’d probably have to be “brushy” species, at first. Plants “temper” the air, wherever they grow- making warm places cooler, and cold places a little less so… much as the ocean does. ^..^

  19. Fascinating post, herbert browne. What a great line of work, whatever it is, that leads you to dream up such visionary schemes. You might be interested in a story by a brilliant if over-looked writer I’ve mentioned elsewhere, William S. Wilson. In his first book, Why I Don’t Write Like Franz Kafka, there’s a story (interim) about a father who decides to memorialize his late son by reforesting the Scottish Highlands (Neal Ascherson had the same idea a couple of decades later, in connection with British government funds that instead went to constructing the miserable Millenial Dome). Wilson, who in the past 20 years has devoted himself mostly to art criticism, also floated the idea of an art project to reforest Sicily…There’s also Jean Giono’s story, The Man Who Planted Trees, but you’re probably familiar with that. In any case, thanks again. I’d love to hear more of these ideas.

  20. Yes, hurley… tree-planting was satisfying work- still is, albeit infrequent, these days, and not as, um, “industrially oriented” as it was once. The remains of a clearcut logging show are studies in devastation, generally… reminiscent of pictures I’ve seen from battlefields. Maybe part of the stimulus in such places is the change, and emptiness, that prompts a creative outburst- much as an empty canvas might- from the awareness that one brings to such places. Perhaps one becomes a vessel which helps fill the vacuum (that Nature allegedly abhors). Trees, examined for what they are, (rather than seen as timber, or carbon credits, or other “resource”) have an amazing, enduring presence- truly inspirational. As a fairly long-lived life-form, we admire longevity- in our own kind, and in others. We see that age seems to crystalize character… and trees, old trees in particular, have a lot of character.

    I met a fellow, Dennis Martinez, at a conference about theory & methods of ecological restoration; and he had a story that you might enjoy. He’d been working on the Island of Kaho’olawe, (which is near Maui) taking part in a plant survey. It’s presently mostly desert-like (and has been used as a target by the Navy); but there were old tales of a forest there. The land isn’t high enough to catch much water, and no one could explain how forests might have existed on such a place. Goats were brought as a “goodwill” gift to Maui by Vancouver in the 1790s, and were “exported” (or banished, maybe) to Kaho’olawe, where they prospered, and eventually numbered in the thousands. (The Navy rounded up the last one in the 1990s.) Cattle were raised for awhile… and sheep.

    Someone (don’t recall who) figured out that, before Maui was logged and converted to ranch and farmland, the forest there had transpirated enough moisture that it had created a semipermanent cloud layer downwind, to Kaho’olawe and beyond… and that had been the “watering device” for the forest on that Island (and for much of the shrub-steppe habitat there, as well). There’s a consortium of groups, agencies, etc working on restoration there- but it won’t be the same place without that fog plume drifting across from Maui…

    Dennis is part of a group, the Indigenous Peoples Restoration Network, that has made efforts to tap the knowledge of older cultures (and their remnants, in many cases), and to apply this knowledge both for the sakes of those people and for the critical environmental challenges that superimposed modern cultures have brought about in various ways, eg understanding the ecological role that wildfires have played in dryland conifer forests in the West, the ecological values that anadromous fish migrations brought (beyond a tasty barbecue) to the communities on many coasts (& as far inland as they traveled), the plants that were used for medicinal purposes, etc.

    Thanks for the lead on Wm S. Wilson… I’ll look into his work. I had heard of the Highlands reforestation project, and about some timber companies bringing plantations to Ireland as well- although I heard that Sitka spruce was one preferred species there, and the introduction of non-native species is somewhat troubling to me… I like that spruce quite a lot- and propagate them here (s. Puget Sound country) where they were “mined out” a century ago- but there are probably more suitable trees in Ireland, from an ecological perspective (if not from a paper-making one) around there, somewhere… ^..^

  21. Many thanks, herbert browne. Once again, I very much enjoyed your post.I hope you get around to suggesting a show along the lines of your own expertise.

  22. there’s a story (interim) about a father who decides to memorialize his late son by reforesting the Scottish Highlands

    For all the hippy daydreams of terraforming Terra with trees which go up in sweet, pungent smoke and rolling paper, good old middle class capitalism actually accomplishes these things.

    Massachusetts, where ROS is produced, was almost completely deforested by the middle 19th century, thanks to overfarming. But today Massachusetts has more acres of woodland than it has had since around 1800. And this despite all the suburban housing and shopping malls.

  23. Who are you calling a hippy? Me, Wilson, the grieving father in his story, herbert browne? I can state with perfect certainty that you’re mistaken about three of us, and probably the fourth, not that hippy is a term of abuse in my lexicon. I don’t know where capitalism entered the thread (I’ll have a look), but I do remember an article years ago in the Atlantic Monthly about the health of North-Eastern forests reminiscent of your statement. But as herbert browne will surely attest, if you’ve ever seen a clear-cut…Glad in any case to be reminded that the Massachusetts woodlands are thriving, whatever the reasons.

  24. Who are you calling a hippy?

    I’m calling a hippy anyone who thinks he’s going to reforest the Scottish Highlands or Tibet.

  25. pinelson: That’s an original and I would imagine rather exclusive definition. Neil Ascherson — one of the sharpest, most accomplished British journalists of the last 40 years — would be surprised to find himself so described, while a lot of other people would be surprised, not to say disapointed, to find themselves out of the running. I’ll bear it in mind. However, if in dreams begin responsibilities, as Delmore Schwartz (no hippy) had it, and the notion of reforesting the Scottish Highlands or the Tibetan Plateau leads people to contemplate the subject of large scale deforestation at home and abroad, I’m all for it. I long ago read the Jean Giono story I mentioned about reforesting an area of the French Massif, and have since planted a lot more trees than I would have otherwise because of it.

  26. I’m working up a Power Point presentation for reforesting Sealand. Prince Roy and Princess Joan would like a little pine and eucalyptus scents in their morning coffee time. When my hemp tee shirt campaign hits the street, it’s going to be trees, trees, trees…and maybe some fungi on the side…

  27. Hippy? why certainly, sir… one whom the capitalists layed out .03 a tree to have their “money” trees (douglas fir) replace what had been forest (a doug fir plantation is no forest). It payed my winter’s rent for about 10 years… and they got a quarter-million seedling trees installed more or less the way they wanted them. And the forests that the capitalists called their own came about as the result of an act of Congress, in 1864, when our Union was a little strapped- that provided the forest- on a 20 mile-wide swath to the western ocean (a piece that the country came into by way of the French, without notifying the residents there). And, now, two or three of the largest private landholdings on the continent belong to the timber companies that these holdings devolved into. And, now that the land’s been logged a time or two, the timber companies have created real estate development corporations, bless me, that have begun to sell their holdings (well- those with a view- and water) to common folks like you and me. I’d love to discuss the glories of capitalism- and the spirit of the entrepeneur- around the campfire, anytime- rolling papers or the daily quotes (or hourly, as they’ve become on NPR- bless me! the Dow Jones is better than the weather & traffic combined!) Yup- color me unrepentant hippy, my friend, if it will do you good… ^..^

  28. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns:

    The draft contains an entire chapter on Australia — which is in the grip of its worst recorded drought — warning the country’s Great Barrier Reef would become “functionally extinct” because of coral bleaching.

  29. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns:

    The draft contains an entire chapter on Australia — which is in the grip of its worst recorded drought — warning the country’s Great Barrier Reef would become “functionally extinct” because of coral bleaching.

    It’s not just bleaching – as I’ve mentioned before, the falling pH of the oceans as a result of rising atmospheric CO2 levels, is a massive threat to all CaCO3-based life in the ocean, including coral.

    But, the bottom line, as I mentioned above, is this – with rising population and rising prosperity, world production of CO2 will INCREASE in the coming years despite the daydreams of “hippies” and the recent greenwashing of some big US corporations. So let’s get out of la-la land here – the natural environment is like the poor people of Darfur. Great material for heart-tugging newspaper ads and various political activists, but ultimately everybody will talk and talk about how somebody should “do” something, but when the options and costs and risks are considered not enough will get done. Darfur, polar bears, coral . . . talk, talk, talk.

  30. pln; I also wonder who is going to tell China,India and other developing countries to stop their progress. Much of the pollution we are seeing today is coming from these countries. China is in the process of mining Africa for every last raw material they can get their hands on. The develpment of these countries is also lifting the inhabitants out of their long time poverty.

    ”The US has no business or right to tell other nations how to conduct their policies. We are also supposed to help the millions of poor throughout the world.” This is what I always hear from the left. So the Greenies really seem a bit hypocrytical to me. Which is it? Cut world wide pollution by trying to force other nations to regress back into 3rd world countries sending their citezens back to povert,and death, or do we mind our own business.

  31. Allison wrote:

    “I can’t throw at her the responsibility of survival because those who have come before her have destroyed her habitat.”

    There are many of us here in the Pacific Northwest making sacrifices in the attempt to turn this massive slow moving oil tanker called ‘global warming’. There are many lifestyle changes that modify our physical effects on the planet and also change our mental outlook on the world. There are networks of people here in the Pacific Northwest who are ‘living locally’ which, IMO, is the key to reducing our regional carbon footprint.

    We grow much of our own fruit and vegetables, or are members of a CSA (community supported agriculture), instead of buying food shipped from Chile. In transportation, we participate in groups such as the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association. There are many individuals and companies who are building electric vehicles and converting gas vehicles to electric. In this region we have hydroelectric and wind power to fuel an electric commute.

    Look into passive solar to partially heat the domestic hot water each day. Put up a few solar panels and power a portion of your house with solar electric. (Yes, even here in Seattle.)

    Or change your lifestyle to work more locally. Personally I gave up the daily commuter lifestyle 16 years ago. Those of us who have radically taken on the task of a carbon neutral lifestyle really enjoy being out of the daily rat race. It’s very pleasant.

    We need to lead by example and to support the many commercial and individual efforts that are only the beginning of a very large change of direction for this world of mass consumption. It will only make a difference in the long run when enough people participate and create the new economies of our future. If we do it here, it can be exported to developing countries. Our oil-centric lifestyles cannot be replicated elsewhere without extreme global consequences.

  32. There are many of us here in the Pacific Northwest making sacrifices in the attempt to turn this massive slow moving oil tanker called ‘global warming’. There are many lifestyle changes that modify our physical effects on the planet and also change our mental outlook on the world.

