Monday, December 10, 2007

Missing From the Political Debate

It's always frustrating when something you predict doesn't happen. But it's worse when it's something that really matters. And global warming is just not as big of an issue as it should be. I thought it would out drive everything by now, even the war (which should still be the second biggest issue), and I'm not seeing it. Immigration seems to be higher, and why does that feel like a bait and switch? We need to focus on the life or death of the planet issues.
Maybe it's because on immigration there's an enemy that's not us (the struggling immigrants) and in global warming it's becoming more and more clear we are the problem.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Clean, Green Economy

“Peak Oil” is the time when half of the oil in the world has been harvested, and all harvests thereafter will be harder, slower, and more expensive. It’s a place where the price of oil has nowhere to go but up. Many people think we’re there. A few think we’re past it. Only a very few think we’ve a long way to go (and they’re probably the same people that think the current warming trend is just plain normal, and Elvis was kidnapped by aliens).

Peak oil is the beginning of the inevitable fall of the oil-driven economy. What I want to know is when is the inevitable rise of the alternate-energy economy? Are we there yet? Will peak oil by itself drive us there?

I’d say no, since of course we have the collapsing economy and world-war-three-over-energy-resources scenario to avoid first (and we're on our way to that, maybe as close as we are to peak oil). But assuming we have the political delicacy to avoid the worst case, what do we need to start the upwelling of the right moves to free us of oil? There are some nice roadmaps being developed. The IPCC report has some specific ideas. I’m reading a book called “Apollo’s Fire” by Congressman Jay Inslee and Bracken Hendricks. It has a series of action items in it. There are other sources of good ideas out there, too. So we’re becoming rich with reasonable plans, and need to pick and choose and move forward to the clean, green economy.

That's what I want for Christmas: the see the inevitable rise of the clean, green economy.

Scarcity

We had as much trouble finding LED lights as we had finding a Wii. Being tenacious people, we found both, but I was really happy to see the climate change friendly lights be in such demand. The small signs of fundamental change in thinking are nice to see.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rural America

We went to the beach on the Washington coast for Thanksgiving. One of the things we noticed, at least in our rental house and rental houses next door to us, was that there was no recycling. We spent some time in the rural southwest earlier this year - also no recycling. I mean none - no glass recycling, no paper recycling, no sort-your-own recycling (I presume you can do that at the dumps, but we didn't go there).
Now, that's two for two on trips away from major cities this year. I bet we didn't find the only two rural spots without recycling. I'm sure many do have it, but my guess is more don't. It's expensive to set up.
I'm reminded of something I heard from the American Institute of Architects: the biggest easy gains, the ones that pencil out right away and save resources for the more dramatic changes, are all in conservation. Which also means recycling.
It's also reinforces the idea that cities have the economies of scale to allow for more responsible stewardship of the planet. It's easy to think of the wild west or the wild and fairly unpopulated Northwest coasts as pristine, but per capita, I bet they're a lot harder on the Earth.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mass Transit is Good for Reading, and so is Amazon

I've been taking the bus a lot more lately, and I rode the 250 Express over to a play in Seattle last night. We were stuck in even-worse-than-usual accident-induced traffic, and I had a chance to finish a book. I also noticed that about a third of the other riders were reading. This on a day when a major study came out about how we're reading less. I also talked to two strangers, which is rare. If I'd been stuck in my car I wouldn't have done either.

Also of note - the bus was packed - standing room only. So why did we just vote down a transportation initiative?

Also -- good for Amazon on releasing its new reader, the Kindle. I haven't got mine yet (I probably will, both as a futurist gadget and since I'm a frequent reader out of physical space for books in my office). But that's less tree-cutting, and hopefully it will get used enough to far offset whatever toxic products it puts in the waste stream later. Whether it becomes "the product" we've all been waiting for as far as making electronic fiction reading actually pleasurable or not, it appears to be progress.

Anyway, today will be driving to the beach (but I get to be the passenger), and I'll try and print the summary of the latest IPCC report as car-reading fodder.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And now I've been to the FCC hearing...

But I didn't get to talk to the FCC. Here is what happened....

The hearing got called with almost no notice. For 4:00 - 10:00 PM on the Friday before a three day weekend. Bad FCC. But I'm local, I care about media consolidation, and my day job is related to the FCC as I manage cable franchises and television stations (and a bunch more stuff that that - all of the technology for a medium sized city, so I don't actually get to spend much time on these issues, even though I care about them). I also think the media consolidation we've already had has pretty well ruined the national conversation about key issues like climate change, and further media consolidation is ludicrous.

I had an important meeting scheduled to go to 3 PM at Bellevue City Hall, and it then went over 5 minutes. I drove to a park and ride and took the bus to Seattle (remember climate change) and discovered the bus tunnel for the first time. I made sure I knew how to get back to the tunnel, having learned from big cities like Paris and NY that you'd best check landmarks so you don't get lost in the forest of buildings.

Thus fortified, I walked to Town Hall, which I am a member of, and which was a great place to hold the hearings. I was running over what I'd like to say to the commissioners in my head and trying not to be nervous about the whole thing. I got there about 4:10 to find the Governor delivering a very good speech, although she was facing us instead of the FCC commissioners, which seemed not-quite-right. The room was over half full, but I got a good seat anyway.

Then Maria Cantwell and Jay Inslee and Dave Reichert and other Washington State politicians delivered addresses to us via pre-recorded video. These were all good speeches and they got 5 minutes each. But there wasn't even a pretense that the information had been prepared FOR the FCC except that it ended up in the formal record of the meeting, which might have been the point although no one said so. At any rate, the FCC didn't have any doubt how they stood - they'd just met with them in person in Washington. Then a few more local politicians who had made it here (for the Washington ones, the FCC had scheduled this while congress was in session, so they couldn't be here) talked for their five minutes each. Good for them.

Then each FCC commissioner talked for five minutes (except one, who said he wasn't going to waste our time, but is suspected to be on the pro-consolidation side of the issue and might just have not wanted to be yelled at). Oh - and the audience was very interactive with all of these speeches. And very much against media consolidation. Like 95% or better against media consolidation, and against the FCC and against big government. Not for much as far as I could tell, except a few people, but that's a different issue. And the main topic was something worth being against.

So, now we're a hour and a half into the hearing, maybe more. We've heard a lot of short and very well-written and well delivered speeches. Could have been a national debate final or something. About two of them have been cautiously trying to explain to a hostile audience why media consolidation is good. They were pretty ineffective.

