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American playhouse…

A playhouse with a flag in a cold concrete front yard. Seems like the perfect analogy for our country these days…

(Picture taken on Chestnut Avenue in South San Francisco, California on June 2nd, 2014)

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Hornstra Farms: local hero, redux

Local, natural, community focused: Massachusetts’ Outstanding Dairy Farm is thriving.

IMG_0412When we last visited John Hornstra five years ago, he had just bought a local farm here in the pretty affluent suburbs south of Boston, and had grand plans. Hornstra had delivered our milk (in glass bottles!) for years when we lived in Massachusetts, and he still delivers the same milk (and chocolate milk, and egg nog at Christmas) to my daughter’s family. But he had plans—to build his recently purchased farm into a local community place, a place for kids (and not just kids) to see how farms work, and to get real food. Most important was his plan to bring dairy farming back to the area that his family had lived in, and been dairy framers in, for several generations. So how’s that working out? Continue reading

Global warming

Is the climate change fight better off without Joe Q. Public?

If global warming was shifted to the backburner, fighting it might generate less opposition.

Global warmingIn an opinion piece at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dawn Stover recently wrote:

Apparently most Americans have not only lost interest in learning about what’s happening to our world, but are actively repelled by the very mention of this world. Continue reading

Baggy Point

North Devon diary

The Southwest of England is quiet, but it boasts an active cultural life.

Gnomes reading, Gnome Reserve

Gnomes reading, Gnome Reserve

One of the many enjoyable things about living in England is that, no matter where you are, if you drive for an hour you’ll likely end up in a completely different microclimate. So driving from London to North Devon, in the southwest of England bordering on the Irish Sea, can be discombobulating this time of year. Spring in this part of the country is a good two to three weeks behind London. Or London Spring is two to three weeks ahead of where it should be—it depends on your perspective. But being out here for nine days, with nothing to do except for walking and reading, lets me experience early spring for a second time, and it’s just as good the second time around.

Of course, out here they had a very wet and stormy winter—London was relatively peaceful by comparison. Continue reading

WordsDay: Literature

Book Review: Danger in Blackwater Swamp by Saundra Kelley

Suspense, yes…but an awful lot of thoughtful – and realistic – romance, too…

Danger in Blackwater Swamp by Saundra Kelley

Danger in Blackwater Swamp by Saundra Kelley is one of those interesting books that benefits from having an identity crisis. Its principle desire is, I think, to be a standard offering in the suspense genre. Instead it winds up being only partly a suspense tale (to the author’s credit, it will bring readers to the edge of their seats at multiple points in the narrative); with – or without – the author’s permission, it also offers us a set of mature, engrossing characters in the protagonists who have lived and loved and lost – and who may (we begin to hope as we get to know them) get to love again.  As I read this book I found myself reminded of Anthony Trollope’s dictum about the characters he (or any writer) might create. To paraphrase, Trollope observes that characters have to do what they have to do – and it’s up to the author to be wise enough to allow characters that freedom. Lucky for readers, Saundra Kelley is an author that wise.

Continue reading

CATEGORY: Climate

Climate Illogic: Poisoning discussion is easier than countering climate science

If you can’t dispute the facts, attacking your opponent may distort the debate before it even starts.

Model performance vs. measured global average surface temperature (IPCC AR5)

Model performance vs. measured global average surface temperature (IPCC AR5)

For more posts in this series, please click here.

Debates can be difficult. This is especially true when you’re arguing against subjects that are nearly indisputable, such as evolution or industrial climate disruption (aka climate change). When faced with this situation, it is nearly always easier to create a distraction than it is to argue with either the science or the data underlying it. If the distraction is successful, then you don’t even have to debate the science or data at all – you get to focus on something that you choose and that may be totally unrelated to the argument at hand.

In discussions of climate disruption there are a number of common distractions. For example, the term “catastrophic global warming” is a straw man – a claim that scientists don’t actually make that’s easier to debate than the actual nature of climate change and model projections. Similarly, the argument that the supposedly missing tropospheric hot spot disproves greenhouse gas-driven climate disruption is another straw man, in this case because it’s not the hot spot that demonstrates greenhouse gases, but rather the heating in the troposphere and the cooling in the stratosphere.