    These things might make you feel better but there is no evidence that they will have any measurable effect on the climate. For every Pacific Northwest carbon neutral hippy there are a thousand Chinese or Indian villagers every day that have finally achieved enough prosperity to buy their first car or air conditioner! Are you going to tell them they should stay poor? You may enjoy a nice Waldenesque back-to-the-earth spiritual moment, but Chinese and Indian peasants have been there, done that when it comes to back-to-the-earth. For thousands of years already! Now they’re ready for a little middle-class material prosperity.

    Look into passive solar to partially heat the domestic hot water each day. We did that. Then the company that made them went out of business so there was no way to maintain them so we had to take them down. This illustrates one of the biggest problems with alternative energy technology – it is STILL mainly a cottage industry and the companies in it tend to live and die on oil-price peaks and troughs, or on government subsidies and tax breaks that the government giveth and taketh away.

    Put up a few solar panels and power a portion of your house with solar electric.

    Too geeky at the moment. Also there is an ongoing debate about exactly how “green” solar cells actually are when you take into account the energy it takes to produce and deploy them, and pollutants that are created in their manufacture. There is also the technical problem of reliable affordable sine-wave power inverters that can handle suburban house-size loads (e.g., 200A surge loads, in our case).

  33. Re ..”ultimately everybody will talk and talk about how somebody should “do” something, but when the options and costs and risks are considered not enough will get done. Darfur, polar bears, coral . . . talk, talk, talk..”-

    I appreciate this frame, ie the nebulous “options, costs & risks” vs the real “Darfur, polar bears, coral”- which illustrates that talk can be an effective preventative, when the status quo is threatened. Now, when the status quo is, by an entropic process, threatening to “do us in”, is there a way around it? Perhaps the 9/11 event was the necessary evil that will condition us to accept the dictatorial parameters of a “Martial Law” scenario, by which means we’re forced to behave MOL sensibly, in our responses to a coming environmental (& infrastructural) alteration. Some folks (cpaynter, above) are trying the “personal responsibility” route- to some degree- and I know that it has worked for me, personally- to some degree. We can let the “magic of the Marketplace” do its thing, too… there’s never been a disaster or war that hasn’t made SOMEONE rich, after all… and that just means a ‘Capital redistribution”, and the dynamism that such a term implies. There will be creative responses up the yin-yang to rising sea levels- and if we can just keep our focus there, and not fret too much about “bears, mosquitoes & coral, O my” (And do what the generals think is most effective) we should come out of this smelling like a rose… before composting, hopefully… although compost sometimes smells mighty good…

    (from rc21) ..”China is in the process of mining Africa for every last raw material they can get their hands on. The develpment of these countries is also lifting the inhabitants out of their long time poverty..”-

    Do you mean that France, Belgium, Britain & Portugal LEFT SOMETHING BEHIND in Africa?.. and that, whatever it is, the extraction of it by the Chinese is DOING THE AFRICANS SOME GOOD? I’m ecstatic! What kind of a system do the Chinese have? Let’s use THAT one! (this is awesome news…) ^..^

  34. Pl, this bongo beating, tree hugging Northwest la-la-land hippy thinks as a contrarian you do make a lot of valid and passionate points regarding the economics of maintaining a status quo and lowering expectations for quick sweeping changes (kind of keeping one foot firmly in reality and the other dangling off the cliff.) I wonder though if the same kinds of points (expense and compliance) couldn’t have been made about the huge public sanitation projects that were undertaken more than a hundred years ago. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap, convenient, or immediate and had its share of critics at the time.

  35. This thread just goes and goes and, wherever one decides is the end, finds the thread is where it began.

    Given that any of the above blurbs have any accurate content, one is left with the fact that the only change effective in reducing the impact of human activity is the reduction of the human population and in direct proportion… a burden achievable, obviously, only by women. The apparent increase in resources depends on the reduction of utilization, a function of the reduction of population.

    Prove me wrong. I challenge anyone to present evidence that any other approach in history has had any practical, sustainable effect toward the desired end.

    I will not accept the silliness about how bright and knowledgeable and altruistic we, as an entity, are today or will be in the future. A century from now we will undoubtedly appear as much “babes in the woods” as people a century ago do to us. Yet we are doing worse than those a century ago and only because of our increase in numbers and in spite of our “improvements.” The same, I say, will be true a century hence. Again, try to show evidence I’m wrong. Show me any mechanism, attitude, process which will improve anything without worsening something else which, if allowed to continue, will bring on unsustainability and intolerance.

    Cheers.

  36. Some folks (cpaynter, above) are trying the “personal responsibility” route- to some degree- and I know that it has worked for me, personally- to some degree.

    When we are talking about a planetwide problem – global warming, ocean acidification – what does it MEAN to say that something has “worked for you”? Don’t you live on the same planet as the rest of us? The only way I can say with any intellectual honesty that an approach has “worked for me” is if MY planet (i.e., earth) has benefitted.

  37. joel says I wonder though if the same kinds of points (expense and compliance) couldn’t have been made about the huge public sanitation projects that were undertaken more than a hundred years ago. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap, convenient, or immediate and had its share of critics at the time.

    It comes down to numbers. The public sanitation projects were designed to address local problems, so their scale was appropriate to the problem. In other words the number of gallons of sewage they could process was adequate to prevent the gutters of the city streets from becoming cesspools. My father was a civil engineer and civil engineering has millenially-long history. So when people like Joseph Bazalgette (London, 19th century) proposed massive city sanitation projects they were able to base their proposals on hard numbers about how their plans would fix the problem.

    Not so with the organic solar-powered denizens of the Pacific Northwest, who are trying to address a global problem with efforts that are orders of magnitude too small to have an impact on it.

    I don’t object to their doing it – I’m an organic gardener and own a house with two stories of passive solar collection across its entire south face, to supply significant heating. What I object to is their rationalization for doing it. If people want to get all organic and solar powered to save money on their utilities, or feel self-righteous, or because they think organix food is healthier, cheaper, or tastes better, fine. But let’s not fall for the malarkey that this will have any impact at all on global warming or ocean acidification.

  38. (from joel) ..”The apparent increase in resources depends on the reduction of utilization, a function of the reduction of population..”-

    -OR the function of a replacement resource, eg whale oil replacement by petroleum… giving us More whales & More people.

    re (ibid) ..”show me any mechanism, attitude, process which will improve anything without worsening something else which, if allowed to continue, will bring on unsustainability and intolerance..”-

    Your point’s well-taken… however, like many situations (death, etc) our pragmatism may serve to ameliorate our situation without making us “want what we don’t want” (a la the Schiavo dither). Maybe my past situation will be illustrative…

    In 1970, Don Hodel (future Reagan Energy Secretary) was head of the Bonneville Power Authority- running some dams on the Columbia River- and he projected a regional power shortage that would incapacitate the region- and beyond- if “we” did nothing. I decided to do “something”- and took the wires off my rental (on the rural Oregon coast), requested the removal of the meter, and lived off the grid for the next 12 years- and began my “hands-on education in the process…

    The “powers that be” created a consortium, regionally- WPPSS (or “woops”)- of BPA, local PUDs & others, and floated billions in debt to build 5 nuclear power plants. By virtue of a small recession, modest gains in technology, and a concerted educational effort promoting efficient use & conservation of the power at hand, 4 of the plants were never built out (there is one, today, on the Hanford Reserve, which is still going strong). While there was a bit of “intolerance” on Wall Street around these bonds reduced to “junk” status, the general outcome has been fairly positive- and the source of that has been the response to new technology and a willingness to embrace Conservation as “the cheapest power available”- an odd thing in our culture- but there you have it. There are so many “improvements” that we can muster, as a society, that really take nothing away- actually some that ADD TO OUR UTILITY OF COMFORT (eg “on-demand” hot water systems, where one is not limited to the amount used at any time- and yet the heating of a tank of water is eliminated (along with any need of a tank- hence, a place to store recyclables!). The “energy-efficient” lightbulbs are another example (although I don’t know what the True Cost of the little printed circuit in the base comes to…). Solar water heating was in place in California & Florida, when the burgeoning electrical industry subsidized hot water heaters in order to promote & sell more power (just as the REA did). Few people seem to know or remember that, prior to the development of Standard Oil, there were thousands of service stations where alcohol was available to run IC engines on cars, tractors, etc throughout the MidWest (we are sort of “reinventing” ethanol). I eventually rigged a stationary bicycle to a small piston pump, in order to fill the tank beside my house during the rain-free Summers (and filtered the roof runoff into the tank the other 8 months)- and was the healthier for it… ^..^

  39. Joel says – “Prove me wrong. I challenge anyone to present evidence that any other approach in history has had any practical, sustainable effect toward the desired end. ”

    A couple of data points are worth considering. Advanced nations use significantly less energy per unit of GDP than developing ones. For all the talk about how much energy we waste in the US, the fact is that we produce about 4X as much GDP per unit of energy as, say, the Chinese, and about twice as much as the Russians. Many European countries do better than us. Put another way, this means that advancing standards of living do not HAVE to equate to increased energy use.

    Also, population growth tends to go down with higher standards of living, to the point that several nations (e.g., Italy, Japan) are now at LESS than replacement rates of birth.

    The third trend is improving technology. There is a truly MASSIVE R&D push on all over the world for more energy efficient lighting, transport, and so forth. This will bera fruit over the next few decades.

    Ironically there’s a tremendous amount of low-hanging fruit to exploit while we’re waiting. I was driving down Rt 128 near Boston one night recently and I noticed that I could see the lights in the parking lots of all the malls and office parks I was passing. What’s wrong with that picture? Those lights are SUPPOSED to illuminate the parking lots, not the cars on Rt 128. If I could see the lights that meant they were WASTING that light. Properly directed onto the intended target they could have easily used half the wattage, or less. We’re talking many kilowatts here. It’s not just environmentally stupid, they have to PAY for all that electricity!

  40. (from pl) ..”What I object to is their rationalization for doing it. If people want to get all organic and solar..”-

    What??? you want us hippies to SAVE YOUR WORLD – And- DO IT WITH THE PROPER ATTITUDE?

