Winter Breeze Makes Me Feel Not So Fine

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I’m used to the cold. I’m used to snow. I was a kid in Wisconsin in the 70s and 80s, and would be woken up by my mom early mornings to scrape ice inches thick off the car windows. I reveled in snow days and more than once thought about wearing snowshoes to get from the front door to the school bus waiting at the end of our drive. Winter doesn’t bother me. Snow and ice do not frighten me. As a teenager, in the snowiest months my sister and I would try to find a semi-truck to drive behind both to save on gas (less driving against the wind) and to clear the road ahead of us as we drove away from our home out in the country for a big night out on the town (in the nearby metropolis which boasted about 35,000 residents – a Mecca to us then). As uncomfortable as some of those winter-life adjustments may have been, they were normal and nearly painfully predictable.

So what has me and others calling this the winter of our discontent should come as no surprise. It’s the fact (no longer question or issue) of climate *change*. I wondered as I watched the State of the Union address last week whether it was the first time a President has referred to climate change in such a nonchalant way, like talking about oil and gas prices, education, unemployment, and other standard areas of common concern. My worry is that now that it’s a given, there seems to be a resigned acceptance. It’s like those fighting the battle to stem the tide of global warming had the wind taken out of their sails defending its existence and what they called it (global warming vs. climate change as if that makes any difference to the birds and seas, or to you and me). So wrapped up in the political fight(s), they got little done in time. And no one, it seems, really knows if it’s too late. And if it’s not, how to reverse the damage.

Here we are with summer in January in the should-be coldest parts of the world and winter sitting in the lap of the normally mildest. In January, it got colder in Chicago than in the South Pole. In Juneau, Alaska, flowers bloomed out of season. Water in the North Pacific is up to seven degrees warmer than most years. Meanwhile, more than 36,000 flights were cancelled due to extreme weather conditions, three times more than in the past two Januarys. An early count shows more than a thousand local records were set for snowfall in January in the United States, while California is shutting down ski resorts for lack of snow. A recent survey found that the water content of California’s snowpack is at just 12% of average, the lowest it’s been since record-keeping of the measure began in 1960. As a result, the state has announced it will not distribute state water supplies to its 25 million customers and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland unless there is an abundance of wet weather by May 1. These cities and farms that normally rely on state supplied water will have to look elsewhere. They will have to tap underground reservoirs, if they have any, and ask other districts to buy or borrow some. No doubt there will be significant costs involved, something municipalities in cash-strapped California and already facing the economic blows of drought can ill afford. Mandatory rationing of water has already commenced in some areas. If one thing is predictable, it’s that the painful effects of California’s drought, and I’m sure other consequences of aberrant weather, will be far reaching this year.

Welcome, I’m afraid, to the new normal.

Climate Change Hits $60 Trillion. Bring on The News.

Go back home, fall.  It’s still just July.  What’s that you say?  You’re not a change of the seasons, you’re climate change and there’s no stopping you now?  Oh, in that case, I’m going back to Facebook.

I’ve never been a big fan of a/c.  We have one unit in our living room window, despite the recent heatwave.  We don’t run it all day.  I turn it on a few minutes before my partner gets home.  If I’m spending more time in the living room than where I usually am in my office (with a fan and windows open), I’ll turn it on for awhile.  So there’s no real schedule of its use.  We do experiment with how well the unit works in conjunction with the ceiling fan, and have mixed reviews.  It was some time yesterday that I wondered if I had turned the thing or left it on too long, or whether having all the windows in the house open was making it suddenly feel cold.  And if it was the latter, why that would be after weeks of having all the windows in the house open.  It seemed odd that the cold air could be coming from outside but indeed it was.  By the time I went to sleep last night, it felt downright like fall.  Waking up this morning, the birds are quieter than they were yesterday.  Fewer of them almost it seems.  The sky is gray.  The street does not having the usual bustly feel of summer.  And something just seems wrong.  I almost expect to see leaves falling to the ground (and not like the leaves on my hosta plants that wilted and singed yellow and brown at the edges from all the unbearable heat we’ve had lately).

Last night before going to bed, I checked online.  I looked around Facebook (there’s a page about m neighborhood that’s become somewhat addictive, and I like to watch the number of comments ring up after a comment I or someone else has made about something that only neighbors can be annoyed about — overcharging at a particular grocery store, the removal of waste cans on major corners because the sanitation department says they’re causing too much mess — or just the history of a building or person who’s been a fixture on these streets).  I didn’t do the full stroll and check in to LinkedIn and Twitter.

