Category Archives: CO2 emissions

The Net Zero Mirage

“Net Zero by 2050” is the rallying cry of scientists and policymakers throughout the world. However, that epithet echoes past decades of climate change/global warming mitigation plans, one after another, all failures.

The world’s continuing failure to come to grips with the dilemma led three notable climate scientists, deeply involved at the highest levels, to publicly ridicule past and future attempts to fix climate change in a blockbuster article entitled:1

That article is a must-read exposé of failed schemes that unintentionally hoodwink the general public, and scientists, and policymakers into believing in the merits of “feel-good proposals to save the planet.” But in reality, the scientists expose these projects as foolhardy, in part, based upon their own personal experience in actually helping to formulate some of the proposals in the first instance.

It is a thought-provoking article that cannot be dismissed, as it essentially implies we’re screwed unless global policymakers face up and react, immediately. They suggests foregoing the conceptual “Net Zero by 2050,” instead cut to the chase by cutting fossil fuels now!

As a follow up to the stirring article, Dr. Alison Green of ScientistsWarning interviewed the authors, May 8th, 2021:

The authors, not pulling any punches, take academia and international policymakers to the woodshed for decades of fairytale fixit schemes that always, always, always hold out hope, great promise to save civilization from burning up in a self-afflicted earthly hades, but never deliver, postage required.

The message behind the scathing article is simple, straightforward: Enough is enough, we’re fooling ourselves and getting nowhere fast, stop the madness, get real. Here’s how the authors see it:

Collectively we three authors of this article must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defence, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple – and we admit that it deceived us.2

A “Net Zero” search on Goggle brings up 1,630,000,000 hits within 0.89 seconds, and that’s just for starters. Deferring to the authors:

We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier ‘burn now, pay later’ approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar. It has also hastened the destruction of the natural world by increasing deforestation today, and greatly increases the risk of further devastation in the future.2

Their article goes on to describe “Steps towards Net Zero” starting with James Hansen, as administrator of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies June 1988 testimony to Congress, demonstrating how humans were warming Earth’s climate, famously stating, “The greenhouse (“GHG”) effect has been detected.” Then, four years later at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, all nations pledged to stabilize GHGs and the 1997 Kyoto Summit re-emphasized these goals, but at the time when something very constructive should have, could have been accomplished, the parties failed.  Subsequently fossil fuels never looked back, zooming ahead in the face of nations of the world agreeing to stabilize GHGs but continuing to fail.

As follows, the next approach was to link economic activity to climate change via “Integrated Assessment Models,” which became, and remain to this day, the principal guidance for climate policy, implicitly implying that “market-based” approaches work, thereby removing any requirement for “deep critical thinking.” This has been, and according to the authors, remains a huge mistake.

The next step to solving the problem was introduction of Carbon-Capture and Storage, a feel-good plan for policymakers but one that failed to address increasing levels of fossil fuel usage. By the Copenhagen 2009 summit it was clear that Carbon-Capture and Storage did not exist in the real world; it was another big bust.

Thereafter, a new magic bullet, Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage – BECCS, became the new savior technology, burning biomass instead of coal. However, BECCS, which is very much in favor today, carries manifold issues, including the insanity of burning trees that absorb & store CO2 if left alone.

According to the authors:

Alas, BECCS, just like all the previous solutions, was too good to be true.2

The following information about BECCS was not included in the relevant article but has been included herewith as BECCS has become the rage, especially in the EU, which generates more energy from burning wood than from wind and solar combined. Biomass is now a $50B global industry.

The title of a recent article tells the story of BECCS 3  For example:

Solar panels can produce 100 times as much power per acre as biomass.2

And here’s another snippet:

In February, more than 500 scientists and economists wrote to President Joe Biden and other leaders to warn that converting wood into power is a carbon disaster, a forest destroyer and an absurdly inefficient way to generate energy… Trees are more valuable alive than dead.2

According to Earth Institute, woody biomass power plants actually produce more “global warming CO2” than fossil fuel plants; i.e., 65% more CO2 per megawatt hour than modern coal plants and 285% more CO2 than natural gas. Meanwhile Canada and the U.S. deliver wood to Europe like there’s no tomorrow.

According to LSA – University of Colorado/Boulder: Wood accounts for 79% of biomass production and accounts for 3.2% of energy production. Wood dominates the worldwide biomass industry. Today 50% of EU renewable energy is based upon biomass, and it is on the rise.

For example, in the UK, the Drax Group converted 4 of 6 coal-generating units to biomass, powering 12% of UK electricity for 4 million households. The Drax biomass plant has an enormous appetite for wood; e.g., in less than two hours an entire freight train of wooden pellets goes up in smoke (easily qualifying for Ripley’s Believe It or Not).

According to Drax’s PR department, their operation has slashed CO2 by over 80% since 2012, claiming to be “the largest decarbonization project in Europe.”4 ; however, when scientists analyze Drax’s claims, they do not hold up.

When wood pellets burn, Drax assumes the released carbon is “recaptured instantly by new growth.” That is a fairy tale.

According to John Sherman, an expert on Complex Systems Analysis at MIT: The “carbon debt payback time” for forests in the eastern US, where Drax’s wood pellets originate, compared to burning coal, under the best-case scenario, when all harvested land regrows as a forest, the wood pellet “payback time is 44 to 104 years,” which is mindboggling, thus prompts a query: Whoever did the research on biomass? Fire them!

Study after study proves that “burning coal instead of woody biomass” reduces the impact of CO2 atmospheric emissions. Coal is the clear winner, but problematically coal has already been cast into no-man’s land as a horrific polluter. Therefore, a massive complexity is at work as countries commit to using trees to meet carbon neutral status, but the end results are appallingly diametrical to their own stated intentions, and flat-out wrong.

According to scientist Bill Moomaw, co-author of several IPCC reports and widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on “carbon sinks”:

If we let some of our forests grow, we could remove an additional 10 to 20 percent of what we emit every year. Instead, we’re paying subsidies to have people cut them down, burning them in place of coal, and counting it as zero carbon. 5

Dr. Moomaw led a group of 800 scientists that petitioned the EU parliament in January 2018 to: “End its support for biomass.” Nevertheless, in June 2018, the EU Commission voted to keep biomass listed as a renewable energy, joined in their position by the support of the U.S. and Britain. Is this conclusive proof that policymakers, at their peril, ignore science? Answer: Yes!

Back to the original article for this story, by 2015, with CO2 emissions still skyrocketing, Paris ’15 brought the world together to limit warming to 2°C, hopefully 1.5°C vs. pre-industrial levels. At the end of negotiations, predictably, worldwide media celebrated an alleged marvelous achievement by the nations of the world to limit global warming, actually implying a halt to global warming, full stop at 2°C. Oh, please!

Yet, the bitter truth about Paris ’15:

But dig a little deeper and you could find another emotion lurking within delegates on December 13. Doubt. We struggle to name any climate scientist who at that time thought the Paris Agreement was feasible. We have since been told by some scientists that the Paris Agreement was ‘of course, important for climate justice but unworkable’ and ‘a complete shock, no one thought limiting to 1.5°C was possible’. Rather than being able to limit warming to 1.5°C, a senior academic involved in the IPCC concluded we were heading beyond 3°C by the end of this century.2

But, at the conclusion of Paris ’15 policymakers and the world’s media focused on a celebration with bright colored streamers and champagne popping and lots of backslapping, continuing the false narrative that a fixit was orchestrated by the nations of the world by simply keeping temperatures below 2°C and maybe even 1.5°C. It’s that simple.

But, getting there may be very complex, accordingly, atmospheric CO2 emissions since 2015: 399.89 ppm January 2015 versus 419.05 ppm April 2021 and increasing at twice the rate of the last century, which makes Paris ’15 a laughing stock.

Furthermore, the three author/scientists discount all of the current proposals on the table like Direct Air Capture, BECCS, and Solar Radiation Management to control and reduce the impact of global warming: “The problems come when it is assumed that these can be deployed at vast scale. This effectively serves as a blank cheque for the continued burning of fossil fuels and the acceleration of habitat destruction.”2

Rather than acknowledge the seriousness of our situation, we instead continue to participate in the fantasy of net zero. What will we do when reality bites? The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.6

  1. “Climate Scientists: Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, The Conversation, April 22, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “The ‘Green Energy’ That Might Be Ruining the Planet,” Politico, March 26, 2021.
  4. Biomass Energy: Green or Dirty? Environment & Energy – Feature Article, January 8, 2020
  5. Europe’s Renewable Energy Policy is Built on Burning American Trees, Vox, March 4, 2019.
  6. Climate Scientists: “Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, written by: James Dyke/University of Exeter, Robert Watson/University of East Anglia, and Wolfgang Knorr/Lund University.
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The Doomsday Glacier Lives up to its Billing

Earth.com

The 21st century serves as an inflection point of acceleration of climate instability caused by human-generated greenhouse gases, as CO2 emissions increase well beyond the rate of the prior century. It’s also a defining timeline of an astonishing ice mass loss rate of 500% more than the last decade of the previous century. Throughout human history, this has never happened with such far-reaching extent so rapidly.

The proof is found in the numbers. For example, Greenland and Antarctica combined ice mass loss is truly an eye-opener:

“The assessment is supported by NASA and the European Space Agency… The team calculated that the two ice sheets together lost 81 billion tons per year in the 1990s compared with 475 billion tons of ice per year in the 2010s—a sixfold increase.”1

In all honesty, this article should end right here as 475 billion tons of ice mass loss per annum versus 81 billion tons per annum within only two decades is so riveting and daunting and over the top that nothing more needs to be said. But, there is more….

That troubling signal is only a starting point of much bigger trouble down the road. Recent research conducted in West Antarctica has exposed a whole new ballgame, the prospect of collapsing glaciers, in toto, big glaciers, and big meltdowns, unbelievable but yet distinctly possible and yet largely ignored by every major country. If it were otherwise, countries would be flip-flopping fossil fuels to renewables and installing mirrored technology to reflect solar radiation back to outer space, for example, contact: Dr. Ye Tao at Harvard University, and/or paint rooftops with “ultra-white” paint known as “cool roofs” that reflect 98% of sunlight:.  NYC and California are already promoting “cool roofs.”

Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier (100 miles across by 4,000 feet deep), aka: The Doomsday Glacier, labeled “A Climate Time Bomb” by research scientists is an ice shelf in West Antarctica that’s nestled next door to the equally notorious Pine Island Glacier.

A new discovery at Thwaites is bone chilling and nearly impossible to fathom. Thwaites is melting at key points that anchor it to land. The consequences of total release would be/will likely be earth shattering as, and when, the 74,000 square mile ice block breaks lose, but even more earth shattering yet, it could take down the entire West Antarctica Ice Sheet. That’s 10+ feet of sea level rise!

How soon? Stay tuned for updates.

But, seriously, how could anybody know for sure when it’ll completely collapse? Guesstimates may be forthcoming. Will it be decades or less or more or much more? It’s worth noting that climate models have been way too conservative, many estimates by climate scientists have already proven to be off the mark by decades. Climate system scientist Paul Beckwith, University of Ottawa, says global warming has advanced so unexpectedly, so rapidly that “2030 is the new 2100.” The implications of that are simply too much to contemplate.

Significantly, new research techniques employed at Thwaites are leading to much better scientific analyses than ever before. The techniques have given scientists the best-ever look at what’s happening under the massive ice sheet, providing reams of new data that will take time and additional research to properly analyze.

A robotic submarine named Ran, after the Norse goddess of the sea, is exploring the underneath side of the glacier, measuring the strength, temperature, oxygen content, and salinity of the ocean currents flowing beneath the glacier. Simultaneously, ship sonar from above enables high-resolution ocean mapping of the cavity floor. As a result, scientists have already spotted three main inflows of water that warm the underneath connections of the glacier to land. The upshot is for the first time ever scientists have the capability of more precise data to model the dynamics of the glacier. This is important in helping to clarify the uncertainty throughout the world about the prospects of global sea levels.

