Karl Schroeder's "Stealing Worlds": visionary science fiction of a way through the climate and inequality crises

Karl Schroeder (previously) is literally the most visionary person I know (and I've known him since 1986!): he was the first person to every mention "fractals" to me, then "the internet" and then "the web" -- there is no one, no one in my circle more ahead of more curves, and it shows in his novels and none moreso than Stealing Worlds, his latest, which is a futuristic roadmap to how our present-day politics, economics, technology and society might evolve. Read the rest

Training a modest machine-learning model uses more carbon than the manufacturing and lifetime use of five automobiles

In Energy and Policy Considerations for Deep Learning in NLP, three UMass Amherst computer science researchers investigate the carbon budget of training machine learning models for natural language processing, and come back with the eyepopping headline figure of 78,468lbs to do a basic training-and-refinement operation. Read the rest

To reduce plastic packaging, ship products in solid form

There's no one way to solve the plastic waste problem, but in the packaged goods sector, an enormous amount of plastic is used in order to surround and protect simple solutions of some agent dissolved in water, from toothpaste to window cleaner to shampoo. Read the rest

Paolo Bacigalupi's "A Full Life": climate apocalypse with a side of intergenerational warfare and science denial

Paolo Bacigalupi's (previously) A Full Life is a new short story in MIT Technology Review that traces the hard young life of Rue, whose family has to move and move again as climate disasters destroy the places they try to make their homes: the water for their ecologically sound farm dries up, then Austin becomes unlivable when heatwaves spike rolling blackouts, then Miami is washed off the map by a string of floods that overwhelm the levees built to "American standards" that were cooked by US oil lobbyists, and then life in New York comes to an end when a global financial crisis wipes out the last family member with any money -- an uncle who was an investment banker who ends up losing all the money he made shorting Miami when the crash comes. Read the rest

Study attributes mysterious rise in CFC emissions to eastern Chinese manufacturing

A new study reported in Nature (Sci-Hub mirror) tracks down the origins of the mysterious rise in CFC-11, a banned ozone-depleting greenhouse gas whose rise was first reported a year ago, and blames the increase on manufacturing in eastern China. Read the rest

The Reality Bubble: how humanity's collective blindspots render us incapable of seeing danger until it's too late (and what to do about it)

Ziya Tong is a veteran science reporter who spent years hosting Discovery's flagship science program, Daily Planet: it's the sort of job that gives you a very broad, interdisciplinary view of the sciences, and it shows in her debut book, The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World, a tour of ten ways in which our senses, our society, and our political system leads us to systematically misunderstand the world, to our deadly detriment. Read the rest

Elizabeth Warren calls for a zero-emissions military, serviced by zero-emissions contractors

In her latest detailed policy proposal, would-be 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Elizabeth Warren sets out a Green New Deal for the US military, whose own policy analysts have identified climate change and energy independence as serious risks to US security. Read the rest

Three years after the Umbrella Revolution, Hong Kong has its own Extinction Rebellion chapter

Three years ago, Hong Kong erupted as a youth-led anti-corruption movement called the Umbrella Revolution took to the streets; now, a chapter of the Extinction Rebellion movement has launched in HK. Read the rest

British jury ignores judge and frees self-represented climate activists based on the "necessity defense"

In 2017, climate activists Roger Hallam and David Durant painted the words "divest from oil and gas" on a wall at King’s College London in chalk paint; they were facing £7,000 in fines and up to 18 months in prison, and did not qualify for a legal aid lawyer. Read the rest

"A Fire Story": a moving, beautiful memoir of the Calistoga wildfire in comics form

In 2017, cartoonist Brian Fies lost his northern California home in the Calistoga wildfires; in the days after, working with the cheap art supplies he was able to get from a surviving big box store, he drew A Fire Story, a strip about how he and his wife barely managed to escape their home ahead of the blaze, and about life after everything you own (and everything your neighbors own) is reduced to ash and slag. The strip went viral, and in the months after, Fies adapted it into a deeply moving, beautiful book. Read the rest

