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Viridian Note 00479: The Sulfur Cure

Viridian Notes - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 3:07am
Key concepts:
climate change, Global Haze Proposal, Paul Crutzen, geoengineering, terraforming, sulfur in the stratosphere, volcanoes
Attention Conservation Notice:
This proposition is straight outta of Mark Twain's novel "The American Claimant" from 1892, except, uh, it just came out in WIRED.


(((Keeping up with the furrow-browed efforts of the global political class. They've been beavering away on Kyoto 2.0. Realistically, are these crumbling, oil-hungry nation-states and their violently disordered remnants gonna get on the same page? Even if the UN makes all the right noises?)))

(((A grimly detailed ten-point climate-change plan that's considerably less nutty than this one, only it'll likely get zero traction because it's from an unrepentant British socialist.)))

(((Yet another design contest for rousing public awareness of global warming. We Viridians were very into this kinda effort == about ten years ago. Nowadays we Viridians get rather more interested when large numbers of the public get killed by storms. Everybody now knows climate crisis is happening. They just figure maybe it won't bite them personally. Give it another ten years, and something like the "Greenhouse Mass Grave Design Contest" might be in order.)))

"God is still up there," says evil crank denialist James Imhofe. Precisely the sentiment I don't want written on my Greenhouse mass grave tombstone. That sentiment sure works for suicide bombers.

Metropolis is running a design contest for green energy, because Metropolis is hip. Plus, they've got good taste and ten grand! Wow!

Is anybody still worried about "Peak Oil"? You know what's happening this season? "Peak Solar." Everybody wants the silicon, and there just isn't enough to go round. So I guess we'll be eating dogfood out of cans soon. The suburbs are clearly doomed. Oh wait, did that make any sense? "Peak Solar" economics is so counterintuitive that I got all confused.

The real solution to our intractable difficulties: not artificial sulfur shot into the stratosphere, but bacteria that can eat junk. Okay, I'm kidding about that. Not.

Now for the good news. There's less methane in the sky. Nobody has a clue why. But hey, there's less, and that's good. It's great. Probably.

We didn't get blown to pieces by hurricanes in 2005. Hurricanes were remarkably few. Nobody has a clue why. But what the heck, we weren't Katrina'd straight to hell, and that was good. It was great. Merry Xmas.

Source: David Wolman, WIRED magazine

"Repeat after me: We humans have screwed up our planet. Feels better, doesn't it?

((("We humans have screwed up our planet, we humans have screwed up our planet, we humans have screwed up our planet." Hey wait! Facing the awful truth DOES feel better.)))

"Now that we've accepted this reality, at least we don't have to argue about it anymore. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are at the highest they've been in at least 800,000 years. Greenland's ice sheet is melting fast. Some == probably a lot == of the current warming trend is because of us, and so are the consequent threats to ecosystems, food supplies, coastal cities, and all that other stuff from An Inconvenient Truth.

"Of course, that means we're responsible for repairing the damage, but stopgaps like carbon sequestration just aren't going to cut it.

(((Actually, it means that we human beings from the last two full centuries of fossil-fuel use are "responsible for repairing the damage," and most of us are dead. I'd say the clearest implication here is that WIRED readers would also be dead long before "humans" fully repair this situation, but what the heck, read on.)))

"Luckily, a growing number of scientists are thinking more aggressively, developing incredibly ambitious technical fixes to cool the planet. (((Uh-oh. Ever hear the useful expression, "Be careful what you wish for, you might get what you want?" That would be the Viridian moment o' truth there, when the ecosystem design boffins just roll the gizmo right off the launching pad and turn the blue sky bright green.)))

"These efforts to remedy the accidental experiment of climate change with intentional, megascale experimentation are called geoengineering. (((Or, as Stewart Brand points out, "we're already terraforming so we might as well get good at it.")))

"Thus far, ideas include reflecting sunlight with gazillions of orbiting featherweight mirrors or by saturating the stratosphere with sulfur, or increasing the volume of microbes that eat CO2 by fertilizing the oceans with iron.

"Harebrained? Well, maybe. But somebody has to save the world.

"Typically, sober environmentalists have looked askance at geoengineering. In fact, they mostly think it's nuts. All the ideas on the table reek of foolhardiness. We have only one Earth, and it is a system of unparalleled complexity (in other words, no one knows exactly how it works).

"What if we muck it up? 'If you go down the path of geoengineering, it leads to taking ever-increasing environmental risk, and, eventually, you'll be unlucky,' says Ken Caldeira, a climatologist at Stanford University. (((Maybe we’re ALREADY unlucky. There are guys who argue that we altered the weather as soon as we invented agriculture.)))

"What's more, many greens worry that just talking about geoengineering could deflect funding and focus from the task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. They'd rather we legislate higher fuel-efficiency standards and design better photovoltaics. ((("Funding and focus"? These guys don't know what a victory condition looks like. In the 2060s, damage from climate change is supposed to outpace the planet's entire GNP. That means ALL the funding and ALL the focus get used up by one issue: climate crisis.)))

"Enviros are right about the urgency of kicking the fossil fuel habit == that's a no-brainer. The problem is inertia; the changes we have wrought in the atmosphere will play out over decades (or longer) whether we junk all the SUVs tomorrow or not. (((Right.)))

"That's why it makes sense to start thinking seriously about radical countermeasures. (((Well, no. Logically, it ought to mean that it's time to start WORKING seriously on radical long-term countermeasures that take decades to carry out. But I quibble: come on, this is WIRED. These are rock-solid San Francisco values getting an airing here. On with the summer of geoengineered love.)))

"One of the biggest boosts to the idea of climate manipulation came last summer from Paul Crutzen, an emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. Writing in the journal Climate Change, Crutzen, who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for work examining ozone depletion, described a plan to shoot massive quantities of sulfur into the stratosphere.

(((Paul Crutzen. Nobel-Prize winning scientist. Not a lunatic. Sane European guy. Lives in world run by lunatics; cannot be helped. Note that Crutzen, as a boy, almost starved to death in Holland in the "Hunger Winter" of 1945 until the Swedes dropped food out of the sky. I think his proposal possesses some moral gravity.)))

"In theory, the sulfur would reflect sunlight == just as particles blown into the air by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo did in 1991 == cooling Earth and buying enough time for civilization to shift into green gear. (((I shudder at the thought at what this experiment would do to the weather, but at least we do have the on-the-ground historical examples of Pinatubo and Krakatoa to show that it doesn't destroy the planet instantly.)))

"Crutzen's not crazy, and he's no renegade terraformer. 'Until a few years ago, I would also have been against the idea,' he recently told an Australian newspaper.

(((He's also stated elsewhere that he considers his proposal to be a kind of interventionist publicity stunt. "It was meant to startle the policy makers," said Paul J. Crutzen, of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. "If they don't take action much more strongly than they have in the past, then in the end we have to do experiments like this." But Dr Paul's an old man; it may well be that planetary policy-makers thirty years from now consider geo-engineering to be the only serious and practical option.)))

"His journal article == and his clout == gave geoengineering an almost instant credibility boost. Soon other heavies, like Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, were also writing in favor of the concept.

"Their message: Geoengineering isn't, and shouldn't be, fringe science. 'Given that the climate-change problem might be more serious than we previously thought,' says Tom Wigley, a mathematical physicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, 'we should consider these radical solutions more seriously.'

(((He's got a point, so, here you go: geoengineering is here in your email, consider it.)))

" Stanford's Caldeira is keeping an open mind == he's even helping to organize an international geoengineering meeting at NASA Ames Research Center.

The shortsighted mistake here would be getting mired in the details of these wild plans. (Crutzen's scheme would mean we'd have to start loving smog == but imagine the psychedelic sunsets!) Yes, these ideas sound crazy. But we're in the earliest stages of what is potentially the single most crucial new science in history.

