31 December 2014

Songs for the 7th Day of Xmas—There are 12, you know

15 December 2014

This Week in Water

The Maldives has run out of fresh water.

Super Typhoon Hagupit slammed into the Philippines.

Despite some much-needed rains (albeit a flooding deluge in some parts), the California drought is the worst in 1200 years and the recent rains have barely put a dent in the dire conditions.

The biggest water agencies in the U.S. West are finalizing an agreement to boost water levels in Lake Mead. The Colorado River is in its 15th year of drought. Lake Powell likewise is at an all-time low.

As confirmed by satellite imagery, Mexico City continues to sink as it continues to deplete its aquifer. The process is called 'subsidence', and some areas of the city are sinking by as much as one inch per month.

Helium travels to the surface of the Earth through its underground aquifers.

This summer has seen the highest global mean sea surface temperatures ever recorded, including El Nino years.

Antarctic glaciers are melting at the rate of a Mount Everest's worth of ice every two years, contributing to rising sea levels.

Melting tropical glaciers in Peru threaten that country's towns and cities.

In 30 years the namesakes of Glacier National Park may be completely melted.

There is an estimated average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter afloat in every single kilometer of ocean according to the United Nations Environment Programme. This only accounts for plastic on the surface of the ocean.

A morbillivirus has killed over 1500 dolphins along the U.S. East Coast according to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The FBI filed fraud charges against and arrested Gary Southern, president of Freedom Industries, following a massive chemical spill into the Elk River in West Virginia.

Activists in Mora County, New Mexico, are fighting to preserve its anti-fracking ordinance and prevent Swepi, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, from hydro-fracking it unspoiled landscapes. (h/t Frances Madeson)

Researchers have discovered an ancient settlement in the waters off the coast of Delos, Greece, dating back to the first century B.C.E.

The Rosetta spacecraft has discovered that the water vapor on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is chemically vastly different from that found on Earth. 67P is a Kuiper Belt comet. This finding rules this entire class out as a source for Earth's oceans and implicates asteroids in initially delivering water to our planet.

In a related story, Czech chemists claim that an asteroid impact on ancient Earth triggered a cascade of chemical reactions that ultimately led to the formation of the four RNA nucleobases that form the building blocks of life. They claim to have replicated this process by firing a super powerful laser at a specially prepared plasma for a fraction of a second.

03 December 2014

Devolution: Opening Shots

A few weeks back, I commented on what I take to be the world-historical trend of devolution, namely the decentralization of political power from empire and crown and potentially authoritarian central command governments to regional and local authorities. This in the context of the Scottish referendum in which a majority voted against independence from the United Kingdom. In my opinion, for regional, ethnic, and historical reasons, this vote did not signal a counter trend.

I appended a discussion of an apparent anomaly involving U.S. conservatives' promotion of devolution of power to the States. This is contrary to the historical meaning of conservatism. The conclusion I drew was that U.S. conservatives, in the wake of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, favor a concentration of economic power in the hands of fewer and fewer corporate powers. This explains the privatization mania so endemic to both U.S. and British conservatism and marks the central fault lines for future political divides: centralized political power vs. concentrated corporate economic hegemony: Big Government vs. Big Corporate, in short.

This is our new world, the 21st Century landscape with which political theory must contend. Analysis of world conflict in terms of political power which omit consideration of corporate influence on the process are antiquated and, accordingly, inadequate.

The future of war will be different, as well. We get a hint of battles to come in the news this week. There is increasing suspicion that North Korea launched a massive cyberattack against SONY Pictures, a subsidiary of a Japanese multinational corporation. [Follow the story here.] This comes shortly before SONY Pictures's release of The Interview, a comedic film—clearly a farce—starring James Franco and Seth Rogen as a couple of bumbling U.S. TV personalities are recruited by the CIA to attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-Un. This is either the first skirmish in the oncoming war of Big Gov't vs. Big Corp, or it's one helluva (let's call it) 'guerilla' marketing campaign by SONY.

How will SONY respond? Will it recruit the U.S. and Japanese governments to investigate and retaliate politically against the reclusive, repressive mysterious Asian State? Will it launch further, more serious filmic attacks on N. Korea's pudgy dictator? Will it bask in the glory of its FREE! FREE! FREE! international publicity?

Then what will be North Korea's next move? Will it fire some missiles to fizzle out in the ocean? Will it encroach South Korea's territory on some God-forsaken island? Will it call on its Chinese and possibly Russian benefactors to forestall international sanctions?

Pass the popcorn and watch this space.

21 November 2014

This Week in Water

Want to keep up with the on-going ravages of the historic California drought? The Pacific Institute is a good place to start. [Hint: things are not pretty.]

San Diego is spending $2.5 billion to see if it can successfully turn sewer water into drinking water.

Meanwhile, hydrofracking oil and gas companies pumped nearly three billion gallons of waste water into California's underground aquifers, contaminating water that could have been used for drinking or irrigation.

