Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hansen's Warning

Every rock of coal and every ton of carbon we use makes it more likely we will cross the tipping point. Every ton we get instead from low-carbon sources makes it less likely.This is only one of a dozen effects of global warming that are just as terrifying. If we burn all the world's remaining fossil fuels, there is only one precedent in the climate record for the warming that will occur. It happened at the end of the Permian period 251 million years ago, when the world warmed by 6 degrees. The result? Almost everything on Earth died. A solitary pig-sized creature, the Lystrosaurus, had the land to itself for another 30 million years. Hansen's is the only nonfiction book to ever give me nightmares.

Jim Hansen is a great American hero and as such faces an unthankful populace. People rarely ever want to hear the truth. Hansen's book is a must read.

Hansen knows what all those attuned to nature know--that pumping fossil fuel carbon into the earth's atmosphere is like feeding a dump bear: Sooner or later it will come back and trash the place.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ode to Jim Harrison

Bednarik: Your first novel, Wolf, was subtitled “A False Memoir” and it was initiated as a challenge from Thomas McGuane, if I remember correctly. So, there you were a poet with three books under your belt and then faced with writing a novel.

Harrison: I was injured. I fell off a cliff above a river while bird hunting. OK, and you know where the clay looks like it’s dry but it’s not dry and you step on it and there you go. I had ripped muscles away from my spine. Tom—we talked all the time, I think he was out at Stanford at the time—so he said “Why don’t you write a novel?” I outlined the novel musically, first.

Bednarik: What do you mean by that?

Harrison: I outlined the structure of the novel, and I outlined the highs and lows like Yeats used to do with poems. He hears the rhythm of the piece first. And then I poured myself into this drawing of the structure. So it was basically a poet’s novel. That first paragraph runs two pages or so. And I was lucky they even published it. It had even been lost. The only manuscript had been lost in the mail for almost a month. There was a mail strike at the same time and I had sent it to my brother, because I couldn’t afford to have it copied. Sent it to my brother who was a librarian at Yale and he was going to copy it for me. But he’s a bully and he went down to the post office after about a month and he explained the situation and they let him dig through the packages. And he found the novel package.

This would be a tough go today. Harrison knows it, but that's what makes this word game so intriguing and worthwhile. Salud!

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wrong Way Weathermen

"But in fact, the basic question of whether rising greenhouse gas emissions will lead to climate change hinges on mostly simple, and predictable, matters of physics. The short-term variations that throw the weathercasters’ forecasts out of whack barely register at all."

That's about it, and why the local weathercasters, who mostly lack the graduate education required in climatology, can't grasp the long term effects of a well-tested theory, in place since the mid-19th Century and tested in a lab. They skipped that class.


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