Activists from the group Extinction Rebellion, which protests climate change, blocked the private jet terminal at Geneva airport on Saturday. The group says they want to draw attention to private jets as an absurd form of transport for the rich that causes massive harm to the environment. Read the rest
Earth Island News's interview with climate scientist and activist Susanne Moser is excellent, especially on how "hope literacy" (understanding different the flavors of hope) and "functional denial" ("being fully aware and conscious and not denying the gravity of what we’re creating" while still getting the work done) can allow you to retain your mental equilibrium in these difficult and often terrifying times. Read the rest
The energy budget for a traditional shower for every person on the planet would exceed the entire world's (present-day) supply of wind power: even as we bring more renewables online, the energy consumption for planetary daily hot showers just doesn't pencil out. Read the rest
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is campaigning with Bernie Sanders in Iowa, generally considered a conservative, red-state kind of place -- so much so that Iowa GOP operators made a series of public predictions that she would be laughed out of the state. The state party chairman Jeff Kaufmann called her "Doctor Ocasio-Cortez" and Sanders "Crazy Bernie": "She’s got a problem with our cows here!" while Iowa Senator Joni Ernst predicted that the pair would be booed offstage. Read the rest
NZ Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick was giving a speech in favour of stricter carbon emissions standards when the 50-year-old National Party Climate Critic Todd Muller heckled her; without missing a beat, she fired back "OK Boomer" and moved on to making a rather good and eloquent point about need for intense action on climate. Read the rest
"OK boomer" is an all-purpose rejoinder for millennials and Gen Y/Zers who are accused by their elders of eating too much avocado toast, wanting a participation trophy, or of miscellaneous snowflaking. Read the rest
[Last spring, I ran into Nikola Richter at the Republica Festival in Berlin; she told me about Sina Kamala Kaufmann, a celebrated German climate activist and sf writer whose debut short story collection, Bright Matter, had been published by Richter's independent publisher Mikrotext to great critical and public success. I offered to run one of Kaufmann's stories here in English as a way of exposing her work to a new audience. -Cory] Read the rest
As part of the renaissance in interest in the glorious science fiction novels of afrofuturist pioneer Octavia Butler (previously), Seven Stories press has just released a two-volume, slipcased set of Butler's fantastic post-apocalyptic adventure novels The Parable of the Sower (with an introduction by Gloria Steinem) and The Parable of the Talents (with an introduction by Toshi Reagon). Read the rest
40 years of Reaganomic sociopathy has managed to convince hundreds of millions of otherwise sensible people that big, social problems are caused by their personal choices, and not (say) by rapacious corporations that corrupt the regulatory process in order to get away with literal and figurative murder. The Intercept's Sharon Lerner made a short doc on the subject, showing how the inevitable pollution from single-use plastics was rebranded as a matter of individual carelessness, starting with the "Crying Indian" ads, and how that continues to this day, with the plastics industry successfully lobbying states to ban cities from limiting plastic bags, even as those cities have to pay to landfill and clear them away. Read the rest
Garrett Hardin's 1968 Science essay "The Tragedy of the Commons" is one of the most widely assigned readings in the past ten years' worth of university syllabi; notionally, it describes how property that is held in common is prone to overuse and exhaustion, while privatization creates an owner who has an incentive to serve as a wise steward over the resource. Read the rest
As of Jan 1, a new International Maritime Organisation standard will seriously restrict the kind of air pollution that shipping vessels can emit; in response, the industry has invested more than $12b in "open-loop scrubbers," which capture the sulphur from heavy fuel oil exhaust and reroute it, along with CO2, into waste water that is dumped from the ships directly into the sea. Heavy fuel oil is the dirtiest form of fossil fuel. Read the rest
A new analysis of whales suggests that each one is worth about $2 million in carbon sequestration -- and the global population is thus worth about $1 trillion.
How do whales sequester carbon? By eating stuff, getting big, then drifting to the bottom of the ocean after they die. This makes them carbon sinks on a scale even bigger than most trees, as the authors point out:
The carbon capture potential of whales is truly startling. Whales accumulate carbon in their bodies during their long lives. When they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean; each great whale sequesters 33 tons of CO2 on average, taking that carbon out of the atmosphere for centuries. A tree, meanwhile, absorbs only up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year.
On top of that, the metabolic activity of whales -- their breathing, peeing and pooping -- stimulates huge growths of phyloplankton, which itself sequesters tons of carbon. As National Geographic notes, in a post about this new study ...
When phytoplankton die, much of their carbon gets recycled at the ocean’s surface. But some dead phytoplankton inevitably sink, sending more captured carbon to the bottom of the sea. Another study from 2010 found that the 12,000 sperm whales in the Southern Ocean draw 200,000 tons of carbon out of the atmosphere each year by stimulating phytoplankton growth and death through their iron-rich defecations.
When the study authors priced out the cost of carbon capture, that's how they arrived at the value of $2 million per whale. Read the rest
Holy shit. Read the rest
My latest LA Times book review is for Naomi Klein's new essay collection, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, which traces more than a decade of Klein's outstanding, on-the-ground reports from the pivotal struggle to begin the transformational work needed to save our species and the rest of the Earth's living things from a devastating, eminently foreseeable, and ultimately avoidable climate catastrophe. Read the rest