As a woman I often think about those brave women from a time past who were known as suffragettes, speaking out so those like myself could have an equal voice in this country. They paved the way for a lifestyle I cherish.
And I also say thank you to the peacemakers, brave souls like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, tireless in their efforts to bring equality and civil rights to all of us here on Earth – and doing it in peaceful ways no less. They have helped bring about much needed change that we continue to work on in their stead.
But these days I find another person I want to give a shout out to, one who is seemingly tireless in his message about climate change and the action needed to avert catastrophe. I am talking about Dr. Michael E. Mann, a Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, who is ever present and very vocal as of late about the climate change crisis.
Yes there are many others voicing their concern in a public way, but Dr. Mann seems to bring forth the topic of climate change in a way that highlights the severity of the situation but also reminding us it is not too late, don’t give up hope of change for the better.
I first discovered Dr. Mann in an online course I took through edX, entitled Climate Change: The Science and Global Impact. It was a great course where I really learned so much about climate change from the science side to the aspect of how it is impacting our world. Dr. Mann has also written several books on the topic of climate change that are equally informative and well written.
This man is getting the word out in a big way and right now he is my climate change spokesperson hero! If you would like to learn more from Dr. Mann, here is the link to his website: https://michaelmann.net/ I hope you will check it out and become informed, and find your own ways to shout out about climate change so we can get to work on getting our world back to a much healthier, happier place for all of us.
When I found a 50% off Amtrak fares deal back in May, I jumped on it and got myself a round trip ticket to Portland for a fall visit, a much needed getaway. Then I proceeded to find a nice AirBNB in North Portland and I’m all set! At that time I was confident that our world would be mask-free and out of the clutches of the pandemic. Boy was I mistaken…
Fast forward to a couple weeks away from my Portland trip and say hello to the Delta variant of COVID, spreading all over the place and now we seem to be back to square one. The thought of 36 hours on the train with a mask was feeling all wrong, as well as the big uptick in COVID cases in Portland. And where are most of the terrible wildfires taking place? Out west, the direction of my travels. And the last sad straw was a resurgence of violent gatherings in Portland, with a shooting death occuring in the very neighborhood where I was going to stay.
With a very heavy heart I cancelled my plans. I was so looking forward to reconnecting with the place I call my “pretty city”, my home for five wonderful years. But sadly it ain’t so pretty these days. After I cried some tears I came to realize that hey, with all the disasters playing out and pandemic resurge, having to cancel a trip for fun is not the end of the world. So I’ll stay home for a time where I count my blessings, and send out some blessings to those dealing with the difficulties playing out in so many places. And like the rest of us I learn to make better friends with uncertainty.
How does one fulfill the wanderlust
In a world full of wrenches thrown in
There’s the pandemic wrench that never seems to end
And the wildfire wrench turns the skies and our lungs a sooty gray
Water from the skies teams up with the wrench of the wind to flood and destroy our world
And saddest of all is the wrench of violence, human against human
There are those intrepid travelers who make their way despite the obstacles
But I’ll wait for a better day to do my exploring, a day that is free from the travel wrenches
What was once a flurry of climate change news has died down to a whimper, seems like the “red flag warning” of the recent IPCC report is yesterday’s news, forgotten.
But make no mistake, climate change is still worthy of the headlines. The wildfires play out with a continuous intense ferocity, and the latest storm named Hurricane Ida is wreaking its havoc all over the place.
Scenes like this are going to become more frequent and sadly commonplace if we don’t take steps in the direction of climate change action. But what can one person do to help?
Of course all the individual actions we take to live greener are valuable and make a difference. Actions like recycling, switching to LED lightbulbs, renewable energy in our homes if possible and so on are great ways to help.
But the thing that needs to happen in a big way is policy changes, actions from our governments that will put new policies in place that demand changes towards a carbon free world. Ultimately this is what it will take to really make a difference.
And every single one of us can make our voices heard. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous the first time I called a U.S. Senator’s office, to ask them to support climate change policies in the upcoming reconciliation bill. But if you speak from your heart, the words will easily come.
