“I  think you start out with this idea of what it’s going to be like…and then when you do finally look at the Earth for the first time…you’re overwhelmed by how much more beautiful it really is, when you see it for real.

It’s just like its this dynamic, alive place, ..that you see glowing all the time..”

-Nicole Stott, Shuttle, ISS Astronaut

“When we look down on the Earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet, ..it looks like a living, breathing organism..”

– Ron Garan, Suttle, ISS Astronaut

Stewart Brand

About 40 years ago I wore a button that said, “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?” Then we finally saw the pictures. What did it do for us?

The shift that has happened in 40 years which mainly has to do with climate change. Forty years ago, I could say in the Whole Earth Catalog, “we are as gods, we might as well get good at it”. Photographs of earth from space had that god-like perspective.

The most widely reproduced photograph of all time.

What I’m saying now is we are as gods and have to get good at it. Necessity comes from climate change, potentially disastrous for civilization. The planet will be okay, life will be okay. We will lose vast quantities of species, probably lose the rain forests if the climate keeps heating up. So it’s a global issue, a global phenomenon. It doesn’t happen in just one area. The planetary perspective now is not just aesthetic. It’s not just perspective. It’s actually a world-sized problem that will take world sized solutions that involves forms of governance we don’t have yet. It involves technologies we are just glimpsing. It involves what ecologists call ecosystem engineering. Beavers do it, earthworms do it. They don’t usually do it at a planetary scale. We have to do it at a planetary scale. A lot of sentiments and aesthetics of the environmental movement stand in the way of that.

Seems like a long way to go to come around to what indigenous people have known for a very long time. But, if that’s what it takes, I’m for it.  We need to get our global leaders up there as a group, and begin the discussion of what it will take to make a sustainable planet – with the luminous blue ball shining thru the cupola.

Currently working on a new video around the theme of permafrost melt and feedback.  In the course of googling around, it was a nice surprise to come across the video above, by Laurena, a self-described “indie hipster poser” from Montreal.

I was thinking about stealing the song for my video – turns out Laurena’s on board with the youtube ethic (“Yes! you may use my songs in your projects/videos…”) but for now the music is going another direction. We’ll see – since the topic is so huge, it may require several videos, and so devastating, I might need a sensitive singer-songwriter’s input to help me process  the angst.

On the same day, I got an email bump from a friend pointing me to the kickstarter project of a very talented, confident and self assured young lady, fittingly titled “Standing Tall”.

One of the not-very-well-known-to-outsiders secrets of this area, and one of the things that’s kept me here close to home, is a rich and lively indie/folky music scene in Central and Northern Michigan. Anchored, nurtured, and inspired by the legendary, beloved, and now 40 year old Wheatland Music Festival,  a terrific network of WCMU public radio stations keeping the flame alive and letting people hear each other, as well as Ann Arbor’s mythical Ark acoustic club, and East Lansing’s renowned Elderly Instruments, the area is kitchen and campfire-picker friendly.

Now a new generation of confident young musicians are coming up, and hearing from someone like Sonya Shoup makes one hope we’ll have the kind of songs we’ll need in the future to keep turning things around. This is her kickstarter video for a CD project. (already funded!)

Fox News Latino:

Following President Obama’s comments about climate change in his state of the union address, a national poll was conducted by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) to gauge how Latinos responded.

“In light of state of the union, we wanted to see where Latinos stood on Obama’s comments about climate change,” Adrianna Quintero, director of Voces Verdes, a group that worked with the NRDC on the poll, told Fox News Latino.

The poll showed 74 percent of Latinos — 1,218 were polled — believe climate change is a very serious problem.

This number is almost 10 percent higher than the national average among all American adults.

Sacramento Bee:

The survey findings are a clear rejection of the dismissive tone taken by Senator Marco Rubio in his response to Obama’s State of the Union address. Rubio shrugged off the need for action on climate change, saying “our government can’t control the weather.”

Latinos clearly disagree with Rubio, with a strong majority convinced that action is needed soon to reduce a real threat of climate disruption.

Released on the heels of the hottest year ever in the U.S. and one marked by extreme weather, the poll of Latinos conducted by Public Policy Polling for NRDC found:

  • 74 percent of Latinos believe climate change is a serious or very serious problem, a higher level than the 65 percent among all American adults.
  • 68 percent of Latinos support the president using his authority to reduce dangerous carbon pollution, including 60 percent of all American adults.
  • 69 percent of Latinos agree with the president’s statement that “for the sake of our children” and our future, we must do more to combat climate change, compared to 62 percent of all American adults.

Paul Douglas does a great job explaining the paradox that a lot of people have noticed. I love his style because you can shoot this video to your grandmother, and she’ll be comfortable with the format and the messenger.

Seth Borenstein – Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — With scant snowfall and barren ski slopes in parts of the Midwest and Northeast the past couple of years, some scientists have pointed to global warming as the culprit.

Then when a whopper of a blizzard smacked the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow in some places earlier this month, some of the same people again blamed global warming.

How can that be? It’s been a joke among skeptics, pointing to what seems to be a brazen contradiction.

But the answer lies in atmospheric physics. A warmer atmosphere can hold, and dump, more moisture, snow experts say. And two soon-to-be-published studies demonstrate how there can be more giant blizzards yet less snow overall each year. Projections are that that’s likely to continue with man-made global warming.

Consider:

— The United States has been walloped by twice as many of the most extreme snowstorms in the past 50 years than in the previous 60 years, according to an upcoming study on extreme weather by leading federal and university climate scientists. This also fits with a dramatic upward trend in extreme winter precipitation — both rain and snow — in the Northeastern U.S. charted by the National Climatic Data Center.

