Category Archives: global warming

Plastic Meets the Road and Capitalism’s Role in Climate Change

Earth Day & Capitalism Like Vinegar and Oil?

Continuously, discussions focusing on degraded ecosystems and tipping points forcing climate change to ramp up to chaos many times center around the “C” word.

Not “c” as in “cancer.”

“Capitalism is destroying the planet,” said Pat DeLaquil, an energy policy expert working with various governments, NGO’s and the private sector to “help achieve economic development and combating climate change.”

He was one speaker in a two-guest gig at the Newport Library on January 27 as part of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and 350 Oregon Central Coast.

The other person presenting is director of a plastics to road recycling non-profit headquartered in Toledo.

Twenty people listened to DeLaquil as he zoomed through his data-filled Power Point. His SOP is working with the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and other groups to lobby for passage of a new version of climate change policy during this state’s short legislative session.

No matter how many details behind the framework of HB 2020 are aired, convincing Oregonians of all stripes to get behind this cap on statewide carbon emissions is a technical, legal, intellectual, PR, and emotional challenge.

Two Newport City Council members attended Monday, as gale force winds buffeted the library. Interestingly, kicking off the double header was a video clip from a January 13 Senate National Resources and Environment Committee.

Arnold L. “Arnie” Roblan, in a droll voice, stated how he’s visited all parts of Oregon listening to youth. He emphasized it’s been 16 years since he was a school principal, but now he’s seeing like never before a huge shift in how PK12 students are viewing the world.

“There’s been a big change,” Roblan stated in the video. “Kids are extremely anxious about the climate.”

Kicking off the 2-hour event was Bill Kucha, Otter Rock artist and head of 350 Oregon Central Coast. He strummed guitar and sang his song, “There’s Music All Around Me.” The message is one of hope in a world with thousands of ecosystems collapsing.

While Sen. Roblan stated the counties along the coast are at the “epicenter of ocean acidification and beach erosion caused by climate change,” one audience member, Michael Gaskill, asked Pat DeLaquil if he gets frustrated with each year increasingly watered-down of environmental bills get passed.

Gaskill was in attendance to listen to the speakers and to sign up attendees interested in the Congressional campaign of Hillsboro Democrat Mark Gamba, who’s vying for the 5th district position in November.

Another audience member wanted immediate response to her comment that “capitalism is the problem hurting the poor” was exasperated by the lack of social justice apparent in the discussions.

The C word was bandied about much in DeLaquil’s opening remarks:

What drives capitalism to extremes? Two things: this hyper-individualism of the Ayn Rand economic school which purports everyone is unique and must fight for himself or herself to acquire as much as possible. And, two, patriarchy which indoctrinates young children into believing this hierarchy of male control. This belief that males are not caring about social issues, the environment, and females are not supposed to speak their minds when confronted with this apparent destructive system.

The dichotomy is common in discussions about male domination in business, industry, militarism, and monetizing seemingly every single human transaction. Women, on the other hand, are seen “only “as mothers, nurturers put on earth to support the family and keep the peace by not speaking out against environmental, cultural and community degradation and destruction.

DeLaquil carried that allusion further saying capitalism and socialism can be reformed to support a clean, safe, market-centered society with social safety nets like education, health care, other entitlement programs that are part and parcel of Social Democratic countries like Norway or Denmark.

Don Quixote Fighting the Plastics Monster

“The window is closing faster on plastics than climate change, I really believe,” Scott Rosin of Plastic Up-Cycling told the gathering.

Knowing Rosin from Surfrider beach clean ups, and for an upcoming Deep Dive column, I don’t see him as Chicken Little “the sky is falling” fellow.

He’s fought forest fires in the 1970s and ‘80s. He’s been high up in the trees as a forester, and he knows the value of hard work – taking down entire stands of forest in for many years as an area logger.

He and his co-lead, Katharine Valentino, are looking for partnerships and financial backing for their project to get most of Lincoln county’s plastic waste stream into our roads in the form of new thoroughfares, repaved ones, potholes, driveways and parking lots.

The stats on the ground and in the water are staggering: “Think about it. Predictions of a billion tons of plastic produced each year by 2025. Compare that to 1.5 million pounds produced in 1950.”

He went on to punctuate this staggering stat: “Predictions about current rates of plastic waste state by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

As a surfer and lover of the ocean, Scott reminded the audience every time they read about a whale beached and dead, guts filled with plastic, that mammal represents less than 10 percent of the actual death rate of whales since most die offshore and sink to the benthic zone.

Rosin and Valentino see innovators in Scotland and in California, as well as other places, coming to the rescue. TechniSoil out of Redding California is taking recycled plastic, bitumen, asphalt substrate and integrating it into a flexible and long-lasting paving mixture (up to 15 percent of the total volume for paving roads could be plastic).

Then there is MacRebur and Scottish CEO Toby McCartney who was working in Southern India helping people at landfills gather potentially reusable items and sell them. Scott Rosin tells us McCartney observed some of the plastics the pickers culled, putting it into potholes and setting it on fire.

Instant melted plasticized pothole filler.

“Not the most environmentally friendly way to fill potholes,” Scott said. “However, those plastic filled potholes outlasted the actual roads.”

Carbon, Global Heating, Resources Plummeting and Us v Them?

Some of the buzz words coming from the 2-hour talk include “decarbonizing the economy” and “carbon budget.”

Add to those – renewable energy; trade exposed; energy intensive.

Pat DeLaquil, with doctorate in nuclear engineering from MIT and who’s worked with USAID, the Asian Development Bank, and large companies like Bechtel (not a green company), wants people to relate to what they are seeing in the news – flooding, wildfires,, degraded ecosystems, increased rain events, droughts – as applicable to their own communities and states.

“The artic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet,” he said showing us maps of that ice world. He’s also warning us about methane clathrates releasing a greenhouse gas more than 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide; and the warming tundra with millions of tons of frozen greenhouse gasses – ancient carbon. “The carbon that’s locked in the permafrost in the Arctic is thousands . . . millions of years old.”

He also brings to light the terms “runaway climate change” and the “albedo effect” – white snow and ice reflect back the sun’s rays. Less white, means more ocean warming.

DeLaquil and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters are pushing hard a Clean Energy Jobs bill.

[This] is one step in a continuing process of increasing climate change ambition in Oregon and by example the rest of the US. Just as the Renewable Portfolio Standard was followed by the Clean Fuel bill, then the Coal to Clean program, the Clean Energy Job (CEJ) bill will need to be followed next year with Agriculture and Forestry measures and elements of the Green New Deal. We are in this fight for the long haul and our strategy is to win one step at a time.

He mentioned Time magazine’s 2019 person-of-the-year Greta Thurnberg who just attended the most recent Davos, Switzerland, gathering of the World Economic Forum. DeLaquil dovetails Senator Roblan’s comments about youth being panicked about the status of the world tied to global warming with this 17-year-old internationally-known Swede.

Politics play front and center in the climate debate at the state level with all the parsing of SB 1530 (regulating carbon emissions through commercial, industrial, agricultural use of fracked or natural gas) as well as how we tax and regulate transportation fuel.

Pat also discussed the concepts around clean fuels, carbon sequestration in our forests, natural resource protection (like wetlands), assessing the emissions coming from agricultural and the forestry industries, and the heady concept of a law to protect the rights of nature. Lincoln County Community Rights is one group heralding this rights of nature designation.

This is no bed of roses, as the people attending the talk and the two speakers know. There is much push-back on this bill and other decarbonizing legislation, and many in Oregon have contrary opinions on global warming. The lobbying group, Timber Unity, has expressed disagreement with SB 1530.

Ironically, globally the court of last resort – public opinion – is pitting scientists in the climate arena and superstars like Greta against those in the Donald Trump administration and Fox news. At Davos January 21 Trump announced the U.S. would join an existing initiative to plant one trillion trees.

He also pitched the “economic importance of oil and gas” while throwing barbs at those like Greta Thurnberg, calling climate change activists “pessimistic” and the “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.”

Pat DeLaquil, interestingly, is not in this geopolitical arena, yet someone with his energy sector experience would paint a different picture for global warming deniers. He reemphasized the power of the youth movement. Thunberg responded to President Trump’s remarks by referring to them as “empty words and promises” by world leaders:

You say children shouldn’t worry… don’t be so pessimistic and then, nothing, silence.

Elephants, Billiards, Paradigm Shift

The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material, called Parkesine, was an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded and retained its shape when cooled.

Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) was a Swedish scientist that was the first to claim in 1896 that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming. He proposed a relation between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature.

Transitioning from DeLaquil’s 35,000 foot view of the climate change debate, then down to the micro view of the state’s efforts to go carbon free by 2050, to Scott Rosin’s Plastic Up Cycling non-profit spurred the audience into thinking about one “miracle of oil” – plastic – and the consequential negative consequences both locally and globally.

It’s obvious the tall white-haired Rosin has fun talking to groups – he’s a real yarn spinner.

In 1867 an article came out saying elephants were going to be extinct in ten years. The billiards market used ivory for the balls.

Necessity and environmental concerns turned into the mother of invention. “It was called cellulose. The invention of plastic billiards balls was the beginning of the consumer revolution. Anybody could have a pool table now since the plastic balls were affordable.”

Four or five quality billiard balls could be made from the average tusk of an Indian, Ceylonese, or Indo-Chinese elephant. This market for raw tusks centered in New York and Chicago where craftsmen would eat up blocks of ivory to create the gleaming spheres.

“Now we are experiencing 154 years of plastic, and it’s not a pretty picture,” Rosin told us.

He reminded the audience of his work from January to July 2019 for Surfrider heading up weekly Sunday beach plastic debris clean ups where on average 5 people from Lincoln County showed up was disheartening. Even after he had contacted dozens of volunteer organizations.

This past October Katharine Valentino and Rosin scrambled to set up a non-profit to deal with the plastics coming into our county’s dumpsters which invariably ends up trucked to Salem and dumped into a landfill.

TechniSoil is working with the Mayor of Los Angeles to put in a plastic road that leads to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. MacRebur has a proprietary aggregate that binds the plastic to the bitumen so there is no leaching into the ground.

TechniSoil touts their roads containing 6.6 percent plastic last seven to 14 times longer than conventional roads. Rosin emphasizes how on-site machines repaving roads with plastic aggregate actually tear up the old road, grind up plastic, mix it with bitumen and old asphalt, eliminating a huge carbon footprint of dump trucks hauling off torn-up roadway pavement.

Plastic Up-Cycling is hawking its project to interested people, as well as looking for $100,000 to get the plastic road mixture tested by an OSU lab.

Plastic comes from an energy-intensive and polluting process of turning oil into polymers and then into various types of plastics to serve myriad of purposes for which we in our throwaway society consume it.

The fact is landfills are composed of 12 to 15 percent plastic. The road paving process pencils out this way: for every mile of roadway, 1.1 million plastic bottles or 3.2 million plastic bags churned into a road mix will cut down on the waste-stream big time.

Climate Action Plan 2.0

The event was topped off with Martin Desmond, with Central Coast Citizen’s Climate Lobby, giving us the table of contents to the 74- page Lincoln County Climate Action Plan. The goal for this initiative is to get Lincoln County carbon neutral by 2035.

For Pat DeLaquil, his biggest disappointment, he stated, “after working in this field for years” was the failure to pass the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill.”

This congressional bill — American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 — was passed as major legislation to create a cap-and-trade system for heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, but was not taken up by the full Senate and never became law.

For Bill Kucha – artist, teacher, activist and musician – he puts much hope in young people in this county and throughout the world. He’s also a prolific letter-to-the-editor writer:

The good news is that there is a growing movement toward a new type of corporation called B-Corporations. In B-Corporations, financial profit counts, but so too does consideration for the environment, neighboring communities, and the workers. Our state must actively encourage the proliferation of progressive alternatives like this, if we ever hope to heal what ails the Earth. You can play a role, too: you can insist that the 2020 Election, at all levels of government, must prominently feature serious conversations about the Climate Crisis. (Sept. 1, 2019, News Lincoln County)

For me, it’s obvious conversations have to be more dynamic and robust, covering a larger swath of citizens. We have to organize half-day or three-day summits or charrettes to get policy makers, politicians, subject matter experts and citizens coming together to communicate more effectively and think both critically and holistically about issues around ocean rise, acidification, coastal inundation, weather and climate disruptions.

