Ecology, Loss, and Triage

Rainforest-burning-NASA-2014Amazonia burning. NASA Earth Observatory 2014

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that remains.”

–Anne Frank

On Sunday, 30 April 2017, the New York Times reported that global marine fisheries are being pushed to the brink. This and countless other imminent losses prompt me to once again point out that management of the global biosphere is necessary if we are to have any hope of controlling climate change and feeding ourselves. Human impacts on ecosystems are pushing the living planet into a new regime characterized by disrupted ecological relationships and accelerating extinctions on local, regional, and global scales. Ecological disruption causes ongoing positive feedbacks from widely-distributed natural sources of emissions, thus further disrupting the climate system. Globally, we are approaching a state of unmanageability on many fronts. Continue reading “Ecology, Loss, and Triage”

On the Fear of a Backlash Against Science

DC-march-for-Science-22-April-2017Assembling on the National Mall before the March for Science 22 April 2017.


‘Science is my passion, politics, my duty’  

Thomas Jefferson

On Saturday I joined more than 20,000 scientists and supporters of science to March for Science in a soaking rain on the National Mall in D.C. The experience was exhilarating and inspiring. It was a much needed antidote to constant stream of bad news for our environment emanating from the White House and Congress. These days, I sometimes feel as though we are entering a dark time when reason and learning will be driven from the mainstream of public discourse. The March for Science showed that we have strength in numbers and that scientists can, at least for this golden moment, stand united. Continue reading “On the Fear of a Backlash Against Science”

Normalizing Disruption and Loss

fig3_american-samoa_before-during-after_2015Progressive death of coral. NOAA Coral Reef Watch.
A planet that can’t sustain its greatest reef will eventually become a place that won’t support human life.  – Tim Winton, 2017.  The Australian Marine Conservation Society.

For the first time the Great Barrier Reef has experienced two back-to-back bleaching events, which have been driven entirely by extreme sea surface temperatures. The devastation is hard to miss, unless you are not looking. Successive generations often experience the conservation phenomenon known as shifting baselines of perception. A boy’s granddad may remember when they fished for more than 15 species of fish in the Gulf of California, but the boy believes that the five remaining species are normal, i.e., a new baseline. As the disruption of the biosphere accelerates and reductions in biodiversity ensue, it will become increasingly hard for each generation to perceive current conditions as normal, assuming that they are paying attention. Continue reading “Normalizing Disruption and Loss”

Denial and Consequences – Advice for Scholars and Scientists

Sunset_2007-1Sunset a moment before nightfall over the Pacific. Wikipedia. 
“I’m sorry, Gemma. But we can’t live in the light all of the time. You have to take whatever light you can hold into the dark with you.”
― Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty

Scott Pruitt’s immoral denial of the reality of climate change is part of an assault on science that will promote the accelerating disruption of Earth’s living systems. The global consequences of this retreat from reality will be profound and irrevocable on any meaningful human timescale. The U.S. is the largest economy and the second largest emitter. Most the carbon pollution in the atmosphere came from us. Given the rate of climate and biosphere disruption, the administration’s aggressive embrace of fossil fuel interests poses an existential threat to civilization. The legislature and the executive branch are the handmaidens of an industry whose sole purpose is to mine and sell as much fossil carbon as possible. I see no effective means of turning this around in any timeframe that will matter with respect to our opportunity to salvage a livable planet. The window of opportunity for aggressive mitigation of climate change is almost closed. Continue reading “Denial and Consequences – Advice for Scholars and Scientists”

Keeping the Torch Lit: Higher Education During The Great Disruption

squalid-campusA condemned campus building.

“….the way we have structured research and organized universities is not consistent with how reality works…..the sciences and universities are stuck in the disciplinary status quo they have been in for centuries.”  – Anders Wijkman & Johan Rockström in Bankrupting Nature. 2012.

“…..there has never before been a geological force aware of its own influence.”  – David Grinspoon in Earth in Human Hands. 2016. Continue reading “Keeping the Torch Lit: Higher Education During The Great Disruption”

Diminishing Options and The Climate Endgame

ig19_hurricanes_05_02
One of the strongest hurricanes on record, Ivan, was photographed on September 11, 2004 from an altitude of about 230 miles by NASA Astronaut Edward M. (Mike) Fincke. At the time, Ivan was in the western Caribbean Sea and reported to have winds of 160 mph.


“Make no mistake: The election of Donald Trump could be devastating for our climate and our future.” Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club, November 2016

“This world is your world but that doesn’t mean you can always stop it from burning.”
― Oli Anderson from Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness 2016


There are many uncertainties about how the new administration will govern beginning on 20 January 2017, but it is all too clear that addressing climate change will not be on the agenda. Continue reading “Diminishing Options and The Climate Endgame”