The Casual Blog

Tag: global warming

Farewell to Sunflower’s, the dastardly Wall project, and The Great Derangement

Snow geese at Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

I was in Raleigh this week, and didn’t take any new photographs of note, but I had quite a few to work through of the more than 5,000 I took in Bosque del Apache, NM.  It sounds like a lot, but they add up fast when you shoot at 9 frames per second. The high frame rate helps in capturing different aspects of the birds in flight, but it also means there are a lot of images to analyze, which takes time and energy.  Anyhow, here are a few more Bosque shots that I liked.

Sandhill cranes

On Friday I went over to Sunflower’s Cafe, which has for a long time been my favorite neighborhood lunch spot, and noticed that the parking lot, which was normally pretty full, was empty.  I peered inside, and saw that the furniture was gone. The place had closed.

Sunflower’s invented several marvelous  vegetarian sandwiches  that they served in a bright, friendly space.  I felt happy and healthy having lunch there. I’ll never forget when I ordered the Portobello Ellen, and the friendly young woman taking my order said, “I’m Ellen.”  Her mom, the proprietor, had invented the sandwich when she was a baby.  But Ellen said that she wasn’t a fan of portobello mushrooms.  

I later learned from the News & Observer that there are plans for a hotel to go where Sunflower’s used to be.  No hotel will give me as much pleasure as Sunflower’s did.

Speaking of construction, I heard further news of The Wall this week.  The Wall has until now been a right-wing fantasy project, with much tough talk and little actual building.  Its alleged purpose is to address a non-existent problem — hordes of invading criminal Latin Americans. Just as the premise is a lie, the solution is bogus — defensive walls have been obsolete since the Middle Ages, and this one won’t stop anyone not in a wheelchair.  

Yet the idea of The Wall does serve a purpose:  whipping up fear of impoverished and desperate Latin Americans.  Sad to say, the idea seems effective in inflaming the folks who go to Trump’s rallies.  

Trump is raiding the military budget to get more money for this sad and absurd boondoggle.   And NPR reported that the project could cost $11 billion — the most expensive wall in the history of the world.  

We could use that money to build more unnecessary weapons of war, or we could just hand out bags of public money to corrupt building contractors.  In fact, almost anything would be better than actually building The Wall. A lot of the debate about the project omits that it will be an environmental disaster.  It will affect an estimated 1,500 species of animals and plants, including some that are endangered.  Species that need to move about in that area to survive will be trapped. 

Part of The Wall project apparently involves ignoring such environmental impacts.  It’s a fair example of our leaders’ mind set — willful ignorance of climate and other looming disasters, and indifference to the lives of both humans and other species.  

Admittedly, it’s not easy to know how to think about climate change — the scale boggles and scrambles the mind.  Amitav Ghosh addressed this problem in his recent book, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, which I just finished reading.  

Ghosh, an Indian scholar and writer primarily known as a novelist, points out that the modern novel has largely failed to address the central issue of our time.  He has a lot of interesting things to say about the strange failure of much modern art to grapple with climate change, and also about the relation of imperialism to reckless greenhouse gas emissions. He points out that the most numerous early victims of rising sea levels will be poor people in China, India and less developed countries.  This could, he thinks, partially explain the West’s inaction — some might view the death of millions of Chinese as in the US’s interest.  

Could we really be that despicably callous?  Maybe so. Can we move from there to a mindset of caring and kindness , and of decency and generosity?  That could be the great construction project of our time.

 

Flying and fishing egrets, the possible survival of nature, and two books — Falter and the Evolution of Religion

It turned cooler here last week, and the leaves were starting to glow at Shelley Lake.  One day I saw three great egrets together at the other side of the lake.  Usually, at least around here, these are solitary creatures. One looked smaller, and I wondered if they were a family. Anyhow, they were too far away to photograph well. Then one decided to fly right towards me, and the others soon followed.  They spent some time standing in the water near me and did some fishing.

For me, these images are about a moment, never to be repeated, in the lives of particular birds.  At the same time, they open a little window into a larger world of nature, where there’s always more to be discovered.   For me they speak of the beauty and fragility of the natural world.