Fracking sites in the U.S. guzzled billions of gallons of water (between 10 and 25 million gallons each) between April, 2010, and December, 2013, many of which are in drought-stricken Texas.

Fracking will now be allowed in the George Washington National Forest which sits atop the Marcellus shale formation that runs from upstate New York to West Virginia.

Seems fracking doesn't just pollute the groundwater, but contaminates the air near the sites as well.

There is, apparently, a waterless method for fracking which avoids most of the pollution problems typically associated with this form of extraction; it's just that no one seems to want to use it.

Detroit's water inequities continue.

An oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of New Orleans blew up, killing 1 and leaving 3 injured.

Turns out it is a virus epidemic that has been melting the starfish along the coast from Mexico to Alaska. No one is quite sure what caused the outbreak.

Frasure Creek Mining company may have been falsifying tens of thousands of measurements of the amount of pollutants it has been dumping into the waters of Kentucky's coal country. And not on the low side. Kentucky regulators are defending their failure to catch these violations.

Global warming is heating up groundwater, not just the Earth's atmosphere and oceans. No real surprise there.

The population of the Republic of Kiribati, a remote Pacific island nation halfway between Hawaii and Australia, is seeking to relocate as sea levels continue to rise unabated and drinking water becomes evermore contaminated.

Tons of ocean garbage seems to end up in the pristine Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, one of the largest marine refuges in the world. NOAA is working to clean up the mess and prevent further pollution.

Factory waste "evaporation ponds" in China have turned out to be environmental disasters.

Japan has cut its whaling targets in the Antarctic by two-thirds in a bid to resume its annual whale hunts.

Some scientists are developing carbon nanotube technologies to extract usable quantities of water from the humidity of the air.

Others have come up with tiny man-made islands that suck the pollution out of the water.

Fontus is a solar-powered, self-filling water bottle that turns air into water as you ride your bike.

European authorities have certified the use of a salt-water powered car on its roads. The Quant e-Sportlimousine purportedly has 920 hp and a top speed of 217.5 mph and can get 373 miles on a tank. The German-built vehicle uses electrolyte flow cell technology. [h/t to the always delightful writer/activist/blogger/cyber-friend Frances Madeson]

According to a University of Texas geoscientist, a major tectonic event opening up a deep oceanic gateway between the predecessors of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans may have triggered a rise in sea levels, a change in ocean chemistry, and an upsurge of nutrients from the deeps during the Cambrian era which would explain a controversial surge in evolution that resulted in the sudden appearance of almost all modern animal groups.

14 November 2014

Druid Dancing Day

Today is the day all the leaves fall off the sacred Gingko tree in my neighborhood. 'Tis a holy day for Druids, a day to dance the day away. And so a Druid-themed pic cascade.

[As always, click pic to embiggen; mouse over for 'secret' message.]

A specimen Gingko Biloba, golden carpet

All the leaves fall in one day!

Who else is watching the Gingko leaves fall?

A fat* Red-shoulder Hawk, that's who!
Speaking of hawks:


@ The Highland Games, Stone Mtn.

"That'll do, dog."

Atlanta Ferris Wheel

Same, different angle from inside The Tabernacle

Architectural pic from inside The Tabernacle, Atlanta

 Bonus pic:

"If I were about 40 lbs heavier, I could jump down from here and eat you." [And, yes, that's a WFMU lunch box with Mickey Mouse and the gang doing 'The Last Supper' up on top of my fridge.]

Speaking of Druid dancing:

Spinal tap - Stonehenge by samithemenace


* This morning when I let the dogs out, Lily went charging out into the dog run barking like a fiend. A largish hawk took off and alit on a nearby tree branch. When I went to get the dogs after their and my breakfasts, Bruno had a squirrel's tail in his mouth. It disappeared down his gullet before I could wrest it away from him. I suspect the above hawk could be the same one that was in my yard earlier, now so fat and stuffed with squirrel that it doesn't even bother to fly away when approached by camera-bearing folks. A real Druidic-type omen, for sure.

13 November 2014

The Literary. Giveaway

Blog buddy, Robert Detman, proprietor of the blog The Literary., is giving away a copy of his new novel, Impossible Lives of Basher Thomas, to the first five people who contact him and jump through some simple social media hoops. Check it out.

I've entered, and you should as well.


06 November 2014

This Week in Water

Is Earth having a temper tantrum in response to humanity's indifference to global warming and pollution? Deep, historic levels of drought in Brazil, California, and Texas (among others); major hurricanes and typhoons; tsunamis; and rising sea levels and other similar calamities might indicate that this is the case—or at least a metaphor for the case.

Sea levels have risen 20cm since 1900, the highest rise in at least 6000 years.

According to NASA satellite data, depletion of groundwater aquifers worldwide is happening at unprecedented rates that cannot be naturally replenished.

There is so little available water in California's reservoirs that the state's ability to generate hydropower has been cut in half.

South Africa is running out of water. As is Sao Paulo.