5G wireless may mess up weather forecasts

While 5G mobile networks promise to provide tremendous wireless speeds with low latency, they may also make it more difficult for meteorologists to provide weather forecasts. That's because 5G's neighboring frequencies are used by satellites that detect water vapor in the atmosphere, data that informs weather models used by meteorologists. From Nature:

Astronomers, meteorologists and other scientists have long worked to share the spectrum with other users, sometimes shifting to different frequencies to prevent conflicts. But “this is the first time we’ve seen a threat to what I’d call the crown jewels of our frequencies — the ones that we absolutely must defend come what may”, says Stephen English, a meteorologist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK.

They include the 23.8-gigahertz frequency, at which water vapour in the atmosphere emits a faint signal. Satellites, such as the European MetOp probes, monitor energy radiating from Earth at this frequency to assess humidity in the atmosphere below — measurements that can be taken during the day or at night, even if clouds are present. Forecasters feed these data into models to predict how storms and other weather systems will develop in the coming hours and days.

But a 5G station transmitting at nearly the same frequency will produce a signal that looks much like that of water vapour. “We wouldn’t know that that signal is not completely natural,” says Gerth.

Read the rest

Greta Thunberg attributes her ability to focus on climate change to her Asperger's

Greta Thunberg is the Swedish teenager whose climate change school-strike spread around the world, leading to her addressing the COP24 conference, the World Economic Forum, and many other forums where she has distinguished herself with her brilliant oratory and leadership. In an interview with Great Big Planet, Thunberg attributes her ability to focus on climate change despite the crushing terror and the enormous forces arrayed against her on her autism, saying, "I think if I wouldn’t have had Asperger's I don’t think I would have started the school strike, I don’t think I would’ve cared about the climate at all… That allowed me to focus on one thing for a very long time." (Image: Anders Hellberg, CC-BY) (via Kottke) Read the rest

"A Message From the Future": short film about the "Green New Deal Decade," narrated by AOC, drawn by Molly Crabapple, presented by Naomi Klein

The Intercept has just released "A Message From the Future," a short science fiction movie narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and drawn by Molly Crabapple, describing the coming "Green New Deal Decade," when Americans pulled together and found prosperity, stability, solidarity and full employment through a massive, nationwide effort to refit the country to be resilient to climate shocks and stem the tide of global climate change. Read the rest

London cops switch off wifi in the tube to make it harder for climate protesters to organise

This morning, the British Transport Police has ordered Virgin Media to switch off the wifi to some undisclosed London Underground stations in a bid to make it harder for climate protesters to organise their activities. Read the rest

The #ShellPapers: crowdsourcing analysis of all correspondence between Shell and the Dutch government

The Dutch activist/journalists Follow the Money and Platform Authentieke Journalistiek -- last seen revealing the dark money funding thinktanks that backed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- have a new project: the #ShellPapers, a deep, crowdsourced investigation into Shell oil, its sweetheart relationship to the Dutch government, its corruption and violence throughout the world, its role in climate change and environmental devastation. Read the rest

Organic cotton shopping bags have to be used 20,000 times before they're better for the Earth than plastic disposables

In February 2018, Denmark's Ministry of Environment and Food published its Life Cycle Assessment of grocery carrier bags, which looked at the overall embodied energy, materials and labor in different grocery bags, and also evaluated the environmental impacts of different kinds of plastic bags. Read the rest

Peak Indifference: are we reaching climate's denial/nihilism tipping point?

I use the idea of peak indifference to describe the moment when activists no longer have to try to convince people that a problem is real (the problem does that itself, by ruining ever-more-people's lives), and then the job switched to convincing people that it's not too late to do something about it (if the day you finally decide to take rhino population declines seriously is the day they announce there's only one rhino left, there's a powerful temptation to shoot that rhino and find out what it tastes like). Read the rest

More posts