Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Redux

In celebration of food, family and friends, a post-holiday feast was held Friday, at the Frenchtown Farm.
The barn is ready for Christmas.
The horses are inquisitive about so many visitors.
The children carry every scrap from the food preparation to feed the pigs.
Our host!
And hostess...
And the assembled guests.
The turkey is carved with the meticulous care of a surgeon.
Since I was busy cooking, the photography was delegated, thanks Sophie and Cindy!
Nana and Doc came down from the Cape to visit their granddaughters.
And Chuck brought his mom and dad, from Kentucky!
Cindy and John were there.
And so was the lovely Laura, 4th daughter.
The makings of a Christmas card, oops, Maxine, SHAME!
People of all ages had a wonderful time.
And the pets enjoyed the attention, and leftover treats!
Which of these is a Republican? Or either of them? We may never know for sure.
There were a variety of delicious cheeses before dinner...
And for dessert, 2 pumpkin pies, pecan tart, and 2 apple and quince tarte tatin.
Yes, things got silly...
But the swan, unperturbed, remains serene in the pond.

Less placid is the situation in the far north, where Arctic Ice is thinner than predicted! Oh, what a surprise!
Image: Polar bear on sea ice

Is the US Department of Agriculture lying to the public about the collapse of crops? Read this and judge for yourself.

I'm sure that the weather is wild, and that causes crop loss. But that doesn't quite explain such widespread damage even in areas where the weather wasn't quite so dramatically different.

The truth will emerge eventually. Meanwhile, it doesn't hurt to stockpile a reserve of staples.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here is a link to "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" which summarizes the scientific research that has been done since the last IPCC report. It's a litany of impacts of climate change that are faster and more severe than predicted, by very significant degrees.

Oh, and it has pretty pictures!

And here is another version of the NASA satellite study that indicates East Antarctica is losing ice.

Grace estimate of changes in Antarctica's ice mass, measured in centimeters of equivalent water height change per year. The study confirmed previous estimates of ice mass loss in West Antarctica, but also found ice mass loss in East Antarctica, primarily in coastal regions (depicted in light blue). (Credit: University of Texas at Austin Center for Space Research)
"...the East Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass, mostly in coastal regions, at an estimated rate of 57 gigatonnes a year. A gigatonne is one billion metric tons, or more than 2.2 trillion pounds. The ice loss there may have begun as early as 2006. The study also confirmed previous results showing that West Antarctica is losing about 132 gigatonnes of ice per year."
"While we are seeing a trend of accelerating ice loss in Antarctica, we had considered East Antarctica to be inviolate," said lead author and Senior Research Scientist Jianli Chen of the university's Center for Space Research. "But if it is losing mass, as our data indicate, it may be an indication the state of East Antarctica has changed. Since it's the biggest ice sheet on Earth, ice loss there can have a large impact on global sea level rise in the future."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Everything is Ugly

There are the most bilious, putrid colors in the woods, I don't even know how to describe them. New color names must be invented because the blend of sickly green shades on trees mixing with that pale icy blue lichen and black streaks and spilling sap formations is nothing nature has ever produced before. It is apparent from the silhouettes of trees how damaged their limbs are. As I was on my way home looking at this depressing landscape I suddenly realized, I am just like John Clease in this sketch (substitute trees for parrot):

This UN report titled "Common Questions About Climate Change" contains the following intriguing passage in Section 11, "Why Can't Ecosystems Just Adapt?"

"Further complicating the response of many of the Earth's terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to climate change is the prevalence of stress from other disturbances associated with resource use. In the case of trees, for example, many species are already weakened by air pollution. Increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will raise the photosynthetic capacity of many plants, but the net effect on ecosystem productivity is unclear, particularly when combined with higher air temperatures or where soil nutrients are limiting."

Thanks to Carbon Fixated for bringing it to my attention. Now, I have to try and track down the original research that is the basis for the statement in bold.

And here's another very compelling quote posted by Cynthia at Climate Progress, from a book written in 1990 by Senator George Mitchell, titled "AWorld on Fire:"

“the die back of forests will start to be noticeable after a rise in temperature of 1.5 degrees, then come with a rush…”
I think, it's rushing NOW!

And here is a report about East Antarctica melting, that is just another example of a warming earth that is far more extreme than was predicted and frankly, should scare the daylights out of any sentient being.