Believe me, I am the farthest thing from an activist but making a call makes a difference! Like it or not, this is how our world works and how change comes about, change that will bring a much needed reduction in further carbon emissions and lead us in the right direction of no more fossil fuels and putting into place the ways of renewable energy.
So dear reader, it is “easy peasy” to call your U.S. Senators. Just go to senate.gov and at the very top of the home page is a drop down box titled Find Your Senators, with each state listed. Find your state and your state senators will pop up, with all the information you need to contact them. So don’t wait, do it now, and let’s start on the road to a healthier Earth for all of us!
I love to read! There is nothing better to me than getting lost in a good book, all those wonderful characters and settings and plots and ooh sometimes a good plot twist – delicious!!
But books can also teach and inform, and I enjoy a good non-fiction book too. I have a strong love of learning and as of late my focus has been on learning more about climate science, Earth science and climate change.
So here are a couple of books that I’ve found quite good, as I strive to stay more and more in touch with our world that is going through the terrible throes of climate change.
An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore: This book was first published in 2006 but later adapted to be more of a young adult book, striving to teach and reach the generations that we hope can really work on the climate change crisis. I actually purchased the “new generation” version but it is very well written and a good basic guide to the topics of climate change, global warming and what can we do about it.
Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change by Michael E. Mann & Lee R. Kump: Here is a great book that is just as it says, all about understanding climate change. It is now in its second edition, updated to coincide with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) 5th Assessment Report that came out in 2014. I really like this book for the visuals, lots of pertinent pictures on the topic of climate change as well as great charts and graphs. It is informative and detailed but not overly so. I would also recommend checking out other books written by Michael E. Mann, who is a Distinguished Professor of Meterorology at Penn State University, and considered to be a leading voice on the topic and issues of climate change.
Vanishing World: the endangered Arcticby Fredrik Granath & Mireille De La Lez: No, this book is not about the topic of climate change but then again, it is. I wrote in a previous post how I read the foreword by Dr. Neil T.M. Hamilton, a director of the WWF Arctic Initiative, and then discovered this book was written in 2007. Dr. Hamilton’s words echoed so present day to me, messages about the damage being done in the Arctic and recognizing climate change as the culprit but saying it’s not too late. Well, let’s hope that not too late statement still holds true for this amazing ecosystem and all the life it supports. I defy anyone who reads this book and takes in the breathtaking photos to not be moved, probably to tears at the sad thought that one day, it might all be gone.
Of course that is just a short list, to get you started. But there are so many wonderful books out there that will hopefully spur your love for the Earth and all its creatures. I think of classics like Silent Spring by Rachel Carson or Walden by Henry David Thoreau. But some contemporary works in the same vein would be books like Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer or Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert.
So dear reader, I hope you will delve into one or more of these volumes, and have a yummy cup of coffee or tea in your favorite coffee cup while you’re at it…
To some it may seem strange, choosing the camel as a favorite animal, but I find them quite precious! And yes, I’ve heard all the accounts of how they are nothing but a stubborn, spitting animal, difficult to work with at times and nothing but trouble.
But when I saw the sign for “camel rides” at the zoo yesterday, all I could see was a beautiful majestic creature who allowed me a short but sweet ride that fulfilled a lifelong desire to ride a camel. I used to half-jokingly tell my kids that if I am ever found to be terminally ill, my dying wish is to ride a camel – well now I did and they’re off the hook!
My awesome dream come true of a camel ride and the rest of yesterday’s zoo adventure was a nice respite from the rather grim climate change report that recently came out from the IPCC. I continue to stay abreast of what is going on and do what I can to help in my way, but I also remind myself to have a healthy balance in my life. And part of that healthy balance is making sure I engage in fun, enjoyable activities with family and friends, even when our world seems to be in crisis mode.
