Saturday, July 29, 2006

Haida Gwai by Bill Reid at the Vancouver airport. Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Our patience will achieve more than our force."

Edmund Burke
as recorded in John F. Kennedy's notebook

Margaret Atwood Posted by Picasa

The Daily Babble

For the Next Nobel, I Nominate...

I caught some of Margaret Atwood's interview with Bill Moyers on PBS (it's available online.) I generally enjoy interviews with writers, and interviews that Moyers does with the people he finds interesting. I still look at his World of Ideas interviews occasionally, and read the printed versions. But Margaret Atwood is a special case among special cases.

I don't know if I can explain it. There's her clarity of diction and expression. Her responsiveness to questions and dialogue. I also heard part of a radio interview with her once in which the interviewer wasn't that good, and she did not suffer foolish questions. Yet she's game to make something out of a question or topic or event, on the spot. So she isn't severe, but it's best not to waste her time. She can be playfully incisive, or just incisive. I imagine that if she's talking and looking directly at you, it is impossible to shift your gaze away. She knows a lot, she clarifies, she's insightful, she gets me thinking and going off in my own directions. Anyway, I find her mesmerizing in interviews.

But that's the occasion, not the reason for writing about her here. The reason is that I am hereby nominating Margaret Atwood for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

She deserves it. Her 1985 novel, The Handmaid's Tale, is a modern classic. Her book of written talks on literature, Negotiating With the Dead, is a thoughtful and original work. She has written other distinguished novels, poetry, scripts, scholarship and I especially like her short stories. She writes of ideals and realities for all humanity, which fits the Nobel's charge. She has written a definitive work on Canadian literature, which brings me to my second point.

She is internationally known and read, but she is a Canadian writer, and Canadian literature deserves a great deal more recognition than it gets, which is little. Atwood, Robertson Davies, Northrup Frye, Tomson Highway, Alice Munro, Yann Martel, Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields--an amazing variety of forms and styles, in a relatively small population with historical diversity and even more diversity today, spread over a vast country. Not to mention Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. And SCTV. Canadian literature deserves to be honored.

It's a unique literature befitting a unique country that has never been a world power, and never needed to be. International literature has benefitted from Canadian writers, and American literature in particular has benefitted from Canadian literary culture, very different from the combination of commerce, chaos and cliques that passes for ours.

Canada has never had a Nobel lit laureate. It's about time, and Margaret Atwood is the one. So let's start the buzz. Atwood in '06. Or '07 at the latest.

Site news: My Soul of Star Trek blog was sagging for awhile. Why, there were days when Dreaming Up Daily got more hits, a hitherto unprecedented development. Then a few weeks ago I posted a piece on "The Inner Light," a famous episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I'd been thinking about in connection with the gloomier prospects of the Climate Crisis. Then this past week, completely out of the blue, the author of that episode posted a long comment about how the story developed, and his proposed sequel. With news of my most recent post, I mentioned this comment, and sent the links to the two big Star Trek fan sites, Trek Today and TrekWeb. They often link to my posts, but this time they both did simultaneously, and for the past four days Soul of Star Trek has gotten thousands of hits.

It's also gotten comments from Climate Crisis deniers, and I wasn't sure I was going to engage them in a discussion. If they were purely ideologically or politically motivated, or perhaps even paid deniers like Walmart sends out to comment on blogs, I would be wasting a lot of time. But I went ahead, out of respect for Star Trek fans. Here's a direct link to the
Inner Light essay.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sonora Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"In war, truth is the first casuality."

as recorded by John F. Kennedy in
his notebook, 1946.

The Climate Crisis

Refuting Climate Crisis Deniers

It could be a full -time job, but apart from those who "oppose" recognition of climate crisis science for ideological and partisan political purposes, and those paid by fossil fuel corporations to be deniers, maybe it's still worth doing for those who have been confused by the supposed contrary science. Today, one of the scientists (Peter Doran) who deniers sometimes cite as providing data contradicting global heating has refuted the misuse of his data on Antarctica in this oped in the New York Times.

Our study did find that 58 percent of Antarctica cooled from 1966 to 2000. But during that period, the rest of the continent was warming. And climate models created since our paper was published have suggested a link between the lack of significant warming in Antarctica and the ozone hole over that continent. These models, conspicuously missing from the warming-skeptic literature, suggest that as the ozone hole heals — thanks to worldwide bans on ozone-destroying chemicals — all of Antarctica is likely to warm with the rest of the planet. An inconvenient truth?

Doran's data has been misused by Michael Crichton and Ann Coulter. Another scientist refuted the misuse of her data by the Wall Street Journal in a Los Angeles Times oped reprinted here. This was a study of studies by Naomi Oreskes:

My study demonstrated that there is no significant disagreement within the scientific community that the Earth is warming and that human activities are the principal cause.