Though I guess it’s possible to see only odd creatures.  Indeed, that may be the typical view. Our traditional attitude toward nature treats it as irrelevant, or else an antagonist to be exploited.  The concept of nature as foundational, as the ground for everything, is still far from mainstream, and needs more development and support.

Perhaps because of increasing weather emergencies, we seemed to have recently turned a corner on climate change, with some former climate change denialists finally acknowledging that our environmental situation is not good.  But the full weight of the dire reality still hasn’t sunk in.  

Bill McKibben’s recent book, Falter:  How the Human Game Has Begun to Play Itself Out, may help. It’s a well-written, well-thought-through book that somehow manages to talk about the frightening reality we face without panicking, and instead thinking constructively about our mitigation options. 

McKibben does a great job of piecing together some of the elements of the storms we currently face, including individual greed, corporate rapaciousness, and libertarian idealism.  One thing he doesn’t examine is the central assumption underlying our heedless exploitation of nature, which is that humans are ultimately more important than anything else in the world.  

The assumption that at the end of the day humans are the only species that matters is so deeply embedded that it’s hard even to get a good look at it, much less have a serious discussion about it.  (It may be even more embedded than our assumptions about race.) But that discussion needs to be part of our survival strategy.  

Our failure to appreciate the significance of other living things and our own relationship to the complex web of life accounts in significant part for our current dire predicament.  On the other hand, embracing the natural world with empathy and gratitude would point us away from fossil fuels, agribusiness, runaway consumerism, and the other drivers of global warming.

There’s a lot to be said about long-held assumptions about human psychology and culture that are now looking like they need reexamination.  For now, I’ll mention just one thought-provoking books: The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright, which I just finished reading for the second time. 

Wright takes on the ambitious task of addressing the functionality of religion for the earliest humans through to us.  He views the development of religious beliefs as a progression, starting with hunter-gatherer animism, continuing through the polytheism of early agricultural civilizations, and then on to monotheism.  

He gives a really helpful overview of the historical roots of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and shows how their central concepts are closely related.  Along with that, he addresses the psychological and economic factors that led societies toward variations on these main ideas.  

 

In the end, Wright disclaims having a view on whether there actually is a God, while arguing that the idea of God has been good for humanity.  Like McKibben, he doesn’t consider whether benefits to humans should be considered the highest good, and doesn’t address whether religion reinforces assumptions of human superiority and entitlement that have destroyed much of the natural world.  I found his argument on moral progress to be vague and unconvincing. But I still found the book tremendously valuable in providing a framework for considering varieties of religion.

Beautiful birds

Great blue heron at Shelley Lake

It took me a long time, but I finally faced a tough fact:  if you really want to see wildlife around here, you have to get up when it’s still dark.  I adjusted my routine recently, and instead of starting the day with a gym work out, I’ve been grabbing my camera bag and tripod and pushing up to one of Raleigh’s parks.  

Canada geese coming in low

Shelley Lake has been my primary target these last couple of weeks.  I’ve been watching squadrons of Canada geese and mallards practicing their flying, while I try to figure out how to catch them in the early light.  From time to time, a great blue heron or great egret scoots by. I heard a report of a bald eagle there last week, but haven’t yet seen it.

Great egret

There are a lot of smaller birds, which I know mostly from listening rather than seeing, since they are masters at concealing themselves in the leaves.  A few years back I put some effort into learning some birds’ songs, and with the fall migration coming soon, I’ve been refreshing on that skill.  There are several apps I’ve found helpful, including ones from Audubon, Cornell, and Merlin.  

The more I listen, the more I realize:  the birds are communicating. That is, they aren’t mechanically repeating a programmed sequence; they’re sending out messages.  Ornithologists have ideas about some of the messages, like alarm calls, but we’ve still got a lot to learn about their systems.  

Being a bird cannot be easy.  There’s always competition from other birds, and killer predators, like hawks and cats, can come out of nowhere.  And then there’s the problem of human activity.