The Forest WILL Exact Revenge

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Birds and Butterflies

Yesterday was absurdly warm again. The roses are still blooming, but the repeated early morning frosts make them look like soft, slightly wrinkled crepe.

The Essex Fox Hounds took off from a neighboring farm.

These lovely young ladies wait while the field assembles.

The whips take position.

When I got home I found a pretty yellow butterfly in the back yard, flittering from one dandelion to another. Just days before Thanksgiving!

I also saw a tiny bird but I couldn't get a picture of it before it hopped into thick brush. Several times in recent weeks I've noticed really small birds that can't fly, they just sort of jump and flutter but can't take off. I've been wondering if they are sick or underdeveloped. But yesterday I realized they're young - babies. That's a very bad sign. That means that for some reason, the first and maybe even subsequent broods were lost, so the mothers laid more eggs and they're hatching way too late in the season.

Today I am ingesting nothing but water, in support of Climate Justice at Copenhagen, as a member of Greenfyre's "Hungry for Climate Justice" rolling fast. Information about the international fast movement is here.

So when I woke this morning, I made up a batch of carbonated water, which I love, in one of life's many ironies. I used to buy cases of bubbly mineral water imported from France or Italy, and spent a lot of time recycling all the bottles. Then I discovered I can make it myself, with my own tap water. I have very delicious water, from a well. Of course, somewhere a mountain is being blown up, and coal is being burned, to power the pump...Once you start thinking this way, it's a slippery slope to despair. I don't recommend it!

So, the only recourse is to take what steps you can. I saved up a collection of the imported bottles and fill them using a funnel. Once you buy the soda maker, which you can order here, they pick up the spent cartridge and deliver another to your doorstep. No more recycling! If you like flavored sodas, they sell that as well.

The other step I'm taking, which intrigues me, is the YesMen approach, having some fun with protest pranks, here on the deck of the Titanic. Specifically, this challenge:
How can I make a fake newspaper?

You have to collect articles, get them laid out, make some ads, find a printer, wrangle a bunch of distributors, scope out the media outlets you want to get papers to, make a video news release in advance, rent a few trucks or vans, and lie a lot about the number of papers you printed (optional).

It might be easier to start with a flier.

So, I'm redoing my flier and having it printed this week. I'm kind of thinking about handing it out someplace that will get me arrested...Bridgewater Mall? Or maybe go to some corporate office for Exxon, and hand it out there - or a politician's office, like Frelinghuysen? Suggestions welcome!

The winners of each challenge will be "honored" by having their work ripped off and placed on the DVD of The Yes Men Fix the World and shown at a big screening event in March. Groups will also be eligible to submit proposals for possible funding and development in a Yes Men training camp (more info coming soon).

heh, heh.
Here's the text - the pdf from the printer is kind of hard to read:
The science on climate change from rising levels of CO2 is settled. The global average temperature is going up - causing glaciers and icecaps to melt, droughts and desertification, violent storms and flooding, and perhaps most alarmingly, acidification of the oceans. The oceans soak up much of the CO2 produced by coal and oil emissions, - enough to already begin dissolving coral reefs and the shells of sea creatures. Ultimately, this will cause a collapse of the food chain and most life in the oceans will become extinct.

Yes, it's all over but the shouting. But what is neglected in the political debate are the "other" greenhouse gases, and these should be of immediate concern.

Burning fossil and biofuels creates volatile organic compounds that react with UV radiation, leading to the formation of ozone and peroxyacytel nitrates. Just because these compounds, like CO2, are invisible, doesn't mean they aren't lethal, causing cancer, emphysema, and asthma in humans.

Less well known, although well documented, is their cumulative toxic effect on vegetation by interfering with the ability to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll. Already the trees in New Jersey are in irreversible decline. Without their nuts, fruits, and shelter, all species dependent upon them will die as well.

This past summer it was impossible to find any foliage, including annual crops and aquatic plants, that didn't show the symptoms of damage. This autumn, leaves fell a month earlier than normal, and our conifers are losing needles rapidly.

Since preindustrial times the level of CO2 has risen by about 40%, from 280 to 388 ppm, in response to our burning more than 320 billion tons of carbon. Does that mean it's already too late to avert positive feedbacks leading to catastrophe?

Maybe. But the only moral thing to do is try.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Iraq and Floods and the Rain Forests

This is a terrible article that you won't seen in the US press, about an epidemic of horrific birth defects in Falujah, no doubt related to the toxins from all the bombing we did.

