Tag: Finland

Saturday reflection

This is a supremely clever young man.

I’m splitting this post in two.

Today, I will republish the story and then tomorrow I will reproduce the wonderful photographs.

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Woodland animals leap from the screen in Finnish photographer’s work

By JACQUELINE GULLEDGE,  January 1, 2019.

The red fox is one of Saarinen’s favorite subjects. (Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

When most people think of Finland, they likely imagine a country of sprawling forests and winter wonderlands where everyone is content and has a respectful relationship with wildlife.

Helsinki University student and photographer Ossi Saarinen has lived in Finland his whole life, and his work reveals his passion for nature and animals.

“I’ve always been interested in animals. Somehow I find their behavior and all very interesting,” Saarinen, 22, tells MNN. “Even being in the nature without seeing any animals is very enjoyable for me.”

Saarinen has been interested in nature since he was a little boy, but it wasn’t until he started taking photos of a family of foxes in 2015 that he realized this love of animals could frame his life’s work.

“When I was just starting my photographing career I met a fox family with four tiny cubs. I managed to get some photos and in one of them, it looks like they’re all walking towards the camera. It’s my favorite not only because I like it as a photo but also because it was the day when my career really started and I felt like it was something I wanted to do in the future as well.”

Since then, Saarinen has honed his craft into a beautiful collection of photographs featuring different wild animals in their natural habitats. What sets his work apart is the sense you get of just how much he loves animals.

“I try to show the emotions and feelings of the animals and that way also make the people watching the photos to feel something.”

Not only is the raw beauty of animals captured in his images, but they also shine a spotlight on the gorgeous Finnish setting. Saarinen wants people to know how Finnish people take care of the land and respect it.

“Finnish nature looks almost like untouched, which is very rare thing in developed countries. It’s clean, full of different kinds of plants and animals. It has four beautiful seasons over the year. Even if you live in the center of our biggest city, Helsinki, you don’t have to go far away to see beautiful nature and animals. Actually most of my animal photos are taken less than 10 km from the center of Helsinki.”

“I like to tell and show people how clean and beautiful the nature here is. How it can look when people really take care of it.”

You can see more of his photography below, follow him on Instagram or check out his website, where his photos are available for purchase.

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Come back tomorrow to experience Saarinen’s photographs.

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Sixty-Seven

These are just mouth-wateringly beautiful.

Margaret K. from down in Australia sent me the link to these photographs.

I should add the words that precede the photos.

Many people think of Finland as the land of cold weather and darkness. However, Ossi Saarinen (previously here and here), a Finnish photographer, believes that the country is much more than just that, and he shows another surprisingly enchanting side of his motherland.

Ossi brings delightful feelings through his photos of spectacular Finnish nature, especially the untouched forests covering almost three-quarters of the whole country. And within these peaceful and ancient forests, wild animals roam freely and enjoy their lives at their best.

Finnish animals appear to be very mysterious, fascinating and charming just like they’ve stepped out from fairy tales. Ossi does not skip the chances to capture the beauty of Finnish wildlife either. He believes that every encounter between the animals and humans becomes an unforgettably amazing experience (Well, let’s not talk about the encounter with a bear).

Now, let’s enjoy the fairy tale’s atmosphere in his photos

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Oh my! Beautiful beyond words!

Obedience, or not!

Sent to me by Dan Gomez.

It’s a classic!

Published on Nov 21, 2014
This adorably clueless golden retriever from Finland clearly has his priorities in the right order.

You can really see his thought process. “Okay, get ready, don’t f*** this up, she’ll tell you to go and you’ll go…come on, you trained for this..ALRIGHT GO..”
“..OH BALL, OH FOOD, TOY, FOOD, THIS IS A MAGICAL ROAD OF GOODIES.”

Dog magic!

A wonderful sequel to yesterday’s post.

There was a wonderful reader reaction to yesterday’s post and it seemed so utterly appropriate to repost something back from November, 2012. Simply because it underscores the reasons why if anyone is looking for a dog, to please consider a rescue dog first.

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More on the beautiful and inspiring ways of the dog.

(First posted on the 20th November, 2012.)