Papers that continue to rehash arguments that have already been addressed and questions that have already been answered will, of course, be rejected by scientific journals, and this explains my findings. Not a single paper in a large sample of peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 refuted the consensus position, summarized by the National Academy of Sciences, that "most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."

Of actual skeptics, one in Virginia, it was revealed today, is on the payroll of coal-burning utilities. A secret coal industry memo calling for more financing of deniers admits that most deniers have "no involvement in climatology."

Most "scientific" skeptics have been financed, directly or indirectly, by the oil giants. With Exxon-Mobil enjoying profit of $10 billion+ in the last three months, skepticism may be a lonely business, but it can be quite lucrative.
One (Big) State at a Time

UPDATE: The CA death toll is now 132.

With heat-related deaths in California now exceeding 100, a new poll cited by Carl Pope shows"Air pollution, global warming and other environmental woes are becoming increasingly important to California voters" -- an unprecedented 85 percent of the voters say that the environment will influence who they vote for this fall for governor.

With those numbers, even Ahnold is an environmentalist, and since he's the sitting governor, that's not a bad thing. He's fighting the Bushites on roadless areas. But California has another of its endless propositions, this one with some real substance. Pope writes: This reality is reinforced by the fact that, in the fall, Californians will get a chance to vote to put their state on a new energy pathway -- one in which the oil industry is finally forced to pay its fair share of the cost of a transition out of our addiction to oil by funding efficiency and renewables. Proposition 87, the Clean Alternative Energy Act, is leading in the polls, 61 percent to 23 percent. And Californians for the first time overwhelmingly say they want their state to forge its own leadership path on global warming, in the absence of federal leadership.

And as Pope points out, only Democratic candidate for governor Phil Angelides supports Prop 87. Ahnold does not.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Contemporary Mayan sculpture by Georgina Cabrera (Mexico) Posted by Picasa

The Climate Crisis

Dead Zone

If you ever wondered what "the web of life" or "interconnected environment" meant, the Climate Crisis is providing a hard-knocks schooling. It works in two ways, really: we find situations no one dreamed had anything to do with each other actually have a lot to do with each other (usually in a very dismaying way), and we find the Climate Crisis having effects on different places and parts of our lives, even our memories.

Case in point: I spent my 40th birthday on the beach at Lincoln City, Oregon. I'd been in Portland to give a speech on my last book, and do research for what I expected would be my next book. I delayed flying back east to spend my birthday at the ocean, and took a bus across to a hilltop inn with an ocean view. So that's the first thing I thought of when I read this today:

Bottom fish and crabs washing up dead on Oregon beaches are being killed by a recurring "dead zone" of low-oxygen water that appears to be triggered by global warming, scientists say. The area is larger and more deadly than in past years, and there are signs it is spreading north to Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Scientists studying a 70-mile-long zone of oxygen-depleted water along the Continental Shelf between Florence and Lincoln City have concluded it is being caused by explosive blooms of tiny plants known as phytoplankton, which die and sink to the bottom.

Exactly how this happens, and how the effect feeds on itself, is described in this article. But here's the conclusion:

"If we continue like we are now, we could see some ecological shifts," Barth said. "It all depends on what happens with the warming and the greenhouse gases."Dead zones in other places around the country, such as Hood Canal in Washington and the Mississippi River Delta off Louisiana are caused by agricultural runoff fueling blooms of algae that rot and deplete the oxygen, said Lubchenco. But dead zones like the one off Oregon also occur off Namibia and South Africa in the Atlantic and off Peru in the Pacific. "We're not really sure what is down the road. If it's just for a short period of time, it will not be as devastating as if it starts lasting a significant fraction of summer," she said.

It's not the sea overtopping Manhattan, or the permafrost melting to turn the planet into Jurrasic Park. It's not even malaria spreading with the increased range of mosquitoes. But it's a real effect, that changes our lives in small ways. Here a small way, there a small way, it all begins to add up.

Like what a lot of people are doing this summer. Big power blackouts in Queens and Staten Island, storms and power down in St. Louis. And speaking of dead zones, that's becoming another name for apartments of the elderly in three-digit heat waves: in the 11th day of plus 100F temps in California, the estimated heat related death toll has risen to 86.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

NGC688N by astroden Posted by Picasa
California Killer

You won't see this on Nancy Grace or that other one with the awful voice, but 56 people have been killed in California in the past 10 days, with one suspect: the heat. Thousands of animals, mostly "livestock," have perished as well, and no UFO is reportedly involved. In fact, the suspect is the same.

The AP reports: The stretch of 100-plus degree scorchers that descended on the state last week marks the first time in 57 years that both Northern and Southern California have experienced extended heat waves simultaneously, California Undersecretary for Energy Affairs Joe Desmond said.