Are beavers and the dams they construct a good potential defense against the withering effects of a warmer, drier climate?

Scientists have described for the first time a new genus of ocean animal that cannot be classified to any existing animal group. Called Dendrogramma, it is shaped like a mushroom and could "completely reshape the tree of life, and even our understanding of how animals evolved, how neurosystems evolved."

Researchers have developed a greener, more efficient method to produce ammonia using only air and water. Ammonia is critically important in the production of fertilizers which improve crop yields and sustain large populations. As a byproduct, the reaction also produces hydrogen which would be suitable for use in hydrogen fuel cells.

A solar-powered water wheel may be the first truly feasible device to help reduce the billion tons of plastic in our oceans.

Researchers have created a tool to determine whether fracking fluids have polluted a given water source.

Man-made islands of vegetation may help cleanse pollutants from water, according to Scottish scientists.

Seaworld has announced changes to the way it treats the killer whales, or Orcas, it continues to keep in captivity. This in response to the documentary film "Blackfish".

According to scientists, the rotational "wobble" of Mimas, one of Saturn's moons, makes it increasingly likely that it may have an underground "life friendly" ocean.

24 October 2014


Last month, Scottish voters participated in a momentous referendum in which a majority of the country (97% voting) decided to remain part of the United Kingdom. This reverses an almost unbroken string of devolutionary precedents which began with the North American Revolution in 1776. Does this signal the onset of a counter-trend in world historical terms?

Broadly speaking, in the first instance by 'devolution' I mean the shift of governing power from a central authority to local controlling bodies. The U.S. revolution, a century ahead of its time, was so unprecedented it nearly overshot its devolutionary mark: the Articles of Confederacy would have created 13 independent nations. It took a civil war in the 1860s to rectify this miscalculation and solidify governance in a central authority, albeit one with limited powers—a tension which still haunts our politics to this day.

Recently I republished a map from The Guardian showing the various countries who have, in one way or another, gained their independence from the British monarchic control over time. Here it is again.

(click to enlarge)
Of course, there have been other colonial empires, and in virtually all of them there have been similar devolutionary trends. Besides the reactionary Napoleonic exercises of the 19th Century, the major counter-example in the 230+ years since our Revolution has been the recent experiment in the Soviet Union. Beginning in 1917 and the fall of the Russian Empire, Soviet rulers sought to bring more and more countries and peoples under its sway, provoking a generational Cold War. This project ultimately failed once Gorbachev realized the weight of expansionism (particularly into Afghanistan) and the costs of total control were too great an economic burden for the central authority and the local Russian populace to maintain. And so began a second, reinforcing wave of devolution in the late Twentieth Century, extending the trend to the Baltic states, the -Stans, Belorussia, Georgia, the Ukraine, etc.

It bears noting that current Russian leader Vladimir Putin seems to have some desire to reclaim the lost glories of empire and thus of centralized authority, but his venture into the Ukraine—despite his practically unopposed reclaimation of the Crimean peninsula—is meeting serious resistance both at home and abroad and seems to be showing the folly of resisting the historical devolutionary trend.

Back to Scotland: There are local reasons for the failure of the devolutionary trend in the Scottish referendum, not the least of which involve physical proximity, historical affinity (how random, after all, is the placement of Hadrian's wall?), racial and ethnic and linguistic identity, economic commonality, etc. So it may be fair to say that the recent failure of the plebiscite does not represent a significant halt to the historical sweep of devolution. The British Empire, after all, is pretty much broken up and shows no signs of reversing the larger trend. By all indications, our British cousins no longer have expansionary dreams. They are simply trying to hold onto their nearest and dearest, and their Scots neighbors seem to have bargained for some local political and economic independence as a result of their choice.

There are, however, some current counter-trends, and they can be found in the Middle East and Far East Asia. Significantly, ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic State has noisily announced its goal as the reconstitution of the Caliphate, a multi-ethnic regional theocratic empire. The Chinese, having recaptured Hong Kong from the grasp of the British Empire, are still attempting to consolidate their hold on Tibet and are looking fondly toward bringing Taiwan back into the fold. An Occupy-like movement in Hong Kong is vocally resisting this effort, and the Dalai Lama has withdrawn from political leadership in order to draw attention to Beijing's attempts to manipulate the process of selecting his successor and reify its claim to legitimacy in Tibet.


A brief U.S. political note: Historically, the term 'liberal' has always meant favoring democratic policies intended to further devolve power from a central authority held by such entities as royals and plutocrats and dictators, whereas 'conservative' has always meant clinging to the centrality of authority. In the U.S. today, however, conservatives seem to favor policies that devolve power to state and local authorities and away from a strong centralized government in Washington, D.C. (except, of course, in matters of national security). Why is this the case?

