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Storm Coming (NASA)

GR–Ode to concerned scientists: They see the danger, they sound the horns and clang the bells, and they wait. But the ramparts remain empty. They turn to their family and friends, but dreamlike their voices are too soft and none respond.

“Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice. Ultimately, our global systems, which are designed for perpetual growth, need to be fundamentally restructured to avoid the worst-case outcome.

“For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky. Then it was gone. In November, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.” They warned that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

“This is not the first such notice. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world. In ringing tones, they called for a recognition of the earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that “we all have but one lifeboat.”

“This second warning contains a series of charts showing how utterly the world’s leaders ignored what they were told twenty-five years earlier. Whether it’s CO2 emissions, temperature change, ocean dead zones, freshwater resources, vertebrate species, or total forest cover, the grim charts virtually all point in the same dismal direction, indicating continued momentum toward doomsday. The chart for marine catch shows something even scarier: in 1996, the catch peaked at 130 million tonnes and in spite of massively increased industrial fishing, it’s been declining ever since—a harbinger of the kind of overshoot that unsustainable exploitation threatens across the board.” –Jeremy Lent (What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?).

How Many of You Switched to Renewable Energy?

In recent posts, I described the warnings of impending disaster. I didn’t expect to have an impact, and I wasn’t wrong. As Jeremy Lint points out in the article above, the media avoidance of unappetizing topics is too complete. And of course, our leaders in power avoid the subject in their subservience to wealth. My first hint that good advice for avoiding collapse would be futile was the minimal response to my discovery of the simple and inexpensive means for everyone to switch their homes from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy. Like Pangloss, I’ve remained hopeful. But I read that book, and now I’ve turned to a more practical concern; the post-anthropocene survivors, the weeds, have absorbed my attention. Today’s weed is Shepherdspurse, a foreign but familiar little mustard that feeds butterflies and yields medicines for us humans.

Tell Congress: Vote No on Clovis for USDA Chief Scientist

Sam Clovis, Trump’s choice for USDA chief scientist.

GR: The USDA Chief Scientist must be a scientist. The USDA evaluates the safety of outdoor activities including farming, logging, ecosystem protection, herbicide use for weed control, and many more. The person in charge of the evaluations must understand the methods used for measurement and analysis and must understand the certainty or lack of certainty of the results. Sam Clovis has no experience in scientific methods. Trump selected his other appointees based on political connections and not qualifications. Clovis may be the worst of the worst. The Union of Concerned Scientists has given us some information to use in protest of Clovis’ appointment.

“President Trump has nominated Sam Clovis—a vocal climate change denier with no training in science—for the role of chief scientist at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clovis’ nomination represents an abandonment of America’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers who depend on the USDA to provide sound scientific guidance on the pressing challenges facing our nation’s food system. Moreover, Clovis’ history of denying climate change and peddling racist and homophobic conspiracy theories calls into question his capacity to make informed, objective, and sound investments for the future of American agriculture.

“Scientists and experts around the country are signing this letter to demand that the USDA chief scientist have a strong scientific background in order to fulfill the demands of this crucial position.

“Add your name to this letter urging the Senate Agriculture Committee to stand by its commitment to scientifically informed governance by voting no on Sam Clovis for USDA chief scientist.

“Learn more about the case against Clovis, and read the nine questions the Senate should ask of Clovis. Check out our Sidelining Science Since Day One report.” Union of Concerned Scientists.


GR:  Contact your Senators and ask them to reject the Clovis appointment. You could also contact Senator Pat Roberts, chairman and Senator Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Tell your Senators that Sam Clovis falls far short of the standards of chief scientist. While he holds a Doctorate of Public Administration, his professional background is completely devoid of relevant scientific experience. The USDA chief scientist must have a strong scientific background to administer scientific programs and make crucial decisions on food safety, agricultural productivity, and emerging threats to public health. Dr. Clovis lacks grounding in the scientific process and is not equipped to make informed, objective, and strategic investments for the future of American agriculture.

There are some excellent smart phone apps that simplify contacting congress. I’m trying out “Congress” by Eric Mill my phone. Seems pretty good so far.

Wild Amazon Faces Destruction as Brazil’s Farmers and Loggers Target National Park

Cattle graze beside the tree stumps that are all that is left of cleared Amazon forest inside the Sierra Ricardo Franco state park. Photograph: Jonathan Watts for the Observer

GR:  A few years ago, Brazil finally realized that cutting down the Amazon rainforest was causing drought, an effect that Alexander Von Humboldt explained two centuries earlier. The country made an effort to preserve its forest. Then we saw oil prices fall, rampant corruption exposed, and the wealthy had to shift their hungry eyes. The oligarchs replaced conservation sentiments with the old standby, harvest and sell natural resources. In Brazil’s case, this has often been irreversible logging or simply clearing for pasture of the ancient rainforest. The loss of indigenous and migratory wildlife is a sad example of how human greed is destroying the natural world.

