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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Part of what good fiction does is to create a world and place the reader in it, allowing you to imagine yourself battling the Empire, slaying the dragon, or rescuing the fair prince in distress. But I get it, fiction is also a distancing mechanism.

Satisfying stories open with a problem and close when that problem is resolved, leaving the reader with the sense that they’ve helped and no more needs to be done. I think that can be particularly true when it comes to real challenges like climate change. 

Sometimes what’s needed is a picture.

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Meet ThisClimateDoesNotExist, a project by a group of scientists from the Quebec AI Institute in Montreal. They’ve put together a tool that lets you visualize the impact of climate change not on the world in general, or even a region, but on an address.

This Montreal-made website uses AI to show the potential impact of climate change on any address | CBC News

Take Killian Court at MIT, overlooking the Charles River. What would it look like flooded?* Or the US Capitol Building? Or the Sam’s Club parking lot in West Palm Beach, The Alamo in San Antonio (and I’m pretty sure we can kiss the River Walk goodbye), Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, or (now it’s getting real) the Guinness Brewery in Dublin?

* Not worried about flooding? Try the options for wildfire or smog. Also unpleasant!

Then picture yourself there too. Who better to be the hero of that story?

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Photo by Javier García on Unsplash

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The good news is that there is a lot of up and coming fiction addressing issues of climate, change, and the environment. (The bad news is that we need it.)

Grist/Fix: Solutions Lab has a new climate fiction issue out, with discussions about the role of fiction in fixing reality and a dozen new stories from their “Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors” short story contest to get us started.

The Climate Fiction Issue: How fiction can change our reality | Fix

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A storm rolled through last night.

I’ve always loved good thunder and lightning, but this was next level. As I listened to the rumbles like drums and watched bolts of energy streak through the sky, I thought a bit about Mother Nature, and how we often seem to be playing catch-up.

When it’s wet, find a nice cave for shelter. If it’s cold, master fire. If it floods, head for high ground until the water recedes.

I’m oversimplifying, of course, but our instincts, and now our infrastructure and our policies, often seem static or reactive. Particularly in times of great change.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get ahead of the curve?

* * *

Take pollinators, for example. (You knew I’d get to that at some point, didn’t you?)

In the US and Canada, my home turf, communities are full of bylaws governing what you can and can’t do with property in the communal sphere. It’s your land, but you probably aren’t allowed to grow a towering oak directly under a power line or leave rusting car parts by the sidewalk as a tetanus reservoir for children and dogs. 

That’s all seems reasonable, and on the side of the greater good. But what about redefining “good” to include not just aesthetically pleasing symbols of European aristocracy in a bygone era (aka close-cropped grass lawns), but also what we all need for a healthy and successful future?

Take this gentleman as an example:

Kansas City Man’s Plea For Native Flower Justice Unites Gardeners Around The World

He did what scientists and ecologists around the world are encouraging, and turned his yard into a pollinator paradise. My hat is off to him. But the city reacted by telling him to cut it down because it violated city code. I would argue that this is because they are operating on an outdated definition of what’s “good.”

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recent survey asked teens how they felt about the job their elders are doing on climate, and the results were both predictable and cause for a bit of reflection. The kids are deeply disappointed, and they have reason. The good news is that many members of “Generation Greta” aren’t waiting around.

That’s not to say that nothing has changed. Solar panels, electric vehicles, wind turbines, the push for accountability down the supply chain, all good things. Even so, many of our current policies remain stuck in the past. We’re on the right path but we’re not going fast enough. And not everyone is moving in the same direction.

It’s time for the sort of thinking at which writers and creatives (and teenagers) excel: new ideas, new approaches, and a reimagining of what we can do now, even in the face of current challenges.

Even if it’s something as small as what grows in your front yard.

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As I sat there last night in my cave, rain and thunder all around, I realized that our definitions aren’t all that will matter in the end.

And that it’s always smart to stay on Mother Nature’s good side.

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Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

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I’ve been trying to work up a positive post for today, but the recent IPCC climate report keeps popping into my head, and that’s anything but positive. So let’s take a moment to review.

If you want a summary (or two), to read the report, or to test out the interactive atlas outlining what we can expect by region (here’s the info for North and Central America), you can. 

tl;dr: “Worst choose your own adventure book ever.”

* * *

Or check out this cartoon:

It should not come as a surprise that climate change is worse than we thought and also getting worser

Because bad news goes down easier from cute penguins. 

That said, it isn’t all bad. We’re at the bottom of the final inning, yes, but the game isn’t over yet.

* * *

Also. Humans are a lot of things, but we aren’t quitters.

We must not delude ourselves about the immense challenges the world faces, but we can’t let anxiety overwhelm and paralyse us. The world isn’t doomed quite yet – there is still a window of opportunity to change things.

— Yes, the climate crisis is terrifying. But I refuse to abandon hope

And if I learned anything from the Terminator franchise (aside from the many uses of a shotgun), it’s that there is no fate but what we make.

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Photo by Damir Babacic on Unsplash

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Today is Earth Day. Happy 4.543 billionth birthday, Earth! Here’s hoping for many more.

Much of my day job is based in current news and events, which means I spend a good part of most days knee-deep in the internet. Yeah, it can be exactly as fun as it sounds. That said, I’m not looking for the bad stuff, or not only the bad stuff.

I’m looking for the uplifting, the hopeful, the rays of light. For a path to something better. So for every article I read telling me that in recent years, there are more Starbucks locations in California than overwintering monarch butterflies, there are pieces on what’s good, like these:

Let These Stunning Photos of a Year of Virtual Youth Climate Activism Inspire You

Halifax-based developer of CO2-injected concrete wins multimillion-dollar prize

It’s hard to miss the evidence of change, but the good news is that we’re not just discussing it, we’re beginning to take concrete action.

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You already know that doing big things is hard. Like ”saving the planet.” Human beings are small, and I suspect that at the root, most of us are plagued by the niggling feeling that we are just bit players on an unimaginably vast stage. That at some fundamental level our actions don’t matter much at all in the bigger picture. Not really.

But we’re wrong. And the world is made up of smaller pictures.

Photo by Martijn Baudoin on Unsplash

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It’s the question every hero is asked: The future is uncertain. The path is unknown. What are you going to do about it?

What you can, wherever you can. As a minor example, I spent time today researching ways to turn our absolutely useless lawn space into a pollinator garden.

Of course, a lot of what needs to happen on climate change isn’t just about individual action. Deciding not to eat meat on Tuesdays matters, but standards and infrastructure for energy, transportation, agriculture and construction, to name a few sectors, will need to modernize too.

It means working together on new ideas, new innovations, and new legislation. More and better targets, the kind that make a positive difference in people’s lives.*

Because humans are a social species. There is never just one, and when it comes to saving our home that’s a challenge but also a benefit. Sea shanties swept the globe in a matter of weeks. Why not this?

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It sounds big, and it is, but we do big things all the time, often by accident.** It’s just time to do this particular big thing on purpose. Here’s the mantra I try to stick with: Pick a goal. Break it down. Start today.

We are never just one. None of us are. We are legion. And we got ourselves into this mess. We can get ourselves out.

Starting today.

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* Like clean air and water. And I really enjoy the fact that one day, for example, I’ll be able to put my seat belt on, drive an electric car down well-maintained roads, sit in a non-smoking section at a restaurant, and eat food that won’t kill me. And that my nephews don’t spend their summers swimming in a creek laced with PCBs (like we did). Crazy, I know!

** I mean, who sets out to upend civilization? They just want to see what happens if they burn that dirty rock or invent the light bulb or the assembly line or freaking Facebook. There is no button a curious monkey will not poke. Wouldn’t it be nice if we can make it work for us for a change?

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“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives… The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand… To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

— Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

NASA via Voyager 1 Spacecraft, Feb. 14, 1990.

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Ok, Google, now this is cool:) For anyone who has ever wanted to take the long (very long) view, there’s a new tool from Google.*

The Google Earth Engine gives users access to satellite imagery from as far back as 1984, and to build timelapse imagery that capture changes across the years.

Google Earth Engine combines a multi-petabyte catalog of satellite imagery and geospatial datasets with planetary-scale analysis capabilities and makes it available for scientists, researchers, and developers to detect changes, map trends, and quantify differences on the Earth’s surface.

Want to see what a timelapse looks like? Here is a short introductory video:

Want to make your own? No problem. Explore the built-in Timelapse features, integrate ready-to-use datasets on demographics, climate, imagery and more, or use your own code. (Check out the case studies from a variety of organizations focused on climate, health, and science, including this one on malaria risk mapping.)

You can also set up a tour to view more than one location. It’s fun, educational, persuasive, and easy to use. And because it’s Google, all this goodness is freely available. Now that U.S. government data may become less accessible, people and organizations interested in the long view need all the access they can get.


* Sadly, I’m not affiliated with Google, just a fan. Although like MIT and Slate and Scout and ASU (among others), Google would be a terrific sponsor for thoughtful new science fiction, don’t you think?

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Tornado touched down in Ottawa Monday…

A funnel cloud. In Ottawa. And it’s the, um, 10th Ontario tornado of the season, according to Environment Canada.

Yes, Dorothy, the climate does seem to be changing.

A critical question: If a tree falls in the woods… do you have insurance?

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