And here is just one of many stories around the globe of extreme and devastating weather events. We should all be prepared for unexpected disruptions!

I saw this video at Dion's blog. It's about 40 minutes long, and has some cool views.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Vestiges of Fall

Reproduced here are some gorgeous remnants of autumn color - first, leaves from a row of Japanese Maples.

It's important to focus on the lovely bits of nature that still exist,

because in general, the landscape is so dreary and ugly,

it's difficult to regard with anything but bitterness and grief.

It's odd but only a small percentage of people understand the calamity of climate change...

and of those, even fewer understand how imminent it is.

Everywhere, there is futile tree trimming. The flowering pears seem to be the last holdouts when it comes to colorful leaves.

I'm still in favor of a full-out effort to reduce/eliminate emissions, on the slender hope that it will buy us enough time for the brightest among us (that wouldn't be me) to devise some means to reverse the process without creating results worse than the initial problem through unintended consequences.

Having said that, from my reading of the science, it's really too late. Heating leads inexorably to more heating, the only question is how quickly.

Here is a link to the prediction for catastrophic warming, which is based on CO2 alone - given the accelerating rate of concentration and the likelihood that CO2 sinks, including the ocean, are saturated.

It doesn't even factor in methane, or positive amplifying feedbacks such as the albedo effect, or this study about other greenhouse gases whose effects have been underestimated or even ignored.

Add to that the influence of the professional deniers, and the unwillingness of most people to even consider a reduction in their pattern of consumption, and the prognosis is bleak.

Is the stippled coloration in these leaves evidence of stomata damaged from the other greenhouse gases? I'm not an expert - but it looks like a suspicious pattern to me.

I have always especially loved sycamores, they are my favorite tree. When they grow without close neighbors they have a beautiful pyramidal shape, and the leaves are wide and huge, a lovely shade of light mossy green. The best thing though is the smooth mottled bark, lush warm shades of brown and grey and luminous ivory. For almost 30 years I have admired a stand, on the other side of the Cold Brook, which is spectacular before dusk when the sun is setting and the colors of sunset are brilliantly reflected. What a sight when they look like they are on fire with gold and pink and purple blazing above in the branches and on the trunks, and sparkling in the water below.

They seem to like growing on the banks of creeks and streams, and there are many of them at Natirar, a park I hadn't visited since July.

And so it was with great dismay that I discovered the notorious lichen when I went back a couple of days ago. I have never, ever seen lichen on sycamores before. The trunk above is completely covered.

There are more than one kind.

At the base of this tree, there is an impressive cluster.

It almost looks like a map.

The park is nearly 500 acres - I took this photo of a treeline there on July 28th. Click to enlarge, if you want to see the dead pines.

Natirar, so named - in a scintillating burst of daring creativity by Kate Macy Ladd, a Mayflower babe and oil heiress - early in the last century as an ananym for the North Branch of the Raritan River, that flows through the property.

More recently it was owned for decades by the King of Morocco. He purchased the property on the advice of his buddy, Malcolm Forbes, as insurance in case his subjects revolted and he needed a safe haven from a coup. That didn't happen so he never stayed there.
The fields look healthy, but here is a close-up of the tree leaves, last July.

A portion including the mansion has been leased by Richard Branson, who is currently turning it into the pretentiously organic Virgin Spa, where those wealthy enough to indulge in obscenely conspicuous consumption can helicopter in for a facial and massage.

I say mansion loosely, it's an uninspired behemoth with no architecturally redeeming features outside, and the interior has more resembled an abandoned insane asylum - perhaps a setting for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - than a grand, elegant residence. Richard had his work cut out for him...but have no fear, he will no doubt succeed in turning it into an even more ostentatious monstrosity for the uber-wealthy. The private club, admission to which is granted by invitation, (only masters of the universe need apply), will no doubt be peddling the essential survivaballs in their gift shop - what to give the zillionaire who has everything???
I had already seen this report, but when I went to look up the video to embed it here on the blog, I stumbled across this, Sir Richard partners with the Yes Men!!! Oh noes!! The irony of it!!! I was perplexed, mystified and humbled - had I misjudged him????

Oh, and then I realized it's part of "liberate stupid footage" as found here, at the Challenge.Yes Men ...thinking...thinking...

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