Tag: Astronomer Royal

Connecting the dots

On the 23rd March, I wrote a piece entitled The most important alarm ever heard.  It opened as follows:

The most important alarm ever heard.

The heading says it all.

In fact the heading was taken from an email that came in from Bill McKibben’s 350.org yesterday.  But before reproducing that email in full, let me take you back to the 6th January this year when I published a piece simply called Keystone XL pipeline.  This is how that Post opened up,

Yesterday, I had published a lecture given in Melbourne by Britain’s eminent Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees.  Lord Rees concluded his lecture with the call for us to take better care of our own planet. He, like many others, recognises the unique place in history that we occupy. For the first time a single species is capable of exerting profound changes on the Earth’s natural and physical environments.

Over and over again, scientists are reporting the rise in climate temperature of Planet Earth and the implications thereof if we do not wakeup soon to changing our ways.  The Keystone pipeline is a huge potential mistake!

Bill McKibben of 350.org

Not easy to focus on a single sentence from Lord Rees but this one’s pretty direct, “For the first time a single species is capable of exerting profound changes on the Earth’s natural and physical environments.”

Now have a read of the article on 350orbust.com called Things Happen, But It’s Time To Connect The Dots. I’ve taken the liberty of republishing it in full.  But first the video:

Things Happen, But It’s Time To Connect The Dots

APRIL 16, 2012

Thailand has the worst flooding in its history, only a month after Central America has the worst flood in its history, a month after Vermont has the worst flooding in its history in the same year that the Mississippi river has the worst flooding in its history. And Queensland in Australia has its worst floods only a few months after Pakistan floods so badly that 20 million people are forced from their homes – it’s connected, folks.

Across the planet now we see ever more flood, ever more drought, ever more storms. People are dying, communities are being wrecked — the impacts we’re already witnessing from climate change are unlike anything we have seen before.

But because the globe is so big, it’s hard for most people to see that it’s all connected. That’s why, on May 5, we will Connect the Dots.

In places from drought-stricken Mongolia to flood-stricken Thailand, from fire-ravaged Australia to Himalayan communities threatened by glacial melt, we will hold rallies reminding everyone what has happened in our neighborhoods. And at each of those rallies, from Kenya to Canada, from Vietnam to Vermont, someone will be holding a…dot. A huge black dot on a white banner, a “dot” of people holding hands, encircling a field where crops have dried up, a dot made of fabric and the picture taken from above — you get the idea. We’ll share those images the world around, to put a human face on climate change–we’ll hold up a mirror to the planet and force people to come face to face with the ravages of climate change.

Anyone and everyone can participate in this day. Many of us do not live in Texas, the Philippines, or Ethiopia — places deeply affected by climate impacts. For those communities, there are countless ways to stand in solidarity with those on the front-lines of the climate crisis: some people will giving presentations in their communities about how to connect the dots. Others will do projects to demonstrate what sorts of climate impacts we can expect if the crisis is left unchecked. And still others of us will express our indignation to local media and politicians for failing to connect the dots in their coverage of “natural disasters.”

However you choose to participate, your voice is needed in this fight — and you can sign up here: www.climatedots.org

These will be beautiful events, we’re sure. But they will also have an edge. It’s important for all of us whose lives are being damaged to know that it’s right that we get a little angry at those forces causing this problem. The fossil fuel industry is at fault, and we have to make that clear. Our crew at 350.org will work hard to connect all these dots — literally — and weave them together to create a potent call to action, and we will channel that call directly to the people who need to hear it most.

May 5 is coming soon; we need to work rapidly. Because climate change is bearing down on us, and we simply can’t wait. The world needs to understand what’s happening, and you’re the people who can tell them.

Please join us–we need you to send the most important alarm humanity has ever heard:www.climatedots.org

Onwards,

Bill McKibben for the whole team at ClimateDots.org

The most important alarm ever heard.

The heading says it all.

In fact the heading was taken from an email that came in from Bill McKibben’s 350.org yesterday.  But before reproducing that email in full, let me take you back to the 6th January this year when I published a piece simply called Keystone XL pipeline.  This is how that Post opened up,

Yesterday, I had published a lecture given in Melbourne by Britain’s eminent Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees.  Lord Rees concluded his lecture with the call for us to take better care of our own planet. He, like many others, recognises the unique place in history that we occupy. For the first time a single species is capable of exerting profound changes on the Earth’s natural and physical environments.

Over and over again, scientists are reporting the rise in climate temperature of Planet Earth and the implications thereof if we do not wakeup soon to changing our ways.  The Keystone pipeline is a huge potential mistake!

Bill McKibben of 350.org

Not easy to focus on a single sentence from Lord Rees but this one’s pretty direct, “For the first time a single species is capable of exerting profound changes on the Earth’s natural and physical environments.”

