Dorian

September 2, 2019

BW photograph of water rushing between rocks.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Hurricane Dorian blasted parts of the Bahamas yesterday-please pay close attention to the wind speeds generated by the storm as reported here.

BW photograph of debris collected against a tree after a flood.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

At the time, Dorian was classified as a Category 5 hurricane, which is currently the highest level of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  As with many of the hurricanes of the 2018 season, the amount of rainfall being generated-as much as 30 inches in some areas in the Bahamas-is also a major concern.

BW photograph of a branch caught in overhead powerlines.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Last year, the idea of creating a new level, Category 6, was discussed due to the increased intensity of the hurricanes in this era of climate change and the warming of the oceans. That designation has not as yet been made official.

BW photograph of a branch caught in overhead powerlines-closer view.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Dorian’s impact of the U.S. remains to be seen and experienced, although it appears that she may scour the coast from Florida to the Carolinas in the coming days.  Evacuations have already been ordered, and it appears prudent to take heed of them as applicable.

Given that Dorian has had wind gusts of up to 220 mph and rainfall totals that could reach 30 inches, storms such as this will have far reaching consequences.  Building codes will need to be updated, insurance rates will most likely increase, some geographic locations will no longer be sustainable for human habitation.

Ironically, this storm arrives at a time when the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has proposed rollbacks to the regulations of methane emissions.  Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than is CO2-this is one of the main issues here.  As such, it also another example of the short-term economic thinking in support of the fossil fuel industry, which is the modus operandi of the current administration.  That these rollbacks are being proposed by the same agency that brought us the Clean Air Act demonstrates just how far afield that agency has gone under this administration.  Please be sure to read through the info from that link as it details the manner by which “global warming emissions” have been determined to be included in this legislation.  That not all of the multi-national energy companies support this rollback is at least, at least, some good news in this story.

However, tell that to those in the Bahamas or the areas that will be hit in the coming week.

Should one be in the path of this, or any major weather event, the government does have a web site for what to include in a go-bag, which is a key part of emergency preparation.

Take care.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S NOTE:  The photos included in this post have no relation to Hurricane Dorian-the first is one of the normal level of water flow at Morgan Run.  The second is a debris pile from an earlier flood at Morgan Run.  The last two are the result of trees that were cleared for a new building project.  They all, though, do serve as metaphors of what powerful storms can leave behind.

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Water

August 8, 2019

BW photograph of trees reflected in a puddle after a thunderstorm.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And lack thereof.  The content herein would be well-taken in combination with that of the recent post “Hot”.

NPR’s 1A aired a discussion this morning concerning “water stress” and the risk of reaching “Day 0”.  Please listen to the broadcast for the definition of those terms and the conditions creating them.  The World Resources Institute recently published this report, which forms the basis for that discussion.  The full WRI report is also worth a read.  That millions will be displaced due to sea level rise subsequent to melting arctic ice as a result of climate change is a cruel irony.  The same can be said for the cycle of drought/flooding experienced in many parts of the world.

Interestingly, and importantly, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a  report regarding the impact of agriculture on climate change.  This report also addresses water management as does that from the WRI.  The IPCC report, though, underlines the point that current agricultural practices create an extraordinary amount of methane, a greenhouse gas that is much better at trapping heat than CO2 and is thus a significant contributor to climate change.  As such, a reduction in meat and dairy consumption as well as a re-allocation of agricultural land would be necessary in order to intervene in the escalating environmental damage wrought by a lifestyle dominated by such dietary habits.

WBUR’s Here and Now addressed the IPCC report by focusing on the degradation of the Amazon rainforest.

The BBC’s Newshour also covered the IPCC report this morning (8/8/19).  As part of the coverage, several person-in-the-street interview clips were broadcast at the beginning of that segment.  Perhaps not surprisingly, some were not interested in diet modification and others needed more evidence of the environmental damage before considering a change.  It was not clear as to what more info would be needed to recognize the need for intervention.  Would those individuals read the IPCC report?  Would they listen to the rest of the BBC segment for the details about land degradation and climate change? A few did say they would alter their eating habits.  While these responses were expected, they are not in the aggregate encouraging.

