Today is International Happiness Day.

This is not Rocket science.


Former miner Graham Knight puts his cup of tea down on the cafe table and looks out through the large glass windows. Trees frame every view; a small herd of cows meander through a copse of silver birch towards a distance lake.

“It is quite difficult to put into words what’s happened here and the impact it has had on people,” says the 73-year-old. “Perhaps the best way to think about it is that people seem … well, more happy somehow.”

The cafe is in the heart of the first new forest to be created in the UK for 1,000 years, with 8 million new trees stretching over 200 sq miles of rolling Midlands countryside.

Knight, who worked in one of the area’s many coalmines before they were shut in the late 1980s, says the forest project has transformed an area ravaged by the loss of the mines into an increasingly vibrant – and beautiful – place to live.

“Twenty-five years ago all this was an opencast mine,” he says waving his hand towards the distant hills. “Mud and dirt with hardly a tree to be seen. Now just look, people want to live here, they are proud to be from here – it has totally changed how people feel.”

The first tree in the National Forest was planted more than 25 years ago and now much of the land that spans Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire is unrecognisable.

John Everitt, the chief executive of the National Forest Company which oversees the project, says the simple act of planting trees has sparked a dizzying list of spin-off benefits, from tourism to a nascent woodland economy; from flood management to thriving wildlife; from improved health and wellbeing to housebuilding and jobs.

“We have embedded trees in and around where people live and made sure they are accessible rather than as a distant thing that they can visit occasionally. And we are seeing the benefits in all sorts of ways – and they are multiplying all the time.”

Everitt, an ecologist by training who has been heading the project for the past three years, fires off an impressive list of figures to back up his claims: the forest attracts 7.8 million visitors a year, it has brought about 5,000 new jobs with hundreds more in the pipeline, woodland industries from firewood to timber businesses are springing up, craft food and beer businesses are flourishing and thousands of people cycle or walk the hundreds of miles of pathways and trails each year.

But he says some of the most important benefits the area has witnessed are more difficult to quantify.

Read the rest of this entry »


Worthy of discussion, but the scale and possible unforeseen consequences are daunting.

Look for my new video soon which will touch on this. There is still hope that sensible climate action could radically slow, if not stop, melting ice sheets.


To stimulate discussion, we explore three ways to delay the loss of ice sheets.

1. Block warm water

The Jakobshavn glacier in western Greenland is one of the fastest-moving ice masses on Earth. It contributes more to sea-level rise than any other glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. Ice loss from Jakobshavn explains around 4% of twentieth-century sea-level rise, or about 0.06 millimetres per year6.

Jakobshavn is retreating at its front. Relatively warm water from the Atlantic is flowing over a shallow sill (300 metres deep) and eating away at the glacier’s base. Making the sill shallower would reduce the volume of warm water and slow the melting. More sea ice would form. Icebergs would lodge on the sill and prop up the glacier.

A 100-metre-high wall with sloping sides of 15–45° could be built across the 5-kilometre fjord in front of Jakobshavn glacier by dredging around 0.1 cubic kilometres of gravel and sand from Greenland’s continental shelf (see ‘Glacial geoengineering’). This artificial embankment, or berm, could be clad in concrete to stop it being eroded. The scale of the berm would be comparable with large civil-engineering projects. For example, ten times more material — 1 cubic kilometre — was excavated to build the Suez Canal. Hong Kong’s airport required around 0.3 cubic kilometres of landfill. The Three Gorges Dam used 0.028 cubic kilometres of cast concrete.

Construction would be arduous and potentially hazardous in cold waters littered with icebergs. The reactions of local people would be mixed: although the project would create employment, large numbers of outside workers would have to be brought in. Ecology, fisheries and tourism could be affected. Glacier sediments supply nutrients for plankton growth, so marine ecosystems would be affected by increased turbulence during construction of the berm and by the loss of sediment once the glacier was slowed.

Building such a berm would tell us whether glacial geoengineering is feasible, or if there would be unanticipated consequences. But the project would have only a small impact on 2100 global sea levels, given that Greenland’s contribution is likely to be just 10–20 centimetres1. Antarctica will be the largest contributor, and geoengineering there will require larger and more challenging projects.

2. Support ice shelves

Where Antarctica’s ice sheets reach the sea, ice flows out as floating shelves. Pinned by rocks and islands, these platforms hold back the glaciers and limit how much ice reaches the sea. As the air and ocean around Antarctica warm, some ice shelves are becoming thinner, particularly those fringing the Amundsen Sea. In 2002, scientists were shocked at the collapse of 3,200 square kilometres of the Larsen B ice shelf, which is now only 30% of the size it was during the 1980s7. Half a dozen other shelves around the Antarctic Peninsula have shattered in the past 30 years.