Next, a panel of experts gets five minutes each. Frank Blethen from the Seattle Times did a great job. Some Latino labor union people got the audience almost in tears. Three-quarters of these speakers were against further consolidation. These are also all professionally delivered talks, and I learned from listening to them. There were about fifteen television stations worth of cameras in the room, and I actually think this part would be the one most worth listening to as far as the prepared speeches go.

Now it's 6:30 and not one member of the general public has gotten to talk to the FCC until now. So the general public gets two minutes each. Belatedly, I figure out I need to sign up and go find the table. It's in the far back, on a different floor, in a darkish corner. I'm number 227. Why wasn't the table right up front when you walked through the doors?

I go back up and listen to the public testimony. It's actually quite good. I'm proud of us - the general public. Mind you, by general public, I mostly mean local broadcasters, local small press, activists, people who do their own shows on public TV, minorities, children. Bright people with the skin in the game of this issue. There's actually some humor now, too. We've been in the room for over three hours being talked to, and now there's some punchy but good humor and some tender moments.

But 8:30 or so, they're on speaker number 29. I'm 227. A little over an hour to get through 20 speakers. That means there's 10 hours worth of people who want to talk, and I'm hour number 10. Now, some will give up and go home. So maybe I'll get to talk by midnight. I haven't had any dinner, and thank god I brought water since there isn't any of that either. There's no support except bathrooms and a sign that says "bottled water only" but doesn't provide any bottled water. I've never taken a bus from Seattle after dark. I think I can find the bus tunnel. I'm hungry. It's been a long week at work, not one of those 40 hour weeks of hard work that feel about right, but one of those 50 to 60 hour weeks, and I've got a novel to finish approving the copy edits on, to boot. I decide I can't wait until midnight to talk to the FCC, and they probably won't be able to hear anything by then, anyway, even if they try. They're human, and six hours of talking heads all saying close to the same thing will wear anyone out.

So I find the bus tunnel, which is closed (it wouldn't be closed in Paris). But given the evening, this seems oddly appropriate. It takes about 15 minutes of wandering around Seattle in the dark and the rain while people are rowdy and a little scary to find the bus stop that will work, and I get twenty blessed minutes to sit and read fiction while I get driven across the lake and back to suburbia.

Surely we can do public process better than this? That's partly my job, so I'll mull over it after I've caught up on my sleep. In the meantime, well, if you see the FCC, tell them media consolidation is a bad idea.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I've been to Villahermosa, Mexico, and New Orleans, LA, US

And I'm pretty sure neither will ever look the same. Both were beautiful cities, both centers of unique cultures.

It's not any one weather event, even these, but the unrelenting showy pounding we're getting that seems so dramatic.

Everyone I've heard talk recently, and every credible scientist I've read, suggests that things are happening faster than models predicted. Ice is melting faster. Species are getting in trouble faster (note to self - I'm part of a species). I'm wondering if I need to get to the Inside Passage or to Venice in the next few years to see them at all.

Also at risk? New York, NY. Ever been to Central Park is when the cool spring air is scented by colorful flowers dripping from every corner and birds seem to be trying to fill all the tree branches at once?

Two Events of Note

Saturday September 10th is being billed as Carbon Offset Day - which translates to an opportunity to plant trees. Always a good idea.

And more related to climate change than you might think (by dint of the damage media consolidation does to the variety and power of what we hear), the FCC is in town on ridiculously short notice for a hearing. They want to know if we think three or less people should own all the media in the US. Yes, that's an oversimplification, but no by much. Drop by Town Hall on the 9th and tell them that's not a very good idea. Note that there appears to be an email address you can use if you can't get there in person.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Seattle Shines

(This is a cross-post from one I made at Futurist.com)

The City of Seattle reported that its on-target to its Kyoto goals. That is fabulous. There’s a conference of Mayor’s meeting there this week that includes other global warming luminaries as well (Clinton/.Gore – sound like a ticket to you? And perhaps they are now doing even more good than they did in the White House).

In a post awhile back, I mentioned that Global warming is a problem we need to solve on a global basis. I still believe that. The good we do in Seattle must be joined by the good we do in Shanghai, in Dubai, and in Mexico City. To succeed here, we must have an unprecedented level of global cooperation.

But that doesn’t diminish the value of the shining light in our region. I’m quite proud of Seattle. Of my city, Kirkland, too (We have signed up and are working hard to get a handle on measurement. We’re behind Seattle in our program, but still, we’re in there making real changes). Cities, in particular, matter. Statics show that over half of the world’s populations will live in cities in the very near future. We should all cheer the luminaries leading them to cleaner and better designs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

CNN's Planet in Peril

Appears to be a good show so far, about 10 minutes in. It's a bit interrupted by fire news. Global warming news interrupting global warming news.

A Conversation at Work...

Depending on which south you're in, the world is drying up around you or burning up around you. I work in the Pacific Northwest, where warmer and wetter seems to be the prevailing crystal-ball fuzz about us and global warming. The conversation went something like this.

"Glad we live here."
"All that must be climate change, right?"
"Pretty much."
"We're lucky we have so much rain."
"But we're not always out of the woods for drinking water."
"Snowpack's been bad some years."
"Last winter was okay."
"Think about places like Arizona, where there's too many people for the ecosystem. What happens when California wants the Colorado River water back?"
"Where are all those people going to go?"
"Uh oh."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kansas blocks coal plant

This morning I found a Washington Post story re-printed on page A16 of the Seattle Times. Pretty well buried. "Kansas cites carbon emmions in blocking coal plants," by Steven Mufson.
Good for Kansas.
Good for us, too. The ruling by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment was based on the April April Supreme Court ruling that greenhouse gasses could be considered polltants.
This is too big to bury on page A16 - it's a rather important ruling, particularly if it gets held up.
I wouldn't have expected this to come from Kansas, but I'm really pleased it did. That sends an even stronger message than if one of us on the coast started this trend.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Resource Wars: Water in the South

I get an email called something like "The Homeland Security Daily Wire" every day at work. One topic in yesterday's email was the drought in the south. It showed up again in the paper today - in an AP article, so it's probably in everyone's paper today.

Climate change is going to redistribute resources. At this point, at least in the American south today, we're dealing with it in the courts. But what happens when if whole communities run out of water?

What kind of long-term thinking do we need to do now to manage this kind of issue globally?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore and the IPCC Deserved the Medal

It's amazing how much grumbling has been going on about the Nobel Prize award today. But maybe that's a sign of how good and important the work is.