God only knows what money, power and influence is going on behind the scenes because no leader in their right mind ought to be supporting any major investment in the continuation of carbon-based energy.  So it was with deep dismay that around 2pm US Mountain Time yesterday afternoon the following email arrived in my in-box.  (Feel free to republish this Post, indeed please do so!)

Dear friends,

Earlier today, Barack Obama wrapped up his first trip to Oklahoma as President. He arrived just after a week of floods, capping off a winter that never came, which followed the hottest and driest summer Oklahoma had seen in thousands of years, perhaps ever.

But he wasn’t in Oklahoma to talk about these climate disasters. He was there to laud his administration’s fast-tracking of the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. In his speech today, President Obama didn’t connect the dots between fossil fuel extraction, climate change, and the extreme weather that has reshaped so much of the American landscape this past year.

It’s a painful reminder that sometimes we must be leaders ourselves, before we can expect our elected officials to follow. It’s clearly up to us to connect the dots.

Today 350.org is launching a global day of action to call attention to these and other climate disasters, here on the same day as the President’s annoucement. Across the planet now we see ever more flooding, ever more drought, ever more storms. People are dying, communities are being wrecked — the impacts we’re already witnessing from climate change are unlike anything we have seen before.

If we’re going to do these communities justice, we need to connect the dots between these disasters and show how all of them are linked to fossil fuels. We’re setting aside May 5th for a global day of action to do just that: Connect the Dots between extreme weather and climate change.

Anyone and everyone can participate in this day. Many of us do not live in Oklahoma, the Philippines, or Ethiopia — places deeply affected by climate impacts. For those of us not in directly-impacted communities, there are countless ways to stand in solidarity with those on the front-lines of the climate crisis: some people will be giving presentations in their communities about how to connect the dots. Others will do projects to demonstrate what sorts of climate impacts we can expect if the crisis is left unchecked. And here in the US, it’s particularly important that we make the connections clear to our elected officials — beginning with President Obama.

However you choose to participate, your voice is needed in this fight — and you can sign up to host a local event here: www.climatedots.org/start

(For more general info about the day, check out our new website here: www.climatedots.org)

350.org has done giant global days of action before (over the last three years we’ve helped coordinate over 15,000 events in 188 countries) and they’re always beautiful moments when our movement stands together. This year we’ll use that same captivating tactic to draw attention to the struggles of our friends around the world  — the communities already feeling the harsh impacts of climate change.

These will also be beautiful events, we’re sure. But they will also have an edge. It’s right that we get a little angry at those forces causing this problem. The fossil fuel industry is at fault, and we have to make that clear. Our crew at 350.org will work hard to connect all these dots — literally — and weave them together to create a potent call to action, and we will channel that call directly to the people who need to hear it most.

May 5 is coming soon; we need to work rapidly. Because climate change is bearing down on us, and we simply can’t wait. The world needs to understand what’s happening, and you’re the people who can tell them.

Please join us — we need you to send the most important alarm humanity has ever heard.

Onwards,

–Bill McKibben for the whole 350.org team

P.S. This is news worth spreading — and it only takes a moment to share it. Click here to share it on Facebook, or click here to post it on Twitter.

Keystone XL pipeline

Spread the word as far and wide as possible!

Yesterday I received an email from 350.org as part of their mailing to all 350.org supporters.  I have previously written a number of times, for example see here and here, about this proposed project and why it is so important to have it rejected.

Yesterday I published a lecture given in Melbourne by Britain’s eminent Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees.  Lord Rees concluded his lecture with the call for us to take better care of our own planet. He, like many others, recognises the unique place in history that we occupy. For the first time a single species is capable of exerting profound changes on the Earth’s natural and physical environments.

Over and over again, scientists are reporting the rise in climate temperature of Planet Earth and the implications thereof if we do not wakeup soon to changing our ways.  The Keystone pipeline is a huge potential mistake!

Bill McKibben of 350.org

Anyway, to the letter issued by 350.org – note the link to send a message to President Obama works – please use it!

Direct threats from Big Oil over Keystone XL

01/05/12, 11:43am

Here’s the email that Bill McKibben just sent to US 350.org supporters who have been working on Keystone XL:

Just in case you thought there was anything subtle about the Keystone battle, you need to hear what the president of the American Petroleum Institute — the oil industry’s #1 front group — said yesterday: if the President doesn’t approve the project there will “huge political consequences.”

That’s as direct a threat as you’re ever going to hear in DC, and it shows just how mad you made the oil industry last year by exposing Keystone for the climate-killing danger it is.  And the oil industry can obviously make good on their threats — they’ve got all the money on earth, and thanks to Citizens United they can use it without restriction in our elections. They’re not used to ever losing.So far the Obama administration is standing firm in the face of Big Oil’s bullying — the White House made it completely clear last month that if the oil industry and its harem in Congress forced a speeded-up review, it would lead to an outright rejection of the permit for the pipeline. We expect they’ll keep their word.