To understand this, we need to look at a second, parallel devolutionary trend. Besides the movement of political power, there has grown up a related though hardly identical form of devolution: economic. When the great empires were dismantled, the economic structures that held them in place fell as well. Historically, tribute, in the form of taxes and native resources, found its way back to the centers of power in exchange for continued protection and control—which necessarily did have some benefits in terms of, e.g., physical infrastructure, bureaucracy, institutions. Thus, local populations retained or recaptured ostensible control of their resources and production.

These economic organizations grew up hand-in-hand with empire. The Dutch East Indies company being the prime example. Their allegiance was always to the crown—the central authority from whom they received their charters. When the crowns toppled, these organizations were left in place. They became 'Ronin', that is to say samurais without warlords, mercenary to whatever authority provided them with the most benefits. Many grew extremely powerful in the vacuum left by the devolution of political power, some arguably more powerful than many national governments.

Today, in the U.S., this trend of economic devolution is, if anything, even more powerful than its political cousin. Large corporations operate in- and out-side of national borders. National and local governments compete for their business by lessening the tax burdens and regulatory strictures on these entities—revenue and regulations intended largely to protect local populations. And, left to their own devices, these corporate entities grow even more centralized and powerful—more ungovernable.

The central tension in U.S. politics today, I believe, has to do less with how much political power to devolve to the States and more with how much economic power will devolve to these rogue corporations. U.S. liberals, thus, paradoxically find themselves having to favor policies that promote a strong central economic authority which will reign in unbridled corporate activities. U.S. conservatives and libertarians likewise find themselves in the paradoxical situation of fighting for the further devolution of political power because it favors the concentration of economic power in fewer and fewer corporate hands.

The great national powers now are not so much tools of political as of corporate power. Corporate imperialism is the new tyranny; economic inequality and class warfare are merely indications of this movement. Economic devolution is the central political issue confronting world politics today.

Multinational corporate empires are less easily reigned in by local bureaucrats squabbling over schools and potholes and kickbacks than by sophisticated, centralized taxing and regulatory agencies. And national governments, as we've witnessed since at least the Vietnam conflict and, intensively and explicitly, over the past nearly quarter century in Iraq, best play their role by using their economic clout and war-making powers to open otherwise closed markets to corporate interests.

There is a balance to be struck somewhere between a world order of authoritarian central command-economy governments and the creeping anarchy of rogue corporate fiefdoms wielding absolute control within their spheres of economic influence. I do not pretend to know where that perfect balance lies, but it is, to my mind, the central dynamic at work in both U.S. and world affairs. Scotland, the Ukraine, Hong Kong, Tibet, Syria/Turkey/Iraq/Kurdistan, the fight for control of the U.S. Senate, the struggle against inequality and concentration of wealth, the Occupy movement and, yes, the Tea Party movement, and even Bitcoin: these are some of the contemporary flashpoints in this ongoing historical trend. Watch this space.

15 October 2014

Panthertown Valley

Panthertown Valley is a backcountry wilderness area in Western North Carolina, near Cashiers and Highlands, just off U.S. Highway 64. An easy 2+ hour drive from the ATL, it has become Wisdoc's and my go-to day hiking getaway. It is now part of the Nantahala National Forest and offers miles and miles of trails and dozens of secluded waterfalls. You can hike for hours and hardly see a soul. We've been there five times and have nowhere near exhausted its riches. Just returned from a misty, foggy, rainy long weekend there, fall colors at peak. Word to the Wise: If you go, go first to Highland Hiker in Cashiers and get an up-to-date map.

So, Pics! [As ever, click pic to embiggen slideshow or mouse over pic for secret message]

View from Salt Rock 
Weird Vertical Panorama at The Overlook
Both dogs are in this pic. Can you spot Lily?
Did I mention COLOR?
Bruno & Lily: Boon Hiking Companions
Elbow Falls (= Negative Ions!)

Another in the series "Things Growing on Other Things"
Bruno - 6 months old, enjoying Elbow Falls: His First Hike
"The woods are lovely dark and deep..."
A Sluggish Hornet on Our Canoe
Fog Descends on Hogback Lake
Wisdoc at Hogback Lake

06 October 2014

This Week in Water

Scientists find that the oceans are getting warmer more rapidly than their models anticipated.

Rising atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are causing rapid warming of the Earth's ocean surfaces, reducing their ability to absorb increased carbon emissions—that is, their ability to cool the planet.

Earth's oceans are acidifying at the fastest rate in 300 million years.

Cambridge University researchers believe the Greenland ice sheet is more sensitive to climate change than earlier estimates suggested. A complete melt would mean rising sea levels up to 7 meters, or 23+ feet.

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is headed toward "unstoppable" collapse according to studies using visual data from the Europeans Space Agency.

Miami Beach, a particularly vulnerable low-lying U.S. city, is worried about its annual 'King Tide' which threatens to push an extra foot of water over sea walls and onto its streets.

More than 35,000 walruses were driven ashore in Alaska because of a loss of coastal sea ice, their normal habitat.

