Vanishing Ice and Future Economics

In my novel, TWIST, set in the year 2075, the seas have risen as a result of global warming, inundating the coastal cities and driving the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi River valley. The current exhibition at the Whatcom Museum, entitled Vanishing Ice, presents a sobering visual record of the process that has been taking us there for the past 250 years.

Seventy works of art – photos, videos and paintings by a range of international artists – depict alpine and polar environments, highlighting the massive recession of glaciers and ice fields, the fundamental changes caused by global warming.

This leads us into another dimension of dystopian economics, as a follow-up to my previous post, The Chapstick At The End Of The World: the increasing economic value of an ever-more-scarce ecology.

Vanishing Ice by Noble -- Click To Enlarge

In the utopian scenario, we foresee wealthy ecotourists paying big bucks to visit the last few penguins and polar bears in their native habitat. For example, here is a print from the museum show by Anne Noble, entitled Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica, and described as follows: “Anne Noble juxtaposes Antarctica’s seemingly inaccessible landscape with empty plastic chairs that perhaps represent the droves of tourists eager to experience the ice before climate change transforms the continent. A sense of loss pervades her work, as Antarctica becomes yet another commodity for the taking.”

Vanishing Ice by Braasch -- Click To Enlarge

But then there is the dystopian vision of this future, in which desperate tribes of humans armed with pointy sticks fight for control of the few remaining repositories of fresh water, since the glaciers and snowfields which fed them are long gone. Take a look at this pair of photos of the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, the more recent shot in 2005 by Gary Braasch, compared to Arthur Oliver Wheeler’s 1917 image. From the description in the museum exhibit:“ [they] confirm the scientific data that the Athabasca Glacier has lost half its volume and retreated almost a mile (1.5 km) since its discovery in 1898.

Hate to be Mr. Negative, but what do you think? Take a look at Vanishing Ice and decide for yourself.

Are You Syrias???

U.S. military attack on Syria? Are you serious? Haven’t we seen this movie before?

Ok, first of all, we’ve announced to the world that this will be a limited military action — no ground troops – so the Syrians, who are bat-shit crazy anyway, can feel secure in planning how they’ll vent their rage after we have “punished” them.

Since they have no moral restraint in the first place – proven by their use of chemical and other weapons to slaughter each other by any means possible – they will obsessively pursue retaliation for our annoying and ineffectual interference.

Do we think we will teach them a lesson and they will reform their behavior, like errant schoolboys? They couldn’t care less what we want or think.

So the plan is not to crush them, just irritate the shit out of ‘em. Like taking the first pill or two, then discontinuing your ten-day course of antibiotics – just enough to kill off a few of the weaker bacteria, while building up the strength and resistance of the strong. Or like bitch-slapping a hornet’s nest — if you don’t empty your entire can of insect spray into it and kill the pesky little rascals from the get-go, you’re gonna get stung.

Threatening Syria with “limited military action” for disobeying the rules? We’d better get ‘Syrias’ about our threats and be prepared to act as the Romans did toward Carthage: burn and sack their cities, kill or enslave every man, woman and child, and sow the ground with salt. Otherwise, don’t mess around.

Why Do We Love Music?

Why do do we spend hours listening to our favorite bands? Why do we crank up the volume till we can feel the base in our heart beats? Why do we spend money on iPod’s in the hopes that we can listen to thousands of songs? Why do we sit down and play an instrument until our fingers callous over? Why do our ears crave that substance we call music?  Well, a new study may have the answer.

According to Chris Loersch and Nathan Arbuckle, as Homo sapiens evolved into the hairless bi-pedal beings we are today, we also evolved to love music. Their study proposes that music evolved as a way for people to connect to others and “a tool to pass information about the group’s shared mental state to a number of individuals at once”. No shit Sherlock. Okay that may be a little unfair, but I think most of us already knew the purpose of music. Ask most musicians and they will tell you that they use their music as a way to communicate their experiences to others.

Take a minute to meditate on the melodies in your life: Do you know a song that, no matter how dreadful your day is, always lifts your spirit? Have you ever seen the whole crowd at a concert begin to sway in perfect time, not a single person off-beat? Or experienced a blues musician strum the guitar and sing about loss and heartache, only to feel their lament bubble up in your own soul? Have you ever gone dancing and seen all the people feel the beat and tempo of the music with their bodies? Music does and always has elicited emotional and communal action. Hundreds of teen girls swooned and yelled till they passed out when they heard the Beatles, college football fans will scream their fight songs as if their lives depend on it, churches vibrate with the sound of hymnals, and whole countries swell with patriotism as their anthem rings out at the Olympics. So, why do we love music so much? Maybe Jimi had it right when he said, “Music is my religion”. If human beings need music and evolved to loved it, then perhaps music is the religion that all of humanity can get behind.