 

Killdeer

I was saddened, but not really surprised, at the report last month that bird populations had dropped precipitously in the last 50 years.    In North America, there are 29 percent fewer birds, or almost 3 billion less than there were.  That’s a lot of dead birds! The reasons are complex, but ultimately they have to do with us — our destruction of habitats, our use of pesticides, and of course, the environmental changes related to our irresponsible use of fossil fuels.  All this bird destruction is terrible for the birds, obviously, but also for us and other creatures. Birds are important parts of ecosystems, spreading seeds, controlling pests, and pollinating plants. And of course, they’re beautiful. So, another wake up call to change course. 

Young deer

The big lake, Leonardo, and Blue Planet II

This week was raw and rainy, and I was sick with a cold.  But it brightened up for the weekend. On Saturday morning I went up to Umstead park and walked around the big lake.  At a certain point, I set up my tripod and took some pictures with various lenses and filters. As usual, my objective was to practice the craft and come up with a few new images that, if not masterworks, at least weren’t too embarrassing to share.  Which is what I did, as shown here.

On the drive back I neared the end of the audiobook version of Leonardo, the recent biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.  I’d gotten bogged down in a couple of sections where Isaacson describes and interprets particular paintings more than I found helpful. But I thought he did a good job over all of telling Leonardo’s story and bringing to life aspects of the early Renaissance.  

I’d known in a general way that Leonardo was a polymath, but I had not appreciated the full range of his interests and accomplishments.   He was a professional musician, theatrical producer, and writer, as well as an inventor, engineer, designer, architect, urban planner, and proto-scientist.  Not to mention a pretty good painter.

Leonardo was good-looking and convivial, though there was a dark side.  Isaacson notes some very disturbing behaviors, including probable sexual exploitation of minors and eagerly offering his services to murderous tyrants.  His reach frequently exceeded his grasp, and he started many more things than he finished. But it’s hard not to be inspired by his powerful curiosity and passionate attempts, sometimes successful, to see things that no one had seen before.  

This week we watched a several episodes of Blue Planet II, a BBC documentary about the life in the world’s oceans.  We’d gotten tired of waiting for it to show up on Netflix and decided to pay for it on Amazon. It was worth it!  The photography was just incredible. As scuba divers, we’ve swum in some of the places and seen some of the creatures, but many were new to us.  And we saw some almost unknown behaviors — fish playing, using tools, and working cooperatively with different species.

It’s exhilarating to experience such wonders, and troubling that the level of the threat to them is dire.  Rising ocean temperatures and acidification are killing the big coral reefs, and plastics and other chemicals are strangling and poisoning many creatures.  The reefs and underwater forests could be gone in a few decades. The question remains whether humans will get their act together and save our oceans.    

Muted fall colors, Ax’s piano recital, Crocetto’s Norma, and some thoughts on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

It’s definitely fall, but we’re not seeing much of the fall colors that usually come to the forests of piedmont North Carolina this time of year.  On Saturday I went to Lake Johnson, where the trees were shedding leaves, but not brightly. It was pretty quiet, and about to rain. I experimented with my neutral density filters, and enjoyed the lake and the trees.

That night, Sally and I went over to Duke for the first concert of its piano recital series.  We ate at Watts Grocery, which we’ve enjoyed in the past. Unfortunately, that night there were no vegetarian entrees on the men. When we raised the issue with our server, he didn’t seem much concerned, and the resulting food was undistinguished.  

Sally and I disagree on the best approach to addressing the problem of restaurants with low appreciation for vegetarians.  She favors talking to them and encouraging them to raise their plant food games. I’m inclined to boycott them, and spend my dining out money where I can wait for my meal with high confidence that there will be food I can enjoy.

The piano recital was by Emanuel Ax, an extremely distinguished concert artist whose recordings I have always enjoyed.  I was very familiar with some of the music from having played it myself (Brahms Op. 79, Chopin Op. 62, No. 1), and found his interpretations of these pieces intelligent and tasteful, though not revelatory.  I very much enjoyed hearing for the first time a set of short contemporary pieces by George Benjamin, which was highly pianistic, with varying textures. Ax used the sheet music for this work, but relied on his memory for the rest.

