The Water Will Come: 5 Takeaway Review

by Joan Hoffman

It was eerie watching the water rise slowly and steadily over the wall separating the garden from the tidal marsh at the edge of a small city in northern Florida , for the experience matched the accounts given by coastal dwellers around the world,which are described in the informative  book The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell. I shall provide you with 5 Takeways from the book and then tell you why you may wish to read it yourself.

  1. Antarctic Game Changer: The glaciers of Antarctica (seven times the size of Greenland), sit in a bowl, created by glacial pressure, with a lip about 1000 below sea level. Danger lurks in the warming ocean below. If glaciers on the lip melt, they cease preventing the massive ice in the bowl from making a gravitational powered slide into the ocean. The resulting rise in the ocean for New York could be 13 feet. Interaction of gravity and the earth’s spin send Antarctic water to the northern hemisphere.  (Ch 3)
  2. Real Estate Values Erosions:  Homeowners in areas vulnerable to flooding will face loss of home values for several reasons: currently underpriced flood insurance rises in cost, banks require flood insurance for loans, flood insurance becomes unavailable.  True flooding risk has not been built into home prices because the housing financial structure both masks and passes risk forward to the end buyer. Rising property taxes to pay for needed local infrastructure will also lower home selling prices.  The real estate industry and local governments have avoided raising income and property taxes by building and selling more real estate, a strategy that will be undermined by serious flooding. (Ch 5)
  3. Resiliency planning inadequacy:  Diverse approaches to protection of cities around the world from rising oceans makes interesting and informative reading, but then leaves one with the disturbing realization that all of the plans, no matter how well thought out and engineered (and not all are), have “fatal flaws” that make the cities vulnerable to either more ocean rising or unfortunate but possible coincidence of events.  Reasons for the inadequacies range from basic design to budgetary ‘reluctance.’ (Ch 6,7) The dilemma of island states is also discussed (Ch 8)
  4. Military Vulnerabilities:  Two sorts of military vulnerabilities are discussed. One is the increasingly recognized way in which hardship conditions such as drought and flooding caused or exacerbated by climate change can give rise to violence, civil strife and war.  (see Tropic of Chaos by C. Parenti ). The second is that much of the US military infrastructure is located on coasts. Not only are military bases vulnerable to and already experiencing some flooding, they are dependent on local governments to invest in local flood protection for roads and other necessary complementary infrastructure. Both the Congress itself and local governments have avoided acknowledging the need for and making such infrastructure investments.  Moving the military establishments inland would be another very large political and financial challenge.  (Ch 9)
  5. Exacerbating inequality:  The author acknowledges the very basic injustice caused by the effects of climate change being more severe for populations that did not burn the fossil fuels causing the problem, and points to at least three other likely sources of inequality exacerbation. First, lower income communities are especially likely to suffer loss in home values and community infrastructure. Second, resiliency planning, if designed to protect wealthier areas of a city, as is the ‘Big U’ wall being planned for New York City, can result in more flooding in poor areas, such as Red Hook in New York City. Third, it is possible that local governments could be required by law suits on “takings” to spend their funds to protect the coastal property of the wealthy at the expense of the rest of the community. A precedent has been set in Florida courts which interpreted a local government decision not to continually maintain eroding coastal roads leading to the homes of wealthy residents as an illegal “taking”.  (Ch 5,10, 12)

You may wish to read the book for several reasons. His first-person tale includes interviews with persons of varying types of power such as President Obama, real estate moguls, water protection engineers and military officials.  One of the values here is insight into the thinking of decision makers.  He travels to and provides examples from around the world, with a lot of attention to Florida, a location familiar to many US readers. He discusses strategies that could help, although he is often forced to note the neglect, abuse or undermining of those strategies.

References:

 Goodell, Jeff. 2017. The Water Will Come. New York: Back Bay Books.

Parenti, C. “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence,”New York: Nation Books.

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Support Greening NYC’s Dirty Buildings

by Joan Hoffman with help of the CUNY Professional Staff Congress Environmental Justice Working Group

YOU can support an important program to reduce New York City’s carbon footprint! Because New York City has the efficiency of a subway system, two thirds of New York City’s emissions can be traced to the City’s one million buildings. However, now two bills introduced to the City Council are designed to make a significant reduction in this footprint by requiring the retrofitting of the city’s largest buildings ( over 25000 sq. ft)  for fuel efficiency. Retrofitting these building, about 50,000 in number, can reduce emissions by 30%. Their emissions are to drop 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2040 (1). The first bill (int.1253-2018) requires the retrofitting for efficiency and substantially(2). The second (int. 1252-2018), establishes low cost loans for smaller landlords to enable them to meet the new standards(3).(see links below)

How can you help? You can encourage your City Council representative to support the bills and to fight for good jobs for local labor to do this work. Some City Council members have not signed on to support this bill yet and they are listed below. There is also a link to a list of all members and you can encourage them to support legislation calling for good local jobs for this retrofitting work (4). 

List of City Council Members not yet sponsoring the Bill.

