Sunday, August 27, 2017
This is our world as seen from above the north pole. To most of us, this has always been an uninteresting and unfamiliar view because we don't recognize it as the world map we learned in school. The important point now is that this part of the world is becoming a new area of international competition and possible conflict. The reason: climate change.
As Arctic sea ice thins and disappears, shipping along the Northern Route, shown in the map, is becoming more feasible most of the year. To demonstrate this possibility, a new Russian ice-breaking LNG (liquified natural gas) tanker sailed from Norway through the Northern Route in 6.5 days, without an accompanying ice breaker. This is a major achievement, and signals a major increase in Northern Route shipping. Russia intends to use this route to transport LNG to Asia. You can read about it here.
The U.S., Canada and Russia are the major countries along the Arctic seas, and there is increasing competition for dominanxce of this trade route. In addition, the shrinking ice sheets are making more Arctic areas available for oil and gas exploration and development, another arena for competition between nations and corporations.
The irony is not lost on the fact that the use of fossil fuels has been the main driver of global climate change, and one result is opportunities for more oil and gas production and transportation.
The environmental impacts on the Arctic from this increase in shipping and oil/gas development can only be predicted, but we know enough to understand that there will be negative consequences.
History is filled with dreams and schemes of a Northern Route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and many explorers have tried to find this fabled route. Now humans have found this holy grail, only because our actions have changed the climate and reduced the ice cover and thickness of the Arctic Seas.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Social media yesterday was filled with photos of people staring up into the sky wearing funny cardboard-framed dark glasses. There was something about it that looked familiar to me, and I realized that it reminded me of the early 3D movies that came out when I was a kid, and we all put on funny cardboard-framed glasses in the movie theater.
But yesterday wasn't a 3D movie, it was reality, a solar eclipse. Millions of people watched in amazement, wearing funny glasses, as the moon shadow covered the sun and, in the zone of totality, the world was dark for a short time. As a science geek, I keep thinking about the role of science in this event.
Before humans understood the science of astronomy, a total eclipse of the sun was terrifying. What must have gone through people's minds as they experienced this phenomenon? I also wonder how many people were blinded from watching an eclipse.
Now, because of science, we understand an eclipse. But science gives us more than an understanding. Scientists have models that allow them to calculate when an eclipse will happen, where it will be seen, the exact limits of the zone of totality, the timing at each location along the path, and so much more. I used an interactive google map yesterday to find the exact timing of the eclipse at specific locations (latitude and longitude), the duration of eclipse, the percent of obscuration, and other data.
And those funny-looking cardboard glasses? Science dictated the design of the lenses that protect human eyes from being damaged.
Science is part of everything we do today. The computer device I'm using right now, connected to the entire world through my wifi network is the result of applied research from many different science disciplines. Think about the difference in our lives now compared to a time when our ancesters were hunters-gatherers or simple farmers. (And yes, we can't not think about the two sides of science and technology use, positive and negative.)
I don't understand, and have little tolerance for people who purposefully negate the role of science in our lives. People like Donald Trump and many other elected officials who question the science of climate researchers, some even claiming that human-caused climate change is a hoax. And most Americans don't realize that the Trump administration is quietly rolling back science research programs and science-based regulations across all federal agencies, for the benefit of corporations. This anti-science movement is a real and present danger to the entire world.
We all need to look beyond the wierdness emanating from the White House (using the science-based tweet technology) and pay attention to the many ways science is being destroyed by our own president and his henchpersons. We need to let our electeds know that we do not agree with this.
Monday, August 21, 2017
In his remarks about the violent demonstration in Charlottesville, VA, President Donald J. Trump said that "I've condemned neo-Nazis, I've condemned many different groups. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch." He offered no explanation for how he knew this to be true.
The man in this photo is Matthew Heimbach, an American fascist, white-supremasist and neo-Nazi. He was an organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. that has now become infamous in American history. The photo was taken as he entered the courtroom to support the man who drove his car into a crowd of anti-right protesters, killing a young woman and injuring many others.
What most Americans didn't know when they saw this or other photos of this fascist was that the man pictured on the shirt, Corneliu Zelea Condreanu, was the leader of the fascist Legion of Saint Michael the Archangel and the Iron Guard political party in Romania during the late 1930's. Condreanu was behind huge pogroms in Romania that killed tens of thousands of Jews. He is now a revered figure to the fascist Heimbach and others in American and European fascist movements.
