Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Oceans Are Coming

In Around the web on November 5, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Club Orlov

Part I: The Global Mistake

In September 2009 the latest global temperature rise projections released by the Hadley Centre, part of the British Meteorological Office indicated an average rise of 4 degrees Celsius (that’s a balmy 7.2°F) by 2055 given a business as usual scenario. Some places will be a bit more stable, but the places that particularly matter – the ice caps, the methane-rich permafrosts in northern Canada and Siberia, and the Amazon rainforest – will be melting, off-gassing, and burning, respectively. The report offers some detail on what that would feel like:

In a 4°C world, climate change, deforestation and fires spreading from degraded land into pristine forest will conspire to destroy over 83 per cent of the Amazon rainforest by 2100… in a 4°C world there will be a mix of extremely wet monsoon seasons and extremely dry ones, making it hard for farmers to plan what to grow. Worse, the fine aerosol particles released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels could put a complete stop to the monsoon rains in central southern China and northern India… the people most vulnerable to a 4°C rise are also least able to escape it. At 4°C, the poor will struggle to survive, let alone escape.

And what of that lodestone, global sea level? This happens to be a very interesting question, because ocean levels are set to rise dramatically. According to UCLA scientists, the last time carbon dioxide levels were as high as they are today was 15 million years ago. At that time, the sea level was between 20 and 36 metres higher (75 to 120 feet), there was no permanent ice cap in the arctic, and very little ice in Antarctica or Greenland. That is where we are headed. The only remaining question is, How long will it take us to get there?The authors of the Hadley Centre report predict a rise of just 1.4 metres by 2100. The IPCC in their 2007 4th Assessment Report predicted something like half a metre by 2100 based on a combination of the fattening of the oceanic envelope caused by thermal expansion and the increased runoff from glaciers and minor ice sheets. None of this sounds particularly catastrophic just yet, but then it turns out that these predictions are not based on anything particularly relevant: the British Antarctic Survey, in 2008, made it clear that the IPCC had not included the source of nearly 100% of the world’s potential ice melt – the major ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland – simply because they had little idea of how the ice caps would behave in a heating world:

More at ClubOrlov

See also Anthropoclastic Climate Change

Slamming the Climate Skeptic Scam

In Books on November 4, 2009 at 7:13 pm


There is a line between public relations and propaganda – or there should be. And there is a difference between using your skills, in good faith, to help rescue a battered reputation and using them to twist the truth – to sow confusion and doubt on an issue that is critical to human survival.

And it is infuriating – as a public relations professional – to watch my colleagues use their skills, their training and their considerable intellect to poison the international debate on climate change.

That’s what is happening today, and I think it’s a disgrace. On one hand, you have the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – as well as the science academies of every developed nation in the world – confirming that:

  • climate change is real;
  • it is caused by human activity; and
  • it is threatening the planet in ways we can only begin to imagine.

On the other hand, you have an ongoing public debate – not about how to respond, but about whether we should bother, about whether climate change is even a scientific certainty. While those who stand in denial of climate change have failed in the last 15 years to produce a single, peer-reviewed scientific journal article that challenges the theory and evidence of human-induced climate change, mainstream media was, until very recently, covering the story (in more than half the cases, according to the academic researchers Boykoff and Boykoff) by quoting one scientist talking about the risks and one purported expert saying that climate change was not happening – or might actually be a good thing.

Few PR offences have been so obvious, so successful and so despicable as this attack on the science of climate change. It has been a triumph of disinformation – one of the boldest and most extensive PR campaigns in history, primarily financed by the energy industry and executed by some of the best PR talent in the world. As a public relations practitioner, it is a marvel – and a deep humiliation – and I want to see it stop.

Here’s how it works: Public relations is not a process of telling people what to think; people are too smart for that, and North Americans are way too stubborn. Tell a bunch of North Americans what they are supposed to think and you’re likely to wind up the only person at the party enjoying your can of New Coke.

More at author’s

Climate Change Deniers Are Not Skeptics – They’re Suckers

In Around the web on November 4, 2009 at 6:47 pm

The Guardian/UK

My fiercest opponents on global warming tend to be in their 60s and 70s. This offers a fascinating, if chilling, insight into human psychology

There is no point in denying it: we’re losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease. It exists in a sphere that cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument; any attempt to draw attention to scientific findings is greeted with furious invective. This sphere is expanding with astonishing speed.

A survey last month by the Pew Research Centre suggests that the proportion of Americans who believe there is solid evidence that the world has been warming over the last few decades has fallen from 71% to 57% in just 18 months. Another survey, conducted in January by Rasmussen Reports, suggests that, due to a sharp rise since 2006, US voters who believe global warming has natural causes (44%) outnumber those who believe it is the result of human action (41%).