Council District
9 Bill Perkins
12 Andy King
13 Mark Gjonaj
18 Ruben Diaz Sr
19 Paul Vallone
23 Barry Grodenchik
27 Daneek Miller
32 Eric Ulrich
42 Inez Barron
44 Kalman Yeger
48 Chaim Deutsch
50 Steven Matteo
51 Joseph Borelli

C
.Link to find your city council members. https://council.nyc.gov/districts

References: New York CityCommunities for Change, the People’s Climate Movement NY,



  1. Cullen, T. November 20,2018. Constantinides Announces Bill with Speaker Johnson to Significantly Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Large Buildings by 2030. The Council of the City of New York
    Council Member Costa Constantinides, District 22 downloaded from https://council.nyc.gov/costa-constantinides/2018/11/20/constantinides-announces-bill-with-speaker-johnson-to-significantly-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-large-buildings-by-2030/
  2. Link to int.1253   https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3761078&GUID=  -E9B9-4B9F-B981-1BB2BB52A48
  3. Link to int.1252  https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3761079&GUID=6D07BB04-3355-4C2F-AC39-07C636842490&Options=&Search=
  4. Link to organization fighting for good local jobs while retrofitting and greening New York City. https://alignny.org/campaign/climate-works-for-all/

Posted in Uncategorized

Unknown Unknowns Mask Global Warming; Known Federal Irresponsibility Stimulates Local Actions

by Joan Hoffman

The frustration of encountering “unknown unknowns” is familiar to everyone, such as when some part of the body that we didn’t even know existed suddenly hurts and we don’t know what to do about it.  And, sometimes, when we finally learn what will help alleviate the discomfort, it is not easy to do. Human society’s global warming problem has been and is still filled with “unknown unknowns”. For generations the possibility of global warming was totally unknown and then slowly its existence and the role of fossil fuel emissions slowly seeped into society’s consciousness.  The prescription of reducing our use of fossil fuels, upon which we had created great dependence, met resistance, fighting against which has required significant effort. Knowing how much warming has occurred and how fast it is growing is important to this ongoing global conversation.  However, the challenge of “unknown unknowns” has thwarted our measurement efforts. Both clouds and water were playing unknown roles; each, in different way, has masked the extent of our warming problem.

Water:

False hopes were raised by the slowing of the rise in measured global warming from 1998 to 2013, called the “hiatus” (2).  Scientists, however, observing the increase in heating emissions during the hiatus, knew the warming was going somewhere, and some theorized that the deep ocean (below 1000 feet) was the recipient (3). Attention is paid to ocean warming indicators for oceans cover 70% of the planet and have temperatures steadier than those on land, making them the most reliable gauge of warming (2). However, our measurement system used to be directed at the upper 700 feet of ocean, relying on relatively few disposable devices (bathythermographs) which collected and sent ocean data only once as they sank to the depths and died (1,3 .4) Since 2005, a fleet of 4000 data collecting robots, called the Argo, began to traverse the oceans, making the trip to 2000 feet every few days, gathering  and transmitting information on the upward journey(1,4). With this rich collection of data, supplementary information newly available from satellites, and climate models improved to account for ocean current interactions, by 2011 scientists determined that ocean currents, during certain periods such as the hiatus, push the heat from emissions deep into ocean waters below 1000 feet and do this for periods as long as 10 years(1, 3). As a result of the new data and modifications, climate models can now explain the past and are therefore considered reliable for predicting the future, and rising temperatures are predicted. Because projections include more hiatus phases, (probably during “La Nina” episodes when the ocean currents are cooler in the tropical Pacific), it is critical that we monitor the ocean below 2000 feet to explore the consequences of this deeply stored heat (1).

The oceans have taken in 93% of the effects of global warming and the increased warmth of the oceans has been feeding the violence of storms and causing acidification which has been bleaching coral reefs, and melting of glaciers (1,2,12).  The improved measurement system now in place indicates that the oceans are, in general, warming even faster than previously predicted (2).  In sum, heating emissions are undermining the human habitat at a more rapid pace than we had previously understood, signaling an even stronger need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Clouds:

Initially, even as the reality of global warming was being accepted, the very existence of global dimming, which shields some of the earth from sunrays, was not suspected.  Completely independent research projects had recorded puzzling declines in sunrays reaching the earth. The solution to the mystery was the discovery that water drops clung to the surfaces of particulates, such as those from fossil fuel emission or volcanoes, turning the clouds into mirrors which return sunrays to the sky. Clean clouds let the sun rays’ heat pass to the earth. (5,6)

 Global dimming’s blocking of warming sunrays is significant enough to be incorporated into climate models. Do not applaud yet, for dimming presents serious problems. The pollution creating dimming is harmful to health.  Dimming’s warming reduction is temporary and does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas build up. Dimming is always local and diminishes direct sun rays on crops below which reduces plant growth. Dimming also has problematic impacts on local weather, such as shifts in the location of monsoons, with dire effects for populations dependent on those rains. Cloud drift creates environmental justice issues. Currently in India, dimming from its coal pollution in the north is shifting needed monsoon rains away from the south. India can address the problem with national policies, but this remedy is not available to less developed countries whose needed local sunshine is reduced when clouds polluted by the burning of fossil fuels in developed countries float into their skies (5,6, 7,9)

Diminishment of dimming is clearly desirable, but not unproblematic, for less dimming means that more sunrays reach the earth. In fact decline in fossil fuel use in the world has, by cutting particulate pollution, reduced dimming (called brightening). Creative balanced policies are being sought to reduce greenhouse gases even more to offset the extra heat from brightening.( 6,7,9)    Simultaneously, controversial proposals to provide humanity more time to reduce the greenhouse effect by creating temporary artificial dimming exist. Harvard scientists have scheduled a dimming experiment for the first half of 2019 (8)  Such proposals  have encountered serious objections; dimming has known  negative side effects and as yet unknown negative effects could result from artificial dimming( 7).  

