Driven by the wind

Wind Map says:

An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future.

This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US.

It’s a windy day all across the nation today. The U.S. has really increased wind power generation over the last decade. Wikipedia sez wind is over 3% of our total power mix now. While we lag Denmark  at 26%, Portugal (17%), Spain (15%) or Ireland at 14%, with almost 50,000 megawatts of capacity, we are second in the world to China’s 62,733 MW.

This photo (Wind farm and greenhouse gas farm, together) is by Kevin Dooley, a leader in Creative Commons photography. See it bigger in his 100 most interesting slideshow. Kevin writes:

Hey look! Here on Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, California, we can see a wind farm that is saving the planet and a greenhouse gas farm that is destroying it.

What are we going to farm in our future? Millennia dead, dead end fossils or the invisible and ancient wind?

Planet on Fire

High Park Fire

I just finished Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben in the Rolling Stone. It begins:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

…Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

So Climate Change Deniers, in case you missed that, the chance that our hellish weather pattern is the result of chance is statistically ZERO. It’s time to stop arguing about whether or not climate change is a reality and to start working as frantically as Bruce Willis at the end of an action flick to avert our destruction. This is due to some very stark math:

  • 2 degrees Celsius – the amount nations agreed to in Copenhagen as the maximum rise our biosphere could tolerate and still (maybe) maintain civilization as we know it. We’re at 0.8 C increase right now and computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees … and 2 degrees C might actually even be too high.
  • 565 Gigatons of carbon – how much can be burned before we hit that 2 degree number – 16 years is how long it will take at the current rate.
  • 2,795 Gigatons of carbon – how much is already on the books of energy companies, enough to raise temps 11 degrees Fahrenheit and create a planet straight out of science fiction. Energy companies are already treating that as extracted, borrowing money and setting value and it’sFIVE times what’s necessary to destroy our way of life.

McKibben continues with a look at what strategies have failed and what might possibly work. It’s clear that to have any chance, we must treat this issue as the single greatest threat to our society we’ve ever faced … because it is.

The photo is High Park Fire by The National Guard. See more in their 2012 Wildfire Response slideshow.

March (Mercury) Madness: It’s almost like science fiction at this point

Bud Fun

Jeff Masters of Michigan-based Weather Underground is hands-down writing some of the best articles on the March Madness that we probably should be paying the most attention to, what he calls Summer in March:

A spring heat wave like no other in U.S. and Canadian history peaked in intensity yesterday, during its tenth day. Since record keeping began in the late 1800s, there have never been so many temperature records broken for spring warmth in a one-week period–and the margins by which some of the records were broken yesterday were truly astonishing. Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, commented to me yesterday, “it’s almost like science fiction at this point.” A few of the more remarkable records from yesterday:

Pellston, MI: record high broken by 32°F
Pellston, Michigan in the Northern Lower Peninsula is called “Michigan’s Icebox”, since it frequently records the coldest temperatures in the state, and in the entire nation. But the past five days, Pellston has set five consecutive records for hottest March day. Yesterday’s 85° reading broke the previous record for the date (53° in 2007) by a ridiculous 32°, and was an absurd 48°F above average.

Low temperatures beat the previous record high for the date at two stations
The low temperature at Marquette, Michigan was 52° yesterday, which was 3° warmer than the previous record high for the date!

Read on for much more including Canadian cities breaking all-time records for March and April. Also definitely see his thoughts on the statistical likelihood of breaking 100+ year-old record highs this many days in a row. Hint: the answer sounds a lot like “climate change.”

The photo is Bud Fun by LadyDragonflyCC. She’s got some great stuff.

Democracy or Dominionism?

DSCF2399

Here’s a scary little article from The Daily Beast that looks at presidential candidates Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry’s ties to Dominionism:

Of the three most plausible candidates for the Republican nomination, two are deeply associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as Dominionism. If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.

Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, it’s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing. But because it seems so outré, getting ordinary people to take it seriously can be difficult.

Read the article for much more and learn about this creepy philosophy that’s pretty much diametrically opposed to the principles our nation was founded upon through Wikipedia.

The photo was taken at the Torture Museum by Ben Sutherland. See more in his torture museum slideshow.

tiny islands are people too

Via the Michigan Land Use Institute blog:

One of the most inspiring developments this week is the way the small, underdeveloped island nations now stand up for themselves in the global climate talks.  It’s a big change: At previous climate talks, smaller countries were often pushed aside and forgotten by the superpowers.

…In a speech today, at a press conference here in Copenhagen, the president of Tuvalu explained how tough it’s been to hold their ground:

“There are some countries, like Australia, who have been trying to arrange a meeting with us to probably water down our position on 1.5 degrees Celsius. We did not attend that meeting, but I heard from other small islands that Australia was trying to tell them if they agree to the 2 degrees limit, money would be on the table for adaptation process. That’s their choice to accept the money and back down. But Tuvalu will not. As I said in my speech, 1.5 degrees Celsius is our bottom line…

As a human being, I feel that the leaders that are pushing their countries to adopt this 2 degrees should know from science that that will be killing a lot of people around the world. That should change their position. I will not sign anything less than 1.5.

