Category: Environment

Saturday smile!

A delightful story of one man’s bravery for another – dog!

This was published on The Daily Dodo a week ago and really does need retelling.

It shows how much we love our dogs.

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Man Jumps Into An NYC River To Save A Drowning Dog

Photo Credit: Erin O’Donnell

Ever since she was adopted from North Shore Animal League in March 2017, Harper has been absolutely head over heels for her mom, Erin O’Donnell, but is definitely a little nervous in new situations and can take some time to warm up to new people.

“She is a sweetheart but very anxious outside and around strangers,” O’Donnell told The Dodo.

On Saturday, O’Donnell was performing with the Brooklyn Irish Dance Company in Manhattan and left Harper in Brooklyn with friends and a trusted dog walker. Harper and her dog walker were out taking a stroll when a cab recklessly ran a stop sign and hit both the dog walker and Harper.

Both were OK and only sustained minor injuries, but poor Harper was so scared and shaken up that she ran and ran and ran — until she reached the East River, and jumped right in.

Still in a panic, Harper swam with determination and ferocity, and while at first onlookers thought she was just a dog with an owner nearby going for a swim, they soon realized that wasn’t the case at all.

“I was at the Brooklyn Barge celebrating my B’day when we saw a dog ‘going for a swim,’” Gabe Castellanos wrote in a post on Instagram. “The day grew hot and we all figured a nice swim could do us all a service. We assumed the owner was on shore keeping a watchful eye until a patron ran up to the north side of the Barge with a panicked voice saying that the dog, Harper, had run away.”

Photo Credit: Lorenzo Fonda

It was around that time that everyone began to notice Harper losing speed. The river was incredibly cold, and with the amount of energy Harper was exerting in her panicked state, it was likely that she wouldn’t be able to keep herself afloat for very much longer. This fact settled in for Castellanos, and he immediately knew he had to do something about it.

Castellanos happens to be a graduate of SUNY Maritime College and has extensive water survival skills knowledge — and so he decided he was going in.

“Since there was no sign of her making an attempt to swim back to shore, I knew something had to be done,” Castellanos told The Dodo. “I looked on the barge for any type of floating device to use if I were to jump from the end, but then I noticed there was a life vest, so I grabbed it.”

At this point, a crowd of about 300 people had gathered, invested in Harper and her well-being, and as soon as everyone realized what Castellanos was about to do, they all broke out into cheers of encouragement. Lorenzo Fonda, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and artist, was hanging out at the Brooklyn Barge when he suddenly realized what was happening, and quickly began recording the entire ordeal.

Photo Credit: Lorenzo Fonda

Knowing the water was going to be cold and the conditions less than ideal, Castellanos strategized quickly with those around him as he prepared to jump into the water. He stripped down to his underwear, climbed over the rails, and then lowered himself as close to the water as he possibly could before letting go and diving in.

“There was a grand cheer when I entered the water,” Castellanos said. “After that, I was no longer focused on the crowds and my surroundings but focused on my breathing and swimming over to Harper. The crowds went mute during my swim. I’m sure they were still cheering, but I could not hear anything other than the water.”

Harper was still swimming at a steady pace, and Castellanos had to work hard to catch up with her. As soon as she realized someone was swimming towards her, she became even more panicked and tried as hard as she could to swim away from him.

Castellanos was persistent, though, and even though Harper struggled and lashed out a bit out of fear when he finally reached her, he stayed calm and determined and was finally able to secure her.

Cheers erupted from all over when Castellanos finally had Harper safely in his arms, and the pair quickly returned to shore. Both were exhausted and needed medical attention to make sure everything was OK, but luckily they were both completely fine, and are now recovering at their respective homes.

Photo Credit: Lorenzo Fonda

O’Donnell was in the middle of a performance when all of this occurred, and didn’t find out until later about Harper’s river adventure and the man who saved her life.

“Her paws are in rough shape, so she will need some trendy boots for a few weeks, but otherwise she’s in great spirits,” O’Donnell said. “It is definitely so refreshing to see the positive responses from people at the Brooklyn Barge and on social media expressing their sympathy for Harper and praising Gabe, who definitely saved the day.”

