3-2-1 For 11-20-16

Three readings worth your time this week.

National Geographic says our national parks are changing, due to a warming climate and other factors, and looks at how our management of those wilderness areas must also change. As you might expect from Nat Geo, the photographs that accompany the article are wonderful. (17:00)

If you want to learn something about virtual reality, The Guardian offers their complete guide to the topic. It’s a pretty good overview of the current platforms, with a short list of currently available software for each (mostly games, of course). But don’t count on this article being accurate for very long since the field is moving fast. (20:00)

Way too much has been written about the election results and I’ve been avoiding as much of it as possible. However, this intelligent essay by Baratunde Thurston is worth your time. Empathy is indeed a two-way process. (12:00)

Two videos to watch when you have a few minutes.

In a small Virginia town, about 90 minutes from here, the Library of Congress is using a Cold War-era nuclear shelter to protect and restore the world’s film history. Even the crappy stuff. This short video checks in with the man responsible for dealing with the very oldest stuff, films printed on fragile and very combustible nitrate. (3:09)

When times are tough, people sing the blues. And who better to sing the blues than a white British actor. Seriously though, Hugh Laurie does an excellent job, on piano as well as singing, with the New Orleans classic St. James Infirmary. The late, great Allen Toussaint leading a band of outstanding jazz musicians completes a near perfect package. (7:00)

One audio track for your commute.

Who do you trust and does it make a difference? In a recent episode of Freakonomics, they look at the concept of societal trust and ask what can be done to reverse the decidedly downward trend in the US and UK. Did you know that “societies where people trust one another are healthier and wealthier”? (27:42)

The Rising Tide

Politicians in the US have set up the topic of global climate change as a “fair and balanced” debate between two well-supported sides, with a willing assist from news media that love a good fight.

It’s nothing of the sort. You can quibble with the details but there’s just too much credible research piled up leading to the conclusion that the waste products of modern human society are changing the world’s atmosphere, and not for the better.

Rather than jumping into the findings from the 90 something percent of scientists who understand this issue, the writer of a long, and very scary, story in New Yorker Magazine starts with the very personal story from an area of the country that will be heavily impacted by the rising tide: Miami-Dade County, Florida. For them, flooding from rising seas is a matter of when, not if.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century. The United States Army Corps of Engineers projects that they could rise by as much as five feet; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to six and a half feet. According to Wanless [Hal Wanless, the chairman of the University of Miami’s geological-sciences department], all these projections are probably low. In his office, Wanless keeps a jar of meltwater he collected from the Greenland ice sheet. He likes to point out that there is plenty more where that came from.

“Many geologists, we’re looking at the possibility of a ten-to-thirty-foot range by the end of the century,” he told me.

In the Miami area “the average elevation is just six feet above sea level”. There are other cities along the American coasts in similar circumstances, not to mention a large part of the rest of the earth.

Many of the world’s largest cities sit along a coast, and all of them are, to one degree or another, threatened by rising seas. Entire countries are endangered–the Maldives, for instance, and the Marshall Islands. Globally, it’s estimated that a hundred million people live within three feet of mean high tide and another hundred million or so live within six feet of it. Hundreds of millions more live in areas likely to be affected by increasingly destructive storm surges.

Unfortunately, too many people in South Florida, and I suspect elsewhere, are counting on the rapid development of new technologies to protect coastal areas, or even reverse the impact of climate change.

“I think people are underestimating the incredible innovative imagination in the world of adaptive design,” Harvey Ruvin, the Clerk of the Courts of Miami-Dade County and the chairman of the county’s Sea Level Rise Task Force, said when I went to visit him in his office.

I’m not sure faith in an “incredible innovative imagination in the world of adaptive design” is going to be enough. Imagination will probably not spare the people of Miami and elsewhere from our incredibly short-sighted “leaders” who are more interested in the next election or next quarter’s profits.

Anyway, there is much more to this very complex issue, more than can be addressed even in a long article. But this one is a good overview and well worth your time. Maybe even send it to one of those politicians who still believe there are two sides to this issue.

Hot, Flat and Crowded

That’s the title of Thomas Friedman’s new book, coming in September, and I listened to a sample of the audio version this morning.

As you might be able to tell from the title, he’s building on the world-is-flat franchise, but this particular chapter deals with why we need to deal seriously with climate change.

As opposed to whatever it is we’re doing now.

You’ll pardon me if I’ve become a little cynical about all this. I have read or heard so many people say “we’re having a green revolution”.

Of course, there is certainly a lot of green buzz out there.

But whenever I hear that “we’re having a green revolution” line, I can’t resist firing back “Really? Really? A green revolution? Have you ever seen a revolution where no one got hurt”. That’s the green revolution we’re having.

In the green revolution we’re having everyone’s a winner. Nobody has to give up anything. The adjective that most often modifies “green revolution” is easy.

That’s not a revolution. That’s a party.

Although Friedman does layer it on a little thick at times (same as in Flat), he does make some very good, and very blunt, points.

You can download the chapter free until August 11th and it’s probably worth 45 minutes of your time.

I can’t be sure about the book as a whole, however, since I think the whole flat world meme itself has been beaten flat.