Friday, May 28, 2010

Hallelujah! Obama SO gets expounded by Science Advisor Holdren!!

I was saddened but not surprised to see that the newest owners of Barnet Hall - the very home, as it happens, where I raised my children - are removing the old ash trees,
because I expect them to be rotten inside, from exposure to toxic greenhouse gases. I doubt they are quite as old as the beautiful Colonial farmhouse (circa 1770) but they probably could have boasted at least a century or so. Anyone who doesn't understand that should read the Basic Premise page - which is linked to at the very top of this blog.
Further back on the property, which I subdivided to build Wit's End, the gardens are full of roses.
The peonies are luxuriously dense.
In this outstanding interview, Obama's Science Advisor, John Holdren, makes clear that Obama understands what needs to be done to mitigate climate change, and how serious and extensive will be the need to adapt. I am assuming that Holdren is very precisely and deliberately speaking for the President - and what he has to say is forthright and vitally important...a tactical advance volley, if you will, in the war against the Deniers, Ignorers, and Paid Whores of Oil, Gas, Coal, and Biofuel Industries.
I believe that much of what Obama has done so far - with healthcare, and "bipartisanship" in general, has been merely laying the framework for tackling the ultimate issue ever - climate change. Like a consummate chess player, he thinks many moves ahead.
It may be too late to save a habitable climate - and there are many reasons to think this has been so for at least 30 years - but one thing has been certain in my mind for some time - there is no one more able to do it than Obama.
We should all redouble our efforts to make sure he stays President, with a working majority in government, and let him know we support him. He has said, he can't do it alone. CO2 emissions must be drastically curbed.
In the meanwhile, however, the ecosystem is suffering from the "other" greenhouse gases, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, and acetaldehyde, that form ozone and are pure poison to plants. This subject seems to be so taboo, I do not know whether Obama knows it. The EPA knows (check out the excerpts on this post)- but they aren't broadcasting the information, for obvious reasons. Who wants to incite panic? Flowers are deformed,
leaves show obvious damage to stomata
and loss of chlorophyll.
Dandelions, usually the scourge of immaculate lawns, are oddly scarce this spring, and abnormally small.
All sorts of flowers are smaller than they should be.
I hung a birdhouse on the shed mostly for decoration, I didn't really anticipate it being used because the opening is miniscule.
But there is a diminutive mother bird that goes in and out all day!
I would love to peek inside to see the babies but I don't want to disturb them.
This is one of the few butterflies to be found, so far.
No wonder it's hard for me to find birds to photograph with the entourage that follows me whenever I go for a walk in the woods!
They are constantly underfoot.
This catbird on the other hand seems to deliberately try to provoke me, with endless calls, from squawks to meows to rich, juicy flurries of chirps.
It never shuts up!
I am very concerned about food crops. Already the early plants, like spinach, lettuce, and herbs are looking wilted or worse - damaged, like these peas.
from the same patch, May 17.
Mint shows stomatal injury, which begs the question, have levels of ozone suddenly reached intolerable levels for most vegetation, or is there something new and different and unmeasured happening in the atmosphere?
It became necessary to visit second daughter who is at vet school at UPenn. And of course I was delighted to see her!
Along the way there was ample evidence of severe tree decline. It's lucky this tree didn't crush the house - right across the street, pines are just sloughing to their sides.
I am still reading "Requiem for a Species" much of which so far is about the unwillingness of people to even envisage a world without endless economic growth, which is of course based upon relentless resource extraction and cheap energy from burning fossil and biofuels.
And I have been thinking quite a bit about what life would be like in a world without conspicuous consumption as its focus.
Our agriculture is completely dependent on oil-based products from fuel to pesticides and fertilizers essential to large-scale industrial farming.
Without that, how can we feed the billions on the planet? There are so many more of us now, it is terrifying to imagine how everyone can be fed without relying of oil, the supply of which is dwindling. As I drove I marveled at how quickly the landscape changed from the pastoral hayfields to a power grid that fills the horizon.
Cities are foreign to me, exotic, with a terrible beauty.
The streets in Philadelphia are lined with dead and dying trees, even though, like every city, there are constant attempts to remove them.
Here too there are flowers that look rather forlorn.
So in this city where Ben Franklin lived, long before the internal combustion engine and computers, life was rich and complex and rewarding - as witnessed by the architecture, literature, philosophy, music, and art of the time.
I wonder if that is because societies in the past were propped up by slaves or their equivalent - indentured servants and serfs and just the abjectly poverty-stricken.
And so the upper echelons may not have had access to fossil fuels, but they consumed human energy instead.
I don't know what that means, if anything, for the possibility that humans can ever achieve an equitable, decent, sustainable society for all its citizens.
Fallen leaves both green and brown mar the sidewalks.
Puckered flowers languish in the little gardens. This red rose looks like it is trying to escape a wrought-iron prison!
Ah well. It was lovely to have lunch with Sophie
and eat crab spring rolls, while they are still available!