As an innocent onlooker that day, Castellanos didn’t have to do anything to help. He could have just sat by and watched and let someone else handle it, but instead he took a leap of faith and ended up saving Harper’s life, making him a true hero.

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I take my hat off to Gabe Castellanos. It’s something that 99.9% of us wouldn’t do yet Gabe didn’t think twice. OK, he had specific training but still there was a degree of risk. But he took it!

So well done, Mr. Gabe Castellanos!

It’s time to change our habits.

Funny how things evolve!

A week ago I was casually reading a copy of our local newspaper, the Grants Pass Daily Courier, and inside was a piece by Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist, entitled It’s the end of everything – or not.

I found it particularly interesting especially a quotation in her piece by Robert Watson, a British chemist who served as the chair of the panel of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The IPBES had recently published the results of the three-year study by 145 authors from 50 countries.

So I wrote to Kathleen Parker asking if I might have permission to quote that excerpt and, in turn, received her permission to so do.

Here it is:

Robert Watson wrote in a statement that:

“the health of ecosystems on which we and all species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundation of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

But, Watson also said, it’s not too late to repair and sustain nature – if we act now in transformative ways.

It is time to change our habits both at an individual level and the level of countries working together.

Moreover we haven’t got decades. We have got to do it now!

Back to Coyotes!

Hunting, and not for food!

We hate hunting. Period.

It’s sort of alright when the person needs to hunt to stay alive. But in the Western world the incidence of that is pretty remote.

So when author Jim wrote about coyotes and hunting I had to share it with you (and, for the record, both Jean and I are atheists).  Published with Jim’s permission.

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The Incredible Coyote and Western Morality

How killing for fun is not only a Christian Right, but a value

By Jim, August 5th 2018.

Christian vulgarity has reigned it’s bullets down on the North American coyote for over 100 years. The longest standing extermination order in history has killed millions of coyotes and continues its bounty program in most states. Competitive hunts sponsored throughout the nation each year with cash prizes and trophies instill to our kids the right obligation to kill for fun.

“One morning in the late 1930s, the biologist Adolph Murie stood near a game trail in Yellowstone National Park and watched a passing coyote joyously toss a sprig of sagebrush in the air with its mouth, adroitly catch it, and repeat the act every few yards. At the time, Mr. Murie was conducting a federal study intended to prove, definitively, that the coyote was “the archpredator of our time.” But Mr. Murie, whose work ultimately exonerated the animals, was more impressed by that sprig-tossing — proof, he believed, of the joy a wild coyote took in being alive in the world” (1)

The majority of politicians have failed to address this with any passion, and being the good, high moral standard western value Christians that they are, continue the killing spree. A useless torture that drives the coyote without mercy and without effect. “Under persecution, the biologists argued, evolved colonizing mechanisms kicked in for coyotes. They have larger litters. If alpha females die, beta females breed. Pressured, they engage an adaptation called fission-fusion, with packs breaking up and pairs and individuals scattering to the winds and colonizing new areas. In full colonization mode, the scientists found, coyotes could withstand as much as a 70 percent yearly kill rate without suffering any decline in their total population”.

Hunters have their ultimate victim to hunt—one that can outbreed the continued onslaught. How fun is it? While the coyote is hunted for sport, they die in earnest. Leave them to experience their joy, and populations will mitigate in their own necessary way.

Christian values and morals once again are superior delayed in common decency and way off the mark—unless your talking killing for sport.

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I want to add a couple of comments that were left on the post:

Not many christians are bothered by this. Why should they, when you hear them quote from their holy book, that god commanded them to subdue the earth.

It is for this very reason that many christians are nonchalant when we talk about climate change

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The price paid for pointlessly killing predators is a dear one. Moreover, all needless killing of animals is wrong, says the immoral, convinced atheist.

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(to which Jim replied)

Part of the doctrine is to subdue and have dominion. To hell with inferior, soulless life. The ripple effect of what was once naturally flowing is tragic and painful.

Enough said!