"Let's give the researchers a minute or two to get their PowerPoint slides in order and, more important, grab a slice of the admittedly modest budget for climate-change research. Just remember: Advocating the study of geoengineering does not mean campaigning for the deployment of every ludicrous notion that comes along.

"Smart people finally convinced us that we need to stop burning fossil fuels. Let's do that. But because what has already been set in motion tends to stay in motion, we need a well-researched, measured plan to get us (or, more realistically, our grandchildren) out of this mess. The real worst-case scenario is some kind of Bruce Willis-movie scheme deployed at the eleventh hour, after the climate shift has already hit the fan. == David Wolman

(((What's the pitch in the sulfur cure, or as it's described with a tad more dignity, the "Global Haze Proposal?" Giant balloons and giant guns.)))

"The Dutch climatologist, awarded a 1995 Nobel in chemistry for his work uncovering the threat to Earth's atmospheric ozone layer, suggested that balloons bearing heavy guns be used to carry sulfates high aloft and fire them into the stratosphere.

"While carbon dioxide keeps heat from escaping Earth, substances such as sulfur dioxide, a common air pollutant, reflect solar radiation, helping cool the planet.

"Tom Wigley, a senior U.S. government climatologist, followed Crutzen's article with a paper of his own on Oct. 20 in the leading U.S. journal Science. Like Crutzen, Wigley cited the precedent of the huge volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.

"Pinatubo shot so much sulfurous debris into the stratosphere that it is believed it cooled the Earth by .9 degrees for about a year. (((Note that this cooling is not nine degrees, but point-nine degrees. Less than a degree.)))

"Wigley ran scenarios of stratospheric sulfate injection == on the scale of Pinatubo's estimated 10 million tons of sulfur == through supercomputer models of the climate, and reported that Crutzen's i dea would, indeed, seem to work. Even half that amount per year would help, he wrote.

"A massive dissemination of pollutants would be needed every year or two, as the sulfates precipitate from the atmosphere in acid rain."

(((What do I like about the design of this Global Haze scheme?)))

  1. It's been done before. By volcanoes.

  2. If "Global Dimming" theory is right, we may already be doing "Global Haze" right now as we speak, except in a filthier and stupider way. Link:

  3. It's got a volume dial. You can spew a little sulfur dust, judge the pragmatic results and spew more or less.

  4. It goes away by itself if you stop.

  5. It's cheap. Bill Gates could do it out of the petty cash.

  6. It's fast.

  7. Balloons and guns are time-honored proven hardware.

  8. It isn't digital, so at least it doesn't run under Windows.

  9. It might distract the attention of governments from the much simpler and more elegant 'Global Haze" scheme, which would be to use ICBM rockets to spew chemical and biological dust over areas where people fail to share one's family values, thereby drastically reducing carbon emissions by the simple Stalinist tactic of eliminating us all. "No people, no problem," as Kolya the Dread used to say.
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Viridian Note 00478 Mark Twain, Climate Visionary

Viridian Notes - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 3:07am
Key concepts:
Samuel Clemens, fiction, climate change
Attention Conservation Notice:
Mark Twain's novel "The American Claimant" was published in 1892. It involves a daffy American inventor trying to sell climate change. Hey, it's an old book, but that was news to me.


((Hey look! A feat of Modernist archaeology has unearthed a long-lost pre-fab house designed by Henry Dreyfuss, the "Vultee." It's made of "Lumicomb!")))

(((I am sending this Note live from within the Seattle Central Library, just to prove that I can do such things. By the way, this is a Rem Koolhaas building designed to Silver LEED standards.)))


(((The speaker quoted here in the last words of Twain's novel is Colonel Mulberry Sellers, a deluded American genius.)))

"This grand new idea of mine == the sublimest I have ever conceived, will save me whole, I am sure. I am leaving for San Francisco this moment, to test it, by the help of the great Lick telescope.

"Like all of my more notable discoveries and inventions, it is based upon hard, practical scientific laws; all other bases are unsound and hence untrustworthy.

"In brief, then, I have conceived the stupendous idea of reorganizing the climates of the earth according to the desire of the populations interested.

"That is to say, I will furnish climates to order, for cash or negotiable paper, taking the old climates in part payment, of course, at a fair discount, where they are in condition to be repaired at small cost and let out for hire to poor and remote communities not able to afford a good climate and not caring for an expensive one for mere display.

"My studies have convinced me that the regulation of climates and the breeding of new varieties at will from the old stock is a feasible thing. Indeed I am convinced that it has been done before; done in prehistoric times by now forgotten and unrecorded civilizations.

"Everywhere I find hoary evidences of artificial manipulation of climates in bygone times. Take the glacial period. Was that produced by accident? Not at all; it was done for money. I have a thousand proofs of it, and will some day reveal them.

"I will confide to you an outline of my idea. It is to utilize the spots on the sun == get control of them, you understand, and apply the stupendous energies which they wield to beneficent purposes in the reorganizing of our climates. At present they merely make trouble and do harm in the evoking of cyclones and other kinds of electric storms; but once under humane and intelligent control this will cease and they will become a boon to man.

"I have my plan all mapped out, whereby I hope and expect to acquire complete and perfect control of the sun-spots, also details of the method whereby I shall employ the same commercially; but I will not venture to go into particulars before the patents shall have been issued. I shall hope and expect to sell shop-rights to the minor countries at a reasonable figure and supply a good business article of climate to the great empires at special rates, together with fancy brands for coronations, battles and other great and particular occasions. There are billions of money in this enterprise, no expensive plant is required, and I shall begin to realize in a few days == in a few weeks at furthest.

"I shall stand ready to pay cash for Siberia the moment it is delivered, and thus save my honor and my credit. I am confident of this.

"I would like you to provide a proper outfit and start north as soon as I telegraph you, be it night or be it day. I wish you to take up all the country stretching away from the north pole on all sides for many degrees south, and buy Greenland and Iceland at the best figure you can get now while they are cheap. It is my intention to move one of the tropics up there and transfer the frigid zone to the equator. I will have the entire Arctic Circle in the market as a summer resort next year, and will use the surplusage of the old climate, over and above what can be utilized on the equator, to reduce the temperature of opposition resorts.

"But I have said enough to give you an idea of the prodigious nature of my scheme and the feasible and enormously profitable character of it.

"I shall join all you happy people in England as soon as I shall have sold out some of my principal climates and arranged with the Czar about Siberia.

"Meantime, watch for a sign from me. Eight days from now, we shall be wide asunder; for I shall be on the border of the Pacific, and you far out on the Atlantic, approaching England. That day, if I am alive and my sublime discovery is proved and established, I will send you greeting, and my messenger shall deliver it where you are, in the solitudes of the sea; for I will waft a vast sun-spot across the disk like drifting smoke, and you will know it for my love-sign, and will say 'Mulberry Sellers throws us a kiss across the universe.'"

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Viridian Note 00477: Worldchanging, the Book

Viridian Notes - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 3:07am
Key concepts:, print media, culture hacking, bestseller status, Alan AtKisson, Shoshana Berger, David Bornstein, Nicole-Anne Boyer, David Brin, Jamais Cascio, Dawn Danby, Regine Debatty, Cory Doctorow, Jeremy Faludi, Jill Fehrenbacher, Gil Friend, Emily Gertz, Vinay Gupta, Zaid Hassan, Kevin Kelly, Micki Krimmel, Anna Lappe, Jon Lebkowsky, Rebecca MacKinnon, Joel Makower, Hassan Masum, Dina Mehta, Mike Milliken, Robert Neuwirth, Ory Okolloh, Sarah Rich, Ben Saunders, Cameron Sinclair, Phillip Torrone, Leif Utne, Andrew Zolli, Ethan Zuckerman
Attention Conservation Notice:
Pay attention. This is important.