Sheer cliffs are left behind when an ice sheet collapses. These crumble, accelerating the glacier’s retreat8. The West Antarctic ice sheet is especially vulnerable because its bedrock lies below sea level and is deeper inland9. Warm ocean currents in the Amundsen Sea are melting the bottoms of floating parts of the glaciers, making the sheets more unstable.

The Pine Island3 and Thwaites4 glaciers in West Antarctica are the largest potential sources of sea-level rise over the next two centuries. Both glaciers are losing height and flowing more quickly than two decades ago. Pine Island Glacier reached a flow rate of about 4 kilometres per year in 2009, compared with 2.5 kilometres per year in 199610. Models predict that, by 2150, these two glaciers might disgorge ice ten times faster than current rates, contributing 4 centimetres a year to global sea-level rise8. Read the rest of this entry »


We awaken again a to senseless school shooting.

Instead of turning schools into armed work camps, maybe there’s another way?
Along with sensible gun laws, expanded access to mental health care,  making our schools healthier and more efficient achieves multiple goals.

Sense and Sustainability:

To America’s school boards,

What if I could you offer you a reliable path to:

  • Improve educational results
  • Improve student, teacher, and staff morale
  • Improve student, teacher, and staff health
  • Create jobs in the local economy
  • Improve economic performance in the near-, mid-, and long-term
  • Save money

Intrigued? You should be.

And, the great news is: that path already exists.

This is the simple reality of the benefits that come from serious efforts to green the school environment. Take the time to understand why greening should be core to your leadership. You have the opportunity to foster better educational performance, improve your community’s economy, help clean up the environment, and save money.

When approaching the analysis with an open mind, it becomes clear: greening schoolsmight be the most cost-effective path toward improving school performance. In fact, it might be the only educational achievement enhancing path that is also “profitable” (due to energy and operational cost benefits) even without considering the secondary (job creation, student/teacher health) and tertiary (lower pollution levels, capacity building for energy efficiency, and other “green” across the country) benefits.

How could “greening a school” improve educational achievement? Let us look at just a few examples:

  • Energy Efficient Windows: Imagine your childhood classroom, the single-pane windows. When you sat next to that window in winter you might have been freezing but toward the end of the school year frying in sun relative to your classmate 10 feet away. Hmmm . . . perhaps eliminating that discomfort might have made it easier for you to focus on the teacher and your studies?
  • Daylighting: Obviously, human eyes have evolved with fluorescent lighting. Not! Consistently, tested performance in stores, factories, offices (also), and schools has shown improvements with increased daylight.
  • Non-Volatile Organic Compound Paints / Cleaning Products: Eliminating VOCs will reduce headaches, disturbing odors, and other distractions from academics.

Greening the schools, for many reasons, will improve student performance with healthier (driving lower absenteeism, as seen in the office environment) and more attentive students in an environment more conducive to learning. Let us explore, however, a fuller range of benefits:

  • Save money for communities and taxpayers: Quite directly, public infrastructure is one of the clearest places where the taxpayer should be concerned about the “cost to own” against the “cost to buy”. What is interesting is that achieving basic green level standards (which might cut energy usage by 25% or more) often can cost less than building “normally,” as good passive design might, for example, lead to improved heating/cooling system requirements and water efficiency (e.g., through water-less urinals). In addition, achieving quite aggressive standards might have direct financial payback times from energy savings of well under five years.Remember, just like your household, your local (and national) government is getting hit by rising energy prices. Spending the time and money to “green” schools will lower that burden for coming years and represents a hedge against rising energy prices. Green buildings also use less water (e.g., through water efficient fixtures and rainwater capture) and have reduced runoff (green roofing, good landscape design), lowering sewage bills.

But thinking only about direct savings sells greening schools short. Read the rest of this entry »


New threat of mudslides, avalanche to burned area in Southern Cal.

Local folk: If asked to evacuate, don’t hesitate.

Daniel Swain’s blog WeatherWest:

The strongest storm of the year (and perhaps longer) for southern California is rapidly developing over the Eastern Pacific west of California. This system already has a visually spectacular presentation on satellite imagery, and is exhibiting almost textbook structure for an atmospheric river of the “Pineapple Express” variety (so named for the subtropical origins of the associated moisture transport axis near Hawaii). This slow-moving storm will take its time getting here, but will also linger after making landfall on Wednesday. As a result, a long-duration heavy precipitation event is expected from the Central Coast and southern Sierra Nevada (in the north) to the coastal plain in SoCal (in the south). The focus of very heavy precipitation appears to be Santa Barbara and possibly Ventura County (plus or minus 50-100 miles of coastline), but everyone in that above-mentioned region is going to get soaked.