Toward Solutions

Exacerbating our disturbing dilemma is the fact that in the US federal government environmental leadership has gone from inadequate to counterproductive and has been destructive of established protections. A new film entitled from” Paris to Pittsburgh” (viewable on-line)  documents how local and state governments and communities have responded to this abdication of responsibility by taking steps to lower carbon footprints and creating alliances to increase the strength and extent of the impact of their policies (11) . One hundred US cities have now signed a pledge to transition to using 100 % renewable energy (10). And finally, in the new Congress, a proposal for a federal plan to reduce climate change, called “the green new deal”, is circulating (13).  The uncomfortable facts we have learned about deep ocean warming and the inconvenient nature of global dimming signal that we must use all of our creativity to shape realistic policies. This worthy challenge is a call to all of us inform ourselves and to work with others do what we can.

Sources: Water

1. Cheng. L. Abraham J.  Hausfather Z and Trenberth K.E. 11 Jan 2019:
How Fast Are The Oceans Warming  Science  Vol. 363, Issue 6423, pp. 128-129  downloaded from
  http://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6423/128

2. Fritz Angela. January 28, 2019. The oceans are warming faster than we thought, and scientists suggest we brace for impact.  Washington Post.  downloaded from https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/01/11/oceans-are-warming-faster-than-we-thought-scientists-suggest-we-brace-impact/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.42efdff01bb5

3.Research Organizations. September 19, 2011. Deep oceans can mask global warming for decade-long periods .  Science News  downloaded from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110918144941.htm

4.Manke. K.  January 10, 2019. Oceans are warming even faster than previously thought. downloaded from University of California – Berkeley https://news.berkeley.edu/2019/01/10/oceans-are-warming-even-faster-than-previously-thought/

Sources:Clouds

5. The Earth Institute at Columbia University. April 14, 2006. Could Reducing Global Dimming Mean a Hotter, Dryer World? downloaded from: https://phys.org/news/2006-04-global-dimming-hotter-dryer-world.html#jCp

6. Christodoulou, N. 2006,BBC Global Dimming Documentary About Geoengineering & Global Warming. downloaded from  https://phys.org/news/2006-04-global-dimming-hotter-dryer-world.html#jCp

7. Gramling, C. August 8, 2018 Global dimming may mitigate warming, but could hurt crop yields. downloaded from https://www.sciencenews.org/article/geoengineering-tactic-cool-planet-could-hurt-crops

8 Tollefson J. November 27 2018. First sun-dimming experiment will test a way to cool Earth . Nature   ISSN 1476-4687 (online) downloaded from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07533-4

9. Kumari, B.P. March 2010. Seminal role of clouds on solar dimming over the Indian monsoon regionGeophysical Research Letters 37(6) · March 2010  downloaded from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251427953_Seminal_role_of_clouds_on_solar_dimming_over_the_Indian_monsoon_region

Sources: Solutions

10. More Than 100 US Cities Commit To 100% Renewable Energy  downloaded from

December 10, 2018 by Alyssa Danigelis  https://www.energymanagertoday.com/us-cities-renewable-energy-0180660/

11. National Geographic Documentaries. 2018. Paris to Pittsburgh produced by Bloomberg Philanthropies & Radical Media  downloaded from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/watch/3681392620b4285b82eeba8745eaad9e/

12. Goodell. J. 2017. The New Climate Land, Chapter 3 in The Water Will Come. Back Bay Books.

13. Aranoff, K. December5 2018. With a Green New Deal Here’s what the World Could Look Like for the Next Generation. downloaded from https://theintercept.com/2018/12/05/green-new-deal-proposal-impacts/

Dr. Joan Hoffman is Professor Emerita of Economics and founder of the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Minor and Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  She has authored varied articles and books on sustainability issues.  

Posted in Opinion Tagged with: , , , , ,

Cata-straw-phe

by Austin Fodera

The inspirationfor my project was the viral video that came out showing a turtle with a plastic straw lodged in his nostril. This video prompted me to make a model seaturtle out of plastic straws. To illustrate the point of how marine creatures ingest plastic and garbage, I also filled the inside of the model turtle with all of the garbage created from the making of the model turtle.

Each year 1,000,000 seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic. In 2017 alone, people in the United States used, on average, 390,000,000 plastic straws a day. That is enough plastic straws to wrap around the entire Earth two times. Over a year, the United States used 142,350,000,000 plastic straws which could wrap around the earth over 711 times.

