Sidewall skiing

CAPTION: Saudi youths demonstrate a stunt known as “sidewall skiing” (driving on two wheels) in the northern city of Hail, in Saudi Arabia. Performing stunts is a popular hobby amongst Saudi youths. Mohamed Al Hwaity/Reuters

I don’t really even know what is is I want to say about this photo, but it made me think a lot about Saudi culture.

Here’s another shot of sidewall skiing.

King Abdullah II of Jordan on Arab Spring

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show had a very interesting interview with King Abdullah II of Jordan about Arab Spring and the situation in Iraq and the Middle East. One thing that struck me was the fact that we’re watching a bunch of nations go through the same tumult that the U.S., France and others struggled through over a period of decades and somehow expecting it to all be wrapped up by the next news cycle.

Arab Spring is a world-shaking phenomenon and it makes me feel a bit better knowing that thoughtful & rational individuals like King Abdullah and President Obama are on the job right now. I hope you get a chance to watch it!

H.M. King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein is (according to his website) a 41st-generation direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad who assumed the constitutionally based monarchy of Jordan in 1999.

The photo of King Abdullah was taken by Monika Flueckiger at the 2008 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. See 42 years of their pics right here.

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.

In the Garden of Your Mind

“You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.” That’s a lesson it’s never too late to learn, one of many that Fred Rogers. Below is a fantastic video remix by John Boswell of the Symphony of Science. He did it for PBS Digital and it’s absolutely exploding (17,000 views when I watched last night, over a half million this morning.

John has the channel melodysheep on YouTube and says that his goal is to bring scientific knowledge and philosophy to the public through the medium of music, using the words and video of the scientists themselves. He has some amazing work using everyone from Richard Attenborough to Yoda that you should definitely check out. An interesting and sort of related video is Return to Awe with Jason Silva.

The Information Age is growing up

7 billion people

“If you want to understand life, don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology.”
~author James Gleick

The photo is 7 billion people by Kevin Dooley who writes:

7 billion people in the world now, going on 9. Then what happens? Or will even get there?

I was reading “The Information” by James Gleick and was really reminded what a staggering shift the world has undergone in the last 60 years. Strap yourselves in because the next 60 are going to be some ride.

Indeed. You can listen to an interview by Tom Ashbrook on On Point about The Information and also visit author James Gleick’s page about the book.

Kevin is one of my favorite photographers on Flickr (or anywhere), and he posts all his photos with a liberal Creative Commons license. Here’s his Flickriver.

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.

The Run Across Palestine

I am on the board of the nonprofit On the Ground. We work to raise money for projects that help the people who produce our food all over the world. Last year we did the Run Across Ethiopia, generating money and interest to build 3 schools that will serve 1500 children and also to pay some of the expenses. We work with real people: farmers and families to help them build the tools to raise themselves from poverty.

Right now we are kicking off the Run Across Palestine, which will raise funds and awareness for olive farmers in Palestine. Our runners will basically run a marathon a day for five days, 129 miles from Hebron to Burqin.

Here’s the first video from our media team, edited by the incomparable Aaron Dennis.

The Impulse to Supress

I don’t know who made the original. Found it with hundreds of others on the peppersprayingcop tumblr.

Gawker reports that UC-Davis Officer John Pike, the Pepper Spraying Cop is now a meme (see this one for sure)

Regardless of whether or not Davis – a campus police officer – is representative of anything other than a dude with authority, firepower and poor judgement, I think it’s really strange how polarizing the issue of police violence is.

For my own part, I can’t fathom the situation where a non-violent protester deserves violence in a free society. I am surprised by how many do feel that way.

Mainly for my own future viewing, here’s video of the situation.