/ This is amazing /. “Mother” trees sharing nutrients and water with daughter trees.

For young trees, “increased survival was associated with belowground transfer of carbon, nitrogen and water from the old trees.”

Yet another reason never to clearcut. We shouldn’t need reasons for avoiding such an obviously destructive act, but unfortunately, logging companies want money. Clear cutting is fast and easy compared to judicious pruning, and then replanting a natural forest in the gaps rather than a one-species orchard.

Interesting: a healthy forest, like a healthy society, depends on both age and youth, diversity in its population, sharing resources, and those with experience and skill helping those who lack either or both.

What we keep learning about our world, about  life of all sorts, including ourselves, never ceases to astound me. And yet there is so much left to learn.

I appreciate the importance of this post from / Cosmic Variance / on our real knowledge of the basic laws of physics. We need to remember how much we already know. That knowledge gives us the tools to learn more. I include / this link / to Sean Carroll’s follow-up article because of this sentence: “Today we think of ourselves and the stuff we see around us as made of electrons, protons, and neutrons, interacting through gravity, electromagnetism, and the nuclear forces. A thousand years from now, we will still think precisely that.”

The joy of discovering and understanding something that was not just a mystery, but completely unexpected yesterday — that is one of the greatest joys we can experience.

How could I not have known know about / The Cloud Appreciation Society /?

I, who so love clouds… who regularly pause to admire their intrinsic beauty, their infinite variety, their sweeping majesty or ephemeral mystery.

Mackerel speckled, fish bone stripes, rolling waves, cotton piles, anvil heads,  layered wonders… I can wax entirely and (probably) tiresomely prolix on the subject of clouds.

And yet, I never knew about this society.

It is in the UK, which partially explains it.

I once requested our library purchase a charming little book on clouds. How to identify the myriad varieties coupled with history, folk-lore. I thought it delightful, and was so pleased when the librarians agreed. (I assume they agreed, since they ordered it)

Clouds… water vapor, dust, particulate matter, pollution (alas) but, as with any scientific labeling, the knowledge of their form and function only makes them a greater delight.

I am a proud, and soon to be card-carrying member of the Society. How long for mail from the UK?

Many thanks to  / Krulwich Wonders / for the link.

I live on the edge. A keen ever-present sense that the ‘worst’ could fall at any moment. One tiny instant of time irrevocably alters life’s path. It can be global, such as a shooting that triggers global war; or local, such as an earthquake; or individual: a heart attack.

It can be sudden, but so often it’s a matter of a tipping point. We rock back and forth, and suddenly, we don’t come right again. Instead, we fall into whatever awaits below.

Global warming. Overpopulation. Ignorant populace. Religious domination of a supposedly free state. All too easily we could topple into a new dark ages – after massive violence and decimation. Not pretty.

How does one live, knowing how close horror is to us – just the other side of a thin veil that both is, and is not reality.

Reality is what actually happens. We aren’t at war today. But it could so easily have been that reality was war.

I could not wake up tomorrow. I could die at any moment, from any miraculous connivance of autos, meteorites, fire, slippings – any number of things could end my life in an instant.

So far, reality has been that I have woken up. I have made it through each day.

Humans, alas, cling to patterns like this and make assumptions off them. If I always have woken up, I always will. Oh, I know I’ll die, but – I DON’T BELIEVE IT. I don’t live according to that reality, but according to the alternative reality I’ve constructed – I, and every other human. I will not die. At least, not today. Not tomorrow. Probably not this year.

The world will not change such that my life will be inconvenienced. Why should I inconvenience myself today to prevent something I DON’T BELIEVE will happen. Science? Data? Tests? Wtf? Why should I believe something that makes me uncomfortable?

How do we survive? Mostly, we wrap ourselves in a comfy blanket of beliefs. The more we fear, the thicker our blankets. Hence the violent, vehement reaction when someone’s blanket is tugged. Religious outrage to atheism, for example. Or worse.

If we are at all aware of others, and of our very real inter-connectivity to the rest of our species and our planet, we carefully select a few causes to support, and feel we have done what we can. But again, if anyone tries to point out we aren’t actually doing any good, or are creating more problems – at the very least wars of rhetoric erupt.  / George Monbiot’s posts  / on the green movement’s blindness to the real issues around energy production are a perfect example.

I’m not criticizing. Just the other day I was telling my sister that I couldn’t think about something, because I’m spread too thin already. There’s only so much I can focus on, and only so much potential disaster my mind can cope with. I am but human.

So what can we do? At best, try to keep the blanket as thin as you can, so you aren’t impervious to the needs of others. The republican budget that devastates aid to women and children is a perfect example of a way-too insulating blanket.

Accept that you can’t change everything you’d like to. Don’t give yourself a hard time for not being active for everything you know is critical to our survival (am I listening to myself here? I am way too prone to guilt).