In 2017, plastic straws were the eleventh most-found trash in the ocean and made up for 3% of all recovered trash from the ocean. One of the issues with plastic straws is that most are made from type-5 plastic (polypropylene), which is not a heavy enough plastic to be recycled at the majority of places, so they end up in landfills – which is why they end up in the ocean and harming the environment. Plastic straws take up to 200 years to decompose, and although they decompose, they do not completely degrade – which means they just break down into smaller, almost invisible pieces and never completely disappear fromthe Earth. When plastic decomposes it releases chemicals into the environment that are toxic to wildlife and the environment. Some states have already started to combat the effects of plastic straws by passing legislation that regulates the distribution. We can do our part by using alternatives to plastic straws, such as: bamboo, metal or paper straws, or skipping a straw altogether.

Sources:

United Nations. (June 5-9, 2017). The Ocean Conference: Marine Pollution. Fact Sheet. United Nations. New York, NY. n.d. Retrieved from: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/Ocean_Factsheet_Pollution.pdf

Lonely Whale. (2018). UnderstandingPlastic Pollution. Strawless Ocean. New York, NY. Seattle, WA. n.d.Retrieved from: https://www.strawlessocean.org/faq

About me:

Austin Fodera is a senior studying International Criminal Justice with a minor in Security Management at John Jay College.

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Green New Deal: excellent description

WITH A GREEN NEWDEAL, HERE’S WHAT THE WORLD COULD LOOK LIKE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
by Kate Aranoff: December5 2018, 10:10 a.m.

This article provides a broad and contextualized over view of the Green New Deal Proposal to be proposed to the new congress in 2019. A proposed house select committee would create a plan complex enough to remove US reliance on fossil fuels by 2030. Already 17 members have signed on in support of such a committee. (The proposal would prevent those accepting fossil fuel donations from being on the committee.)  The term Green New Deal is conceptual rather than a list of specific programs because there is recognition that an evolving complex of intertwining programs, broader in scope than Roosevelt’s New Deal and closer to the effort needed to fight World War II, is required to meet the enormous climate challenge.  Thus the proposal addresses such needs as for a smart grid, micro grids, full employment, just transitions for those necessarily exiting the fossil fuel industry, funding research,addressing the needs of communities burdened by prior discrimination, retrofitting housing, and restoration of our environmental base. The author Kate Aranoff provides context for the proposal such as ,discussion of historical precedents,programs in other countries, and reflections of diverse experts. The link is in the article title/  

Posted in In the News Tagged with:

The IPCC Challenge: Parisian Contradictions: An Odd Source of Hope

         

Parisian Cafe Smoking      Parisian Building         Coal Plant Smoking

I had dismissed as routine touristic gushing that oft heard claim, “Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world!” However, just a few strolls down Parisian avenues, especially along the Seine River, educated me. The long, low elegant silhouettes of Parisian buildings, elaborated with intricate carvings and a seemingly endless variety of wrought iron designs, and usually standing 6 or fewer stories in height, revealed a vast Paris sky and the effect on my awareness was calming.  Paris was “beautiful”!  I gave myself over to the enjoyment of strolling in pleasurable contemplation.

My calm contemplation was all too soon disturbed by confrontation with the omnipresent second hand smoke in the inviting spaces of Parisian outdoor cafés. My strategy of selecting a table far from puffing customers was but a vain hope, for some adjacent empty table would soon fill with new customers who would, all too soon, light up their strong Galois cigarettes.  Smokers were of all ages, but I found watching young people chain smoking especially unnerving.  Encountering this smoking in café’s wherever I went in Paris finally inspired an internet search about the impact of smoking on the health of the French. Indeed, studies had found significant links between French smoking and cancer rates. In fact, the French government had undertaken policies to reduce smoking, but, as my café experience indicated, cultural acceptance of the habit persisted

As I considered these sorry facts supported by a harmful culture, I suddenly felt an odd note of hope for fighting negative attitudes towards climate change policies in the U.S. The reason was that I had experienced the pervasiveness of smoking, the culture of its acceptance and glorification, and the long but eventually effective fight to reduce smoking in the United States.

As a child and well into adulthood, I accepted the second hand smoke of parents, other adults, colleagues and friends as if it were the paint on the walls. Although a movie showing a tar encrusted black lung had convinced me not to smoke, I accepted the smoking around me as inevitable and assumed that people could not quit.  When the arguments against smoking slowly started to pervade the culture, I watched the resistance and the fierce anger of those who began to experience being asked not to smoke. I also remember my astonishment when people, even my chain smoking parents, began giving up smoking.  It was apparently not impossible after all! And I watched with surprise as smoking began to disappear in new movies and as spaces, from airplanes to restaurants, became smoke free.

The most recent and very alarming  report from the IPCC, the International Panel on Climate Change, has assessed the implication of studies gathered from both  around the world and “above the world” from the climate data gathered by NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration)  satellites as they traverse the  global skies. The news is even more sobering that the studies of French smoking and cancer.  We have but 12 years to make changes that will avoid devastating harm to the human habitat. And, as in the case of smoking, we need to alter both our personal habits and policies by more powerful decision makers in order to reduce our burning of the fossil fuels which are at this very moment changing the climate. Fortunately, the many climate change campaigns already underway are, like the anti-smoking campaigns, broad and many pronged, including research, awareness raising and urging of individuals and policy makers to “quit smoking carbon and its equivalents.”