Peace requires a world without resource wars. Think about Maslow's hierarchy. It defines those things we need, like food and shelter, as required before we can reach for the higher-pinnacle stuff like enlightenment.

Before we can reach for anything as lofty and elusive as peace, we need the bottom of the pyramid built - we need solutions to problems like hunger and inexpensive and healthy energy, like basic human health and freedoms, and the right to lay our head down at night and know that we won't be killed for something as uncontrollable as gender or race, as ethnic origin or religion.

Let's all quit grumbling and get on with all the myriad ways we're looking for peace - for ourselves, our families, our countries, our home.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bits from Discover Brilliant

I learned a lot from the Discover Brilliant conference...the last post referenced a little bit of it, and there was way more than I have time to post. But I wanted to mention a few things I learned.

One - I'd never really thought about the fact that the energy grid isn't really a storage mechanism...its a great big on-demand delivery network. So if power gets produced that doesn't get used, it generally gets lost. That makes me understand a few things more clearly, including why extra hot days or extra cold nights are so hard on the system. Of interest, a renewable grid might have more storage (for example in form of plug-in hybrids) and have more origination points.

Two - There is some talk about energy star like labelling of buildings. I mean we had things like Medallion All-Electric homes (is anyone else old enough to remember those?), but this is about efficiency and might be a useful scrap of transparency. A buyer might want to know this, for example.

Three - We don't have much information. For example, I don't know if my frig or my washer or my heater or my various entertainment electronics are using more power except anecdotally. A household measuring grid would be cool. Think RFID and Wireless and little bitty personal meters. Then expand that though into commercial buildings, which are starting to get there via something called a Building Information Manager. Although I bet a lot of buildings don't have them. Or don't have good, modern ones.

Four - for all the hype about alternative sources of fuel (and that is an important issue), there are easier and bigger gains in conservation - in buildings, around driving and travel, at home, etc.

So with that I'm out of lunch hour...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Cross-Post on Futurist.com

I'm attending days one and two of the Brilliant Green conference in Seattle. I got up early this morning and wrote a blog post over at Futurist.com on the conference opening. I promise to post more later - this is a really rich conference.

At the moment I'm hearing from a City of Seattle staff member mentioning how strong Seattle is on green building. I know the cities around Seattle are doing the same thing - working on green building programs. Lets hear it for us.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Weeding the Park

I spent the morning pulling invasives out of Watershed Park as part of a volunteer effort called "Green Kirkland" that is sponsored by the Cascade Land Conservancy. The Nix and I walked to the park (which took an hour and fifteen minutes), and then she laid down and watched me (and was a very good golden retreiver) while I wandered about pulling pretty-smelling weeds and wondered if I was going to have energy to weed the garden (no). It took up two hours to get home, and Nixie held up better than me.

It seemed like a lot of people (there were around twenty-five or thirty) making very small progress, but at the end of the three-hour stint, there really was visible change. Mitigating climate change is going to be a lot like that.

Maybe I'll get to my own garden tomorrow. It has its share of invasives.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Local events for Seattleites

This is "Sustainable September," which seems to be catching on as a green event. A Google search finds an Australian site for it first. Well, in Kirkland, we have our own version of Sustainable September, which is sponsored by our Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with local cities and colleges. And as is the way of the world, one piece of knowledge leads to another, and at the opening event for Sustainable September, I learned about a Seattle area conference, Discover Brilliant 2007. Both local events look like good opportunities to learn.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Weather Extremes

We just enjoyed a nearly-perfect Labor-day weekend, even managing to get a painting project done that we'd put off for a month because of an excessively rainy and overcast late summer in Washington State. We tend to do family check-ins around the holidays -- and the Arizona and California Cooper contingents both reported extraordinary heat. The California heat apparently played havoc with the power grid down there, and Phoenix has had a record number of three-digit temperature days this year.
Hurricane season is off to a strong start (Felix is heading toward land in Central America as I write this). Certainly there have been many other weather-related top news stories (maybe some chicken and egg, but the events have been happening). Floods in West Africa. Worse Monsoons that normal in India.
As a futurist, I generally avoid predictions (in favor of broader termed discussions about likely outcomes), but I'm willing to predict that wilder weather pretty-much worldwide. Even though there's progress on some small fronts and a lot more attention to climate change, we're still increasingly destabilizing a very sensitive system.
I think I'd best be sure out emergency stocks are good before the end of summer!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

News from this month

August seems to be full of news on the global warming front. From today, three bits. A CNN article says Arctic sea ice expected to hit record low. This is not particularly news as it's been predicted widely, but it's one of the global warming affects we really don't want to see happen even faster than current models predict. This is one of the feedback loop problems - the more ice you have, the more sunlight reflects away from the earth, and the more ice you keep (or gain). The less ice you have...well, you get the idea. And there are a lot of feeding grounds up north for key animals in the food chain which depend on typical (cold) conditions.

There is, of course, Hurricane Dean. While we had hurricanes before global warming, they are expected to be be stronger and more frequent as they like warm water. Dean is approaching Jamaica at a category 4 as I write this, and may hit Cancun at a category 5.

And in today's PI, a more upbeat editorial called Global warming: The race is on in our state, by Joe Copeland. He lauds our leaders who have taken strong stances related to global warming and talks about Bracken Hendrick's and Jay Inslee's new book, Apollo's Fire, which according to Copeland suggests that tooling up for new, clean energy will bring up many good things - economically and for the planet. That's the attitude we need - that we can make this better.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Santa Barbara's Light Blue Line

You know how some issues get City Council halls overflowing? I've seen it happen over siting a jail in a city, over hosting a tent city, over almost anything residents are a little frightened or a little worried about. It is almost always a good thing when an idea galvanizes a community enough (pro or con) that a lively conversation ensures. Democracy at work and all that.
My dad sent me one of those from Santa Barbara, California. Now, if you've never been there, Santa Barbara is the kind of place you imagine when you think of an oceanfront utopia. It's got beautiful beaches, history, well-kept lawns, a University, an old California Mission, excellent restaurants and shopping, and growth has been managed so tightly housing costs keep most normal human beings out of town except to visit. Every time I've been there (visiting), there's been a wonderful art show on the water.
There is also now a proposal to paint a light blue line around town to show sea level after the Greenland ice-sheet melts. I think this is a brave and smart move. But like most other decisions about global warming, there are valid concerns. For example, do property values go down on the seaward side of the blue line? Will it become a tourist attraction and is that good or bad? Will it be more expensive to remove than to apply?
I'm sure it will be a conversation piece. It looks to me like a vivid reminder of what we might lose if we stay complacent. A lot of beach and a lot of a major coastal highway appear to be on the seaward side. There are pictures here.
The line is not painted yet, and I don't know if it's going to be or not - Santa Barbara is still having a conversation. I hope they do paint it, and if they do, I'll probably try to go visit. After all, Santa Barbara is one of my favorite towns anyway.
I think I can take the train.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lake Shasta