According to the initial reports by the scientific team: “Our observations show warm water impinging from all sides on pinning points critical to ice-shelf stability, a scenario that may lead to unpinning and retreat,” according to the study published April 9th in the journal Scientific Advances. In other words, the entire ice-shelf could detach and then flow into the ocean. 2

Thwaites is only one-half of a bigger potential problem on a scale that people would rather not think about. Recently, researchers published an article about neighboring Pine Island Glacier surpassing a tipping point because of warming waters, similar to the dilemma surrounding the surprisingly advanced stage of deterioration found at Thwaites. 3

It’s difficult, in fact, almost impossible, to imagine the consequences of actual complete glacier collapse(s) especially since it’s never happened on such a scale throughout human history. The referenced article in Cryosphere gives a generalized viewpoint:

Mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet is the main source of uncertainty in projections of future sea-level rise, with important implications for coastal regions worldwide. Central to ongoing and future changes is the marine ice sheet instability: once a critical threshold, or tipping point, is crossed, ice internal dynamics can drive a self-sustaining retreat committing a glacier to irreversible, rapid and substantial ice loss.4

Thereupon, it’s not exactly rocket science to figure out the meaning of “rapid and substantial ice loss.” As such, it’s probably not too early for every major coastal city in the world to start formulating plans to build sea walls. Already, low-lying areas like Miami Beach are raising streets by 2-to-3 feet (a photo can be seen at: “Miami Beach is Raising Streets by 2 Feet to Combat Rising Seas”).

Meanwhile, CO2 emissions continue setting new record highs by the year and unfortunately, methane emissions, which amplify global warming more so than CO2, are cranking up like never before, thus, locking in ever more global warming as these greenhouse gases blanket the atmosphere and retain heat. More CO2 into the atmosphere equals more heat.

The current scorecard for atmospheric CO2 reads as follows at Mauna Loa, Hawaii:  417.64 ppm (March 2021) versus 414.74 ppm (March 2020) versus 368.13 ppm (2000).

Fossil CO2 emissions are up nearly 40% at 36B tons per year now versus 26B tons at the turn of the century. That’s a whopper of an increase that relentlessly continues increasing. As such, the outlook for some semblance of a stable climate system is decidedly negative. In due course, the repercussions of a whacked-out climate system will shock people beyond their darkest nightmares and catch the world’s political leadership obliviously flat-footed.

By then it’s too late, tipping points cannot be reversed!

Postscript:

The last time the atmospheric CO2 amounts were this high was more than 3 million years ago, when temperature was 2°C–3°C (3.6°F–5.4°F) higher than during the pre-industrial era, and sea level was 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) higher than today.5

Logical question: What about sea level 50-80 feet higher back then with CO2 the same as today’s CO2? Answer: The normal time lag between increasing atmospheric CO2 and increasing temps leading to rising sea levels is one decade, or more.

  1. “Greenland, Antarctica Melting Six Times Faster Than in the 1990s”, Global Climate Change, NASA, March 16, 2020.
  2. “Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ Close to Tipping Point, Unmanned Sub Reveals”, LiveScience, April 14, 2021.
  3. “The Tipping Points and Early Warning Indicators for Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica”, European Geosciences Union, The Cryosphere, March 25, 2021.
  4. Ibid.
  5. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, Climate.gov August 14, 2020.
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Direct Air Capture and Big Oil

CNBC recently produced a 17-min video about direct air capture (DAC) and corporations, specifically big oil, funding R&D operations. The video discusses the basic technology, as well as some pitfalls. Direct air capture is in early stages of developing technology to remove atmospheric CO2.1

By implication, the oil giants are clearly aware of what’s at stake  (a) the planet is stressed almost beyond limits (b) there’s some money to be made trying to fix it (c) it’s a great PR gig. But, the problem is much bigger and more complex than oil and gas betting on early stage development of technology to capture the same emissions they created in the first instance. Direct air capture is complex and expensive with sizeable infrastructure requirements, explained in further detail hereinafter, a real eye-opener.

Ironically, expectantly, without doubt, big oil is bellying up to this task with eyes wide open. They have a lot to gain and very little to lose. In point of fact, it’s a win-win for these provocateurs of insane atmospheric levels of CO2 emissions, the highest of the Holocene Epoch, our unique Goldilocks Era, not too hot, not to cold suddenly coming to a crescendo of excessive exploitation within only a couple hundred years of the entire 12,000-year history.

It’s worth noting that ever since the Drake Well in 1859, the first commercial oil well in the United States, big oil’s interest in the planet has been adversarial, especially in actual practice. As a consequence, the planet’s atmosphere and ecosystems need a thorough overhaul: (1) remove CO2 via direct air capture (2) carbon capture and sequestration of CO2 at the point of production 3) construction of renewable energy facilities.

It’s a sizeable task that’s nearly impossible to fully comprehend and, in fact, impossible to wrap arms around because it’s the planet; it’s really big! The scale of infrastructure that’s required to make a significant difference is beyond a Marshall Plan prototype, which would be a blip on direct air capture’s radar.

It’s questionable that it can come together fast enough in the face of a very risky 1.5°C global overshoot. That probability increases, as the Paris ‘15 signatories have not met voluntary commitments to cut emissions. They’re mostly putting up zeros, so far. In addition to abject failure by the signatories, concerns about global warming ratcheted upwards subsequent to Paris ’15. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) drew a line in the sand at 1.5°C beyond which risk factors for planet viability turn a whole lot worse.

Exxon/Mobil and Microsoft are funding carbon air capture R&D projects. These entrepreneurial interests have likely been piqued by acceptance of the fact, finally, that exhaust fumes from industry and transport are a heavy burden on the planet. Already, major ecosystems are starting to collapse, for example, the Great Barrier Reef, the poster-child of global warming, has experienced unprecedented bleaching, three events in only five years, losing over one-half of its quintessence to global warming in only 25 years, categorized “in critical condition” by UNESCO.

Exxon Mobil and Global Thermostat have a joint development agreement for “breakthrough” technology that removes CO2 directly from the atmosphere via direct air capture (DAC). Currently, technical developments appear to be very costly, at least 50 times more per metric ton at $330-800 per ton of CO2 than natural climate solutions. However, as part of the process, captured/processed CO2 is a marketable byproduct and can be sold for numerous purposes; e.g., pumped into an operating oil well to enhance oil recovery, which, of course, is where CO2 initiated in the first instance. This is a preferred modus operandi for some oil operations, which unfortunately also leads to endless production of fossil fuels in a perpetual madness that enhances oil-driven vehicles, air pollution, and global warming, spewing more CO2 into the atmosphere, which allegedly is recaptured, but is it really? Oh, almost forgot, and lots more ocean absorbing of CO2. Along the way, oil PR departments claim, “green energy” with signage on full public display. Meanwhile, direct air capture or the impression of such opens a window to perpetual drilling, as big oil continues to spud 50,000 new wells every year.

There are currently 15 operational DAC plants in the world. Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company, has a plant under construction in the Permian Basin in partnership with Oxy Low Carbon, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum (Oxy’s PR department must be thrilled over its “Oxy Low Carbon” designation). The plant will open in 2024 at the rate of 1,000,000 metric tons of captured CO2 per year versus 4,200,000 metric tons of CO2 emitted worldwide per hour… yes, per hour. The Oxy Low Carbon facility is energy-intensive, powered by natural gas and renewables. The captured CO2 can be injected into the ground, sequestered or converted into a synthetic fuel and sold on the market.

Carbon Engineering’s investors include Bill Gates, BP, and Chevron. Their goal is to build plants around the world. As such, the company claims it needs the technological skill and experience of major oil, which has infrastructure and technology expertise.

Another up and coming player in carbon removal is Climeworks, operating 14 direct air capture plants across Europe and currently building its largest facility in Iceland. Current operations capture 2,000mt CO2/year. They have an Iceland plant named Orca under construction powered by geothermal energy that will capture 4,000mt CO2/year. The captured CO2 is permanently sequestered underground. Costs to operate the plant run $600-800/metric ton CO2, which hopefully drops to $100-200/mt within 10 years. In addition to sequestering CO2, Climeworks sells some of its captured product; e.g., a greenhouse in Switzerland is a customer, using it to grow vegetables. Climeworks hopes to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions by 2025.

For direct air capture to really truly work, to do the job, meaningfully saving the planet, it’ll need lots of support by the nations of the world. Commercial interests agree on that basic supposition. The job is too big, too important, and too urgent for piecemeal work by several individual upstart operations.

Direct air capture is not a magic bullet. According to Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer of Microsoft:

You have to deploy all carbon removal opportunities to their maximum capacity. That is the only way that we will reach our overall societal climate targets. DAC is going to be an important part of how we reach a net zero carbon economy, but there are a lot of engineering challenges ahead of it, and we need to be clear-eyed about that. Otherwise there’s going to be a lot of dashed hopes and missed targets as we go from 2020 to 2030 and 2040 and 2050. (CNBC)

Of course, corporate funding is an encouraging factor, but there is a darker side to this story. Since 1950 when worldwide CO2 emissions registered 5.99B tons, emissions have increased 5-fold within only 70 years, skyrocketing to 36.42B tons in 2019 versus 23B tons at the turn of the century, or up 58% in only 20 years. That’s serious acceleration, and it readily fulfills an extraordinarily sharp upward thrusting growth curve. It’s even more remarkable given the fact that 4,200,000 mt of CO2 is emitted per hour worldwide. That makes the Oxy Low Carbon plant at 1,000,000mt/year look awfully low.

In reality, direct air capture is enormously challenging (1) massive volumes of air have to be pulled to truly make it work (2) a chemical solution, like potassium hydroxide, is required to capture CO2 (3) more chemicals are added with a resulting solution heated to make white pellets of 50% CO2 (4) in turn, pellets are heated again to 900°C to concentrate CO2 into a gas that can be sequestered underground. Whew!

According to renowned physicist Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, in order to stay abreast of current emissions: “If you built a hundred million trailer-size units you could actually keep up with current emissions.” 2

Here’s more of that New Yorker interview:

Lackner has calculated that an apparatus the size of a semi trailer could remove a ton of carbon dioxide per day, or three hundred and sixty-five tons a year. The world’s cars, planes, refineries, and power plants now produce about thirty-six billion tons of CO2 annually, so, he told me, ‘if you built a hundred million trailer-size units you could actually keep up with current emissions.’ He acknowledged that the figure sounded daunting. 3

Umm, in reference to Lackner’s hundred million units necessary to “keep up with current emissions,” what about the CO2 that’s already up there? Moreover, Lackner’s acknowledgement of “the figure sounds daunting” is quite true and quite intimidating, as one hundred million (100,000,000) 55-foot units end-to-end circumnavigate the planet 42 times. Do the math!

Ergo, direct air capture requires, desperately needs, frankly depends upon a coordinated herculean effort by every major nation of the planet. How’s that for scale? Hopefully, Paris ’15 is not a leading indicator of responsiveness by countries to a much bigger project than their failure to reduce emissions at the source.

In all, a cynic might suppose there’s something cagey going on with the world’s biggest corporations, over-weighted by oil producers, now feigning green. Yes, it seems too far out of character to be genuine. Is it possible that boards of directors of oil and gas operators believe they can keep on draining the world’s oil, unimpeded, as long as direct air capture is in the works or as long as the public deems it to be in the works, or is this an overly cynical viewpoint? Answer: Yes and no.

Postscript: The following message exposes dregs of society in acts of absurdity and folly: Under an obscure treaty, big polluters are suing governments for billions of dollars when they shut down coal plants and oil rigs ($50B so far of taxpayer’s money). You can help stop this insanity by going here.

  1. “Money is Pouring Into Carbon Capture Tec, But Challenges Remain”, CNBC, March 3, 2021.
  2. Elizabeth Kolbert, “Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World?” The New Yorker, November 20, 2017.
  3. Ibid.
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Approaching a Risky 1.5°C Global Overshoot 

A recent UN Assessment, as of February 26th, 2021, regarding progress or lack thereof by the 195 nations to the Paris 2015 climate agreement is starting to look like a big bust.

As described in the report, nations are not meeting their voluntary commitments to decrease carbon emissions, especially based upon the Paris ‘15 goals to decelerate CO2 emissions of cars, trains, planes, and collectively, the human-generated colossus.1

According to data provided by the 74 nations that have reported to the much-heralded Paris climate accord, collectively, their plans are to reduce emissions by 2030 to only 0.5% of 2010 levels, which is totally inadequate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly stated that global emissions be reduced by 45%, otherwise, there’s no chance of staying below 1.5°C. 2

Whether by avoidance or ignorance, one-third of the nations to the Paris climate agreement are failing to meet goals. The plans of the remaining two-thirds are unknown at this time, but the trend doesn’t look very promising. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to plan for a global temperature overshoot beyond +1.5°C (2.7F).