Back at the beginning of July, I wrote a post about Jasmine.  Jasmine was a rescue dog that turned out to be a natural ‘Mother hen’.  That post was called Letting go; a dog lesson and, as the post explains, “Jasmine was truly one of a kind. She mothered many of the sanctuary’s residents back to health including Bramble the roe deer, Humbug the badger and two of the other sanctuary dogs, just to mention a few.

But, guess what?  More evidence of the benefits of having a dog in your life (or in our case make that 10 dogs!). [Ed. Now 9 dogs.]

From the blogsite The Raw Story comes this:

Babies who spend time around pet dogs have fewer ear infections and respiratory ailments than those whose homes are animal-free, reported a study.

The study, published in the US journal Pediatrics, did not say why but suggested that being around a dog that spends at least part of its day outdoors may boost a child’s immune system in the first year of life.

Cats, too, seemed to convey some protection to babies, though the effect observed was weaker than with dogs.

The article goes on to say,

The research was based on 397 children in Finland whose parents made diary entries each week recording the state of their child’s health during the infant’s first year, from nine weeks to 52 weeks of age.

Overall, babies in homes with cats or dogs were about 30 percent less likely to have respiratory infectious symptoms — which included cough, wheezing, rhinitis (stuffy or runny nose) and fever — and about half as likely to get ear infections.

And concludes,

The most protective association was seen in children who had a dog inside at home for up to six hours a day, compared to children who did not have any dogs or who had dogs that were always outside.

“We offer preliminary evidence that dog ownership may be protective against respiratory tract infections during the first year of life,” said the study.

“We speculate that animal contacts could help to mature the immunologic system, leading to more composed immunologic response and shorter duration of infections.”

The improvement was significant, even after researchers ruled out other factors that could boost infection risk, such as not having been breastfed, attending daycare, being raised by smokers or parents with asthma, or having older siblings in the household.

In addition to having less frequent ear infections and respiratory infections, babies near dogs tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics compared to those who were reared in pet-free households, it said.

Previous research has shown conflicting results, with some studies finding no benefit for young children being around furry pets and others finding that animal contact appears to offer some protection against colds and stomach ailments.

The study authors said their research differs from previous analyses because it focuses solely on the first postnatal year and does not include older children.

Pharaoh approves!

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What amazing creatures they are.

Blast from the past: IBM

A powerful reminder of ethical business practices.

First the background to today’s post. (You may want to settle down with a glass of something; it’s a bit of a ramble!)

In 1968, I emigrated to Sydney, Australia.  In those days, one could get a sponsored one-way flight ticket to Australia for 10 GBP if one intended to make Australia your new home.  Once there, I obtained a sales clerking job with the Australian division of the famous British company, ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries).  I had previously been working for a UK part of ICI Plastics, British Visqueen Ltd, in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Going to Australia came about because in the UK, I had been dating a Finnish woman who, together with her parents and sisters, was living in Sydney.  So when Britta returned to Sydney I thought ‘what the hell’ for a ‘tenner’ I can follow her out there.  (We subsequently married and Britta is the mother of my son, Alex, and daughter, Maija.)

Via very circuitous circumstances, I ended up as a freelance journalist working for a Finnish magazine KotiPosti.  Britta and I spent many months in 1969-1970 driving 30,000 miles all around around Australia finding Finns in the most amazing places doing the most incredible things, and me writing about them.  Then I was invited to travel to Helsinki and in 1970, Britta and I decided to go to Finland via the Trans-Siberian Railway, all the way from Nakhodka in Eastern Russia, on the Sea of Japan, to Moscow, thence on to Helsinki. The route being via Vladivostok, Irkutsk (where we took 24 hours out to visit Lake Baikal), Novosibirsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg (Leningrad) and the short hop to Helsinki.

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What on earth does this have to do with IBM?  Hang on in there! 😉

We initially travelled from Australia to Japan because in 1970, Expo 70 was being held in Japan, and KotiPosti had asked me to write about the event.  One of the most impressive stands at Expo 70 was the IBM stand.  Frankly, it blew me away.