Ax’s playing was altogether musical, but I really didn’t get swept away until the last piece on  the program, Chopin’s Andante spianato and grande polonaise brillante, Op. 22.  Ax is no spring chicken — getting on and off the stage didn’t look easy for him — and I wondered how he was going to meet the intense physical demands of this highly emotional showpiece.  But he did it. It was magnificent, and thrilling.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to the N.C. Opera’s presentation of Bellini’s Norma.  It was superb! The leads were all very fine singers, the chorus was good, and the orchestra, conducted by Antony Walker, sounded particularly rich and full.  But Leah Crocetto as Norma was beyond superlatives. When she sang the famous aria Casta Diva, I nearly lost it, and managed, just, to weep quietly. She sang, and Maestro Walker accompanied, as if this were the first performance ever, and might be the last. Her singing was technically brilliant and musical, but also truly transcendent.  It penetrated and illuminated the extremities of human emotion, from love to fury to despair

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi, apparently by order of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, has been much in the headlines, and provoked leaders around the world (with the U.S. president, as usual, a sad exception) to condemn the Saudi government.  Needless to say, it’s a heinous crime. But I’ve been puzzled at such a strong reaction to one killing, while the Saudis’ mass atrocities in Yemen, including blowing up thousands of civilians, rarely make the news.

Addressing this puzzle, Max Fisher wrote a piece this week in the NY Times that’s well worth reading.    Fisher noted that journalists commonly use the device of a single individual’s story to cast light on a larger problem.  I’ve tended to think of this as an inherent weakness of ordinary journalism, but Fisher makes a case that it’s unavoidable and even necessary.  

It’s not just that readers can more easily relate to stories of individuals.  People are wired to understand and feel compassion about a single death, but they can’t do the same in reaction to mass death.  Psychologists have found that people switch off their emotions in reaction to large-scale slaughter as a self-protective measure, which is called collapse of compassion.  

This theory may explain a lot of moral inconsistency and inaction.  It’s really hard to think about the deaths of millions or billions as a result of global warming or a nuclear accident that starts a nuclear war.  Talking about these topics is not something anybody really likes. It’s hard to get them on the political discussion agenda.

The prospects admittedly are not good.  But I was a little cheered by an interview on NPR this weekend with a climate scientist who had a good understanding of how bad an environmental disaster we’re likely to have with a 1.5 Celsius temperature rise.  She pointed out that however bad things get, they can always get worse. A 3 degree rise is not a bad as a 4 degree rise. There is no point while we’re still here that the struggle to prevent a worse disaster is pointless.  

A sliver of hope

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We had some weird weather in Raleigh this week, including hail, intense winds, and tornado warnings. I was in a meeting on the 18th floor of Red Hat Tower when everyone’s smart phone gave a warning signal, and we agreed it was time to get away from the windows. We took our computers to a big interior closet, where we continued the meeting. The building was still intact when we emerged.

Was it global warming? Hard to say. Good scientists are by training careful and conservative, and usually avoid ascribing root causes to particular weather events. But we know for sure the globe is warming, and the problem is big. Make that existential.

This is not an easy subject to think about. First, it’s depressing: the long-term risks for humans, other animals, and other living things are grave. Also, it’s uncomfortable: in trying to understand the problem, we ultimately end up seeing part of it in the mirror. All of us who like having electricity and traveling with internal combustion or jet engines are complicit. Also, there isn’t a clear path to a solution with our existing dysfunctional institutions.

But there’s still a sliver of hope, which I try to keep in mind. Helpful on this is Al Gore’s new TED talk. He doesn’t pull any punches in describing the destruction humans have wreaked on the planet with greenhouse gas emissions, but he also notes that we’ve made tremendous progress in wind and solar power, and progress is continuing. We may turn this around. Anyhow, it’s encouraging that he hasn’t thrown in the towel.

In reading a Times report this week about rising sea levels and increases in coastal flooding, I clicked on this link
which is a great little primer on global warming. It’s organized in a FAQ format, with short form answers to questions like how much is the planet heating up, how much trouble are we in, and is there anything we can do. It takes just a few minutes to get the basic facts. And armed with those, there are some things we can do, like elect leaders who have a clue.

On the climate hope front, I also need to give a shout out to Bill Gates, whom I have not always viewed as a force for freedom and progress. Gates may ultimately do far more good for the world as a promoter of emissions reduction technology than he has done as a software technologist. Anyhow, he’s got up on his bully pulpit, and he’s clearly working hard to encourage innovative energy ideas.

