As you can see, this outpost has been on hiatus. Only so much bandwidth. Besides, Google Analytics was showing that I got maybe a dozen views a day...kind of an echo chamber...So I've since focused on Twitter, where I can say basically the same things I was saying here in 140 charcters...with a lot less time invested.
So maybe I will spiff this one up, try to keep it fresh, maybe shut it down, I don't know. It's all up in the air. Or maybe this will take different forms...already emergent...
I was recently interviewed by Miro Furtado, a young man who is very interested in environmental issues. A few bits of the interview were included in a new film he produced on a great hero of mine, Stewart Brand....This is a very interesting 10 minute film...
Jonathan Foley (@globalecoguy) describes "The Other Inconvenient Truth: How Agriculture is Changing the Face of Our Planet" in a TEDx talk earlier this year.
A new analysis paper called "Solutions for a Cultivated Planet" has been published at Nature.com from Jonathan Foley and colleagues at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. The analysis will appear in print in the NATURE issue of Oct. 20.
Also: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization this week released its annual report indicating that too many people still go to bed hungry, nearly one in seven of us globally, and that increasingly volatile food prices are partly to blame.
NASA Goddard: "NASA / NOAA GOES-13 satellite image showing earth on August 26, 2011 at 14:45 UTC (10:45 a.m. EDT). Hurricane Irene can been seen on the U.S. East Coast.
"Irene Almost 1/3 the Size of East Coast. Irene has become a major hurricane, and NASA satellite data shows its diameter is now about 510 miles -- roughly 1/3 the length of the U.S. Atlantic coastline. Hurricane watches are in effect for much of the East Coast…"
The comma butterfly is among species whose range has changed. Photo from Creative Commons by Johnson Camerface/flickr
A study appearing in the Friday August 19 issue of the journal SCIENCE indicates that rising temperatures globally are forcing plants and animals to move away from the heat towards cooler temperatures at higher altitudes and latitudes.
The study, which is receiving broad coverage, also indicates that the rate of migration is significantly faster than previously thought...
Science NOW at Science Magazine: In Warming World, Critters Run to the Hills (via @sciencenow)
Sara Reardon: "A heat wave is sweeping the planet, and animals and plants are making a break for cooler climes. Or so scientists have always assumed. It's been hard to tie a species' migration directly to climate change, particularly with human activity destroying ecosystems every year. But researchers have now gathered more evidence for that link by compiling data from 54 scientific papers that collectively map the habitat ranges of more than 2000 species during the past 4 decades. On average, the team finds, creatures move both up mountains and farther away from the equator at a speed that keeps pace with the rate of climate change and at a pace that is far faster than previously predicted...."
SCIENCE: Study: Rapid Range Shifts of Species Associated with High Levels of Climate Warming (via @sciencemagazine)
From Abstract: "The distributions of many terrestrial organisms are currently shifting in latitude or elevation in response to changing climate. Using a meta-analysis, we estimated that the distributions of species have recently shifted to higher elevations at a median rate of 11.0 meters per decade, and to higher latitudes at a median rate of 16.9 kilometers per decade. These rates are approximately two and three times faster than previously reported..."
NATURE News Blog: Plants and animals seek cover from climate change (via @naturenews)
"A meta-study published in Science today provides the first evidence that global movement of plants and animals to higher latitudes and altitudes is directly linked to climate change. The research, led by ecologist Chris Thomas at the University of York, UK, also reveals that species are moving two to three times faster than previously thought..."
Associated Press: Critters moving away from global warming faster (via @AP @borenbears)
Seth Borenstein: "Animals across the world are fleeing global warming by heading north much faster than they were less than a decade ago, a new study says. About 2,000 species examined are moving away from the equator at an average rate of more than 15 feet per day, about a mile per year, according to new research published Thursday in the journal Science which analyzed previous studies. Species are also moving up mountains to escape the heat, but more slowly, averaging about 4 feet a year.
"The species -- mostly from the Northern Hemisphere and including plants -- moved in fits and starts, but over several decades it averages to about 8 inches an hour away from the equator...."
The Guardian: Climate change driving species out of habitats much faster than expected (via @guardianeco)
Fiona Harvey: "Once heard only rarely outside the north Kent marshes, the loud voice of the Cetti's warbler is now delighting a whole new set of listeners, from the isle of Anglesey to the banks of the Humber. The bird has moved 150 kilometres further north within the UK in the last 40 years, in response to the changing climate...."