It seems anymore we don’t have to go looking for the news.  If we’re engaging in the usual social media rounds that most of our ethernet neighbors are, then the news comes to us.  I think there is the sometimes-false sense that we therefore know what’s going on.  Actual, true-life media outlets I’m sure are suffering from this hubris we have.  But in a way they seem to be chasing their tails too, sniffing out scoops online, and allowing the democratization of the news unfold without too much protestation.  If enough people are interested in it online, it must be news.  I’ve been seeing on morning television shows with increasing frequency (so now it’s just “regular” news) videos that have gone viral – a wild animal jumping into someone’s car because it was being chased by a cheetah or some other beast, Beyonce’s hair getting caught in a fan, a puppeteer who can make his puppets dance better than they do on Dancing With the Stars, you get the drift.

So what happens to the little articles that got lost in the swirl because maybe they’re a little boring, or because they’re not written simply enough for the regular reader to get their significance, or because it’s not a beast or Beyonce or a dancing puppet.  What if it’s just the Arctic taking its final swan song?  Before I went to bed, I happened upon a blog post or news article – dangerously, I can barely tell them apart these days – noting July 22, 2013 as the day to put down in the history books for when the North Pole became a lake.  I noticed it was the only article I saw like this, and even looking back now I can’t find the same article/post.  I wasn’t surprised.  If a poll were taken, I’d bet more people on FB preferred puppies and kitties and stars getting their hair stuck to the uncomfortable and downright painful truth of climate change.  I woke this morning thinking about it, wondering in my unscientific way if the air is carrying the last of the polar cap.  I wondered, too, about how that article was just a blip amid more enticing videos of stars’ hair getting stuck in fans and wildebeasts jumping in and out of Jeeps.

But then I woke up this morning and in searching for the blip on the screen last night, I found countless articles, most marked “22 minutes ago,” or “2 hours ago.”  Lots of them, too!  Turns out the arctic melting is gonna cost somebodies some big money.  Bring on the media.  This is not longer just enviro-blogger worthy.  Now it’s real news.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-24/arctic-ice-melt-cost-seen-equal-to-year-of-world-economic-output.html

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/24/world/climate-arctic-methane/index.html

http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/arctic-melt-gases-may-cost-world-60-trillion-1-3015046

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/methane-meltdown-the-arctic-timebomb-that-could-cost-us-60trn-8730408.html

Oh, Sandy — And How to Be Ready for Her Sisters

It’s good to admit weakness.  Although we were lucky enough to not suffer any serious damage from the storm, it was an acute reminder to this household, and I’m sure others, that we were generally underprepared.  It’s so painfully easy to get wrapped up in the day to day and to put off doing things that will make your life easier when you have something more serious to worry about than your own busy-ness.  One of my own personal challenges is failing to approach things in digestible pieces.  I tend to try to tackle the whole mountain — in this case, investigating, reviewing, interviewing experts, before sitting down to stuff a safety-pack.  However, there’s no time like the present, when you’re not staring down the eye of a storm, to start preparing for the unexpected, even if that start is just making a list of what you might need.  It is okay to start small, and proceed small, and eventually you will have something very big accomplished.  (A writer/mentor/friend of mine, Crescent Dragonwagon, advocates relentless incrementalism, and I’m incrementally incorporating the notion.)

That in mind, I am finally ready to start getting serious about getting at least more adequately prepared than I felt about a month ago, as Superstorm Sandy was rolling in.  (It’s an awful feeling when the drain in your bathtub doesn’t work and all you’re hearing on the radio is how everyone should be filling their bathtubs to the brim in the event of pure catastrophe — the unknown is always the villain in these scenes).

There are many lists available online for how you should stock your home in the event of an emergency.  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments on this list, and to recommend others.  As for now, I’m keeping it simple with an old standard — FEMA.  According to FEMA, the following is what you need to stock your basic disaster supplies kit.  (If anyone can think of a better name for the “basic disaster supplies kit,” please share.  While I’m no Pollyanna, I still think the words we use help shape and create our own reality.  Maybe something along the lines of Adventure Pack for the Unexpected, or Welcome the Unknown Gift Basket….?)