So then, what does +1.5°C above pre-industrial look like?

For starters, according to NASA, it’s important to note that +1.5°C has already been surpassed in many regions of the world, for example, Australia (massive fires) and the Arctic (open seas). The impact of climate change is not evenly spread around the planet. Nevertheless, according to the Global Warming Index, as of December 2020, global temperature has increased by 1.168°C over the past 170 years. But, of course, it’s noteworthy that the rate of emissions has doubled since the turn of the 21st century, as the Great Acceleration, post WWII, kicks into overdrive.

At 1.5°C above pre-industrial, NASA claims that roughly 15% of the world population will experience extreme heat waves that have the potential to threaten life. On the hottest days at mid-latitudes, temperatures will be up to 3°C (5.4°F) hotter. These extremes will hit central and eastern North America, central and southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and many Asian and African regions.

Kuwait is an ongoing example of the impact of extreme heat. An analysis of 15,000 deaths in Kuwait from 2010 to 2016, when extreme temperatures exceeded 109F, versus the daily average of 94.5F, found death rates by cardiovascular disease 3.5 times higher for men and 3.8 times higher for working-age people ages 15-64. According to that report: “The warming of our planet is not evenly distributed. Regions that are inherently hot, like Kuwait and the Arabian Peninsula, are witnessing soaring temperatures unlike ever before. We are sounding the alarm….” 3

The unevenness of a 1.5°C world simply implies: “The hottest of the hot temperatures will increase throughout the planet as some regions turn dangerously hot.” 4

Overshooting the 1.5°C threshold generates sufficient heat to push some ecosystems to the edge of tipping points, or even beyond. That’s when things get dicey with intermittent shortages of critical resources like food and water, already a huge problem in some regions of the planet. And it’s expected almost total wipe-out of some critical ecosystems, coral reefs, for example, especially considering the well publicized excessive bleaching events, three times successively in only five years, clobbering the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) of 1,400 miles, already in an extremely critical condition, as it resides in ocean temps too warm for coral reef survival. As of February 2020, ocean waters surrounding GBR were at the warmest/hottest since record keeping started in 1900.

The failure by countries to achieve results according to Paris ’15 is immoral at best, and at worse, a criminal activity against humanity. Seriously, it’s outlandish that 195 countries commit to hold down global emissions, yet flagrantly fail. The proof of failure is found in atmospheric chemistry: Monthly average CO2 levels measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii: March 1, 2020 @ 414.25 ppm versus March 1, 2021 @ 417.86 ppm. CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase by the year, every year, without fail. It’s the one event that does not fail. Curiously, the “400 ppm Crossover” occurred April 2012, the first monthly average >400 ppm in human history, and for even more history, count back in time to prior extinctions. There are five.

The rate of CO2 increase is the key determinate as to whether society should be concerned about global warming disrupting life, as we know it. Already, at all-time highs, historically, emissions are too rapid for comfort. The current rate is ~2.0 ppm/yr., whereas it was approximately one-half that rate throughout the 20th century. In academia that’s considered a significant CO2 rate of increase, especially in light of the telling fact that it is not only extraordinary by today’s standards, but it’s also a record-breaker on a millennial time scale. Throughout the Holocene Epoch, CO2 increased by ~0.003 ppm / year or +40 ppm over 12,000 years versus our current rate of ~2.0 ppm / year or +40 ppm in only 20 years. That illustrates the difference between nature’s CO2 influence of +0.003 ppm versus the human influence of +2.00 ppm, or 666 times more powerful than nature.

The Anthropocene Epoch, or the age of human climate disruption, is setting all-time records, by the year!  For example, on a long-term scale, atmospheric CO2 of the past 400,000 years has been as high as 280 ppm and as low as 180 ppm in contrast to >400 ppm over the past eight years.

Meanwhile, as disruption hits floral, biota, and fauna, ecosystems start collapsing or actually do collapse smack-dab in the face of a largely disinterested public, for example, two-thirds (66%) of wild vertebrates dead within only 50 years, which is clear evidence that something is horribly wrong.

The protagonist is most likely a robust cocktail of human impact, like destruction of rainforests, in concert with the consequences of global warming, for example, desertification. In fact, desertification crises have hit 168 countries, prompting a declaration of the UN Decade of Desertification for 2010-20.

Curiously, these disturbing, perplexing events as outlined heretofore are discussed in magazines, newspapers, scholarly articles, and throughout the Internet. So, society knows all about these challenges to life on Earth but nothing much gets done about it.

Unfortunately, there is a long list of international agreements or protocols designed to help the planet that fail, for example: (1) The Aichi Biodiversity Targets intended for 2020 set at the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010 have not been met, not even close (2) Most of the nature-related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs 6, 13–15 are on track for failure (3) The Paris ’15 carbon emission deceleration plans are a basket case. The list could go on.

Clearly, sustainability of the planet stands on its own without help from inhabitants. Still, Earth has demonstrated exceptional recovery skills, surviving five major extinctions, most recently the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event 65MYA when 75% of plant and animal species went extinct. Hmm, the current wild vertebrate 66% extinction rate is closing in on that 75% rate, proving that the planet is already “in the thick of it.”

What will stop it from getting a whole lot worse?

  1. “We Are Nowhere Near Keeping Warming below 1.5°C Despite Climate Plans”, NewScientist, February 26, 2021.
  2. “Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C, Summary for Policymakers”, IPCC, 2018.
  3. “American Heart Association, Extreme, High Temperatures May Double or Triple Heart-related Deaths”, ScienceDaily, March 30, 2020.
  4. Ibid.
The post Approaching a Risky 1.5°C Global Overshoot  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

At 100, Gaia Faces its Biggest Challenges

James Lovelock theorized Gaia while working for NASA in the 1960s when he was hired to determine if there was “life on Mars.”

Gaia may be younger but James Lovelock, Mr. Gaia himself, turns 100 on his upcoming birthday, July 26th.

For over 50 years, he has been Britain’s leading independent scientist. His independence from a formal relationship with an educational institution or governmental agency gives him a unique perspective. He’s one of the few scientists without an axe to grind, and of great interest, he’s been observing the scene for 100 years. He’s a living treasure trove of scientific knowledge whose reputation, at one point in time, withstood sharp criticism by the scientific community. Today, he’s a proven genius.

His Gaia hypothesis, which contends that the earth is a single, self-regulating organism, is now accepted as a founding principle of most climate science. His theory proposes that the atmosphere, oceans, rocks, soil and all living things constitute a self-regulating system that maintains favorable conditions for life.

To his everlasting credit, he helped save all of humanity by developing an invention for detecting CFCs in the atmosphere that was instrumental in discovering the infamous Ozone Hole of the 1980s.

The ozone molecule (O3), which is randomly scattered throughout the stratosphere at 10-to-20 miles above Earth’s surface, filters-out hazardous effects of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, without which life would burn up.

After the Ozone Hole was identified, it led to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in September 1987. Human-made chlorines, CFCs, were prohibited.

Thereafter, research monitoring the atmosphere claimed the ozone hole in the Northern Hemisphere would be fixed by the 2030s and the Antarctica hole fixed by the 2060s.

Until… Alas, a new alarm was set off in Southeast Asia. The Environmental Investigation Agency in 2018 discovered a source of illegal CFCs coming from provinces in eastern China manufacturing polyurethane insulation. The manufacturers were using CFC-11 because of its better quality and cheaper costs than alternatives.

According to third-party analyses: “This new study is based on spikes in the data on air that comes from China,” lead author Dr. Matt Rigby, the University of Bristol, told BBC Inside Science. “Using computer simulations of the transport of these gases through the atmosphere we can start to put numbers on emissions from different regions and that’s where we come up with this number of around 7,000 tonnes of extra CFC-11 emissions coming out of China compared to before 2012.”

Oh please! Somebody find a bucket… quick, hurry up!

Not only that but CFCs are very potent greenhouse gases. One ton of CFC-11 is equivalent to around 5,000 tons of CO2.

Getting back to a semblance of sanity and the James Lovelock story, one of his most elegant pieces of hard science was discovery of the cycle in which algae in the oceans produces volatile sulphur compounds that act as seeds to form oceanic clouds. Without these dimethyl sulphide seeds, cooling oceanic clouds would be lost.

Lovelock’s gargantuan influence is nearly impossible to describe in one article. It requires a book, not an article. Still, a lot can be gleaned from his voluminous studies, interviews, and analyses, especially regarding the status of Mother Earth.

One of his starkest warnings was that the earth is overpopulated by a factor of seven. Stating:

It cannot for much longer maintain both its ecosystem and the supply of food, energy and materials to such a large population.

Of course, therein, by implication, he references the Great Acceleration post WWII when world population growth took off like a space ship blasting off. After all, it took thousands of years to reach 2B people by 1945, but it only took one generation to nearly triple, up 275%, to 7.5B people. If anybody has questions about how and why ecosystems throughout the planet are strained, if not outright crumbling apart, then look to the Great Acceleration in harmony with rampant High Capitalism for answers.

With High Capitalism, ecosystems are handled like throw-away Dixie Cups. As a result, a gigantic crack is starting to appear in Earth’s crust, running from pole to pole as it comes apart at the seams. Infinite growth is the greatest illusion of all time, that, nevertheless and unfortunately “turns on” Wall Street and political leaders around the world. But, that formula for “growth to the sky, to infinity,” is not working very well for Gaia, which has already reversed course downwards towards surefire darkness and chaos. Which means that something has to change before all hell breaks lose. The likeliest target for change is current political theory, as the neoliberal brand of capitalistic democracy has gotta go the way of the Dodo Bird, otherwise, the planet will likely suffer serious climate disasters.

There’s a better way: Eco economics treats the economy as a subsystem of Earth’s larger ecosystem and emphasizes natural capital instead of consuming it and destroying it.

During a recent BBC interview, Lovelock said:

There is a real danger of losing our tenure on the planet altogether…. We’ve got to care about this matter of global warming because if we don’t do anything about it, there won’t be anybody here… It’s about time we went back to taking an interest in the environment… What happens to the planet when more CO2 is put into the air? The earth will get hotter. It will heat up to a point where no life on it of our kind will be possible…1

In an earlier interview with Nature Video, regarding his book The Vanishing Face of Gaia, A Final Warning (Publisher Allen Lane), he outlined expectations for global warming: After informing the interviewer that he preferred to use “global heating” rather than “global warming,” he outlined consequences: “When tough times come, it’ll be very rapid, indeed.”

And, as outlined in his book, he believes the “climate downfall” will be quite the opposite from an old adage: “It’s darkest before the dawn.” In his view, it’ll be: “It’s brightest just before the darkness” (which incidentally defines High Capitalism today, in terms of capital growth but not in terms of individual gratification).

Lovelock’s climate warning:

Assume the system becomes unstable and goes into positive feedback, as the positive feedback strengthens, any small permutation in either direction gets amplified.

Which describes the trigger behind “climate downfall,” when least expected.

In point of fact, there are already instances of “positive feedback”; e.g., permafrost collapsing in the North and disappearance of arthropods in tropical rainforests, among many other instances. It has already started, where nobody lives.

He further stated that he feared that the earth’s move to a new state 5-6C hotter is probably inevitable, and that we should be planning to meet that challenge. There are already early signs of that, especially in the northern latitudes.

Even though Lovelock has personally planted 1,000 trees, he admits that the climate problem can’t be so easily solved:

You cannot plant an ecosystem. An ecosystem includes: bacteria or haematids, insects, invertebrates and all kinds of stuff, all the way up to big trees. You cannot plant ecosystems…  it has to come naturally.

Recently (August 2018) in an interview, he said:

Humans’ time may have run out and artificial intelligence could be about to take our place on Earth.2

In that interview, he also proclaimed:

The Earth is in dire trouble and could soon experience intense climate-related disasters.

Mr. Lovelock said that he felt the Earth was something like himself. It is very old, but still has some time left.

“I’m looking forward to quite a few years to go in this beautiful region and so is the planet, but you can’t bank on it,” he told the Today programme.”