    Oh, all rightie, then… just slap together 200 nuke power plants in the Midwest & East- and put the coal-mining industry to work mining limestone, instead- (and deal with the “white lung, later”) and put the Airforce & Navy to work dispersing all that pulverized ‘stone & dolomite to wherewver the oceanographers and climatologists think it will do the most good… oh- and develop some kind of CO2 sparation units to hook up to all the old oil wells and pump the separated stuff back down into the ground. And maybe set CAFE Standards at, um 65 mpg- and outlaw the personal v-8 engine (& a few other regs- if we can regulate cigarets & liquor, why can’t we regulate IC engines?) OK?.. and when that much is taken care of, I’ll come up with something else… tidal or solar-powered… floating mirrors, or something… ^..^

  41. …or, heck- what about White Sands? Maybe we can use that for something (besides wallboard). We’ll probably need iron deposits, too, if I’m recalling my diatom breakfast requirements accurately… Hey- the Pentagon will LOVE this- saving the World!.. with planes full of sand… ^..^

  42. re ..”Advanced nations use significantly less energy per unit of GDP than developing ones. For all the talk about how much energy we waste in the US, the fact is that we produce about 4X as much GDP per unit of energy as..”-

    This seems like an argument for… what? Are we ALWAYS after “More GDP”? The likelihood is also that the power generated in “advanced nations” will be less efficient than “developing nations”- because it’s older (eg old coal-fired dinosaurs, etc). So the value of what we produce is a big criterion here. I know, i know… software is way lighter and ultimately more valuable than bushels of turnips- and looks great, too- on paper… ^..^

  43. This just in (more wacky hippy doo-wah):

    5 minutes electrical rest for the planet on February 1, a French initiative just arriving in North America

    On 1 February 2007, participate in the mobilization of Citizens Against Global Warming. The Alliance for the Planet, a group of environmental associations, is calling on citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the

    planet. http://www.lalliance.fr

    On February 1 the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris. People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical appliances on February 1, 2007, between 1.55 pm and 2.00 pm in New York,

    18.55 London,

    19.55 Paris, Bruxelles, and Italy

    1:55 pm Ottawa

    10:55 am Pacific Coast of North America.

    This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity, but about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and ourselves. Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet does not take long and costs nothing. It will show political leaders that global warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political debate. This event, which affects and involves us all, provides an occasion to show the importance of global warming.

    If we all participate, our action can have real media and political weight.

    notification from

    Pam Martin

    Department Administrator

    Communication Art and Design

    Royal College of Art

    Kensington Gore

    London

    SW7 2EU

    Tel: 020 7590 4304

    Fax: 020 7590 4300

    e-mail: pam.martin@rca.ac.uk

    I love the internet… maybe not for the Right Reasons- but, anyhow… ^..^

  44. To Herbert Browne; Last night I listened to a show on NPR out of Boston, I’m not sure if it was On Point or Fresh air, or some other segment,but Yes China is in Africa big time and they are grabbing as many natural resources as possible. You name it they are taking it. Oil, Iron, materials for making concrete,timber etc..

    Is this good for Africa? I don’t know. That was part of the show. Some experts say yes, others say no. China is definately helping the genocide in Dafur continue . Both sides agreed on this. They are also propping up brutal dictators such as Mugabee. But the counter is they are sending billions of dollars into Africa.

  45. The NorthEast this winter has averaged very high temps mostly attributed to El Nino. One thing not yet addressed is global warming’s effect on El Nino. Will it make our winters warmer? Will they become stronger? What is the relation between El Nino and global warming? What other factors might influence El Nino and consequently, the jet stream and our winters here in New England?

  46. We’re making Carbon the enemy here, but it’s the basis of all life. Will it really lead to apocalypse, or are we being alarmist here?

  47. I’m 59, overweight, family history of premature death from heart disease, eat poorly, sedentary,…

    Why should I care about what happens to the oceans, or atmosphere, or climate?

    As long as it lasts for another couple of decades, the environment will be in better shape than I am.

  48. I wanted to clear up some questions raised here – I am a scientist who is studying these issues.

    1. Catastrophic events such as ice dam collapses (last ice age) vs. “gradual” warming now occurring. – Ben, 26Jan2007 18:25

    What is happening now is geologically instantaneous, comparable to the rate at which the ice dams collapsed. Granted, there are very few geologic records that can discern one year from the next, but even high resolution records don’t show the rate of CO2 concentration increase we are causing.

    2. Which brings me to the next question – Carbon is the basis of life, so aren’t we being alarmist? SirOtto, 31Jan07 20:18

    It depends on what form. Carbon is in my keyboard keys here, in myself, and in the gases I exhale. My keyboard is reticent, it won’t go anywhere soon if I throw it in the landfill. My body will be gone in a few weeks if I throw it in a landfill. The CO2 I exhale is in a form that is highly mobile and usable by plants. Three sources of carbon, but very different forms. The point: CO2 in the gaseous form absorbs infrared radiation. In fact, I use infrared light to quantify CO2, because the more CO2 there is, the less light can pass through. Our earth is heated by infrared light that bounces off its surface, not directly by the sun. This is how the Greenhouse Effect operates.

  49. In 1998 and 2003, there was a die-off of coral colonies unprecidented since the dawn of mankind. Ecologically, a coral reef in an ocean is like an oasis in a desert. Life on earth depends upon the health of its oceans. If we don’t understand that global warming has everything to do with the oceans, and that this will extinguish life on earth, we will inevitably get there a whole lot sooner.

    We must make every effort to at least understand these coral colonies and their ecosystems before they vanish. If we are going to suceed in maintaining some survivable level of life on earth, we will at least need a far better understanding of ocean ecosystems.

  50. > “These things might make you feel better but there is no evidence that they will have any measurable effect on the climate.”

    I understand your point about scaling production and implementation of energy technology. But I disagree that individuals cannot make a difference. For instance, by NOT commuting, one vehicle can reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 58 tons per year. (12k miles at 20mpg, 6k gallons @ 19.6 lbs. of CO2 per gallon) Of course there’s no way I personally can shove the carbon back up the tailpipe of a Hummer who’s driver doesn’t care about whether we do anything or not.

    Those of us who don’t want future famines to be the solution our children deal with, on a planet perhaps 4-11 degrees F warmer within the century, can work to pass strict environmental regulations to spur the technological changes necessary. Citizen regulation is absolutely necessary to get the capitalist system to work properly. Just as the collective of well meaning citizens are not likely to change the CO2 landscape, neither will corporations in the oil business voluntarily give up their enormously profit marketplace for an alternative non-carbon energy base.

    > “…there is an ongoing debate about exactly how “green” solar cells actually are when you take into account the energy it takes to produce and deploy them…”

    I have solar cells made in the 1970′s that still produce energy. I’m not about to publish an essay on the net energy lifespan for PV production. Here’s a comparison for others to think about. When you put up a PV panel or a wind turbine there is a fixed cost of manufacturing and infrastructure. Other than very occasional maintenance (using local employment) there are virtually zero material inputs to produce energy. So the question is compared to what? An endless stream oil tanker where you have to clean up the occasional Exxon Valdez? Or sending 150,000 American troops around the world with the tonage of war machinery to keep the pipelines flowing?

    Large reliable inverters are commonplace these days. There is a manufacturer north of Seattle who makes 3.6kW inverters with 6kV-A surge capacity. (www.outbackpower.com) You can stack 16 inverters into a single system. Of course, no house using smart ‘post carbon’ devices should need anywhere near that amount of energy production.

    There are many pie in the sky ‘capitalist’ solutions like ‘clean coal’ and CO2 sequestration, or fuel cell powered cars and hydrogen filling stations, or nuclear power. (Been there, done that.) There is no doubt that those solutions will be handsomely profitable to the mega-sized energy corporations. And there’s no guarantee that they will actually reduce CO2 after the billions in development and decades more waiting for it to happen.

    There is no guarantee that a political jiu jutsu will work on a national, let alone global, scale.

    All I know is how to reduce my lifestyle to near carbon neutral. And I can do it today with off the shelf technology. That is far beyond the goals set by Kyoto by 2012, even if it would have been enacted in the US, and even if countries were actually meeting the required reductions. It makes me feel better than griping about not enough government, or too much government, or corporate manipulation, or wars over oil and treasure, and just waiting for the end of the world to arrive.

    Carbon reduction is a collective problem. We won’t solve it unless we are all compelled, one way or another, to do our part.

  51. We are beginning to measure the effects of warming on fish populations which appear to be focused on the earliest life history stages and most of the examples come from temperate and cold temperate latitudes. Many of these effects appear to be caused by mismatches in the timing of spawning and early life history transitions (larvae and small juveniles) and early warming and seasonal assemble of temperate marine communities. These effects can be compounded by fishing which tends to remove the largest females that in some species spawn early and often over protracted periods. Removing the early spawners is exactly what you don’t want with early seasonal warming. In addition current trends in temperature which are occurring over large spatial scales may be causing annual changes in the abundance of early recruits to synchonise over large scales. This kind of thing can lead to instability in populations at large scales.

  52. brosenmass – thx for elaborating and clearing up the ice dam statement I made. Are there any particular past geological events or time periods that closely parallel what is projected to happen with the polar ice in the next couple hundred years?

  53. JonAllen says If we don’t understand that global warming has everything to do with the oceans, and that this will extinguish life on earth, we will inevitably get there a whole lot sooner.

    Now that IS alarmist! Global warming and ocean acidification may cause massive sea-level increases, it may cause widespread extinctions, it may cause dramatic die-off’s of CaCO3 life-forms like coral and clams, etc. It will be pretty bad, but it will not extinguish life on earth, or even our species.. That’s just plain silly.

  54. But I disagree that individuals cannot make a difference. For instance, by NOT commuting, one vehicle can reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 58 tons per year. (12k miles at 20mpg, 6k gallons @ 19.6 lbs. of CO2 per gallon)

    But what’s your evidence that such a tiny amount makes a “difference”?

  55. “That’s just plain silly”. Now that’s an enlightened ecologist talking.

    Life on earth evolved to rely on a process that is less than 0.9% efficient. We call it photosynthesis.

    We have indeed devolped many machines which can do their tasks with stunning efficiency, including photovoltaic cells, but we have no will to save ourselves before it is too late.

    I sincerely wish that this were merely silly, but it is instead frightfully sad.

  56. ..”carbon reduction is a collective problem. We won’t solve it unless we are all compelled, one way or another, to do our part..”