"Nobody In Charge" - BP in the Wall Street Journal

I don't usually like the editorial policies of the Wall Street Journal, but this article about the last moments on the BP oil rig is fascinating.

"In the minutes after a cascade of gas explosions crippled the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, confusion reigned on the drilling platform. Flames were spreading rapidly, power was out, and terrified workers were leaping into the dark, oil-coated sea. Capt. Curt Kuchta, the vessel's commander, huddled on the bridge with about 10 other managers and crew members.

Andrea Fleytas, a 23-year-old worker who helped operate the rig's sophisticated navigation machinery, suddenly noticed a glaring oversight: No one had issued a distress signal to the outside world, she recalls in an interview. Ms. Fleytas grabbed the radio and began calling over a signal monitored by the Coast Guard and other vessels.

"Mayday, Mayday. This is Deepwater Horizon. We have an uncontrollable fire."

When Capt. Kuchta realized what she had done, he reprimanded her, she says.

"I didn't give you authority to do that," he said, according to Ms. Fleytas, who says she responded: "I'm sorry."

An examination by The Wall Street Journal of what happened aboard the Deepwater Horizon just before and after the explosions suggests the rig was unprepared for the kind of disaster that struck and was overwhelmed when it occurred. The events on the bridge raise questions about whether the rig's leaders were prepared for handling such a fast-moving emergency and for evacuating the rig—and, more broadly, whether the U.S. has sufficient safety rules for such complex drilling operations in very deep water."

Read the whole article here.

And here is the first part, BP Decisions Set Stage for Disaster

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Hail Mary Pass

BP is attempting one right now. We'll see how that works out. I thought everyone had seen this video but middle daughter Sophie told me she hadn't, so here it is for anyone who missed it, in all its glorious effusiveness. Talk about extreme weather as predicted by climate change models!
And then looking it up I realized the brilliance of modern technology. There is more, and more!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Today I came across this article over at DesdemonaDespair - about research in Africa. Scientists are in a race against time to take samples of tree rings, in an attempt to reconstruct past climate.

"'The region's trees and dead wood needed to do such research are disappearing rapidly from a combination of a massive die-off of trees, logging and population pressures,' Touchan said."

Compare this to Briffa's study of tree rings. In reconstructing past temperatures, he had to throw out the last 40 years, even from remote locations - the infamous effort to "hide the decline" - because they were statistically anomalous and did not fit the known record of temperature increases. He concluded that there was some unexplained, possibly human influence, that caused the deviation.

Thus I'm not sure that this statement is accurate:

"'One of the most important ways to understand the climate variability is to use the proxy record, and one of the most reliable proxy records is tree rings,' said Touchan, an associate research professor at UA's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research."

Perhaps tree rings ARE a reliable proxy record - until the past few decades, when the global atmosphere has been increasingly polluted with growth-inhibiting toxins from burning fossil fuels. I would like to know, what is causing the "massive die-off of trees?"

Mad as Hell! BP Booming School

Not recommended viewing in the office or around children:

from substanti8

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reader's Choice!

Christian Groups: Biblical Armageddon Must Be Taught Alongside Global Warming

Thanks to RPauli for sending this link!

Man o'War and Fish, Swimming in Oil

Liriodendron tulipifera

The tulip poplars are in bloom right now, so last night I stopped by this very large specimen to take a picture before the flowers fade. They are actually not poplar trees, but are members of the magnolia family.
Tulip trees are the tallest trees in the Eastern hardwood forest. They have very straight, columnar trunks and the branches are often high above the ground. But this one had some low enough that I could zoom in for a photograph.
Tulip trees are very majestic and their flowers are quite pretty.
So I was very disappointed but not surprised to see that all the leaves exhibit the discoloration of foliage damaged by exposure to toxic greenhouse gases and unable to produce chlorophyll.

Compare it to a picture of leaves I found on the web from 2006:
Tulip Poplar by winged photography.

Arctic Next?

Oily Message For BP and Administration by Greenpeace USA 2010
Greenpeace activists took a stand on the ship the Harvey Explorer to send a message to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on May 24, 2010. Harbor police talk to Scott Cardiff as he holds a banner reading " Salazar Ban Arctic Drilling" as part of the protest. The activists used oil from the spill to paint the message “Arctic Next?” on the bridge of the ship, which is scheduled to depart for Alaska to support drilling operations in July.

Arctic Drilling Next? Hell No!

Tell Secretary Salazar to Just Say "No" to Shell's Alaska Drilling:

This blog has amazing screenshots and video of the "leak" in the Gulf.