(((If you read Viridian List, you want this new book. The proper time for you to buy it is now. Why? Because the modern publishing system, such as it is, has become as deranged and sclerotic as the movie business, so a big early roll-out counts for a lot in their ridiculous biz calculations.)))

(((There are two thousand of you out there, and what we Viridians lack in raw numbers we make up for in culture-hacking perspicacity. So I want you to buy three of them. Buy one for yourself, buy two more as propaganda, I mean "gifts," and give them to someone older than yourself and younger than yourself, so as to induce a nice demographic spread across the reader-buyer user-base.)))

(((If this tome becomes as big a hit as its spiritual ancestor the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG, we can accelerate the change to a high-tech green 21C by years. Furthermore, even though it's reasonably priced, it comes in a gorgeously designed Stefan Sagmeister slipcase that looks really classy, so your gift recipients will not feel politically and culturally manipulated but will be all impressed by your good taste.)))

(((They're going to read this thing, and they're going to have stretch-marks all over their heads, because in their morose sorrow during years of domination by fundie creeps, they've forgotten what new ideas look like and this book is full of them. You won't have to lift a finger to affect this change within them -- for these are the heavy guns of the movement here, assembled in battalion. I've been showing my copy to scientists, engineering professors, government workers -- serious, seasoned people, reality-based-community people. They are awestruck. And justly so.)))

(((As it so happens, I wrote an introduction to this book. Then Al Gore muscled in and wrote a second introduction. That's how good this book is. It's heavy-duty. It's so heavy that guys who should have been President of the United States are all concerned. If you are into cybergreen issues you can't call yourself informed without WORLDCHANGING. Furthermore, the people involved in this effort are the absolute salt of the earth. They're bright, fluent, capable and they genuinely get it. They don't merely "get it," they are inventing that which it is necessary to get. These are people you need to know a lot more about.)))

(((After buying some books, for the system requires financial stimulation, go talk about it. Talk it up, talk about it incessantly. Word-of-mouth the living daylights out of it. Normally this is annoying behavior, in the case of this book we can make a moral exception. This book demands discussion because it's full of amazing and completely apt material which can't be found anywhere else.)))

(((Further note that there is an associated book tour. If your town is being graced with WORLDCHANGING authors you should get up, leave the screen, go there, press the flesh, vow some Bright Green fealty and buy more of the book, so that the tour is extended. Yes, I am completely in earnest about you doing this. That's practical, it's doable and it can make a serious difference. But, you know, not five months from now. The iron is red-hot right now.)))

(((You may have been reading Viridian Notes for eight years. Lord knows I have. Imagine those hours of labor and, uh, occasional amusement. Well, the release of this book is a crux event. If this book is a hit, the world will actually change. And in a direction of which we strongly approve. If that happens, you're going to see sprightly, forward- marching Viridian Notes full of cheery news about cool Bright Green developments hitting mainstream acceptance, like, for instance, the Googletorium bedizened with a zillion solar panels. Who can't like that?)))

(((Otherwise, you'll be locked in the souring terror-bunker watching black water pour in over the sill as a society poisoned by Lysenkoist denial drowns in its own spew. Okay, frankly, you're just bound to get some black darkside spew from Viridian List, no matter how grand things are going, but let's face it: this is a unique opportunity for you to take a direct and personal action that briskly heaves that slider-bar into the direction of light and reason. So do it.)))

(((If you are one of our non-Anglophone readers, go pester somebody to translate it.)))


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

"In just over a week we'll be officially launching our book, Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century, from WC's hometown of Seattle on October 28. Our first event kicks off a 6-week tour, and it should be a spectacular evening.

"Worldchanging Executive Editor, Alex Steffen will take the stage in conversation with super-ally (and author of the book's introduction), Bruce Sterling, to talk about imagining, designing and building a bright green future.

"Please join us if you are nearby. We love to meet our readers and supporters, and we're looking forward to having a chance to spend some time with you and create an opportunity for the local community to connect and build networks.

The big event: Saturday, October 28 Town Hall Seattle
1119 Eighth Avenue (at Seneca Street) Event begins at 7:30pm
There will be an after party to follow, so get ready to celebrate!
Posted at 04:28 PM on October 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

"We often show our love for Vancouver in posts on Worldchanging, but now we can show it in person. Please join us for an evening of big ideas and fun people on November 5 at Workspace.

Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: Vancouver" Posted at 06:55 PM on October 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

"We've always had a lot of great friends and allies in Portland. That's part of the reason we chose to make it our first stop after our Seattle launch event. If you're in town October 29th and 30th, come on out!

Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: Portland, OR" Posted at 05:08 PM on October 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

"New York is such a big town, we can't get it done in just one stop. We'll be in New York City three times, hosting four events. So although we're not covering too many cities on the east coast (D.C. and Toronto are the only others), you have ample opportunity to plan ahead for a trip into NY to celebrate with us. Please come! Details after the jump...

Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: New York" Posted at 06:49 PM on October 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

We're ending the tour with a Rocky Mountain high in Colorado. We'll be holding a reading and reception at the legendary independent bookstore, Tattered Cover, on December 14 at their Lower Downtown location. In addition to that, we'll be spending a couple of extra days around Denver (hometown of our Managing Editor, Sarah Rich) and Boulder. Please do come to the main event, and we may organize an informal gathering at a bar during one of our other evenings. Stay tuned.
Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: Denver" Posted at 12:31 PM on October 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

We have a lot of friends, allies and colleagues in the Bay Area, so we're incredibly excited to be able to offer up several big events there. As a hub of all things green, we hope to get great a turnout at 111 Minna on December 5 and the Commonwealth Club on December 7. Spread the word!
Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: San Francisco" Posted at 11:40 AM on October 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

From Austin, we're heading west to LA for several SoCal readings and parties. We'll be there from November 30 - December 4 when we swing up to SF. These events are still in the works, so please check back here for more details.
Meanwhile, because part of our goal in each city we visit is to shine a spotlight on local people and groups doing worldchanging work (promoting sustainability and social change, delivering innovation and future-forward solutions), we're looking for your recommendations, too. Who is worldchanging in LA? Let us know! Posted at 11:30 AM on October 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

Austin's been an important star in the Worldchanging constellation from the start. Right after Thanksgiving, we're zipping down to Austin, TX, to join with some core WC teammates and a number of great groups, including Solar Austin, to have a reading at Book People.
Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: Austin" Posted at 10:22 AM on October 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

In DC, it's a tour of the worlds, with Worldchanging teaming up with our friends at Worldwatch, the World Resources Institute and elsewhere to create several terrific events. Come on out and celebrate with the extended worldchanging network!
Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: Washington, DC" Posted at 08:20 AM on October 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

Our Toronto stop is shaping up to be one of the biggest of the entire tour. It's been really amazing to see the way all our Canadian colleagues have come together to create what looks to be an absolutely phenomenal evening of big ideas, worldchanging innovation, and community celebration. Ed Burtynsky, the noted photographer (and WC board member) and Ron Dembo (of Zerofootprint) will be joining Alex on stage to present an evening of Worldchanging ideas on November 14. Folks from the Art Gallery of Ontario will be creating an installation. Various DJs will lay down some sounds while we meet and mingle and party until late. This promises to be one of the most exciting events of the year. We hope you'll plan to attend. Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: Toronto" Posted at 03:29 AM on October 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

In the Windy City WC is going aquatic with a big event at the Shedd Aquarium on November 12. We can't wait for this fantastic evening, with opportunities to hear about some breakthrough innovations (including appearances by a couple amazing special guests), meet and mingle with other folks out there trying to make the world a better place, and generally celebrate the whole worldchanging community. Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: Chicago" Posted at 03:18 AM on October 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


Worldchanging, the Book
WorldChanging Team

Minneapolis is a hub for activity in arts and sustainability. We're eagerly anticipating a lively meetup with readers and allies at Kingman Studios on November 8.
Continue reading "Worldchanging Tour: Minneapolis" Posted at 02:17 AM on October 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

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Viridian Note 00476: Green Austin

Viridian Notes - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 3:07am
Key concepts:
City of Austin, Texas; green companies, groups and policies
Attention Conservation Notice:
'm in Austin a few days, and can't help but look around a little.

