Without any more ado, now to our weekend of non-stop fun at the Pricing Carbon Conference, which took place at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Anybody who knows me knows I am a
timid paranoid driver so it always takes quite a bit of fortitude for me to undertake a long-distance trip. But I had been working on my tree costume and hand-out for several weeks, not to mention the expenses were piling up between the sonotube and fabric, the printing, registration and hotel, and gas. Auughh! The total amount will go with me to my grave. I was committed. I packed up the fox and left Friday, with spare needle and thread, anxious to explain to people that it's time to look beyond carbon.
So after all that, I'm still in a bit of a state of shock - since, if it weren't for a couple of stalwart friends and the impressive and inspiring presence of many student activists...it would have been a more-or-less unmitigated horror show. I think I would have gotten a more welcoming reception at a tea party gathering than I received from the carbon cappers. In fact, that may be my next appearance as a tree.
I asked one of the volunteers if there was some place in the lobby during lunch where I could hand out leaflets and not be in the way. She took a copy (which is more or less identical to the "Basic Premise" page at the top of this blog, minus the list of links to scientific research) to one of the organizers who, after reading it, approached me with barely concealed outrage. Here is what he said, staring at me with a withering intensity:
"This is not the appropriate venue for you to be pushing your own agenda."
...Whereupon I thought, a collapsing ecosystem is "my" agenda? Really?
"This is a serious conference about putting a price on carbon."
Ah that makes me frivolous?...So, so reminiscent of Jim Bouldin telling me that "knowledgeable" people are the only ones deserving to make comments at Real Climate!
And lastly my favorite, pronounced without a hint of irony from the midst of reams of pamphlets and brochures and stacks of xeroxed directions and schedules:
"The University is very conscious of not wasting paper."
It's a safe bet he didn't personally pay for any of that printing, whereas I spent hours perfecting the proof at Staples and paid $.85 per copy x 500 copies = $425.00 to produce that flier...so if anybody thinks those pieces of paper are too valuable to be wasted, it's me!
I successfully resisted a fleeting urge to smack his supercilious, smug, condescending face and inquired as sweetly as I could muster, "Is it okay if I stay outside on the sidewalk...is that university property or a public space?"
He conceded it probably is a public space where he couldn't prevent me from leafletting - but as a courtesy he thought I should let him consult with a University representative first.
I said, fine, that's why I asked in the first place. To be courteous.
So, we met about an hour later and he had grudgingly changed his tune. "You can do whatever you like outside," he informed me stiffly. Somebody affiliated with the university must have told him to stop parading around like a petty tin-pot dictator. Free exchange of ideas, anyone? Contrast that to what he might have said, alternatively:
"Gee, that's really interesting. I didn't realize NASA has determined that ozone causes billions of dollars of damage to crops every year. If cumulative damage to trees is enough to affect the forest carbon sink, that would have a very significant impact on climate change. I would like to learn more about this after the conference when I'm not so preoccupied, to see how this information should be incorporated in our strategy. Meanwhile please stay in the corner so you don't impede traffic."
Instead he kicked me outside on a cold blustery day. Imagine my dismay, especially because I could have been at that very moment at the Metropolitan Opera with my dad, enjoying the matinee of Cosi Fan Tutte! Oh did I mention that I could have gone that night with first two daughters to the Amwell Valley Hunt Ball, drinking champagne and dancing the night away, instead of sleeping in a hotel where all my belongings teetered on the teevee because I read that bedbugs can't climb up there?
Anyway...Soon enough I was established on the patio with my tree costume and my fliers and my daughter's stuffed fox, which she had taken to a taxidermist after finding it dead on the side of the road. Next thing you know, along comes said organizer, to inform me I couldn't keep the fox because an animal rights person was complaining, which was really unfortunate, because the fox got a lot of attention. People are so unfamiliar with nature these days.
Besides, was that really true? If so, why didn't he say to that person, "I'm sorry, but this is not the appropriate venue to push your own agenda?" He had no problem saying that to me, and at least "my" agenda is not tangential, but integrally related to climate change! For that matter, why didn't he say, "I'm sorry, but I cannot tell her she cannot have a stuffed fox any more than I can tell her she can't wear a fur coat - or for that matter, tell every participant at the conference that they cannot attend sporting leather shoes, belts, wallets, purses or briefcases!" He should have told them if they have a problem with the fox they could tell me directly about it, and then I would have explained of course, that the fox was roadkill by automobile, much as the trees.
All of this pales in significance of course to the massive failure of the conference, which with a few notable and heroic exceptions was mainly a useless parade of posturing, mewling pontificants, each so wedded to their own approach and branded organizations (not to say funding), that it was readily apparent that nothing significant is going to change despite the more honest speakers at the podium.
