Juvenile Spadefish

Juvenile Spadefish
I took this picture this summer

Saturday, December 9, 2017

What Does Climate Change Look Like?

As we study current events and some continue to vigorously deny that humans are responsible for our changing climate, let's consider predictions and whether they are coming true.  Climate change was discussed in the scientific literature as far back as the 1960's, gained more traction in the late 80's and 90's and here we sit today in the end of 2017- everyone knows the words "climate change" "global warming" but do they acknowledge it?  Do they live differently?  What will move us out of apathy and into action?  I think seeing is believing, so let's look at what climate change looks like...
Polar Bear Starving to Death in Iceless Arctic
Polar bears have long been forecast as some of climate changes first victims as they live at the front lines of the warming Arctic.  Unable to hunt on pack ice for their primary prey- seals, and stressed by temperatures too high for their ice age evolved physiology, polar bears are doomed.

Next we turn to California.  Santa Ana winds are not new to the west coast, but the timing and ferocity of these winds, coupled with the intense drought of the past decade has left our largest state a tinder box.  There has been little concern for California at the national level and little preparation at  for the impending cost of these disasters, but we will all pay for it, as homeowner's insurance premiums have nowhere to go but up.
California Wind Fire Danger Unprecedented

As we travel around the globe in this study, we can visit now long suffering Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands, where the pace of recovery after Hurricanes Maria and Irma have left many thousands still without power, access to clean water or adequate shelter.    Devastating Damage in Caribbean following Hurricane Season of 2017
          While none of these events has been caused by climate change in toto, they have ALL been caused by climate change in some major way.  Those who would argue that scientists have overblown their predictions, would now be proven wrong, as the latest analysis suggests that the models that predicted the most severe impacts have been the most accurate thus far.  Greater future global warming inferred from Earth’s recent energy budget.  No real scientist disagrees with any of these basic findings, none of them.  Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases put into the air through combustion by humans from mined deposits of fossil fuel from the ground is the reason that the air is warming and cascading into all of these events.  Carbon removed from geologic sequestration and liberated into the atmosphere is responsible for global warming.  No argument there at all.
 In light of all of this information and concrete evidence, what can we do?  What can I do?  What can you do?  This is where we have to focus our attentions, it is the responsibility of each of us to make change.  An easy place to start is with food waste- plans meals, buy carefully, buy local, buy seasonal, don't overbuy and throw away!  Another place is to adjust your thermostat!  Pull out that cute sweater and ditch the t-shirt and shorts on cool days.  Your heating and cooling budget is a huge drag on the carbon budget.  Reduce consumerism!  For Christmas spend time with loved ones, not spend time shopping for loved ones!  Have a cookie baking party, have a family and friend game night, go caroling, be joyous, give love and good memories, not cheap junk imported from sweatshops around the world.  Eat one more vegetable each day, try a vegetarian meal- you'll be healthier and so will our Earth.  Every day try one little act of resistance to make a difference for that polar bear, those animals in California and those Caribbean coral reefs.  We don't have much choice.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Censorship of Science by EPA

EPA Keeps Scientists From Speaking About Report on Climate

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Says Carbon Dioxide Is Not a ‘Primary Contributor’ to Global Warming

     The headlines attached here pretty much say it all.  If you are interested, click the links and read the articles.  As a scientist, I have to say that this 21st century McCarthyism is a grave danger to our national security and the protection of everyday Americans from the greatest danger we face at home in our communities- devastation from Mother Nature.  This year's events should be a signal to us that the threats we face from natural phenomena have the power to impact us tremendously and devastate on a huge scale.  Further, as fiscally prudent people we should see that these natural threats are economically crippling to our communities, where many people will never recoup their losses and insurance cannot bail them out.  We face increasingly dangerous weather, increasingly extreme seasons of drought and rain, potent combinations of drought and fire and wind, and the ever menacing threat of sea level rise flooding.
      To stick our heads in the sand and wish it all away, or to ignore the patterns of behavior that lead us into vulnerable situations is to abdicate responsibility at a time when our country needs to prepare for more of these events in the future.  The American military leadership has identified climate change as the "ultimate threat multiplier", see the link NATO joins the Pentagon in deeming climate change a threat multiplier.  and PENTAGON REPORT: U.S. MILITARY CONSIDERS CLIMATE CHANGE A 'THREAT MULTIPLIER' THAT COULD EXACERBATE TERRORISM.    These are the opinions of national intelligence professionals, people charged with the defense and care of this country's well-being.  We should ask our politicians to universally adopt the Precautionary Principle when it comes to matters of science and climate, and to put partisanship aside when the facts are abundant and clear, and there is so much at stake.  The economics of climate change: the Stern review - ‎Stern - Cited by 11774

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why Trump is irrelevant on the Paris Treaty