Some scientists believe whale poop can help reverse the effects of climate change. It's complicated.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii (full disclosure: my son is a student there in the school of oceanography) are trying to breed super-coral reefs which they believe may pre-empt excess acidification and warming of the oceans.

Scientists have revised and updated their maps of the undersea floor using satellite data, discovering many new mountains in the deepest parts of the ocean.

Scientists from MIT believe global warming could actually ease fresh water scarcity in some parts of the world, but the distribution could be unpredictable and uneven.

For the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea—once the world's fourth-largest lake—has completely dried.

Like California and other parts of the U.S. West, the Amazon regions of Brazil are facing unprecedented drought. Rivers there are drying up.

As in parts of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, the Arabian sea has a dead zone from sewage and fertilizer flowing into it from local rivers. It's the size of Texas.

Meanwhile, hundreds died in India and Pakistan from the heaviest monsoon rains in 50 years.

Some of the water molecules in your drinking glass were created before the formation of our sun.

Astronomers have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet in a solar system far, far away. This is a scientific first.

23 September 2014

This Week in Water

Obama Words: today, the President of the U.S. addressed the U.N. Climate Summit. A transcription of his remarks follows [Obama Deeds underlined]:

"For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week -- terrorism, instability, inequality, disease -- there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

Five years have passed since many of us met in Copenhagen. And since then, our understanding of climate change has advanced -- both in the deepening science that says this once-distant threat has moved “firmly into the present,” and into the sting of more frequent extreme weather events that show us exactly what these changes may mean for future generations.

No nation is immune. In America, the past decade has been our hottest on record. Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods at high tide. In our west, wildfire season now stretches most of the year. In our heartland, farms have been parched by the worst drought in generations, and drenched by the wettest spring in our history. A hurricane left parts of this great city dark and underwater. And some nations already live with far worse. Worldwide, this summer was the hottest ever recorded -- with global carbon emissions still on the rise.

So the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call. We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm. We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid. And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.

We cannot condemn our children, and their children, to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair. Not when we have the means -- the technological innovation and the scientific imagination -- to begin the work of repairing it right now.

As one of America’s governors has said, “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” So today, I’m here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that we have begun to do something about it.

The United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from the wind and 10 times as much from the sun as we did when I came into office. Within a decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and already, every major automaker offers electric vehicles. We’ve made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and our buildings and our appliances, all of which will save consumers billions of dollars. And we are committed to helping communities build climate-resilient infrastructure.

So, all told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades -- proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth.

Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to do more. Last year, I issued America’s first Climate Action Plan to double down on our efforts. Under that plan, my administration is working with states and utilities to set first-ever standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution our power plants can dump into the air. And when completed, this will mark the single most important and significant step the United States has ever taken to reduce our carbon emissions.

Last week alone, we announced an array of new actions in renewable energy and energy efficiency that will save consumers more than $10 billion on their energy bills and cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons through 2030. That's the equivalent of taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year.

I also convened a group of private sector leaders who’ve agreed to do their part to slash consumption of dangerous greenhouse gases known as HFCs -- slash them 80 percent by 2050.

And already, more than 100 nations have agreed to launch talks to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol -- the same agreement the world used successfully to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals.

This is something that President Xi of China and I have worked on together. Just a few minutes ago, I met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do.

And today, I call on all countries to join us -– not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone. The United States has also engaged more allies and partners to cut carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts we cannot avoid. All told, American climate assistance now reaches more than 120 nations around the world. We’re helping more nations skip past the dirty phase of development, using current technologies, not duplicating the same mistakes and environmental degradation that took place previously.

We’re partnering with African entrepreneurs to launch clean energy projects. We’re helping farmers practice climate-smart agriculture and plant more durable crops. We’re building international coalitions to drive action, from reducing methane emissions from pipelines to launching a free trade agreement for environmental goods. And we have been working shoulder-to-shoulder with many of you to make the Green Climate Fund a reality.

But let me be honest. None of this is without controversy. In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don't that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead. That is what the United Nations and this General Assembly is about.

Now, the truth is, is that no matter what we do, some populations will still be at risk. The nations that contribute the least to climate change often stand to lose the most. And that’s why, since I took office, the United States has expanded our direct adaptation assistance eightfold, and we’re going to do more.

Today, I’m directing our federal agencies to begin factoring climate resilience into our international development programs and investments. And I’m announcing a new effort to deploy the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States, from climate data to early-warning systems. So this effort includes a new partnership that will draw on the resources and expertise of our leading private sector companies and philanthropies to help vulnerable nations better prepare for weather-related disasters, and better plan for long-term threats like steadily rising seas.

Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation –- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.

The emerging economies that have experienced some of the most dynamic growth in recent years have also emitted rising levels of carbon pollution. It is those emerging economies that are likely to produce more and more carbon emissions in the years to come. So nobody can stand on the sidelines on this issues. We have to set aside the old divides. We have to raise our collective ambition, each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.