Raleigh parks, climate change hopes, and a treatment for Islamaphobia

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For the last several Saturdays, I’ve made a point of visiting the Raleigh parks that I did not already know well. There are several pretty lakes and miles of trails close by. When inspiration strikes, I take some pictures. But mostly I just walk and look, look and listen, listen and breathe deeply. It’s good for the lungs and the head.

This Saturday I drove north a little farther, to Falls Lake. It was mild and overcast when I arrived, but gradually cleared up. I did some hiking and took some pictures, including those here. I also enjoyed driving the long and winding country roads with Clara in sport mode.
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That afternoon there was word that 195 nations at the Paris climate conference had agreed on wording to address global warming. It’s good to know there’s acceptance among world leaders that global warming is real and humans can and must act to address it. Unfortunately, they only agreed to CO2 reductions amounting to half of what is widely accepted as necessary to prevent rising sea levels, droughts, more destructive storms, and widespread food shortages.

In other words, absent further progress, we’re still screwed. But there’s still a chance that we won’t utterly destroy human civilization and much of the rest of the natural world. Perhaps we’ll have a major technological breakthrough, like practical nuclear fusion. Fingers crossed.

One thing barely being discussed is population control. The population of the planet has quadrupled in the last 100 years. I guess this is politically sensitive. But really, isn’t overpopulation a big part of the climate change problem? If we don’t figure out a way to control population growth in a humane way, aren’t we likely to see it unfold in a horrifying way (desperate people fighting for survival against each other and perhaps us)? Viz. the refugee crisis unfolding right now.
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This week was full of anti-Muslim fear and panic, with calls for addressing terrorist threats by extreme measures, including monitoring mosques and barring all Muslims from the U.S. Even more moderate voices saw no alternative to escalating the war against ISIS and other radical groups, and those who questioned this course were increasingly at risk of being branded terrorist sympathizers. But there were a couple of articles pointing the other way, which I flagged on Twitter (@robtiller). There was one by Gwynne Dyer in, of all places, the Raleigh News & Observer of Dec. 10. That evening, when I went to get a link, it seemed to have vanished from the internet, but fortunately I still had the paper copy.

Dyer pointed out that for Americans, the panic at the terrorist threat does not have much basis. In the last 14 years, we’ve had an average of two people per year killed in the U.S. by Muslim terrorists. He calculated that “Americans are 170 times more likely to drown in the bath than to be killed by Islamist terrorists.” This is something public figures feel they can’t mention, because of the extreme dissonance with related facts: more than 6,000 U.S. soldiers killed in this period fighting terrorism, and a trillion dollars has been spent on the War on Terror. Dyer acknowledges that if you live in Arab countries, the terror threat is real and serious, and that western countries fighting ISIS might do some good for some Syrians. But it probably won’t reduce the already tiny risk of terrorist attacks here.
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Hitting the little white ball, the appalling debate, ocean concerns, and reading Hamilton

At Raulston Arboretum, September 18, 2015

At Raulston Arboretum, September 18, 2015

On Wednesday after work, I went over to Raleigh Country Club and practiced on the range for a bit. Lately I’ve been trying to get out to practice a couple of times a week, with a view to making prettier and longer parabolas. It looks so much easier than it is. The late afternoon was peaceful and mild.

Sally was waiting on the terrace looking out on hole number 10 when I finished, and we had dinner there. It was overcast, and looking west we couldn’t see the sun directly as it was setting. But suddenly the clouds lit up a bright orange-pink, and for a few minutes the colors were amazing.
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After dinner, Sally had to go to her mom’s apartment to take care of Diane’s two greyhounds, and so I watched the Republican presidential debate alone. It was, of course, appalling, though also by moments fascinating. The eleven candidates were all, in their various ways, intelligent and well spoken, and also in varying degrees bizarre or utterly benighted. I watched a good chunk of the three-hour spectacle, and kept waiting for a serious treatment of the serious issue of climate change. From press accounts, it appears I missed a few brief comments on the subject, to the effect that either it’s a liberal conspiracy or there’s just nothing to be done about it, so there’s no point in thinking or talking about it. Appalling.