  1. BBC Ideas interview of James Lovelock, February 8th, 2019.
  2. Independent, August 8, 2018.

Permafrost Collapses 70 Years Early

Fasten your seat belt!  Global warming is on a rampage.

As a consequence, many ecosystems may be on the verge of total collapse. In fact, recent activity in the hinterlands surely looks that way. Over time, the backlash for civilized society, where people live in comfort, could be severe, meaning extreme discomfort.

But still, nobody knows when or how bad it’ll get. As it happens, an ongoing climate catastrophe, like the show-stopping catastrophic collapse of permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic (more on this later) is hard evidence that climate scientists have been way too conservative for far too long. Evidently, they never expected climate change to hit with the force of a lightening bolt.

Still in all, and in fairness, climate scientists have been warning about the dangers of global warming for decades. Now, it’s happening, in spades. It should be noted that America’s politicians are guilty of ignoring warnings by their own scientists. Those warnings officially started 31 years ago when Dr. James Hansen, then head of NASA Institute for Space Studies, testified before the Senate.1

The NYT article of 31 years ago went on to say:

If the current pace of the buildup of these gases continues, the effect is likely to be a warming of 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit from the year 2025 to 2050, according to these projections. This rise in temperature is not expected to be uniform around the globe but to be greater in the higher latitudes.

Hmm, that’s where the permafrost is located.

Global warming is prominent throughout the North. Ergo, climate news doesn’t get much worse (well, actually, it could, and will) than the collapse of permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic’s extreme coldest region:

Observed maximum thaw depths at our sites are already exceeding those projected to occur by 2090.2

That’s chilling!

The aforementioned study, from 2003-2016, found permafrost melt up to 240% more than previous years. In geological terms, that’s like winning the Indy 500, hands down. That permafrost had been frozen solid for “thousands of years.” Accordingly, scientists predicted the permafrost “wouldn’t melt for another 70 years.” Yet, the landscape has already collapsed by up to three feet.

Not only is permafrost collapsing, it’s reported that houses are “sinking into the earth” in parts of Alaska, Canada, and Russia. Alaska’s 92-mile road for Alaska’s Denali National Park is moving off center by the forces of slip-sliding land.

Not only that, of course, bad news often times begets more bad news.  Here’s the bold-faced truth about the global warming dilemma: The world is not braced for a turbo-charged climate and collapsing ecosystems and burn off of agriculture in mid latitudes. Remarkably, even though “global warming” is one of the most recognized terms in the world today, nobody is prepared for the onset.

Scandalously, America’s role in the crisis is akin to (actually a carbon copy of) the extreme arrogant smugness of General George Custer’s leadership directly, headfirst into one of the world’s most celebrated mass slaughters.

For additional evidence of out of control crazy, zany global warming, a photo of sled dogs traipsing thru water up to their stomachs on Greenland’s icy surface recently went viral, as Steffen Olsen, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, led his team to retrieve equipment at a weather station but the normal icy freeze-up wasn’t normal any longer.

William Colgan, a senior researcher at the institute, commented:

It’s very unusual to have this much melt so early in the season… it takes very rare conditions but they’re becoming increasingly common.3

Bottom line, the top 25% of the Northern Hemisphere, where permafrost is ubiquitous, is coming apart at the seams, and climate scientists are behind the eight ball while America’s politicians deny the legitimacy of science and openly spit on the underlying thesis of anthropogenic global warming. What can be done about that? After all, America’s political system is on trial before a world community that fully embraced Paris ’15 to restrain global warming as it watches ecosystems in America’s Alaska collapse and emit more carbon into the atmosphere (based upon two-years of airborne measurements) than all U.S. commercial CO2 emissions biannually, which, of course, merely serves as supporting evidence for the absolutely shocking “drop-to-your-knees news” about the “70-yr too early permafrost collapse.”

These instances of collapsing permafrost are deafening bell-ringers and exactly the type of awful news that presages Runaway Global Warming (RGW).

In point of fact, Farquharson’s “70-yr too early permafrost collapse” makes the onset of RGW look like a dead-ringer, but when? Still, nobody really knows for sure how horrible it will be for society at large, but it’s 100% guaranteed to upend capitalism’s rampant growth machine. Functioning ecosystems and roughshod capitalism that willy-nilly consumes ecosystems, punctuated by the advent of plutocracy, don’t jive very well. Maybe a change is in order.

There’s no getting around the fact that ecosystems are collapsing. The evidence is too palpable to ignore. It’s serious; it’s deadly, and it could be too late to do much to stop it, other than a last-ditch WWII Marshall Plan Worldwide Consortium dedicated to converting the world to renewable energy, and forcing removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, yet, those solutions take years and years of planning, setup, construction, and billions upon billions of funding. It’s not happening.

Meanwhile, carbon that has been trapped in and under permafrost over eons readies to escape to turbo-charge an already oversaturated turbo-charged climate. It’s literally happening right now. The waiting room is already full. Farquharson’s study proves it, and Alaska’s permafrost carbon emissions that compete with U.S. commercial CO2 emissions prove it, as sled dogs wade through it.

It’s postulated that Runaway Global Warming, which could wipe out huge swaths of civilized society, starts in the North, where few people live. Egad! They’re already seeing it.

  1. “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate,” New York Times, June 24, 1988.
  2. Louise M. Farquharson et al, “Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic”, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019.
  3. BBC News, Rare climate conditions that “increasingly become common” define dangerous, disruptive climate change.

Renewable Energy Is Not the Answer; Nuclear Is

“It’s always a good idea to start by asking about the facts.” So advises Noam Chomsky. “Whenever you hear anything said very confidently, the first thing that should come to mind is, ‘Wait a minute, is that true?’” De omnibus dubitandum—doubt everything—was Karl Marx’s motto and should be the motto of every thinking person. Question even or especially what the tribe most takes for granted.

In the era of climate change, when fossil fuels are known to be driving civilization straight into the ocean, the idea that liberal and left-wing tribes take most for granted is “Renewable energy!” It is shouted confidently from every public perch. Renewable energy, scaled up to replace fossil fuels and even nuclear, is declared the only possible salvation for humanity. It has such obvious advantages over every other energy source that the world has to go 100% renewables ASAP.

Obviously!

But wait a minute—is that true?

Let’s try to shed the religious thinking, look objectively at the facts, and come to a conclusion about this most important of subjects: how to power the future and hopefully save the world.

Renewable energy emits greenhouse gases

First, consider the claim that renewable energy has no carbon emissions. This is true, in a sense, for wind and solar farms (as it is for nuclear energy), which in themselves emit virtually no greenhouse gases. It isn’t true for hydropower, however, which in 2016 produced 71% of all electricity generated by renewable sources. According to one study, hydroelectric dams worldwide emit as much methane (a potent greenhouse gas) as Canada, from decaying vegetation and nutrient runoff. Another study concluded they produce even more carbon dioxide than methane.

“These are massive emissions,” one expert comments. “There are a massive number of dams that are currently proposed to be built. It would be a grave mistake to continue to finance those with the impression that they were part of the solution to the climate crisis.”

And yet in every scenario projected by renewables advocates, hydropower is absolutely essential. For instance, Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson’s famous—and deeply flawed—proposal to run the U.S. on 100% renewables by 2050 assumes the country’s dams could add turbines and transformers to produce 1,300 gigawatts of electricity, over 16 times their current capacity of 80 gigawatts. (According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the maximum capacity that could be added is only 12 gigawatts, 1,288 gigawatts short of Jacobson’s assumption.)

The International Energy Agency projects that by 2023, wind and solar together will satisfy a mere 10% of global electricity demand, while hydroelectric power will satisfy 16%. Nearly all the rest will be produced by fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Burning biomass, too, which is a renewable energy source, releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. “It does exactly the opposite of what we need to do: reduce emissions,” says an expert in forest science and management.

Even leaving aside hydropower and biomass, the use of wind and solar dramatically increases greenhouse gas emissions compared to nuclear energy. This is because, given the intermittency and the diluted nature of solar and wind energy, a backup source of power is needed, and that source is natural gas. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a guru of the renewables movement, himself acknowledges this fact:

We need about 3,000 feet of altitude, we need flat land, we need 300 days of sunlight, and we need to be near a gas pipe. Because for all of these big utility-scale solar plants—whether it’s wind or solar—everybody is looking at gas as the supplementary fuel. The plants that we’re building, the wind plants and the solar plants, are gas plants.

The burning of natural gas; i.e., methane, emits about half as much carbon dioxide as the burning of coal. So natural gas is better than coal, but not nearly good enough if we want to solve climate change. Even worse, many millions of tons of unburned methane are leaked every year from the American oil and gas industry—and methane is more than 80 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. So these leaks cancel out much of the environmental good that wind and solar farms are supposedly doing.

In other words, the fact that wind and solar farms typically operate far below their capacity (because of seasonal changes and the unreliability of weather) necessitates that a more reliable power source “supplement” them. In fact, as researchers Mike Conley and Tim Maloney point out, strictly speaking it is the renewable source that acts as a supplement for the oil or natural gas plants linked to the renewables. A solar farm with a capacity of one gigawatt, for instance, will on average operate at only about 20% of its capacity, which means that if a gigawatt of energy is really to be produced, the majority will have to be provided by the “backup” fossil fuel plant(s).

The upshot is that an anti-nuclear and pro-renewables policy means an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

California is a good example. Like other states in the U.S and countries in the Western world, it has been closing its nuclear power plants—despite their safety, reliability, effectiveness, and environmental friendliness. The carbon-free nuclear plants have been replaced with renewables + natural gas, which is to say, they’ve been replaced mostly with natural gas (prone to methane leaks). After it closed the San Onofre nuclear plant in 2013, California missed its CO2 emissions targets as a result.

In New England, after the premature closing of the nuclear power plant Vermont Yankee in 2014, CO2 emission rates rose across New England, reversing a decade of declines. When Massachusetts’ last remaining nuclear plant, Pilgrim, closed last month, much more electricity generation was lost than the state generates with all its solar, wind, and hydropower combined. Several new fossil fuel plants and a couple of small solar and wind farms will take the place of Pilgrim, increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

In their new book A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow, Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist give other examples. Between 1970 and 1990, due to its construction of nuclear power plants, Sweden was able to cut its carbon emissions by half even as its electricity consumption more than doubled. Germany, by contrast, emits about twice as much carbon pollution per person as Sweden despite using one-third less energy per person, because it has chosen to phase out its nuclear power while introducing renewables.

This means that Germany has simply substituted one (relatively) clean energy source for another, while doing virtually nothing to decarbonize. Its energy production remains dominated by coal, and greenhouse gas emissions are around a billion tons a year.

A more sensible policy would have been to build more nuclear plants and phase out coal. Or at least to let the existing nuclear plants continue to operate while adding renewables, which then would have displaced coal.

ExxonMobil likes renewable energy

The fact that renewable energy directly and indirectly causes far more greenhouse gas emissions than nuclear should already tell us it isn’t a solution to climate change.

Indeed, the willingness of the oil and gas industry in recent years to promote and invest in renewables is itself significant. Over the last three years, the five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies have invested over a billion dollars in advertising and lobbying for renewables. “Natural gas is the perfect partner for renewables,” ads say. “See why #natgas is a natural partner for renewable power sources,” Shell tweets.

By pretending to care about the environment, these companies not only burnish their reputations but also are able to associate natural gas with clean energy, which it very much is not. The formula “renewables + natural gas” thus serves a dual purpose. In fact, it serves a triple purpose: it also distracts from nuclear power, which, unlike renewables, is an immediately viable alternative to oil and gas.

Nuclear power, not renewable energy, is what the fossil fuel industry really fears. The reason is simple: the energy in nuclear fuel is orders of magnitude more concentrated than the energy in oil, gas, coal, and every other source. (Which is why nuclear reactors produce vastly less waste than everything from coal to solar.) If governments invested in a global Nuclear New Deal, so to speak, they could make fossil fuels largely obsolete within a couple of decades. Not even Mark Jacobson’s wildly unrealistic $15-20 trillion 100% renewables plan envisions such a fast transition.