And here is a first-hand account of oil burbling out from beneath the sand on the beach, and intimidation of the press, with local police acting on orders from BP!

This slideshow from this interview is stunning.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Chickens Come Home to Roost in the Age of Consequences

Despite yesterday's intermittent rain and overcast sky I decided to wander around the woods that encircle Wit's End, chasing birds with my camera.
Several years ago, before I knew the ecosystem is on the verge of collapse, I had an 8' fence installed over a large proportion of the land to keep the voracious deer from eating every desirable plant. I put in this climbing rose next to the gate to the creek, and I am so thrilled that it has taken root.
In spite of the overall decline of the forest, I found a riot of flowers, and their scent rendered the air exquistely sweet. Outside the gate, brilliant blue forget-me-nots line the banks of the Cold Brook.
This little bird and his mate scolded me with shrill bleats along the way - they must have a nest to protect.
Phlox in shades from white to lavender are in bloom, as is wild yellow iris.
High overhead circled a red-tailed hawk.

Initially I started this blog to record and investigate the death of trees from emissions of burning fuels. In the past year, it has become apparent that all forms of life are endangered.
For anybody who landed here by searching for information about damaged vegetation, I suggest you scroll back up to the top and go to the "Basic Premise" page - because as is my wont, I will digress!
I am so thrilled to have found there is a Yellow Shafted Flicker in the woods...also known as Colaptes auratus auratus.
Despite the alarming demise of bee colonies a few can be found busily at work, pollinating.
The oriole stubbornly stays so high in the branches I can't get a very good photograph. Actually the only reason I can get one at all is there are so few leaves.
I have let the garden go this year. I used to spend hours weeding every week.
But now even though parts of it still look just enchanting, knowing that it is never going to flourish again makes me so sad I can hardly bear to look at it. So many hours of planning, planting, and pruning!
This article in the Guardian details the despicable way that purportedly environmental NGO's have been corrupted by money from the fuel industry.
Now I know why they never answer me when I write and ask about ozone killing trees! The coal and oil companies have bought everything, including the "conservationists".
My friend Roger, who is one of the world's foremost gardening experts and the author of many books, advised me long ago to plant clematis next to every new shrub, which is why this smoke bush is being delightfully engulfed.
And speaking of the Gulf, Bob Herbert has a superb column about the BP massacre. The citizens who are watching the oil flow into the wetlands and devastate the ecosystem - and their livelihoods - are in shock.
Well, it's just the chickens coming home to roost, which they do every night at Wit's End.
There will be many more impacts from our greed and wasteful habits. Americans have been outsourcing their pollution and their carbon for decades, our appetite for power destroying habitats from China to Guatemala. Those are very interesting articles that point out the fallacy in the notion that as societies become more technologically advanced, they improve their environmental impact. Not so. They ship it off where they don't have to look at it!
Here is a review of a new book, "Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse," which I must read if I ever get through "Requiem for a Species," which is seriously painful.
A quote from the book:
“Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up. Hopeful people are actively engaged in defying the odds or changing the odds.” He quotes Vaclav Havel’s definition of hope as “an orientation of the heart” and “ability to work for something because it is good."

A quote from the review:
"We enter the age of consequences."
I think of this flamboyant pair as Eva and ZsaZsa, which is dating me terribly.
There have been more lively discussions at, what with a contest to name the catastrophe in the Gulf, and record floods leaving people homeless - all over the world...exactly as predicted by climate science.
Here is my comment:
Bob Wallace, I do think it’s wonderful to point out clean alternatives to dirty energy, and money-saving efficiency. But that simply isn’t enough to persuade people to make fundamental changes, because in order to do so, it must first be admitted that there is a Problem. And there’s the rub. People who cling to the idea of endless growth cannot admit there is a Problem, and so even taking rational steps to conserve energy that would save them money become impossible. Au contraire, they willfully and deliberately and unnecessarily squander energy. Take Christmas lights for an example, who really needs them? It is a kind of defiance.

The fact is, the American life-style is going to change whether we do so deliberately, or it just happens – like it is happening in the gulf right now.

It’s an issue that needs to be addressed directly. The approach you recommend I liken to offering extra fresh fruit and vegetables to an overweight diabetic who is about to have a Happy Meal and expect them to lose weight. It’s not going to happen. You have to explain that they need to cut down on the Mac and fries or they are going to have a heart attack and die.

You have to scare them.
So I haven't been working in the garden, and there are many weeds.
But it hardly matters -their leaves need to photosynthesize too, and so they too are exhibiting symptoms of exposure to toxic greenhouse gases.
Their foliage is stippled, ruffled, stunted, deformed, and lacks even color.
I read one study that said grasses are more resilient than broad-leaved plants, when it comes to ozone.

Let us hope something is.

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