Climate Change = Conflict

Ever read the paper, logged in to the guardian, or turned on the news and felt like the world was transforming into a more hellish and violent place every day? Well, scientists definitely noticed. New research looked at studies around the world spanning 100’s of years and found a strange and frightening correlation: Climate Change = Conflict! As the numbers on the thermometer mount so do murder, assault, domestic violence, and the number of wars and ethnic conflicts.

In Twist, this correlation rears its ugly head. The climate of 2075 is devastated, the ozone is all but depleted, and Wichita is a place of murder and mayhem. Is this our future? The global temperature is estimated to rise 3.6° F by 2050, which could lead to a 15% rise in crime and a 50% increase in group conflict. My response: Sanctified excrement, we are in for it now…

So here comes the big question: WHY? Why does humanity react to climate change with such violence? Well, no one knows…yet. Some ideas: Perhaps because climate affects economic conditions which also leads to higher crime? Maybe there is a psychological explanation: studies link higher aggression to higher temperatures—I guess I’m not the only person who gets testy when the sun blazes. Or, is this correlation insignificant? Remember, correlation does not prove causation. What do you think?

In my opinion, it makes perfect sense that humanity is affected by climate change. Lobsters are becoming cannibalistic due to global warming, many animals are threatened with extinction, and maybe humanity’s reaction is aggression and violence. It seems the world may have more to lose than just ecosystems and species. The good in humanity may also be at stake.Climate Change and humans

Ice to Lakes And Oceans To Steam

A vast expanse of sparkling snow and ice, a chill in the air that only polar bears can stand, and frozen water as far as the eye can see. This was the North Pole on April 30th. Global Warming

Clear water with only a hint of blue, the sun dancing off the surface of a lake, light reflecting back on all who approach. This is the North Pole now.

After reading that the North Pole has turned into a lake, it seemed like everything else I saw today was about some cataclysmic event. Next, I read this cheery article: Ice-free Arctic in two years. An Arctic expert, Prof Peter Wadhams, now projects that the Arctic will be melty slush and all the summer ice will disappear by 2015. While hard to believe, after seeing the picture of a melted north pole, this seemed plausible and holds a thread of terror for me.

Then, that thread turned into a whole damn sweater—the planet overheating, the oceans boiling, the atmosphere filling with steam, and the earth dying. This little scenario is what happened to our nearby neighbor Venus, and according to new research this maybe what’s in store for Earth. As the sun gets brighter and warmer our planet will enter a danger zone where runaway greenhouse effects take over. The Good news? This will not happen for at least 1.5 billion years, and it is unlikely that we mere mortals can cause this event without the help of a hotter sun.

Santa’s workshop may be screwed and the Arctic may disappear, but don’t worry, the oceans won’t boil quite yet.

$32 Billion And 2.4 Million People

                                                              Sharla Here!

Spoiler alert: If you are reading my little blog before you’ve read Twist, it may ruin a few surprises. Also, if you have not yet read it, some of this won’t make much sense. So, please read Twist before proceeding!

Human Trafficking

It’s Wednesday, so here I am again to offer my 2¢. Today I read an article about a thriving international business that earns $32 billion a year. This business is illegal, harmful, and ruins lives. How many of you jumped straight to drugs? Then maybe firearms? Wrong on both accounts. One of the largest black market businesses is human trafficking. So, today this is what I will be talking about.

While the bulk of modern slavery is often women and girls, thousands of men and children, all around the world, are victims as well. It is estimated that over 2.4 million people are shackled to this industry.

Despite the obvious illegality, inhumanity, and cruelty of this business, internationally, there has been a lack of investment to combat it. Does any of this sound familiar to Twist readers? Homeless children being lied to about a better future, being kidnaped, and used. If you’ve read Twist, you know human trafficking is still alive and well in Myron’s dystopian future. In Twist, Montrose was aware of the atrocities being done in his city, yet he refused to act against them. Adam Twist confronts Montrose, and finds out the truth:

“You knew about that?”

“I suspected,” said Montrose…

“You knew about the private little hunting lodge down below. And what’s in there?”

“There were rumors”

“You went along with it?”

“You don’t understand. I couldn’t stop him. There was nothing I could do.”

“C’mon. You’re the man in charge.”

This exchange is one I can easily see playing out in the real world. I fear if we do not do something soon about human trafficking, the corruption of 2075 is one we, in the present, will face. While following over $32 billion dollars across the world to find and end modern slavery is a difficult task, it is one that needs to be done. If you are interested in learning more about human trafficking, here is a resource about national human trafficking, and one about international human trafficking.

Well that’s all for today folks. I will be back next week to talk more about issues surrounding women in the real world and in Myron’s. Don’t be shy, comment below to talk about this week’s blog. Also, if you have any ideas for next week post below or to Myron’s Facebook page.

Zero Gravity Coffee

You wake up, sleep is crusted in your eyes, your back aches from a night of tossing and turning, and you have a long day ahead of you. Then, you press the magic button that starts the flow of energy. Well, the flow of coffee, but they are one in the same.