(((Are you in Austin? How'd you like to come over to my house this Saturday night, Oct 14, and hang out with some science fiction writers? It's a meeting of the time-honored Turkey City Writer's Workshop. Nothing too strenuous; some literary gossip and beer. Send me email and I'll tell you how to get here.)))

(((A few choice highlights from the 02006 "Austin Environmental Directory." Austin isn't that big a city, but it sure packs enviros all out of proportion to its populace. Look at this swarm of builders, gardeners, solar installers, et al, all of them in a modest place which, years ago, was already declaring itself the Clean Energy Capital of the World. Wouldn't YOUR city like to be a clean energy capital? Well, get in line! And if all goes well, then someday, your Dirty Energy burg will also be crawling with colorful, symptomatic green-biz entities, more or less like these.)))

The Austin Environmental Directory on the web:

Various interestingly-named weatherization contractors:

A-Plus Energy
Airtech Blue Air
Climate Mechanical Integrity Energy Coatings Totally Cool Heating and Air

Geothermal heat pumps:

Climate Master Water Furnace


Good Company Associates
"Promoting Emerging Energy and Environmental Technologies through business development consulting and advocacy in Texas."

Green architecture

Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

Earth-sheltered Living

Barley and Pfeiffer, Comprehensive Sustainable Architecture

Thangmaker Strawbale and Earthfloors

Eco-Wise Environmental Remodeling

Sustainable Building Coalition


Eco-Creto pervious concrete

Cell-U-Insel Soy-Based Foam Spray Insulation

Crazy Paver Stone Mosaic recycled quarry waste:

Terra Green Ceramics


Environment Sensitive Pest Control Treatments

Solar installers

Armadillo Solar

Meridian Energy Systems

Solar Community

Texas Solar Power

Custom Solar Electric

"Need a little extra cash? If you have an old refrigerator or freezer you need to get rid of, Austin Energy has a proposal for you. We'll pick up your old appliance, make sure it gets recycled properly, and PAY YOU $35! It's that simple. No fuss. No delivery charges. No trips to the landfill. We'll take care of everything."

Ecology Action of Texas

City of Austin Household Hazardous Waste Programs


CLEAN Air Force of Central Texas

Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition

Texas Solar Energy Society

Environment Texas

Texas Campaign for the Environment

Recycling Alliance of Texas

Liveable City

Austin Eco Network

Native Plant Society of Texas Austin Chapter

Native Prairies Association of Texas


Useful Wild Plants of Texas

Wildflower Center

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Viridian Note 00475: Getting Real

Viridian Notes - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 3:07am
Key concepts:
climate change, prevention, adaptation, political realism
Attention Conservation Notice:
A glum and comprehensive fit of handwringing as it dawns on everybody that matters that climate change is not just "an issue" but destined to become "the" issue.

Fun links before the depressing mayhem:

In Iceland, they turn out all the city lights to watch the stars! The descendants of seafaring Vikings have to be told what constellations are, since they've never seen any.

Rich hippies will save the world – while flying designer passenger rockets into outer space!

Rubber sidewalks! That's bouncy news!

Who can't like a METROPOLIS design competition? And it's about energy!

London City Hall is green! Rule Britannia!

This wild scheme actually turns CO2 back into fuel! What? Huh? What happened to the Second Law of Thermodynamics?


Climate change: time to get real

by Tom Burke
September 26, 2006

"The science is clear, the technology is available. To meet the challenge of 'the most serious threat to humanity since the invention of nuclear weapons,' climate-change campaigners now need to win the political argument, says Tom Burke of E3G.

Link: (((Tom Burke is a career British green political who must be perfectly aware that the time to "get real" about weather violence was about thirty years ago. What the heck, carry on!)))

"The public argument on climate change has been transformed by a series of recent interventions by scientists. First, James E Hansen, the global doyen of climate scientists, announced that the world has only ten years in which to take decisive action on the climate.

"'I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade, at the most,' he told the Climate Change Research Conference in Sacramento, California.Â

(((Hansen may be right... or it may be time to figure out who to abduct and torture after the 'window of opportunity' stays nailed shut. But wait, that would be the glorious job of the US Congress!)))

"Second, John P Holdren, the incoming president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said in his inaugural address that the world is already experiencing dangerous climate change.

"Third, Britain's national academy of science, the Royal Society, sent a letter to the oil company ExxonMobil asking it to stop supporting organisations that were deliberately distorting the science of climate change.

(((A stern letter from the Royal Society! I reckon they're trembling in their snakeskin boots over at Exxon's Texan HQ.))),,1876538,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1 (((Kind of an interesting letter, though.)))

"We are much more accustomed to scientists entering the public debate about risk to say that our fears are exaggerated. There is no precedent for the kind of interventions we are now witnessing.

(((An entire scientific intelligentsia being wiped out by Lysenkoism springs to mind, but that may not be a "precedent" that our author is eager to contemplate.)))

"They are a mark of the growing panic within the scientific community at the deepening abyss between what they know about the climate and what governments are doing.

"Two things are now becoming clear. The climate is changing faster, and the impacts of this change are going to be nastier, than we first thought."

(((A few change-impacts, like, for instance, these, thoughtfully assembled last month by Arlington Institute. It's a nothing deal to assemble reports like this now. The change is coming much faster than anybody is managing to "get real.")))


"Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder have now figured out how to project the results of global futures scenarios, based on sophisticated computer predictions – formerly just rows of numbers – as changing colors on a 5-foot sphere with the continents outlined on it. A number of these spheres are now being installed in museums around the United States and the world, so the world can see what it's in for.

Forecast Puts Earth's Future under a Cloud -- (Guardian -- August 15, 2006),,1844789,00.html

"More than half of the world's major forests will be lost if global temperatures rise by an average of 3C or more by the end of the century. This prediction comes from the most comprehensive analysis yet of the potential effects of human-made global warming. Extreme floods, forest fires and droughts will also become more common over the next 200 years as global temperatures rise owing to climate change."

Greenland Melt 'Speeding Up' -- (BBC -- August 11, 2006)

"The meltdown of Greenland's ice sheet is speeding up, satellite measurements show. Data from a NASA satellite show that the melting rate has accelerated since 2004. If the ice cap were to completely disappear, global sea levels would rise by 6.5m (21 feet)."

Aspen Trees in West Dying -- (ABC -- August 11, 2006)

"A conservative estimate is that about 10 percent of the aspen in Colorado may have died or become afflicted with something in the past 5 to 10 years. Possible causes include a fungus, hungry caterpillars, drought, man's interference with the natural cycle of forest fires, and even resurgent herds of hungry elk nibbling saplings to death.

More Frequent Heat Waves Linked to Global Warming -- (Washington Post -- August 04, 2006)

"Heat waves like those that have scorched Europe and the United States in recent weeks are becoming more frequent because of global warming, say scientists who have studied decades of weather records and computer models of past, present and future climate."

(((See? Nowadays, any and every futurist can sound just like Viridian List! Meanwhile, back to the political activist.)))

"The hole we're in

"But other, more hopeful, things are also becoming clearer. We may no longer be able to avoid dangerous climate change, but we can avoid catastrophic climate change.

