Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

Steamed Dumplings

May08

We were eating steamed dumplings from the Chinese place on Yonkers Avenue. The place where they know our friend Cole by name, by sight. “You moved?” the delivery guy asked when Cole once opened my apartment door.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“Yeah”-and he laughed the laugh where his hair shook. Nervous laughter, but he wasn’t kidding. Joe’s eyes widened and he repeated: “I would not have any kids if I were you.”

“But that’s really . . . sad . . .” I said, stumbling. Not that there was anything in the oven, or that I was even sure I ever wanted kids.

“I’m just sparing my future generation the absolute disaster we’ve created.”

Joe wasn’t an apocalyptic guy. He didn’t even have the personality to exaggerate with a straight face. He was my one friend who was really into science, and I hung on to every word that came out of his mouth, knowing everything was rooted in tireless experimentation and research. He reached for the last dumpling.

“You’ll see. In ten years-you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

— by Melissa Barrett, Poetry Correspondent. Photo from istockphoto.com

Posted by Joseph, under climate change, poetry  |  Date: May 8, 2008
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Rethinking Green

Apr22

Happy Earth Day from Science Metropolis. The holiday has taken on a new significance with growing awareness about global warming. Boston Mayor Menino is talking big about turning Beantown into Greentown, but is the city taking the right steps? Science journalist Lauren Rugani shares her thoughts:

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, 28 cities around the world turned off their lights between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. on March 29, 2008. Although many Bostonians participated in this event, known as Earth Hour, the city of Boston did not publicly support the event.

Kudos, Boston.

Earth Hour organizers argue that the goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about the connection between energy use and climate change, not to boycott electricity. Unfortunately, many Boston residents interpreted the movement literally and are angry that Boston did not participate. One Boston.com discussion board displays numerous Earth Hour posts: “Boston should have invented it,” says one user; “Why make it one hour? Make it a week, then a month,” says another.

The problem with such organized, grand-scale events is that they receive too much media attention, while doing relatively little to actually help the environment. It’s time to stop “raising awareness” and time to start taking action that will make a difference – which is exactly what Boston is doing.

Popular Science magazine ranks Boston as the third greenest city in America, out of cities with populations over 100,000. The criteria for this ranking includes renewable electricity sources, public transportation, green spaces, and recycling programs. Boston and Cambridge (number six on the list) are the only places on the East Coast to make the top 15.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino and James W. Hunt, the Chief of Environmental and Energy Services, recently released a Climate Action Agenda and Executive Order that outlines goals for a greener Boston. Menino hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Since many emissions come from city buildings, all new developments must be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

Menino also plans to purchase over 11% of the city’s electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar power. City diesel vehicles run on low-sulfur fuel, school buses are retrofitted with technology to control pollution, and Boston sponsors the Clean Air CABS program, which offers rebates and tax credits to companies who drive electric, hybrid, or low-emission alternative fuel vehicles. Finally, the mayor aims to plant 100,000 new trees in Boston by 2030.

But the impact from these initiatives will take time. Unlike Earth Hour, the success of these programs cannot happen at the flick of a switch or be measured by a meter reading.

In the age of instant coffee, instant messages, and instant approvals, it’s no wonder that the instant gratification from Earth Hour was evident around the globe. But it’s not about the big things you can do once a year; it’s about the small things you can do every day. Buy more efficient lighting, shut off your computer overnight, and take the T to work. Be patient, Bostonians, and your efforts will be appreciated by generations to come.

Photo from iStockPhoto.

Posted by Joseph, under climate change, environment  |  Date: April 22, 2008
3 Comments »

disregard in a field of overhead projector light

Mar26
behind the metal doors a dusted acre

of schoolhouse technology. sixty

or more but now even just one

too heavy.

           the shrine

we call it, the tour guide said,

because      the light, the purr

of fan, nearly breathing—and all

lined up like this, you get

the feel of cathedral, slope

of votive candles.

                 of course they pretty

much did worship the stuff, she added,

leading the edge of tourists

in and purblind, they foraged for

anything—glint of steel rolling

from a squared neck or bulbs

naked, obvious as teeth. but

only black

                    wide open

inarticulation people must have

once known looking at the sky.