        The events of the past week on the global stage have been extraordinary.  Our President has travelled the world, met with his European peers, shook hands (vigorously) and come home.  Upon return, in the pale of this important meet and greet trip, President Trump has chosen to slam the door on the global community by rejecting the Paris Climate Agreement- a global treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  This has many understandably dismayed, not surprised, but upset.  The world is looking to us for leadership, but we sit now as the mercenary state, turning our back on this critical effort at this pivotal time, because we are too greedy and shortsighted to act.
        I however believe in a rather different version of reality, where President Trump's actions don't really matter- mine do.  In fact, the Paris Agreement was enacted by heads of state in word, but it is carried out by all of us in the global community in deed.  Therefore, President Trump may have turned his back on Paris, but you and I do not have to, in fact, we should double down to do what we can to make this right, all of us.
        How can this be?  Doesn't the government control climate policy?  Of course not.  The government can set CAFE standards for automobile efficiency at low 1990's gas guzzling levels- but they can't make you buy a Hummer.  The government can license 52 new coal fired power plants- but they cannot make you forego solar panels.  The government can permit a new pipeline in your backyard, but they cannot make you run your AC at 66 degrees all summer.  Get the picture?  We are the change that needs to happen, not Trump.  It is the actions of each and every citizen of planet Earth that contributes to the greenhouse gas emission that the Paris Treaty seeks to abate.  We as individual Americans set our goals and personal commitment to the health of our environment.  As a consumer, your dollars have a voice that politicians and big business will listen to- so speak out!  Tell businesses with your actions that you demand clean products with small carbon footprints.  Shop at the local farm stand and reduce your food miles and food waste.  Purchase LED lights and energy star appliances; make your home as energy efficient as you can.  Buy an efficient vehicle, carpool, keep your tires pumped up and your engine tuned, and plan your routes to save trips and miles.  Recycle your old clothes to the local thrift or Goodwill and buy fewer impulse purchases at Walmart.  Stuff does not make us happy- memories, activities, days spent with friends and family do.  Changing our way of life to reduce the lust for "stuff", shopping as a hobby, and constant acquisition and instead being "do-ers" for pleasure and entertainment.  Instead of going shopping- go kayaking, go rock climbing, have a picnic, learn how to sail, go for a family walk or just sit around with a bunch of good friends having a laugh.  Bringing home the latest chachki from  Taiwan or outfit from China cannot hold a candle to time spent with good friends.   Live life, don't acquire it.
      In defiance of our President's shortsightedness on the Paris Treaty- be the change yourself and make his decisions irrelevant for your part in this global effort at change.
           You'll be happier and live lighter on this Earth.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Open Letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

An Open Letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
As we transition into the 21st century now well underway, we need to ask ourselves as scientists, not only what do we know, but what is our role in the future?  Modern science is a truly remarkable endeavor that has us burrowing down into the very roots of our existence with DNA study, gene therapies, genetic modifying technology and some very profound ethical and moral dilemmas of what we should and should not do.  Another less clear dilemma, is how should scientists interact with matters of government and politics.  As a rule, scientists are apolitical in general practice serving as a reservoir of facts and information for all, regardless of party or platform.  However, I would argue, there are times when this practice of elevated observer or dispassionate resource is damaging to the very systems we seek to understand and preserve.  Currently, our paradigm of fact-based decision making is under siege, and the conclusions that so much science have drawn are being thrown out as questionable or just plain untrue.  This cannot stand.  As a discipline, all scientists together must absolutely respond to the obscuration of fact and vehemently deny any efforts to call into question scientific information which the community has accepted through rigorous processes and peer review.  The practice of remaining aloof and "above the fray" is not going to cut it in these times.  As the volley of the arrows of untruth hurtles at us, we must respond with a salvo of facts, stand our ground and make sure that the facts are heard, witnessed and accounted for.  There is too much at stake.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What does the American Environment mean to you?

I am not sure where to begin these days other than to ask the question- What is important to you?  If you are reading this blog, I hope the study of our Earth systems and oceans has brought you here. What do we do as a result of our knowledge of the environments, ecosystems and organisms of our planet?  Do we sit as passive bystanders while they are compromised, questioned, sold off, or otherwise destroyed?  How do we as objective, rationale practitioners of science live in a natural world as part of it, not controllers or exploiters?
      We have studied the impacts of resource extraction as a part of our geology learning.  We have studied the benefits and drawbacks of natural gas and considered worst case scenarios therewith.  Consider now the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The US Army Corps of Engineers has an open public comment period right now wrt the re-opening of this project that was recently canned.  It is an important exercise in democracy to understand how the government considers public input.  Check out the link to see for yourself.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Happy New Year!  No, I haven't lost track of time.  This is the start of a new academic year coming up and it does help us to think of it in some of the same terms as start of a new calendar year.  For example, making resolutions.  As we start a new school term, it pays to examine our past performance, our goals and dreams and our behaviors that have led to success or perhaps disappointment.  Further, this time of renewal offers an opportunity to approach our academic challenge with a fresh eye, renewed commitment and determination.
     As I have been watching the Olympics this past few weeks, I am so awed by the level of personal investment of the American athletes, and their sheer awesomeness!  Think of how hard they have worked!  Think of the personal sacrifices, the time spent, the focus, the determination!  In spite of many, many things we mere mortals might term hardship, every great star in Rio has said they "just wanted to have fun out there"- and this is such an important thing for us all to learn.  As an athlete, as a student, as anyone who commits themselves to a difficult task- you have to love what you are doing!  You have to find what joy there is in the activity- so it is with swimming and gymnastics, as it is with intense academics.  We visualize our future, we set goals, we strive and find purpose, accomplishment and yes, joy, in these pursuits.
     So my friends, as summer winds down and we launch into a new year, pause and consider why you are on the Virginia all star academic team!  What gives you joy in your education, and strive to find it somewhere everyday you are at school because that is where success lies.  Peace out... :)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Student Research Projects and VJAS

CBGS Students did a great job at VJAS, writing great papers, making great presentations and overall being excellent.  While we love to be recognized for our work, the real joy in our research is the doing and the things we learn along the way.  Check out the best day ever on the Rappahannock River, me and Sam Gale out hanging out with nature.    Hopefully this will inspire you to do the same.