Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “climate”

2012: A Year to Remember – Roger Ingalls

Global warming, who cares. We’re only talking about a few degrees so what’s the big deal? The availability of food is the big deal.

Starch based foods, such as; corn, rice and wheat are members of the grass family and the life blood for most people on Earth. Not only do we eat starch-plants but our livestock is primarily fed corn and similar grassy vegetation. In addition, close to 70% of all items found on grocery stores shelves in developed countries have some type of corn byproduct in them (an unintended consequence of subsidized farming). The world depends on starchy grasses so we must have large land masses in climate zones suitable for growing these plants.

Global warming of a few degrees may not seem like much but when compared to temperature ranges required to grow our food, the small change isn’t so little.

For the purposes of this short article we’ll talk about corn. The ideal temperature range for growing corn is 68F to 73F degrees and having an abundant amount of weather in this range is needed to keep food prices affordable and available. The ideal growing range is only 5F degrees (73 – 68 = 5) so a climate shift of 2 or 3 degrees will consume 50% of corn’s growing range budget and that is significant. The average growing season temperature for America’s bread basket region (Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois…) is about 72F degrees so an upward shift of just a few degrees takes us out of the ideal condition. This is bad news for high yields.

Global warming also has another, more damaging, side effect; prolonged extreme temperature variation. This is what we are now experiencing in the Midwest and it’s having a devastating impact on crops. In past years, it was normal to have a handful of super-hot days but climate change is producing consecutive weeks of scorching heat. More bad news for crop yields. Corn can survive in a range of 50F to 95F degrees for a period of time but will not yield well above 80F or below 60F. Corn can even tolerate extreme temperatures (32F to 110F degrees) but only for a few days. When we have weeks of heat over 100F degrees, as we have seen this year, crops fail.

2012 may become a year to remember. It will be a year of climate records in both high temperatures and protracted heat days. It will be a year of failed crops.

A few degrees does make a difference.

I Want a Space Suit – Roger Ingalls

Like many kids growing up in the 60s and 70s, I wanted to be an astronaut. Perched atop a metal tube filled with mega-amounts of explosives, blasting through space would have been an awesome experience. Putting on high-tech gear and floating around an Apollo capsule like Will Robinson hovering above the Jupiter 2 in Lost in Space was every boy’s dream.

My astronaut wishing days are well behind me but, in the coming years, there will be a terrestrial need for space-like attire. So, at least, I may finally get to dress like an astronaut.

MIT developed BioSuit

A few months ago I wrote a piece called Give Global Warming a Hug. This was written because we need to embrace the fact that a hotter world is here to stay for a long time and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And the “better” will not come until humans are extinct. One of the closing lines in the hug piece was, “We need to spend our intellectual energy creating an economy that allows us to survive and prosper in the chaos of a warmer world.” Climate change will create new markets. One of the products introduced during the Warm World Economy will be a Terrestrial Environmental Suit or TES. Resembling a space suit, it will control temperature, humidity and have many other bells and whistle for comfort and entertainment.

The TES is a product of necessity for two primary reasons; sky-rocketing energy cost and the need for humans to navigate their daily existence in a hotter climate. We will soon be a world of 9,000,000,000 (nine billion) people on an already energy stressed planet. All fuels are expensive now and will exponentially increase in the future. The luxury of having cooled spaces in our cars, homes, stores and offices is energy intensive and will soon be economically unsustainable. There is no need to control the climate inside all these big spaces. We only need to manage the space immediately around our bodies and doing so will save tremendous amounts of energy.

So, wal-lah or Viola…expect a climate controlled Terrestrial Environmental Suit in stores near you soon!

Finally, after forty years I’ll get my space suit.

Denying The Denial in Durban – Neil Goldberg (Guest Blogger)

You would think that when high level delegations from 200 countries, as well as thousands of civic organizations (NGOs), and countless scientists descend on a conference to inform, discuss, propose and negotiate factors widely believed to be a threat to human existence, it would be newsworthy. Thousands of people gathering to build social and intellectual networks so that they can be prepared with proposals for solutions – in policy, funding, infrastructure, technology and programs to deal with the threat.

Such a gathering is in fact going on at this very moment at the U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa,   and has been for over a week. The shocker is, I can barely find mention of it anywhere in the MSM (main stream media), let alone screaming from banner leading headlines as I would expect it to be.

After all, whether one agrees that global warming is human caused or not, even most rabid right wingers and deniers are coming around to accept the evidence that the earth is in fact warming up. And to such a degree that it appear almost inevitable that it will cause major disruptions in the world economy and possibly an epochal shift in human culture.

I’ve been looking around for coverage, and finding very little. Certainly no screaming headlines in the vein “LARGEST THREAT TO HUMAN SURVIVAL SINCE NOAH RODE OUT THE FLOOD”. or, “OOPS”.

Not a single mention in my Yahoo newsfeed, which includes an AP feed (10 stories), NPR (5 stories), USA Today (5 stories), SFGate (5 stories) and The (British) Guardian (8 stories). And when I clicked through to the home pages of each of these venerable media outlets, I found – you guessed it, not a single mention of the conference. Not a single mention of global warming. Not a single tear jerking human interest profile of people struggling and winning against adversity. Not a single hero story. Not a single story about the massive amounts of money to be made on climate change generated business opportunities.

Of course there is room for stories of earth shattering import like “With His Past an Issue, Gingrich Spars and Parries” (NPR), and “Megachurch’s Future Uncertain After Pastor Leaves” (AP) and “Cain Accuser Bialek Say She Feels Vindicated” in the “Nation and World” headlines on USA Today. It’s such a busy newsday that important discussion about the imminent upending of human society just can’t make the cut.

I did a Google search for “Coverage of  climate conference, Durban”. Top item is an Adword (paid advertisement) for “Knowledge.Allianz.com”, the blog site of a major insurance company with extensive coverage on things like “Climate”, “Energy”, Mobility”, “Microfinance”, etc. But not a major journalistic organization.

Second was a piece called “What can Durban Climate Conference Achieve?” from ABC Online (their blog); a piece from Reuters India, one from Environment and Energy Publishing and another from a Canadian blog site called rabble.ca – News For the Rest of Us.

The first major news forum represented in my search is a story from LA Times who are reporting on…oh wait a minute. They’re reporting on what NPR previously reported in a story titled “NPR reports Kyoto Protocol in trouble in Durban”. I guess LA Times didn’t see fit to actually send their own reporter to Durban. What I particularly love about this story is in the opening paragraph, which sort it all:

“You may have noticed that news coverage of the U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa, has been minimal, at best, and that’s clearly because -– just like in Copenhagen last year -– there has been almost no mention of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was put in place to set reduction targets for important greenhouse gases. Without a big, juicy target, the conference lacks the drama to merit mention on even the eco-blogs.”

So there you have it. Not worth reporting on because nothing is happening there. But I would guess, nothing much is happening there because by now, everybody believes the issue has gone away due to, well, lack of attention in the main stream media.

How DO you spell D-E-N-I-A-L!

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Neil Goldberg developed his political perspective growing up in apartheid South Africa which he left in 1982 when it seemed that democratic change was impossible. He is a designer of a wide array of products, environments and services. This experience has taught him that the limitations of imagination are the only thing standing in the way of just about any problem. Since becoming a father 12 year ago he has become convinced that a loving heart is the ultimate spur to imagination.

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