How much time do we have left?

A post from Patrice Ayme.

I have subscribed to Patrice Ayme for some time now. I don’t know who he is because he writes under a pseudonym, or a nom-de-plume. (And, indeed, I may have the gender incorrect but I’m pretty sure it’s a male.)

Patrice writes frequently and doesn’t mince his words.

But then he writes about really serious matters and often has criticism for the ‘ruling classes’.

Such as he has in the post that was published on the 6th May. I left a comment:

It’s extremely worrying and not something that can be put off. The clock is at 5 minutes to midnight. In Britain Extreme Resistance are pursuing a campaign that may just produce a political outcome. And, indeed, the English Government have come up with goals to combat climate change.

So keep banging your drum, Patrice, and hope that urgent action across the world isn’t too far away.

To which Patrice replied:

Dear Paul:
thanks! Here I am fighting with my daughter’s school, which has decided to install artificial, plastic grass. It’s horrendous for the environment, and it endangers the lives of children (in many ways, including a disease called “SUBEROSIS” caused by organic cork.) Here real ecologist take it hard, and have started to burn artificial plastic flame retardant fields: 13,000 were recently installed in the USA, a proof of mass corruption…
Feel free to use my essay on your site, BTW, of course…
And thanks again…
P

Now I hadn’t heard of Suberosis before, but no problem, a quick web search brought up Wikipedia and this:

Suberosis is a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis usually caused by the fungus Penicillium glabrum (formerly called Penicillum frequentans) from exposure to moldy cork dust.[1][2] Chrysonilia sitophilia, Aspergillus fumigatus, uncontaminated cork dust, and Mucor macedo may also have significant roles in the pathogenesis of the disease.[1]

Cause

Cork is often harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber) and stored in slabs in a hot and humid environment until covered in mold.[1] Cork workers may be exposed to organic dusts in this process, leading to this disease.[1]

I don’t fully understand how the laying of artificial grass leads to possible Suberosis.

But I have decided to republish even though it has nothing to do with dogs! (Well, not directly.)

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Nature Collapsing, Plutocracy Thriving

Both phenomena are related. The more nature collapses, the more plutocracy thrives (see the multi-centennial fall of Rome, for reference). Small people and other losers have no interest to see nature collapse. However, plutocracy does. Because Pluto-Kratia, Evil-Power, is best expressed and justified during war-like states, and civilizational collapse sure qualifies.

Plutocracy survived the collapse of the Roman and Carolingian empires with flying colors. In the Roman case, most noble families had a bishop in their midst. The collapse of the Renovated Empire of the Romans (Renovatio Imperii Romanorum) and its renewal by the Ottos and Capets brought the feudal order, another plutocratic success.

Now is no different: we have a terminal CO2 crisis bringing in extreme, sudden temperature, acidification and ocean rises: 1% of US CO2 is from state subsidized private jets. Nobody notices, because media have made sure to create entire generations just preoccupied by celebrities, not by what is going on, which is really most significant.

Nor has the media been keen to notice the likes of Biden annihilated the Banking Act of 1933, in the 1990s, bringing in the age of the financial plutocracy… itself a heavy financier of fossil fuels. So all what some schools are thinking of is installing “Apps”, and plastic grass, instead of teaching sustainable global citizenship. We are cruising towards an apocalypse, at an increasing pace: the Sixth Mass Extinction. The United Nations just came up (May 6, 2019) with an analysis made by 132 countries and 455 scientists: one million species are disappearing. For example, nearly all amphibians.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/06/world/one-million-species-threatened-extinction-humans-scn-intl/index.html

One problem with burning forests in the tropics is that what is left are often extremely poor soils (differently from northern European soils, which are very forgiving, explaining in great part why north west Europe replaced the Greco-Roman world…) Cattle grazing on a tract of illegally cleared Amazon forest in Pará State, Brazil. In most major land habitats, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century,,, [Credit Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times]

In Africa, burned forest is often replaced by lateritis, a soil which is red, baked, hard… for the good reason that it is full of Aluminum.