Lincoln County residents need to respect (and question) the work of activists and citizens on all sides of the issue while also coming together to listen to the passionate scientists and experts working on these issues.

For Scott Rosin, getting plastics out of the waste stream means cleaner water, cleaner soil, cleaner food and cleaner human and non-human bodies. “I would have never thought about the effects of plastic on the environment and us thirty or forty years ago,” Rosin said. “It’s unthinkable to have plastic in our drinking water, in all our food, and breathing it in.”

Getting into the Narrative of an Energy Guy

Pat DeLaquil was touted to me by several people at the Newport gathering as “he’s really been around” and “he really knows the deal with China since he’s been there” and “he has a lot of insight into energy.” So, Pat was kind enough to submit to some email questions. Pat lives in Gresham.

Paul Haeder: You said you have been doing this for more than 40 years. What got you started in energy analysis, and was it always EEE — energy, economy, environment?

Pat DeLaquil: Following grad school, I joined Sandia National Labs in Livermore, CA to work in their new systems analysis program. My first assignment was working on safeguards for nuclear material used in the country’s nuclear weapons program, but in 1980, I joined their solar energy program and been a leader in the commercialization of clean and renewable energy technologies. In 1984 I left Sandia and joined Bechtel Corporation to lead their Renewable Energy RD group. There, I worked closely with the California utilities and EPRI to lead the development of consortiums to build key R&D projects such as PV-USA and the 10 MW Solar Two Power Tower.

PH: Your age, where did you grow up and schooling?

PD: I’m 71 and grew up in western Pennsylvania in strip mining country and saw firsthand the destruction they caused. I knew I wanted to be an engineer by age 13, and I have a B.Sc. in Marine Engineering from the US Merchant Marine and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have authored or co-authored over 90 papers, reports, and articles on solar and renewable energy including chapters in two books on renewable energy technology. I have a patent for a high temperature solar receiver.

PH: I work on the 5 e’s — started off as triple e’s for sustainability: Equity, environment, economy . . . education and energy. There are a lot of intersectionalities here, and, of course, the environment overrides and undergirds everything. In capitalism, that is not true. What are your own intellectual challenges when you consider how rapacious, how extractive-oriented, how unjust capitalism is to the people, the 99 Percent, or the 80 percent? Discuss.

PD: This requires a long answer, and I touched on this in my talk, but only briefly. I am attaching for your information and use, both my presentation from Monday and a longer presentation on this subject I gave to the Multnomah Democratic Party Climate Action Forum back in November. Slides 1 thru 9, including the notes, provide a pretty full answer.

PH: There is a lot of policy stuff and political maneuvering and lobbying in your work. For the average reader, what are your holistic takeaways for this evening’s talk?

PD: The most important things that the average reader can do is to get engaged politically by demanding that your legislators be climate champions and if they are not find one who can replace them. While individual actions are important, they will never be enough. We must have systemic change that will only come when progressives have control of our political systems.

PH: What gives you hope for the world, for Oregon’s future?

PD: I have been in a very discouraging mood since HB2020 was stonewalled by the Republicans, and even more so given the ho-hum response that too many people have given to the wildfires in Australia, which also has a climate denying government. The voices on youth are what currently gives me the most hope, but even that seems not to be enough. I’m afraid that it’s going to take a major climate-derived calamity, with millions of people dying before the average person decides we must take action.

PH: What lends you pause?

PD: The tremendous amounts of money, embedded organizations and media-led philosophies that the oligarchs and large corporations have used to gain strangle holds on governments around the world. The four key conservative political frames are shown below, and we must replace these with progressive frames in the general public discourse. In addition to people power and grassroots organizing, we must counter and replace the Reagan framing with more progressive framing if we are to win this battle.

Bill Kucha song he performed at event –

There’s a Music –

There’s a music all around me

and it won’t go away and it’s trying to say

– everything impossible is going to see the light of day,

everything angry and mad is growing up and coming out to play.

There’s a reason for all that wrong,

it’s creating a season for a new kind of song,

everything helpful and good is sprouting in the neighborhood.

Everything helpful and wise is growing to a larger size.

So mister, now come out and say your

Yes, plow the fields of your dark past into something good at last.

Ecological Obliteration: Nobody Seems to Notice, Nobody Seems to Care

One of George Carlin’s great lines said with apropos satirical condemnation was “Nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.” And what Carlin was speaking to was the ills of socioeconomic power, but when it comes to drastically dismantling the majority of the planetary ecology in under forty years his line is an even more salient observation of the mental state of the masses. This statement gives rise to a question that seems more pertinent than ever to ask the people of America, and the world over for that matter, the same basic question Marvin Gaye had – What’s going on? And why don’t people notice, why don’t they care?

And, yes, some movements out there seem to care and notice like Extinction Rebellion, but even given their efforts when I mention nature is in a critical state to the common person I’m still looked as a kook. I ponder, how much devastation is needed to the living planet before the general populace can show some appropriate panic, not that panic is the right response. It’s just what people in this society routinely do at any little disturbance when they realize something is actually wrong, but evidently the whole of the natural world hanging on by thread is no reason for these courageous folk to become distressed. They seem fine with it, happy to dismiss it as Chicken Little-ism, or the blathering bloviations of what they deem to be tree hugging reactionaries. The modern mind of the average consumer of information appears to be filled with 98% propaganda, 1.5% of entertaining inconsequential fluff that happens to be completely true, and .5% cognitive dissonance wondering if 98% of what they have in their heads is utter bullshit. But the modern human mind is too smart to be fooled, or more accurately and less sarcastically, they have too much supposed smarts not to be fools.

The mind of the modern human animal has been almost entirely heisted by the ego drive of pursuing power and aggrandizement of the self. Ego makes people blind and stupid, filled with agenda that causes severe myopia where all they observe is the agenda of the promotion of self and all else becomes of secondary concern. The people are lost in the delusions of hucksters promising fortune and glory.  It’s like they never saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and learned the valuable lessons of our beloved fedora wearing protagonist. They never learned that fortune and glory are a fool’s quest. It’s better just to give the sacred rocks back to the people and stop trying to think about what’s in it for me and considerately serve the needs of others when you can.

Perhaps the malaise goes deeper than an Indiana Jones’ film, if that’s possible.  Maybe it’s a sign of how much people are staying indoors and detached from the natural world as they live in a state of being consistently entertained, fearful, and over-rushed, and largely that stress and need for escapism comes from issues that humanity should have solved by now if the powers that be were actually interested in doing benevolent things. Like homelessness shouldn’t be a thing, but it is, purely because of socioeconomic reasons and having nothing to do with housing scarcity.

Anecdotally I’ll tell you what I now see in the natural world here in central Florida. As I continue to take walks out in Florida parks, something I’ve routinely done over the last 25 years, I try to appreciate what’s here now because it might not be soon, but I can’t help to feel the occasional pangs of resentment for what humanity has done and pine for what used to be. The beauty they have slaughtered with a hubris fit for an emperor without clothes hits my indignant mind of non-acceptance. I don’t want to believe, maybe others don’t either, but what I’m seeing in the once robust tropical Florida landscape that seemed so indomitable just a short time ago is now a shadow of itself, and starting to look like it needs to be put on life support.

The frogs are almost gone entirely locally, which are canaries in the coal mine of their environment. Frogs have relatively permeable skin and are among the first to die from toxicity, and when their numbers go down it’s often a sign the entire ecosystem around them has become filled with toxic things. Frogs used to bellow their songs out into the humid nights of Florida with a roar, and while there is a night or two in the summer where you can still hear their dulcet croaks, mostly what is heard is silence and the knowledge more than a few have croaked in a way that isn’t so melodic.

It’s not just the frogs, though. It’s everything. Locally, in less than a year I watched raccoons go from commonly seen to almost completely gone. Over several years I’ve watched bat populations go from swarms in the hundreds seen nightly during the summer months to rarely ever seeing a bat. I’ve observed insects in Florida fall in massive amounts and there is now a year to year reduction noticeable to the naked eye of already decimated populations. Ants and cockroaches showing up in your house used to be an inevitable part of living in Florida, not anymore. No exterminator needed.  They did such a good job there’s rarely anything crawling around these days. In fact, I can keep the back door open most of the year and not have to worry about an infestation growing inside the house. Most of everything is dead. Dead, dead, dead!!

It does seem as though if the majority of people went out even briefly into the wilderness with any regularity whatsoever they’d feel some mild agitation at the losses they are seeing, which are clearly evident in most places, because what is happening here isn’t normal.  It hasn’t happened in any prior generation, and it’s caused by us. Rachel Carson’s silent spring is closer than ever, but it’s not silent yet; however, definitely muffled with capitalists and patriots holding a pillow over the face of Mother Nature hoping to snuff out the old lady so they can plunder what’s left and make more baubles and gadgetry; stuff sure to amuse people as they sit around  watching the apocalypse slowly unfold in surreal bemusement on a high def screen. Of course, most will prefer to watch a dramatized version of the end of everything in a likely soon to be made Disney-produced trilogy starring Will Smith, and he’ll have some great iconic line like “Oh, hell no! Ain’t no mutha fuckin mutha nature dyin’ on my watch!” or something equally as compelling I’d imagine. Due to be released just before the end of everything. A viewing of which would be even more fitting with a last channel sign-off that hearkens back to over the air TV of yesteryear, a sentimental display of a proudly waving American flag with the national anthem humming along just before the all consuming static permanently takes hold.

The wildlife, insect, and plant die-off has been panic worthy. Almost as panic worthy as losing Kobe Bryant to a helicopter crash, which saddened and shocked people. I wonder what the reception would be to the masses if they accepted the truth of the natural world we depend on to live suddenly dying out? And if minds were in the right headspace they shouldn’t have to be told they get something out of nature to care about it, as one would think that helping other living things would be something we would selflessly just do as a society. But that’s not the case.

However, they clearly do care about Kobe Bryant and noticed his loss; he was a guy the majority of the people never met and someone who lived his life as an ego laden rich person who dribbled a basketball better than most. And while sure, the premature death of anyone strikes people as sad, but premature death happens all over the place, happens right next door, and most people don’t give one shit about their neighbor dying, but Kobe Bryant? Time to weep. Did you hear he dribbled a basketball? What a tragedy. He was about to save the world with his super powers, but alas, it is not to be.

And I’ll bet, to the modern mind, they’ll find themselves more outraged that I just blasphemed and callously made light of Kobe Bryant’s life and death than outraged at the whole of the natural environment being obliterated for no good reason. People feel an overly emotional loss for Kobe Bryant for the very reasons they can’t see the more pressing losses of nature around them. Ego blindness. They don’t want to be out connected to nature, but they want to be superstar Kobe Bryant. They want to be rich, good at sports, attractive, be fawned over, be envied. Basically they want to be the most popular kid in their high school as fully grown adults. So, of course, his loss is tragic. What a waste of a life that represented all the egotistical things this culture so desperately wants to be.

I would give you the numbers about how bad the decimation to nature all is, but I already know if you’re reading this then I’m probably singing to the choir and you’ve already heard them echoed repeatedly. So you probably know the world wildlife fund estimated a decline of 60% of wildlife over the past forty years. Or that a German study estimated a decline of over 80% of insects over thirty years. And it’s important to note that all things that caused these numbers to occur are happening at a faster rate now. So what is to be left in another 40 years while recklessly careening down the same trajectory? Let me run some quick math on my handy-dandy ecological calculator.  Oh, yes, I see.  It seems to have come out to “There won’t be fucking much left!” and I didn’t even know my calculator knew any other words than 80085.