So now fast-forward to Britta and me having completed our stuff in Helsinki and on our way home to Sydney, via London of course, because I still had family in England.  A couple of evenings after we had arrived at Preston Road, Wembley, where my mother’s house was, I read an advertisement in the daily evening newspaper, The London Evening Standard, (still going strong) that IBM UK Ltd, their office products division, were looking for salesmen.  I had been so impressed with IBM at Expo 70 that I seemed unable to resist applying for the job.  To my amazement, I won a place in IBM’s sales team and was with IBM for 8 years – we never returned to Australia.

Fast forward all the way to present times.

A while ago, I signed up to the Current and Ex-IBM Employee Group (Unofficial) on Linked-In.  Yesterday, a member of that group published, The Original IBM Basic Beliefs for those that have never seen them.  They really are worth sharing because how much better would our corporate world be if all businesses subscribed to these beliefs.  Here they are:

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The Original IBM Basic Beliefs for those that have never seen them.

Respect for the Individual
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Our basic belief is respect for the individual, for his rights and dignity. It follows from this principle that IBM should:
1. Help each employee to develop his potential and make the best use of his abilities
2. Pay and promote on merit
3. Maintain two-way communications between manager and employee, with opportunity for a fair hearing and equitable settlement of disagreements.

Service to the Customer
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We are dedicated to giving our customers the best possible service. Our products and services bring profits only to the degree that they serve the customer and satisfy his needs. This demands that we:
1. Know our customers’ needs, and help them anticipate future needs
2. Help customers use our products and services in the best possible way.
3. Provide superior equipment maintenance and supporting services

Excellence Must Be a Way of Life
==========================
We want IBM to be known for its excellence. Therefore, we believe that every task, in every part of the business, should be performed in a superior manner and to the best of our ability. Nothing should be left to chance in our pursuit of excellence. For example, we must:
1. Lead in new developments
2. Be aware of advanced made by others, better them where we can, or be willing to adopt them whenever they fit our needs.
3. Produce quality products of the most advanced design and at the lowest possible cost

Managers Must Lead Effectively
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Our success depends on intelligent and aggressive management which is sensitive to the need for making an enthusiastic partner of every individual in the organization. This requires that managers:
1. Provide the kind of leadership that will motivate employees to do their jobs in a superior way.
2. Meet frequently with all their people.
3. Have the courage to question decisions and policies; have the vision to see the needs of the Company as well as the division and department
4. Plan for the future by keeping an open mind to new ideas, whatever the source

Obligations to stockholders
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IBM has obligations to its stockholders whose capital has created our jobs. These require us to:
1. Take care of the property our stockholders have entrusted to us.
2. Provide an attractive return on invested capital
3. Exploit opportunities for continuing profitable growth

Fair Deal for the Supplier
====================
We want to deal fairly and impartially with suppliers of goods and services. We should:
Select suppliers and according to the quality of their products or services, their general reliability and competitiveness of price.
1. Recognize the legitimate interests of both supplier and IBM when negotiating a contract; administer such contracts in good faith
2. Avoid suppliers becoming unduly dependent on IBM

IBM should be a Good Corporate Citizen
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We accept our responsibilities as a corporate citizen in community, national and world affairs; we serve our interest best when we serve the public interest. We believe that the immediate and long-term public interest is best served by a system of competing enterprises. Therefore, we believe we should compete vigorously, but in a spirit of fair play, with respect for our competitors, and with respect for the law. In communities where IBM facilities are located, we do our utmost to help create an environment in which people want to work and live. We acknowledge our obligation as a business institution to help improve the quality of the society we are part of. We want to be in the forefront of those companies which are working to make our world a better place.

Thomas J. Watson, Jr.
April 1969

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1969! Coming up to 45-years ago.  Sometimes one wonders if society has learnt anything in the last five decades!

None so blind as those who cannot see!

A story of a ship is just the tip of the iceberg!

This is the ship:

S.S. Nordic Orion
S.S. Nordic Orion

Just a ship out of many thousands that ply the trade routes across our oceans.  She was built in 2011 and is classified as a bulk carrier.  Her gross tonnage is 40,142 tons.  She is 738 feet long and 105 feet wide.

So what, you may ask?

To answer that question, let me turn to a recent post over on TomDispatch generously offered for republication on Learning from Dogs. (Thanks Tom.)