I know that smoking is still a problem in the U.S., but I have experienced significant changes in belief systems and the personal habits and official policies that helped reduce smoking. Thus I drew hope from the contemplation of the contradiction between the clear skies above the beautiful buildings of Paris and the cloudy, toxic atmosphere in front of their ubiquitous, lively cafes.  We must persist and indeed increase our pursuit of our complex, many fronted battles against practices that aggravate climate change and take heart from our experience with smoking as evidence that seemingly impossible change can occur.  This is an implicit call for activism, and I have provided electronic pathways to means of learning more and becoming active below.

LINKS TO LEARNING AND ACTIVISM  

Climate Change Report Sources

Most recent Climate Change Report: IPCC , International Panel on Climate Change. October 2018. Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees. http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/

 Insights into NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Adminstration )data:

NASA .IPCC Projections of Temperature and Precipitation in the 21st Century

https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/11376z

`             NASA climate Change web page: https://climate.nasa.gov/

Newspaper Articles Summarizing the report

Davenport, Carol. 10/7/2018. Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html

Watts, Jonathan Mon 8 Oct 2018 . We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

At John Jay College of Criminal Justice

For students

Environmental Justice Minor Academic Program: http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/sustainability-and-environmental-justice-minor

Join the  Environmental Club:President: Melanie.Dominguez1@jjay.cuny.edu
Vice-President:  Lauren.Solomon@jjay.cuny.edu Treasure:Selina.li@jjay.cuny.edu
Secretary:Clara-meere-weigel@jjay.cuny.edu

For Faculty Union members:

PSCEJWG: Professional Staff Congress Environmental Justice Working Group: The meet monthly, usually at 6pm at  Union Headquarters at 61 Broadway. Their goal is to promote environmental justice activism in general and at CUNY.The current chair is Eileen Moran at psc-env-justice-working-group@googlegroups.com

For All

Sustainability and Environmental Justice Program web page   http://sustainabilityjjay.org/

Sustainabilty Council Web page https://www.jjay.cuny.edu/Sustainability_Council

Joining Sustainablity Council: email of director Lindsey Kayman lkayman@jjay.cuny.edu

Citizen Activism

General: 350.0rg    https://350.org/get-involved/

350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal,oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. 350’s network extends to 188 countries.

Legal: NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)  NRDC https://www.nrdc.org/get-involved  The NRDC combines the power of more than three million members and online activists with the expertise of some 600 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild.

 

French smoking: health impacts and cultural barriers

Cao B1Hill C2Bonaldi C3León ME4Menvielle G5Arwidson P3Bray F1Soerjomataram I1Cancers attributable to tobacco smoking in France in 2015. Eur J Public Health. 2018 Aug 1;28(4):707-doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cky077. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29741657

NPR.org. For French Teens Smoking Still Has More Allure Than Stigma.https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/08/15/480128005/for-french-teens-smoking-still-has-more-allure-than-stigma

 

 

Posted in Opinion Tagged with: , ,

The Need for Nuanced Conversations: About Wildfires.For Instance . by Joan Hoffman

The Need for Nuanced Conversations: About Wildfires.For Instance . by Joan Hoffman

Tree Dance/Nature

The advisability of a harmonious relationship with nature  is often an implicit or explicit recommendation in the sustainability movement. However, nature, which did give birth to us, includes in its very structure characteristics which can obliterate humans in their path. Examples include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, fierce storms and natural wildfires. The continents, the tectonic plates of the earth are engaged in a constant process of slipping away from under our feet and slamming into one another. Hence, when we are discussing cause and effects in our explorations of the environment, we must take the presence of  these forces into account, as did the climate scientists who, knowing that the earth had carbon cycles, took care to measure just what kind of carbon was increasing so fast, and discovered that it had the structure of fossil fuels. (Cullen 2010)

For all of upcoming and increasingly difficult discussions which we shall be needing to have about climate change and how we address it, we need to be open to the influence of a multiplicity of causes and effects. We have a need for nuanced conversations that bring in all perspectives, for each perspective offers a different array of information.  When we at first disagree with someone, we should say, “That is interesting. Why do you think so.”  Of course, eventually probabilities will be assessed, weights will be assigned and decisions will be made. And, so will mistakes, but hopefully fewer with open minds and respect for the experience and knowledge of others.   Wildfires offer an examples.

A BBC radio program was reporting on the claims that wildfires around the world were actually decreasing and that far too much was being made of them.  This announcement and the ensuing discussion sent me on a wildfire exploration which proved yet again, the value of nuanced conversations. The factors which must be considered in this exploration are many. There is a data stream which shows a long term reduction in wildfires, but the data before 1990 is not considered reliable. Criteria and techniques have changed since then. Also, in fact area burned by wildfires have been on the rise. However, one reason for this is that because humans  did not understand that nature used “spontaneous” wildfire as a natural tool, for instance for breaking open some seeds, humans had suppressed wildfires, producing an abundance of kindling, resulting in ever larger wildfires. Additionally, while global warming does produce conditions favorable to wildfires, most wildfires are started by humans, both intentionally and unintentionally.  And the list of factors to consider goes on.