Because of the diffuse and intermittent nature of wind and solar energy, all the world’s investment in renewables didn’t prevent the share of low-carbon power in generating electricity from declining between 1995 and 2017. Western countries’ shuttering of nuclear power plants in these decades was a disaster for the environment.

Another way to appreciate the disaster is to consider that global carbon emissions are actually rising, even as the world spent roughly $2 trillion on wind and solar between 2007 and 2016. (This is similar to the amount spent on nuclear in the past 55 years.) So much for the gospel of renewable energy!

Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry has been smiling on the sidelines, giving millions of dollars to groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and many others that work to kill nuclear power and thus exacerbate climate change. (Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are particularly active in the war on nuclear—and they refuse to disclose their donors. Could it be because they receive an unseemly amount from oil and gas companies?)

We have eleven years

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 special report, we have eleven years left to avoid potentially irreversible climate disruption.

António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has called on global leaders to “demonstrate how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and achieve net zero global emissions by 2050.” They’re supposed to meet in New York in September 2019 to answer this call.

The only conceivable way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the scale called for is to aggressively embrace nuclear power. It is cost-competitive with all other forms of electricity generation except natural gas—although if you take into account the long-term environmental costs of using natural gas (or oil or even renewables), nuclear is probably the cheapest of all.

A worldwide rollout of nuclear power plants on the scale necessary to save civilization would certainly take longer than eleven years, but we can at least make substantial progress by then. If, that is, we pressure our governments to stop subsidizing oil, natural gas, and the renewables they go hand-in-hand with and instead massively invest in nuclear.

It’s time to stop doing the bidding of fossil fuel interests and get serious about saving the world.

Love in the Time of Xenocide

If artists are the antennae of the race, and writers and thinkers are also artists, then a vibration some are receiving and beginning to transmit to the culture more broadly now is new in the history of our species: the world is dying.

Christy Rodgers, “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance: The Five Stages of Ecocide”

I’m digging what some of us artists are doing to act as narrative catchments, looking deep into the well of humanity’s general self-delusion and hubris. This is on the heels of heading from the Central Oregon Coast to Portland, to attend an Oceans conference at Portland State University in downtown Stumptown Sunday afternoon.

Patience here, dear reader, since I am also part of a grand global transformation, though time and again I have written over the decades that I get it and got it at a very young age —

  • capitalism as a system of penury, pollution, trickle down insanity
  • the rapacious quality of narcissism of the Western world (me-myself-and-I consumerism)
  • the despoiling of soil, land, air, river, ocean water by collective madness of money making
  • misogyny which has hitched the world’s girls and women to the shackles of male stupidity and sexual violence and forced birthing
  • war lords, even those hiding in Sweden or Switzerland, becoming the Mafioso of the world, full stop
  • the capturing of a free thinking press and evisceration of holistic education by privatizers and corporate overlords to create the Orwellian maxim of, lies are truth, war is peace

So, with my fiance and her daughter — OSU chemistry/physics undergraduate — we headed to a mild conference (tabling non-profits do not make a conference) to also listen to celebrity diver-scientist, Sylvia Earle, aged 83. We’ll talk about her Mission Blue. We’ll talk about this hopey-dopey thing she promulgates. We’ll talk about her down-dumbing to audiences. Later. And I paid for tickets, which is something I have rarely done in my 62 years on the planet.

Image result for Sylvia Earle controversy

Yes, the guilt of using up fossil fuels, clogging the road system and sending water vapor and CO2 into the atmosphere to hear someone I have already heard elsewhere in another iteration of my time as community college teacher and sustainability leader.

How difficult was it for me to NOT open my mouth and start railing against this celebrity culture before the talk — and expose a 21-year-old hopeful undergraduate science student to negativity — and then spew out my prophecy of …  this is just going to be another white person-attended milquetoast thing with dyed in the wool democrats and Obama lovers again not even attempting to stammer that capitalism is the evil, war is the tool for this evil, magical thinking is the conduit of this evil, and chaos in all forms of discourse/thought/ community its product?

Huge!

I’ll in a future piece nuance and dice and parse what Sylvia Earle’s talk was — a refitted talk that she’s done for decades — and how that crowd in Portland did in some sense send pulsating streams of bile into my throat as I felt like the one and only one who was disturbed by the lock-step cult of celebrity thing going on in that big PSA pavilion, one big basketball arena that was burping up so much air conditioned streams that dozens of folk scurried around looking for sweaters and coats to keep from blue-lipping themselves into a stupor.

I’ve been here before, running talks with the likes of Winona LaDuke, James Howard Kunstler, David Helvarg, Bill McKibben and others. I was the thorn in the side, the lightning rod, the agitator, the one person who took the discourse away from slanted academic or literary bunk and platitudes, toward a more militant rhetoric, one where revolutionary thinking had to set the stage. Some guests were uncomfortable, and audiences, too but many speakers and others I interviewed or MC-ed for responded deeper than they had ever in public, many have told me. I even took them to the studio and interviewed them on my old radio show. Here are a few captured on my blog, PaulHaeder dot com.

Too-too many times, the rank and file wherever I practiced as teacher, journalist, social worker and activist have demonstrated their partial or complete colonization (where I ticked off the issues in the list above) which has assisted in depositing magical thinking and elitism and exceptionalism into the very fiber of the average American. Including many of the people who I rub elbows with!

The stage was set, Sunday, and we were there, a few hundred captives, held to the standards of this organization that sponsored the event — SAGE, Senior Advocates for Generational Equity. There was a choir, and there was a forced “all audience members please stand up and sing” moment, Hallelujah’s,  and there were no young people on stage, no haggling of ideas, no argumentation about how criminal capitalism is, and our war economy (Earle is a capitalist and military supporter), no debate about how we do in fact help save the ocean, no hard-edged and outside-the-box discourse and presentation.

Image result for dead dolphins gulf of mexico

As she spoke May 19, the headlines were hurtling in, headlines that would have made some good grist for deep conversation:

Buyer Beware: Seafood ‘Fraud’ Rampant, Report Says

American Academy of Pediatrics Says US Children Are Not Eating Enough Seafood

New study of migrant and child labour in the Thai seafood industry

Bangladesh bans fishing for 65 days to save fish

Hilsa: The fish that is being loved to death

‘Fish are vanishing’ – Senegal’s devastated coastline

Choose the Right Fish To Lower Mercury Risk Exposure

Mercury levels in the northern Pacific Ocean have risen about 30 percent over the past 20 years and are expected to rise by 50 percent more by 2050 as industrial mercury emissions increase, according to a 2009 study led by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and Harvard University.

Mercury-containing plants and tiny animals are eaten by smaller fish that are then gobbled up by larger fish, whose tissue accumulates mercury. That’s why larger, longer-living predators such as sharks and swordfish tend to have more of the toxin than smaller fish such as sardines, sole, and trout.

In comments submitted to federal health officials earlier this year, a group of scientists and policy analysts pointed out that a 6-ounce serving of salmon contains about 4 micrograms of mercury vs. 60 micrograms for the same portion of canned albacore tuna—and 170 micrograms for swordfish.

When you eat seafood containing methylmercury, more than 95 percent is absorbed, passing into your bloodstream. It can move throughout your body, where it can penetrate cells in any tissue or organ.

Image result for W Eugene SMith Minamata

But again, this is the cult of celebrity, even scientists, and so the evening was suffused with homilies and genuflecting and really a sixth grade level Power Point talk, not scientific, not political, not deep, not philosophical, not earth rumbling/shattering. Imagine those headlines above debated in the talk. The contradictions. The implications. Mercury, right, perfect for baby and grandpa!

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So, the trip back through Oregon’s hinterland — farms, orchards, big hay operations — with all those “Jesus is the Way” billboard signs, all those “Trump and God Reign” fluttering flags, all that once-thick-forestland-turned-into-Johnson-grass property, all those RVs and heavy-duty pickups and SUVs rushing for a week at the beach, and all the cannabis shops and junk food shacks reminding me that most people did not make THIS bargain two or three generations ago.

The cancer is capitalism-addictive-consumerism; the tuberculosis is the credit cards, banks, IMF, World Bank, and mortgage companies holding people on their knees with a debt gun to our heads; the neurological damage is the assault on democracy through the prostitution of politicians-journalists-educators in that old time religion, careerism; the illiteracy is through the ever-deadening death-entertainment of a floundering press and piss poor publishing realm.

Much more on that later —  the concept of a Sylvia Earle even headlining a “world oceans day” anemic event, and the obvious lack of hard-hitting discourse and thought on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Below is a piece I wrote, specifically for Oregon Humanities magazine, a call out for manuscripts to work with the theme, adapt.

For the Summer 2019 issue, share an experience about conforming in response to some sort of pressure. Tell us what it takes to alter and revamp a system that needs to change. Explore a historical or current event that shows the process and outcome of adaptation.

No, this isn’t an angst riddled preface to the piece that was NOT accepted for publication, which also would have had a small check involved. I was told by the poet laureate of Oregon (K.S.) to not expect a big huge hug when sending in my submission, implying that the staff — editorial people at this non-profit, Oregon Humanities — have their own little dance to the beat of a different literary drummer thing going on.

I get that, these non-profits staffed by some pretty middle of the road peeps, or culture wars warriors, or people who have a set and proscribed middle land of what they believe is music to their ears or what would be acceptable stuff for their funders’ and readers’ sensibilities.

Therefore, the rejection letter I got yesterday, via email, with a couple of typos in the body written by the editor of this magazine, was expected, but like anytime I attempt a corn-artichoke-green chile-vegan cheese souffle —  and it’s definitely putting in all that energy, using all those well-handled ingredients, shepherding all the care and the oven acumen —  when the souffle comes out floppy or semi-deflated, my hardened heart still skips a few beats and I want to kick the cast iron ceramic pot into the woods hissing and steaming.

Same with a rejection letter! Err, make that plural. Dozens of them. In the hundreds. Even after 45 years of rejections, I feel the bile bubble up! Then I remember how much I hated that masters of fine arts group of people I have intellectually intercoursed with over the years!

There is good writing out there, just not much of it coming from MFA programs. What may have provided an engine for a genuine attention to craft, fifty years ago, Rockefeller Foundation notwithstanding, has withered and left an enfeebled cult of pseudo expertise. For the genetic disposition of creative writing programs is linked to the paradoxical stigmatizing and entitlements of University attendance. The goal of the CIA and State Dept is one thing, and we’re talking less than best and brightest here, and the ideological imprint is actually probably minor, but the unintended vaccinations of rationality, the ingesting of sociological and a generic lexical sensibility is significant. Art that has lost anger and moral obsession, has left a low stakes hobby culture of career minded ruthlessness coupled to creative flaccidity. The work is constrained in the same ways, psychologically, that allows mute absorption of all aspects of the Spectacle. The concrete and specific becomes generic by a rational process of observation that brackets the irrational and working within the institution is a tacit acceptance of the hierarchies of the system that desires to kill off dissent and opposition, and that means killing off the impulse to question. The white supremacist establishment shares the structural dynamics of the University. MFA program as Pentagon. Now there are exceptions, I guess. But creative writing largely, following the lead of the Iowa Writers Workshop is in the business of staying in business.  — John Steppling

The compulsive repetitive nature of mass marketing has gone a long ways in the training of perception. But it is the mystifying of repetition, the pretense is of difference. And this seems crucial. The liberal white class, the people who run institutional theater, and University programs in writing, believe largely in a marketed reality within which stories of individualism can be played out. Clear cut the forest, the better to inspect ‘psychology’ as it is operative in each ‘character’. This links also to my last post and this idea of mastery. You cannot master the forest, without mostly cutting it down. The sense of space: that theatrical space, linked to an ‘off stage’, to an elsewhere that is unconscious, is by its very nature submissive. The submission allows for that walk in the forest. That walk is creative and it also the discovery of a path. The Situationists used to say, get a map of Berlin and use it to navigate yourself around Milan. — John Steppling

I’ll shift out of the woe is me thing, and discuss quickly what just took place on Dissident Voice Sunday, a Christy Rodgers piece, “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance: The Five Stages of Ecocide.” I was opening up DV, when I found Christy’s powerful piece, and read it, because I was not able to settle down after watching on my free Hulu, If Beale Street Could Talk.