Some of the speakers clearly understand the imminent enormity of catastrophic amplifying feedbacks, such as the methane from melting permafrost, not to mention the destabilization of society by climate refugees, but others appeared to believe we have decades to convert from burning fuel, and are oblivious to the determination of people to extract every last smidge of dirty fuel no matter the consequences to the environment and climate no matter how much we cajole them.
serious, terminal, fatal damage. Following are the photos, one after the other, as I walked along...and some interesting stories that have emerged since my last post at Witsend.
|The evergreens next to the big oak have peeling bark.
|It is so raw, it is painful to look at.
|I really do not know what exact mechanism is causing bark to split, peel, flake, and fall off.
|It goes hand in hand with oozing sap - and the loss of needles.
|These particular pines have almost none left.
|Here's that big oak again. The almost invisible "evergreens" are right next to it, on the left.
First in our roundup, a brief article from USA Today, contributed by Highschooler, adds ash trees to the near universal list of tree species dying off, of course blaming insects, drought and weather:
Ash trees already under attack by the emerald ash borer are dying at rate much faster than expected in Fort Wayne after a 2008 ice storm and a recent drought.
The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne reports that city arborist Chad Tinkel expects Fort Wayne to lose 3,000 ash trees through 2013 on top of the normal annual tree deaths of about 500. That's twice as many as was projected two years ago.
The city's park board was told Monday it would cost more than $5 million through 2017 to remove and replace all of the ash trees along city streets and in city parks. Park officials said there isn't money to complete such a project.
|In addition to damaged bark, gaping holes are to be found in almost every tree, old or young.
|This maple has it all - holes and splitting bark.
This sad story warns that chocolate trees are under attack. I eat chocolate rarely, and only when it is very dark and rich. The best place I have ever found is Woodhouse Chocolates in California. They are very expensive to have mailordered, but so densely flavorful that 1/2 of one per day is pure unadulterated luxury. I suggest you splurge now before the impending chocolate crisis hits as described at Alternet:
|You can see how huge some of these trees are by comparing this sycamore to the pedestrian on the lower left. It is truly humbling to see a life form so gigantic and heartbreaking to see them on the wane.
Cocoa production also faces competition from other crops which farmers may find more financially appealing, like for palm-oil, driven by an increasing demand for biofuels, and rubber. Changes in weather patterns, too, have crippled production in places like Indonesia that might normally be there to pick up the slack.
In the last few decades, these factors have already led to higher cocoa prices, but in the coming years they could put chocolate out of reach for the average consumer.
|Lovely example of missing bark, and garish green growth.
"Production will have decreased within 20 years to the point where we won't see any more cheap bars in vending machines," predicts Marc Demarquette, a British confectioner who a advised the BBC on a story about the coming chocolate crisis.
Highschooler also sent some links about the disappearing Amazon - a story from treehugger that validates the IPCC report:
Thomas Lovejoy, biodiversity chair of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, as well as biodiversity advisor to the World Bank, says the Amazon is "very close to a tipping point." By 2075 the forest could shrink to 65% of its original size.
Lovejoy says that the tipping point for the Amazon is 20% deforestation, and we are currently at 17-18% deforestation.
Main factors in the decline include climate change, deforestation and fire--sounds mighty like what the IPCC 4th assessment report said.
As for what the forest will turn into: "The forest eventually converts to cerrado (savannah) after a lot of fire, human misery, loss of biodiversity, and emission of carbon into the atmosphere."
Another study documents the rivers disappearing due to drought. I have always wanted to go there and see the spectacular waterfalls, but I guess I never will:
In places throughout the Amazon, some stretches of the region's most important rivers and tributaries have dried up almost entirely, reducing the normally flowing waterways to a vast plain of broken clay and mud. For some people who live and work in this part of the world, life has come to a screeching halt amid the worst drought in recent memory. It is estimated that more than 62 thousand families have been affected by thelack of rainfall with over half the municipalities in the region having enacted a state of emergency. And, on the heels of a recent report about the global droughts to be expected due to climate change -- one can only wonder if such scenes will become more common elsewhere.
Whereas this contradictory study from - who else? - researchers with the Smithsonian Institute claims that the Amazon trees can adjust just fine to higher temperatures and CO2. All the evidence suggests that the SI is hopelessly corrupted by Koch brother financing. It's interesting how they grasp at data from the past and hazard guesses as to what it means for the future, compared to the stories above that are based on empirical current observations.
Another reader forwarded this horrible article about birds disappearing, in England. I know they are disappearing here as well. I miss hearing their delightful songs. We have taken what was literally paradise and trashed it. There are more trees that follow, but only little else to say. Scroll down to the beeches.
I just so happened to come across a macabre picture of a fallen tree that I rather like, so here it is, and that's all for now, folks...except this reminder: Zawacki is a verb that means I Told You So.
Oh, and as a footnote, I did send a very rough draft of this post to the organizers of the conference, offering to incorporate their perspective - and have yet to receive a reply. If they ever decide to respond, I'll update.
Update: I received an email from the Wesleyan Grounds Manager in response to my questions in which he stated: