Science Feed

An Appeal to Politicians Everywhere as We Begin to Experience the Horrors of Climate Change

This morning a red cardinal pecked away at the feeder hanging in my patio bird habitat. As I drove off to work, I thought about the delicate bones and feathers, the lightweight and aerodynamic body of the bird, and the interesting fact that birds are not hierarchical. In other words, the bird is never going to worship me the way my dog does because he doesn’t consider me above him. Birds, even though they are afraid of us, consider us rather beneath them. If you take something from your pet bird, he or she might pick a fight with you in an effort to take the perceived personal property straight back.  

But they can’t take back the world from us, the world that heats up a bit each year, smashing weather records causing species to die off. Most of us never take the time to think about the enormous amount of death caused by climate change. When species disappear, they leave a void in the ecosystem that they formerly populated, affecting the entire food chain. But even if, as amateur scientists and hobby writers, we understand this loss in its functional sense, the loss of a food source, most of us fail to realize how heartbroken we will be when commonplace animals and insects cease to exist.

Today, as I drove to my job, I thought about how much I love my little bird area and the interesting, verbally affluent characters that visit it each day for seeds and water. I also thought about what my patio area would look like without my colorful, feathered, and noisy little friends. Birds aside, we will soon experience the loss of polar bears in the wild, and when they go, the ecosystem will suffer in ways that we can yet understand. The suffering they now endure is painful to watch.

I hope we, as sentient beings fully capable of measuring and critiquing our effects on the environment, begin to analyze the consequences of failing to mitigate the horrors ahead of us if we continue to burn fossil fuels unabated. As a connected world, we will be able to view these tragedies, these heartbreaking cataclysmic moments, as they occur. It is time we felt a connection, and some kind of empathy, to our natural world.

Shutterstock_417328480 (1)

Maria Popova @brainpickings: an unusually wonderful blog

This Twitter account is managed by well-educated blogger, Maria Popova, and it is just the kind of project I would love to be involved in if only I was that talented, resourceful, and connected. No matter what your interest is, you can find intellectual stimulation, fresh ideas, wisdom from the past, and meaningful visual art.

In a world where so many are snapping selfies, sitting down to watch the very superficial Kardashians, and indulging in personal petty dramas that ruin lives and reputations, this Twitter feed is "unusually wonderful."

The design is simple and all of the material is easily accessible; Maria's blog contains no annoying advertisements because she is supported by her followers, and everyone agrees the content is well worth the voluntary donation.

If you are interested in self improvement, education, and literature, then follow @brainpickings.

Writing and Reading Green: What about John Steinbeck?

Professor Heather E. Bruce of the University of Montana, published a fascinating article in January's edition of The English Journal, Green (ing) English: Voices Howling in the Wilderness. As most of my readers already know, I am a John Steinbeck fan. I visit the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California; I read his works regularly, and I have studied a bit about his life. Even though I am only an undergrad, and a poor one at that, I still appreciate his early contribution to conservation and ecological awareness. As I read Professor Bruce's piece, I drank my Bombay Sapphire, munched on popcorn, and eagerly awaited her words on my favorite author's early achievements on this subject matter. My mind flew to the dustbowl of Oklahoma, his intricate descriptions of blight, dust, and the underlying causes. I reminisced about the characters in "The Grapes of Wrath." I thought about the enemies he had made in California farming, and the banning of his book. I started to worry.

Not once did the professor mention John Steinbeck. She included Simon Ortiz, Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, and many important literary figures. I loved her discussion of the Mississippi River and how it had become a character in its own right. She reminded me that since Twain's time we have seen very negative changes in the delta region, and how ecological damage is compounded by disasters such as Katrina, and the BP oil spill.