I read most of the World Wildlife Fund’s report this week on the state of the world’s oceans, and recommend it. The news, of course, is not good. About half the population of creatures that live in, on, and over the oceans have disappeared since 1970. Coral reefs, on which much ocean life depends, have likewise diminished, and may disappear by 2050. But the report presses the point that the situation is not hopeless. There are ways we can address the over fishing and climate change problems that largely account for the crisis.
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Through diving dive on some of the world’s most beautiful coral reefs, I’ve developed a deep love for reef ecosystems, and will be seeing another one next week. Sally and I are leaving next Friday for a trip to see the reefs and animals of Mozambique. We’re hoping to see whale sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, and many other remarkable creatures. We’ll also be doing a land based photo safari in Kruger Park in South Africa. This trip has been a big dream, and has taken a lot of planning, but it should be amazing. Anyhow, I expect to be offline for a couple of weeks, but hope to have some good stories and pictures to post after that.

For this long trip, I’ll need some good books to read, and I’d expected I’d be working my way through Ron Chernow’s Hamilton, a biography of the Founding Father who was our first Secretary of the Treasury. But I’ve been so fascinated by the book that I may finish it before the trip. The Times review is here.

Hamilton, it turns out, was a brilliant, energetic, and passionate person, who accomplished an amazing amount in his short life. Among other things, he helped win the Revolutionary War as Washington’s most trusted aide-de-camp, played a primary role in fashioning the Constitution, wrote most of the Federalist to win passage of the Constitution, established a financial system for the new republic, and served as President Washington’s primary advisor. And he was handsome and well-liked by the ladies, and also the gentlemen. Of course, he had his flaws of character, and his enemies, including the sainted Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The politics of the time were at least as ungentle as now. This is a remarkable and remarkably relevant book, which I highly recommend.
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A few chimney swifts, fine Fiction Kitchen, finishing physical therapy, the fossil fuel endgame, and a fishing blue heron

A spicebush swallowtail at Ralston Arboretum on September 11, 2015

A spicebush swallowtail at Ralston Arboretum on September 11, 2015

According to Sally’s calendar, this week should have been a good one to see the chimney swifts in downtown Raleigh. Last year at this time there were thousands, swarming and swirling, and eventually shooting down a large chimney to roost for the night. So we went downtown with our binoculars on Wednesday night and waited at sunset. There were some mini-flocks flying, and we kept hoping for the grand congregation, but it didn’t happen. We saw dozens of swifts, rather than thousands.

Afterwards we went a few blocks south to Fiction Kitchen, Raleigh’s best vegetarian restaurant. The last few times we’d tried to get in, the place had been full with many people waiting. This time it was full, but the wait was only a few minutes. The waiters we liked were still there. There were some new menu items, along with familiar favorites. We started with squash and zucchini cakes appetizer, which was delicious. For entrees, Sally had the succatash farro risotto. I had the mock pork BBQ, a tempeh-based dish that was so outrageously good that, as a vegetarian, I felt a bit guilty.
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The next day I had my graduation session from physical therapy. For the last few weeks, I’ve been trekking out to Cary to see Geert Audiens a couple of times a week to get treatment for my torn rotator cuff. As ordered, I’ve been doing my shoulder exercises twice a day (most days). The exercises were not too interesting at the start, and have gradually become a huge bore.

But most of the discomfort in my shoulder is gone, and the strength is improved. To complete the program, Geert directed me to continue doing the exercises for 25 minutes a day every day for the next three months. Then I should call him and give a report. This is a big assignment, but I’m going to try, since I am still motivated to get better. I expect to be using that shoulder for quite a few years yet.

Driving back to Raleigh, I saw a bald eagle fly across the beltline into the trees. There are some that live a bit west of here at Jordan Lake, but this was the first one I’d seen in Raleigh.
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On Saturday morning, I read a piece in the NY Times ran a piece on a new climate study that projected a more-than-200-foot rise in sea levels if we continue to use fossil fuels until they are used up in the 22nd century. That would mean no more New York, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Beijing, Sydney, and Tokyo, among other nice places. All the ice on earth would melt, with half of that occurring in the next thousand years, and seas rising at 10 times the current rate. The study out of the Potsdarm Institute for Climate Impact Research was published in the journal Science Advances.

