March 30, 2016

Climate Optimism

Al Gore, former U.S. Vice President and long time climate activist, made his first Ted Talk ten years ago. Also in 2006, Gore released his book, and the very influential documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Far from being his first work on the global climate crisis, An Inconvenient Truth served as a prominent punctuation in Gore's 40+ year career working to raise awareness about, and find solutions to anthropocentric climate change. You remember the terrifying movie, right?

I remember when I first saw An Inconvenient Truth. Already studying climate change in the middle of falling down the rabbit hole of discovery and finding my career path within the field, the documentary solidified my conviction. It also made me quite deeply sad. It is a scary movie, if you let the information sink in.The truth is all that needed to be said. 

A decade later, Al Gore returned to the Ted stage with a slightly different tone. In February, 2016 Gore gave a talk titled "The case for optimism on climate change." Similar to talks he has given in the past, Gore, who has moved from politics into the business field, covers the tragedies that climate change incites, bringing the viewer up to date with events over the past ten years and giving an overview of the lengthy list of things that climate change is and will affect in our natural environment and human society. In the second half of his most recent talk however, Gore takes a turn and talks about why we should be optimistic about our situation and our future. He talks about the changes to industry, and innovations in technology that will help us break our reliance on fossil fuels. With a stable hold of reality and our dire situation, Gore still has an optimistic view and reminds us that there is reason for hope and continued targeted climate action. 

There is a good message in this talk. Climate change is terrifying, dangerous, and sad. What human's have done to the planet and ourselves is justifiable cause for some deep soul searching, as well as financial investment towards finding a better way of living on Earth. We could allow climate change to be the end of us. We could stick our heads in the sand and wait it out. However, if we allow it, climate change can be our largest spark of inspiration and ingenuity. If we allow it, climate change can be the one issue that we all unite around, know that it affects us all indiscriminately. It is not a partisan or national issue, despite some's effort to frame it as such, it is a universal issue. It is also an issue that has rallied people around the world at formal events and small gatherings, in board rooms and science labs, in places of worship and at city hall. Climate change could be our end, but as Gore points out, there are many signs that humanity is not complacent enough to let it. 

March 24, 2016

Two Young Musicians for a Future in Balance

A beautiful, strong voice far beyond her years, Takiya Blaney speaks for a revolution to improve our relationship with Mother Earth. Ta'Kaiya is from the First Nation tribe of Tla A'min in British Colombia, Canada. She has been active over the past four years as an activist, speaker, and musician. She has won a number of awards for her leadership and inspiring message as an environmental advocate and for honoring her culture and upholding the traditions of the First Nation peoples. 

Here is an example of her message as well as one of her songs at the end. 

This video has better sound for her voice, which is magically haunting.

This young man has also been active for a number of years spreading a similar message. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez ask us all, especially the young people of his generation, to revolutionize our way of life to create a better future. He visions a future where humans are good stewards of the planet where we have clean healthy thriving ecosystems. He ask for climate action from individuals as well as decision makers like the United Nations General Assembly on Climate Change.

Here he is in 2015, at age 15 speaking at the 

Xiuhtezcatl is also a talented musician and along with his little brother, Itzcuauhtl, perform their original hip hop music for a better future and relationship with the Earth. 

Another of their songs, at Bioneers.

And here he is, as a younger boy, speaking about how climate change is already affecting his home in Colorado. 

The pine beetles have wreaked havoc on western North America. Climate change has been a significant part of encouraging this destruction. This is a little more about that, from my project We are all in this together.

Mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) are native to western North America, covering a swath of land from Mexico to British Columbia. With a black exoskeleton, pine beetles only measure about half a centimeter long. Pine beetle’s first three life stages, egg, larva and pupa occur under the bark of a pine tree. During the last life stage, as an adult, they can be seen flying around in the air.

When a female pine beetle burrows into a new tree to lay her eggs, she exposes the tree to blue stain fungus. This fungus inhibits the tree’s natural defense mechanism against more beetles, as well as its ability to transport water and nutrients within the tree. When a tree is infected, pine beetle larva and blue stain fungus spread throughout the tree, eventually inhibiting the tree’s ability to take up water. Eventually the pine tree will die of thirst. From the time the fungus is introduced, it may only take a few weeks for a tree to be incapable of taking up water.