I came across a video today, The Zero Gravity Coffee Cup. This grabbed my attention instantly, and I soon began watching a video that explained how coffee is literally an out-of-this-world beverage.

As we all know, there is less gravity in space, but have you ever thought about what that means for astronauts? Apparently, even their piss doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.

All liquids react differently in microgravity, but my friend coffee may be the most bizarre. In order to enjoy a hot cup of joe, astronauts must struggle through the following steps:

  1. Somehow manage to get the coffee in the cup. This is extremely difficult.
  2. Then, throw the years of experience you have drinking liquid out the space station window.
  3. Beware: if you bring the cup to your mouth, that dark liquid will stubbornly refuse to flow.
  4. Now, as your frustration builds, you should angrily shake the cup.
  5. Next, hope and pray that a few splashes will emerge and trickle into your mouth.

All you aspiring space travelers out there, do not despair! There is hope! Scientists have invented a microgravity cup. This cup may look like useless sheets of plastic glued together, but there is method behind the madness. The two surfaces meet close enough that liquid will naturally follow the line. This allows you not only the ability to tip a cup to your mouth, but also allows the liquid to flow into your parched lips.

Earth’s Crystal Ball

The Antarctic getting hot, ice sheets turning into slush, Colorado-sized ice slabs slipping into the ocean, and sea levels rising 65 feet. This dystopian picture is not just one from Twist, but is a reflection of the Earth’s past and her future.

“Who told us there was no such thing as global warming? Bye-bye L.A. Bye-bye New York, San Francisco, Miami—all the costal cities gone, and the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi valley right to our front door. If only I’d had a crystal ball.”

Adam Twist’s wish might just have come true: researchers seem to have a new crystal ball, Earth’s geological record. Lately, in environmental news, studies have been linking events from thousands of years past to our plausible future. A few weeks ago, I blogged about how evidence from weathering 93 million years ago shows the way our planet will recover from global warming in the future. Today, I read a new study that explores a time period, 5.3 million years ago, when the atmosphere had similar levels of CO2.  According to this study, the high temperatures and CO2 count 5 million years ago are what we expect the Earth to reach again by the year 3000. During that harsh period, almost no ice sheets survived. The ice sheets on Greenland and the West Antarctic were completely melted. They previously thought the East Antarctic was safe and cold; however, researchers discovered it was quickly liquefying too. This contributed to the rapid and high rise in sea levels. Scientists are predicting that if temperature increases remain constant and ice melts as it has in the past, the seas could rise 65 feet! To repeat Adam Twist,  “Bye-bye”.


Good News, That Is Basically Bad News


It seems the Earth is constantly full of surprises. She is tougher and more fragile than we all thought. Would you prefer the good or the bad news first?

It’s a Monday, so I’m going to start with the good news. A new study just found that the Earth can recover from high carbon dioxide emissions up to four times faster than we originally thought. Scientists got a sneak peak at Earth’s past coping mechanisms by looking at a time, 93 million years ago, when the CO2 emitted by volcanic eruptions was similar to the CO2 emitted by humans today. They found that chemical weathering speeds up, as temperatures on the planet rise. This allows the planet to cool down and CO2 in the atmosphere to decline, by storing some of the CO2 in rocks and the ocean. Thanks to this process, the planet can recover exceedingly faster than previously thought possible.

Sounds like incredible news right? WRONG! Apparently this process takes 300,000 years! That still sounds like a hell of a long time to me! Not only that, but this process only begins to work when carbon emissions cease. I don’t see that happening anytime soon. To add to the bad news, chemical weathering, while helping the atmosphere recover, can cause mass extinctions in the ocean! So, while I’m happy it won’t take over 1 million years for the Earth to recover, I would like to avoid making her wait 300,000 years. A scientist involved in the research said, “If we stopped all emissions today this recovery would still take hundreds of thousands of years. We have to start doing something soon to remove CO2 from the atmosphere if we don’t want to see a repeat of the kind of mass extinctions that global warming has triggered in the past.”

But as Adam Twist says, “We had been warned about ozone depletion, pollution, deforestation, and all that. But talking about it was one thing — trying to live with it was something else.”

Looking Into The Future

Do you ever wake up and think that new scientific developments and new technologies are taken right off the pages of sci-fi novels or the latest futuristic films? That is how I feel today. I was catching up on the news and came across articles that threw me into the 21st century. Today I read that scientists have developed a bionic eye! Now I feel like I am in Terminator. This bionic eye is a contact lens that can zoom in and out. However, this is just the tip of the spaceship. Last week, astronomers announced they found three more planets that they think are likely to be habitable and contain liquid water. I was excited when I read that there were three life sustaining planets out in the cosmos, but today my mind was blown when I read this: “Thanks to clouds, some 60 billion planets are habitable in the Milky Way.” I had a hard time wrapping my mind around this. That is 60 billion possibilities in our own galaxy for life. Soon, I may feel like I am in a Robert A. Heinlein novel, like Citizen of the Galaxy, dealing with the species of planet Gliese 667C.