The apocalypse has already been scheduled by capitalists and nation-states and it’s coming to a town near you if you care to see it. If capitalists and governments of the world do everything they already have scheduled over the next decade then the 2020s will be the last decade before the fall. Like, for instance, the largest mining project ever is being dreamed up so that people can wear more pretty rocks on their fingers and around their necks. Or the spread of radioactive brine that is being openly dumped across the country for equally idiotic reasons. Or if the military continues to expand, which is already the world’s largest polluter, and if it continues unchecked, should ensure there’s nothing to notice and nothing to care for by the end of the century, that is to give a rather generous timeline. To make matters worse they’ve already done enough ecological damage to make the idea of the world supporting the projected 10 billion people by 2050 a rather farcical idea. So what happens as our population expands and the ability of the world to support life decreases?  My guess, nothing good.

Yet almost no one views this course we’re on with the attention it deserves. We should be talking into the nights with one another. Finding out what is true while there is still time to find out. We should be healing the inner ego dominator that has been culturally installed within us all. Then perhaps each of us can come to the enlightening conclusion that this society must be let go of if we are to survive past what is to come. If enough of us learn to painfully let go of our ego-driven passions, just maybe we will then notice and naturally come to a state of caring for what we should have been noticing and caring for all along.

Could the Climate Crisis Be “The Good News of Damnation”?

On August 12, 1945, six days after the U.S. government obliterated the city of Hiroshima with a single atomic bomb, Robert Hutchins, the president of the University of Chicago, delivered a remarkable public address.  Speaking on his weekly radio program, the Chicago Roundtable, Hutchins observed that Leon Bloy, a French philosopher, had referred to “the good news of damnation” under the assumption that only the fear of perpetual hellfire would motivate moral behavior.  “It may be,” Hutchins remarked, “that the atomic bomb is the good news of damnation, that it may frighten us into that Christian character and those righteous actions and those positive political steps necessary to the creation of a world society.”

According to Hutchins, this world society would serve as the foundation of a world government, and, in the context of the existential danger posed by nuclear war, he was totally committed to creating it.  “Up to last Monday,” he said, “I didn’t have much hope for a world state.”  But the shock of the atomic bombing, he added, crystallized “the necessity of a world organization.”

In the following months, Hutchins created and, then, presided over a Committee to Frame a World Constitution―a group of farsighted intellectuals who conducted discussions on how best to overcome humanity’s ancient divisions and thereby move beyond nationalism to a humane and effective system of global governance.  In 1948, they issued a Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution, with a Preamble declaring that to secure human advancement, peace, and justice, “the age of nations must end and the era of humanity begin.”

The Chicago committee constituted but a small part of a surprisingly large and influential world government movement that, drawing on the slogan “One World or None,” flourished during the late 1940s.  In the United States, the largest of the new organizations, United World Federalists, claimed 46,775 members and 720 chapters by mid-1949.  The goal of creating a world federation was endorsed by 45 major national organizations, including the National Grange, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the United Auto Workers, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Young Democrats, the Young Republicans, and numerous religious bodies.  That year, 20 state legislatures passed resolutions endorsing world government, while 111 members of the House of Representatives and 21 Senators sponsored a congressional resolution declaring that the new United Nations should be transformed into “a world federation.”  Much the same kind of uprising occurred in nations around the world.

Although this popular crusade waned with the intensification of the Cold War, as did the hopes for a sweeping transformation of the nation-state system, the movement did secure a number of vital changes in the international order.  Not only did the United Nations begin playing an important part in global peace and justice efforts, but the original impetus for the world government movement―the existential danger of nuclear war―began to be addressed by world society.

Indeed, a massive, transnational nuclear disarmament movement, often led by former activists in the world government campaign, emerged and rallied people all around the planet.  In this fashion, it placed enormous pressure upon the world’s governments to back away from the brink of catastrophe.  By the mid-1990s, national governments had reluctantly agreed to a sweeping array of international nuclear arms control and disarmament treaties and were no longer threatening to plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust.

More recently, however, that world society has been crumbling thanks to a dangerous return of nationalism.  From the United States to Russia, from India to Brazil, numerous countries have been swept up in xenophobia, triggering not only a disastrous revival of the nuclear arms race, but an inability to work together to challenge the latest existential threat to human survival: climate change.  Championing their own narrow national interests―often based on little more than enhancing the profits of their fossil fuel industries―these nations have either torn loose from the limited international environmental agreements of the past or, at best, shown their unwillingness to take the more significant steps necessary to address the crisis.

And a crisis it is.  With the polar ice caps melting, sea levels rising, whole continents (such as Australia) in flames, agriculture collapsing, and storms of unprecedented ferocity wreaking havoc, climate catastrophe is no longer a prediction, but a reality.

What can be done about it?

Clearly, just as in the case of heading off nuclear annihilation, no single nation can tackle the problem on its own.  Even if a small country like the Netherlands, or a large country like the United States, managed to quickly develop a system of 100 percent renewable energy, that action would be insufficient, for other countries would still be generating more than enough greenhouse gasses to destroy the planet.

So there really is no other solution to the onrushing climate catastrophe than for people and nations to forget their tribal animosities and start behaving as part of a world society, bound together by an effective system of global governance.  The climate crisis, like the prospect of nuclear annihilation, really is “the good news of damnation.”  And we can only overcome it by working together.

One world or none!

A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed

Thwaites, in West Antarctica, is the world’s most dangerous glacier. As of January 15th, scientists have labeled it: “A Climate Time Bomb.”

Thwaites is crumbling apart on the underneath side where warm ocean currents circulate, which is clear evidence that global warming is really, truly hitting its stride even as America, obeying President Trump’s orders, rejected its commitment to Paris ’15, a major climate agreement of almost all the nations of the world.

In point of fact, America is too focused on ceaseless (mindless) NYSE trading at new heights to give even a passing thought to something as remote as Thwaites Glacier crumbling apart from inside-out (9,072 miles away, forever far away in the mindset of simple-minded folks).

Still, the cold, hard facts are irrefutable, to wit: NASA’s studies, referenced as “IceBridge,” have revealed an enormous cavity lurking beneath the icy surface of Thwaites; it’s the size of NYC hidden within its core. Along the way, Thwaites glacier loses 35B tons of mass per year.

Beyond question, “What happens at Thwaites affects the whole ice sheet.”1

After all, Thwaites is the primary backstop for the entirety of West Antarctica, which contains enough ice to take sea level up 11-12 feet. If Thwaites collapses, it’ll trigger an impending collapse of monstrous proportions. Although, truth told, nobody knows the timing, decades or centuries before serious collapse occurs, but judging by recent behavior, Thwaites is giving off plenty of chilling tip=offs, enough to generate some cold-sobered pause and very deep thought.

Thwaites Glacier is 100 miles across and 4,000 feet deep. It’s melting a lot earlier and much, much, much faster than ever thought possible. That’s bizarre since the glacier, ever since the dawn of humanity, has been a permanent feature on West Antarctica.

Meantime, in the face of crumbling ecosystems found at the fringes of civilization, where the initial impact of global warming is felt first, the United States, under the direction of President Trump, dismantles decades of federal regulations that protect life and ecosystems. Nearly 100 federal regs designed to curb climate change, protect human health, and limit ecosystem ruination are being rolled back. It’s Trump’s infamous Great Dismantling of Federal Agencies (GDFA).

As such, crucial ecological and social welfare policies are on a fast track of obliteration, somewhat similar to the impact of human-generated global warming’s influence on ecosystems; e.g., permafrost shockingly collapses 70 years early in the high Arctic. Alert! Is global warming 70 years ahead of schedule? If so, if really true, awful climate-related upheavals will manifest very soon.2

As for the status of America’s scientists, Trump is their worst nightmare come true in full living color — orange. No president throughout the history of America comes close to his purity of ignorance and utter failure to understand basic words, concepts, and rudimentary science. After all, it was his own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who said, “He’s a f__king moron!”3

As for Thwaites, the good news is it will take hundreds of years for the final ice of West Antarctica to melt away. However, along the way, possibly sooner rather than later, the bad news is that it will likely wreak unimaginable havoc, meaning big time damage, by altering coastlines around the world, year-by-year, decade-by-decade, and inch-by-inch, but over time stretching to foot-by-foot. It’s an extraordinarily dangerous prognosis, filled with all kinds of challenges for the world’s coastal metropolises.

Significantly, and most importantly, the implied message within the NewScientist article is: Somebody in a position of authority in the world with powerful leadership skills (forget the U.S.) must wake up to the fact that global warming has already started taking human civilization down for the count, down to its knees… already in its earliest stages at the furthest latitudes, where it is hitting real hard; e.g., Thwaites’ internal ice collapse.

Thwaites Glacier, as big as the country of Great Britain, is but one of several examples of early stage ecosystem collapse in the world, but people don’t live where it’s happening. Who sees it other than scientists?

Alarmingly, Thwaites’ ice loss has doubled over the past two decades to 35B tonnes per year; that fact, standing alone, sends a haunting message. In time Thwaites will account for 2 feet of sea level rise. But that’s only the start of a much, much bigger dilemma as it buttresses the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

It was only 5 years ago when scientists confidently said the Western Antarctica Ice Sheet collapse had officially started but those same researchers said: “Even though sea level rise (10-13 feet) cannot be stopped, it is still several centuries off, and potentially up to 1,000 years away.” No sweat!

Now… they are sweating.

  1. Adam Vaughan, “Antarctica’s Doomsday Glacier is Melting. Can we Save it in Time?” NewScientist, January 15, 2020.
  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. Vanity Fair, May 23, 2019.

The Rumbling ESAS Methane Enigma

The northern continental shelves of Russia, inclusive of the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea (ESAS) are some of the least researched yet most controversial subjects in climate science today. It’s the one region that has the biggest potential to trigger runaway global warming because of sizeable subsea methane deposits, thereby taking civilization down to its knees. But, that prospect is also extremely controversial within the scientific community.

Scientific opinion runs the gamut: (1) high risk- methane bursts will bury civilization with runaway global warming – a dreadful, deadly risk (2) not to worry, it’s low risk because almost all of the massive deposits of undersea methane will stay put (3) not to worry, low risk because any methane seepage via undersea permafrost is oxidized and dissolves within the seawater and not a threat to runaway global warming.

By and large, climate scientists dismiss the ESAS and some go so far as to vilify published research. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dismisses its near-term/intermediate-term risks. The reasons are manifold (more on that later).

Unfortunately, recent events in the high Arctic lean towards option number one as the more likely outcome. In that regard, I recently met with Dr. Peter Wadhams, world-renowned Arctic expert, to discuss the issue (more on that follows).

As it happens, only recently inordinately high levels of methane emissions have been reported, to wit:

(1) Methane Observation – October 2019 – “This is the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe… No one has ever recorded anything similar.”1  The quote is from Igor Semiletov, professor Tomsk Polytechnic University on the research vessel Academic M.A. Lavrentyev on a 40-day Arctic mission.

(2) Methane Observation – December 2019 – Three months later at COP25 in Madrid, Dr. Peter Carter, an IPCC expert reviewer, in an interview d/d December 10th, 2019, referenced an ongoing eruption of methane above Barrow, Alaska, saying:

We’ve never seen anything like it. And, it has stayed at elevated levels to the present week. Looking at the 2.2 million year ice core, the maximum methane concentration ever was 800 ppb. In Barrow, Alaska it is 2,050 ppb and staying there. It’s been up there for 4 months.

A note about the Barrow observation:  Dr. Peter Carter believes the origin may be permafrost decay from land. However, according to Dr. Wadhams, he’s not so sure of Carter’s explanation and even though the waters offshore Barrow are not known to contain subsea methane, it is theorized the 4-month extremely high CH4 reading may have originated at ESAS and drifted, a theory with forceful negative ramifications.

The Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory was established in 1973 by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Earth System Research Laboratory to track hourly methane readings.