A native to North America, pine beetles are not new to their ecosystems and when conditions are right they infest a new tree, killing it, but continuing its own life cycle. With climate change large areas of pine beetle’s native habitat are warming, experiencing milder winters and hotter summers. This shift in weather affects both pine trees and pine beetles. Unusually warm seasons can stress a tree and make it less robust at fighting off parasites. On the other hand, warmer weather is beneficial for pine beetles, allowing them to reproduce with a higher success rate and giving them more time and opportunity to inhabit more trees. Pine beetles have in fact doubled their reproductive rate. They used to go through one life cycle in a year and can now complete two full cycles each year. In recent years the absence of cold snaps has allowed beetle populations to explode, causing an epidemic in forests dominated by or wholly made up of pine trees.

This explosion of pine beetle populations has resulted in allowing the beetles to expand into more northern territory.  As the beetles moved north, they caused a mass dying off of forests throughout 19 US states, British Columbia and Alberta. Destruction to the forests is on the order of 10 times worse than previously recorded. Around 80 million acres of pines have been decimated and left dead. These tracks of dead trees have repercussions on all other species in the area, including humans. Stands of dead trees cater to raging forest fires. Dead trees are also not as good at holding soil to prevent erosion, slowing water flow and absorbing snow melt into the earth. These forests, which are usually a carbon sink when their trees are healthy, may easily, become a carbon source by releasing stored CO2 and furthering global warming.

Thank you Ta'Kaiya and Xiuhtezcatl,

March 17, 2016

The Sound of Climate Change

This is just a re-post from Check out the great video, like is on the bottom.

In 2013, the composition “A Song of Our Warming Planet” transformed 133 years of global temperature measurements into a haunting melody for the cello. Following its release, A Song of Our Warming Planet was featured by The New York Times, Slate, the Weather Channel, National Public Radio, io9, The Huffington Post and many others on its way to becoming a viral sensation and reaching audiences around the globe.
Now the co-creators, University of Minnesota undergraduate Daniel Crawford and geography professor Scott St. George, are back with a new composition that uses music to highlight the places where climate is changing most rapidly.
Based on surface temperature analysis from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the composition "Planetary Bands, Warming World" uses music to create a visceral encounter with more than a century’s worth of weather data collected across the northern half of the planet. (The specific dataset used as the foundation of the composition was the Combined Land-Surface Air and Sea-Surface Water Temperature Anomalies Zonal annual means.)
Crawford composed the piece featuring performance by students Julian Maddox, Jason Shu, Alastair Witherspoon and Nygel Witherspoon from the University of Minnesota’s School of Music.
As Crawford explains in the video, “Each instrument represents a specific part of the Northern Hemisphere. The cello matches the temperature of the equatorial zone. The viola tracks the mid latitudes. The two violins separately follow temperatures in the high latitudes and in the arctic.” The pitch of each note is tuned to the average annual temperature in each region, so low notes represent cold years and high notes represent warm years.
Crawford and St. George decided to focus on northern latitudes to highlight the exceptional rate of change in the Arctic. St. George says the duo plans to write music representing the southern half of the planet, too, but haven’t done so yet.
Through music, the composition bridges the divide between logic and emotion, St. George says. “We often think of the sciences and the arts as completely separate — almost like opposites, but using music to share these data is just as scientifically valid as plotting lines on a graph,” he says. “Listening to the violin climb almost the entire range of the instrument is incredibly effective at illustrating the magnitude of change — particularly in the Arctic which has warmed more than any other part of the planet.”

View The video!

March 15, 2016

My Baby

What if I never had a baby.

If I never had a baby, I would never be pregnant
Never feel that joining of me and another.
Never feel that kick from the inside.
I might never fall that deeply in love at first sight, or even before.

If I never had a baby, she would never have her first steps.
She would never make a twisted face when she first tastes a lemon.
She would never howl in the darkness of midnight
or fall bare-bottomed in the summer grass.

If I never had a baby, she would never buy a computer.
She wouldn’t work at her first job and save up to buy her first car.
My baby would never fly in a plane and travel to other countries.
She would never cut down a tree to build her home or buy oil to heat it.
She would never leave the lights on or step on an ant.

If I never had a baby, she would never be an annual birth statistic
or add to our population.
She would never consume resources or have a footprint.
She would never have to struggle and suffer in a future of climate change.
My baby would never endanger the wilderness and take the lives of others.

If I never have a baby, I would be a little sad, but try to be a little more proud.

If I never had a baby, it would benefit all living things,

even if I know she would be beautiful.