Elegy For An Icon…

giant sequoias are dying:

Because now giant sequoias are starting to die where they stand. And it’s been my job to document it. Last summer, our park botanist requested a photo log of declining sequoia health. So each week when I was out in the field, I took pictures of several groups of dying sequoias, snapping photos from the same GPS point each time. Then I carefully labeled each photo with the date and location and dropped it into a folder on the park’s internal network. These photos won’t do anything to save the trees. But it seems important, somehow, to provide our grandchildren with some kind of record of the time we realized we might be losing the largest trees on Earth.

 

Honeybees and Humanity

A moving and thoughtful meditation on how caring for other creatures can change who you are and how you see the world:

A friend of mine once told me that soon after he started beekeeping, he began noticing color differently — began picking out particular hues, as a bee might do. And as the summer wore on that year in Oxford, I realized that I, too, was seeing differently. Cycling to and from work, I spotted wild places I hadn’t before; I became aware of what creature life existed between and through the city’s walls. I was newly alert to changing weather patterns, shifting seasons — I noticed how these affected the colony in my hive; how vulnerable pollinators were to environmental change. I’d imagined the bees might offer an escape from the wider world; in fact they seemed to be leading me into a new relationship with it.

When we connect with nature we plug ourselves into the universe.

Weekend #Earthism Reads…

The Sound Of Icebergs Melting: My Journey Into The Antarctic

It was the opposite of what we imagined. Rather than water dripping down through air, we were listening to air escaping up through water. We were so close to the ice that this ancient fizz was surprisingly loud. Though we humans never hear it above the surface, this is the sound the Antarctic makes every summer. And as the planet heats, the sound is getting louder.

The Baller: Can attitude help save the planet? A frightened climate reporter meets an ex-basketball player with a serious game plan

Attempting some sort of equanimity about, basically, horror, I’d been vacillating along a “hope or despair” continuum. But recently I’d decided that both ends of that scale were bankrupt. Hope wasn’t precisely rational, and despair was too cruel to the living—anyone who genuinely cared about a place or a child had to come up with something, anything, more useful than “Good vibes only” or “We’re screwed.”

So I was quietly seeking a better approach as I wrote story after story on efforts to curb climate emissions. And while working on a cover story earlier that year about how the built environment (cities, roads, offices, homes, infrastructure) was an enormous part of the problem, I’d called up Mazria, who was recognized as a thought leader on the topic.

One hour on the phone with him had jolted me.

After I hung up, I told a colleague, “I just spoke with a man who has a strategic plan to beat climate change. Not ‘fight the good fight,’ but win.”

The Ecological Vision That Will Save Us: To avoid the next pandemic, we need a reckoning with our place in nature

With faith, you can ask how life will be on the other side. Will you be changed personally? Will we be changed collectively? The knowledge we’re gaining now is making us different people. Pain demands relief, demands we don’t repeat what produced it. Will the pain of this pandemic point a new way forward? It hasn’t before, as every war attests. This time may be no different. But the pandemic has slipped a piece of knowledge into the body public that may not be easy to repress. It’s an insight scientists and poets have voiced for centuries. We’re not apart from nature, we are nature. The environment is not outside us, it is us. We either act in concert with the environment that gives us life, or the environment takes life away.

Read. Enjoy. Think.

 

Multo Bene: Milan is ready to shift…

…from cars to walking and biking:

Milan is to introduce one of Europe’s most ambitious schemes reallocating street space from cars to cycling and walking, in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The northern Italian city and surrounding Lombardy region are among Europe’s most polluted, and have also been especially hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Under the nationwide lockdown, motor traffic congestion has dropped by 30-75%, and air pollution with it. City officials hope to fend off a resurgence in car use as residents return to work looking to avoid busy public transport.

The city has announced that 35km (22 miles) of streets will be transformed over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

I hope this idea is contagious.

Earth Day In 2070

Eric Holthaus nails it:

The world in 2070 will not be a utopia. We’ve already locked in enough climate change to melt the Arctic, no matter what we choose from here. But we will have a world that works for everyone in a way that it just doesn’t right now – that, in the words of Joanna Macy, is “the work that reconnects”. That is our shared goal now.

A world not focused on growth, but on life.

A world not focused on ownership, but on solidarity.

A world not focused on competition, but on connection.

Those might sound like wishy-washy socialist utopian dreams, but they must be true for our civilisation to survive. So, I believe that they will become true, and it will happen in the next 50 years.

One person’s utopia is another person’s (or planet’s) survival. The key point about these ideals, though, is that they are revolutionary, requiring the wholesale reinvention of human politics, economics, and culture.