She covers the so-called stages of grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance — as we collectively and individually confront the great dying, and confront all those feedback loops and lag times and tipping points to our rape of the world as they are now being played out as the chickens coming home to roost.  Fricken Chaucer: Some six centuries ago, when Geoffrey  used it in The Parson’s Tale:

And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.

— Geoffrey Chaucer, 1390, The Parson’s Tale

Malcom X, those chickens coming back to roost.

Rodgers is talking about this climate warming chaos, the stages of grief, confronting what in our lifetimes is the most dramatic event civilization has spurred and will ever witness. She is part of an artist collective, Dark Mountain, and she is prefacing the latest anthology by talking about the deep remnants of human pain during this bearing witness and bearing the weight and cause of the quickening of species extinction and the betrayal of all those goods and services capitalism and other forms of rendering civilization put into the equation of take or give.

Dark Mountain’s latest anthology, #15, In the Age of Fire, has just been published. Material from its 51 authors and artists is showcased on the project’s website. Rodgers, DV:

Acceptance doesn’t mean accommodation with oppression and injustice. It means acknowledgment that we aren’t trying to prevent the apocalypse, because civilization is the apocalypse. We are trying to open a path to a future that is worth living in. Our feelings are experienced individually, and they do not directly impact the material world. But they are not irrelevant. The path to truth for a complex being must itself be complex. On the day a hundred thousand people come into the streets to grieve together for the lost reefs, the lost forests, and all the unnumbered victims, human and non-human, of civilization’s rise, we can mark the beginning of a new era in human life on this planet.

At the Brink of Extinction on the Coast Near the Salmon River

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

— “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake

A crossroads is the big X in my life, like the symbol of the thunderbird in many myths of original peoples of the American Pacific Northwest, Southwest, East Coast, Great Lakes, and Great Plains.

Of all the places I now am rooted in and adapting to —  the Central Oregon Coast —  I am thinking long and hard about what it means to have traveled through body, soul and mind in a 62-year-old journey.

I’m thinking about how I ended up in Otis, near Cascade Head on the Pacific. From birth in San Pedro, California, upbringing in the Azores, formative years in Paris, France, and learning teenage years in the Sonora, from Arizona to Guaymas, I am here reinvigorating what many elders I’ve crossed paths with as adopted vision quest instructors have taught me.

When you are ready, come to me. I will take you into nature. In nature you will learn everything that you need to know. –

Rolling Thunder, Cherokee Medicine Man

I was told that very lesson by friends’ dads and aunties from so many tribes – Papago, Chiricahua and White River Apache, Navajo, Yaqui, Tohono O’odham. Even at the bottom of the Barrancas del Cobre, several Tarahumara elders imparted the same wisdom: In nature you will learn everything you need.

I received the same tutelage in Vietnam by ethnic tribes leaders near the Laos border 25 years ago. And I learned the same points in my life six years ago on the Island of St. John from a turtle hunter who had grown up in Dominica.

Ironically, just a few days when I was welcoming 2019 into my life, I received the same sort of holistic “how to live in harmony” message from a social worker friend who is also an enrolled member of the Grande Ronde tribe. He texted me this:

“I chatter, chatter as I flow to join the brimming river, for men may come and men may go, but I go on forever.”

This from a tribal elder who I worked with on independent living programs for foster youth. One of our clients was from the Grande Ronde tribe living in Clackamas County, Oregon, receiving services for developmental disabilities caused by fetal alcohol syndrome.

My former colleague waited five minutes before a follow-up text came to me: “Bro’, that’s from Lord Tennyson, so don’t go all Dances with Wolves on me, man . . . haha.”

That text came to me while I was solitary, across from a sand spit where 20 harbor seals were banana-splitting in their favorite haul-out near Cascade Head, where the Salmon River pushes out freshwater ions, tannins, soil streams into the Pacific just north of Lincoln City.

The pinnipeds were cool, but listless. Instead, I was busy espying two bald eagles swooping down on the sand a hundred yards from the seals who then began pecking and ripping at a pretty good-sized steel-head carcass.

The moment before the incoming tide shifted hard and was about to isolate me on a lone rocky outcropping, I was thinking like a mountain, sort of – at least I was deep in the afterglow of having just reread Aldo Leopold’s A Sand Country Almanac:

A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world.

Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.  – Thinking like a Mountain, Aldo Leopold

How did I get here, Oregon’s Central Coast? How did I end up learning about eagles pecking at the afterbirth of sea lions in and around the rookeries here on this coast? Why is the eagle, a talisman for me since my early years traveling throughout the American Southwest and into Mexico, so important to me now?

Adaptation or extinction, change versus stagnation. For so many reasons, change and evolution have been part and parcel of my life – newspaper journalist, novelist, college professor, case manager for adults with disabilities, social worker for homeless veterans, and a million more intersections in a world of apparent chaos.

The Mexican flag of those Estados Unidos Mexicanos is an eagle on a prickly pear cactus with a snake in its mouth. I learned as a high school junior that the ancient Aztecs knew where to build their city Tenochtitlan once they saw an eagle eating a snake on top of a lake.

The beauty of the American eagle adapting to the toxins in DDT is clear: Homo sapiens seems historically to never employ the precautionary principle for both ourselves as a species and others in the ecosphere when creating and dispersing new powerful technologies and chemicals.

All of this was coursing through my mind as a scampered across large sloughed-off rocks and boulders where the Pacific was now tangling with the Salmon River.

Eagles there dining on entrails and then in my memory cave, like a magical realism moment, other eagle quests flooded my memory – and I was there, in the now, with a river otter toying with me just offshore, and then studying that tidal estuary, hoping to keep my Timberlines dry, ruminating about age, and all the adaptations I’ve made easily and also kicking and screaming, yelling, “No more change . . . no more upheaval.” Like Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha:

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!

See the source image Another one of my muses, Gabriel Garcia Marquez then came into focus while those eagles were picking apart muscles of the steel-head and then clouds only this part of the Pacific can incubate started swirling above me on cue —

He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”

― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

I am still waylaid by that concept, eliminating the bad [to] magnify the good. I am coursing through understanding myself in this walkabout, here in Otis, not exactly the center of anyone’s universe. But then, the nagging Marquez again, and a quote I used to deploy to students in El Paso to think beyond their false hopes: “He who awaits much can expect little.”

I have lived most of my life working with the so-called “bad” — disenfranchised and economically strafed people, those with substance abuse challenges both mocked and misunderstood, and those not on the neural normal scale – assisting them to adapt to their own hard histories and epigenetic bad cards dealt to be self-enhancing people.

There seems to always an eagle overhead when I am going deep into the recesses of memory. In Spokane when I was with a battle-scarred veteran friend who was at a cemetery ready to commit suicide. When I put my sister’s ashes into the sea near Hyder, Alaska. The moment I was called in Vancouver when my brother-in-law died.

Then, it hit me while driving away from Cascade Head — those eagles have been my talismans for six bloody decades! The words of writers, from the minds of people like Louise Erdrich or Jorge Luis Borges, or way back to Beowulf, and farther back to Muhammad al Tulmusani, are also my talismans of sort, but the eagle has been my vision quest. Not the brown eagle of the Aztec incubation, but the bald eagle.

These galvanizing moments are serious times of not just reflection, but ruminating and cultivating change. Adapting.

My father said when I was born in 1957, several bald eagles from Catalina Island were spotted near the San Pedro hospital where I was delivered —   Little Company of Mary Hospital.

Here, 62 years later, I now have the sense to take that “sign” to my grave – bald eagle vision quest.

I’m thinking about 36 million years ago, when the first eagles descended from the kite line. I’m thinking reptiles, and 66 million years ago when birds evolved from the lizards. Looking at the ocean broiling up in Whale Cove will do that to the mind.

Millions of years of adaptations, brother, sister, eagle, and then Thoreau ends up dredging from me a fractal of thought every single day in this tidal wetlands as tides in and tides out signal climatic climaxes yet to come:  “Wildness is the preservation of the World.”

Adaptations for this American symbol,  Haliaeetus leucocephalus —  as the continual use of DDT (and other pesticides) spread throughout the country  —  was a world of constant trials and tribulations. And near extinction.

From 1917 to 1953, the “adaptation” of Alaskan human salmon fishers to an abundance of salmon was to harvest more and more runs, intentionally killing more than 100,000 bald eagles as a threat to “their”  catches.

The lack of adaptive abilities of a species like the bald eagle when faced with the unnatural distillations of chemicals by humanity should have hit us hard fifty years ago: birds that weigh in at 10 to 14 pounds, with wingspans of up to 8 feet, having strength and agility to pull salmon out of the sea while underwater themselves, and a lifespan of up to 30 or more years in the wild can’t weather man-made toxins.

If the 36-million-old eagle can’t make it under the assault of better living through chemistry , then it’s easy to understand humanity’s lack of adaptive skills (how many short years of evolution have we been messing with our adaptations?) to stop business-as-usual industrial and lifestyle processes like spraying DDT. We too are now experiments in the grand cauldron of chemicals produced and released daily.

The effects of that process of humanity “adapting” their environment to their needs —  industrial agriculture demanding insect-free habitats with these pesticides that Rachel Carson, mother of the environmental movement, discussed in her 1962 book, Silent Spring  — was the near extirpation of the American symbol of strength, power, independence and persistence!

Haliaeetus leucocephalus, from Greek, sea, hals and eagle, aietos and white-head, leukos kephalē !

Recall from our Baby-Boomer high school biology books — DDT and other pesticides spread like a slow-motion tsunami across America, sprayed on plants and then eaten by small animals, which were later consumed by birds of prey. Today, we call it bio-accumulation. That poison did its dark magic “art” on both adult bald eagles and their eggs.  The egg shells became too thin to withstand the 36-day incubation period, often crushed under the weight of one of the parents.

Again, what I learned in the 1970s as a high schooler – eagle eggs that were not crushed during brooding mostly did not hatch due to high levels of DDT and its derivatives. Large quantities of PCBs and DDT ended up in fatty tissues and gonads. The maladaptation of the eagle to pesticides was to become infertile due to man’s maladaptation, or in the case of Homo sapiens, the rearrangement of ecosystems and organic pathways.

That was me in Tucson, Arizona, scrambling through desert ‘scapes. I was junior in high school when DDT was officially banned in 1972, largely due to Rachel’s amazing book and petitioning. That was eight years after she had died (Apr 14, 1964) at age 56 from cancer (many attribute breast cancer to the poisons of her time).

Eagles were listed in 1967 as endangered on one listing and then later, 1972, nationally through the Endangered Species Act.

I remember eagles as brothers and myth carriers from many of my buddies who were Navajo, Zuni, Apache and Hopi. Their mothers and uncles would tell us many stories about eagles. I remember traveling to El Paso for a wrestling match and seeing the Thunderbird burned millions of years ago into the Franklin Mountain range. This amazing natural formation of red clay on the mountainside, watching over the Chihuahua desert, captured me then, and later when I was a reporter and teacher in that part of the world.

I was touched then as 17-year-old wrestler visiting a place where a huge eagle to me (thunderbird), was there with outstretched wings and head tilted to the side as if protecting us all from predators, who I knew even at that age were us, Homo sapiens.

Image result for Thunderbird El Paso images

Ten years later and for two decades I was there at that sacred place, a mountain along the Paseo del Norte, straddling Juarez, El Paso and New Mexico. In the 1990s developers were wanting to move (bulldoze) more and more up Thunderbird Mountain for more and more eyesores, AKA tract home subdivisions. Writers and artists on both sides of the border came together to not only stop that sort of desecration, but also to stem the tide of pollutants in the Rio Grande and the denuding of the fragile Chihuahua Desert.

On one of our 10- foot wide protest banners we held along the US-Mexico border, the bald eagle was painted on large and brilliantly, as a symbol of resistance and a “comeback kid story” because man’s chemicals were banned. For many thousands living and working in Juarez, their offspring came out stillborn or with anencephaly – parts of its brain and skull missing. Those industrial chemicals from the American-owned twin plants have not been banned.

Proof of Homo sapiens’ chemicals prompting maladaptation in our offspring.

So, here I am in Otis, Oregon, thinking about that El Paso Thunderbird while watching the estuary bring in swamp-creating waters from the Pacific. What does it mean that I am adapting now in Otis, the town that was up for sale in 1999 for $3 million. That’s 193 acres (another auction occurred in 2004). I have coffee at the quasi-famous Otis Café which was not part of the town’s auction (it never got bought). The café owner’s grandfather bought the land from descendants of the Siletz Indians for $800 in 1910.