Some communities faced their third day without electricity as the record-breaking temperatures strained transmission equipment. The entire state has been asked to conserve energy, and blackouts have happened far from the hottest areas. We're all in this together, folks. So let's get real.

If Gore won't run, why not Moyers? Posted by Picasa
Molly Ivins' Excellent Idea

It's this: Dear desperate Democrats: Here’s what we do. We run Bill Moyers for president. I am serious as a stroke about this. It’s simple, cheap, and effective, and it will move the entire spectrum of political discussion in this country. Moyers is the only public figure who can take the entire discussion and shove it toward moral clarity just by being there.

It's not because he could win either the nomination or the presidency, she says. It's for the effect it will have when all those primary candidates gather for TV debates.

Think, imagine, if seven or eight other Democratic candidates, all beautifully coiffed and triangulated and carefully coached to say nothing that will offend anyone, stand on stage with Bill Moyers in front of cameras for a national debate … what would happen? Bill Moyers would win, would walk away with it, just because he doesn’t triangulate or calculate or trim or try to straddle the issues. Bill Moyers doesn’t have to endorse a constitutional amendment against flag burning or whatever wedge issue du jour Republicans have come up with. He is not afraid of being called “unpatriotic.” And besides, he is a wise and a kind man who knows how to talk on TV.

Pretty soon they'll all have to be talking like this, at least a little. And the moral issues get heard. Works for me.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Drought in Boulder, Colorado. This state is becoming an enviromental leader. Posted by Picasa

The Climate Crisis

To Turn It Into Action

The heat is still on in much of the U.S. and Europe. St. Louis was declared a disaster area last week. Today the power grid in California is teetering due to demand in the hot zones where triple digit temperatures still rule. I'm not sure yet if it's power problems or our own telephone wires but our DSL has been down a lot lately, and my access to the Internet restricted. Just to let you know in case there are long absenses here.

For those of us clutching at hope, there was a heartening article in Sunday's SF Chronicle Insight by Mark Hertsgaard, adapted from his piece in The Nation. It's about Jerome Ringo, the chairman of the Board of the the 4.5. million member National Wildlife Federation, the largest enviro organization in America. Ringo is also the only African American to head such an organization, and he is also a former petrochemical worker. He's a living blue-green alliance.

"I am the first African American to head a major conservation group in history," he says. Most environmental groups, he adds, "were founded by people who fished to put fish on the wall, not by people who fished to put fish on the table. And for poor people, issues like ozone depletion have not been a priority, compared to next month's rent. But I tell people in Cancer Alley, 'What good is next month's rent if you're dying from cancer?' "

Ringo is one of the proponents of a new approach to environment in politics, Hertsgaard writes. He pecifies three changes of approach. First: a focus on economically attractive solutions rather than downbeat warnings of disaster... Second, using clear, plain language to communicate with everyone (the enviro organizations have been mired in regulationspeak for years, as they functioned as lobbyists and legal watchdogs), and third, strengthening local organizations to work politically on local and state levels. One of the inspiring moments in Al Gore's movie is the screen filled up with the names of cities that have pledged to act on the climate crisis (and a prideful moment too, to see our much maligned Arcata on it). Here's the heart of the article:

Part of what makes Ringo interesting is that he can credibly connect with all the constituencies needed to transform environmentalism into a genuinely broad-based movement. The National Wildlife Federation chairman can talk to whites and blacks, environmentalists and hunters, business leaders and union members, church-goers and secularists. And he recognizes that all of them benefit from an environmental policy that stresses both respect for the Earth and economic prosperity.

"The glue that connects the dots" is the fight against climate change, says Ringo. He argues that environmentalists can best pursue this battle by championing a green energy plan put forward by the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of environmental, labor and business groups of which he is the new president.

Apollo proposes investing $300 billion of public funds in green energy technologies during the next 10 years. This investment would create 3 million jobs and countless business opportunities, Apollo says, while also fighting climate change and cutting dependence on foreign oil.

It's a good time to be making this argument. Not only has global warming finally been widely acknowledged as an urgent problem, it is now undeniable that fighting it can be extraordinarily profitable. Beginning in 1999, energy giant British Petroleum invested $20 million to increase energy efficiency throughout its production facilities and offices. Three years later, it had saved $650 million in lower fuel costs -- a stunning thirtytwo-fold return on its investment.

Apollo says there is no reason that state and local governments and other public entities cannot cash in just as handsomely -- a message ready-made for the 235 cities that have committed to meeting the greenhouse-gas emissions reductions mandated by the Kyoto Protocol. Ringo spoke at the National Conference of Mayors in June about the Apollo program and got a standing ovation.

"Apollo began five years ago as a vision," he says. "My goal is to turn it into action."