— Yet the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says that spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has shrunk on average by 1 million square miles in the last 45 years.

— And an upcoming study in the Journal of Climate says computer models predict annual global snowfall to shrink by more than a foot in the next 50 years. The study’s author said most people live in parts of the United States that are likely to see annual snowfall drop between 30 and 70 percent by the end of the century.

“Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch,” Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. “That’s the new world we live in.”

Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards.

Admiral David Titley (ret) was, until just a few years ago, Chief Oceanographer for the US Navy. I posted video of his 2010 TEDxPentagon talks some time ago, worth reviewing and sharing. (above and below)

Below, he updates us on the national security implications of a thawing Arctic Ocean.

WBUR Boston:

It’s all about the water.

Okay, it’s partly about food and energy, too. But from a national security perspective, climate change is all about the water: where it is or isn’t, how much or how little there is, how quickly it changes from one state (e.g., solid ice to liquid water) to another.

Because of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, for the first time in 500 years we’re opening a new ocean to navigation. The last guy who did that was Christopher Columbus.

Until 2005, the Arctic Polar ice cap consisted mostly of multi-year ice — ice that had formed two or more years before the date of measurement and was generally 2 to 4 meters (6.6 to 13 feet) thick and much harder to break through than first-year ice. Since 2007, most Arctic ice is now less than a year old and less than one meter thick. Climate scientists now expect that by 2030 much of the Arctic Ocean will be free of ice several months a year, opening it for commercial navigation just as the Baltic Sea is now.

The opening of the Arctic is the most immediate national security challenge presented by climate change. Except for submarines, the U.S. Navy has not operated widely on the surface of the Arctic Ocean; neither has anyone else. The Arctic is poorly charted and therefore dangerous to navigation. There’s very little infrastructure and it’s an extremely harsh operating environment.

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Democracy Now:

While the secretive Donors Trust has given millions to a variety of right-wing causes, denying climate change appears to be its top priority. An analysis by the environmentalist group Greenpeace reveals Donors Trust has funneled more than one-third of its donations — at least $146 million — to more than 100 climate change denial groups over the past decade. In 2010, 12 of these groups received between 30 to 70 percent of their funding from Donors Trust. We’re joined by Suzanne Goldenberg, U.S. environment correspondent for The Guardian, who has written a series of articles detailing the ties between Donors Trust and opponents of climate change science. “The goal here is to create this illusion that there is a really strong movement against the science of climate change and against action on climate change,” Goldenberg says. “And in fact, that has become a reality now: You see that opposition to action on climate change is essential to Republican thinking.”

Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian:

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising “wedge issue” for hardcore conservatives.

The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and theDonors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more.

Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes.

 

The piece mentions The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which is behind the website Climate Depot, a repository for the climate denial ramblings and attacks of Marc Morano.  Sounds like his new theme will be warnings about “eco-terrorists” .

For the record, I interviewed Morano at the recent Heartland Institute climate denial conference in Chicago, and gave him full latitude to state his case.

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The anti-science movement is rooted in the decades old realization among conservative corporate and political entities, that the findings of science were not always compatible with the economic interests of the wealthy and powerful. (read this post first for background. If you still have 17 minutes, the video above is worth your time)

The publication of an exhaustive investigation into the origins of a tobacco funded anti-science movement got headlines last week, as clear lines can now be drawn between corporate pirates like David Koch, the Tobacco barons, and “grassroots” movements like the Tea Party, all of which are prominent in the climate denial movement. (for example, we have at least one prominent Tea Party member who regularly posts his climate denialist views in comment threads here)

UC San Francisco:

The study, which appears on Feb. 8 in the journal Tobacco Control, shows that rhetoric and imagery evoking the 1773 Boston Tea Party were used by tobacco industry representatives as early as the 1980s as part of an industry-created “smokers’ rights’’ public relations campaign opposing increased cigarette taxes and other anti-smoking initiatives.

From previously secret tobacco industry documents available at the UCSF Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, IRS filings and other publicly available documents, the study authors traced a decades-long chain of personal, corporate and financial relationships between tobacco companies, tobacco industry lobbying and public relations firms and nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party.

Desmogblog:

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

Published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control, the study titled, ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party, is not just an historical account of activities in a bygone era. As senior author, Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of medicine, writes:

“Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda.”

The two main organizations identified in the UCSF Quarterback study are Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Both groups are now “supporting the tobacco companies’ political agenda by mobilizing local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws.” Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity were once a single organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers, David and Charles Koch, and received over $5.3 million from tobacco companies, mainly Philip Morris, between 1991 and 2004.

In 1990, Tim Hyde, RJR Tobacco’s head of national field operations, in an eerily similar description of the Tea Party today, explained why groups like CSE were important to the tobacco industry’s fight against government regulation. Hyde wrote:

“… coalition building should proceed along two tracks: a) a grassroots organizational and largely local track,; b) and a national, intellectual track within the DC-New York corridor. Ultimately, we are talking about a “movement,” a national effort to change the way people think about government’s (and big business) role in our lives. Any such effort requires an intellectual foundation – a set of theoretical and ideological arguments on its behalf.”

The common public understanding of the origins of the Tea Party is that it is a popular grassroots uprising that began with anti-tax protests in 2009.

However, the Quarterback study reveals that in 2002, the Kochs and tobacco-backed CSE designed and made public the first Tea Party Movement website under the web address www.usteaparty.com. Here’s a screenshot of the archived U.S. Tea Party site, as it appeared online on Sept. 13, 2002:

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