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Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, The Age of Inhuman Scale

Posted by Rebecca Solnit at 4:32pm, October 6, 2013.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

It was the stuff of fantasy, of repeated failed expeditions and dreams that wouldn’t die.  I’m talking about the Northwest Passage, that fabled route through Arctic waters around North America.  Now, it’s reality.  The first “bulk carrier,” a Danish commercial freighter with a load of coal, just traveled from Vancouver, Canada, to Finland, cutting a week off its voyage, skipping the Panama Canal, and even, according to the Finnish steel maker Ruukki Metals, for whom the coal was intended, “reducing its greenhouse gas emissions because of fuel savings.”

When dreams come true, it’s time to celebrate, no?  Only in this case, under the upbeat news of the immediate moment lies a far larger nightmare.  Those expeditions from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries failed to find the Northwest Passage because Arctic sea ice made the voyage impossible.  There simply was no passage.  No longer.  Thanks to global warming, the melting of ice — glaciers are losing an estimated 303 billion tons of the stuff annually worldwide — staggers the imagination.  The Greenland ice shield is turning into runoff ever more rapidly, threatening significant sea level rise, and all of the melting in the cold north has, in turn, opened a previously nonexistent Northwest Passage, as well as a similar passage through Russia’s Arctic waters.

None of this would have happened, as the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pointed out in its latest report, if not for the way the burning of fossil fuels (like that coal the Nordic Orion took to Finland) has poured carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  In other words, we created that Arctic passage and made it commercially viable, thus ensuring that our world, the one we’ve known since the dawn of (human) time, will be ever less viable for our children and grandchildren.  After all, the Arctic with its enormous reservoirs of fossil fuels can now begin to be opened up for exploitation like so much of the rest of the planet.  And there can be no doubt about it: those previously unreachable reserves will be extracted and burned, putting yet more CO2 into the atmosphere, and anyone who tries to stop that process, as Greenpeace protestors symbolically tried to do recently at an oil rig in Arctic Russia, will be dealt with firmly as “pirates” or worse.  That dream of history, of explorers from once upon a time, is now not just a reality, but part of a seemingly inexorable feedback loop of modern fossil-fuel production and planetary heating, another aspect of what Michael Klare has grimly termed the Third Carbon Age (rather than a new Age of Renewables).

If we don’t need a little perspective on ourselves and our world now, then when? Fortunately, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Solnit is here to offer us both that perspective and some hope for what we can do in the face of well-funded climate denialism and fossil-fuel company boosterism. Tom

Bigger Than That 
(The Difficulty of) Looking at Climate Change 
By Rebecca Solnit

Late last week, in the lobby of a particularly unglamorous downtown San Francisco building, a group of passionate but polite activists met with a bureaucrat who stepped forward to hear what they had to say about the fate of the Earth. The activists wanted to save the world.  The particular part of it that might be under their control involved getting the San Francisco Retirement board to divest its half a billion dollars in fossil fuel holdings, one piece of the international divestment movement that arose a year ago.

Sometimes the fate of the Earth boils down to getting one person with modest powers to budge.

The bureaucrat had a hundred reasons why changing course was, well, too much of a change. This public official wanted to operate under ordinary-times rules and the idea that climate change has thrust us into extraordinary times (and that divesting didn’t necessarily entail financial loss or even financial risk) was apparently too much to accept.

The mass media aren’t exactly helping. Last Saturday, for instance, the New York Times gave its story on the International Panel on Climate Change’s six-years-in-the-making report on the catastrophic future that’s already here below-the-fold front-page placement, more or less equal to that given a story on the last episode of Breaking Bad. The end of the second paragraph did include this quote: “In short, it threatens our planet, our only home.” But the headline (“U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions”) and the opening paragraph assured you this was dull stuff. Imagine a front page that reported your house was on fire right now, but that some television show was more exciting.

Sometimes I wish media stories were organized in proportion to their impact.  Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change, there is not paper enough on this planet to properly scale up a story to the right size.  If you gave it the complete front page to suggest its import, you would then have to print the rest of the news at some sort of nanoscale and include an electron microscope for reading ease.