Sometimes, however, deniers of industrial climate disruption try to derail any discussion of climate science before it even starts. One way they do this is by using a tactic and logical fallacy known as “poisoning the well,” and it’s the focus of today’s Climate Illogic. Continue reading

Fukushima

Fukushima: Gone, just gone

For the children, for everyone, Japan lost on March 11th, 2011

Gone, just gone, replaced by an ever-flowing teardrop.

They’re the bubblegum kids no one is ever going to know,

rotting out their lives in the cold of Mishima’s boiling sea.

There’s grace in the truncheons of justice they may have become.

Continue reading

CATEGORY: Climate

Climate change in the Department of Defense 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review

For the fourth time since 2008 the Defense Department finds that climate change will exacerbate tensions and conflict.

In June 2008, the Department of Defense under then President George W. Bush published its 2008 National Defense Strategy. In this document was a single mention of climate change as one of trends and risks that could “pose a new range of challenges for states and societies” that “will affect existing security concerns such as international terrorism and weapons proliferation.”

Since then, the Department of Defense (DoD) has discussed climate change in major strategy documents three additional times. The latest, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, was published today (March 4). In the executive summary to the Review, the DoD writes that

The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities.

Continue reading

A delicate monster

Thoughts on saving a honey bee

After the rains, Brisbane is a drowning pool for baby rodents and all the teeming airborne insects normally fuelled by the sun. It’s an incidental, non-malicious cleansing which some say takes teeny animal souls back to various waiting rooms to wait for rebirth in some other Earthly form.

Continue reading

Mapping Utah by Denny Wilkins

How we find our way: Denny Wilkins’ Mapping Utah – a Review

Knowing where you’re going takes all the fun out of getting there…

Mapping Utah by Denny Wilkins (image courtesy deadlines amuse me)

Kara McAllister is lost and she knows it. That’s why she is drawn to a strange Rand- McNally map of the Inter-mountain West that she finds in a Powell’s Bookstore in Portland as she is running away from a failed relationship, a successful career – and herself. How she comes to find a new relationship, a new career, and, ultimately, herself, is the central narrative of Denny Wilkins’ first novel, Mapping Utah.

It’s Kara who is the protagonist of this work. That must be understood before the novel’s achievement reveals itself. There are plenty of antagonists: bad guys who would ruin delicate wilderness areas for their petty amusements, corrupt police and politicians who sell the public trust, bad lovers who see their relationships as conveniences.

But there’s only one Kara. And it’s her deconstruction and reconstruction that drives Wilkins’ novel and makes Mapping Utah more than a ripping good yarn – which it is, by the way.

This is a book with romance, geology, action, botany, suspense, technology, politics, weightlifting. There’s a way in for almost any reader, in other words, no matter how escapist or academic or transactional (think “how to”) his/her tastes might be. Continue reading

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Roy Spencer calls climate scientists and activists “global warming Nazis”

Roy Spencer’s rant on climate change “deniers” vs. “global warming Nazis” indicates that his signature achievements are in the past.

Table of most of the corrections made by UAH team to satellite record of global temperature.

Table of most of the corrections made by UAH team to satellite record of global temperature.

There was a point when climate scientist Roy Spencer was widely respected for essentially inventing the method that scientists use to measure the Earth’s temperature from satellites. But since the early 1990s, Spencer’s reputation has suffered a number of self-inflicted injuries. For example, Spencer’s evangelical faith has led him to reject evolution in favor of intelligent design. And he’s been quick to conclude that global warming is overblown while only reluctantly accepting corrections that have nearly always shown his conclusions were biased cold. In short, Spencer has demonstrated that he is no longer able to separate his biases from his science.

But Spencer’s post calling climate experts and global warming activists “global warming Nazis” in response to being called a “denier” of global warming indicates that Spencer – who has been called to testify before Congress at least three times – has finally gone completely off the rails. Continue reading