Curiously, the Times put this horrifying news on the bottom of page A10 of the print edition, rather than the top of page 1. It was similarly buried in the online edition. Did the editors think it wasn’t important? That’s doubtful. Did they think their readers are tired of bad climate news and would prefer not to hear more? Perhaps, but in whatever case, we’ve got to get our minds around this, and get to work, or things are going to get grimmer. We’ve had a good run with fossil fuels, but that’s over. It’s time to get serious about the alternatives.
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After reading of this and other unsettling things and finishing my coffee, I drove up to Falls Lake to look for birds and insects. I hadn’t been there in a while. My plan was to explore several spots, but I discovered they now charge $6 for the main areas. I found my way to a non-charging spot in the Beaverdam reservoir area, where the road was almost too rough and rutted for low-slung Clara. I spent twenty minutes or so watching this blue heron move very very slowly. I kept hoping she’d catch a fish, but she didn’t.
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A photo contest, getting shoulder therapy, trying fasting, and not debating climate change

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Sally spotted a notice in the local paper of a nature photography contest at Raulston Arboretum. The theme was gardens and plants, which you may have noticed I have an interest in, and so I decided I might as well have a go.

Competition is a good way to make yourself try a little harder. With the thought of critical judging, I took a careful look through some of my favorite images, and found little disqualifying problems on most of them. Of those still left, some just didn’t touch me. That exercise alone was worthwhile, good for my eye and mind, win or lose. Ultimately, I settled on the two bees shown here, worked on them for a bit with Lightroom software, and got them printed on metallic paper nearby at JW Image. Still to do: getting them framed, submitted, back, and hung in the apartment.

Speaking of self-improvement, I finally decided this week to get physical therapy help for my left shoulder. I’d tried letting the thing heal itself with several weeks of relative rest (no heavy weight lifting), but that didn’t work. I got in to see Geert Audiens at Results Physiotherapy, who’d helped me with back and shoulder issues before. Geert quickly diagnosed a torn rotator cuff, which, he said, would get worse if not attended to. He predicted it would take several weeks of specialized exercises, but it would likely get better. It’s good to have well-functioning arms and shoulders. And so we began, with simple little exercises, antiinflammatories, and icing four times a day. It’s a substantial commitment, which I hope will be worth it.

I’ve also been experimenting for a few weeks with a modification of my food consumption. I’d somehow picked up 5 pounds that would not come off, even with hard cardio work outs and careful healthy eating. I saw a story on alternate day fasting for the weight control, which basically means eating very lightly (500 calories) every other day. I decided to have a go for two days a week, a variation which, I just learned by googling, has been promoted elsewhere by others.

My method was my normal greens-and-fruit smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch, and nothing for dinner. The no eating intervals were challenging, especially at dinner time with Sally eating. But it helped clear the mind, and made me more conscious of eating well on the normal eating days. And I did get rid of those 5 pounds in about 3 weeks.
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The debate of the Republican presidential contenders this week promised to be rich with irony and ridiculousness, with the numerous conventional candidates facing off with the loutish Donald Trump. As a Democrat, I’d never looked forward to a Republican debate so much. There were, as it happened, no meltdowns. In fact, I was surprised at how articulate and intelligent most of the field seemed (with the Donald as usual the big exception).

Yet collectively they have such enormous blind spots. It’s difficult to see how you could propose to govern or even talk seriously about social policy without quickly getting to the issue of what to do about CO2-caused global warming and the many related problems, like rising oceans, mass extinctions, famine, resource-related wars, mass population dislocations, destructive storms, drought, etc. These related disasters are front page news now. Yet this issue doesn’t appear on the Republican agenda, except for opposing whatever action the President proposes. This is wildly irresponsible. The situation is dire, and getting worse.

Rolling Stone published a good piece featuring new climate change research by James Hansen and others, which I recommend. It isn’t easy to think about this problem, which makes us uncomfortable and unhappy, but we’ve got to do it. I was glad to see that Hansen thinks a carbon tax could potentially pull us out of our present suicidal course. Anyhow, we all need to get more educated on this, and to keep pressing our politicians for action.