I am genetically a Jew (see footnote). My maternal grandmother immigrated to America from Romania, and my other grandparents came here from other parts of eastern Europe. The results of my recent genetic testing show that I am 96.7% Ashkenazi Jewish (the remainder, interestingly, groups with Irish/English, Sardinian, and East Asian/Native American!). So yes, I take the words and actions of fascists like Matthew Heimbach seriously; people just like him murdered people in my family and millions more of my people.
And yes, I take the the words of Donald J. Trump very seriously, and can only conclude that he, too, is a fascist.
I have nothing but enmity for the fascist Heimback and his ilk, and that includes the man who is presently the President of the United States of America. The message in recent Trumpian doublespeak is one of support for white supremacists and fascists, the so-called "alt-Right" who organized and participated in the violent Charlottesville demonstration. No rational, objective human being can defend these deplorables, but Trump does so with obvious glee and indignation. And Vice-President Pence stands "with the President" on this issue.
The fascists who marched in Charlottesville carrying Nazi flags and other fascist symbols call themselves patriots. Bullshit! Real American patriots include the more than 400,000 men and women who died, and the more than 671,000 who were wounded during World War II fighting the Nazis and their fascist allies. Carrying Nazi symbols and idolizing Nazis dishonors the true patriots of this country!
And then there is the case equivalency posed by Donald Trump comparing statues of Confederate generals and soldiers to those of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both slave owners. Any intelligent person understands the obvious invalidity of this comparison. Washington and Jefferson helped establish a new country in a break from authoritarianism, a country with the ideal, still being fought for, that "all men [persons] are created equal." Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and other icons of the Confederacy, were part of a rebellion against the government of the United States, based on the perpetuation of slavery as a legal, sanctioned enterprise. The excerpts from the Constitution of the confederacy, below, leave nothing to the imagination:
ARTICAL I. SECTION 9.
- The importation of negroes of the African race, from any foreign country, other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.
- Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy.
- No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves, shall be passed.
ARTICLE IV. SECTION 3.
3. The Confederate States may acquire new territory, and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide government for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several States; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves, lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.
The vast majority of Americans are not fascists. The events in Charlottesville, and the many race and hate crimes being committed in America this year, are symptoms of a disease, a disease of morality and conscience. These haters must be pointed out and shamed at every opportunity. We value free speech in America, but we do not value hate speech and speech that incites violence. Not even, and especially from a President!
Footnote: There is a common misperception that the term "Jew" refers to a religious group. While it is true that many Jewish people practice the Jewish religion, it is also true that many people who are genetically Jewish are not religious. To the Nazis in Germany, and the neo-Nazis around the world now, as well as many other anti-Semites, the term "jew" is a derogatory term used for anyone who has any familial or genetic Jewishness. When the alt-right demonstrators in Charlottesville chanted "jews will not replace us," they were not referring to people who practice the Jewish religion. Anti-Jew hate speech and violence around the world are not crimes against a religious group, they are race crimes.
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Wearing shorts and a tank top, a cup of iced coffee on the wide arm of the Adirondak chair, sitting in the morning coolness of the garden; my attempt to start the day not thinking about the circus in D.C.
The sound of water falling on a large rock and dribbling into the pool below is the primary sound this early. The throbbing groan of the AC unit two houses away occupies the background. This is urban quiet.
A single ray of sunshine slices through the Italian cypress trees and illuminates the moon bridge, part of the stone temple, and the top of a feathery grass. A small breeze stirs a few mellow tones from the wind chime on the deck above.
The air in the sun ray is alive with tiny white erratic flecks - small flies that I call gnats. Their haphazard movements are somewhat hypnotic, adding a visual calming. The effect is broken, or enahnced for this ecologist, by predatory wasps and flies that speed through the shaft of light, hawking for the small living flecks.
My focus shifts outward as the city awakens. A dog barks. A truck lumbers past in front of the house. The faint roar of a jet high overhead takes a spot in my hearing. The pool of sunlight creeps towards my feet and warms the flat stones of the patio. My moment of peace is nearly over.
The temperature today will be 99 degrees. The political scandal of the moment will blast its way into my head. I will start the next task on my endless to-do list and another day will be in full bloom.
Thank you, Garden of Tranquility, for this brief moment of peace to start my day.