As a direct result of the DDT ban, on June 28, 2007 the Department of Interior took the American bald eagle off the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Species.

The reality of putting the bald eagle in peril, and then its eventual recovery and broad habitat colonization means that they are seasonal residents near Yaquina Head. Eagles are like those proverbial human Snow Bird residents of Oregon who end up in Arizona or Nevada or even Hawaii to get the chill of Pacific rain forest winter out of their bones – they go where the living is best.

Here is the adaptation for the eagle – they go into the rookery of the murres, which have a major nesting colony at Yaquina Head. The eagle swooping in and taking the occasional adult murre isn’t the problem, scientists point out.

It’s the encroachment of “secondary predators” that is having a negative impact on the murres’ reproductive success.

An adult eagle is expert at swooping in and grabbing an adult murre and flying off. That’s not putting the murre species in peril. It’s the crummy hunter juvenile bald eagles who end up landing on the rookery. All the adult murres then scatter into the air.

That door then opens for brown pelicans and gulls to alight and grab eggs or murre chicks. These secondary predators will destroy hundreds of eggs in minutes.

Adaptation and re-adaptation.

Image result for murres and eagles

 

Image result for murres and eaglesEcosystems out of balance, and now in Otis, I am adapting to the reality of the human footprint; even a small one like mine, is significant to each and every micro-biodome I come in contact with.

Soon, maybe, the eagle will be put on the hit list, and they too will feel the hard impact of game wardens’ bullets taking them out because, again, adaptation for the bald eagle means things get more and more out of balance.

Murres or eagles? People or salmon? Crab cakes or whales?

The weight of place, and being one with geographic and ecologic time always culls my disparate attempts at calm and inner self exploration. Otis, the Pacific, the entire riot that encompasses rowdy sea lions and the humpback’s 12-foot blowhole sprays, all those murres and double-crested cormorants, petrels dive bombing, black oystercatchers waddling at the tide lines, now are gestating into entire “memory palaces” for me. I think of my place alive in the world. The mutable feast of learning in my walkabout is a continual journey of adapting.

I am looking at an amazing gift of words, and from the Oregon Humanities Magazine, a serendipitous parallel moment for me and the works of Melissa Madenski, who in her essay is talking about this same geographic arena, where she’s lived for more than four decades and just recently left. She talks about spruce, alder, hemlock and maple and their powerful bio-nets and biological relationships through their interconnected forests of roots they share:

Unlike me, they don’t question or worry—that is the wisdom I project on them at least—a symbol for acceptance of what is. I’m coming to believe in my own memory palace that lives in my roots and the roots of my children, a stability that remains even as visible markers disappear. Look at the big picture, I tell myself. You got to live here for over half of your life; your children were able to grow up here; you got to love the land and leave good soil. – “Unclaiming the Land” (February 26, 2018)

Today, I foist my emotional and spiritual rucksack loaded up with my own learning and traveling as I engage with Otis, the Central Oregon Coast, and the people and cetaceans, alike, a repository for my next learning, my new series of adaptations. The bald eagle for all its battles and all the mythological connections, is my talisman and vision quest.

But I feel like that Zuni Eagle Boy who came upon an eaglet that had fallen out of the nest. The boy hunted for the eagle, foregoing working in the fields while the rest of his clan worked and worked.

His brothers resented the boy for raising this chick, who got big and healthy, big enough to fly away. But the eagle stayed with the boy. The clan was ready to kill the eagle to get the boy back, returned to the fields to grow corn and squash.

The boy saw that the eagle was downtrodden in his cage, and asked why. The eagle said he had grown to love the boy for saving him and raising him but had to leave so the boy could go back to his duties and be a boy with his people.

The boy wanted to leave with the eagle, and finally the eagle succumbed to the boy’s pleas.

The eagle told the boy to fill pouches with dried meats and fruit and blue corn bread and to put two bells on the eagle’s feet. The boy climbed on the eagle’s back and they flew off. They ended up in Sky Land, in the city with thousands of eagles who looked like people when they took off their wings and clothing of feathers when they entered their homes. The boy received wings and feather clothing.

As in many stories of rite of passage and adaptation by Native tribes, the Eagle Boy disobeyed the orders of the Eagles to not go south, and once the boy did, he thought it was a beautiful and safe place. Until people of bones – skeletons – chased him.

He made it back to Sky Land, but he was not welcome there for disobeying. Finally, the eagle that the boy had raised said he’d help him fly back to his people. The boy took an old cloak of feathers and made the arduous journey back. His friend the eagle circled above him the entire way to make sure he made it safe, and once Eagle Boy landed, the eagle took the cloak of feathers and flew away.

The Eagle Boy lived with his people, who honored him because they knew that Eagle Boy wanted to be  with his people, even though he could fly away at any time.

Like Eagle Boy, I look to the skies and smile at the eagle’s graceful and wide veronicas as thermals take them up where humans can’t see clearly. The boy adapted and loved his people, even though the journey to the Sky Land was always with him and in his stories of adventure.

I am here, looking for my own Sky Land, but cognizant of the fact the love of my clan – family, fiancé, daughter, friends – is the uplift I count on to make it through the every-changing evolution of my mind and body. I can be an eagle on the ground, scampering through gravity-fed fields, hoping to understand how I might lay claim to finally understanding what all the adaptations mean in a life so lived.

Custer’s Last Stand Meets Global Warming

A recent article in Arctic News on the outlook for global warming foresees a frightening scenario lurking right around the corner. Hopefully, the article’s premise of impending runaway global warming (“RGW”) is off the mark, by a lot. More to the point, off by really a lot in order to temper the sting expected when abrupt temperature increases hit hard, as projected in the article, which is entitled: “Greenhouse Gas Levels Keep Accelerating.” Oh, BTW… the worst-case scenario happens within one decade!

Here’s a snippet:

… such a rise in greenhouse gas levels has historically corresponded with more than 10°C or 18°F of warming, when looking at greenhouse gas levels and temperatures over the past 800,000 years….1

Obviously, it goes without saying no sane person wants to believe, and likely won’t believe or accept, studies about killer temperatures locked, loaded, and ready to fire, right around the corner. That fact alone serves to christen the title “Custer’s Last Stand Meets Global Warming.”

Furthermore, and for journalistic balance, it is important to mention that mainstream science is not warning of imminent Runaway Global Warming (“RGW”), as outlined in the Arctic News article.

Still, the article does have credibility because it is the product of academic scientists. Therefore, metaphorically speaking, one can only hope that their Ouija boards were out-of-whack, misinterpreting the data.

Alas, the Arctic News article would not be out there if only the U.S. Senate had taken seriously Dr. James Hansen’s early warnings about global warming way back in 1988. The New York Times headline d/d June 24, 1988 read: “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate.”

Curiously enough, ten years later, in 1998, the process of assembling the International Space Station (“ISS”) commenced as approved by Congress, which included 100% solar power. But, ignoring the obvious, no solar initiatives were suggested for the country, not even mentioned. In fact, ever since Dr. Hansen’s warning of 40 years ago, Congress is MIA, a big fat nada, not even one peep or word about efforts to contain global warming.

As such, it’s really no surprise (but somewhat shocking) that a Children’s Climate Crusade, originating in Sweden, is brewing and stewing about the global warming crisis, and they’re addressing a very long list of failures by “the establishment.” Honestly, does it take children to figure this one out?

The Arctic News article is a haunting commentary on the current and future status of global warming, as follows: The article describes a powerful combination of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrogen oxide (NO2), and nitrous oxide (N2O) in combination with oceans and ice taking up ever-less planetary heat, threaten life on Earth within a decade.

According to the article:

So, how fast and by how much could temperatures rise? As oceans and ice are taking up ever less heat, rapid warming of the lower troposphere could occur very soon. When including the joint impact of all warming elements … abrupt climate change could result in a rise of as much as 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026. This could cause most life on Earth (including humans) to go extinct within years.2

That can’t possibly be true, or can it? The good news is nobody knows 100% for sure. But, here’s the rub: Some really smart well-educated scientists think it could happen, in fact, they are almost sure it will happen. According to the article, the setup for the worst-case scenario is falling into place much faster, and sooner, than ever thought possible. It’s highly recommended that interested parties read the entire article3

Based upon the article, civilization has been living on borrowed time, meaning, the oceans as well as glacial and ocean-bearing ice have been absorbing up to 95% of the planet’s heat, thus, minimizing atmospheric global warming and saving civilization from a bad heat stroke.

However, those two huge natural buffers are losing their mojo, kinda fast. Increasingly, extreme ocean stratification and heavy loss of ice minimize the effectiveness of those two crucial buffers to rapid global warming. Consequently, forcing the atmosphere to take up more and more, and way too much more, planetary heat, leading to bursts of global temperatures when least expected, the Custer’s Last Stand moment.

One of the primary causes of upcoming acceleration of global warming includes a very recent study about nitrous oxide, N2O, which is 300xs more potent than CO2 and has a lifetime of 120 years, found in huge quantities (67B tons) in Arctic permafrost, to wit:

The study by Jordan Wilkerson et al shows that nitrous oxide emissions from thawing Alaskan permafrost are about twelve times higher than previously assumed. A 2018 analysis (Guibiao Yang et al, “Magnitude and Pathways of Increased Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Uplands Following Permafrost Thaw“, Copyright © 2018 American Chemical Society”) points at the danger of large nitrous oxide releases from thawing permafrost in Tibet. Even more nitrous oxide could be released from Antarctica.2

N2O, the third most important GHG, is an intensely effective molecule that impacts global warming 300xs more than CO2. That is an enormous, big time, impact. In that regard, the rate of current N2O emissions is extremely concerning. According to recent research, nitrous oxide is being released from melting permafrost “12xs higher than previously assumed.” That could be a sure-fire formula for helping to turbocharge global warming, and it lends supporting evidence to the underlying thesis of the Arctic News article.

So long as bad news is the order of the day, in addition to N2O as a powerful GHG (greenhouse gas), it is also an ozone depleting substance, uh-oh, which brings to mind shades of The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer of 1987, an international treaty designed to save civilization’s big fat ass.

For those who missed class back in the day (1987), the ozone (O3) layer of Earth’s stratosphere (10-30 miles above ground level) absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, without which Homo sapiens would be toast!

Ozone is widely dispersed in the atmosphere, to an extreme; however, if it were all compressed into one thin layer, it would be the thickness of one penny. From a narrow viewpoint, as just explained, one penny of thickness of ozone molecules separates humanity from burning alive, and thus explains the Great Panic of the late 1980s when a Big Hole was discovered in the ozone layer as a result of too much human-generated chlorofluorocarbons (“CFCs”) Halons and Freons.

According to James Anderson (Harvard professor of atmospheric chemistry), co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on ozone depletion, speaking at the University of Chicago about global warming in 2018:

People have the misapprehension that we can recover from this state just by reducing carbon emissions, Anderson said in an appearance at the University of Chicago. Recovery is all but impossible, he argued, without a World War II-style transformation of industry—an acceleration of the effort to halt carbon pollution and remove it from the atmosphere, and a new effort to reflect sunlight away from the earth’s poles… This has do be done, Anderson added, within the next five years.4

Based upon that gauntlet as laid down by professor Anderson, only 4 years remains to get something done to “save us.”  But, sadly, there is no “WW-II style transformation of industry” under consideration, not even a preliminary fact-finding mission.

But, there is a very active ongoing Children’s Crusade prodding adults to do something… for a change, but as the children are quick to point out, they do not expect much help from the adults in the room based upon years of “doing nothing.”

Still, children skip classes to publicly protest the misbehavior of adults and occasionally, they give speeches, for example: At Katowice, Poland, COP-24 (Conference of the Parties) in December 2018, Greta Thunberg, a 15-year old from Sweden at the time, addressed the UN secretary general António Guterres. Here’s her speech:

For 25 years countless people have stood in front of the UN climate conferences, asking our nation’s leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly, this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.

So I will not ask them anything.

Instead, I will ask the media to start treating the crisis as a crisis.

Instead, I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us.

Because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness… So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.

We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.