Anyway, here’s the list…

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

I was calling my adult daughter the day before the storm hit, making sure she had good old-fashioned paper maps, atlas, etc., since her cell phone has been her fifth appendage since high school.  From my own experience on September 11, I can’t vouch fervently enough for value of a good radio.  I walked from Houston to 83rd that day, keeping quick pace with a stranger who gave me one ear bud to get the news on his handheld transistor radio.  Granted the news was all wrong, including reports of Chicago being bombed (seriously – and from a legit source), but that was in the cacophony of confusion so I don’t hold it against anyone — just one of those things no one seemed to remember after.  Still, access to any news is better than no news in such situations.

I skipped Black Friday — trying to do the “be local buy local” route — but I have a specific shopping list for the days and weeks ahead.  (relentless incrementalism, relentless incrementalism, relentless incrementalism)  It’s an early gift to my family, my home, and myself.  Will keep you posted.

The Storms: Death and Destruction, Help, Hope and Recovery

While counts of the toll the two storms that hit the northeast in recent weeks continue toward a final tally, people of the area busy themselves donating to others still in need, waiting in gas lines, resuming (or trying) semblances of normal in their work and personal lives, while others wait for electricity and struggle to stay warm. 400,865 homes in the eastern U.S. remain without power as of yesterday.  The least fortunate of us trudge the long uphill road of grieving lost loved ones. For those, the pain will last long past the clean up crews and news media. For those, the recovery never really ends. The death toll of victims in the U.S. has reached 120. At last count, it was close to 70 victims in the Caribbean, hitting Haiti (52 fatalities) the hardest.

Flashes of hope of the basic compassion of humanity are present in the vast relief efforts underway. From local long-standing businesses such as Two Boots Brooklyn, organizing food and clothing drives, to the new and innovative Mealku, making sure those who have lost much are receiving home cooked meals. And of course there are so many others lending a hand and organizing volunteers: Red Cross, NYC Mayors office, New York Cares, Congregation Beth Elohim, Occupy Sandy, the Humane Society (leading pet search and rescue efforts), Staten Island Recovers, and of course The Salvation Army. If you are donating, please remember the victims in Haiti, whose suffering is all that much greater given its extremely impoverished state and particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters and global warming. Please consider contributing to groups such as Direct Relief and International Medical Corps and Americares.

Most everyone I know is in some way in the trenches, whether by helping a family member or hard hit local business (like Rocky Sullivan’s in Red Hook – my friend, part owner, was there with a pump before realizing the task ahead was too great — he was able to keep himself safe but the bar/restaurant itself has suffered serious damage). (Please check out this NYT blog post if your small business was affected by the storm).  Others are rolling up their sleeves and coming from our of state to see what help still needs to be done. At Greenwood Cemetery, they’re busy removing the 150 trees that were destroyed during the storm, and restoring many broken monuments. Donations for that restoration are being accepted online.

Please let us know of other disaster relief efforts you are supporting, what people can do to help, and any useful links you may have. In the wake of so much destruction, the helping hands of others is the real source of recovery.

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The Swap That Doesn’t Stop

All kinds of goodies pop up and surprise me.

I’m beginning to conceive a world where there are no stores, only trade markets.

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And where a very small business can go public without severe government intervention.

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And where voters decide how their tax dollars get spent.
And where citizens take to the streets or pull up their hoodies to stand up for their rights.

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And where flowers of communal gardens replace lonely urban lots.

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Hey, wait a minute.  I think I hear something… When the moon is in the seventh house

QUESTION: could it be that we’re in the Age of Aquarius? What are the signs? What are you seeing that we are doing better as a people than maybe ever before? Go ahead, folks, gimme the dirt! And keep on singing…let the sun shine in!

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Who’s Watching out for the Environment? Not Congress.

Who’s watching out for the environment?  Apparently, not our elected officials.  Courtesy of Environmental Defense Action Fund, last year saw the following assaults on the environment:

The U.S. House of Representatives voted seven times to dismantle the Clean Air Act…

There were 28 votes to weaken the Clean Water Act….

The House voted 191 times on bills or amendments to undermine pour health and environmental standards….

There were 84 votes to block actionstaht prevent pollution, and 114 votes targeting the EPA (the only federal agency that can take action on global warming).