We just have to prepare ourselves for the worst. We have nowhere to run to. We must prepare ourselves individually, family-wise, so that we know what to do when a cyclone comes or the hurricane blows. There is no mountain we can climb up, no inland we can run to. We just have the face it. And that’s why we’re making noises around the world … We don’t want to disappear from this Earth.
We want to exist as a nation. Because we have a fundamental right to exist alongside yourselves.”

The fact that the lives, livelihoods and homes of millions upon millions of people of this earth are treated with such casual disregard is simply appalling.

The picture above is one of a number of photos from Tuvalu by Leigh.

Home at last

Another Andy McFarlane, this one 47 and serving under the Union Jack in Afganistan writes:

Repatriation

The leviathan of the sky does land
In England’s green and pleasant land
Its cargo more precious than gold
The body of a hero, bold

Once the giant’s engines stopped
The cargo ramp is gently dropped
Carried by six on shoulders true
The hero is saluted by the crew

The coffin draped in Union Jack
Is slowly carried out the back
Out of the dark and into light
Slowly down the ramp and to the right

The six approach the hearse all black
And place the hero gently in the back
The six then turn and march away
Their duty has been done this day

Politicians usually have much to say
No sign of them near here this day.
They hide away and out of danger
Much easier if the hero is a stranger

The hearse with its precious load
Moves slowly out onto the road
The floral tributes line the route
While comrades snap a smart salute

At the edge of a Wiltshire town
The cortege slows its pace right down
The streets are packed, many deep
Some throw flowers, most just weep

The crowd have come to say farewell
The church bell rings a low death knell
Regimental standards are lowered down
As the hero passed through the town

The cortege stops and silence reigns
The townsfolk feel the family’s pain.
The nations’ flag lowered to half mast
Our brave hero is home at last

How many times has the Union Jack or Old Glory or Whatever They Affectionately Call Your Flag come “home” atop a coffin? And how many more?

It’s hard to select a photo of someone else’s flag. M,! didn’t name hers. It’s part of her i am not a robot set.

The Elephant and the Blind Men

Addo Elephant National Park by exfordy

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The above is the beginning of The Blind Men and the Elephant, an ancient Indian tale translated in 1873 by John Godfrey Saxe. Please go read this if it’s an unfamiliar tale … or read it anyway, as it’s stood the test of time.

The story came to me as I was pondering an assortment of modern calamities. It made me think about how our work on these problems is so remarkably compartmentalized.

We’ll spend $800,000,000,000.00 (or so) bailing out people who have been playing Games With Money: Other People’s Version. We’ll wonder if we should spend 5% of that staggering sum on three companies that are responsible for the jobs of 1,000,000 to 3,000,000 people (depending on who you ask) and the pension and retirement of many more. We’ll say that Social Security has a $10,400,000,000,000 shortfall looming (actually, the Bush Administration said that in 2005). We’ll lament at the fall of lake levels and the rise of seas and the melting of the Arctic and the death of species.

We’ll do everything, it seems, but sit down and take a good look at the whole picture, to see that we can no longer borrow from a future if we can’t figure out how to repay the debt.

The photo is Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa by exfordy* and can be enjoyed in their South Africa, 1999 slideshow (set). He writes:

This bull walked right by the car. If I had kept the window open I could have touched it. We had been told that if we stayed in our car we would be OK. A Japanese tourist had got out of his car the previous week and had been killed by an elephant.

*exfordy as in “Ex Ford Employee” – what are the odds that Michigan-crazy me I would find and choose this photo from the vasty herd of elephant photos under Creative Commons license on Flickr?????

Dangerous amusements

I was emailing someone to tell them not to worry when a big site like Flickr or YouTube loses a bunch of media, that despite the fact that those sites are massive and complex systems, there’s a lot of smart people there who spend all their time figuring out how the systems work and how to improve and fix them.

Then it struck me that 200 years ago, those very same “best & brightest” were working to discover the undiscovered and better understand the immensity of Creation.

Suddenly the comforting thought wasn’t all that comforting.

Time to get busy folks.

Check those figures one more time, will you?

Black Hole by Director X

A headline like Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More is a pretty sure bet for a click-through from me. CERN thought Large Hadron Collider was worth $8 billion to study the energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang and then try to work out what happened.

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

About all I can say about this is that I’m not happy with humanity’s ethical and impulse controls as we move deeper into the Age of Mad Science. If you’d like a double helping of science and geek humor with your Doomsday Scenario, I suggest this post on Slashdot. And you have to click this link to xkcd. I command it.

About the photo: Black Hole by Director X was taken at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. If I hadn’t already used my compulsory click, I’d be tempted to add one for the museum.