Part of the problem here is the “all or none” manner by which the environmental impact of diet is presented and/or perceived-either one must give up all meat and all dairy or do nothing different.  Indeed, one of the best ways to create resistance is to tell people that they have to give up “all” of something.  (As an aside, this is one of the prime tactics used by the NRA and others to promote the fear of gun control.)  Heels dig in and the planet continues to cook (if you pardon the pun here).  There is middle ground.  This article details the potential benefits if one were to forego the eating of beef for just one meal a week.  Of course, the further one moves away from a meat/dairy heavy diet, the better for the environment.  This is not new information.

It goes without saying that water and land are intricately intertwined.  It also goes without saying that humans continue to adversely impact that relationship in ways that further jeopardize the flora and fauna that populate the planet.  The recent WRI and IPCC reports make that abundantly clear.

The information is available.  The science is there.

Take care.

 

 

 

Stormy Weather

May 28, 2019

BW photograph of a hat outside of a destroyed house in New Orleans post Katrina.

Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

With all due respect to the song by the same title, this post is about weather.  The lyrics of the song, though, are entirely appropriate as they reflect the bone-weariness of loss.  Rain is often a metaphor for feelings of sadness, depression, and grief-climate change induced weather patterns featuring inundations of water and scouring winds leave such emotions in their wake.

We are on the cusp of the 2019 hurricane season, which begins June 1, and the National Hurricane Center has posted its prediction.  Come December 2019, we will be able to assess its accuracy.  In between now and then, many will have to deal with the reality, not the prediction.

Meanwhile, with the official start of the hurricane season just a bit ahead of us, the Midwest has already been hammered by significantly violent tornadoes .  A couple of days ago, El Reno, OK was hit again.  Significantly, that area is also dealing with flooding from excessive rainfall that has caused waterways to exceed their banks. (As I am writing this, a weather update on the radio just advised that the Washington D.C. area could have thunderstorms accompanied by wind gusts of “up to 22 mph” this afternoon.  That hardly seems worth mentioning in this context.)

Given that climate change is one of the central themes of this blog, my teaching, and certainly my personal reading, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the severity and scope of the problem.  After having read David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, I realized that I did not.  Truthfully, that statement may not be entirely accurate, but the reports and statistics presented in the pages that follow certainly support the book’s opening sentence:  “It is worse, much worse, than you think” (pg. 3).  Indeed.  As the Guardian review linked above reports, and the book itself clearly documents, it is the speed by which the environment has been altered that is most shocking.  And it is not nearly finished as CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise, not fall.

If there is an upside to this, it is that, as Wallace-Wells describes, the human race has the ability to make in-roads so as to minimize the more extreme of the outcomes of our behaviour.  Having said that, he also very clearly states that millions around the world, including in the U.S., are already dealing with the catastrophes that accompany the rise in the planet’s temperature.  Those in the Midwest mentioned above, for example, have had yet another look into the maw.

Take care.

Photographer’s Note:  The above photograph was made outside of a destroyed house in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Protection

May 16, 2019

BW photograph of a plane flying into a cloud bank.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I fly.  Not too much.  But enough.

BW photograph a plane flying into a cloud bank.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Therefore, the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes and the subsequent grounding of that fleet caught my attention.  (I had had a flight scheduled that most likely would have been on one of those planes for just after they had been grounded-otherwise, I would have faced the decision of whether or not to make that trip.)  Later, there were additional reports about quality control problems at Boeing.  That these issues appear to be related to the efforts to remain competitive with other manufacturers’ aircraft exacerbated the concern.  Yes, statistically I am more likely to be injured or killed on my daily commute than when flying.  However, when planes go down, often resulting in scores of deaths, one takes notice.  Given that it now appears Boeing knew about the issues with the 737 Max 8 in advance of the first crash, one begins to seriously wonder about the company’s priorities with regard to safety, communication with constituents, and quality control.   That the FAA has allowed Boeing to largely regulate itself does not inspire confidence.  More on this point in just a bit.