Last year alone, Congress accepted over $40 million from the power industry lobby, and 22% of all votes taken in the House last year were to undermine environmental protections, roll back environmental laws and endanger public healthy.

Guess the lobbyists got their money’s worth.

Guess we have to do more.

Go to the link above.  If you can, make a donation.  If you can’t, or if you do, contact your legislators, and let them know that this year, you’re watching them.

What the Daffodil?

Before I left for work this morning, I turned away when I caught a surprising splash of bright orange-yellow in the corners of my yard. I knew what it meant, but didn’t want to look. Last year, I watched them day after day. I willed them to spread their graceful long stems into arabesque, and don the season’s latest.

It’s been a hellish week, only two days in. The work day was long but not as unbearable as I thought it might be, after staying up way past my bedtime to get all my other work done. I logged about 1.2 hours on my sleep machine. As irony is iron clad, right around quitting time today, I had a fourth or fifth or sixth wind, and kept plugging along. The last colleague on my floor bid me good-night after transforming from stuffy Wall Street attire to a tight white t-shirt and jeans that crinkled in all the right places (“dinner date” was the quick explanation for the superhero-style switch). Seeing as this colleague is not my persuasion, not my partner, and notably older, the admiration was an innocent one … a fleeting thought, really, that I could stand to exercise more than I do, and there’s hope it would pay off. I kept at the grind till my phone rang moments later. It was my coworker, calling to tell me the elevators weren’t working and the ground floor was flooded with firefighters. I’m sure the words weren’t quite that, but that’s what I heard as I grabbed the items off my desk, mentally kicking myself for not wearing sensible (or even all that fashionable) shoes, and saw my rare burst of dedication go up in imagined flames. I got the to ground floor on the one elevator that was working, and there were about two firefighters for every several people. The lobby was mostly empty. Smart people had left to enjoy the rare weather.

After work, I went to the wine store to buy a celebratory bottle of something with a touch of fizz to celebrate finishing a brief in what has been a long painful litigation, and to (maybe?) celebrate this uncharacteristically balmy weather. The clerk in my favorite bottle store in Park Slope joked that he has no problem with global warming. “I’m thinking about spraying some aerosol cans in the air,” he said with a cajoled glee. I (road weary and fully obliterated by the abhorent hours I’ve been keeping), chimed in “in honor of the weather.” He corrected me, “to keep it coming.”

“Bring it on, global warming.”

I ha-ha’d, grabbed my bottles (I don’t go often, so I stocked up on two), and left. Walking down the block to my house, I felt like a bit part in the first twenty minutes of a seventies sci-fi made-for-tv movie. I couldn’t help but stare near slack jawed at the flowers in full bloom in the little plots of plants they put in a few years ago in front of the apartment complex at 40. By the time I hit 60, I had to stop and ask the Chinese man who was crouched on his feet and working furiously with his hands what it was he was planting. I’ve been beyond impressed with how various plants pop up in that well (but not fussily) manicured front yard, and are whisked away to some unknown outpost, while a vast variety of new ones quickly replace them throughout the growing season. He didn’t understand my question, or was too busy to engage. He worked with such intention, though I couldn’t determine its method. I wondered if there were some secret he had that I did not know but should want (e.g., get the plants in the ground quickly early in the season, lull and lollygag for warmer weather plantings). He did not pay serious attention to me until I asked him “too cold?,” and pointed to the plants in his hands, wondering whether there’s still the risk of a cold spell wiping them out. He pointed to the plants that were already in the ground, and have been there all year long, just waiting for new neighbors to join them. He pointed to a hosta-like plant with sturdier leaves and said, “No.” “These strong.” “Ooooh, okay,” I said as if I’d just learned something but wondered to myself what all he knew and was not saying. I carried on my breezy but slightly paranoid way.

Around 80, I almost stopped dead in my tracks. The tree that usually does not show its bloom till mid April (at an earliest) had magically transformed in the hours I sat behind my cold and sturdy desk, face to face with the eight hour glow of my screen, from a naked branched lady in a dressing room, to a gently clad bride, waiting for the first dance. So young. These things can destroy them, you know (the whispers of the sturdy old gals down at 60 floated our way).