The three articles listed below can be a start to those who wish to explore the topic in more depth.  However, the main lesson here is that we need to investigate all sources of information for its value, insights, and limitations.  And with climate change, we shall be dealing with not only environmental factors but also the social and legal forces at work as people are pressured to move from areas that can no longer support them.  These will be very difficult nuanced conversations, and we cannot expect them to be easy, but we shall learn more if we keep open minds.

Some Wildfire Discussion  Sources

Gabbert, Bill. January 24, 2018. Visualizing California fires over the last 18 years

https://wildfiretoday.com/tag/statistics/

National Interagency Fire Center

https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_statistics.html

Environmental protection Agency : Climate Indicators

https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-wildfires

Weather

Cullen H. 2010. The Weather of the Future.New York: Harper

Posted in Opinion Tagged with: , ,

Join Sept 6 NYC Climate March: Meeting place

Are you planning on being around for the next half-century? Then you must act to foster the kind of world you can be around in!

You don’t have to look fifty years ahead to see the writing on the wall—or to see the unprecedented, seemingly endless, wildfires in the western states, Canadian provinces, Scandinavia, Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Australia.

Nor do you have to look fifty years into the future to see higher food prices because heat and drought are causing crop failures, or to see suffering, death, and destruction from heat-energized superstorms.

And you don’t have to wait to see hotter and hotter years—you just have to look at the last four years, which were the hottest on record.

Runaway global heating and climatic and environmental instability are incompatible with civilization. On Thursday September 6 at 5:30 at Battery Park you can take a stand for your future by joining a mass rally called “Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice” to show that people care about the climate, the environment, and their lives.

We are a group of active and retired faculty members of the City University who care about our students and former students, and want them to have an environmentally healthy world to live in and thrive in. Join us and the People’s Climate Movement of New York (PCMNY.org) Thursday September 6 to make a statement to policymakers and the public that the environment matters!

 

#        #        #        #

 

(August 21, 2018)

Posted in Events

9/22 7:30pm Flipping the Script on Climate Change  (17 John Street)

SEPTEMBER 22, 2018  7:30-9:30  17 John Street, Manhattan

Charles Eisenstein: Flipping the Script on Climate Change   https://www.garrisoninstitute.org/event/charles-eisenstein-flipping-the-script-on-climate-change/

Please Note: This event takes place at https://www.theassemblage.com/

 in Manhattan. 
How can we reimagine the framing, tactics, and goals we employ in our journey to heal from ecological destruction?
Join renowned author and philosopher, Charles Eisenstein, who will discuss his new book, Climate: A New Story, in which he advocates for expanding our exclusive focus on carbon emissions to see the broader picture of climate change beyond our short-sighted and incomplete approach.

Eisenstein details how the quantification of the natural world leads to a lack of integration and our “fight” mentality. The rivers, forests, and creatures of the natural and material world are sacred and valuable in their own right, not simply for carbon credits or preventing the extinction of one species versus another.

Posted in Events

Alt-Right Reaction to Accepting Climate Change

What Happens When the Alt-Right Believes in Climate Change

A group of migrants approach a US Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea in July 2016. Photo: US Navy

Report

LAST SEPTEMBER, as record-breaking hurricanes thrashed the Caribbean and southeastern US, the white nationalist magazineAmerican Renaissance asked its readers a question: “What does it mean for whites if climate change is real?”

In its bombastic response, the magazine bucked two decades of conservative dogma to offer an ethno-nationalist take on planetary warning. Conceding that scientists might be right about climate change, it worried that shifting weather patterns could drive more black and brown people to the Global North, where whites will face a choice: stem the migrant tide, or die.

“The population explosion in the global south combined with climate change and liberal attitudes towards migration are the single greatest external threat to Western civilization,” AmRen wrote. “[It’s] more serious than Islamic terrorism or Hispanic illegal immigration.”

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, influential white nationalist Jared Taylor, doubled down on AmRen’s position in an email to Jewish Currents. “If continued global change makes the poor, non-white parts of the world even more unpleasant to live in than they are now, it will certainly drive more non-whites north,” Taylor said. “I make no apology for… urging white nations to muster the will to guard their borders and maintain white majorities.”

These are fringe views. But they’re becoming less so. Hyper-conservative immigration policies have drifted from the populist periphery to the White House in a few short years, and conservatives, from racist reactionaries to Rockefeller Republicans, are starting to talk openly about how planetary warming might affect their agendas. In a world where doubting climate science remains something of an 11th commandment for the American right, this shift is significant. Climate change gets a little harder to deny every day, and it’s only a matter of time before mainstream conservatives are forced, by a growing incongruence between their words and the weather, to abandon hard-core denialism.

Right now, a handful of Congressional Republicans, some libertarian think tanks, and a few on the alt-right are the only ones on the right taking climate change seriously, giving them a head start in shaping conservative climate policy in the coming decades.

Liberal lawmakers, meanwhile, seem ill-prepared to go toe-to-toe with conservatives on climate policy. For two decades, denialism has been climate enemy number one. The Democrats’ strategy has mostly involved trying to convince people that planetary warming is real, pillorying deniers as fools, cynics, and oil company shills. Perhaps this made sense in the mid-2000s, when “merchants of doubt” were seeding skepticism about climate science to protect fossil fuel interests and stave off liberal reforms. It probably still makes sense as part of a broader climate agenda on the left. After all, it’s a huge problem when top lawmakers refuse to acknowledge the existence of the potentially civilization-ending catastrophe sweeping across the planet.