(((Or, if we trundle right along into 'catastrophic' due to continued political incapacity, maybe we can draw a firm line at 'apocalyptic.')))

"We already have the technologies we need to keep the eventual temperature rise to around two degrees Centigrade. But we need to deploy them with great urgency.

"We also know that we can afford to do so. Economic analyses of the cost of tackling climate change suggest that it will require the equivalent of around 1% of GDP. This is well within the margin of error of these figures and would simply delay the arrival of the same level of wealth by a few months. (((Unless you're Exxon Mobil, in which case you're left in the toilet because, in your infinite market wisdom, you never did a thing about green energy.)))

"Estimates of the economic damage resulting from a rapidly changing climate are often five times as much. It will not cost the earth to prevent catastrophic climate change, but it will cost the earth not to do so. (((The Earth doesn't pay the bills for denial lobbyists.)))

"The problem is neither the economics nor the technology: it's the politics.

"Preventing catastrophic climate change requires nothing less than the complete transformation of the global energy system in the next forty years.

(((Actually, we're gonna get that change either way: we either rebuild the global energy system, or else it catches fire, blows over and drowns.)))

"We must both reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and stop the carbon from the fossil fuels we do use from entering the atmosphere. (((You'd think that Members of Parliament had built all those smokestacks personally. Are smokestacks in the Magna Carta?)))

"We currently add about seven billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere each year. If we continue to fuel our expanding economy as we do today this will become fourteen billion tonnes a year by 2050. (((I'm trying to think of a witty remark to make about fourteen billion annual tons of carbon. Let me know if you have one.)))

"Agriculture adds another two-and-a-half billion tonnes that cannot easily be removed. The oceans and plants annually absorb some five billion tonnes of that carbon. By 2050, therefore, we must remove eleven-and-a-half billion tonnes of carbon a year from our economy, emitting close to zero from our energy use. Then we have to keep it there, effectively for ever.

"This is certainly a daunting prospect. But the consequences of failure are terrifying. (((The future is a kind of slider-bar between 'daunting' and 'terrifying.')))

"In the face of such difficulty there is much glib talk about adaptation. Some suggest that instead of trying to meet such a difficult challenge, we should concentrate our efforts on learning to live with a changing climate. This is a shallow and deceitful proposal.

"It is a fantasy to expect already fragile governments in the poorest parts of Africa and Asia to peacefully manage and adapt to the disruption (including migration) caused by climate change. The politics of insecurity in countries affected there will erupt into factionalism and conflict; Darfur is already one stark example of this reality.

"Californians may be able to adapt to the loss of melt waters from the Sierra Nevada by building hugely expensive, and energy-intensive, desalination plants. But that option will not be available to the hundreds of millions of Indians and Pakistanis who depend on Himalayan melt waters.

(((Okay, the Pakistanis are a basket-case, but I'm inclined to think that the Bangalore contingent might be much BETTER at this than the Silicon Valley crowd. I mean, just look at Vinod Khosla.)))

"Some adaptation will be inevitable, as the climate is already changing. We who live in the rich world must be willing to help the poorest among us to deal with the consequences of climate change; this is an additional and obligatory, not a discretionary, responsibility for the industrialised nations that have benefited most from the profligate use of fossil fuels.

(((Kind of in the same brilliant, noblesse-oblige fashion that advanced industrial Britain is already aiding and helping backward Iraq.)))

"Since adaptation is not an option, we must address head on the difficult politics of prevention. The first step is to recognise that climate change is not just another environmental problem. It is a fundamental threat to prosperity and security.

"An unstable climate threatens the social and political stability on which all prosperity depends. Equity will suffer as the poorest are hit first and worst. Opportunity will contract rather than expand as the stresses of a rapidly changing climate divide rather than unite nations and communities.

(((The collapse of civilization isn't really an equity issue. That probably plays well with the Labour Party, though.)))

"Politics is often referred to as the art of the possible. Meeting the climate challenge means expanding the realm of the possible dramatically. David King, chief scientific advisor to Britain's prime minister, is right to say that climate change is a bigger problem than global terrorism.

"In fact, it is the most serious threat to humanity since the invention of nuclear weapons. In developing and responding to that threat the world has invested many trillions of pounds over the past sixty years. To respond to climate change, we have yet to invest more than a few billion.

(((The key distinction is that we’re not actually in a real-life, ongoing, steadily mounting nuclear exchange. Though I certainly wouldn't write one off if there's no snow in the mountains of India, California and everywhere else.)))

"The way out

"It is time for those engaged in the battle for a stable climate to get real. Political battles are essentially battles for resources. (((And if you watch those pipelines exploding, you can see that the same truism goes for actual battles.)))

"We face a shared dilemma. To ensure wellbeing for a growing population with unfulfilled needs and rising expectations we must grow our economies. Should we fail, conflict and insecurity will be the result.

"To grow our economies we must continue
to use more energy. Much of that energy will be in the form of fossil fuels. If we use more fossil fuels we will accelerate climate change. If the climate changes rapidly we will destroy the very prosperity and security we are trying to build.

"There is a way out from this narrow ground between rock and hard place. It involves the very rapid expansion of energy efficiency, of biofuels and other renewables and of carbon capture and storage.

"Left to itself, the $17 trillion that will be invested in energy technologies by 2050 will add the other seven billion tonnes of carbon a year to the atmosphere. To keep our climate stable we are going to have spend enough public money to make those technologies carbon-neutral.

"This will be easier than many think. A relatively small carbon tax will yield vast amounts of revenue. That revenue can be dedicated to paying the difference between carbon-intensive technologies and those which are carbon-neutral. As the switch is made, the need for the revenue will decline and the tax can be reduced.

(((Alternately, you can simply INVADE countries emitting carbon, which seems like a likelier scenario once things start hitting the fan.)))

"Europe currently spends 46% of its annual budget on a problem it has already solved: food security. It spends practically nothing on a problem that threatens the livelihoods and wellbeing of every single citizen in the union: climate security.

"It is time to look to the future rather than remain trapped in the past. That means a radical reallocation of European funds from the common agricultural policy into a climate security fund.

"Some of this can, of course, be spent to enhance the role farmers can play in preventing climate change. (((Fewer butter mountains and wine lakes, more cellulosic European ethanol. Plus ca change, plus ce la meme chose.)))

"Successful campaigning requires the relentless hammering away at a deliverable goal that can easily be understood. The present cacophony of ideas coming from climate campaigners simply confuses the public and lets governments off the hook. (((Hmmmm.)))

"Good campaigning builds public awareness and then leverages it to compel specific actions. There is no shortage of public awareness about the threat to the climate. But this has not yet been leveraged by the campaigners.

"It is now time they focused that awareness on three simple questions: how much governments need to spend, on what, and by when."

(((I like it that he ends this by blaming scatter- brained enviros. Still, there's little in this urging to "get real" that is new to Viridian readers. It's a grim warning, but there's not a lot of skin in it.)))

(((That's why I append this NEXT opinion piece, by a Katrina survivor. This guy is an American business manager and he probably votes Republican. He doesn't breathe a word in his speech about climate change; he's just suffering it. He represents the true avant-garde of weather violence: people catching it right in the neck with a glum inability to grasp the cause of their decline. He is the kind of guy who needs comprehensive convincing if anything "real" is to happen in reducing future sufferings. If he "gets real," the rest will follow.)))


Speech to the ISA Convention
by Lee Eagan

INDUSTRIAL DISTRIBUTION magazine, June 1, 02006

(. . . )

"The city that I love and that many of you love is a shell of its former self.

"Eighty percent (not 8) of the city flooded, with as much as 20 feet of water.

"Two hundred fifty thousand homes, not houses, were damaged, most beyond repair.

"Five hundred thousand automobiles were flooded, many still remain on the streets.