According to initial reports by NOAA re the sharp uptick in CH4 readings to 2050 ppb:

To spot methane levels breaking the 2000ppb mark so sharply in this fragile region is unprecedented.2

(3) Methane Observation – Dahr Jamail’s book The End of Ice (The New Press, 2019) relates an ominous story of methane bubbling at Barents Sea. In Barrow, Alaska, he met Ira Leifer, a scientist who studies the shallow seas of the Arctic and works with NASA on methane data. Leifer discovered wicked SOS signals coming from a 620 square mile area of the Barents Sea jam-packed with methane bubbles at the rate of 60 million plumes, which is almost impossible to fathom as the normal background rate should be thousands, not 60 million.

The question arises: Are the three aforementioned sightings related, and if so, what are the consequences for the climate system and impact on society at large?

First and foremost, did NOAA/Barrow send notifications of the excessively high readings to the White House and members of Congress? After all, the danger of a major burst of methane out of the shallow-waters (40m-100m) within Russia’s continental shelves exceeds the risks of a North Korean missile attack.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) alone is the size of Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan combined and jammed full of methane trapped beneath underwater permafrost that is rapidly thinning. (N. Shakhova)

Pre-formed gas preserved in the ESAS suggests a potential for possible massive/abrupt release of CH4, whether from destabilizing hydrates or from free gas accumulations beneath permafrost; such a release requires only a trigger.3

For additional perspective, according to Dr. Semiletov:

Emissions of methane from the East Siberian Shelf – which is the widest and most shallow shelf of the World Ocean – exceed the average estimate emissions of all the world’s oceans… We have reason to believe that such emissions may change the climate. This is due to the fact that the reserves of methane under the submarine permafrost exceed the methane content in the atmosphere is many thousands of times.4

For more perspective on the issue, I traveled to a site at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California to meet with Dr. Peter Wadhams.

During the interview, he repeatedly referenced his most recent book, A Farewell to Ice (Oxford University Press, also available in paperback via Penguin Books) to access a chart or check a calculation or a graph or map. I soon came to realize that A Farewell to Ice is an extraordinarily important accumulation of decades of solid scholarly work, an opus magnum on polar ice, indeed, an indispensible handbook for a proper understanding of one of the planet’s most extreme and dangerously vulnerable ecosystems.

Professor Peter Wadhams is the world’s most renowned polar ice scientist with 46 years of research on sea ice and ocean processes in the Arctic and the Antarctic. Since 2015, he serves as Professor Emeritus of Ocean Physics, Cambridge University. His biography is filled with distinguished international recognition, appointments to prestigious organizations, awards, and publications befitting a leading world scholar.

I met with him to gain a better understanding of what’s happening, especially as regards the ESAS. Reading his book, it becomes very clear that climate change is tethered to what happens in the Arctic. It is literally ground zero for the impact of global warming because, unlike Las Vegas, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Its impact is felt throughout the hemisphere and around the world.

When the subject of methane and the Siberian continental shelves came up, I recalled his cautionary statement in A Farewell to Ice:

We must remember— many scientists, alas, forget—that it is only since 2005 that substantial summer open water has existed on Arctic shelves, so we are in an entirely new situation with a new melt phenomenon taking place. (Wadhams, pg. 123)

In other words the prospects of a major ESAS methane eruption have sharply escalated over only the past 15 years with the loss of ice due to global warming. Yet, it is one of the least understood and least researched climate systems in the world. As mentioned previously, the IPCC gives it no consideration and most scientists downplay the risks.

According to Dr. Wadhams, the reasons it is under-researched include the fact that it is in Russian territorial waters, which serves to inhibit Western influence. Another factor that works against acceptance by the scientific community is due to native biases towards Russian researchers, namely Natalia Shakova, one of the foremost prominent researchers of ESAS.

Wadhams puts to rest the common criticism by many in the scientific community that say not to worry about ESAS starting a bout of dangerous runaway global warming (RGW) because subsea methane deposits oxidize and dissolve in the seawater as released and never make it into the upper atmosphere, to wit:

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is exceptionally shallow — more than 75 per cent of its entire area of 2.1 million square kilometres is shallower than 40 metres — so most of the methane gas avoids oxidation in the water column and is released into the atmosphere. (Wadhams, pg. 123)

With ESAS getting more and more active as of recent, it is important to evaluate the risks of further breakout. For example, Wadhams says that Natalia Shakova, the leading expert on ESAS, believes it contains up to 700 GT of CH4. The risk is rapid release, a big burp of 8% of the deposit or 50GT, which, in turn, would crank up worldwide temperatures by 0.6°C over two years. This would have an extremely negative impact on the overall global climate system with unknown but likely horrific results as temps crank up to, or beyond, the IPCC danger zone of 2°C much sooner than anybody expects. Wadhams believes this is society’s biggest climate threat because at 2°C above pre-industrial crop yields start going down, very rapidly. An ESAS big burp would do the job.

The risk of an ESAS methane big burp alone should be enough of a threat to motivate global governments to call an emergency meeting at the UN to do whatever it takes to halt excessive greenhouse gas emissions on a worldwide basis as soon as possible.

Alas, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), reality dictates otherwise, as all of the major players in the global oil patch plan on cranking up production by 120% by 2030, and coal production is projected to grow by leaps and bounds in China and India, as well as several developing countries over the upcoming decade.

The sorrowful reality is the world continues headstrong in the opposite direction of CO2 mitigation.

The following is but one example among many of impending climate disaster, almost assured, due to human shortsightedness:  SUVs spewed 700 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere from 2010 to 2018, nearly half as much as the power industry, surpassing emissions by heavy industry such as iron and steel production and far outstripping CO2 from trucks, aviation or shipping.5

In 2010, 18 percent of all car sales in the world were SUVs. In 2018, more than 40% of all cars sold in the world are SUVs.6

The SUV fad is contagious and spreading like wildfire throughout the world marketplace. The problem: Sport-utility vehicles (gas guzzlers) aka: SUVs are the second-biggest contributor of growth of CO2 emissions in the world.

Even worse yet, the IEA report states:

If SUV demand continues at current rates, they will add nearly two million (2,000,000) barrels to global daily oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.6

No wonder major producers intend to increase oil production by 120%. The demand is there.

Ouch! That adds considerably more certainty and a much higher probability to the “Big Burp Event.” We just don’t know the exact timing, yet.

Postscript:

First, the probability of this pulse happening is high, at least 50 per cent according to the analysis of sediment composition by those best placed to know what is going on, Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov.  Moreover, if it happens, the detrimental effects are gigantic… the risk of an Arctic seabed methane pulse is one of the greatest immediate risks facing the human race… Why then are we doing nothing about it? Why is this risks ignored by climate scientists, and scarcely mentioned in the latest IPCC assessment? It seems to be not just climate change deniers who wish to conceal the Arctic methane threat, but also many Arctic scientists, including so-called ‘methane experts.7

  1. “Research Vessel Encounters Giant Methane Seep in Arctic Waters”, The Maritime Executive, October 10, 2019.
  2. “Arctic Methane Levels Reach New Heights”, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, September 16, 2019.
  3. Natalia Shakhova, et al, “Understanding the Permafrost-Hydrate System and Associated Methane Releases in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf”, Geosciences, June 5, 2019.
  4. Arctic Methane Gas Emissions ‘Significantly Increased Since 2014’ – Major New Research, The Siberian Times, October 4, 2016.
  5. International Energy Agency- relevant article: “Urban SUVs Driving Huge Growth in CO2 Emissions: IEA, Phys.org, October 16, 2019.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Wadhams, pg. 127-28.

The Madrid Climate Disaster

Does anyone know what COP25 stands for? Probably very few. It’s unimportant. As unimportant as the whole roadshow itself. Just for the hell of it, for those who read this article, COP means Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 25 stands for the 25th year that such annual conferences have taken place, every year in another country.  What a tourist bonanza for the hundreds, if not thousands of attendees and participants who travel — by air, many of them business class — to these most questionable, even useless, conferences.

The first of the COP summits took place in Berlin, Germany, in March 1995. The COP’s Presidency rotates among the 5 UN recognized regions and so do the conferences — to make “eco-tourism” most of the time for the same UN and government bureaucrats and jokers more attractive. I can’t help thinking of the enormous cost of these conferences — travel, food, lodging and everything in between for two weeks. In the case of COP25 Madrid (2-16 December 2019), two days more than planned, because after the scheduled two weeks no agreements were reached, so it was decided to add two days. Add to this all the preparatory meetings and related travels — tens of millions of dollars, possibly more, are spent for nothing, absolutely zilch, nada. That’s the officially recognized outcome at the end of the extended COP25 in Madrid – nothing.

There are UN staff, directors mostly, at the UN in Geneva and in New York, who earn huge salaries in the hundreds of thousands a year, for doing what? Some of them are directing their staff to prepare the extravagant but mostly useless COPs and, of course, they are also attending them. When I see monetary figures like this, and we are now talking of only one kind of UN conference, it occurs to me that this is money stolen from the poor. It is taken from the very people whom the UN is committed by its Charter to help.  How many simple drinking water supply and sanitation systems could you build with all this money? How many millions of people could you serve with the money wasted for such conferences with safe drinking water and safe sanitation?

According to the WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP), some 2.1 billion people have no safe drinking water at home and more than twice this number lacks safe sanitation. At the same time, these agencies also monitor the death toll among less than 5-year-old children from unsafe water and sanitation, from the lack of hygiene, from diarrheal diseases. Nearly 400,000 die per year. In addition, contaminated water and poor sanitation also contribute to the transmission of cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid. This does not even take into account those who die due to a famine-reduced immune system.

Precious money deviated from the UN system by men-invented rather unproductive, but usually lush conferences – of which the COPs are just one category – could save millions of lives.

This is a real environmental issue, in fact, more vital than just environment. It is environmental health. It is certainly competing in importance with the man-made CO2 issue. Climate change is happening, no doubt, it always did for the 4.5 billion years of Mother Earth’s existence. But the way the west is dealing with it is a sheer farce; no, it’s actually worse, much worse. It’s criminal, because it’s knowingly made into a commercial globalized profit-making enterprise. Knowingly, because the elite that pulls the strings behind these events – the same who finance Greta Thunberg – are well aware of what they are doing and why they are doing what they are doing. It helps none but global corporate finance. Those who suffer most are the people living in the Global South which is, as with most natural disasters, most affected by naturally occurring climate change.

It’s still worse, because the western propaganda message promises actions towards saving the world from climate change which are entirely deceptive. So, the poor are again being lied to. They are being lured into making huge investments with huge loans – the World Bank, IMF and bilateral lending institutions, let alone Wall Street, stand ready – loans and interest which the borrowing countries have to repay. If they can’t, they have to give their collateral, meaning, let the west privatize their public services and assets, and grab their natural resources for a pittance. That’s how it works – the west preventing climate change from happening.

Not to mention the enormous arrogance with which the eminent COP attendees pretend humans can control Mother Earth’s temperature fluctuations; i.e. to less than 2 degrees C. Or arguing, whether “we” (almighty humans) should agree on limiting a temperature rise in the next 30 or 50 or 100 years to 2 or 3 degrees C, exceeds any reasonable level of human absurdity and conceit. Our assumed power over nature is at best ridiculous.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. IPCC has 195 members and some 2000 scientists who contribute to IPCC’s work. Any serious scientist knows that the main cause for climate change are variations of solar activities, but they sell us CO2 as chief villain, knowing well, that the world, especially the western world, functioning under a turbo-neoliberal corporate and finance-driven capitalist system, based on ‘eternal’ consumption and eternal growth – which drives the ever-growing profit margins – will not change its behavior vis-à-vis nature, unless it collapses under its own weight. Not with a million COPs it will change its profit-making thinking and business motives. These mostly famous scientists know it. If they don’t follow the line, they risk losing their reputation and, who knows, their jobs?

Ice core records studied by scientists, combined with many types of proxy records to reconstruct past atmospheres and environmental conditions, back from thousands to many millions of years, suggest that climate changes in large cycles, and within them, in smaller cycles. For example, it appears that between 2.6 and 5.3 million years ago, during the Pliocene Epoch, CO2 levels were comparable to those of today. Models suggest global temperatures were 3 to 4 degrees C warmer than pre-industrial levels (https://www.co2.earth/historical-co2-datasets).