But it’s not the only problem, and a singular focus on combating denialism has left Democrats and their liberal backers unprepared to do battle with a conservative movement armed with real and dangerous policy proposals on climate change.

THE ALT-RIGHT is a contested category, and groups typically arrayed under its banner—fascists, white nationalists, right-wing populists, etc.—lack a unified position on climate change: its existence, causes, and effects. Some self-described members of the alt-right accept that industrial capitalism is largely responsible for spiking greenhouse gas emissions. Others blame growing populations in the Global South for rising global emissions, even though there’s little evidence to support this view. Others still continue to question the science of climate change, or downplay its significance.

What far-right climate realists seem to agree on is this: rising global temperatures and changing regional weather patterns threaten to release a flood of migrants from increasingly inhospitable parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to the US and Europe, causing what AmRendescribes as a “climate-driven demographic catastrophe.”

“If you believe in global warming, the obvious implications are that global migration must be shut down,” one commenter recently postedon a Reddit forum devoted to discussing the alt-right’s position on climate change. “All the quickly growing populations must be quarantined or ‘encouraged’ to stop having children.”

Taylor put it (only a little) more delicately. “If human activity causes undesirable climate change, we should not promote global population growth,” he told Jewish Currents, arguing that lawmakers should “promote intensive family planning in the south, especially in Africa, because an exploding African population will… drive more Africans north in search of a better life.”

Nothing scares ethno-nationalists more than “demographic change”—the probability that, in a few decades, more Americans will be black and brown than white. They hyperbolize this shift as “white genocide” (a term with a bloody history), and lament what they see as the loss of white structural power. It’s not surprising, then, that climate change—which indeed affects the poor, marginalized, and dispossessed more severely than most white Americans—inspires racists to fear white decline, and to seek control over the bodies and movements of non-white people.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS HERE, and it’s bad. Fossil fuel emissions hit an all-time high last year, which is unfortunate because countless studies have shown that burning fossil fuels spews heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, causing average global temperatures to rise. Indeed, average temperatures have already jumped about one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and we’re on track to exceed 1.5 degrees of warming by 2040, according to a leaked report from the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. So far, planetary warming has weakened Antarctica’s ice sheetsworsened flooding in coastal cities like Miami, contributed to deadly heat waves in India, and upped the odds of Sandy-like superstorms smashing major urban centers.Study after study shows such catastrophes worsening and happening faster than previously thought, and they’re mostly hurting people who lack wealth and political power.

Among conservatives, climate realism is still a minority view. Republicans are largely deniers, doubters, or cynical backers of the fossil fuel industry. Only 28 percent of white Christians, who overwhelming voted for Trump in 2016, believe in anthropogenic warming, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Trump himself, who once called climate change a “hoax,” not only continues to deny the existence of global warming, but has also pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, opened huge tracts of ocean to oil and gas exploration, and stuffed his administration with climate deniers and champions of the fossil fuel industry.

Doubting climate change remains a constitutive part of right-wing identity, like pandering to the gun lobby or opposing abortion rights. It telegraphs distrust of the “administrative state”—scientists, bureaucrats and “liberal elites” who tell people what cars to drive and how much soda to drink—and preemptively opposes decarbonization policies that would threaten fossil fuel and related industries, which conservative lawmakers often rely on for campaign contributions. Indeed, the billionaire donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer, known for bankrolling the Trump campaign and sinking millions into Breitbart and other far-right websites, continue to finance climate denial. Maybe this makes business sense: as political theorist and activist Naomi Klein has observed, cutting carbon emissions enough to keep planetary warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (the more ambitious goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement) would probably require abandoning neoliberal capitalism. This is not something Republicans are likely to do.

But climate change is now, like gravity, indisputable. The most pragmatic conservative institutions, like the Defense Department, have long accepted the reality of climate change, appreciated its seriousness, and begun preparing. Capital, too, understands there’s more money to be made planning for climate change than ignoring it. Insurance companies are “adapting in order to profit from climate risk,” according to a 2017Harvard Business Review analysis, for instance, by charging more to insure houses located in low-lying areas vulnerable to sea-level rise. Tellingly, Exxon Mobil Corp., which conducted some of the earliest studies on the greenhouse effect, has publicly backed the Paris Agreement and called for a carbon tax.

Some Republican lawmakers are starting to flip, too. Congressional Republicans are stacking the House Climate Solutions Caucus (though critics say they’re just “greenwashing” their resumes ahead of the midterms), and The Atlantic reported last year that a group of Republican House members led by Congressman Bob Inglis is promoting free-market responses to greenhouse gas emissions. Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, who represents a South Florida district that could see sea levels rise between 10 and 30 feet by the century’s close, unveiled a carbon tax bill in July. These members of the “eco-right” argue, contrary to Klein’s hypothesis, that tackling climate change is perfectly compatible with capitalism. They support scrapping emissions regulations in favor of a carbon pricing system—an idea that’s popular with some libertarian groups, like the Niskanen Center.