It is the Sixth Mass Extinction, but this time the dinosaurs have thermonuclear weapons.

What to do? Get involved, get aware, protest. Protests can become unbearable to the powers that be.

This is the way the fascist government of Brunei on the island of Borneo was just dealt with. It drew powerful international condemnation when it rolled out its interpretation of sharia laws on April 3. Now, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, reverted his decision: after all, the country won’t enforce Islamic laws that include stoning to death for rape, adultery and gay sex.

Killing all the people who got killed in World War Two was atrocious. However, what is now unfolding has the potential to be way way worse. Einstein said he didn’t know which weapons will be used to fight World War Three, but next it would be sticks and stones. That was naively optimistic. If we acidify further the ocean with acid from CO2, we may kill the Earth’s oxygen making mechanism. Not really news, as this was clear five years ago already:

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/global-hypoxia/ 

Many behave as if there will be no tomorrow, because they feel that way! It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, it has to be resisted.

What’s needed, beyond recording what’s going on, is interpreting it, going beyond, building ideas, and moods meant to last. Only deeper thinking can do this, and ensure a planet capable of lasting. Because we are not at the regional level anymore. When climate change, plus nefarious human impact, forced the Harappan civilization to abandon its homeland, the Indus valley, it was dealing with forces it had no idea existed. Maybe there are such forces out there. But there are also plenty of forces we can see, and which are plenty lethal enough, at civilizational scale, and the scale of the entire biosphere. Stop. And think. One million species are marching towards extinction, among the plants and animals we know.

Patrice Ayme

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From NYT:

WASHINGTON — Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday [May 6, 2019] in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”

At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. When combined with the other ways humans are damaging the environment, climate change is now pushing a growing number of species, such as the Bengal tiger, closer to extinction.

As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts.

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I’m in the autumn of my life and may not live to see the consequences of what we are doing to Nature and to the Planet.

Then again, if some of the predictions bear true, I won’t have to live an awful lot longer to experience real change.

It’s time for a complete re-analysis of our relationship with the natural world.

Coyote puppies

An obvious follow-on to yesterday’s post.

We all know about how wolves habituated themselves to human all those thousand of years ago but the same is happening to coyotes today.

There was an article on EarthSky on March 28th, 2019 that I want to share with you, and here it is:

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How coyote pups get used to humans

Posted by in | March 28, 2019

Across North America, coyotes are moving into urban environments. While human residents are having to get used to the new animal neighbors, coyotes are also habituating to people.

Seven-week-old coyote pups walk through the research facility in Utah as the mother follows. The first pup carries a bone in its mouth. Image via USDA National Wildlife Research Center/Steve Guymon.

As coyotes are moving into urban environments across North America, many human residents – whether they like it or not – are having to get used to them. Meanwhile, how are coyotes habituating to people?

A new study, published December 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal Ecology and Evolution, suggests that coyotes can habituate to humans quickly and that habituated parents pass this fearlessness on to their offspring.

Image via Connar L’Ecuyer via National Park Service/Flickr.

Until the 20th century, coyotes lived mostly in the U.S. Great Plains. But when wolves were hunted almost to extinction in the early 1900s, coyotes lost their major predator, and their range began to expand.

With continuing landscape changes, coyotes are now increasingly making their way into suburban and urban environments — including New York City, Los Angeles and cities in the Pacific Northwest — where they live, mainly off rodents and small mammals, without fear of hunters.

The aim of the new study, was to understand how a skittish, rural coyote can sometimes transform into a bold, urban one — a shift that can exacerbate negative interactions among humans and coyotes. University of Washington biologist Christopher Schell is the first author of the study, Schell said in a statement:

Instead of asking, ‘Does this pattern exist?’ we’re now asking, ‘How does this pattern emerge?’.

A key factor, the researchers suggest, might be parental influence. Coyotes pair for life, and both parents contribute equally to raising the offspring. This may be because of the major parental investment required to raise coyote pups, and the evolutionary pressure to guard them from larger carnivores.

The new study observed eight coyote families at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Predator Research Facility in Utah during their first and second breeding seasons. These coyotes are raised in a fairly wild setting, with minimal human contact and food scattered across large enclosures.