in the hips of an old school they were found, settling like a necklace of prehistoric bones, and placed here, in a room wired for the twenty-first century. Electricity— sixty-four bulbs at six hundred watts, you might even hear it, she said—small motors of minnows, her voice an ellipse handswidth apart through the undimensioned room, and looking up, a few dozen laundry lines divide the darkness, or cracks in a ceiling, who knows—because you can always make out something, even when you blink and you blink because nothing’s really there. Stasis in darkness and then the countdown: ready set sudden splash of squares, hitting like the two-tone wings of spring moths. the light on, projectors now projecting—the machines from their carapaces blind and make hostage of each silhouette, tacked to the wall and dark as the first time you had sex because it wasn’t love.

— by Melissa Barrett, Poetry Editor

Posted by Joseph, under climate change, poetry  |  Date: March 26, 2008
1 Comment »

One Blogger Responds to Climate Change Art

Mar15

BCA Climate Art Ad

The problem with climate change is that it’s abstract. We’ve all heard that carbon dioxide levels are rising, along with the average global temperature, but we can’t feel these changes like we can the effect of a space heater on a chilly room. Add a bitterly cold Boston winter, and the threat of global warming doesn’t seem so urgent. Magazines and newspapers try to move us with photographs of polar bears, pollution, and the carbon cycle, but this is an issue that needs more than a thousand words.

Greed, Guilt & Grappling: Six Artists Respond to Climate Change” at the Boston Center for the ArtsMills Gallery does a satisfactory job of making global warming relevant and visible, but sometimes at the expense of making visitors feel guilty about their lack of eco-awareness. The exhibit, co-organized by visual artists Mags Harries of Cambridge and Clara Wainwright of Brookline, will run through March 30 and is free to the public, although a donation of $5 is suggested.

The most interesting works allow visitors to see the impact an individual can have on environment. Instant Noodles by Michael Sheridan uses 400 empty noodle packages tossed into a corner to symbolize the mass of waste even a simple meal can accumulate over time. (He also asks visitors to factor in the use of palm oil to make the product, another serious environmental issue). On the ceiling above the main gallery is Carbon Footprints by Lajos Heder, drawings of shoe imprints created from a mix of acrylic paint and the carbon released from the 2007 California wildfires. The piece is powerful because it turns the invisible – our carbon dioxide emissions – into a black substance we can see, taste and touch.

Visitors are asked to write their own reactions to climate change on the wall where the foot path begins, part of the exhibit’s goal to encourage dialogue on the topic. While some of the messages seemed right out of the Greenpeace handbook, such as “Luxury living perpetuates global warming” and “I want my kids to build a fort in the woods one day,” others were permeated by eco-guilt. Phrases like “I hate relying on public transportation” and “I feel guilty for enjoying my cab ride,” even caught the attention of Boston Globe reporter Amy Farnsworth.

The exhibit goes quickly from depicting abstract environmental concepts to climate change activism. This was most evident in The Eco-Shaman Robes by Clara Wainwright. Visitors are meant to put on one these well-crafted and colorful garments, each portraying some kind of endangered critter, walk outside and engage strangers in conversation about climate change. While audience participation does bring an issue like global warming to life, because of the politics and the obvious bias, the robes come off as oddly cultish. (Greg Cook at the Boston Phoenix offers another perspective on this example in his review of the exhibit).

Most frustrating of all was Global Yawning for a Small Planet by Jay Critchley, a video exhibit in which two side by side projectors screened footage of people yawning. His argument is because yawning is a social act that can be shared, so should the act of fighting global warming. The problem with this logic is that yawning is instinctual while changing one’s behavior requires thought, consideration and a plan.

Overall, the exhibit is an interesting fusion of art and science, admirable for engaging the public in a dialogue about global warming. Creating work that maintains a balance between reflective and didactic without making exaggerated scientific claims is an effective way to leave visitors beaming with eco-excitement.

Posted by Joseph, under arts, climate change, reviews  |  Date: March 15, 2008
12 Comments »

Boston Globe Columnist Predicts Global Cooling

Jan07

Good news climate scientists and eco-warriors! The race to save the Earth is over. Global warming is no longer a threat. You see, conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby has done some research, and well, everyone was wrong.