We took a train trip from Seattle to San Louis Obispo last week. On the way, we passed by Lake Shasta. The bare reddish banks were so dry and so tall that boats looked tiny against them, and even though the lake still holds a lot of water, it looks lower than I've ever seen it. So I went out to see what other people thought once I got back to civilization and connectivity. According to this article, it's the lowest it's been in 13 years.
Now, I know it's not a given that's climate change is the main cause. But many of the commenters on the article seemed to think so. I also learned an interesting little side-note - dams emit a bunch of methane, which also a dangerous greenhouse gas.
Anyway - I really like the lake and hope it doesn't become a new normal.
Otherwise, things looked pretty healthy from a train window passing by at 50 miles an hour. That's a good thing. When you live in a busy suburb of a busy city, and spend a bunch of time flying and driving to other busy suburbs of busy cities, you forget how much open country there is. The Coast Starlight passed through a lot of very pretty land with few people. It all looked worth protecting.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hawaii: Asking about Global Warming

I just got back from the island of Maui, in Hawaii. We enjoyed perfect weather – cool all morning because of the fabulous trade winds that blow fine mist and the scent of the sea and tropical flowers into obscure corners of the island. There were two fires in the week and a half we were there, which snarled traffic and blackened large sections of hills. Meanwhile, while we basked in cooling winds and 85 degree highs (still slightly brutal to Seattleites), the home front has had warmer and nastier days. We’ve heard on the news that major cities have been opening “cooling shelters.” This is new vocabulary for Seattleites, and I’m hopeful we won’t have to get used to it.
When I travel, I often like to ask local people about the signs of global warming. Not always scientists, but normal people, too. When my parents and I took a hiking day, we asked about the fires at the nature center on the way up to Iao point. We heard that Maui was having a drought which had already lasted over two years. Days later, I was out accompanying Katie, my partner’s ten-year-old, on a parasail ride. I asked the guys that drove the boat what signs of global warming they saw in Hawaii. They said the weather had been warm a few years, but who can tell if that’s global warming? They truly didn’t seem too concerned. Except one of them looked over just after he two people up into the clear blue sky strapped to a bright gold and green parasail. “But the one thing they say might happen to us is we could lose the trade winds.” He did look a bit afraid at that. Me too. The winds were what made Hawaii habitable, at least for us.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Resource Wars: Here Already?

I read a very scary article in the Seattle times on Friday, June 22nd, titled Experts warn Darfur is "an early warning" of climate change's effects, by ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU. I actually had to let it sink in before I was ready to post about it.

There are a lot of potential bad feedback mechanisms related to global warming. Hopefully at least some of them are overblown products of the doomsday-mad. But others seem likely. For example, sunlight melts ice in the ocean. The more ice melts, the more sun hits the water (instead of being reflected away by ice) and the warmer the water, the more the ice melts. Pretty simple, huh?

This article talks about Darfur. It suggests a few things, but some of the basic logic goes something like: The conflict started at least partly as a result of drought, which made water and wood and other necessities hard to get (this is a resource war). The conflict itself requires more resources than peaceful living, thus stripping the area even more. The more the scarce resources are used up, the less resilient the ecosystem. As the area gets hotter and drier (assuming that is the affect of climate change there), then the conflict gets worse.

And I'm using nice words like "conflict" instead of more appropriate ones like "genocide."

So we have a resource war in Iraq. We also have a resource war in Darfur. What's next? And is this same logic eventually going to apply to, say, downtown Phoenix? Let's hope that thought is one for the doomsday-mad.

But while we wait to find out, maybe we should closely at the affects of climate change on resources and make part of our mitigation plans to shift water and food and shelter where its needed.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A nice travel and carbon entry at Futurist.com

I want to point out a blog entry over at Futurist.com, where a new member of our team there, Kanna Hudson, did a nice job discussing summer travel choices and global warming.

And speaking of summer travel and global warming, I just did a day-trip to Canada on the train. Generally, it worked well. It was more expensive than driving ($80 for tickets and $20 to park; the drive would have been about $60) unless you start counting all the wear and tear on the car and the like. Maybe by then the train was about the same. The whole trip took more overall travel time, but I got some of it back: I read and napped and answered email.

Both trains left on time. The only downside was they arrived a their respective stations on time, but then it was almost an hour to actually get off the train and through customs in Vancouver, B.C., and a half hour to get off the train in Seattle for no apparent reason. Customs coming south was pretty quick.

Friday, May 25, 2007

An Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson

I've recommended Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy about climate change (which begins with Forty Signs of Rain) for some time now. He graciously agreed to do an interview for me, which is posted at Futurist.com. He's got some thoughtful answers, and I highly recommend a visit to read them.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Through the Eyes of a Child

We pulled a tree out of the front yard last Sunday. It was a little tree - a cypress that we'd moved from one place to another when we bought the house, and which was getting too big in the new place, too. A kind of normal gardening chore during spring clean-up. We were already researching what kind of bush we might replace it with.

Well, just as I was pulling the tree out of the ground, our other car drove up, including the ten-year-old, who caught me in the act. She wailed. I immediately became a murderer. Silly me, I suggested that it was like weeding, which we all do all the time. Little did I know that a tree is, on no case, a weed (I recall weeding my farm of alders to keep pasture and to leave room for young cedars when I lived a more rural life).

Anyway, I was in trouble for the rest of the evening. Not only did I pull the tree out but I also lopped it into pieces small enough to put into the recycle bin and I didn't do any kind of ceremony to lament its passing.

But it made me remember one night in California, where I grew up, when I sat up by a favorite stand of eucalyptus trees and watched the cars go by on the interstate below. This was when the orange groves were being yielded to housing tracts at the rate of a few acres a day and drives down familiar roads lined with unfamiliar sights happened regularly. I was sitting under the eucalyptus, breathing in their sandy scent, crying for the orange groves.

