July 30, 2012

Super Dry Ain’t Super Fly

Well maybe this humungous drought is an indication of what scientists were talking about when they said our climate was going to drastically change due to our massive CO2 emissions! The government has declared one-third of the country’s counties federal disaster areas – even my home town of Detroit, Michigan is considered in a “severe” drought – hang in there guys! This is one of the most widespread droughts the US has ever experienced as it’s impacting 80 percent of the country. The last time it was this bad was over half a century ago in 1956. Here is a handy drought map to help you see the severity of the situation. What this means in plain and simple terms is that a huge number of crops have been burned by dry heat or aren’t growing as well as they should, so farmers are reaping less which means produce prices are going to skyrocket. Not great news when we’re just starting to come out of our economic depression, huh?! The drought is also drying up bodies of water left and right – here’s a picture of one particularly bone-dry lake:

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anything quite so dry, especially not something that was once a lake!  Another pretty scary effect of this seemingly endless drought is the trend of wildfires in Missouri, a state that doesn’t often find itself on fire.  There have already been 117 wildfires in Missouri’s Mark Twain National forest which is considered a record-breaking number.  There was even a case of a hay stack spontaneously catching on fire…I mean, seriously?!

One of the things that’s really crazy about this is how fast it happened. Click on this map for a really striking GIF that shows how fast the drought came on this year. The article also has lots about what the climatologists think about the whole thing.

So what can we do about all this dryness besides put on extra moisturizer??  Sadly not much.  It’s looking like the high pressure system that’s squatting on our Nation’s breadbasket isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  People living in the worst drought-affected areas are encouraged to water their lawns very sparingly, take shorter showers, and if at all possible, keep slip and slide parties to once a week.  No seriously though, don’t do that last one. How are you or your community responding to the drought? Let us know in the comments!

March 16, 2012

If you could ask a climate scientist one question, what would it be?

Here’s our last question for our run of The Great Immensity at Kansas City Repertory Theatre! We have gotten to ask climate scientists a lot of different questions over the last few years. We want to know what YOU would ask a climate scientist if you got in the room with one.

And just in case your question is, Who’s a climate scientist, here’s an answer for you in the form of a hilarious music video.

February 6, 2012

NASA is freaking me out

In a good way, of course.

Normally, my friends, I like to pay attention to very, very long periods of time, and the big picture.  But you know, I saw something last week that I keep thinking about.  One of my colleagues sent me a link to this video from NASA, which shows what has happened to the earth over what most people nowadays think of as “a long time”.  It’s a video showing how temperatures all over the world have changed since people started keeping track of these things in the late 1880s — the Industrial Revolution, basically.  In 26 seconds, you can see how the temperature of the Earth has risen since then.

Screenshot of NASA's climate measuring video.

(The video is in Flash; iPhone or iPad users should use this YouTube link instead.)

Climate Central, where the link Flash link is posted, has an excellent explanation of how the scientists at NASA figured out the data, and some of the comments are helpful, too. (Some, maybe not so much.)

This is a fairly compelling thing to see, no?  So much happens in such a relatively short time, when you take into account the fact that the Earth is several billions of years old.

Of course, the heat generated from Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show has not been factored into the computations (yet).  I must confess to you, my friends, it absolutely knocked my socks off.

Time for a bowl of leftover sancocho, then back to analyzing my phytoliths.

January 20, 2012

Making It Work: Karen Stewart Brown and Sustainable Fashion

We’re back with another Skype Interview Video! This one features Karen Stewart Brown, who co-founded Stewart+Brown with her husband, Howard Brown. Stewart+Brown believes in optimizing their designs and lives to attain the highest standards of quality and functional style while extracting the bare minimum from Earth’s precious capital. Stewart+Brown practices and promotes a symbiotic and harmonious relationship between business, community, and nature. They aspire to apply the wisdom of sustainability to everything we do while inspiring others, just as we have been inspired, to do the same. For more information and to see the designs, please visit stewartbrown.com/.





Interview conducted by Alix Lambert. Alix Lambert is an artist, author and filmmaker. She is an Associate Artist of The Civilians and is conducting this ongoing series of interviews for The Great Immensity. Please click HERE for more of her interviews in this series!

January 19, 2012

Simple measures could go a long way

Anyone who follows news about climate change knows that carbon dioxide is the primary cause of trapped heat in the Earth’s atmosphere which causes temperatures to rise.   But a group of our scientific colleagues have published a study which says simple, low-cost ways to cut methane and soot (a.k.a. “black carbon”) emissions could slow rising temperatures, boost crop production, and save lives.

The Washington Post covered the study, which found that

[J]ust 14 interventions — such as eliminating wood-burning stoves, dampening emissions from diesel vehicles and capturing methane released from coal mines — would offer big benefits.

This is, of course, easier said than done, considering that three billion people — nearly half the world’s population relies on stoves that send soot into the air. (We’ve seen these kinds of stoves all over Central and Latin America in our studies; a New York Times article several years ago reported that soot in developing countries is responsible for up to 18% of global warming.

This solar cooker is an inexpensive and wood-saving alternative for preparing food.

Solar cookers, such as the one pictured above, are a great alternative, but are occasionally slow to catch on with traditonally-minded villagers who prefer the familiarity of a fire.

Other practices touted by the study include plowing agricultural waste under in developing nations, instead of burning it, as is customary practice, which would cost next to nothing.

Our colleagues (an international team of 24) ran computer simulations that showed cutting methane and soot in the air would slow global warming by almost one degree Fahrenheit by the mid-2100s.  And better air quality would help prevent lung and cardiovascular diseases, saving “anywhere from 700,000 to 4.7 million lives annually.”  Not to mention ocean, plant, and animal life (ahem).

Even if all these practices were immediately implemented, CO2 would still be the world’s biggest problem, and the majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from China, the U.S., India, and the European Union.

And that may be the most difficult change of all to implement.


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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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