So dear reader, don’t forget to do those things that you’ve always wanted to do, and allow your dreams to come true! We are meant to have fun in this place…
The climate scientists sounding the alarm about climate change, they tell us we need to change our energy sources and soon, or else! And I for one believe them, I believe the desperation and urgency in their message. But how in the world are we going to transition from the energy sources we are so used to and comfortable with, the fossil fuel ways, to a completely different way of life? Seems daunting and difficult, not to mention expensive, right? Well, maybe not. Yes, it is a big change and one that will take time, but not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. And it’s a change we owe to future generations, so the world we leave them is a better one that what we’re experiencing these days.
So what exactly is the difference between renewable and non-renewable energy? As a general definition, renewable energy is energy that comes from natural sources such as the sun, wind and water, sources that will always be there for us as they replenish continously. Non-renewable energy is the other side of the coin, finite sources that can and probably will be used up at some point in the future. These sources include coal, oil and natural gas, often called the fossil fuels. Once we have consumed them they will be gone and not replenished for thousands or even millions of years.
At this point in time, in order to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change that are playing out, we need to start changing over to those renewable energy sources. The continued use of fossil fuels is a terrible recipe for disaster as more and more carbon in the atmosphere renders our climate out of control. So let’s look at and learn more about the renewable energy options so we are better prepared to make the changes needed for a healthier world.
Solar: Solar energy is energy that comes from the sun. There is passive solar energy, which could be something as easy as having more windows in a home to allow the sun’s light and heat to come through. But on a larger scale is the harnessing of the sun’s energy through things like solar panels on a home or business, or other technologies that convert the sun’s energy into the energy we need. Of course there is the aspect of this type of energy working best in a sunny locale, but there are ways around this so that solar energy is a very viable energy source no matter where one lives. And despite the initial expense of the panels, solar energy is becoming more and more affordable.
Wind: Wind energy is exactly what it says, an energy source that uses the wind. The energy from the wind turns the blades of the turbine around a rotor, which in turn spins a generator that creates electricity. The initial expenses of installing the turbines are a bit costly but the operating costs are quite low. As it is with solar energy and cloudy days, a lack of wind is a concern but once again a plan for back-up energy on less windy days can be put into place. And the operating costs are low once the turbines are in place. There are concerns regarding wind turbines and noise pollution, as well as becoming a hazard for birds and bats that may accidentally fly into the blades. But as it is with other types of renewable energy, all aspects of using wind turbines are being looked at and improved upon.
Water: Renewable energy that comes from water is actually harnessing the power of water, not really using water directly. The actual process of taking water from a dam and turning it into electricity is a process of steps and machinery that takes advantage of the strong power of water, which we often see in negative ways during a flood. This type of renewable energy has been in use for quite some time and proven to be a good alternative to fossil fuels. But lately with the intense warming of the planet and major droughts ensuing, this type of renewable energy is proving to be less effective as water sources are depleted.
Those are three major sources of renewable energy that are already in place and being used, all over the world. And there are other types of renewable energy that have potential also, ideas and innovations that are being discovered and tested out. These include the use of ocean energy, the use of geothermal heat from deep in the Earth’s surface, and using biomass fuel which is derived from organic matter such as plants and trees.
The time has passed for excuses, such as “we have no alternatives to fossil fuels”, that’s not true, we do have alternatives! Renewable energy is being used in small scale ways across the globe but we need to expand on that. In order to avoid any kind of climate catastrophe the message is clear, end our dependence on fossil fuels and turn to clean, healthy, environmentally respectful ways of energy use. As humans on this planet we see ourselves as overseers and we are innovators as well. So let’s be those overseers and innovators that leave a legacy of how we were able to save planet Earth and its inhabitants from becoming yet another extinction story.
He would have turned 52 today, perhaps a bit changed in appearance, the things that happen as we age. Maybe a bit of gray in his dark hair, maybe a few more wrinkles on that lovely face.
And what would Elliott be up to if he were still here? I venture to guess that of course, he’d still be in the music and finding his way around this changed musical landscape. He struggled with the world of corporate music, but as he started working on the “Basement” album, he was searching out his own way to get his music out to the people, without compromising his artistic integrity.