This time, we need an agreement that reflects economic realities in the next decade and beyond. It must be ambitious –- because that’s what the scale of this challenge demands. It must be inclusive –- because every country must play its part. And, yes, it must be flexible –- because different nations have different circumstances.

Five years ago, I pledged America would reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. America will meet that target. And by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target, reflecting our confidence in the ability of our technological entrepreneurs and scientific innovators to lead the way.

So today, I call on all major economies to do the same. For I believe, in the words of Dr. King, that there is such a thing as being too late. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate while we still can.

This challenge demands our ambition. Our children deserve such ambition. And if we act now, if we can look beyond the swarm of current events and some of the economic challenges and political challenges involved, if we place the air that our children will breathe and the food that they will eat and the hopes and dreams of all posterity above our own short-term interests, we may not be too late for them.

While you and I may not live to see all the fruits of our labor, we can act to see that the century ahead is marked not by conflict, but by cooperation; not by human suffering, but by human progress; and that the world we leave to our children, and our children’s children, will be cleaner and healthier, and more prosperous and secure."

16 September 2014

Songs from "Northern Britain"

Scotland (ancestral home of at least some of my people) is voting on whether to break away from the United Kingdom on Thursday. Here's a map showing all the countries that have declared independence from the British:

In honor of this momentous referendum, I offer a cascade of Scottish bands:

14 September 2014

Fun with Wordle

Here's a Wordle of my novel, EULOGY. I've just completed what I consider to be the FINAL draft. The submission process is beginning:


07 September 2014

This Week in Water

I apologize for not having posted much recently. I've been obsessing about finishing what I believe is my final revision of my unpublished novel EULOGY. I've had to rewrite the ending and been in a bit of a panic about that, but the novel is ready to be submitted to agents now. Wish me luck.

There. That's out of the way. Let's turn to the real world. Water: It's a problem.

Halliburton has to pay $1.1 billion for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers. Something about faulty cement. BP which claims it has spent more than $28 billion on damage claims and cleanup costs may be fined up to $18 billion more for its role. Of course, if corporations were people, as folks like Mitt Romney and the U.S. Supreme Court claim, wouldn't that make them liable for murder and manslaughter? Oyster harvesting along the Gulf has yet to recover.

Satellite analysis is showing that Earth's two largest ice sheets—in Antarctica and Greenland—are being depleted at an astonishing rate of 120 cubic miles per year. Computer climate simulations show that human contribution to glacier melting is increasing steadily. The Atlantic Ocean, by absorbing vast amounts of heat from the atmosphere, has masked much of the effects of global warming. This trend may reverse after 2030.

A slow-motion disaster: The East Coast of the U.S. is facing increased damages and ill-effects from rising sea levels. Miami and New York City (my former home) are ground zero in the battle against rising seas. "Imagine Cape Cod without cod. Maine without lobster. The region's famous rocky beaches invisible, obscured by constant high waters. It's already starting to happen."

Historic levels of flooding hit Detroit and Michigan.

Half a million residents were left homeless as devastating floods hit Bangladesh. Monsoon flooding in India and Pakistan has claimed nearly 300 lives.

It's been a busy typhoon season in the Pacific, much busier than the Atlantic, and it's still going on.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is under duress from natural and man-made forces. So much so the government has abandoned plans to dump 3 million cubic meters of dredged sand into the area.

Meanwhile, in another potential slo-mo disaster scenario, California continues to labor under historic drought conditions. Click for shocking pics of vanishing lakes. More than 80% of the state is either in extreme or exception drought category, the highest levels. Crops are shriveling up. Wells and aquifers are running dry. More devastating pics. Some worry that groundwater depletion there is destabilizing the San Andreas Fault (among others) and increasing earthquake risks. And it's not just a California problem: the food supply of the whole nation is in jeopardy.

Texas, too. And some think this Southwest drought could last for a generation or more. Especially with hydrofrackers competing for limited water resources and fouling nearby aquifers in their wake.

28 August 2014

A "F*** You and Your Friends" Jig

A special birthday cascade tribute for a longtime blegfriend who's just paranoid enough to believe it might not be about him (& just might listen to a song or two to discover if the music will save him again (from his [& our] complicity)):

Dangerous Book by The Plimsouls on Grooveshark

21 August 2014

The gods are watching adverts

Found the first of the following three Kate Tempest vids on Huenemanniac. Thanks, Charlie, nice pick! And welcome to a coveted spot on WoW's renewing Wisblog Roll.


10 August 2014

This Week in Water

The world's first Climate Change refugees have been granted residency in New Zealand. Rising sea tides on the Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu has contaminated the drinking water. Some predict that as many as 150 to 300 million people will be displaced by climate change during the first half of this century.