    Amen to that… and thanks for this post, cpaynter… and for this attitude- that, rather than to whine (while waiting to be dragged or herded toward some solution) it is better to act on what we can accomplish, while we can. it is certainly more emotionally satisfying to work from an internal compulsion… ^..^

  57. PL Nelson wrote:

    “But what’s your evidence that such a tiny amount makes a “difference”? ”

    First a correction. 12k miles at 20mpg is only 600 gallons and thus 5.8 tons/year. So in the past 16 years I’ve only(?) avoided putting 93 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

    My evidence is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and according to the vast body of science is largely responsible for the warming observed thus far. CO2 makes up a mere 0.038 percent of the atmosphere. (Currently 380 parts per million and climbing.) The extremely low concentrations make CO2 a very critical climate regulating gas. The CO2 we emit persists in the atmosphere for a few hundred years. Therefore, we get a very big payoff by reducing mileage of quite inefficient vehicles today.

    If one person can avoid adding 93 tons from transportation alone, why can’t we collectively meet or exceed Kyoto requirements? After all, that is only to reduce CO2 emissions to 1990 levels. The best science and government treaties say that is a significant target. Or at least a very good start.

    PL Nelson wrote:

    “Ironically there’s a tremendous amount of low-hanging fruit to exploit while we’re waiting.”

    I agree especially in the realm of transportation. I’ve found my own solution of the non-commute. But for the majority of people who must commute to a corporate cubicle…

    The system requirements of our major urban areas, where the majority of people now live and work, should be to move people from place to place. You don’t do that efficiently or cheaply by putting each person into a 2-4 ton metal shell that each person needs to fuel and maintain and drive 50 miles round trip every working day. And your federal government must assure a reliable supply of crude to the national refineries.

    Most of us don’t carry 200-400 lbs of cargo to work each day. It’s typically a briefcase and/or laptop. But we all still commute as if the automobile were our sacred cows. IMO, transportation is the lowest hanging fruit. But transitioning from an auto-centric society is no small feat. It has very deep roots in the mental psyche of the average American, in the local bureaucratic works, in the corporate institutions, and in the political world.

    We need to decide first whether our hearts are into saving this global planetary climate which has been habitable for the current 6.5 billion humans and the natural systems that sustain us. Or whether we just don’t care enough about future populations or the natural systems. If we do care, we need industry to innovate as a great many have.

    And where markets are not adequate due to OPEC cartels, corporate innovative paralysis, etc., we also need governments to be effective in their role. They should provide incentives where appropriate. They should educate when the science has given us direction. And they should regulate the manufacture of products that make the biggest difference. We should have had plug-in hybrid vehicles long ago. And we should have commercially available electric vehicles, even if they only deliver a one-way range of 30 miles. (Honda had a prototype EV 2-3 years ago with a 300 mile range using Lithium-Ion battery technolgy.) A great many people could be off of fossil fuels for their daily commute if given an EV alternative. But car manufacturers know that making vehicles heavier, with bigger V8 or V10 internal combustion engines, means selling and servicing a great many parts over the life of the vehicle. An electric vehicle has two bearings, a motor armature and a transmission. You aren’t going to make the same profits at the OEM dealership replacing a pair of sealed bearings and a set of brushes every 100k miles.

    There are a great many technological solutions already available. It is a question of whether ‘we the people’, (local, national, global), choose to make personal commitments to make the difference.

  58. Mr. Lydon cut off Dr. Doney when he was explaining the pteropod evidence of acidification. The oceans are a very well buffered solution and it is nearly inconceivable that human atmospheric effects could change the pH of the oceans enough to cause damage, let alone extinction, of organisms that build calcium carbonate skeletons. Doney’s explanation was critical to understanding the argument for acidification and he was shut down! Let the experts speak and put the evidence before the listeners. The ocean is not just fish, it’s not just food for people. Lydon is a hack.

  59. As a fishery biologist, I just wanted to make a quick comment about Nancy’s statement re: the ocean’s top predators being 90% exploited. This is a hotly contested number. Just as she was saying about not taking the doom and gloom of reefs too much too heart without getting a good look at the science, it should be noted that there are a number of statisticians working to sort out these actual numbers without jumping to too many premature conclusions about the level of exploitation. It’s just that the big numbers are the ones that catch the press!

  60. “But what’s your evidence that such a tiny amount makes a “difference”? ”

    First a correction. 12k miles at 20mpg is only 600 gallons and thus 5.8 tons/year. So in the past 16 years I’ve only(?) avoided putting 93 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

    My evidence is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and according to the vast body of science is largely responsible for the warming observed thus far. CO2 makes up a mere 0.038 percent of the atmosphere.

    Don’t be disingenuous. The question is obviously why YOUR tiny contribution will matter in light of the thousands of NEW producers of CO2 coming on line every day.

    If one person can avoid adding 93 tons from transportation alone, why can’t we collectively meet or exceed Kyoto requirements?

    1. Kyoto, like your personal contributions, is merely a symbolic gesture – TOO SMALL to make any significant difference. Please do the numbers!

  61. it is certainly more emotionally satisfying to work from an internal compulsion…

    That’s true, and it’s fine as long as we are honest that the reason we are going green is emotional satisfaction, and not because we think we are changing the world.

    Putting PV’s on your roof and going off-grid, or using passive solar to heat your house, or bicycling to work are GESTURES – they are like trying to stop the tide from coming in by bailing the water with a pail.

    It’s pointless to say “if everybody was as fanatically committed as me” it would change the world, because “everybody is NOT as fanatically committed” and never will be. So all I’m asking for is a little honesty here – go green for your own emotional satisfaction (which, as I said above, is what I do) , and don’t try to sell us the idea that you are making any appreciable impact on the global problem.

    IF this problem is ever going to get addressed it will take global action involving billions of people – whether that involves market forces, technology, or government action on a global scale.

  62. “1. Kyoto, like your personal contributions, is merely a symbolic gesture – TOO SMALL to make any significant difference. Please do the numbers!”

    I do not find fault with your arithmetic, but with your logic. I own a hybrid Civic because it encourages waste reduction, which will be essential if we intend to populate the earth much longer.

    For anyone to be self-righteous about such small measures is silly, but to excuse complete inaction by pointing to our horrific energy habits is unconscious.

  63. I used to take a research ship down the Hood Canal to Lynch Cove back in the late 1950s for the Oceanography Dept. staff at the U. of W. to collect data.

    Sometimes we collected data in Quilcene and Dabob Bays off Hood Canal where we would often be entertained with the courting displays of a couple of male Orcas showing off for a female. They would often come over to examine our primitive gear invented by Nanson in the 1890s and supervise our amateurish efforts to understand what they, the Orcas, knew so well.

    Interesting to see the great progress since then and the present conditions in the Hood Canal as per the above link.

    Cheers…. I guess.

  64. “go green for your own emotional satisfaction” – sure, why not? I used to think that this was all that I was doing, but then my neighbors also started recycling more, driving less, insulating more, et cetera. Every example we set does not occur in a vacuum. The fact that one guy goes ahead and does it means that several others will see him doing it, eventually seeing the advantages of doing likewise. The people that seemed to me the most hopelessly wasteful have made the most complete reversal of their habits.

    Maybe the earth won’t survive much longer, no matter what we do at this point, but that’s no excuse for excesses which don’t even improve our own quality of living, much less that of others. Would we all be safer in Humvees? Not if Iraq is used as evidence. Would we all be safer in cars than on trains, trolleys and buses? Not according to Transportation statistics where fatalities are a fraction of the personal car figures per passenger mile, not to mention the increased smog, stress and gridlock, yet more Americans commute in cars every year.

  65. For anyone to be self-righteous about such small measures is silly, but to excuse complete inaction by pointing to our horrific energy habits is unconscious.

    The word you’re looking for is “unconscionable” and I’m not trying to “excuse” wasteful behavior; I’m just pointing out there there is no evidence that a handful of fanatically dedicated individuals are making any difference.

    I’m gld you’ve influenced your neighbor to insulate more, etc, but you’d be hard pressed to show that this is having any impact on global CO2 production. I hope your neighbors are motivated by more practical considerations, like lower heating bills.

  66. “Would we all be safer in cars than on trains, trolleys and buses? Not according to Transportation statistics where fatalities are a fraction of the personal car figures per passenger mile, not to mention the increased smog, stress and gridlock, yet more Americans commute in cars every year.”

    We commute in cars because cars are more PRACTICAL, unless you live and work in a densely populated city and seldom have any need to carry stuff or travel outside the city.

    Cars are door-to-door, 24/7 transport that you can use to carry passengers and stuff, and travel on your own schedule. You don’t have to share your personal space with drunks or disturbed or rowdy people, as I’m often forced to with the MBTA in Massachusetts. You never have to worry about strikes. Public transport will never be a practical alternative for most people.

    In my car I travel from my garage to my work with no stops or changes in between. In the evening I can stay as late as I want at work without having to worry about a bus or train schedule. I almost never go straight home – I attend meetings of my art society or poetry group or I shop or meet someone. I often load up my car with shopping or my easel and charcoals, or bottles to return to the store. My wife, a musician, often carries her keyboard in the car. When the weather is mild my car is almost always loaded with landscaping or gardening supplies. I can take my skis, bike, snoeshoes, backpack, etc, right to the trailhead, Etc.

    Elsewhere here someone suggested small electric cars for commuting and short errands. So does that mean we all have to keep TWO cars – one for short trips and one for when we need to do bigger shopping trips, carry gear, or travel farther?

    Bottom line is this – the green crowd has to get real about personal transportation. People like cars because they offer genuine, practical benefits, not because of clever marketing by car companies or some conspiracy to undermine public transit. Right now China is enjoying an EXPLOSION of road building and car building. The Chinese want cars for the same reason we do – because they are practical.

    I drive a Subaru Forester, which to me is a reasonable compromise between safety, cargo-capacity, comfort, cost, and reliabilty. I wish I got better gas mileage, but I don’t want to give up any of the above.

    The correct solution to the car problem is to forget trying to wean people off of cars – there will never be a practical alternative with the same benefits. Instead, we need to develop cars that are cleaner to manufacture, operate, and dispose of, and which are dramatically more energy efficient. This is an engineering problem, not a social one, and engineering problems are easier to solve.

  67. I am glad someone corrected the arithmetic errors in “cpaynter Says: January 31st, 2007 at 9:20 pm,” but I am a little confused with the units and magnitudes of measurement of “12k miles at 20mpg, 6k gallons @ 19.6 lbs. of CO2 per gallon.” Are we talking about 20 mpg of gasoline at less than 8.3 lbs. per gallon (the weight of water,) or does the 19.6 lbs. per gal. refer to the super cooled (or otherwise compressed) gas (normally a gas at standard temperature and pressure and not normally measured in gallons) condensed to a liquid CO2? Is 19.6 lbs. the weight of a gallon of liquid CO2? I presume what is meant is that each carbon atom in gasoline, with an atomic weight of about 12, combines with 2 atoms of oxygen, with an atomic weight of about 16 each, when it oxidizes, or burns, completely creating a molecule with about the molecular weight of 44 or a little more than 3x the weight of the carbon atom. The actual weight of gasoline is somewhere in the order of 6 lbs. per gallon, so the 19.6 lb. per gal. figure is, I guess, the weight of a gallon of gasoline minus the weight of the hydrogen atoms (which oxydize, or burn, into water) times a little more than 3 to create a substance, CO2, that weighs a little more than 3 times the weight of a gallon of gasoline.