"I live 5 blocks from Tulane University and half a block from the St. Charles Ave streetcar line.

"a. The water stopped 2 blocks from my house.

"b. 8 miles from my house, north to the lake – very few houses you can live in.

"c. 23 miles to the East (towards Mississippi) very few, if any, houses you can live in.

"d. My family has long had a presence in Bay St. Louis. These houses on the water had survived all major hurricanes, including Camille. They are gone. You need a GPS to determine where a house was. Complete devastation.

"e. The wonderful, beautiful antebellum homes on the Gulf in Mississippi, were not 'damaged,' they were eliminated. Miles and miles of nothing.

"But many of you know this, what you do not know, is where are we now. (((June 02006.)))

"Complete neighborhoods are still void of life. No attempt to rebuild.

"There is a critical housing shortage. People have nowhere to live. Many FEMA trailers are installed, but many people do not have keys, and if they do, they must evacuate when the winds rise above 40 MPH.

"Water service in some areas of the city is dangerously low and cannot support additional usage. Eighty percent of the water system is compromised.

"Public schools in Orleans Parish are basically non-existent. Many damaged beyond repair.

"Louisiana's labor force has shrunk every month since November. The unemployment rate of those that remain displaced is 35%. The well being of the hundreds of thousands of people still displaced by Katrina continues to be in doubt.

"Medical care is unacceptably primitive. Only two hospitals in Orleans Parish are open, and these are smaller hospitals. The large private and public hospitals were destroyed, not to be re-opened.

"Doctors are unable to make a living and are leaving the City.

"Last week our controller had to be rushed by ambulance to one of the hospitals open. The hospital re-directed the ambulance to a hospital 40 miles away, because they could not take him, as the wait in the emergency room was 10-12 hours.

"With significantly less population, there were 25% more death notices in the paper in Jan 2006 than in Jan 2005. Medical professionals (and I quote) have said 'stress, exacerbating underlying health issues, is blamed for many of these deaths.'

"Post traumatic stress disorder and suicide are urgent public health issues.

"Many businesses are still trying to recover from 8-10 weeks of no cash receipts.

"Mail is very unreliable. I have not received a Wall Street Journal since Pre K.

"Both medical schools in New Orleans are in danger of losing their accreditation because of lack of patients, hospitals and people.

"Employees are very difficult to find. The days of $8-10 hour people are history.

"Places to eat lunch are scarce. Many restaurants are open only a few days a week, with limited hours, some close by 8PM. Commander's, Mr. B's and Emeril's Delmonico have been and remain closed.

"Grocery stores have limited hours and have no one to stock the shelves.

"Fifty percent of the stoplights are still dark.

"Blue Roofs are still the most prevalent color in the region.

"People have exceeded their frustration levels in fighting with insurance companies. Most people and companies have not, nine months later, reached a settlement.

"Insurance companies are not writing new business and are raising rates to unheard of levels, with significantly lower limits, in order to flee the area.

"In addition, the fine print now excludes wind and hail.

"The cost of construction and construction related materials have increased over 100% since Katrina.

"Our utility provider has gone bankrupt and with the loss of 50- 60% of its customer base is raising rates as much as 2.6 times in order to spread the cost over fewer customers.

"City services are a joke. Grass is not cut; garbage is once a week if you are lucky.

"Our Governor is an embarrassment. She does not have a clue. It takes her 4 hours to watch '60 MINUTES.'

"Our mayor, by his actions, has basically asked 42% of the population and 80% of the small businesses to leave. Taxes are still being assessed, with no plan for change, on destroyed property. Assuming that he does not get re-elected today, he probably should apply for a job working on the Hershey Chocolate candy line.

"Our political issues are our own fault, but there are significant issues that belong to FEMA and the Corps of Engineers.

"The Corps of Engineers is responsible for levee protection. Although we had patronizing levee boards, in the end it is the Corps, by law, it is their responsibility to protect us from flooding. (((Even if Greenland melts? Well, yeah! Legal is legal.)))

"The Corps must take responsibility for their failure to properly supervise the construction of both the levees and the retaining walls.

"A hurricane can be hell. But the good people of New Orleans – we were not devastated by the storm, rather it was the failure of the Corps to properly design and build and supervise the construction of the levee system and retaining walls that decimated us. (((He's gotta blame somebody for the decimation. But suppose the Army Corps of Engineers gets abolished. Where's New Orleans then?)))

"Be not mistaken, Katrina was a bitch. In 12 hours fifty percent of the barrier island system and wetlands that protect Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas was eliminated. Each 2.7 miles of wetlands reduce the storm surge by 1 foot. Half of it is gone, not to return in my lifetime. This means that a 2006 Cat 2 storm could create as much devastation and a 2005 Cat 3 storm. (((He's tantalizingly close to catching on!)))

"Hurricane season is 10 days away. The levees are not ready and neither are we."

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O

VW’s Dune Beetle Is a City Car Raring for a Road Trip

Wired News - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 2:27am
This unassuming droptop bug offers a convincing blend of everything a car should be: It's handsome, affordable, efficient, practical, and fun. The post VW's Dune Beetle Is a City Car Raring for a Road Trip appeared first on WIRED.

WIRED Book Club: We’re Breezing Through The Name of the Wind

Wired News - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 2:25am
Some books you want to read slowly. Patrick Rothfuss' fantasy tome isn't one of them. The post WIRED Book Club: We're Breezing Through The Name of the Wind appeared first on WIRED.

A Photo Contest Captures the Stunning Flora and Fauna of Macedonia and Albania's Lake Ohrid

Global Voices Online - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 1:26am

Photo: Marina Sadikoska/OhridSOS, used with permission.

Entries to a photo contest called “The Voice of the Lake” showing lush scenery, majestic wildlife and discarded man-objects at Lake Ohrid, which straddles Albania and Macedonia, have recently sparked interest among many Macedonians.

The contest was organized by the Citizen Initiative OhridSOS, which is fighting to stop harmful urbanization projects that threaten to destroy the magnificent lake, which is the largest natural lake in Macedonia and the oldest lake on the European continent.

Shots capture mute swans, various freshwater fish and crustaceans and even some house furniture in the lake waters and shores.

The three images below featuring beautiful landscapes and an underwater resident of Lake Ohrid were chosen as the contest winners by those who voted on Facebook.

OhridSOS activists decided to also award their own favorite photo. The winner? The lovely image below featuring a sunset scene with reed and gulls on Lake Ohrid.

Photo: Nebojsha Gelevski/Ohrid SOS, used with permission.

Categories: Global Voices

With iOS 10, Your iPhone’s Basically Just a Lockscreen Now

Wired News - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 1:00am
Actually unlocking your phone is so 2015. The new way is the locked way. The post With iOS 10, Your iPhone's Basically Just a Lockscreen Now appeared first on WIRED.

Google Tests New Crypto in Chrome to Fend Off Quantum Attacks

Wired News - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 1:00am
The web giant is rolling out the biggest-ever test of encryption designed to be resistant to a sci-fi future threat: a codebreaking quantum computer. The post Google Tests New Crypto in Chrome to Fend Off Quantum Attacks appeared first on WIRED.

Africans Aren't Staying Silent About a Scottish Woman's Patronizing and Factually Inaccurate Gap Year Memoir

Global Voices Online - Fri, 2016/07/08 - 12:51am

The cover of the book In Congo’s Shadow.

The hashtag #LintonLies has been trending on social media since British newspaper the Telegraph published an extract of a book written by US-based Scottish actor Louise Linton about her “nightmare” gap year volunteering in Zambia.

Zambians, other Africans and friends of Africa are using humor to criticize the book's factual errors, deceptive generalisation and misrepresentation of Zambia, a peaceful nation in southern Africa, as a rebel-infested country.