Washington Post: Up and up: Plants and animals migrating as climate changes (vis @washingtonpost)
Brian Vastag: "Across the globe, plants and animals are creeping, crawling, slithering and winging to higher altitudes and higher latitudes as global temperatures climb.
"Moreover, the greater the warming in any given region, the farther its plants and animals have migrated, according to the largest analysis to date of the rapidly shifting ranges of species in Europe, North America, Chile and Malaysia...."
University of York PR: "Further, faster, higher: Wildlife responds increasingly rapidly to climate change" (via @uniofyork)
"New research by scientists in the Department of Biology at the University of York shows that species have responded to climate change up to three times faster than previously appreciated. These results are published in the latest issue of the leading scientific journal Science.
"Faster distribution changes. Species have moved towards the poles (further north in the northern hemisphere, to locations where conditions are cooler) at three times the rate previously accepted in the scientific literature, and they have moved to cooler, higher altitudes at twice the rate previously realised.
"Analysing data for over 2000 responses by animal and plant species, the research team estimated that, on average, species have moved to higher elevations at 12.2 metres per decade and, more dramatically, to higher latitudes at 17.6 kilometres per decade...."
Globe Records its Seventh Warmest July on Record, Arctic Melt Speeds Up
"Abnormally warm conditions in much of the United States, Northern Europe, Western and Eastern Russia, and parts of the Arctic helped propel July 2011 to the seventh-warmest July on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported yesterday. This makes July the 317th month in a row that global average surface temperatures were above normal. The year-to-date is now the 11th warmest period on average...."
Arctic Sea Ice Extent Trends as of August 14 (via @NSIDC)
The chart below shows the extent of Arctic sea ice in August 2011 compared to normal melt and previous years. Follow the blue line...As NOAA says above, the extent of Arctic sea ice in July was the least amount for any July...the next month will determine whether 2011 (blue line) matches or exceeds the record melt year of 2007 (dotted green line).
The United States from Eric Fisher's "See something or say something" map collection.
Eric Fischer (@enf) has mapped geotagged tweets and flickr pictures in a new collection called "See something or say something." He has posted the maps to, where else, his flickr page. Fischer's previous projects include "The Geotaggers' World Atlas" and other works and all can be found here:
In this new collection red (orange?) dots are locations of Flickr pictures. Blue dots are locations of tweets. White dots are locations that have been posted to both.
In the US map above you can see the dominance of images in the scenic western states, and the red on the Washington DC map below shows the National Mall from the dominance of the red geotagged flickr images. Blue tweets drape over much of the the rest of DC, no doubt this is all the cutting-edge policy thinking going on.
Nathan Yau, whose new book "Visualize This," is just out, writes about Fischer's new work at his blog, Flowing Data (@flowingdata).
People Planet: Cairo, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea at night from the International Space Station. Photo from NASA via flickr
The dozen or so of you who have followed this thing, whatever it may be called, haven't seen much from me lately. This mostly because too much else has been going on and there's just too little bandwidth to keep up. Several projects are underway that require lots of deep digging.
Also trumping a "blog" has been devotion to several personal documentary photography projects of prom parties, musicals and plays, state and regional frisbee tournaments, community swim meets, and other family, school, and community activities:
Something has to give, and this electronic outpost has taken a back seat. If any of you have thoughts on what should or could be done next here, give a shout....the issues remain. What, for example, are you interested in knowing more about that you cannot find out elsewhere?
My own interest is as strong as ever in the idea of visualizing global change at the intersection of human aspiration and earth's ability to sustain us. With this comes the formidable challenge of convincingly communicating this nexus simply, elegantly, and viscerally. Right now there is just a shortage of time and bandwidth to focus on this idea, I will continue as I can.
In the meantime, two items of note:
1.) Anthropocene Epoch
In May I was in London to speak at and participate in a fascinating conference contemplating the emergence of the "Anthropocene" geologic epoch. Suffice to say the Anthropocene is a fascinating way for us people to understand our relationship to to the planet that supports us and our seemingly infinite appetites. Expect to hear more about the Anthropocene as a way to frame our relationship to Earth.
I also helped co-orchestrate, moderate panels, and speak at the annual Aspen Environment Forum, which ended earlier this month. Now in its fourth year the forum is a co-production of colleagues at National Geographic and The Aspen Institute.