    I certainly agree with cpaynter’s last sentence in the above post, namely, “We

    won’t solve it unless we are all compelled, one way or another, to do our part”

    only if “our part” includes NOT replacing BOTH oneself AND one’s mate with

    children. If it does, and we all do our part, ALL pollution would then be

    automatically reduced by 50% in one generation (roughly averaging 20 years) and 75% if the next generation does likewise. This would automatically DOUBLE the existing natural resources and manufactured or otherwise produced resources (artifacts) per head in only 20 years which will doubled again (ie = 4x) in another 20 years. The then production of consumed resources will be halved in 20 years and 1/4th as much in 40 years which will be equivalent to today’s production PER HEAD since it is exactly proportional to the reduction in population. It will cost nothing and no one’s standard of living will be reduced and everyone will have twice the present artifacts to choose among.

    I notice there have been no acceptances of my above challenge.

    Cheers.

  68. “The correct solution to the car problem is to forget trying to wean people off of cars – there will never be a practical alternative with the same benefits. Instead, we need to develop cars that are cleaner to manufacture, operate, and dispose of, and which are dramatically more energy efficient. This is an engineering problem, not a social one, and engineering problems are easier to solve.”

    If “engineering” a sustainable planet where possible, I might just agree with you. But alas, such “engineering” has to be put in quotes at our present level of technology, since building and operating sustainable life support that doesn’t rely on our rapidly declining ecosystems is not at all likely to be attained before life on earth becomes too crippling for further advances to take place.

    If you are looking for discussion or information concerning global warming of the oceans, visit:

    http://globalcoral.org

  69. (from pln) Re ..”Bottom line is this – the green crowd has to get real about personal transportation. People like cars because they offer genuine, practical benefits, not because of clever marketing by car companies or some conspiracy to undermine public transit. Right now China is enjoying an EXPLOSION of road building and car building. The Chinese want cars for the same reason we do – because they are practical..”-

    So 5 billion of us lead “impractical” lives… including all those Chinese & Indian cyclists, who used to get some exercise on their way to work… but who can no longer fend off the need to have the Japanese convert tons of scrap detroit iron into “practical transportation” modules for them?

    (ibid) ..”I drive a Subaru Forester, which to me is a reasonable compromise between safety, cargo-capacity, comfort, cost, and reliabilty. I wish I got better gas mileage, but I don’t want to give up any of the above..”-

    and I don’t WANT you to give up anything, either- otherwise, how are we to maintain our position as “The Fabulous 5%” (who use 40% of the world’s resources, annually)?

    (ibid) ..”The correct solution to the car problem is to forget trying to wean people off of cars – there will never be a practical alternative with the same benefits. Instead, we need to develop..”-

    We’re too big? We CAN GROW out of this problem, can’t we? (I’m looking forward to the day my neighbors are driving their 1L diesel/electric-powered, recycled ldpe/kevlar fiber, waffle-constructed, 400KG, 95MPG, hybrid “sedan-truck” platform, with the Lego snap-on sides & bed, doors & tops optional, with the 12″ mag wheels & titanium axle housings… yessir- engineering can get us far beyond the 37 MPG I used to get, driving the wife ‘n kids to the beach in a ’64 VW, with the lunches in front, dog in the back, & boogie boards on the roof- 35 years ago…)

    joel… what was the challenge? And I’ve got a tech question, if you’d be so kind. Do you think that the relatively shallow water just North of the Bangor nuke base in Hood Canal prevents the saltier water from moving Southward into the lower Canal? Is that a possible factor in the stagnation occurring there (along with the non-point N & P additions)? Thx for any response… ^..^

  70. I certainly agree with cpaynter’s last sentence in the above post, namely, “We

    won’t solve it unless we are all compelled, one way or another, to do our part

    . . .

    I notice there have been no acceptances of my above challenge.”

    Because there’s no possible way it will happen, so there’s no point in wasting our time talking about it. Even China, which is a vastly more autocratic police state than what any of us would like to live in, has not been able to entirely enforce their “one child” policy, and furthermore has had to contend with a major demographic distortion from so many couples taking pains to make sure their one child is a male.

    So, sorry, but government-enforced population reduction is a nonstarter.

  71. So 5 billion of us lead “impractical” lives… including all those Chinese & Indian cyclists, who used to get some exercise on their way to work…

    I’ll bet almost all of them would opt for a car if they could afford it. (as, indeed, many of them are doing these days!) China currently has a vast inter-province highway construction project to create a modern network of high speed (speed limit of 75 MPH) highways throughout the country. As a result they ALREADY are second only to the US in total miles of modern highway, and are planning to exceed us. (we have 46,000 miles of interstate, the are aiming for 53,000 miles) China is expected to produce nearly 9 million cars this year and is already the third largest automobile-producing nation in the world. China also imports cars and is already second only to the US in total car purchases. They will pass us on both counts in the next 10 years.

    And that’s just China. India is a bit behind them, especially WRT road construction, but they are coming on strong. In countries all over the world, when people rise into the middle class and can afford it one of the first things they do is buy a car.

    (I’m looking forward to the day my neighbors are driving their 1L diesel/electric-powered, recycled ldpe/kevlar fiber, waffle-constructed, 400KG, 95MPG, hybrid “sedan-truck” platform, with the Lego snap-on sides & bed, doors & tops optional, with the 12″ mag wheels & titanium axle housings… yessir- engineering can get us far beyond the 37 MPG I used to get, driving the wife ‘n kids to the beach in a ‘64 VW, with the lunches in front, dog in the back, & boogie boards on the roof- 35 years ago…)

    I’m looking forward to it, too. What’s your point? That new car will be a lot safer, less polluting, and with more comfort and passenger and cargo room than your old VW.

    The bottom line is that public transit is simply not a practical solution for modern people with modern busy lives who don’t prefer to live in a dense, urban environment. I lived in Boston for a year and a half and I didn’t own a car but it was very inconvenient even IN the city to do errands or have to squeeze onto a trolly car full of of strangers. And it was almost impossible to visit people elsewhere in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. I ended up hitch-hiking a lot, which is dangerous and stupid, but a fine adventure when you’re young.

    Now I live and work in the exurbs where I have peace and quiet and privacy and woods and a big garden, but the low population densities out here would make public transit an impossibility, even for personal point-to-point commuting, nevermind the problem of carrying stuff or doing multiple errands on one trip.

  72. The thing that bothers me about many of the Greenies is their total lack of respect for other people and their freedom to choose.

    I’ve seen everything from mandated population control to wanting all types of restictions on peoples mode of transportaition, and energy use. Your basically trying to turn the country into some sort of Green dictatorship.

    Never mind thinking you can tell the rest of the world how to lead their lives. The arrogance is stunning.

    This whole conversation reminds me of the time I was watching CSpan. Brian Lamb was interviewing some big shot Greenie who was pontificating on the ills of cars and how they were responsible for much of the countries pollution. He recommended people simplify teir lives and get away from using automobiles as their primary source of transportaition. After this guy got done talking about how the general population was ruining the environment,Brian calmly asked him what type of bicycle he used for his personal transportation. The Greenie responded by saying he needed a car to get to work, but he made sure it was not a gas guzzler. I love Brian Lamb.

  73. I can almost hear the very wet sound of freedom being crushed under the jackboots of some despotic, whale-hugging, jolly green giant world government.

  74. Pardon the redundancy:

    plnelson says: It’s pointless to say “if everybody was as fanatically committed as me” it would change the world, because “everybody is NOT as fanatically committed” and never will be. So all I’m asking for is a little honesty here – go green for your own emotional satisfaction (which, as I said above, is what I do) , and don’t try to sell us the idea that you are making any appreciable impact on the global problem… I hope your neighbors are motivated by more practical considerations, like lower heating bills.

    Yes – if it were then it would be but as it isn’t it ain’t.

    Despite plnelson’s contention there’s no evidence individuals’ Lilliputian efforts make a difference, individuals’ ideas, dreams and even their fanaticism (for any of which there is no scientific basis) have inspired the actions that do make a difference individually or en masse.

    Just because something can’t be measured by some physical metric doesn’t mean that there is no effect. If one changes oneself then the universe changes as it is only ones’ mental construct. Why is it more practical to concern oneself with being efficient with one’s symbolic energy equivalent (the fiat vouchers that we have agreed to use for convenience – in actuality agreements represented by 0’s and 1’s encoded in digital media) than the actual energy itself? (In many cases concern with efficiency can be a form of OCD). Exactly how many pennies does it take to be rich?

    Here’s another digression: Yesterday my wife and I witnessed the birth of our 1st grandchild. My daughter delivered a healthy 8 lb. baby girl who I’m sure will help to create a more peaceful and equitable future for ALL entities!!! I offer no evidence to support my belief that my granddaughter will make a difference other than thru DNA potential, osmotic observation and exposure to an Absolute Morality based philosophy coupled with the historical evidence of how my other children’s realities were enformed by similar exposure, I’m optimistic (per my wont) for her and our (humankind) prognosis.

    Even if (as it seems) adaptation proves to be the only long run solution, change is universal and inertia (by definition) resists it. Consciousness manifests infinitely by intention and cannot be created or destroyed so ultimately any putative problem is moot and there is never a reason to FEAR anything except oneself – the root of ALL FEAR.

    Peace to ALL (NO FEAR),

    Jazzman

  75. Ben, People who love telling others how to live their lives never feel as if they are doing anything wrong. After all, it’s for the common good.

  76. Re (pln)

    I’ll bet almost all of them would opt for a car if they could afford it. (as, indeed, many of them are doing these days!) China currently has a vast inter-province highway construction project..”