Five-week-old coyote pups eat food rations during the experiment. These second-litter pups were born in 2013 to more-experienced parents, and were more likely to approach a human. Image via USDA National Wildlife Research Center/Christopher Schell.

But during the experiment researchers occasionally placed all the food near the entrance of the enclosure and had a human researcher sit just outside, watching any approaching coyotes, from five weeks to 15 weeks after the birth of the litter. Then they documented how soon the coyotes would venture toward the food. Schell said:

For the first season, there were certain individuals that were bolder than others, but on the whole they were pretty wary, and their puppies followed. But when we came back and did the same experiment with the second litter, the adults would immediately eat the food – they wouldn’t even wait for us to leave the pen in some instances.

Parents became way more fearless, and in the second litter, so, too, were the puppies.

In fact, the most cautious pup from the second-year litter ventured out more than the boldest pup from the first-year litter. Schell said:

The discovery that this habituation happens in only two to three years has been corroborated, anecdotally, by evidence from wild sites across the nation. We found that parental effect plays a major role.

He added:

Even if it’s only 0.001 percent of the time, when a coyote threatens or attacks a person or a pet, it’s national news, and wildlife management gets called in. We want to understand the mechanisms that contribute to habituation and fearlessness, to prevent these situations from occurring.

Bottom line: A new study suggests coyotes puppies learn from their parents how to habituate to humans.

Source: Parental habituation to human disturbance over time reduces fear of humans in coyote offspring

Via University of Washington

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I love the fact that coyotes pair for life and take an equal measure of responsibility in bringing up their pups.

Once again, we humans can learn from our natural cousins.

The wolf in our dogs.

Or is it the other way around?

A fascinating article about the domestication of the wolf to the domesticated dog appeared on the BBC back in March.

It was, in turn, based on a report issued by Nature and makes interesting reading. But for the shorter version, read on:

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Study reveals the wolf within your pet dog

By Helen Briggs, BBC News, Science and Environment
14 March 2019

Scientists say the negative image of wolves is not always justified. Getty Images.

Wolves lead and dogs follow – but both are equally capable of working with humans, according to research that adds a new twist in the tale of how one was domesticated from the other.

Dogs owe their cooperative nature to “the wolf within”, the study, of cubs raised alongside people, suggests.

But in the course of domestication, those that were submissive to humans were selected for breeding, which makes them the better pet today.

Scientific Reports published the study.

FRIEDERIKE RANGE/VETMEDUNI VIENNA Dogs were more likely to follow human behaviour
FRIEDERIKE RANGE/VETMEDUNI VIENNA.Wolves were equally able to cooperate with humans but also took the lead

Grey wolves, at the Wolf Science Center in Vienna, were just as good as dogs at working with their trainers to drag a tray of food towards them by each taking one end of a rope.

But, unlike the dogs in the study, they were willing to try their own tactics as well – such as stealing the rope from the trainer.

Friederike Range, from the Konrad Lorenz Institute, at Vetmeduni Vienna university, said: “It shows that, while wolves tend to initiate behaviour and take the lead, dogs are more likely to wait and see what the human partner does and follow that behaviour.”

About 30,000 years ago, wolves moved to the edges of human camps to scavenge for leftovers.

The subsequent “taming” process of domestication and selective breeding then slowly began to alter their behaviour and genes and they eventually evolved into the dogs that we know today.

Follow Helen on Twitter.

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Now it seems no better way to end today’s post than by selecting a short Nat Geo video to watch. (Out of many videos on YouTube regarding wolves.)

Wonderful animals.

Dog saved!

This was on the BBC News the other day!

This remarkable story of a dog that was rescued some 200+ kilometres off the coast of Thailand was featured on the BBC news website.

It’s quite amazing and truly miraculous.

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Dog rescued 220km from Thai coast by rig workers

A dog discovered some 220km (135 miles) off the coast of Thailand has been rescued by a team of oil rig workers after the exhausted pooch was spotted paddling near a drilling platform.

