Thursday, June 19, 2008


Science is a tool, not a god. Science may function at times to contrast with society or religion, but it holds no such intrinsic intent. When we make a decision to adhere to a religion or a culture or a government, and we ignore science, we do so at out own peril. There are consequences.

On right wing talk radio, for example, it has been popular to sneer at the science of global climate change. This has contributed to a social atmosphere in which it is difficult to talk about glabal climate change, much less take the drastic actions that we now need. To counter this inertia, perhaps a small gathering of facts will serve.

Our crops are failing. If we lived in an agriculturally aware society, it would not be necessary to say so; it would be the talk of the town. Everyone would know. But in this case I'm talking about a global phenomenon, and it's something that has to pass the normal buzz of the ag report. I don't mean merely that the crops are failing locally. I mean that there are crop failures increasing globally.

What does that mean? Right now you can still go to the vending machine and get a packet of chips. You can still find the store canned foods, and even a fresh produce section full of quality edibles. They cost a little more. We're not in one of those oh-so-profitable parts of the globe, where people are already beginning to starve.

Jpseph Romm, interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, said:...., the media is covering this as this all sort of unconnected events, just regular weather maybe gone a little wacky. But, in fact, the scientific community has predicted for more than two decades now that as we pour more heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the planet will heat up, and that would redistribute water. If you heat up the planet, then places that are kind of arid will lose soil moisture, and they’ll become drier, whereas you put—you heat up the planet, you evaporate more water, and areas that are wetter will tend to see more intense rainfall and deluges and earlier snowmelts, and all that will lead to flooding. So what we’re seeing is exactly what scientists have been telling us would happen because of human emissions.

But we are not exempt. Locally, here in Cascadia, the cherry crop is pitiful, because of the weather. A strong Pacific wind has been pushing cold ocean air over this area, causing snow flurries in April right down to the valley floor, blocking the Sun and lowering temperatures even now, in June. The apple crop has failed. The pear crop has failed.

Massive and powerful storms have struck Iowa, Indiana, and the Midwest generally. Corn and soy crops are under water by the millions of acres. Hogs have been washed out of their barns. Hog lagoon waste poisons the floodwaters, sickening anyone who comes into contact with it. Last weekend the Iowa state government was quoted in the local papers saying “Residents who have to come into contact with river water should ask their doctor for advice on shots, and should bathe as soon as possible after leaving the floodwaters. The contaminants can cause severe intestinal illness and skin, eye and ear infections.”

The loss of food is quantified as dollar losses, as in the excerpt from Dow Jones:

CHICAGO -(Dow Jones)- Four million acres of flooded Iowa farmland has put a damper on a three-year string of profits for the companies that underwrite crop insurance.

The flooding has caused as much as $3 billion in crop losses so far. Some claims are already coming in under so-called prevented planting coverage, said a spokeswoman with the Risk Management Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which manages the public-private program. Prevented planting coverage reimburses farmers for a portion of a crop's insured value when bad weather delays planting until too late in the season.

That reimbursement is one form of crop insurance. Premiums, pegged to crop prices and set by the government, have risen in recent years, driving up profits for the 16 insurers that underwrite the program, including Wells Fargo & Co., American Financial Group Inc. and ACE .

"Companies that insure crops were very upbeat at the beginning of the season because (corn, wheat, and other crop) prices kept going up because of global demand," said Elizabeth Malone, an insurance analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets, in an interview Monday. "Today, I think a lot of crop insurers are quite worried, given what has happened with the weather in the Midwest. This is a one- in-500-year storm."

Dave Miller, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation's director of research and commodity services, estimated the flooding has caused $3 billion in economic losses to Iowa farmers so far, with losses in other states including Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota adding more to the total. A separate estimate by researchers at Ball State University and the University of Tennessee put Iowa crop losses at $2.6 billion.


We have insulted Mother Nature, and we will pay. But that's just a way of saying that we have collectively agreed to ignore our useful tool, Science. Science got in the way of short-term profits for manufacturers, automobile sales, coal plant operators, et cetera, and so science—in this case, global climate change-- has been make out to be tinfoil-hat hysteria. But that's like cutting off our collective nose to spite our face.