In the extract, Linton says she “had come to Africa with hopes of helping some of the world's poorest people,” but describes being forced to later flee for cover “deep in the Zambian bush” under the “dense jungle canopy” when armed rebels from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo raided the village where she lived. “As the night ticked interminably by, I tried not to think what the rebels would do to the ‘skinny white muzungu with long angel hair’ if they found me,” she wrote.

My innocent dreams of teaching the villagers English or educating them about the world now seemed ridiculously naïve […] I soon learned that Africa is rife with hidden danger. I witnessed random acts of violence, contracted malaria and had close encounters with lions, elephants, crocodiles and snakes. As monsoon season came and went, the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in neighbouring Congo began to escalate and then spill over into Zambia with repercussions all along the lake. Thousands of people were displaced and we heard brutal tales of rape and murder.

There has never been Hutu-Tutsi conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. That conflict took place in Rwanda, which does not share a border with Zambia. The country has never experienced a civil war, either. Also, Zambia does not experience monsoon season nor does it really have jungles.

Her geography was wrong, her knowledge of African politics is wrong. Somebody educate this imbecile. @BBCWorld. #LintonLies

— Kaluba Chaikatisha (@kaluba101) 6 July 2016

Besides the factual inaccuracies, people are also criticizing Linton for having a “white savior complex” — the patronizing, colonial attitude that only white people can “save” Africans — and resorting to the tired characterization of Africa as a dark and dangerous place.

#Whiteprivilege is having a book deal on experiences that cannot be verified. #LintonLies

— Sisi Majok (@modernemeid) 4 July 2016

‘You were in Southern Africa honey, not the rainforest’

On Twitter, users picked apart Linton's book, some with a sense of humor. Masuka Mutenda quipped:

The only thing missing from @LouiseLinton jungle caper was Tarzan swinging to her rescue

Categories: Global Voices

A Rare Look Inside the Vault Where Rebuilt Jet Engines Prove They Can Fly

Wired News - Thu, 2016/07/07 - 10:00pm
We take you inside Delta's tech ops facility, where engineers tear down engines, put them back together, then run a battery of tests on them. The post A Rare Look Inside the Vault Where Rebuilt Jet Engines Prove They Can Fly appeared first on WIRED.

Physics Says The BFG Shouldn’t Just Look Like a Giant Human

Wired News - Thu, 2016/07/07 - 10:00pm
In the movie The BFG, a giant looks like a human but just bigger. But big things are not the same as small things. The post Physics Says The BFG Shouldn't Just Look Like a Giant Human appeared first on WIRED.

Cape Watch: Anna Kendrick as Squirrel Girl Would Be the Best Marvel Movie Ever

Wired News - Thu, 2016/07/07 - 9:00pm
The actress has an idea for which Marvel hero she should play. And it's a pretty good one. The post Cape Watch: Anna Kendrick as Squirrel Girl Would Be the Best Marvel Movie Ever appeared first on WIRED.

Big Pharma Is So 2015. Welcome to the Era of Big Software

Wired News - Thu, 2016/07/07 - 9:00pm
Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook could dominate the tech market in the same way Pfizer and Kellogg's dominated food and pharma. The post Big Pharma Is So 2015. Welcome to the Era of Big Software appeared first on WIRED.

NY’s Clever New Park Will Weather Epic Storms and Rising Seas

Wired News - Thu, 2016/07/07 - 9:00pm
Governors Island's new park as a model for a city preparing for climate change The post NY’s Clever New Park Will Weather Epic Storms and Rising Seas appeared first on WIRED.

A Fleet of M&M-Shooting Drones Is the Black-Footed Ferret’s Last Hope

Wired News - Thu, 2016/07/07 - 9:00pm
Only 300 of the endangered ferret are left in the wild, and their survival depends on keeping the plague from chewing through their prey: prairie dogs. The post A Fleet of M&M-Shooting Drones Is the Black-Footed Ferret's Last Hope appeared first on WIRED.

Why Did Facebook Remove a Post Criticizing Singapore Police?

Global Voices Online - Thu, 2016/07/07 - 8:30pm

Teo Soh Lung (left) and Roy Ngerng, another activist who has been investigated for political activities. Photos from International Service for Human Rights and The Heart Truths (Roy's blog).

When Singaporean police interrogated political activist and civil rights lawyer Teo Soh Lung, and searched her apartment and electronic devices without a warrant, Soh Lung spoke up. She wrote about the May 2016 incident on Facebook, and her lawyer posted video of the search on YouTube. The posts went viral.

But Soh Lung's most recent Facebook post about the incident met a different fate: censorship. Soh Lung reported that her post (see below) denouncing abuses of power by police in Singapore was removed by Facebook for ‘violating community standards.’

Teo Soh Lung received a notification that her post criticizing the Singapore police was removed on Facebook for violating community standards. Photo from the Facebook page of Singapore-based blogger Kirsten Han.

Police had investigated Soh Lung along with fellow activist Roy Ngerng “for publishing several online articles and postings that may be tantamount to election advertising” on the day prior to election day to “reflect rationally on various issues raised at an election before heading to the polls.” Campaign advertising is also banned on election day. These restrictions apply mainly to online news outlets, not individuals. Soh Lung and Ngerng suspected that they were targeted by authorities because of their previous political activism.

Teo Soh Lung published her most recent post on the Facebook page of Function 8, a socio-political website, describing her encounter with police in late May. Her post (some of which is pictured above) continued:

The police have robbed me of my properties and gravely inconvenienced me. They have mined my data. They have seen and read all my private documents and know who are my friends. They have invaded my privacy. They have committed a crime. I am angry. But where is my recourse? We do not have a national human rights institution which our so called less developed neighbors have – Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar.

This is my Singapore. This is your Singapore. We are a police state. For the slightest irritation, Singaporeans run to the police. But when the police commit a wrong, where do we run to?

According to Function 8, the post was mysteriously removed from Facebook:

Latest post by Soh Lung in this page was automatically unpublished by facebook!! Those people who shared that post also have theirs removed automatically from their walls.

Soh Lung was also banned from posting on Facebook for one day. After signing back on Facebook, she confirmed that her post was blocked:

I have joined rank with Andrew Loh. My latest post on F8 facebook and which I shared here has been removed by facebook. It is titled “Police Terror”.

Indeed, this is not the first time a post criticizing Singapore authorities has been censored on Facebook. Soh Lung cited the case of blogger Andrew Loh whose post criticizing the policies of the Singapore government was also removed on Facebook. He was also blocked from accessing Facebook for three days. Subsequently, Facebook apologized for the ‘accidental’ removal of the post and the three-day blocking of Andrew Loh from the social networking site.

Soh Lung has been given no further information about why her post was removed. Facebook's automated message states that it violated the company's “Community Standards,” but did not specify which of the standards was violated.

Soh Lung re-posted the message on her personal page:

I am testing if there is a computer glitch on FB side since I don't know where to write to in order to complain about the removal of my earlier post.

Singapore-based blogger and Global Voices author Kirsten Han suspected that other users might have complained or reported the post using Facebook's “Report Abuse” mechanism. She is worried that it could be a “new tactic to silence” criticism in Singapore:

It's bizarre that Facebook would remove a post about police powers and due process in Singapore because it violates community standards – what standards have been violated here? Then again, it's not the first time – I had a post removed ages ago, and it happened to Andrew Loh recently.

It is possible that the post was removed because it was reported by a large number of people….If this is the case, then it's troubling how this could be a new tactic to silence.

Facebook policy documentation asserts that the company does not remove posts based on the volume of abuse reports that they receive. Any post that has been reported for abuse is said to be reviewed by a real person, who determines whether or not it violates the Community Standards.