    Well, of COURSE they’d opt for a car if they could afford it- to be Just Like Us- comfortably self-important, fully-realized dervishes. I feel that, if they had the opportunity to experience oxycontin, why, they might decide never to do without it, again… Lord knows, the British found a consumer base with opium, awhile back…

    (from rc21) ..”The thing that bothers me about many of the Greenies is their total lack of respect for other people and their freedom to choose..”-

    Huh? If I had freedom to choose, I’d choose to know who my government was spying on… and why… and I’d choose what to fund with a National Line-Item Veto TV show, with a call-in feature, and a card that would let me (and anyone else who felt like it) vote “yea” or “nay” on everything in Congress, every day; and I’d choose to legalize, and tax marijuana; and I’d choose to tax churches, just like everybody else with lots of property and money (remember the thing about “rendering to Caesar..”etc?); and I’d choose to let any woman who wanted an abortion to have one; and I’d choose to let people marry as they pleased; and I’d let you choose to follow the golden Rule with me, rc21…

    jazzman- congrats! My son & his wife put a lively new child into the world just 2 months ago, at their place- their first child- and it was so wonderful in part because it was so… Normal- just some family around, until the midwife showed up- and it happened so fast that there was practically no need for professional help. About an hour after the blessed event the new mom was having a bowl of potato/leek soup, relaxing in the kitchen while the new dad held the baby… part of the kicker for me is that I delivered this new dad, himself, 31 years ago today… Your optimism keeps pace with your logic- & that’s sweet! ^..^

  77. Re ..”part of the kicker for me is that I delivered this new dad, himself, 31 years ago today”-

    Well, OK- that’s a funny way to put it, when his mother did most of the heavy lifting (& after I’d written the above, I had Jason Trachtenburg in my head, screaming “Deliver the Stuff”..) ^..^

  78. Herbert Browne says . . . Well, of COURSE they’d opt for a car if they could afford it- to be Just Like Us- comfortably self-important, fully-realized dervishes. I feel that, if they had the opportunity to experience oxycontin, why, they might decide never to do without it, again… Lord knows, the British found a consumer base with opium, awhile back…

    They would opt for a car because it makes their lives better. As I already pointed out, cars have many practical advantages in people’s daily lives. It’s complete nonsense to compare them to a drug.

  79. Jazzman says If one changes oneself then the universe changes as it is only ones’ mental construct.

    Uhh . . . ok . . . if you actually believe that the universe is “only ones’ mental construct” then why don’t you simply imagine a universe where cars get 1000 MPG and CO2 doesn’t cause global warming and ocean acidification. You’d be doing the whole world a big favor. Please try to get this done before the evening commute today. Thanks.

  80. (from rc21) ..”The thing that bothers me about many of the Greenies is their total lack of respect for other people and their freedom to choose..”-

    Huh? If I had freedom to choose, I’d choose to know who my government was spying on… and why…

    See? rc21 is right. YOU want the freedom to choose for yourself, but you don’t want Chinese peasants just now entering the middle class to have the freedom to choose.

    But they don’t care what you want. And here’s another thing: Not only are Chinese about to overtake the US in new car sales, but it’s worse than it looks: Most new car sales in the US are replacements for existing cars, so the total number doesn’t go up very fast. But new car sales in China are new cars to new car owners. So the total amount of new CO2 production is going up dramatically faster there! Ditto in India, etc

    So the approach I’m proposing – an engineering solution that results in cars that are vastly more fuel efficient than today’s – is the only one that has a CHANCE of working. I’m an engineer – engineering is hard – the mechanical, chemical, electrical and other engineering feats required will be extremely challenging, but they don’t come close to the social engineering required to get people to not rely on, or want, cars.

  81. I can almost hear the very wet sound of freedom being crushed under the jackboots of some despotic, whale-hugging, jolly green giant world government.

    Joke if you want, but the philosophical questions are not trivial.

    Consider China’s one child policy. China is a despotic fascist regime. (I know, I know : they say they are Communist, but look up the definitions of communist -vs- fascist and it’s clear their system is closer to the latter).

    I will be the first to agree that overpopulation underlies all of our other environmental problems. Does that make it alright for a despotic government to tell you how many kids you can have? Consider all the happiness generated by Jazzman’s new grandchild (Congratulations, Jazzman!) . Go to China and divide that happiness by 2 or 3. That’s what China is doing with their one child policy. One child also means one grandchild. (you can have one kid, and your kid can have one kid). On the other hand, grandchildren don’t JUST generate happiness – grandchildren also make CO2 and pollution and waste. But is that a good enough reason for a despotic government to force you not to have them?

    How about a democratic government?

  82. pln,As an engineer what do you think the chances are of someone developing a car that uses an alternitive fuel source. I’ve heard all kinds of stories of people trying to come up with other sources. I recently read about a guy who fuels his car with the leftover grease from restaurants.

    Obviously no one has come up with a viable alternative yet, How long will it take and why are we having such a hard time finding a solution ?

  83. pln,As an engineer what do you think the chances are of someone developing a car that uses an alternitive fuel source. I’ve heard all kinds of stories of people trying to come up with other sources. I recently read about a guy who fuels his car with the leftover grease from restaurants.

    Obviously no one has come up with a viable alternative yet, How long will it take and why are we having such a hard time finding a solution ?

    Leftover grease still makes CO2.

    It’s a hard problem. Part of it is economic. Even using conventional gasoline engines we could achieve dramatic improvements by using lighter materials and improvements in transmission and engine technology. These would all add to the cost of the car, which would not necessarily be a Bad Thing if consumers didn’t demand quick paybacks. It’s like lightbulbs. Fluorescent lightbulbs are cheaper in the long run but consumers don’t think in the long run; they only see the immediate price.

    Currently there are many 10′s of BILLIONS of dollars being invested in more energy efficient transportation technology, worldwide. Governments around the world, universities, and car makers, battery and fuel system makers, etc, etc, not to mention technology companies like the one I work for are all working on stuff. But there’s a long time between the lab and the market. When I was in Europe back 2003 I rented a diesel BMW roadster for a week. It was a BLAST to drive -nothing like the slow, pokey, diesels we had here in the 70′s. But the EU has wimpier pollution standards than the US. (despite the liberals thinking that eveything the Europeans do is wonderful and that we are the great environmental satans) so their diesels don’t meet our pollution standards.

    But that’s about to change – in 2007 the first diesels that DO meet our standards will start selling in the US and they get MUCH better fuel economy.

    But the big problem is explaining to people that there is no “magic bullet” and never will be. Instead there will be HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of tiny improvements, each of which improves performance by a FRACTION of an MPG. For example, the first LED-based headlights are just now coming out. Headlights? Yes headlights draw enough current to make a tiny but measurable difference in fuel economy. High-tech lighter-weight body components will shave a few hundred pounds off the weight of he car to also improve MPG. Improved lubricant chemicals will also help a bit. More sophisticated engine monitoring and control systems will help the car always stay in its optimum operating envelope. Also, high-end technology that altready exists in premium cars, such as 6-speed automatics and variable valve timing is becoming cheaper and so will improve fuel economy in mainstream cars in the the next few years. And there are hundreds of other things like these. No magic bullets, just lots and LOTS of magic BB’s.

    Think computers over the last decade or two. They are DRAMATICALLY more powerful than 20 years ago. What was the magic bullet? There wasn’t one. But every year there were tiny incremental improvements in memory, hard drives, processor speed, processor architecture, bus controllers, i-o subsystems, etc.

  84. >i>OliverCranglesParrot Says:

    February 2nd, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    IPCC Summary

    Not only that, but a study published in Science magazine says the past IPCC were too OPTIMISTIC. When the past IPCC predictions were compared against actual temperature and sea-level increases, the REAL numbers were at the top of, or exceeded the IPCC predictions. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6179409.stm

  85. Dear rc21,

    The problem that you are stumped by is the “viable” issue. What constitutes viable? Would the Lenovo be viable? (http://lenovo.com)

    I worked for a couple of years at the MIT/LIGO laboratory, where I developed enhancements to the world’s most sensitive microphone. It was not just wonderful electronics design work that made that job so rewarding, it was the commute as well. I was able to sell my car and commute the 3 miles each way on my bicycle. Every day I took a route that was both reasonably safe and good exercise, which left me with more (not less) energy the whole day long, since it supercharged my metabolism.

    I lost that job thanks to the current administration’s ruinous war, which has mandated accross the board budget cuts in just about everything else.

    I currently work 20 miles from my house, and after several attempts to work out a reasonable way of commuting, I bought a car. The engineering is nearly as interesting as before, but the commute has drastically lowered my quality of living. What bugs me is that so few other people seem to feel as I do that even owning a car is not something that automatically enhances a lifestyle, but rather drags it down.

  86. I’m following this conversation with great interest but without the facts at my fingertips to make a worthwhile contribution beyond expressing my admiration for pinelson’s tenacious and intelligent defence of what nevertheless seems to me an indefensible position; my admiration also to everyone else’s intelligent engagement with it. The world as we knew it is dying; today we had tardy confirmation of that reality from the UN — as if we needed it. The immediate widespread response to the report, however ephemeral, was almost as cheering in its way as the report itself is depressing. But that too will fade. I understand pinelson’s skepticism. We won’t change the course of our bleak environmental future by personal gesture alone. But at a certain point the categorical imperative comes into play — philosophically, locally, and, we hope, globally: if everyone acted responsibly — from herbert browne planting thousands of trees to the rest of us in ascending and descending order –the world would be a better place. That it’s a truism doesn’t make it less true. But of course everyone won’t. Those of us who do — or try — do so in the small hope of living a better life and in the larger hope of fostering a better life for other people and other things. I can see how one can argue with the silly self-righteousness of some environmentalists (I have), but to confuse their clumsiness and exaggerated self-regard with the larger issue resolves to a matter of guilt by association. It also boils down to a rather banal matter of style — those repellent hippies, etc. (Not that pinelson or anyone else here used those exact words.) Updike and Steiner and others made the same mistake in terms of the Vietnam War, their conservative dislike for the style of the hippies blinding and binding them to the evil many hippies were instrumental in ending…As for the unrivalled convenience of cars on untrammeled roads, yes, of course, but only for the people who drive them. The rest of us suffer the consequences.

  87. jonallen says: owning a car is not something that automatically enhances a lifestyle, but rather drags it down.

    If this were true you wouldn’t have bought one. Obviously it enhances the all-important commuting part of your life.

    Now, if you still live 3 miles from MIT then you live in a densely-populated area so conceivably you could do many of your other activities via public transit or walking.

    But for those of us who DON’T prefer to live in a densely populated area (I live just west of 495) there is nothing that comes CLOSE to a car for overall utility and flexibility.

