March 11, 2014

Al Roker – Climate Change Educator?

Back in 2009,  TV meteorologist Joe Witte had a great idea. The public looks to TV weathercasters as a source of information concerning weather and climate. Why not use them to education viewers about climate change? After all they are:

1.) Trusted.

2.) Have access to large audiences. (Side note: did you catch Roker’s recent twitter war with Mayor de Blasio over snow days? Meow!)

3.) Are excellent communicators of dense scientific information.

Along with partners, Joe wrote a National Science Foundation grant proposal that was funded the next year.  The grant enabled them to develop a pilot project called Climate Matters, a series of climate education segments that Jim Gandy (chief meteorologist at the station) and his colleagues produced and aired over the next 12 months.

The results? According to an article published recently in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), over the course of one year, viewers of WLTX news developed a better understanding of climate change than viewers of other local TV news stations in the Columbia media market.  Boom.

Check out the whole article HERE.


March 3, 2014

Martha is Making a Comeback! (Maybe)

How does a bird that once numbered in the billions disappear over the course of a few decades? The birds were shot and trapped. Beds and pillows were stuffed with their feathers. Their fat was used in shortening and soap. When huge flocks of the pigeons passed overhead, people would open fire on the poor creatures from their rooftops.

NORTH WIND PICTURE ARCHIVES/VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS - A woodcut from the 1870s shows passenger pigeons being shot in Louisiana.

On Sept. 1, 1914, Martha (named for George Washington’s wife), the last captive passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. She outlasted George, the penultimate survivor of her species and her only companion, by four years. Don’t the women always outlast the men…

“Martha,” the last known passenger pigeon. Photo by Carl Hansen, Smithsonian Institution, 1985

Plans are in the works to possibly bring the bird back by way of “de-extinction.” Ok, de-extinction…here’s our layman breakdown:

So the DNA of a passenger pigeon and the fragments of an existing band-tailed pigeon meet at a bar. They get together. Insert what results into a band-tailed pigeon stem cell. It becomes a germ cell. Inject these germs cells into developing band-tailed pigeons, and voila! They start mating with each other, and eventually their offspring become more and more passenger pigeon-esque.

Want a more scientific explanation of the process? Check out this article from The Washington Post.

Oh, and check out this awesome song about Martha from the upcoming production of The Great Immensity!

 


February 10, 2014

Welcome to The Great Immensity Blogosphere!

We are thrilled to relaunch The Great Immensity website in anticipation of the show’s upcoming production at The Public from April 11 to May 1.

The global issue of climate change is a topic at the forefront of the scientific community. From top environmental scientists to organizations like the Nobel prize-winning IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), our greatest minds have collected and analyzed decades worth of research to better understand the situation and to affect important policy change. Now artists and activists from all mediums are recognizing the call to arms, and asking: what role can the arts play in responding to the crisis? 

Molly Carden in The Great Immensity at Kansas City Rep; Photo by: Don Ipock

The Play

In a thrilling and timely production, THE GREAT IMMENSITY is a continent-hopping thriller following a woman, Phyllis, as she pursues someone close to her who disappeared from a tropical island while on an assignment for a nature show. Through her search, Phyllis uncovers a mysterious plot surrounding the upcoming international climate summit in Auckland. As the days count down to the Auckland Summit, Phyllis must decipher the plan and possibly stop it in time. With arresting projected film and video and a wide-ranging score of songs, THE GREAT IMMENSITY is a highly theatrical look into one of the most vital questions of our time: how can we change ourselves and our society in time to solve the enormous environmental challenges that confront us?

Artistic Director Steve Cosson on a research trip in Barro Colorado Island

Artistic Director Steve Cosson on a research trip in Barro Colorado Island

The Website

From original haiku to underwater sculptures, every week characters from the play will blog about projects that focus on the intersection of arts + science + activism and our always-evolving relationship to the world around us.

Meghan McGeary in The Great Immensity at Kansas City Rep; Photo By: Don Ipock

A Quick 101

We hope that you’ll explore the site, watch our original videos, and participate in conversations by commenting.

You can search recent and pasts posts by:

1. TOPIC – click on any of the “tagsin the left-hand column to search by a specific topic, such as “sustainability,” “mountains,” or “temperature.”

2. BLOGGER – find all posts by a particular character by clicking on their picture in the left-hand column. For example: if you want to read all of Karl’s posts, click on his picture, and then in the box that appears click on “Karl’s posts.”

Also be sure to check out our awesome Environmental Lists in the right-hand column to learn about specific ways to take action now!


March 7, 2013

Crowds Demand “Forward” on U.S. National Mall

An estimated 35,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. on February 17th in freezing weather to rally against the development of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project designed to carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, passing through Cushing, OK on the way. The rally pulsed with thousands of citizens waving flyers bearing the words, “Forward on Climate” and “Clean Energy.” This decision will be the first major climate change decision Obama will make this term.  In the pipeline’s defense, TransCanada, the company hoping to construct it, has said that a more sustainable energy source is needed, but that transition would take decades. An email excerpt from a company spokesperson on the day of the rally reads as follows: “The oil sands and their greenhouse gas emissions’ impact have been overstated. As the respected Nature Science Journal stated the other week, Keystone XL will not determine whether or not the oil sands will be developed. Nor is oil from the oil sands as ‘dirty’ as many believe.”

The protest was organized by the Sierra Club, 350.org, and the Hip Hop Caucus and has been billed as the largest climate rally in American history. Founder of 350.org Bill McKibben addressed the crowds at one point, saying, “All I ever wanted to see was a movement of people to stop climate change and now I’ve seen it. I cannot promise you we’re going to win, but I’ve waited a quarter century to find out if we were gonna fight. And today, at the biggest climate rally by far, by far, by far, in U.S. history — today, I know we’re going to fight.”

No matter what side of the issue you fall on, it’s thrilling to see so many people uniting to talk about the impacts of human decisions on the environment. It’s a visceral demonstration that people are really starting to care about the decisions their political representatives are making regarding issues of global climate change. I’d love to see something like this on an international level next, calling for clean energy across the board. I also just really love the slogan “forward.” It implies an almost never-ending campaign for addressing the climate, a movement larger than protesting this single construction and dedicated to constantly reevaluating and progressing. The decision is expected to be reached in March. I’m interested to see which side Obama will land on and how this blossoming movement will respond.

 

For more info, click HERE!


February 19, 2013

Chalk it up to the Sea Urchin: An Unlikely Source of a Stable Mineral

I wish I had thought of this first, but apparently scientists have discovered that sea urchins convert CO2, that harmful stuff that’s trapping heat in our atmosphere, into chalk. Check out the article in Telegraph about it! Those little guys use nickel ions to transform carbon dioxide into exoskeletons for themselves. That’s cool on its own, but there is talk that we can adopt this urchin technology by suspending nickel nanoparticles in vats of water at factories, and in doing so, capture the carbon dioxide as it’s pumped through. The nickel can be recycled, and not only is the chalk useful (used to make cement, plaster casts in hospitals, etc.), but it’s also a stable mineral, so it poses no threat to the environment. You can find this study in the Catalysis Science & Technology academic journal if you’d like to investigate it further. I’m personally curious about just how much this could cut down on factory CO2 waste and how soon and easily we could begin to implement it globally!

And this is maybe not as pragmatic, but if you’re interested in some other unlikely (and incredible) animals that evolution may or may not have been playing practical jokes on, check out this Tumblr, WTF Evolution!


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    "The Next Forever" is a song from The Great Immensity. The footage was taken on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal by videographer David Ford. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
     
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