David Attenborough’s just published book (see my sidebar) bears witness to the loss of wild places within his own lifetime that threatens much of life on this planet. He makes the case for the loss of plant and animal diversity, even as so many of us remain oblivious, or think that it’s really not that bad, or something that we can worry about sometime in the distant future.
Traveling the globe with his video crew, he recounts and shows how places he once visited have changed within his own lifetime, how coral reefs have died. He concludes with what we can do to regenerate wild places before it’s too late.
A companion Netflix documentary provides all the dramatic video, narrated by and starring, Sir David.
You can also find more detailed statistics about climate change and its implications for humanity here.
Last Thanksgiving I went to a vegan dinner fundraiser for this farm. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to tour it and take photographs. Fortunately, it was cloudy most of the time, eliminating those harsh shadows and high contrast scenes so detrimental to most photography.
Animals are like people in that some are more shy while others are more social. Consequently, I saw the extroverts on this tour.
Factory farms, like slavery, are inhumane. But not raising animals on factory farms goes well beyond animal cruelty. Raising farm animals takes up more land, water, and feed resources than is returned in process meat. Furthermore, factory farming produces large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, the latter of which produces twenty to eighty-six times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide (why does the greenhouse effect of methane vary?). As I have reported in a recent post, factory farming has a greater impact on climate change than all forms of fossil fuel transportation combined.
Let me begin by thanking those of you who follow my blog. I started it nine years ago with my late wife, Susan. Back then our focus was birds, particularly those whose populations are in decline. The idea was, and still is, to present attractive photos of the natural environment to remind people of what we are losing. More recently, I’ve expanded my focus with human-made structures so viewers can consider how these might impact our environment.
You will also see a new layout for my blog. Do send me comments about your likes and dislikes so I can consider any changes.
Read my, The End of the Mass-produced, Industrial Era? about the interrelationship between the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, first, and then click the link, above. I hope you will forward this link to others. Then view the just released documentary, Endgame 2050, available on Amazon Prime. You can also view it on YouTube. There, everything I and others have discussed about climate change and the time remaining to address this crisis (about 10 years, maybe less) are nicely illustrated. One caution, the film is very disturbing.
It will come as a surprise to many that if we all ate vegan it would not only be good for limiting cruelty to animals, keeping our arteries clear, and reducing our cancer risk; it would also be good for the biosphere. You can find an article discussing the health risks of meat production in the New York Times Magazine.
When most of us hear of polar warming it’s often about sea-level rise. True enough. However, Arctic warming is more problematic than Antarctica warming in terms of geopolitical conflict as China, Russia, Canada, and the U.S. vie for control of the newly opening waters. This is just one way in which climate change contributes to national conflicts.
Common to both Polar Regions, climate change also threatens wildlife–polar bears could be headed for extinction because the ice flows they depend on for catching seals and fish are disappearing. Penguins are at risk due to changes in their food supplies. These changes, along with rising sea-level, threaten the coastal villages of northern peoples.
We hear that the Polar Regions are warming at a faster rate than the equatorial and temperate regions. Why might this be? According to NASA’s Patrick Taylor, the seasonality of the polar warming is largely a result of energy in the atmosphere that is being transported to the poles through large weather systems. He said, “The total warming at the poles is due to changes in clouds, water vapor, surface reflection of sunlight and atmospheric temperature. But there is greater warming in the winter than in the summer and that is caused by energy transport.”
As the tundra starts to defrost and the oceans warm, methane (having about 25 times the greenhouse effect as carbon dioxide) is released. The summer of 2019 saw a ring of tundra files around the Arctic Circle land masses, further releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Though we cannot say with scientific certainty, we might already have reached a tipping point, meaning that even if our fossil emissions were reduced to zero by 2050, the then levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere along with the continued release of carbon dioxide and methane from wildfires, warming tundra and oceans, and volcanoes would continue to heat the planet. See what’s happening to Greenland’s ice.
You can read the entire 2019 Arctic Report Card here.
There was time when we believed that we were the center of the universe and that we should have dominion over the Earth. But then Copernicus came along who asserted that the Sun is indeed the center of our solar system, the Moon being the only body that revolved around the Earth. I’m sure you know that this resulted in a bit of an uproar. As for the dominion idea, our use of resources and over-hunting and factory farming of animals has led to climate change and the current sixth extinction. You can see how climate change has played out at Glacier National Park in the following photos.
Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 1920
Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 1940
Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 2006
Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 2013; Public domaine, USGS
It wasn’t so long ago that Carl Sagan and climate scientists started sounding the alarm that we were going down a dangerous path. Subsequent climate data has revealed that those early projections vastly underestimated what was happening, since we now know that climate change is not a linear but an exponential process. That is, it happens faster and faster over time.
The now famous photograph of Earth as a pale blue dot was taken on February 14, 1990 by the deep space probe, Voyager 1, from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles). The more recent
People often say we have to save the Earth. Not so! The Earth will go on just fine without us. The issue is preserving the current biosphere that supports us and the other higher vertebrates. There will always be life on the planet so long as there’s liquid water. Here is my fictionalized account of our worst scenario. Let’s do better!
I’m slowly getting settled here in Maine where I shot a roll of film in December and just recently had the chance to develop it in my new photo lab.
As I noted several years ago in my photobook, Exploring Maine’s Coast, the Gulf of Maine is heating, rapidly. In fact, it’s heating at 7 times the rate of all the oceans. We are now beginning to know why. As reported in Science News by Agu, and published in the journal, Science, there are several reasons for this. First, the Gulf of Maine is relatively shallow and rather closed in by George’s Bank. Second, as climate change warms the Arctic, meltwater coming off the glacier on the east coast of Greenland flows into the southbound Labrador Current. Normally this current keeps the northbound Gulfstream further out to sea. However, since freshwater from the glacier lowers the salinity of the Labrador Current, it is pushed lower down in the Gulf, allowing the Gulfstream to move closer to shore. Third, the air is also getting warmer.
As a result, the rich supply of fish and lobster are beginning to migrate further north. Eventually, the Gulf of Maine will host fish from warmer waters. In the meantime there are more in the way of toxic algae blooms.
Yet, from the shores of Cape Elizabeth, once can still see the arrivals of oil tankers bringing in more petroleum, on which we all depend. The environmental scientists tell us we’re running out of time to switch over to renewable energy. That assumes, of course, that we believe in science as the best way to know the world in which we live.
Okay, what’s going on here? We know you can reduce the risk of cancer and coronary artery disease by eating vegan (i.e., high fiber and low saturated fat), but what’s my grandkids got to do with it? Raising animals takes up far more land and water than raising plants, and it also releases far less greenhouse cases.
This is one example of how the sixth extinction is playing out. Although this sounds contradictory, the turtles swim further north during the summer, given warmer water temperatures. However, temperatures drop below what the turtles can withstand as winter arrives.
The waters off Cape Cod and the Gulf of Maine are warming twice as fast as the oceans, for reasons not yet understood.
By the early 1980s cold war tensions were at their peak. The so-called “throw weight” of nuclear warheads was at an all-time high. Nevertheless, like ostriches with their heads in the sand, people just didn’t think too much about it. Gone were the days of “duck and cover” and the building/designation of air raid shelters—mostly useless anyway.
It wasn’t until Carl Sagan and some of his colleagues released a report on the results of nuclear war leading to nuclear winter that people were shocked into action. They learned that nuclear blasts were just the “tip of the iceberg.” Not only would radiation slowly kill many more around the globe, but all the soil sucked up into the atmosphere would create a global dust cloud blocking the sun, thus lowering the global ambient temperature. This would lead to the destruction of most plant life. This is essentially what happened when the asteroid of 65 million years ago took out the dinosaurs; dust blocked the sunlight and it got cold.
I first read about nuclear winter in the Boston Globe. As powerful as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were (15 and 21 kilotons, respectively), these were nothing as compared with hydrogen bombs up to 30 megatons and the multiply independent reentry vehicles (MIRVed) warheads that would deliver these atop ICBM missiles. The initial blast and fireball from just one of these bombs detonated at about 5000 feet overhead could completely destroy all of the New York City metropolitan area. Of course, the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R had hundreds of these bombs.
The result of this report shocked American, European and Soviet people into action. There was extreme pressure placed on leaders of both sides to reduce the likelihood of nuclear war. This pressure led to SALT (strategic arms limitation talks) and the eventual signing of START (strategic arms reduction treaty)—based on trust but verify.
With some growing exceptions, mostly among our youth, we now see the same “head in the sand” approach to climate change. In fact, we see climate change more as an annoyance than as something catastrophic. We go about our daily business as the oceans warm, becoming more acidic as their oxygen levels decline. Meanwhile, the Tundra, Amazon, Australia and the American West are consumed by wild fires, sea levels rise, and coastal cities are flooded. Eventually, famine, disease, and political conflict will drastically reduce the human population (and many other species).
Although climate change is taking place in the blink of an evolutionary eye, it is far too slow to shock us because our brains are designed to focus on immediate threats.