The brown aspin swam towards the workers when they called out to him last Friday afternoon. He was then pulled to safety.

It is not clear how the dog became stranded so far out at sea. Some reports suggest he may have fallen from a fishing trawler.

The rig workers named the dog Boonrod, a Thai word that roughly translates as “the saved one” or “survivor”.

Boonrod was said to have been exhausted and in need of fresh drinking water and food.

He was nursed back to health on the rig while staff radioed for help, requesting the assistance of a tanker that was heading back to shore.

Boonrod had to have a proper wash to cleanse his fur of salt from the seawater. Afterwards, he had a nap.

The conditions were said to have been calm during the rescue, which workers said made it easier to spot Boonrod among the rusty metal bars of the rig.

Boonrod was lifted by crane on to an oil vessel that was passing through the area on Sunday to be transported to a veterinary practice in southern Thailand.

The dog was said to have been in good spirits when he arrived on land to be taken to the vet.

(All images are copyright Viralpress.)

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The fact that this dog was rescued so far out to sea is incredible. Clearly, the poor dog had fallen off another vessel but the details of that incident are not known and it is purely conjecture.

But what is really important was that the dog was rescued and returned to health.

Burn Baby, Burn.

A rather depressing essay from Tom Englehardt.

The world is getting hotter. That’s a fact!

And no amount of stuffing one’s head under the pillow is going to change that fact.

We must take note of all the many articles and stories about the warming of the planet. Because we need to change the way we are responding. Not from climate change but to climate crisis.

I’m republishing a recent essay from Tom Engelhardt, with his permission, because he articulates perfectly where we are heading.

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Suicide Watch on Planet Earth

As the Flames Began to Rise, the Arsonists Appeared
By Tom Engelhardt, April 25th, 2019

As Notre Dame burned, as the flames leapt from its roof of ancient timbers, many of us watched in grim horror. Hour after hour, on screen after screen, channel after channel, you could see that 850-year-old cathedral, a visiting spot for 13 million people annually, being gutted, its roof timbers flaring into the evening sky, its steeple collapsing in a ball of fire. It was dramatic and deeply disturbing — and, of course, unwilling to be left out of any headline-making event, President Trump promptly tweeted his advice to the French authorities: “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!” No matter that water from such planes would probably have taken the cathedral’s towers down and endangered lives as well — “the equivalent,” according to a French fire chief, “of dropping three tons of concrete at 250 kilometers per hour [on] the ancient monument.”

Still, who could doubt that watching such a monument to the human endeavor being transformed into a shell of its former self was a reminder that everything human is mortal; that, whether in a single lifetime or 850 years, even the most ancient of our artifacts, like those in Iraq and Syria recently, will sooner or later be scourged by the equivalent of (or even quite literally by) fire and sword; that nothing truly lasts, even the most seemingly permanent of things like, until now, Notre Dame?

That cathedral in flames, unlike so much else in our moment (including you-know-who in his every waking moment), deserved the front-and-center media attention it got. Historically speaking, it was a burning event of the first order. Still, it’s strange that the most unnerving, deeply terrifying burning underway today, not of that ancient place of worship that lived with humanity for so many tumultuous centuries but of the planet itself, remains largely in the background.

When the cathedral in which Napoleon briefly crowned himself emperor seemed likely to collapse, it was certifiably an event of headline importance. When, however, the cathedral (if you care to think of it that way) in which humanity has been nurtured all these tens of thousands of years, on which we spread, developed, and became what we are today — I mean, of course, the planet itself — is in danger of an unprecedented sort from fires we continue to set, that’s hardly news at all. It’s largely relegated to the back pages of our attention, lost any day of the week to headlines about a disturbed, suicidal young woman obsessed with the Columbine school massacre or an attorney general obsessed with protecting the president.