  1. “Greenhouse Gas Levels Keep Accelerating”, Arctic News, May 1, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Google: “Greenhouse Gas Levels Keep Accelerating”, Arctic News, May 1, 2019.
  4. Jeff McMahon, “We Have Five Years To Save Ourselves From Climate Change, Harvard Scientist Says”, Forbes, January 15, 2018.

A Rolling Stone Never Collects Moss — Unless it ends up on Oregon’s Coast

It is hoped that the coming generation will recognize that that is probably one of the greatest and most ennobling challenges that face man on this planet today. To be able to break through to understand the thinking, the feeling, the doing, the talking of another species is a grand, noble achievement that will change man’s view of himself and of his planet.

Seventy-one percent of the surface of our planet is covered with oceans, inhabited by the Cetacea. Let us learn to live in harmony with that seventy-one percent of the planet and its intelligent, sensitive, sensible, and long- surviving species of dolphins, whales, and porpoises.

— John C. Lilly, adapted from the Introduction to Communication Between Man and Dolphin

Image result for gray whale flukes in water

Note: I was asked to write a couple of articles for the Oregon American Cetacean Society’s, Flukeprints, as a way to help the non-profit group publicize and celebrate the reasons many of us are in the whale protection racket. I just became a member of ACS, after 4.5 decades first joining ACS in Tucson, Arizona, when I pitched an idea to get jojoba oil (a desert plant) to replace whale oils for fine machinery. Sort of Save the Whales with the Desert campaign.

This is 2019, and like many who were influenced by their diving experiences, and possibly the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau TV documentaries, I got my first rocket fins and US Divers and Scuba-Pro gear at a young age —  14. Luckily, my mother had confidence in me going to Mexico — Sea of Cortez — from our home in Tucson, Arizona, about a four and a half hour trip to San Carlos where boats were awaiting divers to hit what Cousteau once called “the aquarium of the world” — the Sea of Cortez.

There was no question that I would act in a pretty moderating fashion during some reckless situations, and for many years, I ended up getting to know some incredible places underwater where I communed with nature, including whales, dolphins, sharks and myriad of reef and open water fish and invertebrates and turtles.

That was, gulp, 48 years ago. Imagine, almost half a century, and I was on reefs that today are not just shadows of themselves, but slashed and burned remnants, in some cases.  Humanity’s voracious appetite for marine flesh, and destructive netting and trolling techniques, as well as over-capacity fishing fleets have put a big hole in what once was like diving on another planet, the undersea world of vibrant everything!

A riot of colors, explosions of so many varied swimming and propulsion techniques. This was pretty heady stuff for a kid who then ended up diving for sometime after that, around parts of the world, as an adult, dive bum.

Yes, I was an anti-whaling dude in Arizona. Yes, I protested Sea World. Yes, I was up on all the destructive fishing and harvesting techniques deployed in capitalism’s dog eat dog methods of killing the planet.

I was quickly steeled, young, to not only fight for environmental justice, but hand in hand, I was there with local people, fishers, and then got a huge interest in social justice, indigenous rights, La Raza, anti-imperialism. I studied the Seri Indians who live in Sonora, and utilized the bountiful sea for their livelihoods and cultural identity.

It all made sense to me back then, 1977, and, hell, here we are, 2019, and each and every fear about how wrong Capitalism is, and every one of the social justice causes I connected with in 1977 have all been nightmares that came true, exploding on the world stage as I hit 62.

The whales are dying now in large numbers, because of starvation, because of pollutants, because of plastics, because of noise pollution. Dolphins dying in the Gulf of Mexico, now, in numbers old time fishermen have never recalled. Whales washing up on the Pacific shores here, all along the coast. Emaciated, and the end result will be more scientists spending countless hours and lab time to try and come up with a cause, a cause we in the movement who have been around this system can tie to the absolute impregnation into the ocean of sounds, battering vessels, oil slicks, pig shit coming from Mississippi to the Gulf Coast. Acidification causing whales’ food stream to wither up.

This is a piss poor way to preface a pretty innocuous piece I wrote for the American Cetacean Society, but alas, we live in magical thinking times, where bad news and more bad news have to be shunted away with feel-good beliefs that things will get better. Reality is fake, and fake is reality in colonized North America. The roots of this absurdity go back to Puritans, seeping into each wave of more illegal aliens who populated this once wondrous land pushing diseased ideas, pathogens and religion onto First Nations.

Now, we have many dozens generations later people who can’t think, can’t act and can’t argue critically out of a wet paper bag.

There is absolutely no historical or empirical evidence things will (or have been getting) get better under the perversions of capitalism, consumerism, war economics, as the battering rams of the elite and rich and corporations shunt our money and labor into their pockets while all infrastructure and ecological systems are failing.

So, can a rock that stays put not collect moss? Is this enough, a small cathartic essay about my new home here on the Central Coast of Oregon? What value does it have in the scheme of things?

All of these spasms up in the early light of morning, today. What can we do with a 24/7 nanosecond by nanosecond world of distractions? What do we do with children and adults who are galvanized to an operating system where lies are truth, war is peace, as this culture — and others willing to be infected by our media, our culture —  is coopted by the masters of the universe controlling media, education, law, finance, technology, business, the arts. John Steppling on dream and skin-ego, in his latest essay, Screen Dream:

The ruling class get to make movies. They get jobs in TV, too. And with a CIA advisor in nearly every story conference and writer’s room in Hollywood, the state has effectively and directly taken over a huge chunk of the culture. Hollywood film and TV is controlled by the children of the rich and very rich. Nobody has any taste, any real education, and most are egregiously ignorant of the world around them, and hence all the more susceptible to influence coming directing from U.S. intelligence agencies and the state department.

Recently Leo DeCaprio, Keanu Reaves, and a dozen other *stars* (not sure Keanu is a star anymore) clamored to get the opportunity to meet Bibi Netanyahu. Why? Same reason they would fawn over any (ANY) five star general or military killer. The adulation for uniforms and authority is in the open, now. Killers are proud of what they do and the celebrity A-List is intoxicated with this power.

[…]

Whatever the implications of our relationship with various technologies, it is clear, I think, that capital and class are encoded throughout and that the logic of instrumental reason has become the logic of our unconscious. Like it or not. Aesthetic resistance is one way to break the endless loops of compulsion and the deadening of thought and feeling.

Bearing Witness in a World Upside Down and With Whales Washing up Dead On Arrival

It is this sense of tranquility, of life without urgency, power without aggression, that has won my heart to whales … whales offer to human beings a lesson. They demonstrate to us that our ancient and ignorant belief in the inherent supremacy of our species over all others is utterly wrong.

~ Roger Payne

One of the benefits of not setting down too many roots is the luxury of traveling to many parts of the USA and the globe. I guess the Oregon coast is yet another landing post for me in my journey.

I moved to Otis, Oregon, Dec. 2018, after working as a social worker for homeless veterans and their families in Portland/Beaverton. One of the first things I did when I got to Otis was to do a hike along the Cascade Head trail and then hit the beach near Three Rocks to hang out with a pair of bald eagles and harbor seals.

I’ve pretty much hit all the popular beaches on the Central Oregon Coast with my fiancé. Nothing gets old, and I discover new things about me each time out.

On one of those forays, I ventured out one night in late January, ending up at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology for a public gathering to welcome the five new residency recipients, including filmmaker, print maker, photographer, writer, and whale expert Fred Sharpe, PhD.

He has 25 years under his weight belt and scientist’s cap studying the behavior of humpback whales. His specialty is on the bubble-netting proclivity of Alaskan humpbacks. He looks at the connections of this ecotype’s behavior as signals of enduring bonds, complicated task specializations, team hunting and communal tool use.

He has a team that follows the humpbacks south to their wintering haunts in the Hawaiian Islands. They’ve been looking at the historical ecology of north Polynesian cetaceans for years. In addition, his work has garnered awards including the Fairfield Award for Innovative Marine Mammal Research and the Society for Marine Mammology’s Award for Excellence in Scientific Communication.

I talked with Fred at the Sitka over beer and cheese and crackers. In fact, he got the residency at the Sitka as part of his research on native strands of alder along the Oregon Coast. He is interested in native grasses, too, along beachheads. That interest as a nature lover and researcher-he considers himself a naturalist in the classical tradition-has led him to be a co-author and illustrator of Wild Plants of the San Juan Islands, Birding in the San Juan Islands, and Voyaging with the Whales.

The more nitty-gritty work Fred does is centered on his position with the Alaska Whale Foundation as a principal investigator, as well as being a Wilderness First Responder.

He has volunteered as a large whale disentangler with NOAA’s Alaska Stranding Network.

The Sitka Center for Art and Ecology was founded 49 years ago, the same year Earth Day started, ironically. That mission has stayed the same: “Helping others discover more about their core creative selves and their connections to nature.” The new term, relatively speaking, in environmental circles, is intersectionality: looking at the environment and gender and race and poverty and how all reflect and tie into each other, for instance.

For the Sitka Center, a naturalist like Sharpe embodies Sitka’s goal of “expanding the relationships between art, nature and humanity.”

My own recent evolving and expanding philosophy and life experience recognition tied to my writing (poetry, nonfiction, fiction) and nature (marine biology, ecology) and humanity (education and cultural competence) came to me on the Central Oregon Coast during the American Cetacean Society’s Naturalist training program, headed up by Joy Primrose. I was with a cohort of around 20 naturalist-wannabes at the Newport library diving into the complexities of the natural world as it pertains to cetaceans, pinnipeds, seabirds and other ocean ecological niches. We graduated with flying colors, and were awarded our certificates during the Bill Hanshumaker talk I’ve written about in this issue of Flukeprints. And here at DV — “Gray Whales Are Dying: Starving to Death Because of Climate Change”

I’ve been working hard to put some roots down throughout life, and while I am no longer living in El Paso, Spokane, Vietnam, Vancouver, Portland, et al, the roots are connecting me more than many who have stayed in their nook or neck of the woods. Get on the program, Americans — wood wide web: The Atlantic!

Roots can also release carbon directly into the soil, which can then be absorbed by other roots. But if the spruces were doing that, then Klein should have found labelled carbon in every nearby plant—and he didn’t. There wasn’t any trace of the stuff in understory herbs like dog’s mercury and blackberries. It was, however, abundant in fungi, growing on the roots of the spruces and other trees.

These fungi—the mycorrhiza—are found on the roots of almost all land plants, and provide phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for carbon-based sugars. They can also colonize several hosts at once, creating a large fungal internet that ferries nutrients and signaling chemicals between neighboring plants (much like the trees of Pandora in James Carmeron’s Avatar).

“There’s a below-ground community of mycorrhizal fungi invisibly interconnecting an above-ground plant community,” explains Christina Kaiser from the University of Vienna. “But it’s usually regarded as a network for supplying nutrients in exchange for carbon, not for delivering carbon from one plant to the other in such large amounts.”

She’s not kidding about the large amounts. Klein’s team estimated that in a patch of forest the size of a rugby field, the trees trade around 280 kilograms of carbon every year. That’s around 40 percent of the carbon in their fine roots, and about 4 percent of what they produce in total through photosynthesis.

Image result for wood wide web

My own web is a net out into the world, into the people’s lives I interchange with. Their stories are my stories, and their lives become part of mine. I have been a co-leader for a huge beach clean-up here in the Newport area. I have written articles for the Newport News Times about that clean-up, about the single-use plastic bag ban ordinance just passed in Newport, about ocean acidification/hypoxia along the Central Oregon Coast, and two centered on two restaurant owners who follow sustainable business practices.

Thanks to the ACS and the month-long naturalist class, I’ve come to appreciate not only the wild ecosystems around here, but the world of the Central Coast hominids who I have met and learned from.

In the end, that intersectionality of ecology-education-equity-economy we preach in sustainability circles fits well with the people I have met who have an undying appreciation and love for whales and other marine animals.

It’s good to put some roots down here on the Pacific. Ironically, I have traveled the world as a writer and diver. But my birth was on the Pacific– San Pedro, California — and here I have now returned to that mighty Pacific which covers 28 percent of the earth (60,060,700 square miles).

Newport, Depoe Bay, Yachats, Lincoln City, Waldport and other towns are my stomping grounds now. My roots are far and wide, part of the wood wide web, or my own sort, wide wonderful walkabout!