Climate data from 2013 published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society concluded:
"Last year was one of the ten hottest on record. Depending on how scientists slice the numbers, the year ranked second or sixth. Australia experienced its hottest year since recordkeeping began in 1910, as did a research station at the South Pole, whose records date to 1957. 
Average sea levels continue to creep up at consistent rate, of roughly three millimeters per year. Glaciers are losing mass at an accelerating rate. 
Extreme events in 2013 caused significant damage. Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest recorded tropical cyclone at landfall when it crossed the Philippines in November with wind speeds of 170 knots (195 miles per hour). More than 5,700 people died because of the super storm. 
In Canada, heavy rains flooded southern Alberta, resulting in the country’s most expensive natural disaster ever, at more than $US 6 billion."
The Global Ocean Commission has determined that the world's oceans need saving from pollution and overfishing, and urgent action is needed within five years.

A team of scientists has determined that sea level rise in the western tropical Pacific off the coasts of the Philippines and northeastern Australia is a result of human activity and likely will continue unabated.

Scientists have observed methane gas bubbling to the surface from the sea floor in the Arctic Ocean. These plumes could signal a major tipping point for climate change, causing trillions of dollars of damages to the world's economies. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is 20 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. One climatologist associated with the expedition that discovered this phenomenon tweeted: "If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we're f'd."

The worst environmental disaster in North America in decades? A dam holding waste from Canadian gold and copper mines operated by Imperial Metals around Mount Polley in British Columbia broke, spilling up to 4 billion gallons of toxic slurry and sludge containing things like arsenic, mercury, and sulphur from the tailing pond into the Province's pristine lakes and streams.

A massive red tide algae bloom, some 80 miles by 50 miles, off the Gulf coast of Florida has killed thousands of fish and could cause further damage, including to people, if it washes ashore.

Scientists are reporting a man-made 'dead zone' about the size of Connecticut in size in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. It is purportedly second in size only to a similar zone in the Baltic Sea around Finland and is a result of agricultural runoff from farms along the Mississippi River.

Pharmaceutical waste from an anxiety medication, Oxazepam, released into a Swedish lake is decreasing Eurasian perch mortality rates. This is not necessarily a good thing.

Engineers at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are constructing an ice wall to keep contaminated water from the nuclear reactor disaster from polluting ground water.

A mysterious lake, some 30 to 60 feet deep, has appeared in the the Tunisian desert.

Canada wants to map and lay claim to the seabed around the North Pole. So does Russia.

Russia has released "Arctic Sunrise", the Greenpeace ship it seized last year in a protest against its Arctic drilling.

The world's largest naval exercise, RIMPAC 2014, involving militaries from 23 countries, got underway in the Western Pacific.

Also, ebola is spread only by direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person.

02 August 2014

This Week in Water

Tons of news this week, mostly bad. And mostly in the U.S. Let's get down to it:

Health Advisory: If you're one of the nearly half million people who live in or around Toledo, Ohio, DON'T USE THE WATER!

More Ohio news: Haliburton was hesitant to disclose the type and amounts of toxic fracking chemicals it spilled into the Ohio River on June 28. By the time it released the information some 70,000 fish had died and the drinking water for millions of residents was threatened.

Hydrofrackers spilled some 480 barrels of hydrochloric (HCL) acid in rural Oklahoma that could taint nearby creeks and water supplies.

A waterfront oil refinery in Delaware is asking taxpayers to pay to protect it from rising sea levels.

Who would've guessed? The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is turning out to be much worse than people anticipated.

The depletion of the Ogllala Aquifer that stretches from Texas to South Dakota by human extraction—mainly for agriculture and energy use—threatens the bread basket of the U.S. and, potentially, the entire planet.

Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., is at an all-time record lowest level.

In a related story, NASA satellites have revealed a shocking loss of groundwater in the Colorado River Basin, challenging long-term water supplies for seven states. Purportedly, many areas are drier than during the Dust Bowl era.

Remember that chemical spill in West Virginia in January of this year? Well, the company that poisoned the water of some 300,000 residents sure got its comeuppance: It was fined $11,000. Freedom (Industries)!

Taxpayers will have to shoulder most of the $2 billion cleanup of pollution in the Everglades from South Florida's sugar industries.

Acidic seas are turning phytoplankton toxic. Why should that matter? Well, for one thing they produce up to 60% of the earth's oxygen.

Scientists still don't understand why numerous species of starfish along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the U.S. are dying out.

Researchers have measured swells of up to 16 feet in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea north of Alaska in oceans that are typically frozen.

Is Kick'em Jenny, an enormous volcano some 6,000 feet beneath the Caribbean Sea where tectonic plates converge, a potential tsunami threat to the U.S.?

Will the world essentially run out of fresh water by 2040? It is not out of the question if current trends continue. Not only do fossil fuel facilities pollute the environment and increase global warming with their carbon emissions, they consume massive, untold amounts of water resources.

Water: the next gold rush? Many mega-national companies think it is and are maneuvering to control this vital resource.

As much as 60% of California is in record drought conditions.

California halts injections of fracking waste, warning that it may be contaminating aquifers. May be?

Is desalination of the Pacific Ocean a viable option for California in the face of its historic drought?