Maybe we should all feel the Earth the way kids do. I know I haven't cried for trees in a long time. Maybe it's time I tried that again. After all, when I print a ream of pretty, glossy, unrecycled paper, I'm using the life of a tree.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Seattle Times Challenge Continues: Our Report

The Seattle Times Climate Challenge continues...an encouragement for all of Puget Sound to do better. Popular columnist Nicole Brodeur reported out today. She's starting where we started - way too much carbon usage.
We're still there. I'd have to say we're energy pigs. We own two cars and drive them both most days. We travel. We have more computers than people and tons of devices.
We're changing, but slowly.
Things we've done across the last year include taking the bus to work at least once a week every week we can (we often have to go to more than one place across a work day), switching to an environmentally friendly dry-cleaner, installing fluorescent bulbs in some lights, buying terrapasses to offset airline travel, and trying to plan trips to reduce driving. We bought new energy efficient windows (we needed windows anyway). We did do a few things for Earth Day, too. We signed up for the green power program at PSE which lets us pay more for power and supports PSE as they buy green power or invest in building green power plants (kind of like a more focused terrapass). We bought a new washer and dryer and they coincidentally got delivered on Earth Day. We chose the Whirlpool Duet, and then had to paint the laundry room since an empty room demands paint. We picked an eco friendly paint from Benjamin Moore. $56 a gallon.
We've been doing good. But not good enough.
The paint is symbolic for our choices (a gallon of bad-for-the-world paint would be half that price or less). We've been throwing money at the problem. That's good , and something we can do to a limited extent, although we've got to finish paying for the windows before we do anything else big. It sort of feels like middle-class reaction.
We might have to actually do something harder soon to keep getting better.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day

Hey mom! It’s spring, and really pretty outside. Thanks for the flowering cherry trees I can see outside my window, and the tender little vine maples with the slenderest of new leaves just now uncurling from wherever they slept the winter away. Thanks for my dogs barking in the backyard, running and playing and wagging their tails. Thanks for the bright and unlikely-to-actually-rain-today clouds of a Northwest spring.
Thanks for my friends and my family and the art on my wall. It’s all of a piece, and if I can just stay in the moment I can see that.
Oh...and thanks for the bring purple tulips and the fifteen colors of green in a single tree outside.
P.S. Thanks for the beam of sunshine.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Seared Ground

I'm in Lake Chelan, Washington, at a business meeting. Through a variety of odd linkages, that resulted in my visiting with two cowboy poets in the bar last night. They're real cowboys, the kind of men that lead strings of horses and mules up into the roadless North Cascades.

I asked them about global warming and climate change. First, they didn't question it at all. These are men that know the land and the trees and the snow pack and the migration of animals like I know stop signs and walking trails and urban dog parks.

So I asked them, "All right, what's the biggest danger for you? What do you see up there in the wild?"

They worried most about fire. There are a bark-beetle killed trees (bark-beetle habitat is changing - I think spruce worms is the other term I've heard) which they say will burn like torches. Combine that with the way the forest has been managed for people instead of for the sake of the forest itself; we have too much underbrush, too many years fire hasn't neatly scored out the deadfall. They said the fires are so hot now they sterilize the ground. They told me a tale of a government-sponsored program to truck in straw - bales and bales and bales of pale-yellow straw - and use helicopters to spread it across the seared earth in hopes that it will slow erosion and decompose enough to allow grass to grow again in a few years. They said that without the straw, all of the places touched by the too-hot fire wouldn't grow anything for a decade or more.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Seattle Times Challenges us to Reduce Carbon Footprint

With Earth Day coming, the Seattle Times spent a lot of expensive Sunday paper ink talking about how to reduce the average family's carbon footprint. Kudos to them. Read the online article, or better yet, buy a copy of the paper which has a great colored pull-out on the topic.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Paving Paradise

I didn't make it out to any of the Step it Up protests today, but I did get out for an after-dinner walk with the dog. We did some cloud-watching as the evening burnished the bottoms of the clouds with gold and yet still lit the very tops brilliant white.

During dinner, we had been talking with a friend of ours who wants to be a Red Cross worker after she retires, and is already looking into how to get the right training. It seems like a good idea: climate change almost certainly means climate chaos (after all, why should the climate take to change any better than we do?). I mean, really. Hailstones as big as fists landed in Dallas and late spring snow fell all across the southern plains this week, followed by violent thunderstorms.

But back to cloud watching. I grew up in the 60's and 70's, and I like a lot of that music. I have what I call a "green mix" on my ipod that I put together for an event about ecologically sound choices. So by pure coincidence, I ended up walking across a wide swath of wetland/open space that Nintendo has posted permits to build on while listening to Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" - you know, the one about paving paradise with parking lots. I was singing it, too, really loudly, and Nixie, our golden retriever, was walking in front of me with her tail wagging to the beat. A few songs later, back on the main street, John Denver crooned through "Rocky Mountain High."

These songs were seeds of change.

We've been working on these same issues for forty years. We've made a little progress.

The last song in my Mix is "Imagine" by John Lennon. If you know those lyrics, that's what we need to do now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Step it Up Seattle

There is a large linked global warming event coming on April 14th (This Saturday). Called Step it Up, the idea is to gather and promote actions to mitigate global warming. Sort of green protests if you will. Find one near you at www.stepitup2007.org. I'm quite heartened to see there are a LOT of events planned for the Pacific Northwest. In fact, the map looks a lot like the red/blue voting map, only for this saturday, the coasts are bright green and the interirior is dotted with green, mostly in the major cities.

I may have to miss, but I hope that these are well attended.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More Web Resources

I came across a great web resource the other day -- idealbite.com. You can sign up to have tips emailed to you daily. The idea behind it seems to be that for many of us, if we just knew what to do, we'd do it. I did sign up, and the emails I've gotten for three days so far now have been useful reminders, and I learned a few new things. Worth the time. Hasn't resulted in any excess spam so far. I like it!

And for a more complex site you can get to a lot of research documents from, try climate solutions.