Then there’s the place he went to play with the music, his studio named New Monkey. I imagine the time he spent there was much like a kid in a candy shop, so many treasures to delight his audiophile self. Now his beloved playground is being carefully and lovingly watched over by the wonderful gentlemen who bought New Monkey in 2004, Joel Graves and Robert Cappadona. It is still going strong, with Elliott’s memory apparent in that space but fostering plenty of diversity in the artists who record there. Elliott would be so pleased!
Elliott’s been gone from this earth for almost 18 years now, but his legacy is truly timeless. He ended up a bit under the radar in recognition of his superb talents and musicality, but as the years have gone by more and more people are discovering the amazing body of work he left. Those who love the music of Elliott Smith always wish for more, but with music like Elliott’s one never tires of hearing the same songs over and over again.
Now with the genre of media that is the podcast, it has opened the door even wider for Elliott’s music to be discovered and appreciated. In 2017 a young man from Britain named Rob Comba started a podcast titled My Favourite Elliott Smith Song. Each episode is as the name says, the guest choosing their favorite song of Elliott’s. And the guests are pleasingly varied, from those who knew Elliott to those who didn’t, often a younger generation of musicians who speak of influence and admiration in Elliott’s work. To check out this fun slice of Elliott engagement, the podcast can be found on Spotify, i-Tunes or myfavouriteelliottsmithsong.com.
So if you already know of Elliott Smith, put on some of that familiar music that blends both joy and pain, that reminds us what it’s like to be human. And if you aren’t familiar with Elliott’s work, check it out! Take a little taste on whatever music streaming service you like, and I guarantee you’ll be back for more – and more and more, his music is truly that good. It is music for all ages, for the ages.
A tipping point in general is often called the “point of no return”. When we use that term in regard to climate change it is about global warming that becomes unstoppable, going beyond critical thresholds that result in irreversible changes and damage.
Sadly there are a number of tipping points we need to be aware of as climate change accelerates, and here are a few examples:
The loss of ice sheets:
The Greenland ice sheet is melting at an accelerated rate that is surprising many scientists, causing unprecedented sea level rise. With the melting of the ice also comes the lowering of the albedo effect, resulting in more warming to the Earth’s surface.
The West Antarctic ice sheet is also a concern, causing increased sea level rise also. This landscape of the Antarctic also plays an important role in regulating the Earth’s climate system, responding to the sun’s energy as it creates modifications that keep our climate in a healthy balance.
The destruction of the Amazon rainforest:
If extensive deforestation continues, the Amazon rainforest would more than likely become the ecosystem of a savannah, having major effects on the biodiversity that is present in a rainforest ecosystem. The loss of trees in the rainforest is exacerbating global warming, as trees are a major carbon sink, releasing carbon into the atmosphere when they are cut down.
The loss of coral reefs:
Due to the increase in ocean temperatures, the corals food source of algae leave when it gets too warm, causing the coral to starve to death. When this lack of food occurs, coral start to “bleach”, losing their bright colors and ultimately dying. Coral reefs are an integral habitat for much of the marine life, as well as helping humans with protection on coastlines from wind and storm damage.
The loss of boreal forest:
Boreal forests are forests that grow in the regions of the Northern hemisphere, able to withstand colder temperatures. They are mostly made up of coniferous trees such as spruce, fir and pine. The increase of wildfires, often caused by humans, is causing mass destruction of these forests. They are the largest land based carbon sink on Earth. Also, the burning of these forests causes an increased release of carbon into the atmosphere.
The big question is, have we passed any tipping points? Many experts feel that in regard to the ice sheets yes, we have passed that tipping point. And the general consensus also points to the Amazon rainforest as very close to passing its tipping point.
So what does this mean? Is there hope once a tipping point is passed? Yes, there is, but it will take time and effort on our part as humans to make the changes needed to reverse and mitigate climate change. So dear reader, stay informed, stay active in doing your part to reverse climate change, and never give up hope.