I used Google Earth’s history function to show the forest’s destruction in around the Serra Ricardo Franco state park. You can see that destruction accelerated after 1993. It slowed between 2003 and 2013, but that’s because not much was left. Nevertheless, efforts are underway today to harvest the remnants.

Google Earth 12-30-1984.

Google Earth 12-30-1993.

Google Earth 12-30-2003.

Google Earth 12-30-2013

The excellent article below describes what’s happening now to the Amazon Rainforest.

“Today, orange dirt roads, cut into the forest by illegal loggers, lead you to the north-western flank of the elevated hilltop. Now called the Serra Ricardo Franco state park, this is nominally a conservation area set up with support from the World Bank. Instead of forest, however, you find swaths of land invaded by farmers, stripped of trees, and turned over to pasture for 240,000 cows. There are even private airfields inside the park’s boundaries, which exist on maps only.

“Far from being an isolated area where a wanderer might starve, this is now – despite its dubious legal status – one of the world’s great centres of food production. In recent months, it has also emerged as a symbol of the resurgent influence of a landowning class in Brazil who, even more than in the US under Donald Trump, are cashing in on the destruction of the wild.

“Locals say a member of President Michel Temer’s cabinet – chief of staff Eliseu Padilha – owns ranches here on hillsides stripped of forest in a supposedly protected park. The municipal ombudsmen told the Observer the cattle raised here are then sold – in contravention of pledges to prosecutors and international consumers – to JBS, the world’s biggest meat-packing company, which is at the centre of a huge bribery scandal.

“These allegations are denied by farmers but there is no doubt the government is easing controls as it opens up more land for ranches, dams, roads and soy fields to meet the growing appetite of China. Last year, Brazil reported an alarming 29% increase of deforestation, raising doubts that the country will be able to meet its global commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than an aberration, this appears to mark a return to historical norms for a country that has been built on 500 years of land seizures that were later legalised by the politicians who benefited from them.

“The concurrent erosion of legal authority and natural habitat can be seen in many Brazilian states: the newest soy frontiers of Maranhão, Tocantins and Bahia; the hydropower heartland of Pará and the wild west mining and logging regions of Rondônia and Acre. But it is in Mato Grosso that the political forces behind deforestation – associated with corruption, violence, weak regulation and deliberate obfuscation of land ownership – reveal themselves most clearly.” –Jonathan Watts (Continue: Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazil’s farmers and loggers target national park | World news | The Guardian.)

The endangered Tatu-bola Armadillo, the mascot of the 2014 World Cup is disappearing along with many other inhabitants of the forest (belizar73/Getty Images/iStockphoto).

Brazil halves environment budget amid rising Amazon deforestation | Climate Home – climate change news

GR: Of today’s 12 lead stories in my climate newsletter, The Atmosphere News, 3 stories were either optimistic or neutral and 9 were pessimistic or bad. The ‘bad’ story below is worth noting because of the years of back-and-forth over Amazon rainforest protection. I think it illustrates what happens to nature when human problems arise. Nature may “bat last,” but it gets that last-word only after a long string of strikeouts.

Environmental budget cuts come as pressure to convert the rainforest into pasture is intensifying (Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT)

In a bid to contain a growing budget deficit, the government has slashed the funding to enforce forest protection laws

“The Brazilian government is cutting its environment ministry budget by 51% as part of a bid to limit the country’s spiralling deficit.

“The cuts come as deforestation rates are rising, driven by demand for timber, soy and beef. The Amazon region saw a 29% increase in forest clearance last year, according to preliminary data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute.

“It is an even steeper drop in spending than the 31% Donald Trump’s administration is proposing for the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“The environment ministry oversees the agency responsible for enforcing laws to protect the forest. Sharp spending cuts risk weakening its capacity to carry out inspections, warned NGO Observatorio do Clima.

“Other ministries hit by the austerity drive include transport, tourism and planning, budget and management. Certain programmes have been protected under the government’s “growth acceleration programme”.

“The move comes among reports that Brazilian government environment and land policy is being swayed by a dominant pro-beef caucus.” –Megan Darby (Continue: Brazil halves environment budget amid rising Amazon deforestation | Climate Home – climate change news.)