I also got an email from a fellow that's just starting to do a wiki about sustainable goals. It's pretty empty right now - think of it as a clean slate you can go help him write on! The url is www.sgoals.net.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Little Mirrors

There is an article running around the web and in the papers with a bunch of far-out scientific ideas for global warming mitigation...adding iron to the sea, making artificial trees, having a man-made volcano. One of these ideas, out of the University of Arizona, is called a space-launched solar umbrella and is made up of a bunch of mirrors that reflect some of the sunlight away from the earth.
The first science fiction story I published was a collaboration with the very brilliant Larry Niven called "Ice and Mirrors." In that story, published in Asimov's Science Fiction in February 2001, Larry and I have evil aliens use the same exact device to freeze a planet. The idea for the mirrors was Larry's (all this was shortly after Kim Stanley Robinson wrote his Red/Green/Blue Mars series that had a single big mirror called a "soletta" warming Mars and so the idea may have kind of come from that - I really don't remember).
It feels kind of like Star Trek communicators and cell phones....maybe we'll get weather control from space using little mirrors. A great example of the way science and science fiction play well with each other.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Night Walk with Frogs

I walked up to the local 7-11 last night. It was, sort of, raining. We have a particular kind of soft rain in the northwest that seems like tiny drops just hanging like a thin curtain in the air. Not falling, just making sure everything is properly wet. This walk is along 148th street, four lanes with turn-outs and traffic lights, past the entrance to Microsoft's Red-West campus, past a municipal golf course, and a large wetland Nintendo keeps claiming they'll build on. In simpler terms, it's a big, busy concrete street with a lot of wet stuff on either side, and wet stuff hanging in the air.
There was a chorus playing almost the whole way. An uncountable number of frogs reveling in the warming wet air and singing in the dark. Living with the concrete and the cars and singing. I realize this is anthropomorphizing, but they sounded quite happy.
This is what we risk. The happiness of frogs. They are a bit of a bellwether species, and while I can't see the poor thin polar bears, I can hear the frogs.
I keep seeing the words mass extinction associated with global warming, and I suspect it's because the change is too fast. Evolution likes change, just not change moving at the speed of a big SUV barrelling down 148th, threatening the frogs.
I think I'll try to listed to the frogs as often as possible this year.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Kim Stanley Robinson

I'm reading the next book in Kim Stanley Robinson's series on climate change, SIXTY DAYS AND COUNTING. He's really very, very good. This is a series of fiction books that outlines a possible scenario for climate change. The scary part is that the books talks about many of the things brought up today in a CNN article about the affects of climate change. I know KSR does his homework - I read his series about terraforming Mars and then did a bunch of actual research on terraforming to prepare for writing BUILDING HARLEQUIN'S MOON with Larry Niven. KSR had clearly used the same base research we found (a book by Martin Fogg and a bunch of articles by various people). So it didn't surprise me to find that his science fiction is mimicking the real world rather well.
I highly recommend the series. In fact, I highly recommend that you either read KSR's whole trilogy or you read the CNN article and think about it hard, or you do both. :)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Earthweek: Australia Thinking like Terraformers

This week's Earthweek has a little blurb mentioning that Australia is trying to create an "escape corridor," or a place where animals can migrate to different habitats freely without having to pass through major cities.
The science fiction writer in me kinda likes that idea. When we write about terraforming (changing a planet to make it more habitable) we often consider that humans will have a major role in gardening new species/helping earth species adapt.
Perhaps we will need to also take a hand in helping species survive the current warming period.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I had to quote this

From an article by Robert Lee Holtz, for the Los Angeles Times and also printed in today's Seattle Times:
"Based on two years of study, the scientists called for dramatic actions ranging from carbon taxes and a ban on conventional coal-fired plants to an end to all beachfront construction worldwide."

It's the last few words that king of emphasize yesterday's post.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Vacations and Sea Level Rise

First, sorry for the long time between posts. I was vacationing...and as a side note, some of that time was in southeastern Arizona. In one of the hotels we stayed in (The Skywatcher's Inn, or maybe The Astronomer's Inn, not sure which of the two is current, but it's a fabulous funky place with real astronomy gear and rent-an-astronomers to show you how to use it), there was only one trash can, and a sign above that said something like "Throw everything here. The town of Benson doesn't have a recycling program." A good reminder that we one the progressive coastlines in our blue states forget that some of rural America might as well be in the fifties. Sigh. But it was a nice vacation, and I didn't have to think about sea level rise much in the middle of the high desert. If it ever gets that high, we're pretty much doomed to building arks and praying anyway. I wonder if the story of Noah is from a previous global warming period?

Anyway, there was an AP article out yesterday that talked about England abandoning some coastline in Happisburgh. The article says "the government has decided that with the expected rise in sea levels that experts attribute to global warming, some vulnerable coastal areas are no longer worth defending." It's worth reading. There will be American coastlines where the same logic holds true.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I've noticed a lot of "Humans didn't really cause this" talk lately

A lot of the lists that I participate in are populated by pretty smart futuristic people. They are natural skeptics. One bit that I read lately suggests that global warming is more related to the activity of the sun than than to humans. Apparently, this is based on a scientific study that was hard to get published because of it is not politically correct.

That led me to two reactions.

First, no valid research should be suppressed because it's not "politically correct." That's what happened to Galileo. Proof that while our tools and problems and even our hopes change, basic human nature is a tougher nut to crack. So if valid research is being suppressed for lack of political correctness I feel sad about that (yes, I know the Bush Administration did the same thing - but my reaction there is more like anger and futility...how did we as a people elect someone who suppresses research that doesn't support a particular view, and a largely religious one at that?).

All right, that rant aside, the second reaction is more like "If true, so what?" We're still learning about the chaotic thing we call climate and weather , and there is probably no single cause or capital "T" truth about the changes (and plenty of evidence that there are changes). There are so many reasons that we should live lighter on the planet, including looking for clean energy, that I can't even begin to list them. We need to get past arguments about cause and work on pretty much everything we know is better - and there's a lot of that. Conservation. Wind and solar energy. Recycling. Health. So on to the work....

Also, I'm working with a few people from my department to host a "tips for saving energy" lunch event. We're open to ideas from out there.....

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Something we can do something about

We need to let our lawmakers know that we care passionately about global warming. Wherever we are. According to the Seattle Times, those of us living in Washington State are behind both Oregon and California. This would be a nice place for us to get into friendly competition. We need to let our legislators at all levels know we want actual, meaningful, painful action on climate change. We may not have the lobby money, but we have the ability to vote people out of office.

I also noticed a political cartoon somewhere (sorry I can't recall where) poking fun at the oil companies, basically saying that "Now that we have figured out how to make money from global warming, we're at the table." Well, duh. Whether we like it or not, this is a largely capitalist society. And while we all need to make changes, urge changes, lobby for changes, accept changes, it's the largest of our global corporations that are in the best fiscal position to make changes. After all, the Federal government didn't make what Exxon did last year.