    Nor is anything even conceivable. Awhile back, as a gedankenexperiment, I tried to imagine a public transit system that workers in these towns could use to get to their jobs in surrounding towns. For my experiment I chose a region bounded by Nashua, Acton, Andover and Burlington because that’s where my of my communing, errands, and activities are. This areas is mostly small towns of 20K-30K and two small cities – Nashua and Lowell.

    One thing that became clear was that each town would need a HUGE bus depot, because the low population density and lack of main roads would make it too inconvenient and unsafe to simply have bus stops that people walk to from the houses. If the participation level in the transit system was merely 10% each depot would need to be about 50% BIGGER than the Alewife parking garage!

    Then the question became trying to design a route system that could accomodate the scattered office parks and businesses that provide much of the employment in the region. If it ran frequently enough to minimize waits, and directly enough to minimize the length of the trip, and it ran only from 6AM to 11PM, the number of daily departures from each town ran into the high hundreds! And I couldn’t come up with any reasonable scheme that didn’t result in a door-to-door time that wasn’t twice my current commute, and even THAT involved driving to the depot in my town, taking the bus to the town where I work, and then taking a shuttle bus (provided by whom?) to my company!

    And this left no obvious way to do errands or after-work activities in OTHER towns in the area. If I want to stop in Nashua before going home, or attend meetings of my art clubs in various towns how would I get there? I could take the bus to the depot in that town, but then what?

    Low population density areas are simply not suited to public transit except in special cases like university towns when the university is the main employer and site of housing so it can act as a single hub. And bicycles are not a general solution because of safety issues, especially at night and inclement weather, distance limits, and lack of cargo and passenger capacity.

  88. As for the unrivalled convenience of cars on untrammeled roads, yes, of course, but only for the people who drive them.

    But that “yes, of course” is STILL the heart of the matter. Because the majority of people who CAN own cars CHOOSE to, both in the US and the rest of the world. And this is despite the high cost of purchase, the cost ownership, the demands of maintainence, the noise, the traffic jams, and the huge environmental impact of cars in their manufacture, operation, and disposal.

    So why do we do this? As I said above, it’s because cars are so amazingly useful, in so many ways, to so many people. So we cannot blithely dismiss the appeal of cars. Instead we are logically compelled to accept them as an inevitability, and figure out how to minimize their damage.

  89. PL – I think the concept you are digging for is totalitarian state. Fascism is overused and hardly ever correctly applied, same thing with communism. These days they are both common, reductive euphemisms for bogeyman government. I digress…

    Choice is precisely what is missing. We should have the choice to not have a broken monolithic infrastructure piping crap into the air. It is currently a one way conversation. You either take the crap or you lose your money. What kind of choice is that? For those that make good choices there should be a benefit, yet they are currently at a disadvantage. LED headlights or whatever improves efficiencies should be as subsidized as extraction is.

    RC – Philosophically, you and I agree 100%! “People who love telling others how to live their lives never feel as if they are doing anything wrong. After all, it’s for the common good.” The beauty of this statement is that it can be flipped right back prop the very transportation and energy folks who refuse to make changes in the name of their current economics. They are “saving” us from poverty by continuing to be dirty and threaten us with the ‘end of our way of life’ when confronted with change. Meanwhile they peddle their influence in legislation and regulations and mandate the real structures we build our busy little lives around.

    The argument should not be if, but how and when change is happening.

    (ps – congrats Jazzman!)

  90. from plnelson) ..”cars have many practical advantages in people’s daily lives. It’s complete nonsense to compare them to a drug..”-

    I disagree… the car has an “up side” (an increase of personal performance in certain areas of endeavor) and a “down side” (fuel dependency, economic vulnerabilities, emotional stress far beyond that of the carless- and the affliction to the lungs of oneself, others, and the planet’s generally). Sounds a lot like a drug to me, ie it’s all about the user “feelin’ good”… & I won’t even go to the “psychologically addictive” set…

    (plnelson) ..” I’m an engineer – engineering is hard – the mechanical, chemical, electrical and other engineering feats required will be extremely challenging, but they don’t come close to the social engineering required to get people to not rely on, or want, cars..”-

    Car ownership has also led to an incredible level of “social engineering”, since it involves the socio-economic patterns of physical development, employment, responsibility for one’s actions on a WHOLE NEW level (ie when “you” weigh 4,000 lbs and can travel at 70 mph and make a phone call while doing so, we all must cheerfully bite a large economic bullet to serve you- and protect ourselves FROM you). As an engineer, it makes sense that you’d isolate mechanical & “social” engineering- and also offers a clue to why you’d prefer an engineering solution to the problem (that was, putatively put into action by engineering without attendant social constraints).

    Now, how about them Chinese? Is socially engineering for limited offspring more difficult than socially engineering for limited vehicle ownership? It’s a lot easier to hide a child… and yet… see what they’ve done.

    The “point” of my comparison of more efficient, available, 40-year-old technology to your roadworthy, comfy, “all-wheel-drive” unit- some engineers’ thoughtful responses to the modern milieu of fashion & 24 hour-a-day advertising in an atomised culture in which every man’s a king & every home’s a castle and need is conflated with desire- is this: you can tinker to your heart’s content, and it won’t get built until there’s either 1. no hope without it; or 2. there’s money in it- AND 3. it requires the present industrial infrastructure to build- AND 4. the politicians are on board (flow-chart shows a loop back to $$$ at this point).

    You talk about “clean” diesel- and the rules are that I can’t import a used diesel car from Japan unless it’s at least 25 years old, even though 2.L (or smaller) engines are available- and this, to the Land of the 6.2L Diesel! The bizness of Detroit has finagled rules that make them fit their products- and damn the rest. If I had “freedom” to choose, I’d choose a nice, used 1.6L diesel flatbed/pickup conversion- but FoMoCo & GMC have made sure that I can’t (& probably wouldn’t be able to, EVEN IF CO2 were declared a “pollutant”). So, keep on engineering to your heart’s content, my friend… and, when you come up with something, get some wacky greenies into the street to hold a parade and demand your product be made available to all- no matter What it may appear to cost the auto industry, oil companies and the rest… ^..^

  91. PL – I think the concept you are digging for is totalitarian state. Fascism is overused and hardly ever correctly applied, same thing with communism. These days they are both common, reductive euphemisms for bogeyman government. I digress…/i>

    No.

    Fascism and communism (as actually implemented in the real world, i.e., USSR or China under Mao) are both totalitarian. so that’s not a useful descriptor. What distinguishes communism (technically, ‘state socialism’) from fascism is this: under communism the government owns the means of production (the factories and businesses). Under fascism the businesses are privately owned but the state is still totalitarian. Thus today’s PRC has far more in common with NAZI Germany or Mussolini’s Italy than it does with Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China.

  92. Choice is precisely what is missing. We should have the choice to not have a broken monolithic infrastructure piping crap into the air. It is currently a one way conversation. You either take the crap or you lose your money.

    Well we “should” have world peace and safe neighnorhoods and lots of other things. But a statement like yours begs the question of how you would implement or achieve such choice. In our society we have TWO mechanisms to express our choices – voting and the marketplace. Both of these mechanisms have chosen

    “the broken monolithic infrastructure piping crap into the air”.

  93. Car ownership has also led to an incredible level of “social engineering”, since it involves the socio-economic patterns of physical development, employment, responsibility for one’s actions on a WHOLE NEW level

    Obviously, although the social engineering wrought by the automobile was largely inadvertent. But I am fond of telling conservatives who object to liberals doing social engineering that the BIGGEST social engineering experiment in history was carried out mostly during the Eisenhower administration – the Interstate Highway System.

    The bizness of Detroit has finagled rules that make them fit their products- and damn the rest.

    To some extent this is true, esp WRT to stopping CAFE standards and exempting trucks (including truck-based SUVs’s) from the rules. BUT they have had the collusion of the voters. I’m a member of several environmental groups and we have not been able to get voters the least bit interested in this. To give you an idea how much the public loves SUV’s – my car is Subaru Forester. If you go to the DOT website you’ll see that the government classifies it as a midsize car. But midsize cars aren’t sexy; the public wants SUV’s; so Subaru MARKETS it as an SUV!

    The auto companies are acting in what they regard as the best interest of their shareholders. This is good and proper and correct, and I have no problem with it. I am a member of a TON of organizations – environmental groups, civil liberties organizations, professional and trade organizations – that maintain lobbying efforts in Washington. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees us the right to do so. Toyota and Ford and GM, etc, have the same right as the Sierra Club and the ACLU, etc.

    What’s MISSING in this is the voters. I feel the same way about the auto companies that I feel about the Iraq War – as HL Mencken said “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” The voters have a positive OBLIGATION to take an interest in the decisions of their government – and to know enough about the laws, the news, history, geography, economics, etc, to judge it wisely. That they don’t is not something I can fix with engineering.

  94. PL – what do you say to the idea that too many voters and consumers are more than a little misdirected by competing views of ‘reality’ propped up by those who benefit from the misdirection? Exxon Mobile has spent millions “creating the illusion of a vigorous debate” about global climate change. And recently the American Enterprise Institute was offering $10,000 and additional material support for scientists willing to author ‘alternative views’ on global climate change in a program intended to coincide with the release of the IPCC report. Climate change from anthropogenic emissions is still nascent in enough peoples’ understanding that obfuscation is unfortunately more effective than it should be.

    Something interesting about the cultural experience is that climate scientists are not authoring ‘alternative’ economic realities at nearly the rate industrial provocateurs are authoring ‘alternative’ science realities.

  95. (from plnelson) ..”What’s MISSING in this is the voters. I feel the same way about the auto companies that I feel about the Iraq War – as HL Mencken said “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” The voters have a positive OBLIGATION to take an interest in the decisions of their government – and to know enough..”-

    Amen to that… well, I’m proselytized- time for bed… ^..^

  96. I’ve loved the Global Warming shows. More great material on the subject in Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest trilogy, the third volume of which appears at the end of the month.

  97. Ben asks “PL – what do you say to the idea that too many voters and consumers are more than a little misdirected by competing views of ‘reality’ propped up by those who benefit from the misdirection?

    Are you that easily misdirected? I’m not.

    In my experience, most of the people who claim that the media or special interests are brainwashing the public exempt themselves from the barinwashed.

    Even if voters are misdirected, what do you propose as a remedy? Whose job is it to enforce what the ‘truth’ is? Should we have a Ministry of Truth?

    Look, we all have an obligation to think for ourselves. We have an obligation to “consider the source”, and to consider the motives of those who tell us things. We have an obligation to be skeptical.