Then I really caught myself in the midst of this bad movie, shook it off, skipped on down to my own yard, knowing what I had to face. There they were, just as I’d left them this morning, but a touch taller, more definite, more mature, more determined that Mother Nature had their dance card. The little lady daffodils, so eager to make their long awaited entrance, could wait no more.

Kids these days. They don’t know that it pays to be fashionably late.

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I Would Pay For That: on Syria, the Super Bowl, and Survival

A note to my fellow revelers:  I woke up this morning thinking about a business idea I’m putting out there for the taking when current events worked their way out of my mind, where I must have been mulling them over in the past several days, and into this post.  It winds but if you bear with me, I hope you’ll agree it matters.

Business idea.

Watching the Superbowl and its just as widely watched commercials, a viewer could have no doubt the year we live in.  The build-up to 2012 as possibly the last year of the humankind has been great.  Now marketers are capitalizing on, while poking good fun at, the hype.  From Chevy’s “2012″ commercial where those who survive the Apocalypse are, of course, those who were in their Silverados when it happened, to movie trailers feeding on schadenfreude and seizing the zeitgeist.  In the lineup are Marvel Comic’s The Avengers, which shows a scene whose celluloid vision is now overly familiar: a city destroyed, with cars overturned and smoke billowing from random corners of the screen, which in the next scene become firebombs roaring through a city’s narrow streets.  A voice over tells us, “The world has changed.”  Then there’s Battleship: another city street that in one moment is peaceful and calm while a family waits with bored and impatient faces to get through yet another typical big-city traffic jam, when out of the sky alien machinery comes crashing down like a giant pinball, overturning cars and sinking full highways in its path.   Ominous, machine-like heavy breathing segues into random sounds of destruction, hard rock and occasional digital bleeping to lay the soundtrack.  In the same opening tone of the Avengers trailer, we hear an official-sounding voice inform an apparently other official person, “We’re looking at an extinction-level event.”  And there you have it.  The preview to 2012.  Hollywood style.

But what’s the reality?  In two words: change hurts.  The globe has been going through growing pains, notably and obviously, beginning with last year’s Arab spring, where people in the Arab world banded together to overthrow dictators and protest human rights abuses and economic conditions.  It sparked an era where people across the globe are coming into their own as activists and change agents.  Next came the protests stateside starting in the fall and continuing as a still fledgling movement with its battle cries sounding out against inequality and injustice on an array of fronts from the economy to food production.  People everywhere, it seems, are waking up and saying, “I’m not gonna take it anymore.”  Fill in the blank, of course, for whatever your “it” may be.

While the bravado behind these movements is inspiring, and will likely provide a wealth of Hollywood fodder in the years ahead, as Syria is currently showing us, change invites resistance that, when tested, can become an all-out offensive.  NPR features an article today of the story of a former regime-backer, Younes Al-Yousef, who agreed wholeheartedly with the government that the protesters, or “terrorists,” were to blame for all the discord.  That was, until he saw the government he supported kill its own citizens to tamp out the protests, and witnessed himself, a former cameraman for a pro-government TV station, as a pawn in their unfair play.  He has since fled the country, and survives for now to tell another Syrian horror story.  I listened yesterday to a Skype interview on NPR of another citizen, Omar Shakir, a blogger and citizen journalist stuck in Syria and hiding out with no food and little electricity, hoping the killers simply will not get to him and his comrades.   The sound of gunfire is heard, as well as jokes being told between friends, for the purpose, he explains, to “encourage ourselves … so we can feel better.”  He describes rockets and Russian tanks and machine gun used against his fellow civilians.  The day before, the hospital was hit by a rocket.  He describes mass killing, and explains that every man in his town is wanted and will be killed.  He clearly understands this to include himself and his friends.

Where does this leave us — us, the viewer, the outsider, the consumers of hard-core media coverage and soft-core celluloid versions of our fears and nightmares (the former telling stories that have uncomfortably uncertain outcomes and the latter guaranteed to let us work out these anxieties and sleep easy at night).  It leaves me to do what I do best when I start to get overwhelmed with things I can’t control: reel the focus back to a micro level.  Ask myself if I am prepared for the unpredictable.  Ask myself if there is anything I can do to help my neighbor.  Which brings us back to the business idea.

