Published in Medium As a nation we have passed a political tipping point. The effects of decades of divisive rhetoric from right wing media and craven zero-sum political manipulation of race and economics by the GOP will be with us for decades to come. With the election of Trump our nation has been consumed by the negativity of his corruption, denial of science, overt racism, … Continue reading Burning down the house – global environmental consequences of tyranny in the United States
I am an economist. As a professional ecologist I have been trained in the economy of nature. It is only those economists that service the financial industry who treat the human economy as if it is separate from the economy of nature. Since the time of Adam Smith the evidence has been overwhelming that they are tragically wrong. I continue to be impressed by the … Continue reading The economy of nature and the case for big government
There are several parallels between the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, but perhaps the most disturbing is the intentional disregard of the value of human life in favor of money. This is hardly the first time since the end of WWII that money vs. lives has defined our daily lives. From the institutionalized denial of the damage from smoking tobacco, to the utter failure of … Continue reading Their money and your life - the clarity of climate change and COVID-19
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”
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”
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”
Stephen Mulkey, PhD
4 November 2016
Heather at peace. Photo: S. Mulkey, Lakes Basin, The Eagle Cap Wilderness
“Elections have consequences.” – Barack Obama, 5 November 2008.
“Donald Trump can fool a lot of people, but you can’t fool Mother Nature.” Jacob Scherr, an attorney who is the former director of the international climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, 3 October 2016.
Climate change is complex. Within the scientific community, there is a broad consensus about its reality and cause, but experts hold a range of opinions about its impacts and how to address it. As any public scientist can tell you, it is hard to articulate a simple and compelling description of how the change of a few hundred parts per million of a trace gas can lead to potentially catastrophic consequences. Although complex in its interactions with natural systems, it is broadly correct to say that climate change presently amplifies the ongoing disruption of the biosphere driven by the forces of habitat destruction and extractive use of natural resources. By midcentury and beyond it will increasingly be a primary driver of the global transformation of ecosystems. The changes ensuing over this and coming centuries will be tectonic, but this message of scientific complexity and consequences does not play well in Peoria. Once again, the US political process has not made understanding this most critical of issues a prerequisite for the job of president. Continue reading “The Election and A Call to Service in The Anthropocene”
“Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH)
“…this 97% [of climate scientists accepting human-caused global warming], that doesn’t mean anything.” Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)
“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Stephen Colbert, satirist