Hold up your hand. It’s so big it can block out the sun, though you know that the sun is so much bigger. Now look at the news: in column inches and airtime, a minor controversy or celebrity may loom bigger than the planet. The problem is that, though websites and print media may give us the news, they seldom give us the scale of the news or a real sense of the proportional importance of one thing compared to another.  And proportion, scale, is the main news we need right now — maybe always.

As it happens, we’re not very good at looking at the biggest things. They may be bigger than we can see, or move more slowly than we have the patience to watch for or remember or piece together, or they may cause impacts that are themselves complex and dispersed and stretch into the future. Scandals are easier.  They are on a distinctly human scale, the scale of lust, greed, and violence. We like those, we understand them, we get mired in them, and mostly they mean little or nothing in the long run (or often even in the short run).

A resident in a town on the northwest coast of Japan told me that the black 70-foot-high wave of water coming at him on March 11, 2011, was so huge that, at first, he didn’t believe his eyes. It was the great Tohoku tsunami, which killed about 20,000 people. A version of such cognitive dissonance occurred in 1982, when NASA initially rejected measurements of the atmosphere above Antarctica because they indicated such a radical loss of ozone that the computer program just threw out the data.

Some things are so big you don’t see them, or you don’t want to think about them, or you almost can’t think about them. Climate change is one of those things. It’s impossible to see the whole, because it’s everything. It’s not just a seven-story-tall black wave about to engulf your town, it’s a complete system thrashing out of control, so that it threatens to become too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, too wild, too destructive, too erratic for many plants and animals that depend on reliable annual cycles. It affects the entire surface of the Earth and every living thing, from the highest peaks to the depths of the oceans, from one pole to the other, from the tropics to the tundra, likely for millennia — and it’s not just coming like that wave, it’s already here.

It’s not only bigger than everything else, it’s bigger than everything else put together.  But it’s not a sudden event like a massacre or a flood or a fire, even though it includes floods, fires, heat waves, and wild weather.  It’s an incremental shift over decades, over centuries.  It’s the definition of the big picture itself, the far-too-big picture. Which is why we have so much news about everything else, or so it seems.

To understand climate change, you need to translate figures into impacts, to think about places you’ll never see and times after you’re gone. You need to imagine sea level rise and understand its impact, to see the cause-and-effect relations between coal-fired power plants, fossil-fuel emissions, and the fate of the Earth. You need to model data in fairly sophisticated ways. You need to think like a scientist.

Given the demands of the task and the muddle of the mainstream media, it’s remarkable that so many people get it, and that they do so despite massive, heavily funded petroleum industry propaganda campaigns is maybe a victory, if not enough of one.

Four months ago, two bombers in Boston murdered three people and injured hundreds in a way spectacularly calculated to attract media attention, and the media obeyed with alacrity. Climate change probably fueled the colossal floods around Boulder, Colorado, that killed seven people in mid-September, but amid the copious coverage, it was barely mentioned in the media. Similarly, in Mexico, 115 people died in unprecedented floods in the Acapulco area (no significant mention of climate change), while floods reportedly are halving Pakistan’s economic growth (no significant mention), and 166 bodies were found in the wake of the latest Indian floods (no significant mention).

Climate change is taking hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa every year in complex ways whose causes and effects are difficult to follow. Forest fires, very likely enhanced by climate change, took the lives of 19 firefighters facing Arizona blazes amid record heat waves in July.  Again, climate change generally wasn’t the headline on that story.

(For the record, climate change is clearly helping to produce many of the bigger, more destructive, more expensive, more frequent disasters of our time, but it is impossible to point to any one of them and say definitely, this one is climate change.  It’s like trying to say which cancers in a contaminated area were caused by the contamination; you can’t, but what you can say is that the overall rise in cancer is connected.)

Not quite a year ago, a climate-change-related hurricane drowned people when superstorm Sandy hit a place that doesn’t usually experience major hurricane impact, let alone storm surges that submerge amusement parks, the New York City subway system, and the Jersey shore. In that disaster, 148 people died directly, nearly that many indirectly, losses far greater than from any terrorist incident in this country other than that great anomaly, 9/11. The weather has now become man-made violence, though no one thinks of it as terrorism, in part because there’s no smoking gun or bomb — unless you have the eyes to see and the data to look at, in which case the smokestacks of coal plants start to look gun-like and the hands of energy company CEOs and well-paid-off legislators begin to morph into those of bombers.