Similar patterns were repeated 400,000 to 600,000 years ago. What is important to notice though, is that temperatures rise first, followed by CO2 levels which is logical, since the sun is heating the earth. It is the complete opposite to what today’s climate gurus are telling us. In the second half of the 1900s, NASA studied during some 30 years temperature fluctuations in the Pacific Ocean, investigating causes and effects of El Niño. The result was similar; the higher the water temperature of the Pacific, the more CO2 was released by the sea into the atmosphere. High CO2 levels are eventually followed by lower temperatures.

The world still runs mainly on unrenewable energy, mostly hydrocarbons, oil, gas and even coal – the chief producers of CO2. Of course, we should stop using hydrocarbons and convert our economic systems to renewable energies. Hydrocarbons with their carbon dioxide output pollute the air, soil, surface and underground water ways. They contaminate even our food. Their secondary and tertiary products, plastic bottles and plastic-related packing materials, most of which are not biodegradable, contaminate our oceans, our landscapes, and kill wildlife.

But who convinces the highly profitable petrol titans, packaging giants – not to mention the pharma industry which also thrives on petrochemicals – to turn the wheel back to the 1950’s and 1960s, when we went to the corner stores to buy our staple food, like rice, sugar, flour, potatoes in bulk, put it in used and reusable paper bags. We were not unhappier than we are today. To the contrary. Cancer rates were considerably lower. In 1960, CO2 levels in the atmosphere stood on average at 316 ppm. We had no cell phones. Time moved slower. And – importantly – in the fifties and sixties we lived — even in the west — in a world more or less in balance; we used less than the total of the resources Mother Earth generously provides for us.

In the mid-sixties, during the post-WWII economic boom, we started rapidly exceeding the world’s resources balance. Today, the west, or Global North, uses some 4 times as many resources as Mother Earth can provide. In Africa and some parts of Asia that ratio is between 0.5 and 0.6.  But no worries, there comes a point when Mother Earth will self-regenerate, that means with a break from us, destructive humans. Looking at geo-history – that has most likely happened already a few times: Civilizations disappeared – often “suicide by greed” – and once Mother Earth has recovered, she may give mankind another chance. She has a lot of patience.

In 2009, at the time of the (in)famous Copenhagen Climate Conference, the average level of CO2 in the air was 386 ppm. The goal was to reduce the level to 350 ppm ten years later. The Copenhagen Climate Conference coined the “350-sologan”. In November 2019, the carbon dioxide level has exceeded 410 ppm – and rising. It is an illusion to believe that Big Business, Big Industry, Big Finance – and Big Growth-driven Profit – will yield to environmental or climate concerns.

And again, those who call the shots know it, but they keep fooling the world, making the purposefully brainwashed and poorly informed populace believe that special taxes, for example, on flying, or other taxes on hydrocarbon-based energy, will make a difference; or that “carbon credits” will improve the environment. This is, of course, nonsense. And the taxes eventually end up in the pockets of the usual villain, the globalized private banking system, instead of being dedicated to intense research into alternative energies. Such efforts happen only in China and Russia.

In the west, intense research into solar energy, the ultimate renewable energy, is not allowed to happen. The big energy lobbies, hydrocarbon, nuclear, and even hydropower, will block any such attempt. Can you imagine, the sun provides the earth with more than 10,000 times as much energy per day than what we use in the entire world in the same period.

Carbon credits are the most ludicrous deceitful banking invention of the last 50 years. How do they work?  A huge corporation in the Global North, instead of making the necessary investments to reduce their CO2 output, it buys “carbon credits” from a country in the Global South, where the pollution level is below a certain limit, so the northern corporation may continue postponing the CO2-reducing investments, and the country in the global south should theoretically invest the money it got from the “carbon credit” sale into alternative energy or otherwise environmentally friendly projects. It hardly ever happens. Many of these countries lack the projects and / or the absorptive capacity for the required investments. And even when it does happen, the carbon dioxide pollution of the monster corporation in the north continues. What a farce!

Maybe one day, in the not too distant future, the breakthrough will happen. It must, if we, mankind, want to survive and not collapse as civilization under the weight of our own wasteful, growth-based luxury lifestyle. We suddenly see the light – the sunlight – and use it, instead of CO2 generating hydrocarbon – and we free ourselves from this horrendous petro-corporate dependency. Our arrogant climate control attitude, temperature-rise fixing and human-manipulating by centigrade – gone – out of the window. Our linear 30, 50- and 100-year projections gone. Finito. What a feeling!  A feeling of real freedom. A full change-over of lifestyle. This moment may come faster than we think. The Chinese, always bashed by the west, have been concentrating at least the last decade much of their research on efficient and sustainable renewable energy – sun energy is in their focus. The East is the future. The East is where the sun rises.

• First published by New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Biosphere Collapse?

Five years ago: Nations of the world met in Paris to draft a climate agreement that was subsequently accepted by nearly every country in the world, stating that global temperatures must not exceed +2C pre-industrial. Global emissions must be cut! Fossil fuel usage must be cut!

Today: Following Paris ’15, global banks have invested $1.9 trillion in fossil fuel projects.

Not only that, global governments plan to increase fossil fuels by 120% by 2030, including the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Canada, and Australia.

Additionally, over that past 18 months China has added enough new coal-based power generation (43GW) to power 31 million new homes. China plans on adding another 148GW of coal-based power, which will equal the total current coal generating capacity of the EU.

India increased coal-fired power capacity by 74% over the past 7 years. The country expects to further increase coal-generated capacity by another 22% over the next 3 years.

China is financing 25% of all new worldwide coal plant construction outside of its borders; e.g., South Africa, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Meantime, China, kissing goodbye to its commitment to cut emissions, cuts renewable power subsidies by 30%.

Likewise in the United States, Trump proposes slashing renewable budget items, as his administration rebrands fossil fuels “Molecules of U.S. Freedom.” (Forbes, May 30, 2019) (Obviously, somebody in the WH scoffs at the general public as horribly gullible, simple-minded, ignorant, and just plain stupid to fall for that one!)

Meanwhile  America’s most northerly town, Barrow, Alaska is experiencing an unprecedented “massive spike in methane emissions” ongoing for the past 4 months, as monitored by Dr. Peter Carter (see more below).

And, in Madrid, COP25 (Conference of the Parties25) was underway December 2nd-13th with 25,000 participants from countries of the world gathered to hammer out the latest details on global warming/climate change. The question arises whether the conference had “legs.” By all appearances, it did not. Rather, it was another repeat climate sideshow.

Making matters even more surreal, because of the above-mentioned death-defying global plans to accelerate fossil fuels by 120% to 2030, the Stockholm Environment Institute claims the world is on a pathway to 3C pre-industrial, probably “locked-in” because of fossil fuel expansion across the globe.

But caution-caution-caution, the IPCC has already informed the world that 2C brings the house down; not only that, scientists agree 1.5C is unbearably unlivable throughout many regions of the planet.

In short, the world is on a colossal fossil fuel growth phase in the face of stark warnings from scientists that emissions must decline to net zero. Otherwise, the planet is destined to turn into a hot house. As things stand today, it appears “Hot House” is baking into the cake. And, Hot House implies too much heat disrupting, and destroying, too many ecosystems for the planet to support 7.8 billion people.

For an insider’s view of the goings-on at COP25, Dr. Peter Carter, an IPCC expert reviewer, was interviewed on December 10th:

The following is a synopsis of that interview: He first mentioned the fact that 11,000 scientists have signed a paper stating:

We are definitely in a climate emergency.

At COP a couple of years ago, there was a lot of media given to the terrible fact that four of the countries had gotten together to block the most important IPCC report ever. Which was the 2018 IPCC 1.5C report, showing that 2C, the old target since 1996, is total catastrophe, and 1.5C is still disastrous, but that is still where we must aim.1

Scientists today agree 1.5C is possible only if we reduce emissions by 7% every year from next year so that we can reduce global emissions 50% by 2030. (Comment: “That’s laughable” – Check out global fossil fuel growth plans, bursting at the seams!)

COP has always been set up to fail. However, the first COPs were hopeful. Ever since then, things have gone down, down, down. The reason why they are set up to fail is because when the Convention was signed in 1992, it was stated that major decisions would be by “consensus,” but “we still don’t have a definition of consensus under the Convention.” That is absurd.

The entire COP set up provides for one or two countries to veto any major decision, and that’s what we’ve seen happen. The US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait “block the science from the negotiations.”

“In COP25 the science has been blocked completely.” (Carter)

“Right now all three major greenhouse gas concentrations, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are accelerating. It means we are on a trend for total planetary catastrophe. We are on a trend for biosphere collapse. Carbon dioxide is on a rate exceeding anything over the past millions of years. We are at 412 ppm. To put that into context, we have an ice core that goes back 2.2 million years. The highest CO2 over that period is 300 ppm.” (Carter)

The latest IPCC assessment requires holding temps to 1.5C, meaning emissions must be cut by 50% by 2030, which means emissions have to decrease rapidly from 2020 (Comment: That’s an impossibility because of global fossil fuel plans of +120% growth by 2030).

We’ve had four separate reports this year on the status of countries meeting, or not meeting, their mitigation targets to avoid catastrophe. Result:

It’s basically the end for humanity. We’re looking at biosphere collapse. The richness of life is being destroyed by deforestation and by catastrophic climate change. Africa is in severe drought. Chile is in a mega drought. Australia is in a drought expected to become a mega drought within the next two years. (Carter)

Absolutely nothing is happening to mitigate global warming. Furthermore, nothing will come out of COP25 to mitigate the issue. On the very first day of meetings Carter was told nations would not be looking at improving their national mitigation targets, which are a joke anyways.

It is unbelievable what these high emitting fossil fuel producing countries are doing. Countries that are blocking any progress on emissions are acting in the most evil way imaginable. We’re looking at the destruction of Earth, oceans and land. (Carter)

Furthermore, and chillingly, according to Dr. Carter: Currently, there has been a massive ongoing eruption of methane in the Arctic. It’s gone practically unreported. The only report of it was by the Engineering and Technology Journal.

Barrow, Alaska registered the aforementioned massive bursts of methane into the atmosphere, starting in August of this year.

We’ve never seen anything like it! And, it has stayed at elevated levels to the present week. Looking at the 2.2 million year ice core, the maximum methane concentration ever was 800 ppb. In Barrow, Alaska it is 2,050 ppb and staying there. It’s been up there for 4 months. (Carter)

Which is an ominous warning that has the potential to be a precursor to runaway global warming, burning-off mid-latitude agriculture and categorizing the Tropics as “way too hot for life.”

We (Carter and the scientific community) know that really bad things are happening in the Arctic. We also know that the land permafrost is emitting a lot of methane, CO2, and nitrous oxide (12xs more than scientists estimated).

Conclusion: COP25 is a farce as major countries ignore the threat of global warming by upping the ante on fossil fuels, adding nearly $2 trillion worth of new fossil fuel infrastructure since Paris ’15 warned of dangers associated with too much carbon in the atmosphere, a surefire recipe for Hot House Earth.

Lest we forget, Venus, our sister planet, has 96.5% CO2 by volume in the atmosphere. On average, temperatures run 864°F.

Carbon matters!

Postscript:

Accelerating heating of the Arctic Ocean could make global temperatures skyrocket in a matter of years.2

Since the start of the industrial revolution more than 200 years ago, that’s the worst possible news ever.

  1. Dr.  Peter Carter, IPCC Expert Reviewer, Interviewed December 10, 2019.
  2. “Arctic Ocean Overheating”, Arctic News, September 8, 2019.

Should We Trust Science?

Scientists working on the issue have often told me that, once upon a time, they assumed, if they did their jobs, politicians would act upon the information. That, of course, hasn’t happened. Anything but, across much of the planet. Worse yet, science failed to have the necessary impact in significant part because of disinformation promoted by the major fossil-fuel companies, which have succeeded in diverting attention from climate change and successfully blocking meaningful action.”