A study by the website Desmogblog shows that the number of internet pages proposing that man-made global warming is a hoax or a lie more than doubled last year. The Science Museum’s Prove it! exhibition asks online readers to endorse or reject a statement that they’ve seen the evidence and want governments to take action. As of yesterday afternoon, 1,006 people had endorsed it and 6,110 had rejected it. On, books championing climate change denial are currently ranked at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 in the global warming category. Never mind that they’ve been torn to shreds by scientists and reviewers, they are beating the scientific books by miles. What is going on?

It certainly doesn’t reflect the state of the science, which has hardened dramatically over the past two years. If you don’t believe me, open any recent edition of Science or Nature or any peer-reviewed journal specialising in atmospheric or environmental science. Go on, try it. The debate about global warming that’s raging on the internet and in the rightwing press does not reflect any such debate in the scientific journals.

An American scientist I know suggests that these books and websites cater to a new literary market: people with room-temperature IQs. He didn’t say whether he meant fahrenheit or centigrade. But this can’t be the whole story. Plenty of intelligent people have also declared themselves sceptics.

More at Common Dreams via The Guardian

See also The Global Climate Change Lobby

Nowhere Man

In Around the web on November 4, 2009 at 7:30 am


He’s a real nowhere man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody…



In Dave Smith on November 3, 2009 at 4:07 pm

to be of use
Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.


No On A Victory!

In Around the web on November 2, 2009 at 11:24 pm


Final Results
62% No – 38% Yes


Measure H. Measure A. Millions of dollars turned away.

Dead Dino Rest In Perpetuity.


Handpicked – The Apple Farm in Anderson Valley

In Around Mendo Island on November 2, 2009 at 9:10 pm



From the New York Times

Northern California breeds food pioneers: M. F. K. Fisher, Alice Waters, Alfred Peet, for starters. But to some, a pioneering spirit means finding the next frontier. Take Sally and Don Schmitt and their family. First they put the agricultural backwater of Yountville on the culinary map with their restaurant, the French Laundry. Then they left town and spun around farm-to-table in Philo.

Napa Valley might seem like the stuff of “Falcon Crest,” but it’s really farm country. It was much more so in the early ’70s, when Sally Schmitt’s cafe had the area’s only espresso machine and she cooked meals for the gatherings of Napa’s 13 vintners. The kitchen that was built for her mail-order chutney business was soon used to host theme dinners, with menus inspired by the Time-Life cooking series. After the couple took over a former French steam laundry, the meals evolved into one of the area’s first set-menu restaurants — a financially iffy move in a place where farmers loved their red-sauce Italian restaurants. On its opening night in 1978, the French Laundry served pasta with clam sauce, blanquette de veau, rice, asparagus, salad, cheese and rhubarb mousse for $12.50.

By the mid-’80s, the French Laundry had become a destination restaurant — and Napa a destination. But the family was eager to find the next fringe. They began fantasizing about life in the Anderson Valley, a hard-to-reach area in Mendocino County with its own dialect and an economy that runs partly on the barter system. A real estate agent showed Don and Sally a run-down apple farm in Philo that reminded them of “the old Napa.”

“So they called us and asked us if we wanted to be apple farmers,” recalls Karen, one of the Schmitts’ five children. “We said yes! with no hesitation, knowing nothing about it.” The Philo Apple Farm was born.

More at New York Times

Final Letter, and a Last Desperate Move From DDR To Screw Our County

In Dave Smith on November 1, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Final Letter to the Editor UDJ

[Of all the great letters from our community urging our No on A vote, this one from Laurel is outstanding! -DS]


This election about whether we should host a large shopping mall has me thinking about change; the huge changes I’ve seen here in this valley over the last half a century and more. Every so often, a pinnacle decision is made that then sets the tone for the future rollout of dozens and dozens of other changes that then ripple out in the community changing life for generations to come.

And what strikes me as important about the mall vote is that we may have enough hindsight now to know that if we say yes to the mall (even if they don’t build it) life here will be different. We know that instead of simply accepting change with a shrug from the sidelines that we can be actively shaping the very changes that allow for the healthiest, happiest, most bountiful life here. And yes, sometimes that takes patience.

When I do a whirlwind rewind of my life growing up here, I recognize some of the staggering changes I have seen have been great for this small town. However other changes have not always been in alignment with promoting our very best qualities as humans and as a collective community. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

In 1947, my parents bought an 1,800-acre cattle ranch in Potter Valley for $30,000 on Pine Avenue. Only three deeds or so before, the land had been the home of Pomo people for thousands of years. Can we imagine no fences and no pavement anywhere? When I was little, my mother drove us without seat belts to Ukiah on a road that went through where Lake Mendocino is now. There was an outdoor roller skating rink with a huge sound system and on hot summer nights, parents would sit in their cars and watch their kids skate under the stars as they listened to Elvis, The Four Seasons and The Supremes. The Pear Tree Shopping Center was a real field of pears, the drive-in movie was in a field off of Dora Street and I pretty much knew everyone in town. There was an award winning marching band led by Roland Nielson that marched down State Street and a thriving performing arts program at the high school theater directed by Les Johnson who directed fully staged musicals of the times to packed houses.