BW photograph of the cloud bank into which a plane just flew.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

On a related note, HBO is currently showing Chernobyl, which is about the nuclear reactor explosion that occurred in 1986.  I am currently reading Midnight in Chernobyl and have started to watch the series.  What is striking, if not surprising, is how similar the issues with that disaster are to the ones that led to the current problems at Boeing-obfuscation, secrecy, and regulatory concerns are examples.  At Chernobyl, those working in the facility, their families and neighbors in Pripyat, the emergency personnel called to the scene, and anyone/anything downwind of the reactor, paid that price.  The book is definitely worth a read.

While the scale of these disasters are not equal, Chernobyl presented a genuine global risk, the pain of loss felt is a common denominator.

So, this begs the political question:  to what degree are governments responsible to protect their citizenry from problematic business practices?  The relationship between Boeing and the FAA is one example.  That the U.S. was one of the last countries to ground the 737 Max 8s adds to the mix.  For another example, think about the issues presented by Facebook with privacy in general and the 2016 election in particular.  On a different note, what if the governmental practices are the problem?  That is certainly a large part of the issue with Chernobyl.  In the U.S., the current administration systematically gutted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.   There is enough in the Mueller Report and the Attorney General’s summary to be concerned about as well.

With regard to corporate malfeasance, it often takes individuals within the company to step forward and become what are known as whistleblowers.  There are laws to protect such individuals as otherwise problematic, if not outright illegal, behaviour may not come to light.  The Obama administration had a complex relationship with that practice.

If the above is not enough, there is also the content of this interview.  Please listen for the use of the term “whistleblower” toward the end.  Here is a link to the NPR book review of that which is discussed in the interview.

One conclusion to draw from all of this?  Caveat Emptor.

Take care.

 

BW photograph of the Monocacy River on a foggy morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

“Unprecedented threat” is how the recent U.N. report characterizes the human relationship to another one million species with whom we share the planet.

BW photograph of food trash laying at the base of a trash can.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Humans are but one of eight million species that populate Earth-and we are the one creating the clear and present danger to that one million.

1A’s host Joshua Johnson draws a critical parallel to genocide-after all, estimates for those killed during the 1994 Rwanda genocide, as one example, range from 500,000 to over one million.  There are of course, other genocides in human history.

NPR aired this report, and here is a link to the U.N. IPBES media release.

In keeping with the current administration’s focus on climate change denial, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted the perceived economic advantages of polar ice melting.  As the panelists for the 1A discussion point out, this example of (extremely) selective attention ignores the larger global consequences resultant from the loss of polar ice.

Importantly, the U.N. report does point out that we, the humans of Earth, can still intervene in this destruction.  Individual states, cities, and corporations in the U.S. are making efforts to bring us into compliance with the Paris Accords.  This, though, also needs to be part of a nuanced review-the parameters of which are discussed by the 1A panel.  Please do listen to the full discussion.

Take care.

Transition

April 17, 2019

BW photograph of a burger restaurant transitioning to the Veggie Grill.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The results are clear:  transitioning from a meat/dairy-based diet is not only good for the individual, but for the planet as a whole.  Methane is a major issue-and there are many cows out there.

BW photograph of the upcoming Veggie Grill from across the street.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Please do read the articles linked above as they contain much useful information about the interaction between human behaviour and methane levels.  It is important to note that, as the second article points out, methane is also a by-product of decaying vegetation; however, by far the majority of methane released into the atmo is due to human activity-not natural biological processes.  While methane can be stored in the earth’s permafrost, a problematic feedback loop has been created:  human activity (a meat/dairy-based diet in this case) has increased the amount of methane (and other greenhouse gases) released, resulting in the rise of global temperatures.  As the planet warms, the permafrost melts, which then releases more of the stored methane.  That, in turn, exacerbates climate change.