— Naomi Oreskes, author of Why Trust Science? and professor of the history of science at Harvard University

There were 60 of us with four facilitators asking us deep questions about the best ways to protest, preserve, rehabilitate and reimagine Oregon’s rocky intertidal habitat.

“What does make a community resistant and resilient?” Steven S. Rumrill, Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish program leader, asked us all.

In a nutshell, this breakout session was a microcosm of Saturday’s conference, State of the Coast at Salishan Resort.

Three other leads to this afternoon session titled, “Complex and Connected: Holistic Approaches to Management in the Nearshore” — Sarah Gravem, OSU Marine Ecologist; Dom Kone, OSU graduate student in Marine Resource Management; and Deanna Caracciolo, Department of Land Conservation and Development – challenged us to think about issues near and dear to not only the scientists, but to us lay persons. We held onto the anchor question: “What makes the Oregon Coast vibrant, healthy and a visitor destination.”

Rumrill posed key brainstorming questions:

1. What are the primary drivers of variability in rocky habitats?

2. What are the key stressors and threats to them?

3. What proactive steps can resource managers take?

4. Think of five words associated with holistic management of rocky shores.

Coastal Confab Inspires Next Generation

This was the sixth year in a row for the State of the Coast, but this past Saturday’s was the first sold out gig, according to Shelby Walker with Oregon Sea Grant, main sponsor of the Gleneden Beach soirée.

The all-day session included the requisite keynote – Bonnie Henderson, author of several books, to include “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast,” “The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast” and “Strand: An Odyssey of Pacific Ocean Debris.”

Even more compelling and intriguing — and dovetailed to the State of the Coast theme of looking into the future — 28 student researchers with their poster projects displayed in the Longhouse conference room, and the 10 student artists alongside their creative endeavors, with both groups being voted on by all the guests.

Projects tied to pollution, microplastics, the Pacific heat blob, hormone mimickers, ocean acidification and more are at the forefront of these highly motivated and interdisciplinary-steeped students from Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Portland State University.

 

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I spent time talking with Reyn Yoshioka from UO, as he explained the remarkable findings in his participation in Oregon Institute of Marine Biology’s BioBlitz in the Coos Bay area. We discussed how his team’s inventory of invertebrates would be ideal to present to city and county officials, as well as groups like Rotary clubs and chambers of commerce.

“The people with political and economic clout need to see not only the work you all do, but what really is at stake if anything threatens this incredible biodiversity,” I told many of the fledging scientists and artists.

Every single one agreed. Many asked me how they might connect to myriad other stakeholders and powerbrokers in their communities.

I introduced Reyn to OSU senior in arts Kenneth Koga, whose watercolors of various elements of a vibrant ecosystem bring the scientist’s eye in focus with a much broader scope beyond just the materialistic world and into the interpretation of nature through the artist’s lens. Reyn told me “it would have been cool” to have dancers, photographers, painters, sculptors and musicians as part of the biodiversity transect inventory.

The Arts Help Define and Contextualize Science

While we received quick teach-ins (one hour presentations of eight minutes each) from researchers looking at rocky habitats, the warm Pacific blob, Oregon’s five marine reserves, sea star wasting disease, threats to Gray, fin, blue and humpback whales on the West Coast, and the status of groundfish recovery, Marion O. Rossi, OSU Associate Dean of Liberal Arts, gave a quick snapshot of Republican Governor Tom McCall’s legacy in helping preserve our coastal habitats.

Author Studs Terkel asked McCall decades ago where the heroes of the political world are. “Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky,” McCall said. “ They are people who say, ‘This is my community, and it’s my responsibility to make it better.’”

Rossi and I talked about what better things might be done to bridge the divide between the sciences (and technology, engineering and math – STEM) and the arts.

Part of the conference included a rather telling – possibly debilitating – aspect of science and various stakeholders. I counted more than 21 agencies involved in just managing and setting plans for our rocky habitats. Unfortunately, there are many more agencies, bureaucracies, boards, quasi-legal, legislative, non-profit, industry groups with some sort of skin in the game tied to our coast.

Think of tide-pools, habitat for many juvenile species, kelp incubators, biodomes to invertebrates such as anemones and sea stars. One issue we tackled was the fact that we can love our coastlines to death; i.e., since we have so many visitors and local aficionados wanting to get into these areas, so many species are being trampled upon.

Ecological balance, keystone species and the entire web of life also were prominent discussion points for the speakers.

For instance, the wasting disease promulgated deeper response in coordinated research projects called STARS – Seastar Tragedy and Recovery Study. Sarah Gravem of OSU discussed the implications of this species’ decline most probably attributed to a virus as well as ocean conditions (warming) spurring the virus’ growth. In some areas along the Pacific Coast, there had been a 100 percent die-off of sea stars observed in 2018. Recovery has been slow.

The ecological consequences from this wasting disease hitting pisaster ochraceus that once was ubiquitous in our rocky shorelines (purple, orange, brown many-legged beauties) spurred a kind of domino effect.

• this predatory sea star feeds on the mussel Mytilus californianus and is responsible for maintaining much of the local diversity of species within certain communities

• compensatory predators come in when a die-off hits

• low sea star prey growth occurs upsetting the balance of the ecosystem

All these pieces to the marine puzzle make up the coast’s mosaic of life. With warming waters, the bull kelp die off, and then sea urchins populations explode and any sort of juvenile kelp that might attempt a foothold on rocky bottoms gets gobbled up by the armies of sea urchins.

Everything is connected in the coastal life in and around the sea.

Whose Oregon Is It?

The Oregon Coast Trail is a hiking trail along the Pacific Coast. The length depends on the use of ferries, and varies between 382 miles (615 km) and 428 miles (689 km). The trail is set out on the beach, paved roads and tracks.

– Traildino.com

“You know, the funny thing about aging is you can watch entire forests grow,” author Bonnie Henderson said. “Fifty years is a harvest rotation. I can say to the students here you will watch forests grow thanks to those with vision and persistence.”

The author made it clear that her love of the Oregon Coast Trail could have only been germinated through the auspices and hard work of forerunners like Governor Tom McCall who pushed the 1967 Oregon “beach bill,” making all beaches accessible to the public.

She went back farther, 1913, to Oswald West, the governor who made all Oregon’s public beaches highways for wagons, horses and cars. Fellows like state Parks chief Sam Boardman (retired 1950) increased the acreage for coastal parks almost 20-fold. Then Sam Dickens, a Kentuckian who ended up running the UO geology department, saw the value in knitting together all the trails in Oregon, along the coast.

The well-known Pacific Crest Trail is more than 2,600 miles long and takes five months to traverse in snow-free conditions. It’s a wild back-country affair, whereas the Oregon Coast Trail cuts through cities, highways towns and waysides. Henderson has traversed it many times.

She is fighting for more camping areas. She is also keen on her other position as communications director for the Northwest Land Conservancy, trying to get more land set aside for a reserve in Oswald Park near Cape Falcon. That’s a $10 million fund drive, of which the NWLD has procured half.

With the snow season hitting the Sierras and rampant fires in California and Oregon, many people had to forego their Pacific Coast Trail adventure and ended up on the Oregon Coast Trail in 2017 and 2018.

She rhetorically asked how long people have been hiking and walking along the trail. Jorie Clark, OSU Geology and Geophysics department, has looked at the shoreline changes dating back 18,000 years when the oceans along the Pacific were 450 feet lower than today. It was around 6,000 years ago when the ocean hit the current level.

There were glaciers along the coast dating back 14,000 years, but also evidence of people from Chile up to Oregon, before the land bridge, who went along the so-called “kelp highway” where they found enough refugia to survive, Henderson told the crowd.

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Rejecting Cornell University — Art for Art’s Sake

Ram Papish apologizes to the group in his breakout session for a jump drive failure. He is wearing self-designed blue jeans with a collection of tufted puffins painted all over.

He currently lives and works out of Toledo, and his artwork is not only of interest to collectors. More importantly, he has worked with Oregon State Parks on 63 panels of interpretative work tied to our wonderfully varied ecosystems.

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All along the Oregon Coast, at waysides and other locales, these illustrated panels are set throughout the tourists’ pathway. Here are just a few of the illustrated large panels:

• Salmon Life Cycle

• Tidepool Explorer

• Sea Bird Island

• Tidepool Life

• Shorebird Stopover

• Mixing Zone

He tells the mostly young students in the session that he had to fight hard to become successful, and he said it was just last year when he began to feel somewhat secure in his artistic profession.

He has illustrated field guides, and in his early life he spent half the year as a guide in Alaska and then the other half as an artist – 15 years straight undertaking that lifestyle. He’s an avid photographer and he has worked sculpting into his life – with works including the walrus that sticks out of the wall at Hatfield Marine Science Center.

When I went to college, I didn’t think I could make a living at it. I sent out dozens of portfolios to publishers and children’s book publishers. I was really naïve.

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The introduction to art class at Cornell was a turning point in his pursuit: “The professor was basically trying to teach us how to be a snobby artist. I wasn’t going to have any part of that.”

Ram’s drive is to connect people to nature. He works mostly on commission, gigs assigned by Oregon State Parks, other agencies and publishers. His drawing avocation started when he was very young, and by age 14 he was designing dolls.

Questions abounded at his talk; he stated his interpretative panels follow the Rule of Threes –

It’s better to have less text. Over the years we went from textbooks on a stick to art pieces with no more than 300 words.

• three seconds to get the headlines

• 30 seconds to glance over the panel

• three minutes to read everything, including the captions

I ask him who his inspirations were. He rattles off Lars Jonsson and Robert Bateman. His number-one inspirator was a guy who wrote a book, Birds in Art. That was Larry McQueen, who ironically turned out to be living in Eugene where the young Ram lived. Ram saw his photo in the newspaper. It turned out Ram had been his paperboy from age 12 to 14. Ram introduced himself to McQueen and ever since he has been Ram’s inspiration.

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Our Collective Potlatch

There are many challenges to our coast – to the livelihoods of the people who make money off our coast’s marine resources. There are challenges to scientists who have to spend more time stumping for grants. There are many silos of people who are gatekeepers of information but fail to abide by transparency. Tourism and sustainable economies are debated weekly in city council meetings.

Unfortunately, for many coastal people, the elephants in the room are global warming, ocean level rise and ocean acidification and hypoxia. I’ve written about researchers diving deep into those topics.

But the bandwidth of the American public, lawmakers and industry is taken up by the stumbling blocks to progress – profits at any cost and doing business as usual for the benefit of a few rich people and stockholders.

The state of the coast, as seen at the Salishan Resort, is one tied to vibrant thinkers and activists; scientists and researchers; explorers and dreamers.

On the surface, some things look hunky-dory, but when we peel back layers as both naturalists and scientists, we see a more varied and complicated picture. The State of the Coast is a multivariant symphony of sometimes syncopated and discordant arias.

Music is in the eye of the beholder, but for our coast, the people dedicated to learning and sharing are really the bedrock for the rest of us who find some niche or dream or hope in this place.

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Maybe we need this sort of potlatch — the name given to most Northwest Coast celebrations – every month.

Imagine, State of the Coast as our potlatch, from the Nuu-chah-nulth “pachitle”’ (potlatch), which means “to give.” How much does the reader have to give to this vibrant and vulnerable coast? How much do you have at stake in ensuring future generations have a healthy coast?

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Note: Article first appeared in Oregon Coast Today, author’s copyright.

In the Eye of the Eagle: From Strict Catholic School to Adventures in Rainforests

A slow, tacking flight: float then flap. Then a pirouette and it has swung on to a different tack, following another seam through the moor as if it is tracking a scent. It is like a disembodied spirit searching for its host…” — description of the strongest of all harriers, the goshawk, by James Macdonald Lockhart in his book, Raptor: A Journey Through Birds

We’re watching a female red-tail hawk rejecting the smaller male’s romantic overtures barely 50 yards overhead.