It is possible that Soh Lung's post was removed in keeping with Facebook's standards regarding “Attacks on Public Figures.” Their policy on this issue reads:

We permit open and critical discussion of people who are featured in the news or have a large public audience based on their profession or chosen activities. We remove credible threats to public figures, as well as hate speech directed at them – just as we do for private individuals.

Did the company read Soh Lung's post as a “credible threat”? Her reference to a friend pledging to “set her dogs on the police” might have justified this move. On a different note, given that the company is on increasingly high alert regarding terror-related activities on the platform, it is possible that Soh Lung's use of the word “terror” may have triggered the response. Either way, Soh Lung hopes that her future speech on the issue remains online, for all to see.

Categories: Global Voices

Afghan Refugees: “Nobody ‘Wants’ to Leave. It is About Survival.”

Global Voices Online - Thu, 2016/07/07 - 2:46pm

Afghan refugees in Athens, Greece. Shared via Afghan Community in Europe Facebook page.

Thousands of Afghans flee increasing violence, instability and poverty in Afghanistan in the hope of a better life and future. According to Europe's statistical agency, Eurostat, Afghans make up the second largest group of asylum seekers in Europe after Syrians. In 2015 alone around 64,000 asylum applications were filed by Afghans.

Afghanistan's national unity government was set up in 2014 in the wake of a disputed election result in an attempt to unite Afghans for the purpose of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, economic and political instability, as well as unemployment are rising in the country.

In 2001, there were more than 3.8 million Afghan refugees, according to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

With the presence of US-led ISAF forces and tentative signs of stability in Afghanistan, the number of refugees decreased sharply in the years that followed.

However, by the end of 2015, the number of Afghans seeking shelter outside the country had spiked back up to 2.6 million following US troop withdrawals that have encouraged a growing anti-government insurgency spearheaded by the Taliban.

According to UNAMA, 2015 was the worst year for civilians, especially women and children in Afghanistan, as the insurgency peaked. The new year, meanwhile, has picked up where the old year left off.

Unsurprisingly, the deteriorating security environment has proven toxic for the economy.

Afghanistan's Central Statistics Organization reported that between February 2015 and February 2016, the unemployment rate in Afghanistan shot up by 15 percent, bringing the total rate close to 40 percent across the country.

What Afghans are saying

Western politicians and sections of the mainstream media in Europe continue to characterise the current tide of refugees seeking safe haven abroad as young, male and opportunistic.

Those few Afghans who have had the opportunity to speak to media or use social media to express their plight have painted a different picture, however.

Speaking to Aljazeera, Ajmal Sherzad, 32, who left Afghanistan for good with his family in February last year, cited war and economic instability as the main reasons he and his family were forced to leave the country in search of a better life:

Everybody is leaving Afghanistan. The only people who will be left there are [President] Ashraf Ghani and [Chief Executive] Abdullah Abdullah.

Fully acknowledging the dangers of the journey to Europe, Wahid Qaderi, a dentist, and Rana Qaderi, an obstetrician, chose to leave Afghanistan with their children anyway.

In an interview with the New York Times, Qaderi said:

If we die, we die one day. If we live here, we die everyday.

The main route for citizens leaving the country is through Iran, then over the mountainous Iranian-Turkish border, and onto Greece, where thousands are effectively trapped and prevented from journeying on to other European countries.

#AfghanRefugee carries a baby as reach the Greek island of #Lesbos,#Greece,#refugeesGr June 16

— ✌☮#UpTheRebels☮✌ (@Chara_fc) June 17, 2015

The proportion of fleeing Afghans who have been  granted asylum in European countries remains small.

Abdul Basir, who had worked with Lithuanian soldiers on logistics in Ghor, Afghanistan since 2005, was one of the lucky ones. He was admitted to Lithuania after his plea on YouTube from a refugee camp in Greece went viral.

Most refugees have less luck.

One happy end: Afghan refugee flown to Lithuania from #Greece after social media plea

— Melissa Fleming (@melissarfleming) April 7, 2016

How are refugees living in the Greek camps? 

The total number of Afghans currently living in Greece is unknown, but estimates place the number at around a third of the 50,000 people that are presently trapped in refugee camps in the country.

#Afghan kid at a refugee camp in Athens Greece during protests yesterday. #Afghanistan

— shafi شفيع شريفى (@ShafiSharifi) June 4, 2016

And living in abandoned old buildings:

#Afghan refugees at an old airport in #Athens #Greece #Afghanistan

— shafi شفيع شريفى (@ShafiSharifi) May 30, 2016

Or at terminals across the Greek islands:

#Afghan refugees camped at an old terminal in #Athens.An estimated 15K Afghans are stuck in #Greece #WorldRefugeeDay

— shafi شفيع شريفى (@ShafiSharifi) June 22, 2016

During a recent visit to Afghanistan, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grande warned that “the world is losing sight of Afghanistan and the plight of millions of its people […] unfortunately the attention of the international community seems to have slipped.”

Toba Shahabi, an Afghan artist who has been paying visits to and raising funds for a number of refugee camps, shared on Facebook traumatic excerpts from conversations she had during her visit to the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp located in northern France.

Toba Shahabi with a group of Afghan refugees in the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp in France. Shared via Toba Shahabi's Facebook page.

One asylum-seeker told her:

How long have I been here? 4 months, yes my wife and children are still in Afghanistan and I am anxious to get out of here to a safer place of course! But the media really twists things, I never wanted to leave my beloved watan (home country) and I am not what they call an ‘economic migrant’. It's from helplessness, from futility and fear that I have left everything I know and find myself in this state. What do I want for my future? I want to return to my home, I want peace and harmony where I can raise my family. Nobody ‘wants’ to leave. That is beyond one's control; it's about survival.

It is for their survival that Afghans leave Afghanistan for European countries, where the record for welcoming them is generally poor and where political uncertainty is extending their miserable lives-in-limbo by the day.

They live this life because Afghanistan — a country torn apart by local conflicts and foreign interventions — cannot offer an existence that is any better.

Categories: Global Voices

Puerto Ricans Won't Accept US-Imposed Austerity Without a Fight

Global Voices Online - Thu, 2016/07/07 - 6:40am

The fiscal control board was approved by both Republican and Democratic legislators and signed into law by President Obama on June 30, 2016. In the picture, protesters in front of the Federal Court building in the capital of San Juan, who organized a permanent civil disobedience camp. Picture taken from the public Facebook page Campamento Contra la Junta.

June 30 was a historic day for Puerto Rico, albeit an unhappy one. US President Barack Obama signed into law the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), which imposes a fiscal control board with extraordinary emergency powers over the government of Puerto Rico. The islands, which are a US territory, are grappling with more than $70 billion of debt, and the board was promoted as a kind of relief measure.

But Puerto Ricans have no say whatsoever. Many see the board, whose powers go well beyond those of other fiscal boards found in recent US history, as colonialism at its plainest.

The junta, or “board” in Spanish, will be composed of seven members appointed by the president, some of whom are chosen from lists provided by Congress. Members will have complete control over the budget, revenues and operation of the government of Puerto Rico. Its decisions are final and cannot be appealed, nor are its members held accountable if something goes wrong.

On the night of June 29, after the US Senate approved the bill in a 68-30 vote, social media users who were following the Senate's proceedings expressed feelings of sadness, uncertainty and most of all, impotence. For Twitter user and research director of the Center for a New Economy, Deepak Lamba-Nieves, PROMESA is an act of violence:

The #PROMESA vote was another violent spectacle of imperial power. They slowly braided the whip they will try to use against us.

— deepak lamba-nieves (@deepakln) June 30, 2016

Immediately after President Obama signed PROMESA into law, citizens organized a permanent civil disobedience camp in front of the Federal Court building in the capital city of San Juan.

Categories: Global Voices
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