And let’s not kid ourselves, this planet of ours is beginning to burn — and not just last week or month either. It’s been smoldering for decades now. Last summer, for instance, amid global heat records (Ouargla, Algeria, 124 degrees Fahrenheit; Hong Kong, over 91 degrees Fahrenheit for 16 straight days; Nawabsha, Pakistan, 122 degrees Fahrenheit; Oslo, Norway, over 86 degrees Fahrenheit for 16 consecutive days; Los Angeles, 108 degrees Fahrenheit), wildfires raged inside the Arctic Circle. This March, in case you hadn’t noticed — and why would you, since it’s gotten so little attention? — the temperature in Alaska was, on average, 20 degrees (yes, that is not a misprint) above normal and typical ice roads between villages and towns across parts of that state were melting and collapsing with deaths ensuing.

Meanwhile, in the Antarctic, ice is melting at a rate startling to scientists. If the process accelerates, global sea levels could rise far faster than expected, beginning to drown coastal cities like Miami, New York, and Shanghai more quickly than previously imagined. Meanwhile, globally, the wildfire season is lengthening. Fearsome fires are on the rise, as are droughts, and that’s just to begin to paint a picture of a heating planet and its ever more extreme weather systems and storms, of (if you care to think of it that way) a Whole Earth version of Notre Dame.

The Arsonists Arrive

As was true with Notre Dame, when it comes to the planet, there were fire alarms before an actual blaze was fully noted. Take, for example, the advisory panel of scientists reporting to President Lyndon Johnson on the phenomenon of global warming back in 1965. They would, in fact, predict with remarkable accuracy how our world was going to change for the worse by this twenty-first-century moment. (And Johnson, in turn, would bring the subject up officially for perhaps the first time in a Special Message to Congress on February 5, 1965, 54 years before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal.) As that panel wrote at the time, “Through his worldwide industrial civilization, Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment. Within a few generations he is burning the fossil fuels that slowly accumulated in the earth over the past 500 million years…” In other words, the alarm was first sounded more than half a century ago.

When it comes to climate change, however, as the smoke began to appear and, in our own moment, the first flames began to leap — after all, the last four years have been the hottest on record and, despite the growth of ever less expensive alternative energy sources, carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere are still rising, not falling — no firemen arrived (just children). There were essentially no adults to put out the blaze. Yes, there was the Paris climate accord but it was largely an agreement in principle without enforcement power of any genuine sort.

In fact, across significant parts of the planet, those who appeared weren’t firefighters at all, but fire feeders who will likely prove to be the ultimate arsonists of human history. In a way, it’s been an extraordinary performance. Leaders who vied for, or actually gained, power not only refused to recognize the existence of climate change but were quite literally eager to aid and abet the phenomenon. This is true, for instance, of the new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who came to power prepared to turn the already endangered carbon sink of the Amazon rain forest into a playground for corporate and agricultural destroyers. It is similarly true in Europe, where right-wing populist movements have begun to successfully oppose gestures toward dealing with climate change, gaining both attention and votes in the process. In Poland, for instance, just such a party led by President Andrzej Duda has come to power and the promotion of coal production has become the order of the day.

And none of that compared to developments in the richest, most powerful country of all, the one that historically has put more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than any other. On taking office, Donald Trump appointed more climate-change deniers to his cabinet than might have previously seemed possible and swore fealty to “American energy dominance,” while working to kneecap the development of alternative energy systems.  He and his men tried to open new areas to oil and gas drilling, while in every way imaginable striving to remove what limits there had been on Big Energy, so that it could release its carbon emissions into the atmosphere unimpeded. And as the planetary cathedral began to burn, the president set the mood for the moment (at least for his vaunted “base”) by tweeting such things as “It’s really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!” or, on alternative energy, “You would be doing wind, windmills, and if it doesn’t if it doesn’t blow you can forget about television for that night… Darling, I want to watch television. I’m sorry, the wind isn’t blowing.”

Among those who will someday be considered the greatest criminals in history, don’t forget the Big Energy CEOs who, knowing the truth about climate change from their own hired scientists, did everything they could to increase global doubts by funding climate-denying groups, while continuing to be among the most profitable companies around. They even hedged their bets by, among other things, investing in alternative energy and using it to more effectively drill for oil and natural gas.