John Steinbeck's best friend was marine biologist Ed Ricketts (1897-1948). Ricketts influenced much of Steinbeck's work and the underlying themes of ecology, and preservation. I could not believe the professor completely disregarded Pulitzer Prize winner John Steinbeck. I read her article again, and I scanned it for his name, or Ricketts, but nothing. Together Ricketts and Steinbeck explored and studied species, habitats, and even indigenous peoples. They traveled to Mexico, and other foreign countries, searching for new life, and recording data. These experiences contributed to all of Steinbeck's work.

In spite of this exclusion, I still love Professor Bruce's very informative and inspiring article. She is correct, it is our responsibility to share with our children the importance of environmental justice, and how this is demonstrated in our important literary works. It is artful, the blending of ecology with the mind of the character, the details of a scene, the realism of a period in time. How we have toxified our environment, and the descriptions of abuse, are important concepts to share in our reading and writing. In this way, we can teach responsibility to those who are disconnected from nature by an urban life, or poverty.

I am going to check again! She must have mentioned him….

The Groaning Under My Feet: BP and a Host of Characters

You can't possibly mean that the floor beneath me will give away into a hole so awful I would scream myself into insanity, a place so chilled it could keep a child's room cold in the heat of August. An unused hairy abyss, cringing with disdain, a face creased into parentheses, hateful in design, and stinking filthy breath: a bitter woman of sorts. Is this the fate we meet under the sea, the end of Tony Hayward's hapless journey into international fame of sordid variety? He is so handsome with his curly hair and lilting English accent, a man of power and duplicity, he wants to deny the depth of the hole beneath him. I feel that way also…my mind ponders the possibility and I am saddened by the filth, yet, I understand.

He hurls you along, and behind him a trail of dead sea, a flotilla of hard cash sink into an eternal wasteland, a bitter woman of sorts; she wants to take our money, but bitter lines along the side of her face hinder her ability, she sinks without a sound. I am laughing at her frivolity.

Good cop--bad cop, hail to the Chief! Enter Doug Suttles, beautiful man of the hour. He can melt the audience with a glare from the podium, standing above the microphone, like the leader of an engineering army, he politely calms the masses. His southern voice softly edges the angry crowd into thoughtfulness, a brief moment of serenity; yet, he does nothing to stop pointing fingers of chemical death robbing the Gulf of its air. A black hand is upon the white shoreline, a hermit crab pulls itself from a greasy hole. It dies in the sun. I watch it from my television. I am standing on the floor, my air conditioner whirrs in the background. I miss the powdery beach with its colorful rainbow of umbrellas stretched along the sand. My child asked me not to cry, so I won't.

When the floor beneath us breaks off into the endless cold abyss, I hope it is warm enough to run a saw.

'Can you fit that pipe into the top, please?'

The Gulf Oil Catastrophe is on the Backburner Again

People in the Gulf of Mexico are losing their way of life, homes, and businesses. One of the world's most beautiful and interesting beach areas is becoming polluted with oil thanks to a drilling rig foul up. The delicate marshlands on which the survival of untold species of living things is becoming a wasteland of dead grass. Animals are suffering and dying. Life on the planet will likely be radically affected by this horrendous mistake. Yet, all the darn news cares about is some mess the Israeli army is involved in that has nothing to do with us.

Not only that, they spend time reporting on frivolities when they should be out conducting interviews with Gulf residents.

I would like to see some personal stories, pictures of the Gulf, a trajectory on this mess, and my President down there with his shirt sleeves rolled up. This is a national emergency if ever we had one. Priorities are skewed as usual via the ignorance of media elite.

I realize the Gulf Catastrophe is not the only important event of the last few weeks; however, it never has received the appropriate amount of attention, resulting in a watered down response effort.

Now Obama wants to look at criminal charges against the companies involved...I doubt if the statute of limitations is going to run out on this deal in the near future. I think now is the time to get everyone together on the same page so we can solve this problem before it pollutes the entire Gulf Coast, along with the precious water column.

I have always said Hillary Clinton would have made an excellent president. If Obama doesn't get his rear end down there to the Gulf and put his hands on this ordeal, then I will become a staunch republican.

The American people made a grave mistake when they elected Obama.