If there were a service of a person who is well-versed in disaster preparation and recovery, I would pay that person for their wealth of knowledge and recommendations, and for doing some of the leg work on those preparations still unmade in this household.  We have water, for example, but no generator.  I have put off buying a generator (which, yes, I do think most households should have) because I am overwhelmed by the thought of doing the research on which is the most reasonable (economic, space-saving, reliable, and easy to use) generator to have.  This is just one example of why I would pay someone good money (and put money into our economy) to do the legwork for me.  My partner’s father does this type of work on a city-level.  There’s no reason we shouldn’t be ensuring at least a basic measure of preparedness in our own homes.

Now, what to do about Syria?  Like most of the rest of the world, I don’t know yet.  Cash isn’t flush right now and it doesn’t seem like throwing money at a problem as out of control as this is going to do much good at the moment.  If I thought it would do some good, though, I would do it.  My own brief research hasn’t turned up any reliable channels for getting relief to the Syrian people.  If anyone else has found otherwise, though, please let us know.

At least our government (one of the good ones – and, yes, I believe that but I’m not so foolish to think that that couldn’t change) is working with other governments to take a stance.  The U.S. has imposed increasingly stringent sanctions against Syria.  This week, the U.S. closed its embassy there.  Also this week, the U.S. joined the international community in condemning the tragedy unfolding in Syria.  China and Russia, in a move described by England as “incomprehensible and inexcusable,” vetoed the U.N. resolution against Syrian president Bashar al Assad.   Just days earlier, in backroom negotiations, the U.S and allies had dropped a demand for UN sanctions and an arms embargo against Syria in exchange for Russia’s support on the resolution.  Like a squabbling child who refuses to play nice even after making up, Russia is once again on the wrong side of the room.  Back in May 2011, Amnesty International asked for global help to the growing crisis in Syria.  In this Youtube clip, Salil Shetty, Secretary General, calls for the international community to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, an arms embargo, an asset freeze, and for accountability, with only a weak response from governments across the globe.  Many individuals, however, had even by then expressed their support in petitions to protect peaceful protests in Syria.

While I, and others, are waiting and watching for what we can do to help, I am also trying, like others, to simply keep myself informed and help others be aware because surely someone who does not yet know about the depth and extent of the atrocities (recent estimates are 6000-7500 civilians murdered) just may be the person with the answer.

Hey Discovery Channel: AIR OUR MELTING PLANET!

Discovery Channel Doesn’t Want to Air Our Melting Planet: Sign the Petition to See the Horror Show

Go to Change.org to sign the petition.
Why This Is Important

The Discovery Channel has chosen not to air the full final episode of the much anticipated Frozen Planet series, written and produced by the same folks that brought us Blue Planet and Planet Earth, two staggeringly beautiful documentary series on the marvel that is our planet. The subject of the final series is global warming and climate change, and reflects on some effects of human impact on the natural world.

My friend David Baillie of WildCat Films, who worked as a cameraman on Frozen Planet, told me: “Over a 5 year period, I made 5 trips to Antarctica and one to the Arctic. In every location we saw and filmed clear evidence of retreating glaciers, disappearing permanent ice sheets and atypical weather patterns. We also had the privilege of working alongside scientists who now have years of incontrovertible evidence of a growing and catastrophic warming at both poles. Many of these scientists were funded by the US National Science Foundation so it seems perverse that Discovery is effectively censoring scientific research funded by the U.S. taxpayer.”

Discovery Channel prides itself on revealing the mysteries and unseen worlds of our planet. The Climate Change episode has the potential to move a lot of people, from one of the leading nations in global emissions, towards greater stewardship of this precious earth. This move acts in defiance of Discovery Channel’s original aims, which was to inspire the public about the world around them. The American public has a right to be inspired.

Please air the final episode of the Frozen Planet series.

Why People Are Signing
  • 6 days ago
    2 people like this reason

    You made it, show it. We can take it!

  • about 2 hours ago

    the truth from empirical data regarding climate change should not be censored, rather, highlighted!

  • about 2 hours ago

    We count on Discovery Channel to tell the truth and show the beauty of our wonderful world. People need to know the extent of the troubles we face in order to find solutions. Don’t let your U.S. audience down, please!

  • about 1 hour ago

    Please, let us see ALL the good work that’s been done!

  • about 1 hour ago

    To keep the final episode off the air is wholly dishonest. If you stand by your work you have nothing to fear from critics, and you will advance the debate all around.