Lets do three things:

  • Put in place the kind of regulation that punishes corporations for the "business as usual" that we don't want. And it's time to be somewhat draconian about it.
  • Put into place some real incentives for businesses and consumers. We shouldn't be as specific there: we want to reward creativity. The government (us and our taxes) can help fund research directly, and what we should incentivize for both consumers and corporations is actual action, before we run completely out of time.
  • Let the price of oil go up. The higher it goes, the more behavior will change. Yes, it will be hard on some people. But it will be harder to deal with runaway climate change.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Daylight savings time changes may be good for the planet

It hasn't been remarked on much in the media, but this year there are daylight savings time changes going into place in both the US and Britain. For us in the US, we'll be switching to DST earlier, and staying on it later. In fact, it's causing quite a bit of work for those of us in information technology: it's a bit like a mini Y2K as far as needing to check all of our systems so our calendars and timestamps and the like works. Although the consequences are not as bad as failing at Y2K might have been.
I know I'll like having more light in the evenings earlier. Living in the Pacific Northwest in the US, it's just now becoming light when we get off work. And that's the idea - it will be light longer sooner, and we may use less electricity to light up dark evenings. That seems to be the logic in the UK as well, where if I read a recent article right, they're going to switch back an hour all year.
No one knows how much it will save yet, and projections vary, but they are all positive.
I know the news is busy talking about the international report on global warming that is due (where the amount of it they're attributing to us humans is being increased, but by less than recommended due to China), but this is better than a report. It's action. And action is what we need.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Two good articles, and President Bush's plan

There is early talk on the AP wire about the report to be issued next week in Paris. In the article, Experts: Latest climate report too rosy, By SETH BORENSTEIN, there is discussion about sea level rises that, at the low end, start at five inches. At the high end, 55 inches. Neither of these numbers in insignificant. And others are claiming we should be thinking in feet.

There was also a great article on global warming in the Seattle Times print edition that I finally found online at the PI. Deniers: Join, and help, the warming world, by Johann Hari is an excellent rebuttal of any leftover arguments about global warming not really happening.

I am no fan of President Bush, who's history on this topic has been reprehensible. And his comments in the state of the union speech don't go far enough. I can, in fact, only imagine the huge amounts of leverage that must have been placed on him to get him to even say the words "climate change." But that aside, his plan wasn't as bad as I feared based on what I heard in the early media reports. Let's get behind him. At least there are steps. Not big enough, not enough, but steps that actually go in the right direction are damned rare from this administration. Lets walk on them.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

OK Time to Act on Global Warming

Early this week I came accross a story in the Contra Costa Times which noted that at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge there is a tidal gage. And that gage shows the ocean level is 7.5 inches higher than in 1900. Sounds like quite a lot to me.

Look, the data are in. Individual actions to combate warming are called for, they are great, and they are small. Only very large actions will have very great effects.

The Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton lays out 12 different things than can and should be done. Here are some of them:
  1. Increase fuel economy of 2 billion cars from 30-mpg to 60-mpg by 2050.
  2. Decrease driving for 2 billion 30-mpg cars in half, through mass transit, urban design for walking and biking, telecommuting, and other measures.
  3. Develop zero-emission vehicles including plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles powered by renewable energy.
  4. Increase efficiency of new appliances and buildings to achieve zero-carbon emissions, resulting in 25% total reduction by 2050.
  5. Ramp up wind power, (cost competitive now) to add 3 million 1-megawatt windmills globally, 75 times current capacity.
  6. Add 3000 gigawatts of peak solar photovoltaic, 1000 times current capacity.
  7. No new net coal power plants – for each new plant built improve efficiency from 32 to 60%, require CO2 sequestration, and take one old plant off-line.
Now we are talking. Will we do it?

Monday, January 22, 2007

On Carbon Caps and Christmas Lights

Well, there is some buzz in today's media that the President will announce some new support for global warming - carbon trading. From what I understand (and there are a few conflicting news items out there), non-polluting industries will get to sell their good behavior to industries that want to keep behaving badly. It's kind of like buying consumer carbon offsets, which is not nearly as good as actually reducing personal carbon footprints. At least in consumer carbon offset purchases (like Terrapass), the money spent for the carbon offset goes directly into green energy (in most cases). They are part of my portfolio of tricks to get my net consumption down. But the way Mr. Bush's program was explained via radio today, it would be like letting someone who litters keep littering as long as they paid off someone who wasn't going to litter anyway.

I hope I just don't get it.

And the Christmas lights? They're like a song in the dark wet cold of the Northwest winter. But I have this sneaky feeling it's going to become very uncool to string thousands of extra lights up for a month every year. I might have to go into mourning.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A bad news, good news day

An AP article on McDonald's opening a drive-in in China is headlined "New Partnership in China link Big Macs and big oil. " Apparently McDonald's has a deal that lets them open restaurants near gas stations. Not exactly forward progress. According to the article, China is now the world's second largest market for cars. That's the bad news. American companies failing to change to their business models to support even their own long-term health. Not new, but a behavior worth changing.

The Seattle Times also reprinted an article from the Wall Street Journal, "World demand for oil drops a bit," by Bhushan Bahree. I can't seem to get a link to it online to give you, but a key quote is "For the first time in years, the developed world is burning less of it (oil)." Nice. Now, global demand still grew, largely because of growth in China and the Middle East. But it's a good indicator. The article cites the following statistics: 2006 global oil demand increase .9 percent. 2005 global oil demand increase 1.5 percent. 2004 global oil demand 3.9 percent.

We used to boycott McDonalds over slash and burn forest destruction. Maybe it's time to boycott them for other ways of not being green enough. They don't seem to be learning their lessons very well.

I've also noticed a lot more advertising and more frequent articles about green building. In new housing, being green seems to be as attractive as almost everything except location. That's another good sign.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The cost of figuring it all out

Our city (Kirkland, WA) signed onto the Mayor's initiative to meet the Kyoto protocol - sort of a "local cities do things in spite of the feds" movement. We did this quite a while ago: Kirkland is basically a very green, conservation-oriented city. There was quite a discussion about it yesterday in Exec staff, bringing everybody up to date on what is being done for global warming, or in some cases, just better living. First, I'm quite proud to be part of a city that's doing as much as we are. There's even a groundswell of staff who aren't directly involved in these efforts wanting to participate.