If denialism is on the way out, can the alt-right influence the nascent conservative climate agenda? It certainly seems possible. Right-wing populists like Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, who rub right up against the ethno-nationalist fringes, have had incredible success smuggling nativist immigration policies from the vanishing edges of conservatism to the Oval Office. Xenophobic populism has taken evenfirmer hold in Europe, where populist governments and vigilantes have met growing numbers of migrants from Africa and the Middle East with tightened immigration controls, harassment and death. If their influence persists, it does not require a great imaginative effort to picture far-right views on climate change leaching into the federal climate agenda.

While the Trump administration has been transforming its “America First” immigration platform from white populist pipe dream to federal policy, shameless racists have been winning airtime and influence. Ethnonationalist influence on the Trump White House is contested, and of course not all Trump supporters are out-and-out white nationalists. But the two groups overlap on immigration, and Trump’s own rhetoric is often a brackish mixture of dog-whistle nativism and more overt forms of racist hate (Trump once retweeted an account called “white genocide,” for example).

It seems plausible, then, that ethno-nationalist climate proposals could go mainstream. While the Congressional “eco-right” is taking on mitigation, pushing for a free-market approach to emissions cuts, alt-right thinkers are some of the only right-wing voices discussing the ways America will adapt to a changing climate. And they’re doing so by framing climate change as an immigration issue, a strategy that’s likely to play well with Trump and his base.

The latter point is crucial. Immigration and climate change were once seen by conservatives as something like conceptual opposites. The idea was that fretting about rising temperatures was either a liberal conspiracy to swell the size of government or pointless hand-wringing by tree-hugging snowflakes, a distraction that obscured truly pressing threats like illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism. Summing up conservative priorities in 2015, Mike Huckabee declared that “a beheading is a far greater threat to an American than a sunburn.” But if conservatives start to believe (wrongly, obviously) that sunburns will lead to more beheadings—or more immigrants taking American jobs—it’s not hard to imagine the right not only ditching denialism, but also using the fact of climate change to whip up support for more draconian immigration measures.

The populist right, in the US and elsewhere, seems primed to accept this kind of thinking. The migrant crisis in Europe, sparked by conflicts in the Middle East and Northern Africa (conflicts rooted in histories of European colonialism, extractive capitalism, and Western military intervention), has been met with a vicious and sometimes deadly xenophobic backlash. There have been good faith efforts to link the Syrian war to climate change. But it’s easy to picture this work getting co-opted by nationalists looking for excuses to halt immigration. Similarly, North Africa from Morocco to Nigeria has been called an “arc of tension”—a band of earth so battered by drought, famine, desertification, internal conflict, and centuries of colonial and neo-imperialist violence that it’s ready to snap, pushing more people north. I doubt it would take much for climatic shifts in North Africa, a region already seen as dangerously other and tarred by the right as a terrorist“breeding ground,” to serve as pretexts for far-right efforts to close borders and boot migrants seeking shelter from the global storm.

The liberal left isn’t prepared for any of this. Emphasizing climate denial has, paradoxically, been a way to depoliticize climate change, framing it as an empirical problem instead of a contest over competing visions of the future. But the odd fantasy, widespread among the #resistance, that getting everyone to acknowledge the existence of climate change would also get them to support the right kinds of climate action has always been just that: fantasy. It reflects a stubborn faith in both the wisdom of technocrats and the tired liberal belief that knowing better leads to doing better.

It rarely does.

The left, from liberals to Leninists, now have an opportunity to look past deniers and skeptics, and study the ideas and actions of climate realists across the conservative spectrum. Some are doing this, of course. Several scholars have flagged “eco-apartheid” as a likely consequence of climate change in a staggeringly unequal world. Naomi Klein, though understandably concerned about climate denial, has argued that capital is agnostic about rhetoric so long as it can turn socio-environmental crises to its advantage. And the climate justice movement, powerfully articulated by activists and intellectuals from Bangladesh to Standing Rock, has emphasized the unevenness of climate impacts and the need to prepare equitable responses to their many horrors.

Progressive cities, states and environmental organizations are basically ignoring conservatives and pushing aggressive mitigation and adaptation measures, while eco-socialist thinkers like Kate Aronoff and John Bellamy Foster are suggesting ways of folding climate action into broader efforts to redistribute wealth and re-democratize the political system. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the only American politicians to back plans to keep warming under 1.5 degrees, wins a Congressional seat in November (which she is almost guaranteed to do), proposals for ambitious and equitable climate policy will head to Congress.

In five short years, right-wing populists have marched hardline immigration policies from the periphery of mainstream US conservatism to the Oval Office. Now they’re talking about climate change. If their influence persists, it is not hard to picture rank xenophobia—in the form of stricter immigration quotas, more militarized borders, and tighter restrictions on women’s fertility—taking over the federal climate agenda. The results would be nightmarish. If the left thinks a just response to climate change is still possible, it should take notice of these nativist believers, and prepare to push back.

Casey Williams is a writer based in Durham, North Carolina. His work covers environmental politics and culture, and has appeared in The New York TimesHuffPostThe Nation, and other national and local outlets.

 

Posted in In the News, Opinion Tagged with: ,

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