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What? No End In Sight?

On a day like today, when I woke up with my stomach in my throat, my bed in a sea of quease, and my bowels grumbling, for a moment I considered wishing Harold Camping were right.  But, despite his promises, urges, calculations, and – when the world didn’t end in May as predicted – recalculations, today wore on with no sign of Armageddon approaching.  That is, unless, of course, you count all the signs that are cumulatively screaming that the end of the world as we know it is near.  Folks in the camp who say we are on the brink of TEOTWAWKI, as it is known in those circles, point to the following as indicators the end is coming fast: growing political and social unrestthe end of cash currency, stark economic disparity, increased natural disasters such as earthquakes (I’m granting here that the increase of earthquakes in particular is debatable), Hitchcockian “crazy, hairy ants” invading broad swathes of the southern United States, and the ever present threat of zombies (in Hollywood, and on Cracked.com anyway - but seriously this does appear on the list of end times signs of at least some doomsdayer soothsayers).

The inclusion of zombies in the broader apocalypse conversation appears to stem from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s blog post in May 2011 (just days before May 21, Camping’s most advertised end-times target), “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,” in which the CDC gave evacuation recommendations and other guidance for dealing with a natural disaster in the guise of what to do in the event of a zombie invasion.  The blog post was intended to garner attention to an otherwise (perceived) snooze fest of a topic — which it did, and crashed the site temporarily in the process.  The fact that this normally boringly straight-laced federal agency would seize on suspicion of an impending faux catastrophe and poke fun at the apocalyptic Paul Reveres, is a strong indicator that, even if you’re not a believer that the end is near, others are.  At the least, it sure feels like, as is said in that Buffalo Springfield song, “Something’s happening here.  What it is ain’t exactly clear.”  Or, as captured by a recent ironic Occupy Wall Street protestor and his hand-painted sign, “This is a sign.

So what do all these “signs” mean?  And if there really is no impending end ahead, why on earth does it feel so much like there is?  I could be the only one feeling like this, but anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise: witness the prepper/survivalist movement which seems to have grown out of post 9/11 fears of more terrorist attacks but in recent years has taken on a life of its own, at least in the blogosphere (case in point – each of the preceding word/s is linked to a different blog or article relating to the prepper/survivalist movement, with one in there just in case you want to friend the Facebook page dedicated to defeating zombies).

My guess is that all the hype is just practice for next year, when folks are really going to get bent out of shape about the more longstanding predictions that 12/21/12, where the Mayan calendar drops off, will usher in the Great Big End.  The 2012 prediction has been around much longer than the upstart Camping’s and his group Family Radio’s more recent threats, and since Hollywood has done nothing to assuage our fears (see, e.g., 2012, and a whole host of recent other cinematic what-if exploitations).  As we close out this year without any prophesied calamities setting in (other than the very real ones noted above), I’m betting that the growing swirl of doomsday rhetoric and sentiment, unhampered by global political and social rest, may all be just preface to the panic and disorder to be distributed in the fourteen months ahead.

As for these 2012 predictions, I believe that our fears have been collectively cast onto this quirk in human history that really doesn’t mean much.  Who knows why the Mayan calendar stops on 12/21/12?  It could be to test our faith in our own ability to carry on.  It could be an old Mayan joke, cast on unsuspecting heirs.  It’s possible the Mayans just got tired, and decided to take a little break and never got back to it.  If the Mayans were so smart, and were not just pulling a futuristic prank on us, and that date really represents the End, don’t you think they’d have given us a more of a heads-up on it?  I mean, at least they could’ve drawn a little fire and brimstone.  I admit that I have done no serious study of the matter (unless you count me being up tonight web-browsing serious) and that I do not have any background that gets me anywhere near expert status, but I do agree that, as some suspect, people have been reading way too much into this Mayan calendar matter.  I suspect that 12/21/12 will come and go like 05/21/11 without incidence other than a little egg on the face of some zealots.  (I recently read Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacey Schiff (Brown & Co. 2010), where I learned that ancient civilizations had to reset their calendars multiple times before getting it right, with varying resulting inconveniences, but none of them God’s wrath.)  Another viewpoint, that maybe I could get on board with, is that the end of the Mayan calendar has no apocalyptic consequences, per se, but that it might be a turning point in human history, much the way the birth of a white buffalo in Janesville, Wisconsin, in the 1990s was viewed by some Native American tribes and other people.