Here’s what I think we need to do.

1- Let the president know you’ve got his back when he rejects the pipeline. Tell him that addressing climate change is the key to our future, and that you’re glad he’s not bending.

2- Take the offensive against the oil industry. If they’re going to try and ram Keystone down our throats we’re going to try and take away something they hold dear, the handouts that Congress gives them each and every year. They’re the richest industry on earth, they’re doing great damage to the planet — and they expect us to pay for it with our tax dollars.

Can you send a quick note to President Obama covering those two key points? 

Click here to send a message to the President: www.350.org/stand-strong

Here’s the note I’m sending:

President Obama: Thank you for opposing the rushed Keystone XL pipeline permit. Responding to climate change is critical to preserving our collective future, and I hope this is a first step towards the dramatic changes we need to avoid catastrophe. PS: Please take handouts for the fossil fuel industry out of next year’s budget. There are people in America who need that money more.

There’s lots more to be done, of course. In the slightly longer run, we’ve got to take on the greatest subsidy of all: the special privilege that Congress gives the fossil fuel industry to use the atmosphere as an open sewer into which to dump its carbon for free.But today — right now, in the face of this kind of straight-up bullying — it’s time to punch back. We’re nonviolent, but we’re not wimps.

Bill

Life and the cosmos

A powerful lecture by the eminent Lord Martin Rees

Martin Rees at Jodrell Bank, 2007

I came across this interview a few days ago in connection with some book research that I was undertaking.  Please don’t be put off by the 56 minute length because Martin Rees is one of the most pre-eminent cosmologists around today, as well as being the UK’s Astronomer Royal since 1995.

Make a promise to yourself to settle down sometime soon and watch the lecture, given at the University of Melbourne’s Medical School in 2010.  And a warning! I going to pick up on some of the important points made by Martin Rees in a couple of posts next week.

Here’s how the lecture was reported by the Australian science website, SixOne Science,

Lord Rees in Melbourne

In a packed Sunderland Lecture Theatre in the University of Melbourne’s Medical School, Lord Martin Rees gave the inaugural Derek Denton Lecture in Science and the Arts. Lord Rees, an eminent and accomplished astrophysicist and cosmologist, is coming to the end of his five year tenure as the president of The Royal Society. The event even managed to attract or Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who entered without a noticeable entourage and with no fanfare, and the Governor of Victoria, Professor David de Kretser, a scientist himself.

The lecture was entitled “Life and the Cosmos”, a grand and sweeping title if ever there was one. It seemed like an impossible amount of material to cover in the allotted hour. However, Rees delivered an entertaining, humorous account of life from the big bang, through the formation of stars and galaxies, to the origins of life and perhaps the biggest crowd pleaser, the search for extra-terrestrial life. Most in the lecture theatre would not have learnt anything new, but this lecture was aimed at a general audience and the material was interesting enough to keep everyone interested for the hour despite being squashed into an ageing undergraduate lecture theatre complete with squeaky desks and a slightly musty smell. Perhaps Mr. Rudd was sufficiently uncomfortable to increase university funding, we can hope.

Whist this was predominately an overview of the subject material, Rees expressed some opinions about space exploration. He seemed torn between his human curiosity and the cost of human exploration. Given the advances in robotic exploration vehicles, Rees has difficulty in justifying the cost of sending humans on planetary exploration missions. Perhaps the best case for robotic exploration was made by the amazing photos he showed from the surfaces of Mars (photos) and Titan (photos), a moon of Saturn. Interestingly, Rees believes that if human exploration does proceed in the future it will be led by the Chinese or groups of private individuals. He also raised the issue of exploitation of other planets, something not often mentioned in the debate over human space travel. We need to decide if other bodies in our solar system are open for exploitation or if they should be preserved as wilderness, in a similar way to Antarctica. Given the pressures faced by places like Antarctica and the Amazon this will be an important debate should human exploration resume.

Rees concluded his lecture with the almost obligatory call for us to take better care or our own planet. He, like many others, recognises the unique place in history that we occupy. For the first time a single species is capable of exerting profound changes on the Earth’s natural and physical environments (although it might be argued that the first photosynthesizing cyanobacteria had a similarly singular influence by increasing the proportion of oxygen in the atmosphere). It is interesting to note that he does not see colonisation of other planets as a solution as the Earth is still the only known planet capable of sustaining us. Although he did discuss the likelihood of discovering Earth-like planets (pretty good given advances in technology). However, Rees did not paint an overly pessimistic picture and he generally came across as optimistic and enthusiastic about the future.

The organisers of the Derek Denton Lecture series should be commended for attracting such a high profile speaker for the first of the series. Hopefully the series will be successful, and if so may need to be moved to a bigger venue. If you want to see the lecture it will soon be available here. The next lecture of this series hasn’t been announced yet, it will be on the Arts, but you can check here for future public events at The University of Melbourne.