Meanwhile, of course, the planet that had proven such a comfortable home for humanity was visibly going down. No, climate change won’t actually destroy the Earth itself, just the conditions under which humanity (and so many other species) thrived on it. Sooner or later, if the global temperature is indeed allowed to rise a catastrophic seven degrees Fahrenheit or four degrees Celsius, as an environmental impact statement from the Trump administration suggested it would by 2100, parts of the planet could become uninhabitable, hundreds of millions of human beings could be set in desperate motion, and the weather could intensify in ways that might be nearly unbearable for human habitation. Just read David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth, if you doubt me.

This isn’t even contestable information anymore and yet it’s perfectly possible that Donald Trump could be elected to a second term in 2020. It’s perfectly possible that more right-wing populist movements could sweep into power in Europe. It’s perfectly possible that Vladimir Putin’s version of great powerdom — a sagging Russian petro-state — could continue on its present globally warming path well into the future.

Understand this: Trump, Bolsonaro, Duda, Putin, and the others are just part of human history. Sooner or later, they will be gone. Climate change, however, is not part of human history (whatever it may do to civilization as we know it). Its effects could, in human terms, last for almost unimaginable periods of time. It operates on a different time scale entirely, which means that, unlike the tragedies and nightmares of human history, it is not just a passing matter.

Of course, the planet will survive, as will some life forms (as would be true even if humanity were to succumb to that other possible path to an apocalypse, a nuclear holocaust resulting in “nuclear winter”).  But that should be considered small consolation indeed.

Putting the Planet on a Suicide Watch

Consider global warming a story for the ages, one that should put Notre Dame’s near-destruction after almost nine centuries in grim perspective. And yet the planetary version of burning, which should be humanity’s crisis of all crises, has been met with a general lack of media attention, reflecting a lack of just about every other kind of attention in our world (except by those outraged children who know that they are going to inherit a degraded world and are increasingly making their displeasure about it felt).

To take just one example of that lack of obvious attention, the response of the mega-wealthy to the burning of Notre Dame was an almost instantaneous burst of giving. The euro equivalent of nearly a billion dollars was raised more or less overnight from the wealthiest of French families and other .01%ers. Remind me of the equivalent for climate change as the planet’s spire threatens to come down?

As for arsonists like Donald Trump and the matter of collusion, there’s not even a question mark on the subject. In the United States, such collusion with the destroyers of human life on Planet Earth is written all over their actions. It’s beyond evident in the appointment of former oil and gas lobbyists and fellow travelers to positions of power. Will there, however, be the equivalent of a Mueller investigation? Will the president be howling “witch hunt” again? Not a chance. When it comes to Donald Trump and climate change, there will be neither a Mueller Report, nor the need for a classic Barr defense. And yet collusion — hell, yeah! The evidence is beyond overwhelming.

We are, of course, talking about nothing short of the ultimate crime, but on any given day of our lives, you’d hardly notice that it was underway. Even for an old man like me, it’s a terrifying thing to watch humanity make a decision, however inchoate, to essentially commit suicide. In effect, there is now a suicide watch on Planet Earth. Let’s hope the kids can make a difference.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs TomDispatch.com and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands,Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2019 Tom Engelhardt

ooOOoo

Tom and I are of the same age, give or take a year or two, and I have long been worried about the state of things. Part of me thinks that I won’t live long enough to experience the worst of this climate crisis and that my grandchild will have to sort it out. But then another part of me thinks that this is accelerating and we are already experiencing weather and climate that is strange and …..

I don’t know!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Eighty-Four

Something a little different!

At the start of the week, indeed last Tuesday, a pair of geese hatched a brood of goslings.

I tried very hard to take some photographs of them but they stayed their distance and all I got was the following. (These are cropped down from the original.)

They are at the limits of the camera lens.

This is the morning of birth, Tuesday 16th April, and the goslings are still in the nest underneath the mother’s belly.

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Five or six goslings; it’s still too difficult to tell.

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Nothing to do with dogs but I’m sure you enjoyed them! This is the second time that we have had a pair of geese build a nest, lay eggs and bring the goslings into the world. The last time was April 23rd, 2015. Pictures here!