Even the civil war in Syria may be a climate-change war of sorts: over the past several years, the country has been hit by its worst drought in modern times. Climate and Security analyst Francesco Femia says, “Around 75 percent of [Syrian] farmers suffered total crop failure, so they moved into the cities. Farmers in the northeast lost 80 percent of their livestock, so they had to leave and find livelihoods elsewhere. They all moved into urban areas — urban areas that were already experiencing economic insecurity due to an influx of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. But this massive displacement mostly wasn’t reported. So it wasn’t factoring into various security analyses. People assumed Syria was relatively stable compared to Egypt.”

Column Inches, Glacial Miles

We like to think about morality and sex and the lives of people we’ve gotten to know in some fashion. We know how to do it. It’s on a distinctly human scale. It’s disturbing in a reassuring way.  We fret about it and feel secure in doing so. Now, everything’s changed, and our imaginations need to keep pace with that change. What is human scale anyway? These days, after all, we split atoms and tinker with genes and can melt an ice sheet. We were designed to think about human-scale phenomena, and now that very phrase is almost as meaningless as old terms like “glacial,” which used to mean slow-moving and slow to change.

Nowadays glaciers are melting rapidly or disappearing entirely, and some — those in Greenland, for example — have gushing rivers of ice water eating through their base. If the whole vast Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it could raise global sea levels by 23 feet.

We tend to think about climate change as one or two or five things: polar ice, glaciers melting, sea-level rise, heat waves, maybe droughts. Now, however, we need to start adding everything else into the mix: the migration of tropical diseases, the proliferation of insect pests, crop failures and declining crop yields leading to widespread hunger and famine, desertification and flooded zones and water failures leading to mass population shifts, resource wars, and so many other things that have to do with the widest systems of life on Earth, affecting health, the global economy, food systems, water systems, and energy systems.

It is almost impossibly scary and painful to contemplate the radical decline and potential death of the oceans that cover 70% of the Earth’s surface and the dramatic decrease of plankton, which do more than any other type of organism to sequester carbon and produce oxygen — a giant forest in microscopic form breathing in what we produce, breathing out what we need, keeping the whole system going. If you want to read something really terrifying, take a look at the rise of the Age of Jellyfish in this review of Lisa-Ann Gershwin’s book Stung!: On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean. Maybe read it even if you don’t.

Only remember that like so much about climate change we used to imagine as a grim future, that future is increasingly here and now. In this case, in the form of millions or maybe billions of tons of jellyfish proliferating globally and devouring plankton, fish eggs, small fish, and bigger creatures in the sea we love, we know, we count on, we feed on, and now even clogging the water-intake pipes of nuclear power plants. In the form of seashells dissolving in acidic waters from the Pacific Northwest to the Antarctic Ocean. In the form of billions of pine-bark beetles massacring the forests of the American West, from Arizona to Alaska, one bite at a time.

It’s huge. I think about it, and I read about it, following blogs at Weather Underground, various climate websites, the emails of environmental groups, the tweets of people at 350.org, and bits and pieces of news on the subject that straggle into the mainstream and alternative media. Then I lose sight of it. I think about everything and anything else; I get caught up in old human-scale news that fits into my frameworks so much more easily. And then I remember, and regain my sense of proportion, or disproportion.

The Great Wall, Brick by Brick

The changes required to address climate change are colossal, but they are made up of increments and steps and stages that are more than possible. Many are already underway, both as positive changes (adaptation of renewable energy, increased energy efficiency, new laws, policies, and principles) and as halts to destruction (for example, all the coal-fired plants that have not been built in recent years and the Tar Sands pipeline that, but for popular resistance, would already be sending its sludge from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico). The problem is planetary in scale, but there is room to mitigate the worst-case scenarios, and that room is full of activists at work. Much of that work consists of small-scale changes.

As Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune put it last week, “Here’s the single most important thing you need to know about the IPCC report: It’s not too late. We still have time to do something about climate disruption. The best estimate from the best science is that we can limit warming from human-caused carbon pollution to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — if we act now. Bottom line: Our house is on fire. Rather than argue about how fast it’s burning, we need to start throwing buckets of water.”