In his Jan. 6 column in the Boston Globe titled, B-r-r! Where did Global Warming go?, Jacoby points out predictions made by British meteorologists last January did not come true. 2007 was not the warmest year on record; instead it was quite cold, especially in the Southern Hemisphere.

He wonders if the cold weather conditions we have seen this year, like a lot of snow in New Hampshire signals an “impending era of global cooling.”

Those who believe in global warming, or “alarmists” as Jacoby calls them, have two options to deal with statements like this. They can turn to the science, point and argue or take his question seriously. He is not the only person in Boston doubting global warming because of the cold weather.

What Jacoby is doing, with his language and argumentative tone, is confusing his readers by blurring science with politics. He is taking advantage of the doubts of people who want to do the right thing, but still want more proof, and using scientists with various affiliations to further a conservative, and kind of outdated, stance on climate change.

As proof for the doubt, he cites an open letter written to the U.N., signed by exactly 100 people (I counted), directly arguing human action cannot stop global warming because it is a natural phenomenon. It was published right around the time of the Bali conference.

He wonders if the cold weather conditions we have seen this year, like a lot of snow in New Hampshire signals an “impending era of global cooling.”

Those who believe in global warming, or “alarmists” as Jacoby calls them, have two options to deal with statements like this. They can turn to the science, point and argue or take his question seriously. He is not the only person in Boston doubting global warming because of the cold weather.

What Jacoby is doing, with his language and argumentative tone, is confusing his readers by blurring science with politics. He is taking advantage of the doubts of people who want to do the right thing, but still want more proof, and using scientists with various affiliations to further a conservative, and kind of outdated, stance on climate change.

As proof for the doubt, he cites an open letter written to the U.N., signed by exactly 100 people (I counted), directly arguing human action cannot stop global warming because it is a natural phenomenon. It was published right around the time of the Bali conference.

I decided to take a closer look into some of those who signed this letter (My comments italicized):#13) Richard S. Courtney, PhD, climate and atmospheric science consultant, IPCC expert reviewer, U.K. –  Technical editor of an international journal for the coal trading industry. (Source).

#18) Don J. Easterbrook, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Geology, Western Washington University – A recognized scientist, believes since 80% of the carbon dioxide was added to the air after 1940, warming has to be natural. (Source)

#20) Robert H. Essenhigh, PhD, E.G. Bailey Professor of Energy Conversion, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, The Ohio State University – Believes high temperatures have led to high carbon dioxide levels. (Source)

#26) Lee C. Gerhard, PhD, Senior Scientist Emeritus, University of Kansas; former director and state geologist, Kansas Geological Survey –  Claims to be neutral, does not believe carbon dioxide levels directly influence temperature and humans have no effect on climate, however if they did, it would require at least a 20% reduction in energy consumption to counter it. (Source)

#37) Jon Jenkins, PhD, MD, computer modelling -virology, NSW, Australia – An auto lobbyist, believes “Green science” is “junk.” (Source)

#45) David R. Legates, PhD, Director, Center for Climatic Research, University of Delaware – According to Greenpeace, works for Exxon-Mobil. (Source)

#54) Ross McKitrick, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept. of Economics, University of Guelph – A member of the libertarian think tank, The Fraser Institute, disagrees with policies implemented to cope with climate change. (Source)

#74) Arthur Rorsch, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Molecular Genetics, Leiden University, The Netherlands – Doesn’t believe climate change scientists are practicing good science. (Source)

#86) Len Walker, PhD, Power Engineering, Australia – Fellow of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, believes climate change is natural and Earth has been cooling. (Source)

Even in this mixed crowd, Jacoby’s assertions we are heading toward a “global Big Chill” is not in the majority. Even the opposition doesn’t necessarily agree global warming isn’t happening, they (ranging from those with corporate affiliations, economists, and scientists who have studied climate all their life) are arguing this isn’t the best science. This is a much deeper question than one Jacoby is asking. Someone writing a column for a city newspaper should not be using the power of his position to confuse readers.

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Posted by Joseph, under climate change  |  Date: January 7, 2008
3 Comments »

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