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”
This discussion took place on Thursday, 13 April, 2017. Here is a link to the video of the event. https://mediasite.video.ufl.edu/Mediasite/Play/579f19ea8bdc46b89c8c25a3cf835a4e1d Continue reading Higher Education During the Great Disruption
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,
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”
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”
Stephen Mulkey, PhD
15 October 2016
The Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, a woody biomass power plant that uses waste wood near Gainesville, Florida
“Well planned sustainable biomass power plants are a viable source of clean renewable electricity, and this is helpful for the task of phasing out coal-fired power plants. Knee-jerk opposition to all biomass projects has no sound scientific basis and is harmful to attempts to stabilize climate for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and future generations.” — James Hansen, Climate Science Awareness and Solutions Program, Earth Institute, Columbia University Continue reading “Switching from whiskey to beer and the false promise of woody biomass”
Stephen Mulkey, PhD
30 August 2016
The Milky Way from the Palouse near Moscow, ID. Photo by Marie Glynn. 2016. All rights reserved.
Avoiding catastrophic climate change will be the organizing principle for humanity for the next 30 years. – Joe Romm, Founder of Climate Progress, 2016
The International Geological Congress is poised to officially designate the present as part of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. I call the 21st century simply The Environmental Century, because this is the century when our species must face the transformation of our planet squarely as a responsible adult, rather than continue our adolescent demands for special treatment by the universe. As the consequences of our actions become apparent, the cozy blanket of normalcy bias is finally being shed. Like most adolescents, coming of age for humanity will be fraught with fear, pain, and the possibility of tragedy. Continue reading “Rules of Engagement for The Environmental Century”
Stephen Mulkey, PhD
For The Natural Resources Council of Maine
15 September 2016
View from Tam McArthur Rim of lodgepole pine and whitebark pine killed by mountain pine beetle within the prior 10 years, Deschutes County, OR, in the Deschutes National Forest, September 2011. (Photo: Garrett Meigs, Oregon State University)
“If looking into the sun may cause blindness, then human insights into nature entail a terrible price.” – Andrew Glickson, Australian National University, 2014
“If we don’t act soon, there will only be tiny remnants of wilderness around the planet, and this is a disaster for conservation, for climate change, and for some of the most vulnerable human communities on the planet.” James Watson, University of Queensland, 2016
This past July, I had the privilege of backpacking in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness with two extraordinary young adults, Andrew and Sachi, who call me Dad. A curse of being an ecologist is that I sometimes see things that others don’t, and these things are often alarming. Continue reading “Approaching the Ecological Event Horizon”