There are buckets and bucket brigades. For example, the movement to get universities, cities, churches, and other entities to divest their holdings of the top 200 fossil-fuel stocks could have major consequences. If it works, it will be achieved through dedicated groups on this campus or in that city competing in a difficult sport: budging bureaucrats. It’s already succeeded in some key places, from the city of Seattle to the national United Church of Christ, and hundreds of campaigns are underway across the United States and in some other countries.

My heroes are now people who can remain engaged with climate change’s complex and daunting facts and still believe that we have some leeway to determine what happens. They insist on looking directly at the black wall of water, and they focus on what we can do about the peril we face, and then they do it. They do their best to understand scale and science, and their dedication and clarity comes from connecting their hearts to their minds.

I hear people who are either uninformed or who are justifying disengagement say that it’s too late and what we do won’t matter, but it does matter, because a rise in the global temperature of two degrees Celsius is going to be very, very different from, say, five degrees Celsius for almost everything living on Earth now and for millennia to come. And there are still many things that can be done, both to help us adapt to the radical change on the way and to limit the degree of change to which we’ll have to adapt. Because it’s already risen .8 degrees and that’s been a disaster — many, many disasters.

I spent time over the last several months with the stalwarts carrying on a campaign to get San Francisco to divest from its energy stocks. In the beginning, it seemed easy enough. City Supervisor John Avalos introduced a nonbinding resolution to the Board of Supervisors, and to everyone’s surprise it passed unanimously in April on a voice vote. But the board turned out only to have the power to recommend that the San Francisco Retirement Board do the real work of divesting its vast holdings of fossil-fuel stocks. The retirement board was a tougher nut to crack.

Its main job, after all, is to ensure a safe and profitable pension fund and in that sense, energy companies have, in the past, been good investments. To continue on such a path is to be “smart about the market.” The market, in the meantime, is working hard at not imagining the financial impact of climate change.

The failure of major food sources, including fishing stocks and agricultural crops, and the resultant mass hunger and instability — see Syria — is going to impact the market. Retirees in the beautiful Bay Area are going feel it if the global economy crashes, the region fills with climate refugees, the spectacularly productive state agricultural system runs dry or roasts, and the oceans rise on our scenic coasts. It’s a matter of scale.  Your investments are not independent of nature, even if fossil-fuel companies remain, for a time, profitable while helping destroying the world as humanity has known it.

Some reliable sources now argue that fossil-fuel stocks are not good investments, that they’re volatile for a number of reasons and due to crash. The IPCC report makes it clear that we need to leave most of the planet’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground in the coming decades, that the choice is either to fry the planet or freeze the assets of the carbon companies. Activists are now doing their best to undermine the value of the big carbon-energy corporations, and governments clued in to the new IPCC report will likely join them in trying to keep the oil, gas, and coal in the ground — the fossil fuel that is also much of the worth of these corporations on paper. If we’re lucky, we’ll make them crash. So divesting can be fiscally sound, and there is a very strong case that it can be done without economic impact. But the crucial thing here isn’t the financial logistics of divestment; it’s the necessity of grasping the scale of things, understanding the colossal nature of the problem and the need to address it, in part, by pressuring one small group or one institution in one place.

To grasp this involves a feat of imagination and, I think, a leap of faith: a kind of conviction about what matters, about living according to principle, about understanding what is too big to be seen with your own eyes, about correlating data on a range of scales. A lot of people I know do it. If we are to pull back from the brink of catastrophe, it will be because of their vision and their faith. You might want to thank them now, and while your words are nice, so are donations. Or you might want to join them.

That there is a widespread divestment movement right now is due to the work of a few people who put forth the plan less than a year ago at 350.org. The president has already mentioned it, and hundreds of colleges are now in the midst of or considering the process of divesting, with cities, churches, and other institutions joining the movement. It takes a peculiar kind of genius to see the monster and to see that it might begin to be pushed back by small actions — by, in fact, actions on a distinctly human scale that could still triumph over the increasingly inhuman scale of our era.

Hold up your hand. It looks puny in relation to the sun, but the other half of the equation of scale is seeing that something as small as that hand, as your own powers, as your own efforts, can matter. The cathedral is made stone by stone, and the book is written word by word.