There it is. Ahh, the male has full extension. So does his girlfriend. I see this every day from here. This courting ritual . . . testing each other’s loyalty. Watching them in a talon lock, spiraling down, now that’s an amazing sight.

I’m with Chris Hatten on his 10 acres overlooking the Siletz estuary along a gravel road. Saying he lives for that typical red-tail hawk behavior would be an understatement. His passion for raptors has taken him to many parts of the globe, and those trips involved exhilaration, danger, risks to his life, and the trials and tribulations of living primitively in tropical zones which Westerners sometimes deridingly call undeveloped countries or third world nations.

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 Wild Harpy eagle being recaptured and treated after being shot in leg, northern Guatemala.

We are traipsing around his property where Chris is ninety percent finished with a two-story 1,400 square foot home, a modern efficient house he’s been building for two years from a kit out of Lynnwood, Washington.

He told me he’ll never do that again – building a full-sized house.

The 42-year-old Hatten got a hold of my name when he found out I write about Oregon coastal people with compellingly interesting lives. He is in the midst of witnessing adjoining land (more than a hundred acres) to his property about to be clear-cut – forested hillside owned by Hancock Timber Resource Group, part of John Hancock Insurance (now owned by a Canadian group, Manulife Financial).

When he first bought the land eight years ago, representatives of Hancock told him that the company had so much timberland it would take years, maybe a decade, to get to this piece of property.

We discuss how Lincoln City and Lincoln County might prevent a clear cut from the side of the hill all the way down to Highway 101. “It’s amazing to witness in this coastal area — that depends on tourism — all this land clear-cut as far as the eye can see.”

The red-tail hawk pair circles above us again, while a Merlin flits about alighting on a big Doug fir.

When he first saw the property — an old homestead which was once a producing dairy farm — Chris said two eagles cawed above where he was standing, which for a bird-man is a positive omen and spiritual sign of good health. He calls his place “The Double-Eagle.”

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Hands on bio blitz Northern Brazil.

Non-Traditional Student Backpacks into Jungles

He’s not living in the house, per se, but rather he has a tent he calls home. “I feel suffocated inside four walls. I want to hear animals, hear the wind, be on the ground.” He’s hoping to rent out the house.

His current kip is set up near a black bear den, where mother bruin and her two cubs share an area he is willing to stay away from. “The mother bear and I have an understanding. We don’t bother each other.”

He’s part Doctor Dolittle, part Jim Fowler (from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom), and part John Muir. My own intersections with blokes and women around the world like him have put me eye-to-eye with pygmy elephants in Vietnam, great hammerheads off Baja, king cobras in Thailand, schools of barracudas off Honduras, and a pack of 20 javelina chasing me along the Arizona-Mexico border.

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Jaguar rescue northern Belize.

Hatten’s wildlife adventures indeed take it up a few notches.

“When I finished high school, I wanted to follow my dreams.” That was at Saint Mary’s in Salem, a school that was so constricting to Chris he had already been saving up dollars for a one-way ticket out of the country.

He had started working young – aged 8 – picking zucchini and broccoli in fields near where his family of six lived. “You feel invincible when you are young. You’re also more adaptable and more resilient.”

He ended up in Malaysia which then turned into trekking throughout Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, East Timor, and even down south to Darwin, Australia.

Those two years, from age 17 to 19, are enough to fill two thick memoirs. Upon returning to Salem, he applied to the National Park service and bought a one-way ticket to Alaska, working the trails in small groups who lived in tents and cleared trails with 19-Century equipment – saws, shovels, picks, pry bars.

With his cash stake growing, he headed back south, by mountain bike, along the Prudhoe-Dalton Highway. He hit Prince George, Vancouver Island, and stopped in the Olympics.

He then worked summers and attended Chemeketa College in Salem.

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Finding small spot fire Colombia River Gorge, Oregon, working for U.S.F.S.

Homeless-but-inspired at Evergreen State College

He wanted to study temperature rainforests, so he showed up unannounced hoping for an audience with a well-known scientist and faculty member — Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, who is an expert in temperate forests and sap maples. Chris had read the book she co-authored, Forest Canopies.

Before showing up to Evergreen, Chris had developed a sling-shot contraption to propel ropes into forest canopy. He barged into Nadkarni’s office with his invention. She was surprised Chris wasn’t already student, but she quickly made sure he enrolled in the environmental studies program.

Spending his last dollar on tuition, Chris resorted to sleeping in a tent and inside his 1988 Honda Civic while using campus rec department showers. He told me he received free produce on Tuesdays when the farmer’s market would pass out vegetables and fruit after a day’s sales.

Another faculty member, Dr. Steve Herman, motivated Chris to really delve into ornithology. Chris recalls coastal dune ecology trips, from Olympia in motor pool vans, all the way into the southern reaches of Baja. “We looked at every dune system from Baja all the way back north to Florence.”

The ornithologist Herman was also a tango aficionado, and Chris recalled the professor announcing to his students many times, in the middle of dunes in Mexico, it was time for some tango lessons. “He told us there was more to life than just science.”

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Educational Harpy eagle to take into classrooms Panama city, Panama, has one blind eye, could not be released into wild.

Adventures and Misadventures of a Bird Fanatic

My life’s work has been to produce scientists who will seek to protect wildness. But I also just really enjoy teaching people about birds. I’ve been lucky to get to do that for a very long time.

— Steve Herman, Evergreen State College faculty emeritus Steve Herman, 2017

Chris laments the lack of real stretches of wilderness in Oregon, most notably along our coast. These are postage stamp areas, he emphasizes, around Drift Creek, Rock Creek, Cape Perpetua, but “it’s abysmal.”

We have the Cascades in Washington and the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and lots of wilderness in Alaska. But really, nothing along the Pacific in Oregon.

After camping in the forest around Evergreen College, Chris still had the travel bug bad. On one foray, he went to Thailand, studying the mangrove forests there. He traveled with Thai army anti-poaching teams who went after poachers. He came across poachers’ camps, witnessed firefights and saw a few poachers laid out dead. “The captain gave me a pistol and one bullet. He said the torture would be so bad if I got captured by tiger poachers that I’d beg for a bullet.”

He’s worked on the island of Hawaii with the USGS focusing on a biocomplexity project looking at how mosquitoes are moving higher and higher because of global warming. The consequences are pretty connected to other invasives – pigs introduced to the islands several centuries ago – disturbing the entire natural ecosystem.

Pigs chew down the ferns, and places that have never seen pooled water before are now wet troughs where mosquitoes can now breed.

Those insects carry avian malaria, and alas, endangered honey creepers can’t adjust to the mosquitoes like their cousins elsewhere who have evolved over millennia to just rub off the insects. The honey creeper is being decimated by this minor but monumental change.

Peregrine Fund

Right after matriculating from Evergreen with a bachelor’s of science, Chris ended up in Panama, working throughout Central America rehabilitating, breeding and introducing Harpy Eagles – the biggest forest eagle in the world with a wingspan of six and a half feet – into their native jungle habitat.

These are massive birds. They dwarf our American bald eagle, for sure. My job was to follow them when the fledglings were grown and released.

He acted like an adult Harpy who catches prey and puts it in the trees for the youngster to eat and learn some hunting skills. Frozen rats, GPS backpack transmitter fashioned on the birds, and orienteering throughout Belize and Southern Mexico were his tools.

It sort of blew me away that here I was living the dream of studying birds in a rainforest.

Territorial ranges for these birds spread into Honduras and south to Colombia. Wild Harpies eat sloth, aunt eaters, howler monkeys, even giant Military Macaws.

He ended up in the Petén, Tikal (originally dating back 2000 years), one of Central America’s premier Mayan archeological and tourist sites.

His role was to study the orange-breasted falcon, a tropical raptor which is both endangered and stealth. “We got to live on top of pyramids off limits to anyone else,” he says, since the bird was using the pyramids as nesting and breeding grounds.

He recalled tiring of the tourists down below repeating the fact that one of the Star Wars movies was filmed here – “I got tired of hearing, ‘Wow, is this really where Yavin 4,  A New Hope, was filmed? We’re really here.’”

Imagine respecting this ancient Mayan capital, and studying amazing raptors as the antithesis of goofy tourista comments.

No 9 to 5 Working Stiff

He tells me that his idols are people like Jane Goodall and David Attenborough. While he went to school in a conservative Catholic setting where his peers were mostly farm kids —  and some were already pregnant and married (before graduation), his family was not of the same stripe.

“We were like the people in the movie ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’’’ he says with a laugh. His parents took the brood to the Oregon Coast a lot, and that 1976 yellow VW van’s starter was always going out. “I remember we had my sister and mom blocking the intersections in places like Lincoln City while we pushed the van to get it started.”

He’s got a brother, Steve, an RN in Portland, and another Portland-based brother, Mark, owner of a micro-car shop. His older sister, Amy, is a newspaper journalist in Grand Junction, Colorado – a real lifer, with the written word coursing through her blood. She’s encouraged Chris to write down his story.

Their mother went to UC-Berkley, and has been a public education teacher for over 25 years. Their father (divorced when he was 12) got into real estate but is now living in New Zealand.

That one-way ticket to Singapore that got him into Southeast Asia, ended with him running out of money after a year, but he was able to get to Darwin, Australia, by paying a fishing boat in East Timor to get him down under illegally. He spent time picking Aussie Chardonnay grapes to stake himself in order to see that continent.

He was blown away by the kangaroo migration, a scene that involved a few million ‘roos kicking up great clouds of red dust. He ended up going through Alice Springs to see the sacred Uluru (formally known as Ayers Rock). He met undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Greece while making money picking oranges.

We talk about some frightening times in our travels, and per usual, the worst incidents involved criminals or bad hombres, not with wildlife. For Chris, his close call with death occurred in Guatemala where he, his female supervisor (a Panamanian) and another raptor specialist were confronted by men on horses, brandishing machetes and leading tracker dogs.

“’We’ll let you live if you give us the woman.’ That’s what they gave us as our option.” The bird team went back into the jungle, the two male researchers buried their female companion with leaves, and then Chris and the other guy took off running all night long.

The banditos chased them through the jungle. He laughed saying they ran virtually blind in places where eyelash vipers (one bite, and three steps and you’re dead), coral snakes and tropical rattlesnakes lived in abundance.

“It’s a very creepy feeling being hunted by men with dogs.” Luckily, the female team member headed out the opposite direction, with a radio. All in a day’s work for environmentalists.

That’s saying, “all in a day’s work,” is ominous since we both talk about how most indigenous and local environmental leaders in so many countries have been murdered by loggers, miners, oil men, ranchers, and coca processors (many times executed by paid-for military soldiers).

Never Return or There Will Be Tears

Two telling quotes from world-renown traveler and writer, Paul Theroux, strike me as apropos for a story about Chris Hatten:

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.

You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.

We talk about a crackling campfire being the original TV, and how being out in wilderness with 5 or 10 people for an extended period gets one really connected to working with people and counting on them to be friends and support.

“It’s tough going back to places I’ve been,” he says with great lamentation. In Borneo, a return trip years later discombobulated him. “The rainforest is being plowed over daily. I couldn’t tell where I was walking miles and miles through palm oil plantations. It was as if the jungle had been swallowed up.”

What once was a vibrant, multilayered super rich and diverse place of amazing flora and fauna has been turned into a virtual desert of a monocrop.

This reality is some of the once most abundant and ecologically distinct places on earth are no longer that. “This is the problem with any wildlife reintroduction program. You can breed captive animals like, for instance, the orangutan but there’s nowhere to release them. Everywhere is stripped of jungle, healthy habitat.”

The concept of rewilding any place is becoming more and more theoretical.

We climb the hill where the clear-cut will occur. Chris and I talk about a serious outdoor education center – a place where Lincoln County students could show up for one, two or three days of outdoor learning. We’re serious about reframing the role of schools and what youth need to have in order to be engaged and desirous of learning.

That theoretical school could be right here, with Chris as the lead outdoor/ecological instructor.