That is the scale of change needed, and it is clarifying, Nothing we do over the next 50 years, nothing we do after the coronavirus fades, should be similar to what we did before. We don’t need to reclaim the old. We need to wholeheartedly, and as a species, embrace the new.

 

Virtuous Circle…

…clearer air = more solar power generated = clearer air. Once again, the coronavirus is giving us a hint:

Solar power generation records have been set in three of Europe’s largest markets, with cleaner air as a result of the coronavirus pandemic a contributing factor.

Reduced air pollution from the lockdown has contributed to new records in Germany and the U.K., while Spain’s bumper year of installations in 2019 is going through its first springtime boost.

Money is practically free to borrow right now, and the US Congress is borrowing trillions. How about throwing a trillion or so at solar power installation and grid upgrades? Capital investment = jobs for shattered economy = less reliance on oil, and gas = climate change mitigation = reduced climate costs = more money to invest in renewable energy.

Another very virtuous circle.

If the rest of the world doesn’t do what it takes…

…to get these markets and the wildlife trade shut down for good, then we are going in circles. Viral circles:

In a bustling meat market on a tourist island in Indonesia on 7 April, a pile of dead bats is laid out for sale on a table next to cuts of fresh pork while a butcher angrily shoos away a customer trying to take pictures of the scene on his iPhone.

Two thousand miles north and two days earlier, cats are crammed into filthy cages in a market in Guangxi province in southwest China where different species are piled haphazardly on top of each other and slaughtered side by side on a concrete floor splattered with dirt, blood and animal parts.

On 26 March, in the southern province of Guangdong neighbouring Hong Kong, a traditional medicine seller offers remedies made with bats and scorpions to treat ailments ranging from shoulder pain and rheumatism to mosquito bites.

#Blackfish Archives: Keto/Alexis Martinez Incident Reports

After Alexis Martinez was killed by Keto, both SeaWorld/Loro Parque and the Canary Islands OSHA equivalent launched investigations into the incident. These reports are the most detailed and revealing accounts of exactly what happened between Keto and Alexis Martinez (and you can read my reporting and analysis of what they mean in my story about Alexis’ death).

Here is the SeaWorld/Loro Parque corporate incident report:

Here is the Canary Islands Dept. Of Labor Report (Spanish):

More On Meat…

…and why it is a key pandemic vector:

This expanding industrial footprint has accelerated the flow of pathogens into new territories around the world. In Central Africa, the growth of bushmeat hunting—linked to a dearth of local fish due to Chinese and EU overfishing—has spread monkeypox, a smallpox-like virus, from rodents to humans. In China, the growing prosperity of the middle class has led to an increased demand for the luxury “yewei” cuisine, which revolves around the consumption of rare, exotic wild animals; live animal (or “wet”) markets, where such wild animals are sold, have grown accordingly. These wet markets facilitated the emergence of SARS-CoV-1 in bats, civet cats, and humans in 2002 and, some speculate, the novel coronavirus in 2019. And in southeast Asia, rising incomes have led to the increased consumption of pork and the growth of pig farms. The expansion of swine farming in Malaysia precipitated the transmission of Nipah virus from bats to pigs and then humans in 1998; similarly, in China, the expansion of swine farming has led to the frequent emergence of highly virulent forms of avian influenza viruses and antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

And more on “wet markets,” and why shutting them down is a complicated question:

Among today’s wet markets, you’ll find some that sell no live animals whatsoever, just slaughtered animals and produce; some that carry common live animals like chickens or fish; and some that sell wildlife like bats and snakes.

While US lawmakers and other public figures talk about wanting to ban wet markets writ large, what they seem to really want to ban is the sale of wild animals — or perhaps any live animals — that sometimes occurs there. (Presumably they would have no problem with the wet markets that carry only slaughtered meat and produce; after all, the US is full of such markets.)

Which is why (can’t refrain), the most comprehensive solution would be evolution toward plant-based diets. Just saying.

Norway Is An Electric Car Leader….

…And it is an inspiring story of what can happen when incentives change, and then a culture changes:

It still has some way to go, but the country looks on course to meet a government target – set in 2016, with full cross-party parliamentary support – of phasing out the sale of all new fossil-fuel based cars and light commercial vehicles by 2025.

“It’s actually quite amazing how fast the mindset’s changed,” said Christina Bu of the Norwegian EV Electric Vehicle Association. “Even in 2013 or 2014, people were sceptical. Now, a majority of Norwegians will say: my next car will be electric.”

But I couldn’t help noticing with all Norway’s efforts, EVs are still only 10% of the passenger fleet. So Norway’s success is also a warning about how hard it is to make this sort of transition and how important it is to start yesterday.