If there is to be an effort to respond to climate change, it will need to make epic differences in economics, in ecologies, in the largest and most powerful systems around us. Though the goals may be heroic, they will be achieved mostly through an endless accumulation of small gestures.

Those gestures are in your hands, and everyone’s. Or they could be if we learned to see the true scale of things, including how big we can be together.

Rebecca Solnit writes regularly for TomDispatch, works a little with 350.org, and is hanging out a lot in 2013 with the newly arrived Martin, Thyri, Bija Milagro, and Camilo, who will be 80 in the unimaginable year of 2093. Her most recent book is The Faraway Nearby.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Rebecca Solnit

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So back to me! And the blindness of present-day society.

Or try cause and effect.

One of many causes ...
One of many causes …

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.... and the effect ....
…. and the effect ….

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Interesting times!

The love of a dog.

More on the beautiful and inspiring ways of the dog.

Back at the beginning of July, I wrote a post about Jasmine.  Jasmine was a rescue dog that turned out to be a natural ‘Mother hen’.  That post was called Letting go; a dog lesson and, as the post explains, “Jasmine was truly one of a kind. She mothered many of the sanctuary’s residents back to health including Bramble the roe deer, Humbug the badger and two of the other sanctuary dogs, just to mention a few.

But, guess what?  More evidence of the benefits of having a dog in your life (or in our case make that 10 dogs!).

From the blogsite The Raw Story comes this:

Babies who spend time around pet dogs have fewer ear infections and respiratory ailments than those whose homes are animal-free, reported a study.

The study, published in the US journal Pediatrics, did not say why but suggested that being around a dog that spends at least part of its day outdoors may boost a child’s immune system in the first year of life.

Cats, too, seemed to convey some protection to babies, though the effect observed was weaker than with dogs.

The article goes on to say,

The research was based on 397 children in Finland whose parents made diary entries each week recording the state of their child’s health during the infant’s first year, from nine weeks to 52 weeks of age.

Overall, babies in homes with cats or dogs were about 30 percent less likely to have respiratory infectious symptoms — which included cough, wheezing, rhinitis (stuffy or runny nose) and fever — and about half as likely to get ear infections.

And concludes,

The most protective association was seen in children who had a dog inside at home for up to six hours a day, compared to children who did not have any dogs or who had dogs that were always outside.

“We offer preliminary evidence that dog ownership may be protective against respiratory tract infections during the first year of life,” said the study.

“We speculate that animal contacts could help to mature the immunologic system, leading to more composed immunologic response and shorter duration of infections.”

The improvement was significant, even after researchers ruled out other factors that could boost infection risk, such as not having been breastfed, attending daycare, being raised by smokers or parents with asthma, or having older siblings in the household.

In addition to having less frequent ear infections and respiratory infections, babies near dogs tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics compared to those who were reared in pet-free households, it said.

Previous research has shown conflicting results, with some studies finding no benefit for young children being around furry pets and others finding that animal contact appears to offer some protection against colds and stomach ailments.

The study authors said their research differs from previous analyses because it focuses solely on the first postnatal year and does not include older children.

Pharaoh approves!

More on those noctilucent clouds

Otherwise known as Night Shining Clouds

There was an article on Learning from Dogs on July 22nd about these mysterious and beautiful clouds.

This is just an update to show you an example of photographs taken by Finn Jari Luomanen over the night of the 29th-30th July. All the pictures may be seen here – they are of this quality:

2010_07_29-30 Mesoscale convective system

Here’s what Jari said about this night:

This mesoscale convective system sweeped over Finland with ferocious energy. The day before was historical as a record breaking temperature of 37,2 degs Celsius was recorded. The MCS proved to be a good match.

Thunderstrikes happened every two seconds at the peak and it was difficult to expose correctly due to the multiple strikes in each exposure.

Noctilucent clouds shone above the swiftly moving cell creating an eerie electric blue backdrop for the spectacle.

Never before have I seen anything close to this. I was jumping behind the tripod firing away in the hot, humid night. Since when has Finland turned into tropics?

This is a very beautiful planet!

By Paul Handover