If we look at all that is going on in our world, the proliferation of aberrant weather all over the globe, it seems like humanity is at a crossroads. Which path are we going to take? There’s the path of carrying on as is, business as usual, static and just hoping for the best without any action taken. But then there’s the path of making changes in our world and our lives, the changes that truly need to be if we have any hope for a world not overbaked or deluged in too much water.
We have so much potential as humans to dig in and fix this problem, the solutions for a carbon free, no fossil fuel world are out there, so why are we so afraid to try?
Yes there is the aspect of all those employed in the fossil fuel sector and related areas that would no longer do that work. But on the other hand those workers would turn to employment in the sector of renewable energy and all that is related to it.
Think about the 20th century and the advances that came about, things we take for granted now that make our lives so much better. Had we not said yes we’ll give this a try to new ways of transportation, of expanded ways of communication, of electric lights instead of oil lamps, well it is hard to fathom saying no to any of those things. Now in the 21st century it is time for new ways once again.
For those of us not in the thick of it, the “lucky” ones so far not baking, burning, drowning in the waters, well it is too easy to be complacent. And I remind myself that my generation of baby boomers have dropped the ball, I too have been complicit with that complacent attitude.
But I think about the generations to follow, my kids and most of all my grandkids, what kind of world are we leaving for them? This is where the energy we engaged in during the pandemic, of thinking about others, of looking outside of our personal selves, will spur us on to reverse climate change.
It’s quite scary to think about what this world would be like if we do nothing. I think of dytopian novels I’ve read that are classed as fiction, but what if they actually become non-fiction? I’ll leave you with an article I recently came upon, a question asked of four experts in the field of climate change. I hope it starts some pondering, which path are we going to take?
We often think of something positive as a good thing, right? But when we talk about positive feedback loops in the context of climate change, it is not a good thing.
First off, let’s define a climate change feedback loop:a process that either increases or decreases a warming trend. Now let’s break it down to positive feedback and negative feedback.
Positive feedback loop: a process that increases a warming trend, causing instability. Here are some examples of positive feedback:
Melting ice – In the regions of the Earth that are covered in ice and snow, something called the albedo effect takes place. This is the amount of sunlight that is reflected off of a surface. A stark white surface like snow or ice has a high albedo, whereas land surfaces typically have a low albedo. A high albedo translates into the cold temps in a polar region, because the warmth of the sun is reflected off the white surface. Therefore, melting ice as well as melting snow means less reflection and less albedo, which means more warming of the surface than usual, and the cycle of positive feedback is in place.
Water vapor – As the Earth warms, more evaporation of water takes place. When this water evaporates, it turns into water vapor in the atmosphere. This increase of water vapor, which is often considered a greenhouse gas, fuels more warming of the Earth’s surface and the cycle of positive feedback continues.
Permafrost thawing – Permafrost is ground that stays continuously frozen for at least two years but often thousands of years. The problem with permafrost occurs when it starts to thaw, releasing methane into the atmosphere which in turn causes more warming. And the cycle goes on and on, another positive feedback loop of climate change.
Negative feedback loop: a process that decreases a warming trend, bringing stability to the system. Here are some examples of negative feedback:
Increase of cloud cover – The water vapor in the atmosphere due to melting ice or ocean evaporation might actually result in more cloud cover. Clouds reflect quite a bit of solar radiation, decreasing heat on the Earth’s surface, which would create more of a cooling effect.
Blackbody radiation – A concept known as the Stefan-Boltzmann law states that as the temperature of a black body, such as Earth, increases then the amount of outgoing infrared radiation increases. This creates a cooling effect for the surface of the Earth.
Solubility pump of the oceans – This is the process whereby the surface of the ocean transports carbon to its interior. But this is also affected by the ocean’s circulation system, which is becoming adversely affected by climate change.
It’s no surprise that there are more positive feedback loops occurring in our world, but it is not impossible to reverse and ultimately end these loops. The first step is learning and recognizing what is happening, then finding the best steps to take in mitigation. It is going to take action from all of us as individuals as well as those in the public eye that make the big decisions. Make your voice heard in your way, and remember even the baby steps you take to reverse climate change make a big beautiful difference.