One interesting part is the cost associated with it. Some things will pay for themselves, at least over time (think hybrid cars we've added to our fleet). Some efforts may have an immediate payoff (less energy use means lower bills). But there's a cost to measuring our carbon footprint so we can tell if we're reducing it enough. It's taking a lot of staff time and effort. Kyoto was so long ago, we actually can't accurately measure our 1990 carbon footprint. Public outreach and education will take staff time and money. We need to figure out how to fund or find a full-time coordinator. And people are really tough to add to cities in this post-Tim Eyeman age when our stable sources of income like property tax increase at less than inflation every year.

It's important to figure out, and since people are excited about helping, there's a lot of energy around figuring it out. But it's not going to be easy to fund in the short term. Of course, ignoring it would be more expensive.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Report on Global Warming costs in the PI

A news story from the Seattle PI on the a report detailing the costs of Global Warming to Washington State. There was also an article in the Seattle Times and it has shown up on other global warming related sites.

I'm glad to see it getting done. It does address some of the difficult challenges like sea-level rise. I hope that we see more and continued studies of this type. It needs to done, even though I'm sure it's not right. We don't know enough to get these things right, yet. After all, we've had the wettest and snowiest winter in the 13 years I've been here so far, which has completely gone against predictions (which were for a dry and warm winter, typical for El Nino conditions for us). Yet my partner's family in Kansas has seen a balmy winter and has tulips coming up already.

It also seems to me that we've had more interesting weather almost everywhere. The repeated snowstorms in Colorado, our wettest month ever on record (November, 2006), the ice storm that's sweeping the Midwest today. If anyone can point me to any statistics on this, I'd be interested. Are there really more rare weather events and record highs and lows this year than usual, or is it a function of the news that we just know about more?

As I write this, a day that was supposed to see "snow flurries" has had steadily falling snow for four hours. It's quite breathtakingly beautiful, and rare for us. And last summer was long, dry and hot. A set of seasons of extremes.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Inconvenient Truth Inconvenient in Federal Way, WA

The school district in Federal Way has banned showing Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth unless an opposing viewpoint is shown at the same time.

A few things come to mind:

My initial reaction is, What? Since when are we the science-poor and uneducated Bible-belt? I can't even believe we would do that. One of the quotes in the article is "Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who doesn't want the film shown at all.
"The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is," Hardison told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."
Yow! Under that logic, does science belong in school? An Inconvenient Truth quotes real research rather well.

My second reaction was - What? Do our students believe everything they hear? (Another point the AP article makes is that parent's claimed their kids were taking the movie as truth). Didn't anyone bother to teach them critical thinking. Can't kids see the film and decide for themselves?

The third thought was And maybe it is true. Then what? Pretty inconvenient for your kids to believe something you don't. They might turn the lights out from time to time or suggest that you walk somewhere. Where is the danger in acting to reduce greenhouse gasses? What horrid thing happens?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Global Warming in the Snow

It's cold here in the Northwest. We've had a day of snow and snarly commutes. So far, this winter has been colder and snowier than any I remember in the thirteen years I've been here. But global warming still came up a lot.
I had an early morning business meeting, and an effort the City of Kirkland is one community player in (among many) came up - Sustainable September. We're going to work on having events and public information and business-directed talks, etc. in September on sustainability. I kind of hope we try for carbon neutrality as well (note that I just bought plane tickets and we bought the $5.99 Terrapass carbon offset for each of us). Maybe the whole city could be encouraged to be carbon neutral for the month. Yeah, a lot would have to be through things like Terrapass that don't quite get us to use less, but some wouldn't be. As a community, we could contribute by both reducing energy consumption and by investing in green energy through offset programs.
We talked about our sustainability lunches at work.
And of course, the big news in the paper today was that this was the warmest year on record for the United States.
And still the roads were so snowy I took the bus home and we walked out in the snow with the dogs, wearing our ski gear.
It's a strange world.

Friday, January 05, 2007

British Predictions, and a Few Thoughts

Sometimes it feels like I'm parroting whatever is in the news (which, today, is British predictions about global warming that suggest 2007 will be the warmest year on record), but when I flip back, it's gives me a sort of order that news is coming to my attention and what I started out wanting, which was a way to record all the ways climate change is affecting my life.

I'm also beginning to think it's really more about climate change than about global warming. The week's Earthweek highlights some killing cold temperatures. It's been colder than expected here, and warmer than expected in New England. So maybe the overall trend is up, but what happens in a particular area is not so clear. Note a ton of earthquake activity, too. I wonder is earthquake activity is changed by temperature? I would think it has to be, but how?

I have a blog entry posted at futurist.com about the need for businesses to plan for global warming. One thing I caution people about is infrastructure planning - and I suggest people don't build expensive things which they hope will have a long life near sea-level near coasts. One comment on that article included the following sentence "I’m wondering if we should sell our home + move to higher ground, but when big companies are building all around me, I’m wondering if that means their engineers have figured out a solution like dikes or something?"

Well, first, ask. Maybe people are being forward-thinking. But I'd bet that's a no. In fact, I bet you'd still get laughed at. We're so used to the idea that seafront property is valuable and good that the idea of a radical shift in that is just hard to take. Humans change slowly.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Some News and Some New Year Wishes

Bits in news lately are that the East Coast has had a very warm winter while we've had a stormy (although not particularly cold) one. Retail was affected by the weather - fewer people bought cold-weather clothes, for example. In some areas of the country, it didn't feel like Christmas. This is not as superficial as it may sound - we need a strong economy to fuel the changes we need to make.

I guess I have three New Year's wishes worth mentioning (but if you are reading this, feel free to post some more).

1) More of us make more small changes. The US is making progress - our energy consumption rise per capita was less than other industrialized nations. That doesn't mean we are going the right direction yet, but if we can all make changes, they'll add up.

2) A serious breakthrough in energy happens. Lots of work going on in this area - I'm starting to research a more in-depth article. This is at least plausible. We need a breakthrough that radically enhances an existing technology or produces a new one that does not need an extensive delivery system and is easily adoptable by consumers. It's probably too much to hope such a thing will be affordable for all as well this year, but many middle-class and up consumers would switch to something greener even if it cost more.

3) We need a space breakthrough. Bezos' recent flight and Space Ship One are baby steps. We are a curious and adventuresome race and we need to be able to get away. Doesn't mean I want us to get away and leave a wrecked hulk of a planet behind, but it's time to quit holding all of our future in a single environment threatened by us, but also by asteroids and other stuff. I know this one is pretty tangential to global warming, but if we don't solve the climate change problem, or the tipping point is past, we know the Earth has frozen completely before. Which doesn't leave much room for the idea that good-sized pockets of civilization will carry the torch until thing stabilize.