This does *not* appear to be one of those atmospheric rivers (AR) with “all bark and no bite.” Why not? Well, an AR moisture plume is not itself sufficient for heavy precipitation–there still has to be an additional “lifting mechanism” that acts to “squeeze” all of that water out of the atmosphere. Sometimes, a very moist AR can come along that only produces significant precipitation in the mountains (as winds hitting the topography and forcing air to rise upslope is the only thing providing the requisite lift). When a very moist AR “attaches” itself to a strong surface low, though, the associated dynamical lift provided by the associated cold front can produce intense precipitation just about everywhere, which adds to the topographical enhancement.

The present storm appears to fall into the latter case: a surface low is expected to spin up west of San Francisco, with frontal lifting combining with favorable jet dynamics aloft to produce what could be a very impressive storm system across the southern half of California Wednesday into Thursday. Models are currently keying on a “frontal wave” late Wednesday as the surface low deepens, which could cause the atmospheric river to temporarily lift back northward before ultimately shifting back southward. The net effect, especially in Santa Barbara County, could be that an initial period of heavy rain will slowly taper off before rapidly intensifying a second time early Thursday when the cold front approaches. It is this second wave of rainfall that may be of most concern, as rainfall rates could easily exceed a half inch per hour. There are also some increasing signs of convective instability, especially on Thursday–and while this may not be enough for thunderstorm activity, it could easily be enough for intense convective bursts of rain with rainfall rates as high as an inch per hour!


Read the rest of this entry »

Big puzzle piece in the Trump/Russia scandal dropping over the weekend.
For quick outline, see above short interview from the (!) Today show.
More below.


In an unprecedented move, Facebook announced it is suspending the political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, from the social media site.

Cambridge Analytica said it helped the Trump campaign pull off its narrow win in key swing states by psychologically profiling millions of voters using data from Facebook, so those voters could be microtargeted with messages tailored and tested to persuade them. Now it turns out that much of that data was obtained fraudulently.

The firm “harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission,” according to a major New York Times investigation published Saturday, “making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history.”

Cambridge Analytica, which is backed by billionaire conservative donor Robert Mercer and has former Trump strategist Steve Bannon on its board, is already under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible connections to Russian interference in the election. It’s also under investigation by the UK Parliament for potential violations of data privacy and claims it did illegal work for the pro-Brexit campaign.

Read the rest of this entry »

After Hurricane Andrew wreaked wide destruction in South Florida, new building standards were introduced that have been successful in reducing damages in more recent storms.
Naturally, builders and developers want to weaken those standards.

No worries, you’ll pay for it in disaster bailouts after the next storm. Thanks, y’all.


The showdown in the Florida statehouse last year had all the drama of a knock-down political brawl: Powerful industries clashing. Warnings of death and destruction. And a surprise last-minute vote, delivering a sweeping reform bill to the governor’s desk.

The battle wasn’t about gun control, immigration or healthcare, but about making it easier to ignore national guidelines on building codes. To the surprise of the insurers, engineers and safety advocates who opposed the change, the home builders won — in a state that gets hit by more hurricanes than any other.

Three months later, Hurricane Irma smashed into Florida.

A report being released on Monday shows Florida isn’t alone in easing up on building regulations even as the effects of global warming escalate. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety examined building policies in 18 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and found that despite the increasing severity of natural disasters, many of those states have relaxed their approach to codes — or have yet to impose any whatsoever.


“There’s no longer the automatic assumption that codes are good,” Julie Rochman, the head of the institute, said in an interview. “We just have an incredible capacity for amnesia and denial in this country.”

That trend leaves residents more vulnerable to climate change; it also puts states at odds with the Trump administration, which is struggling to cope with record disaster costs — costs that tougher building codes are meant to reduce.

The shift toward less rigorous codes is driven by several factors, experts say: Rising anti-regulatory sentiment among state officials, and the desire to avoid anything that might hurt home sales and the tax revenue that goes with them.

And fierce lobbying from home builders.

Read the rest of this entry »


This is a disease.
We are going to end it.


Under the Trump administration, the Bureau of Land Management has some new branding, one that prominently features oil rigs.

The Bureau of Land Management gave out new identification cards for all its employees to wear out in the field — complete with illustrations of oil rigs and cowboys. Under the heading “our vision,” the card also outlines the agency’s current vision: “to enhance the quality of life for all citizens through the balanced stewardship of America’s public lands and resources.”

The cards also highlight the agency’s “multiple-use mission” in sustaining the “productivity of the public lands” and pursuing “excellence in business practices.” The language also mentions the work the agency does for “customers” and “stakeholders” — words have become code for industry under the Trump administration.

Government watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) provided photos of the cards, shown below, to VICE News. The Washington Post and EE News independently confirmed their distribution.

“These vision cards were created and sent out several months ago by the Washington office to encourage employees to be aware of the BLM’s core values. No one was ordered to wear them by anyone at headquarters,” the agency’s spokesperson Michelle Barret told VICE News in an email.

Employees, however, told PEER that they were “ordered” to wear the cards on their lapels. Read the rest of this entry »