All those trees, terrestrial animals, avian creatures, smack dab on an estuary leading to a bay which leads to the Pacific is highly unique – and a perfect place from which to really get hands on learning as the core curriculum.

We imagine young people learning the history, geology, biology, and ecology of where they live. Elders in the woods teaching them how to smoke salmon, how to build a lean-to, how to see outside the frame of consumption/purchasing/screen-time.

Interestingly, while Chris has no desire to have children, he has taught tropical biology/ecology to an international student body at the Richmond Vale Academy on the island of Saint Vincent (part of the Grenadines).

Koreans, Russians, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Vincennes learned organic farming, bio-fuel production, solar power design, how to grow passion and star fruit. There is even a little horse program in the school, founded by two Danes.

Chris said that the local population is taught about medicinal plants, recycling and responsible waste disposal. “Everything used to be wrapped in banana leaves in their grandparents’ time. Now there is all this single-use plastic waste littering the island.

Like the dynamic rainforest that once carpeted the Central Coast – with herds of elk, wolves, grizzlies and myriad other species – much of the world is being bulldozed over, dammed and mined. Wildlife leave, stop breeding, never repopulate fractured areas where human activities are the norm.

But given that, when I asked Chris where he might like to go now, he mentioned Croatia, his mother’s side of the family roots. He may have swum with 60-foot-long whale sharks and kayaked over orcas, but Chris is still jazzed up about raptors – maybe he’d end up on the Croatian island of Cres which is a refuge for the spectacular griffon vulture.

“Nature has a purpose beyond anything an extraction-based society puts its monetary value on trees. We have to show young people there is value to natural ecosystems beyond extracting everything for a profit.”

One-Minute Q and A

Paul Haeder: What is your life philosophy?

Chris Hatten: Make the best use of your time. Time is short.

PH: How do we fix this extractive “resources” system that is so rapacious?

CH: We need to value forests for the many multitude of services they provide, not just quick rotations. Forests are not the same as fields of crops.

PH: Give any young person currently in high school, say, in Lincoln County, advice on what they might get out of life if they took your advice? What’s that advice?

CH: Get off your phone, lift up your head, see the world for yourself as it really is, then make necessary changes to it and yourself.

PH: What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve experienced — what, where, when, why, how?

CH: I have had very poor people offer to give me all they had in several different countries. Strangers have come to my aid with no thought of reward.

PH: In a nutshell, define the Timber Unity movement to say someone new to Oregon.

CH: They are people who mostly work in rural Oregon in resource extraction industries and believe they are forgotten.

PH: If you were to have a tombstone, what would be on it once you kick the bucket?

CH: “Lived.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2013-03-15-the-free-horse_0409.jpg

Running in step, at sunset on the beach with horse St. Vincent and Grenadines

Ignoring Climate Catastrophes

The planet is coming apart at the seams right before the eyes of scientists at work in remote fringe areas of the North where permafrost crumbles and collapses. It’s abrupt climate change at work in real time, but the governing leaders of the world either don’t care or don’t know. If they did, there would already be a worldwide Climate Marshall Plan to save civilization from early warning signals of utter chaos.

Across 9 million square miles at the top of the planet, climate change is writing a new chapter. Arctic permafrost isn’t thawing gradually, as scientists once predicted. Geologically speaking, it’s thawing almost overnight.1

After all, collapsing permafrost is the leading edge of cataclysmal global warming as it precedes additional catastrophes that follow one after another, and then another. All of which happen unannounced, known as abrupt climate change events.

The modern world’s First Near-Catastrophe, the Ozone Hole (1980s), was luckily avoided 40 years ago (more on this fascinating story later). It was the planet’s closest brush with nearly total extinction ever since the Permian-Triassic event took down 95% of all life 252 million years ago.

Meanwhile, the concern is whether cascading permafrost will end up as the world’s Second Near-Catastrophe, meaning it gets attended to, or will it lead to something much worse, as in “catastrophes that follow one after another, and then another?”

Cherskiy, Russia, which is home to the Northeast Science Station at 69°N, far above the Arctic Circle, is a year-round base for an international research station that studies Arctic biology and climate change. It is 60 miles inland from the East Siberian Sea (another high risk area in the Arctic).

In January of 2018 something unheard of happened at Cherskiy. The topsoil that has maintained frozen permafrost for eons was not refreezing like it had every year for as long as records were kept. Whereas, January in Siberia is normally so brutally cold that human breath can freeze with a “tinkling sound” that locals refer to as “the whisper of stars.”

“Three years ago, the temperature in the ground above our permafrost was minus 3 degrees Celsius (-27 degrees Fahrenheit),’ Sergey Zimov (an ecologist) said, ‘Then it was minus 2. Then it was minus one. This year, the temperature was plus 2 degrees.”2

The aforementioned example of abrupt climate change in Siberia is a beckoning out of the North, warning that the past 10,000 years of the Holocene era, earmarked by a Goldilocks Wonder World “not too hot, not too cold,” has ended, as excessive heat tears apart regions of the planet, piece by piece. Thereby sounding the alarm and threatening comfy lifestyles in every country in existence today, but is it a warning signal with a short fuse or a long fuse?

Human-generated greenhouse gases have kicked nature into high gear, competing with humanity by emitting tons of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, even in the winter in Siberia above the Arctic Circle. It’s earth-shattering news that should cause sleepless nights for world leaders, but it doesn’t alarm them. Otherwise, they’d already be taking emergency measures. They’re not!

As it happens, world leadership is sacrificing their constituencies on the altar of fossil fuel profits and a brand of capitalism that recklessly consumes everything in sight. Therefore emphasizing consequences such as Alaska’s North Slope has seen temperatures spike 11°F in 30 years as temperatures hit 90°F 240 miles above the Arctic Circle, challenging Florida’s balmy weather.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change struggles to keep up with ever-faster climate change disaster scenarios that unfold right under their noses, the world’s leadership looks like a herd of deer frozen in headlights. Meanwhile, the risks of excessive global warming, or heat, is not properly understood by the public in the following ‘double-scary’ context:

Large abrupt climate changes have repeatedly affected much or all of the earth, locally reaching as much as 10°C change in 10 years.3

That description of abrupt climate change (10°C in 10 years) by Richard B. Alley, Evan Pugh Professor, Penn State University, is based upon paleoclimate data. However, that same risk is not considered by the IPCC or included in scientists’ models, thus it qualifies as one of the least expected climate events. But, it has happened in the past… more than once!

Frankly, society can’t handle 10°C in 10 years, whether “locally,” as stated by Dr. Alley, or universally.

Which prompts the daunting notion of what happens when nature is “goosed up” by the sudden advent of the Human Heat Machine: 7,500,000,000 people, 1,400,000,000 cars, 22,500,000 commercial vehicles, 3,500,000 heavy trucks, 425,000 buses, 39,000 commercial and military airplanes, 62,500 power plants, 996,000,000 cattle all simultaneously emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as CO2 emissions set new records year after year after year?

In all, 80-90% of the above-listed statistics occurred in only 70 years, whereas it took modern humans nearly 200,000 years to reach two billion in population. Today, it’s the Great Acceleration at work as post WWII 5.5 billion newbies forage the planet, all within one lifetime. Amazing!

As a result, we are the biggest experiment the planet has ever encountered. Meanwhile, scientific knowledge that establishes “a firm link” between  (1) carbon dioxide emissions and (2) excessive global heat brings forth far-reaching unknowns for today’s carbon dioxide-fueled world. As such, the climate status/integrity of the planet has become a gamble, a crapshoot.

For example, the temperature/CO2 relationship over the past 400,000 years is saw-toothed as demonstrated so clearly in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006): When CO2 hits a high of 280 ppm, temperatures, like clock-work, increase by 5°C (hot cycle) and when CO2 hits a low of 180 ppm, like clock-work, temperatures decrease by -5°C (cold cycle) every 100,00 years over the past 400,000.

Although temperature change (the wild card) is all about timing, meaning does it take centuries or decades or years for temperature to react to CO2 levels in the atmosphere? In that regard, Dr. Alley’s “10°C in 10 years” is not encouraging, but nobody knows for sure what will happen tomorrow.

Speaking of which, today’s CO2 at 410+ ppm has powered through nature’s rhythmic cycles of 180 (low) to 280 (high) over the past 400,000 years. Now what?

Assuming global warming reacts accordingly, one possible scenario:

In a 4°C world, in which local temperature increases of 5 to 10 degrees will affect many areas, the impact on food production may be catastrophic.4

Today’s collapsing permafrost is eerily similar to the circumstances that surrounded the world’s First Near-Catastrophe, the notorious Ozone Hole, as explained in chapter 5 “The First Near-Catastrophe” of Ian Angus’ profoundly brilliant and indispensible book. The world has already faced that First Near-Catastrophe and luckily got through it.

Similar to ignoring abrupt climate change today, back in the 1970s-80s, no one predicted the speed and magnitude of the steep decline in levels of ozone because of damage by CFCs produced by DuPont ever since the 1930s. In fact, back in the day, NASA had predicted that ozone levels might decline 5 to 9 percent by 2050. But, surprise, surprise, surprise! Ozone levels dropped by 60% by the mid 1980s. Scientists were dumbfounded! And scared!

Without the protective ozone layer, 10-20 miles above Earth, which absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, life literally burns to a crisp.

In a masterful-less stroke of good luck, a handful of scientists brought the impending disaster of the ozone hole to the attention of the world community.  If not for the British Antarctic Survey that worked on a shoestring budget of $18,000/year, the world wouldn’t have known of the threat to all humanity. Since 1957, they monitored the ozone layer from the Halley Bay Observatory in Antarctica but never suspected human-generated chemicals would attack and destroy the ozone layer.

For 50 years the CFC industry was able to avoid a ban on sales of CFCs due to an absence of hard scientific data showing a decline in ozone levels. In 1979, DuPont officials said:

No ozone depletion has ever been detected despite the most sophisticated analysis… All ozone depletion figures to date are computer projections based on a series of uncertain assumptions.5

Similar to CO2 in the atmosphere today:

CFCs had been entering the atmosphere in ever-increasing amounts since the early 1930s. The pre-1980 measurements from Halley Bay undoubtedly included their effect on the ozone layer above Antarctica, but in 1979, what had been a gradual linear process crossed a tipping point, becoming rapid and nonlinear.6

Thus, giving birth to an Abrupt Climate Change event that could have destroyed life on Earth. Thankfully, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed in 1987. It saved the world from sure-fire destruction, blind-sided by its own chemical devices.

After reviewing the history of CFCs and the ozone layer, Paul Crutzen (Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist) commented:

I can only conclude that mankind has been extremely lucky.7

Now: Is permafrost collapse the Second Near-Catastrophe or something worse?

Hopefully, the answer is not “something worse” because dissimilar to the Ozone Hole crisis, which was solved by a handful of companies and industries implementing a technical fix and banning CFCs, the process of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions is universal, requiring decades of transforming the global economy, a gargantuan task when compared to civilization’s First Near-Catastrophe.

Similar to the Ozone Hole, which hit a tipping point 40 years after CFCs began emitting, collapsing permafrost first happens by inches, then by feet, then by portions of miles, when it is finally recognized as exceeding a tipping point, likely what’s happening today in Siberia, and throughout the far reaches of the Northern Hemisphere where massive levels of permafrost cover 25% of the hemisphere buried in frozen soil for eons, holding more than twice the amount of greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere.

Permafrost collapse is as alarming, maybe more so, as the Ozone Hole threat, but only a handful of scientists see it and believe it. Sound familiar?

  1. “Arctic Permafrost Is Thawing Fast. That Affects Us All”, National Geographic, September 2019 Issue.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Alley, Richard B., “Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises”, Washington D.C. National Academy Press, 2002.
  4. Angus, Ian, “Facing the Anthropocene”, Monthly Review Press, 2016, p. 102.
  5. Ibid, p. 84.
  6. Ibid, p. 85.
  7. Ibid, p. 87.