Here's another sign of the times from AP:

MOSCOW: Russia has been sending food aid shipments by train to North Korea.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says in a statement posted on its Web site late Wednesday that deliveries of 2,860 metric (3,150 tons) of wheat flour began last week and will be distributed through the United Nations' World Food Program.

North Korea's food situation has worsened this year because of last year's devastating floods that destroyed more than 11 percent of the country's crops.

The U.N. has warned that North Korea urgently needs outside aid to avert a worse humanitarian disaster.


BANGKOK, June 18 (Reuters) - More than 50,000 farmers in cyclone-hit Myanmar will be unable to plant a new rice crop by August unless they receive immediate aid, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Wednesday.

In the first major assessment of the damage wrought by the May 2 cyclone on Myanmar's rice bowl, the FAO said 570,000 hectares of land was submerged in 11 badly-affected townships surveyed by the U.N. agency and government officials.


VOA news: The most severe drought for 100 years in Australia is getting worse. Farmers warn that this winter's wheat crop could be even smaller than last year's if rain does not come soon. Most Australian grain is exported and empty Outback grain silos have contributed to shortages and rising global prices. Australia is the third-biggest wheat exporter behind the U.S. and Canada.


Australian Broadcasting Company: ....“The UNHCR says climate change is expected to drive increasing numbers of people from their homes as more conflicts are fuelled by water scarcity and a lack of food.

They also say the number of displaced people in the world is at an unprecedented level. Last year the total number jumped to just over 37 million, an increase of more than three million.

The former Portuguese prime minister, Antonio Guterres, is now the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees.

He says climate change is an ever-growing problem, fuelling conflict and thus indirectly fuelling the growth in refugee numbers, as in the case of Darfur.

"In Darfur, in the past years rainfall has always been decreasing, population has been growing," Mr Guterres said.

"There is an increased competition for water resources. We need a political solution for Darfur, but that solution will not be stable, if at the same time we don't solve the underlying problems of dwindling water resources.

"What climate change is doing is in many circumstances reducing resources, increasing the competition for resources and because of that, triggering or amplifying conflicts."

Mr Guterres says he has no doubt climate change will contribute more to conflict and thus to the number of refugees.

"The combination of climate change, increased prices, increased population, all those things make life more difficult, make competition for resources tougher and amplify conflicts everywhere," he said.

[Oh, and by the way:]

The UNHCR says nearly half the world's displaced people (three million) are Afghan while two million are Iraqi. The numbers in Iraq increased by 600,000 last year.”

........................gee, I wonder who displaced 'em?....................

This from Roger Highfield in the UK Telegraph:

The top few hundred metres of the world's oceans have warmed 50 per cent faster than previously thought during the past half century, a discovery that has solved an enduring puzzle about the world's rising sea levels. Sea-level rise is a key consequence of of climate change but the actual change has been higher than scientists had predicted.

Now scientists believe they understand the rise in sea levels observed since 1961, and can link them to the expansion of the oceans as they warmed, along with melting of glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets.

The new study by Australian and US climate researchers, published in the journal Nature, concludes that the upper 700 metres of the world's oceans warmed at a rate 50 per cent faster in the last four decades of 20th century than documented in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, which produces a consensus view of scientists around the world.


In addition to crop loss and ocean rise, we may already be experiencing a global-warming increase in earthquakes, according to this article:

(AP) New research compiled by Australian scientist Dr. Tom Chalko shows that global seismic activity on Earth is now five times more energetic than it was just 20 years ago.

The research proves that destructive ability of earthquakes on Earth increases alarmingly fast and that this trend is set to continue, unless the problem of "global warming" is comprehensively and urgently addressed.

The analysis of more than 386,000 earthquakes between 1973 and 2007 recorded on the US Geological Survey database proved that the global annual energy of earthquakes on Earth began increasing very fast since 1990.

Dr. Chalko said that global seismic activity was increasing faster than any other global warming indicator on Earth and that this increase is extremely alarming.

"The most serious environmental danger we face on Earth may not be climate change, but rapidly and systematically increasing seismic, tectonic and volcanic activity," said Dr. Chalko.

"Increase in the annual energy of earthquakes is the strongest symptom yet of planetary overheating.