    Yesterday I bought an artist’s easel. When I got it home I discovered that it was made from a wood called “Lyptus”. I’d never heard of that so I looked it up. It’s a hybrid of eucalyptus and some other tree, both from Australia. It’s grown in big tree plantations in Brazil using a process patented by Weyerhaeuser Corporation. On the web I found HUNDREDS of places attesting to how environmentally sound and sensitive and sustainable “Lyptus” is, so we should feel good about using it. But I also noticed that EVERY one of these sources was from Weyerhaeuser or a wood supplier or a manufacturer using it or wood industry trade group – in others words, someone who had a vested interest in promoting it. EVERY one! Often they used the same language.

    So am I convinced that “Lyptus” is actually environmentally sustainable? Of course not. If people want to believe that their hybrid Ford Explorer is not contributing to global warming what do you propose to do?

  98. plnelson’s response to Jazzman who said If one changes oneself then the universe changes as it is only ones’ mental construct.

    Uhh . . . ok . . . if you actually believe that the universe is “only ones’ mental construct” then why don’t you simply imagine a universe where cars get 1000 MPG and CO2 doesn’t cause global warming and ocean acidification. You’d be doing the whole world a big favor. Please try to get this done before the evening commute today. Thanks.

    Yes, I do believe that the universe is a mental construct and there’s NO scientific basis to assert otherwise. As to your first request, DONE with mileage to spare: http://www.physorg.com/news70040977.html.

    As for the 2nd, even mental (Gaussian norm) constructs have certain root assumptions such as the laws of physics which are agreed upon in the mass reality (gestalt) to form a comprehensible system of logic or ordinary communication and intercourse among our consciousnesses at our current level of conscious manipulation would be extremely difficult if not impossible. There are plenty of people that don’t operate on the mass reality’s root assumptions but they are outliers and society generally regards them as schizophrenics, mystics or plain crazy. Therefore contravening physical law is generally not an option.

    Carbonic acid still will form when CO2 and H2O combine and atmospheric CO2 will still trap solar radiation. Converting cars to run on hydrogen is my preferred solution to keep our personal vehicles and all their benefits you so eloquently note. The science is already proven and capable of accomplishing this however the distribution infrastructure (refineries, filling stations and delivery systems etc.) is owned by those with vested interest in petroleum based energy and subject to inertia and avarice.

    Also the universe changes according to the individual mind that constructs it as is true for each of us. The mass reality changes when sufficient mental energy translates ideas and dreams via action into physical reality.

  99. A few days late, but…..

    herbert browne Says: February 1st, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    “joel… what was the challenge? And I’ve got a tech question, if you’d be so kind. Do you think that the relatively shallow water just North of the Bangor nuke base in Hood Canal prevents the saltier water from moving Southward into the lower Canal? Is that a possible factor in the stagnation occurring there (along with the non-point N & P additions)?”

    It has been about 45 years since I’ve been down the Hood Canal. I know nothing about any nuke base. I just found some pics of the sub base on the net if that is what you were referring to, but I couldn’t come up with a navigation chart with the soundings and bathymetric contours so I don’t know what bar or shoal or “shallow water” you are referring to. Is it a sill, extending all the way across the Canal? A natural bar or shoal? A silting in downstream of an artificial obstruction? A sill would obviously impede flushing in the basin behind it. Any algal blooms inside the sill (caused by over fertilization from polluting nutrients?) would cause the depletion of oxygen in the basin’s depths as the blooms died, sank and then rotted by oxidation. I remember Hood Canal as being pretty straight and deep and no nuclear sub bases. I heard about them putting a floating bridge across it, but there was no such thing in my time out there. About the only things along the shore were the very occasional house or cabin stuck in among the trees.

    See my post above at “joel Says: January 31st, 2007 at 5:16 pm ” regarding my challenge (to produce evidence.)

    plnelson Says: January 31st, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    “joel says I wonder though if the same kinds of points (expense and compliance) couldn’t have been made about the huge public sanitation projects that were undertaken more than a hundred years ago. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap, convenient, or immediate and had its share of critics at the time ”

    I said WHAT? I think you have the wrong source.

    plnelson Says: February 1st, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    “I certainly agree with cpaynter’s last sentence in the above post, namely, “We

    won’t solve it unless we are all compelled, one way or another, to do our part. . .

    I notice there have been no acceptances of my above challenge.”

    “Because there’s no possible way it will happen, so there’s no point in wasting our time talking about it. Even China, which is a vastly more autocratic police state than what any of us would like to live in, has not been able to entirely enforce their “one child” policy, and furthermore has had to contend with a major demographic distortion from so many couples taking pains to make sure their one child is a male.

    So, sorry, but government-enforced population reduction is a nonstarter.”

    It is truly amazing how some cannot envision anything unless it is somehow sanctioned by some authority, government, religion, “leader,” or whatever other entity to which they are accustomed to being told what to think, believe, or do.

    I said nothing at all about “government-enforced population reduction.” I wasn’t even thinking about such a thing. I know perfectly well about everything you mentioned and may even believe much of what you say except, perhaps, what you waste your time talking about. I was merely thinking of a method in which anyone not nearly brain dead might care to participate since it would be effortless, not cost anything, be entirely effective and efficient and obviate the need for all the other endless chatter in this blog, all the suggested speculative solutions, cures, programs and other ineffectual means that everyone seems to be in such a tizzy about. Boy, talk about Nero fiddling!!!

    “there’s no possible way it will happen, so there’s no point in wasting our time talking about it.”… None of any of the other methods mentioned on this page will work, either, by a far larger margin… and look at the talk wasted, with your help, on them. “It” won’t work because of silly social pressures and beliefs such as the importance of passing on family names to male offspring or equally silly religious pressures and beliefs I won’t even begin to enumerate. But, whatever amount of participation in the mechanism I mentioned above, exactly that much effect WILL OCCUR and, if a sufficient partial participation is indulged in for a sufficient time, the wanted full effect will, indeed, be achieved. By then, the earth may be thriving with any number of other species but be undesirably wasted for humans even though, with the population maintained at an appropriate level, sustainability is achieved though nobody is very excited about it. Any method certain to achieve the desired results except for the mere want of participation is certainly more worthy of talk than all your other methods mentioned in this thread, none of which will succeed regardless of the massive needed participation or effort making existence miserable for many. These other methods were a lesser task in the past and will be a far greater task the longer it takes to get started. But let’s assume we start an intense effort to utilize these other methods to achieve our goals of being rid of the problems of desirable, sustainable human existence. The very next day after our goals were achieved, they will no longer be adequate because the population has grown. And the next day the population will have grown again and so forth in ever increasing amounts (as it is now in spite of the sooth sayers who like to spout off about a lowering, in certain places, of the RATE of increase…. which indicates the growth is continuing) resulting in the ever necessity of chasing your goals over and over and over ad infinitum. You will be forever playing catch up. Yet these blogs become huge with far more wasted talk on this sort of silliness and almost none on the only thing mentioned so far guaranteed to work. Once the population is decreased by an individual, that individual’s consumption of ever decreasing necessary resources and his despoiling some portion of the planet with his waste will never again be a problem unless some idiot decides to replace him as well as himself and his mate with babies.

    But it’s your call. Enjoy yourself in your rosy future.

    Cheers.

  100. Joel says, I said nothing at all about “government-enforced population reduction.” . . .

    I was merely thinking of a method in which anyone not nearly brain dead might care to participate since it would be effortless, not cost anything, be entirely effective and efficient

    I was rsponding to the word “compelled” as in : “We

    won’t solve it unless we are all compelled, one way or another, to do our part. . .

    Right now the most effective method ever developed for population control in large multi-million person societies is PROSPERITY. As I noted above several countries are now reproducing at below-replacement-rate levels and no one made them do it, nor we they motivated by philosophical or religious concern for the environment. Instead it was something akin to selfishness – kids cost money and demand lots of time and attention. Who needs that hassle? Women are no longer defined soley by their role as baby-makers and lots of us have better things to do than to devote ourselves to than riding herd on rug rats.

  101. plnelson Says: February 6th, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    “I was rsponding (sic) to the word “compelled” as in : “We

    won’t solve it unless we are all compelled, one way or another, to do our part. . .

    Right now the most effective method ever developed for population control in large multi-million person societies is PROSPERITY.”

    Sorry for the ambiguity of the word “compelled.” I was thinking more of being compelled by one’s own good sense.

    I am aware of the situations you describe. This is all fine for those who have already acquired prosperity. I doubt that I’ll live long enough, but I’d be interested to watch just how willingly the prosperous of the world will help the desperate hordes of billions of people to prosperity, having already lost huge shares of the resources supporting their own prosperity in elevating others to the ability to exploit these resources as they do themselves, thereby enabling these hordes to compete on an equal basis and ability with themselves for those more and more scarce resources.

    It would be great sport watching but I don’t think I’d want to participate in that crowded, teeming, grasping world, the precursor of which, I believe, are manifest all too clearly right now. I have watched the degradation of the style of life to an obscene level in just my own lifetime right here on Cape Cod. The appreciation of a good life just doesn’t shine and sparkle in people’s eyes here on the Cape as they did 70 years ago when I was a kid, during the depression era, no less. Though they had far less of what is now considered necessary for a “high” standard of living, they had far more of what actually afforded it. Such resources were plentiful then compared to now and they are steadily decreasing.

    I’m just lucky that I am reasonably well removed from having to participate in the ongoing occurrence by simply not buying anything much that others consider required to enjoy life. I sampled them amply during the first half of my life, so I know what their worth actually amounts to. So I can afford to have a good laugh at this society striving so hard to make things worse for itself.

    Cheers.

  102. # OliverCranglesParrot Says: February 8th, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    ” China’s Poison for the Planet ”

    The price of PROSPERITY! Following in the footsteps of the good old USA.

    And, instead of demonstrating a better method, the world complained about China’s method to attempt to implement the only actual solution to the world’s only actual problem… to be rid of the horrendous effects of an obscene number of human beings. Technology is not able to be the fix. The cost will be exorbitant and will ever increase and it will continue to depend on the exploitation of resources.

    Wake up, people!

    Cheers.

  103. Global Warming of oceans is a problem in every side you look

    the planet, the life, and for the people think ” the progress must go on” remind it a problem for you also, becouse you must live with this and the cost to accept these become high, so we must face the problem and solve it, for to save everything….

    ciao

    bassiOffshore

    http://www.bassioffshore.com

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