One session of particular interest, one I had been trying to get on the agenda for years, on what could be called "black swan" events, was the May 30 opening discussion: Coping With Calamity: The Art of Looking Ahead.
"Headlines from the past two years tell an unsettling story: we live in an increasingly disaster-prone world. An Icelandic volcano shuts down air travel over the North Atlantic; an exploding drill rig coats the Gulf of Mexico with oil; epic floods (Nashville, Pakistan, Australia) and massive earthquakes (Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, Japan) kill hundreds of thousands of people and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Some of these disasters were natural, some caused by humans, and some perhaps a mix of the two. But all were dramatically amplified in their impact by the fact that we have, in the past half-century, put so many more people and failure-prone technology in harm's way--nuclear reactors on the coast of Japan, for instance, where the word "tsunami" was coined. Is it possible to build more resilience into our crowded and complex world? To what extent is preparedness merely a matter of investing resources and to what extent does it require changing mindsets--of learning to expect rather than be surprised by inevitable calamity?"
It was also my very food fortune to speak at length with Stewart Brand, originator of the Whole Earth Catalog, Long Now Foundation, co-founder of the Global Business Network, and author of the recent book "Whole Earth Discipline." We talked about challenges and opportunities ahead as our expanding, aspiring human family continues to leverage the finite resources of the planet...
"...From Tennessee to Louisiana, the arteries and tributaries that normally supply the lifeblood of trade and business to the communities along the river's banks are now paralyzing them. The engorged river has disrupted waterway commerce, delaying barge traffic and forcing some cargo to be trucked overland. Grain elevators, a crucial link to the nation's grain exports, have been swamped. Early corn and soybean plantings on delta farms are submerged...."
PRI's Living on Earth Radio, which sadly does not air on any radio station in my town, has just launched a brand new version of their website, and apparently has christened a new handle for Twitter: @livingonearth
If you don't follow LOE you should, they do good work. If you can't get them on the air in your town you can subscribe to podcasts on iTunes. Support them.
Richard Harris NPR, May 7: "Scientists have long predicted that -- eventually -- temperatures and altered rainfall caused by global climate change will take a toll on four of the most important crops in the world: rice, wheat soy and corn.
"Now, as world grain prices hover near record highs, a new study finds that the effects are already starting to be felt...."
also see: Hindered Harvest: Changing Climate Causes Crop Loss (via @sciencemagazine)
Global corn and wheat yields have dropped over the past 30 years because of rising temperatures according to a study published May 5 in the journal Science.
Researchers David Lobell and Justin Costa-Roberts of Stanford and Wolfram Schlenker of Columbia University examined global yields of four major crops -- corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans -- for the period 1980-2008. They found that corn (maize) and wheat yields dropped 3.8% and 5.5% respectively. Rice and soy harvests were maintaining, as yield losses in some countries were offset by gains elsewhere.
This reported decline of global corn and wheat yields comes the same week the United Nations revised upwards its projections of global population. By century's end the UN says we'll likely exceed 10 billion people, which is a jump from previous projections of about nine billion at mid-century and then leveling off. (see link below)
Interestingly the crops/climate study showed that United States did not (yet) show yield losses during the time period studied, though in some countries climatic change was already offsetting yield increases that come from technology such as irrigation, improved seeds, and fertilizers. "Carbon fertilization" that results from rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide helped plant growth in all regions, offsetting some of the yield losses caused by rising temperatures from that same greenhouse gas.
The study has received press attention:
The Economist: Climate Change and Crops: Hindering Harvests: Changes in the climate are already having an effect on crop yields -- but not yet a very big one
NPR News May 5, 2011: "...The exodus in the Mississippi River Valley crept southward as floodwaters continued to wreak havoc Thursday, forcing thousands from their homes amid some of the region's worst flooding in living memory.The exodus in the Mississippi River Valley crept southward as floodwaters continued to wreak havoc Thursday, forcing thousands from their homes amid some of the region's worst flooding in living memory...."
NASA Earth Observatory: Flooding in Wake of Levee Breach
SEJ Watchdog, May 4: "...In response to deep cuts in its budget, EIA announced that it would not be able to compile and publish products like its ongoing estimates of US oil reserves. In fact, EIA will not even be able to continue its investigation of whether speculators are driving up oil prices...."