"NASA measurements from space confirm that Earth as a whole absorbs at least 0.85 Megawatt per square kilometer more energy from the Sun than it is able to radiate back to space. This 'thermal imbalance' means that heat generated in the planetary interior cannot escape and that the planetary interior must overheat. Increase in seismic, tectonic and volcanic activities is an unavoidable consequence of the observed thermal imbalance of the planet," said Dr. Chalko.

Dr. Chalko has urged other scientists to maximize international awareness of the rapid increase in seismic activity, pointing out that this increase is not theoretical but that it is an Observable Fact.

"Unless the problem of global warming (the problem of persistent thermal imbalance of Earth) is addressed urgently and comprehensively - the rapid increase in global seismic, volcanic and tectonic activity is certain. Consequences of inaction can only be catastrophic. There is no time for half-measures."


Are we ready for regime change yet? Al Gore won his Nobel Prize for going around with his charts and speeches, trying to explain that we would be experiencing what we are now experiencing. Does that global climate engineering sound so wacky now? Would you rather just ride the tiger and see where it goes? [Your comments....]

Speaking of ignoring science, it has been fashionable in the past decades to pretend that normal human sexual and gender variations are instead some sort of voluntary or arbitrary perversion. There have been many studies—talking about science here—that show that human and animal populations have always harbored lesbian, gay and trans behaviors, because group survival requires that sex, identity and pleasure serve more functions than merely reproduction. One consequence of ignoring that science has been a severe degrading of the Army's ability to translate Arabic since the famous firing of so many translators under the Don't Ask Don't Tell era of military aggression against gays. The society is of course generally degraded when one minority or another is oppressed for no reason.

The marriage of gays and lesbians in California is fodder for the hating class, and though it is a cheering case of progress in human compassion and societal peacemaking, the controversy is being used to distract from issues requiring collective action. Like war, I mean, and climate change, and whether we will ever reverse the US apartheid state and its Jim Crow drug war. Yet these issues of social tolerance and intolerance hit home.

In my case, for example, over the past few days, I have been confronted with social aggression ranging from casual conversations in my presence about what gender I might be and how disgusting that is, to screams of hatred from a passing car. My workplace has lost untold days of productivity as I attempt to heal my stress from this sort of constant confrontation. Most recently I was off for nine months for panic disorder, scarcely able to leave my house. These days I use relaxation techniques, calmatives, and careful application of dress, makeup, and demeanor to attempt to avoid hostile reactions from the public. But I'm always fighting a losing battle, because I am barred from getting the recommended medical care for my condition, which would make me much less visible as a transwoman. My workplace has a written ban in place to prevent the medical sciences from implementing their recommendations in my case. Health care is provided fully for everyone else there. It's technically illegal, but with this vicious zeitgeist in place, the management knows it doesn't have to budge.

Now, to my surprise, the historically crusty American Medical Association has issued a statement denouncing such tactics. This is from an article in Page One Q by Nick Langewis:

The American Medical Association is calling on health insurers to cooperate with doctors in providing proper care to meet transgender patients' needs.

Resolutions 114, 115 and 122 were passed by the AMA's House of Delegates at its annual conference in Chicago, which concludes today. Noting that Gender Identity Disorder is an internationally recognized medical condition, the Delegates highlight the need to combat the emotional pain and physical incongruity associated with gender dysphoria with proper access to mental health services, hormone treatments, and surgical procedures.

The National Center for Transgender Equality has hailed the resolution. "America's physicians," said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, "are saying that transgender people, like all others, deserve competent medical care based on what individual doctors and their patients determine is healthiest for each person."

The AMA asserts that when discriminatory financial barriers are placed between the transgender community and proper health care by dismissing treatments as "cosmetic" or "experimental," even when covered for other patients with other recognized medical conditions, more expensive problems can develop as a result, such as depression, substance abuse problems, and stress-related illness.

"Doctors and patients, not insurance companies, should be making those choices," Keisling added. "We are so glad that the AMA has taken a leadership role against the rampant discrimination that transgender people have faced for so many years in receiving appropriate medical care and equitable insurance coverage."

The resolutions are available at the links below, in Microsoft Word format.

Resolution 114: Removing Barriers to Care for Transgender Patients
Resolution 115: Removing Insurance Barriers to Care for Transgender Patients
Resolution 122: Removing Financial Barriers to Care for Transgender Patients

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