But the question remains, “why now?”  Why is it now that there is such a strong undercurrent of instability of the status quo.  Is it really coming from vague fear of what might happen with the Mayan calendar ending?  Is it really just the aftermath of unrestrained fear post 9/11?  Is it the real worry that we’re not going to be able to get ourselves out of the environmental messes we’ve put ourselves in?  Or is something more?  Is it, like the zombies that dance in the shadows of our fear and humor, other monsters of our own creation that are unpredictable and capable of taking on lives of their own?

Recently, I posted MIA: Mourning Jobs, a critique of Jobs’ failure to use his company’s power to create jobs in America and turn Apple into a paragon of social responsibility.  I wrote something in it that was ill-informed.  I commented, essentially, that technology had advanced and is advancing at such a dizzying pace that even technology itself can’t calculate that pace.  Since then, I have discovered Moore’s law, which, roughly stated, was the observation and prediction of Intel co-founder’s Gordon E. Moore, first appearing in print in Electronics Magazine in 1965, that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit (or computer chip) inexpensively will double every two years.   Embedded in the theory of course is the recognition that there must be a limit to the trend, since it requires that the transistors get smaller and smaller.  They won’t just disappear.  Intel’s website identifies Moore’s law as the driving factor of the semiconductor industry, which is echoed by others who understand Moore’s law to have been a self-fulfilling prophecy since, as companies anticipated that their competitors would develop technologies in pace with the predicted trend, they pushed to get there first.  It seems widely accepted that, because of Moore’s law, devices have become more powerful and smaller.  The fact that I was able to write this and you are able to read it is just one minor example of the power of technology.

While we may daily witness the awe-inspiring capacity of modern computing, what we don’t see is that transistors on an integrated circuit are now so small that it would take 2,000 of them stacked on top of each other to reach the thickness of a strand of human hair.  Having gotten to this smaller (or nano) scale may make it possible for Moore’s law to continue since the roadblock just described (you can only get so much smaller and smaller until eventually you disappear) presumes the regular world of physics applies.  Once you get to a nano scale, however, the world of quantum mechanics, with rules much different than those of classical physics, applies.  In this world, for example, quantum particles like electrons can pass through thin walls even though they might not be able to break through the barrier.  This is known as quantum tunneling and has posed a challenge for engineers.  Another leg of the presumption that Moore’s law is bound to end is that it presumes the use of the transistor and integrated circuit, essentially, as we know them.  Already, I suspect that geeky worker bees are busy looking for the next wave of technology that might extend the application of Moore’s law by replacing such units.  (See, also, Ray Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns).  And now we are smack in the world of scarily infinite possibilities.  The possibilities, of course, are about change.  And herein lies the fear.

The world is moving at such a dizzying pace, and shows no signs of slowing, that it appears some of the framework on which it is laid may need to change fundamentally, or even be overhauled, to accommodate the social, political and economic revolutions that are occurring.  This, my friends, is scary.  But change, too, is inevitable, and I have faith that it is within our means to guide that change for the greater good.  I have been a lucid dreamer virtually since I can remember.  Over a lifetime of talking to others on the subject of dreams, I recall someone once saying that death in dreams represents change.  Assuming this to be true, and there is a subconscious but not intellectual connection between change and death, it would be no wonder that these times leave so many people feeling like the end is near.

The white buffalo in Janesville was born just down the road from where I lived.  For weeks, I watched as people pulled up in their cars, vans and RVs from all across the country to witness the miracle, and be at the point where the crossroads appeared.  There were some people holding signs, encouraging each other to honor the miracle and to lead with peace.  When I was at Occupy Wall Street, I saw signs of love, and goodwill, along with the others telling people like me who make my living working for the big bad banks to jump out the window.  I’m hoping that we embrace the change we’re witnessing as an opportunity to take the high road, and not succumb to the stresses of modern times.

Well, I’d like to continue to wax poetic on the presence of the various predictions and interpretations, but I have to go nurse my flu and may only have three minutes remaining to post this anyway.  Count down, post commenced 9:50 p.m., ending 11:57 p.m.

Revel on, fellow revelers, wherever tomorrow takes you.

post script: 10/22/11, 3:42 a.m.  Welcome to the other side of fear.