A version of this appeared in Medium 17 July 2018.
A fully integrated complex adaptive system. Angel Oak, S. Carolina
“….. a faltering economy has raised questions in the public’s mind about the value of a college education and every revenue stream upon which institutions of higher learning depend has come under pressure.” – Drew Faust, President of Harvard 2013
I recently helped to conduct a workshop for a group of faculty facing large program cuts at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. UWSP will eliminate 13 majors, including English, history, philosophy, art, sociology, political science, geology, geography, Spanish, German, and French. Layoffs of tenured faculty are unavoidable and imminent. To justify the cuts, system administrators cited large budget shortfalls and falling enrollment. My colleague and I brought current thinking on curriculum design and program development to help this coalition of the willing envision a future. The situation is dire and it is legitimate to ask why upper administration had not long ago taken steps to cushion the blow of downsizing. Continue reading “Higher Education and the Gift of Desperation”
Golfing while the mountains burn. Photo from Beacon Rock Golf Course.
Personally, I would rate the likelihood of staying under two degrees of warming as under 10 percent. – Michael Oppenheimer 2017
Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. – Thomas Merton
Under a concrete sky on 5 November 2014, Michele and I awoke to realize that Paul LePage had been re-elected as governor of Maine. Once again, Mainers had split their votes three ways and LePage was elected by a minority of the voters to another four-year term. We were deeply disappointed because during his first term LePage had made clear his disdain for environmental concerns. Little did we know that the next few years would make LePage’s first term look like the good old days. Continue reading “The Long Game: Facing Reality in the Environmental Century”
11:15 am EDT September 7. NOAA.
“So there is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it. You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic, you don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere.”
Rush Limbaugh 7 September 2017 a day before he evacuated from his South Florida home.
Late last week I left my comfortable, dry, overpriced apartment in Alexandria, VA, to return to my home in Gainesville, FL, to face Irma with my partner Michele and our dogpersons, Heather and Keeper. As I write this Sunday morning, projections continue to indicate that winds in North Central Florida will exceed any in memory for this region. It is likely that the destruction of infrastructure in the region will be severe. Lives will be lost. My heart goes out to those in Ft. Myers, Tampa, Sarasota, Cedar Key, and all the west coast communities likely to be devastated by this monster. Yesterday, our climate denying governor, Rick Scott, announced with great authority, “The storm is here,” while earlier in the week two of Florida’s federal representatives voted against a debt ceiling bill that included relief for victims of Irma. Continue reading “Hurrichange is here: Denial in the time of accelerating climate change”
Amazonia burning. NASA Earth Observatory 2014
“I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that remains.”
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”
Assembling 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”
Progressive 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”
Sunset 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”
A 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”