Mostly, though, just check yourself occasionally. Ask yourself why you’ve chosen to care actively about this and not that. Have you actually investigated the consequences of your choices? Are you trying to keep improving your awareness and your responses?

And always, always, be wary of your own confirmation biases. They’re calling it all sorts of other fancy names now – but whatever they call it, it boils down to: we accept as true what we want to believe, and ignore all else.

Don’t do that. Try your hardest to see both sides of an issue. Recognize that what’s  important for you, personally, might not be in the best interest for most people, so don’t let your decisions be too personalized  (corporations not being taxed? prayer in school? Good for you, maybe, but what about all the people you hurt?).  Take a stand, but do it on evidence, not belief. Beliefs save us – we can’t live without them, but they are so very dangerous.

Always, always, examine your beliefs.

Don’t let what you believe hurt anyone else.

Don’t let what you want to believe control anyone else.

Only take actions based on facts. Do the research – don’t ignore global warming because your political party tells you not to. Look at the evidence. All over the world farmers – down home good old boys country folk – are noticing the effects of shifting climate. I’d rather listen to someone who actually lives off the land than some bureaucrat who lives off his hands being deep in corporate pockets.

Think. It’s our only hope. As an individual, as a species.

Think. For all our sakes.

Nuclear Skepticism

April 4, 2011

I repeat: to be a skeptic is to ask questions; seek answers from reputable sources; and make decisions based on that accumulated, verifiable evidence while still being open to new information.

To be a skeptic is not to be a naysayer, a denier, or a knee-jerk reactionary. It is not to accept without thought or question, nor is it to ignore evidence.

Once again / George Monbiot / addresses failings in critical thinking that severely damage credibility of people who, as recognized spokespeople, must be held to a higher accountability. If you are going to talk in public about an issue, you *must* be well-informed. (his two previous posts address his repeated and unsuccessful attempts to get Helen Caldicott to provide references for her so dramatic statements.)

People trust their chosen leaders. This is an unfortunate but absolute fact of human nature. And if leaders lie, as almost all seem to do, in pursuit of their chosen agenda, people make foolish choices. Global warming will not go away because people trust greedy, manipulative leaders. And nuclear power must be considered intelligently, not in the obscuring cloud of fact manipulations.

We must teach people how to question intelligently and how to recognize reliable sources.

We are running out of options in too many areas. Humanity may survive the coming crises and the wars and devastation that will accompany them, but wouldn’t it be better if we found ways to prevent the worst disasters? We won’t, not without cooperation and reason.

Where are the leaders and the people who seek reason, not power and emotion?

People clamoring to decommission nuclear plants is a ‘hot’ topic as the drama in Japan keeps unfolding. George Monbiot has been exploring how nuclear energy compares to other sources for safety. Not a pretty picture, considering where so much of our electricity comes from.

His posts, in order:

http://www.monbiot.com/2011/03/16/atomised/

http://www.monbiot.com/2011/03/21/going-critical/

http://www.monbiot.com/2011/03/31/seven-double-standards/

And a tangential post on oil, tyranny, torture, and Western blind eyes:

http://www.monbiot.com/2011/03/14/oil-and-trouble/

I am conflicted.

This is an issue that evokes all the worst-case ‘what if?’ syndromes. What if a nuclear power plant exploded close to an urban area? What about the incredibly long-term consequences of nuclear contamination in an environment?

And yet, I am aware of the arguments that make nuclear power a sensible (?) choice.

George Monbiot has written extremely well on this topic. I refer you to his latest post / here /. Be sure to check out the references.

I have seen several graphics on the topic of comparative safety of power generation; I like / this / one. Very simple. Very clear. Accompanying another good article.

The multiple layers of human and environmental cost from coal power plants are horrifying.

If I have to make a statement of personal opinion, I would say spread things out as much as possible. Go green wherever you can. Governments should heavily subsidize research and development of cheap and efficient solar, wind, wave, geo-thermal, and hydro-  electric generation. Where those sources cannot generate enough power to meet the need, perhaps nuclear is the best option. But keep looking!

P.S. The (?) seems to be my code for rampant indecision.

Hubris

March 17, 2011

The king ruled the land and all who dwelt in it. As he walked the golden sands at the edge of his realm, he saw the ocean was creeping ever closer. “You cannot have my land,” he shouted. “I am ruler here. What I say is law. Even the beasts of the fields and the birds of the air must bow to my judgment. Cease your motion. Come no nearer.”

The king stood in fury and might. He had ordained that nature should follow his decree.

And nature… Did Not.

The king got wet feet.

The republicans sat in the house and decreed “There is no global warming. Nature herself must bow to our decree.”

And the republicans, and all who dwelt under their arrogant, stupid rule…

Got hot.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/03/15/next-up-for-congress-repeal-the-law-of-gravity/

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/03/17/u-s-public-on-global-warming-been-there-done-that-no-big-issue/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/17/deadly-heatwaves-europe?CMP=twt_fd

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