My parents didn’t have a credit card but then they didn’t buy a lot of stuff. In the fall, we went to McNabs, The Palace Dress Shop or Irene’s, Tots to Teens to buy one new outfit and a coat for school and sometimes we bought a 45 at Hayes Music. Most parents’ quality time with their children in Potter was doing chores, going for walks, swimming in creeks, fishing, shadow tag, 4-H, family meals, square dances at the grange, looking up at the sky full of stars but not shopping. more→

The Devolution of Basketball

In Around Mendo Island, Guest Posts on November 1, 2009 at 1:20 am

Anderson Valley

John Wooden, the legendary coach of the UCLA basketball team just turned ninety-nine. Wooden coached the UCLA team from 1948 to 1975 and won ten National Championships in a span of 12 years, including 7 in a row from 1967 to 1973, a feat so unimaginable today it seems more myth than fact. As a college player, Wooden was a three-time consensus All-American, the first ever, and spent several years playing in the early professional leagues while simultaneously coaching high school teams. During one 46-game stretch as a pro he made 134 consecutive free throws. During World War II, he enlisted in the Navy and rose to the rank of lieutenant. He never made more than $35,000 a year as the UCLA coach, and never asked for a raise.

Wooden said: “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team,” and “What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.”

In an interview with him on the day before his 99th birthday, he was lucid and wry, and made a fervent wish that “they” wouldn’t do anything special for his birthday. “If I make it to a hundred, well, okay.”

Among Wooden’s many famous protégé’s was Lew Alcindor who became Kareem Abdul Jabbar. We often hear superlatives connected to the superstars of today, but none of them single-handedly changed the game of basketball as Alcindor did. Few remember that when Alcindor began his college career at UCLA, freshmen were not permitted to play on varsity teams. Alcindor’s freshman squad played the UCLA varsity squad, the number one-ranked team in America, and beat them 75-60. Alcindor scored 51 points, many of his baskets dunks.

As a result of this overwhelming display of his dominance, and before Alcindor could join the varsity squad as a sophomore, the NCAA banned the dunk in college basketball, a ban that was lifted three years later when Alcindor graduated and turned pro. That’s right. They imposed a national ban to contain one specific player. But even without the dunk, Alcindor was so dominant (and seven-foot two inches tall) that for the first time in the history of basketball, referees allowed defenders to constantly foul another player (Alcindor) to keep him from scoring.  more

Derrick Jensen Calls Out Richard Dawkins et al.

In Around the web on November 1, 2009 at 12:01 am

From CounterPunch

First, if the scientific materialist instrumentalist perspective is right and every other culture is wrong, the universe is a gigantic clockwork – a machine: a very predictable and therefore controllable machine. Power in this case, then, is like meaning in that there is no inherent power in the world (or out of it)—just as no power inheres in a toaster or automobile until you put it to use—and the only power that exists is that which you project onto and over others (or that others project onto and over you). Power exists only in how you use raw materials – the more raw materials you use more effectively than anyone else, the more power to you. And science is a potent tool for that. That’s the point of science.

This means, of course, that might then makes right, or rather, right, too, is like meaning and doesn’t inhere anyway—if nonhumans are not in any real sense beings and are here for us to use (and not here for their own sakes, with lives as meaningful to them as yours is to you or mine is to me) then using (or destroying) them raises no significant moral questions, any more than whether you or I do or don’t use or destroy any other tool—which means right is what you decide it is, or more accurately, it’s irrelevant, right is whatever you want it to be, which means it’s really nothing at all. But this malleable notion of right means that you can fairly easily talk yourself into feeling good about exploiting the shit out of everyone and everything else. If all of this sounds sociopathological, that’s because it is.

Western philosophy and scientific philosophy is sociopathological, it finds logic through the power of command. It makes us all insane. Richard Dawkins wrote, “Science boosts its claim to truth by its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command, and to predict what will happen and when.” Do you see the fundamental flaw in logic here? I’m guessing that if we lived in a culture that wasn’t sociopathological we would all see through this in a heartbeat. Let’s ask a simple question: How does science boost its claim to truth? Here is Dawkins’s (and the culture’s) answer: by making matter and energy jump through hoops on command, and by predicting what will happen and when. Do you see the problem yet?…

The fact that they, too, must pay this price of suffering and death as a cost of participating in the joyous web of experience and relationship that is the ongoing and eternally creative process of living, somehow seems to them an affront. To which I have a two-word response: grow up…

See complete interview here


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