Just as there is a clear and present need to transition to renewable energy resources, so, too, is there a need to transition to less-impactful eating habits.  Carnivores, though, do like eating meat. (Truth in disclosure:  I have been a vegetarian for decades now-the original decision was based on the manner by which the industrial beef/poultry/pork conglomerates raised and produced their products.  For me, the info about the impact on climate change came later and just reinforced the decision.  Still, the smell of bacon remains a trigger…)  Given that we do live in a bio-genetic age, this is one solution to the dilemma for one who likes the taste of beef but is concerned about the environmental impact.  This article reports on a variety of responses to that product.

There is a much older, less biotech solution as well:  eating insects.

The idea of eating lab-created meat or insects may well trigger other reactions.  Indeed, socialization and social learning theory form the basis for what is culturally acceptable to consume.  Given widespread availability (this will be an issue for those living in food deserts) and enough time, such alternatives may well become norms.  For example, when visiting a grocery store, check and see how many soy-based “meat” products there are…these have been mainstream for quite a while.

Take care.

Relationship

March 28, 2019

BW photograph of the sunrise on the solstice.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

“Air Force Needs Almost $5 Billion To Recover Bases from Hurricane, Flood Damage”

“40 Years After A Partial Nuclear Meltdown, A New Push To Keep Three Mile Island Open” 

There is a direct relationship between these two reports.  The economic consequences of climate change-charged storms continue to rise.  Sea-level rise is a clear and present danger to coastal populations and infrastructure. (It is not just the Air Force needing to adapt to the effects of climate change-the Navy has issues, too.)  Expanding the use of renewable energy and non-fossil fuel options is seen as one of the main means by which to adapt to a volatile environment.  As such, attention has re-focused on nuclear energy-hence the report about keeping Three Mile Island in operation.

Interestingly, I was on my way back to college when the accident at Three Mile Island occurred.  I distinctly remember looking across and wondering why the highway lanes heading in the opposite direction were so unusually crowded-I was remarkably unaware of the problem.  As per the NPR report above, about 80,000 people evacuated in the days following the incident-some of whom did not return.  The fear of contamination drove people away from the immediate area.   It was also a point of alarm regarding the dangers of this form of energy production.

As per the report, Three Mile Island had its partial meltdown on March 28, 1979.  A few years later (April 26, 1986), the Chernobyl reactor exploded.  Later still (March 11, 2011), the Fukushima reactor had a meltdown following a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.  Those two links present information about the damage to the reactors as well as the current status of those geographic areas.  These incidents further exacerbated pre-existing concerns over the reliance on nuclear energy as a primary source of power-a history of which is presented by the Clean Energy Wire.  Countries around the world abandoned nuclear energy as a viable resource.

Climate change has necessitated a new look at the cost/benefit ratio provided by nuclear resources.  Would that be the case if more had been done with wind and solar energy in the years past instead of continuing drill and refine and burn?

BW photograph looking west down Thames Street before sunrise.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What if we in the developed world had placed greater emphasis on reducing our power consumptions and throw-away lifestyles?

BW photograph of a plastic water bottle laying amid some plants along a hiking trail.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What if we had done both?

Of course, it is less than useful to have a one way view looking back because doing so does not change the present.  However, examining the past does explain how we came to be where we are, so there is value in analyzing previous mistakes so as to avoid them in the present and future.  While we must also be open to exploring alternatives, critical thinking with an eye toward the future in the evaluation of the possibilities is critical.  There are alternatives-nuclear energy is one, geoengineering approaches are being explored by others.

We are in a position where extraordinary amounts of money are required for mitigation and adaptation to the current problems related to climate change-these costs are going to increase.  As such, long-term solutions do need to be found.  They, too, will require investment.  We have lived our way into an incredibly complex problem, which will require multiple solutions.  We must evaluate these options with due diligence and choose wisely, which puts me in agreement with the conclusions drawn in the Vox article linked above.  Some mistakes are, after all, more consequential than others.

Take care.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography.  All rights reserved.