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.