New climate models predict an Australian forever-drought.

New E.P.A. proposed rule: an attempt to keep small bodies of water clean for families and businesses or yet another overreaching intrusion by Big Gov't into private property?

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014: a much-needed upgrading of U.S. water and wastewater infrastructure or the nose of the privatization-of-water-systems camel into the tent?

"U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) today introduced 'W21: Water in the 21st Century,' legislation that would help communities nationwide better prepare for the future by providing new incentives and investments to help residents, businesses and local water agencies to conserve, recycle and manage limited water supplies."

25 July 2014

This Week in Water

Been wondering lately what's happening with your planet's most precious resource? I'm back after a brief hiatus to give you the 411.

With Israel having invaded and currently occupying much of Gaza, I want to focus on the water angle to this current conflict.

If you've been reading this blog, you are aware that water is always a major issue in the Israel/Palestine conflict. In February, Martin Schulz, European Union Parliamentary President, made the following statement before the Israeli Knesset: "A Palestinian youth asked me why an Israeli can use 70 cubic liters of water and a Palestinian just 17." This prompted a faction led by Naftali Bennett to walk out. Is this true?

Haaretz recently published a fact sheet about the role of water in this corner of the Middle East:
* Israel doesn’t give water to the Palestinians. Rather, it sells it to them at full price.
* The Palestinians would not have been forced to buy water from Israel if it were not an occupying power which controls their natural resource, and if it were not for the Oslo II Accords, which limit the volume of water they can produce, as well as the development and maintenance of their water infrastructure.
* This 1995 interim agreement was supposed to lead to a permanent arrangement after five years. The Palestinian negotiators deluded themselves that they would gain sovereignty and thus control over their water resources.
The Palestinians were the weak, desperate, easily tempted side and sloppy when it came to details. Therefore, in that agreement Israel imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of the water resources of the West Bank.
* The division is based on the volume of water Palestinians produced and consumed on the eve of the deal. The Palestinians were allotted 118 million cubic meters (mcm) per year from three aquifers via drilling, agricultural wells, springs and precipitation. Pay attention, Rino Tzror: the same deal allotted Israel 483 mcm annually from the same resources (and it has also exceeded this limit in some years).
In other words, some 20 percent goes to the Palestinians living in the West Bank, and about 80 percent goes to Israelis – on both sides of the Green Line – who also enjoy resources from the rest of the country.
Why should Palestinians agree to pay for desalinated water from Israel, which constantly robs them of the water flowing under their feet?
* The agreement’s second major scandal: Gaza’s water economy/management was condemned to be self-sufficient and made reliant on the aquifer within its borders. How can we illustrate the injustice? Let’s say the Negev residents were required to survive on aquifers in the Be’er Sheva-Arad region, without the National Water Carrier and without accounting for population growth. Overpumping in Gaza, which causes seawater and sewage to penetrate into the aquifer, has made 90 percent of the potable water undrinkable.
Can you imagine? If Israelis had peace and justice in mind, the Oslo agreement would have developed a water infrastructure linking the Strip to the rest of the country.
* According to the deal, Israel will keep selling 27.9 mcm of water per year to the Palestinians. In its colonialist generosity, Israel agreed to recognize Palestinian future needs for an additional 80 mcm per year. It’s all detailed in the agreement with the miserly punctiliousness of a capitalist tycoon. Israel will sell some, and the Palestinians will drill for the rest, but not in the western mountain aquifer. That’s forbidden.
But today the Palestinians produce just 87 mcm in the West Bank – 21 mcm less than Oslo allotted them. The drought, Israeli limits on development and drilling new wells, and limits on movement are the main reasons. Palestinian mismanagement is secondary. So, Israel “gives” – or rather sells – about 60 mcm per year. True. That is more than the Oslo II Accords agreed for it to sell. And the devastating conclusion: Palestinian dependence on the occupier has only increased.
* Israel retained the right of the mighty to cap infrastructure development and rehabilitation initiatives. For example, Israel has imposed on the Palestinian Authority pipes that are narrower than desired, forbids connecting communities in Area C to the water infrastructure, tarries in approving drilling, and delays replacing disintegrating pipes. Hence the 30 percent loss of water from Palestinian pipes.
* 113,000 Palestinians are not connected to the water network. Hundreds of thousands of others are cut off from a regular supply during the summer months. In Area C, Israel forbids even the digging of cisterns for collecting rainwater. And that’s called giving?
* Instead of spending time calculating whether the average Israeli household’s per-capita consumption of water is four times or “only” three times that of Palestinian consumption, open your eyes: The settlements bathed in green, and across the road Palestinian urban neighborhoods and villages are subject to a policy of water rotation. The thick pipes of Mekorot (Israel’s national water provider) are heading to the Jordan Valley settlements, and a Palestinian tractor next to them transports a rusty tank of water from afar. In the summer, the faucets run dry in Hebron and never stop flowing in Kiryat Arba and Beit Hadassah.