Thursday, January 24, 2013

2012: The Year of Extreme Weather


The weather reports are in. 2012 was the hottest and the most extreme year on record in many places.
While parts of China are enduring the harshest winter in 30 years, the Antarctic is warming at an alarming rate. In Australia, out-of-control bushfires are partially the result of record-breaking weather (new colors were added to weather forecast maps, to account for the new kind of heat). In the United States, where Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New Jersey and New York and where extreme drought still lingers in the Midwest, the average temperature in 2012 was more than a whole degree Fahrenheit (or 5/9 of a degree Celsius) higher than average – shattering the record.

On Friday a long-term weather forecast for the United States was released, when the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee published a draft of the third Climate Assessment Report. Like last year’s weather, the assessment does not pull its punches.
“Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water, and threats to mental health,” write the authors as part of their key findings.
Experts from 13 federal agencies, including NASA, the State Department and the Department of Defense put together the report under the auspices of the United States Global Change Research Program.

While some predictions have been adjusted upward from previous reports, the difference in tone in this newest assessment is striking. The second assessment, published in 2009, predicted thresholds that will be crossed, while the 2013 draft presents a reality in which some of the changes are already irreversible. Read More

Spiritual Prayer for Healing

By Krishna Gupta

[Excerpt] "There are quite a few healers in this world, but we learned that Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ were the greatest and selfless healers, Based on their teachings I have written a consolidated prayer which may be useful under many circumstances and incidents. It is advisable that recitation of prayer should be performed collectively by the devotees; the place should be calm and quite in order to concentrate on the individual to be healed." Read More

Oh; Almighty God, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotent, Infinite creator of the universe, the protector, the basis of all life, merciful, pervasive, present in the whole universe, is the flow of the rivers, giving fragrance to all, smiling in the moon, sun, stars, and also the sweet voice of the chirping birds.
We ask that you send us the healing love of cosmic rays from the highest vibration entering through our soul stars and further entering our Crown Chakra flowing perfectly through our bodies.
As these vibrations flow perfectly through our bodies, grounds us through the crystalline core of the mother earth. Take away all of our negativity and replace it with nothing less than the perfect and holiest white light.
We ask that the holy light flow perfectly through our bodies; and flow abundantly down our arms, out our Palm Chakra, and out to each finger tip.
Our words and actions may be a witness that you are living in us. To the one that is lonely, may we be a friend. To those with heavy burdens, help us to meet their needs. Guide us and heal us so that we can be a greater service to others. Our mind body and soul is all yours, you are the only one who can cross the river of our life and show us the right path.
We want to be in my purest form and will forget our pride and identity in your devotion. You are the ultimate and we belong to you. We are as much yours as you are ours. You are source of energy and we can always feel your mercy.
Please enlighten our heart, shower us with supreme joy and protect us from all the ill feelings. We know we do not have much to offer, but with your grace, we will give you all.
Oh God, we pray with our folded hands, please accept our prayers, let our deeds be pure, and let our ears always hear your hymns. Please do not keep us away from your mercy, let your blessings and sacred name be on our tongues, and be with us in sorrow, happiness at all the time. Enlighten our path from darkness to light, mortality to immortality. Let the whole world be happy and free of illness, sorrow and sadness.
Take from our heart all guile and worldliness, jealousy, greediness, angriness, and selfish motto. Please give skill to our hands, clear vision to our mind, kindness and sympathy to our hearts, grant us wisdom, show us the path of righteousness and show us to perform true and noble deeds.
Oh Lord, You are a great healer, and we bow our head before you with our clear and pure heart. Blessed and cure at least part of the burden of our suffering fellow men, women, children and families.
Thank you, Almighty God and Angels for listen to our humble prayer.

New ice core data from Greenland offers chilling clues about the direction of Earth’s climate

‘Our kids and grandkids are definitely going to look back and shake their heads at the inaction of this country’s generation’

By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Last summer’s unusual melting at the surface of Greenland’s ice cap has a historic precedent, but you have to go back more than 100,000 years, to an extremely warm interglacial period of Earth’s history, to find it, according to an international science team’s analysis of ice core samples spanning millennia of climate history.
The new study, published this week in Nature, offers clues about where the planet is headed in terms of increasing greenhouse gases and rising temperatures, according to CU-Boulder ice core expert Jim White — another researcher whose detailed knowledge of climate science has led him to advocate for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
“Unfortunately, we have reached a point where there is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it’s going to be difficult for us to further limit our impact on the planet,” White said. “Our kids and grandkids are definitely going to look back and shake their heads at the inaction of this country’s generation. We are burning the lion’s share of oil and natural gas to benefit our lifestyle, and punting the responsibility for it.”
Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from sources like vehicle exhaust and industrial pollution — which have risen from about 280 parts per million at the onset of the Industrial Revolution to 391 parts per million today — are helping to raise temperatures on Earth, with no end in sight, said White. Read More

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild - Official Trailer HD (2012)

The beautiful and mesmerizing Beasts of the Southern Wild is the best reviewed film of the year so far, with 20 scores of 100 on Metacritic. The film first made its mark at the Sundance Film Fest very early in the year, then continued on to the Cannes Film Fest where the film won the Fipresci Prize, the Golden Camera Award, the Prix Regards Jeune and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury’s special mention. It is unlike any film that will be released this year, and can’t really be categorized or filed in any particular category – it is wholly original.
The film is about the spirit of New Orleans and how it was damaged/diminished during and after Katrina. Maybe no one will ever say that’s what it’s literally about, maybe it can dwell quite easily in metaphor but the comparisons are hard to deny. What happened after Katrina was that suddenly New Orleans became a tragedy – the poor were exposed, vulnerable, abandoned – then rescued, then pitied, then put in a position of having to rebuild that which never wanted to be destroyed. In this little girl, the spirit lives. In this little girl, the spirit is handed down by the older generations. Read More

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Earth Changes and Golden Cities: Lori Toye on Coast to Coast

5 thriving, sustainable communities

"These modern neighborhoods rely on the age-old principle of cooperation for food, shelter, culture and social change."

By Shea Gunther

Ecovillages are communities of people drawn together by the common goal of living more sustainably. Their commitment and practices vary from ecovillage to ecovillage but all share the bond of not being satisfied with the status quo. Ecovillagers seek to live in harmony with the environment and develop their land with an eye on protecting vital natural systems and on fostering good relations with neighbors, both of the human and animal variety. They farm and garden, pool their buying power to save money, and may share other community resources like cars and tools. Does every house on the block really need to have its own lawn mower?
The modern-day ecovillage has its roots in the communes that first popped up in the '60s and '70s. As the environmental movement was born and matured, more eco-centered communities started forming. In 1991, sustainability experts Robert and Diane Gilman wrote "Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities," a study on ecovillages undertaken on behalf of Gaia Trust that helped lead to the formation, four years later, of the first ecovillage conference that took place in Findhorn, Scotland. That event led to the founding of the Global Ecovillage Network and to countless ecovillages all around the world.
We scoured the web in search of five American ecovillages that have taken root and thrived. Whether you're reading because you're just curious about ecovillages or are looking for a new place to call your eco-home, these five make for a good read. Read More

"When Alligators Roamed the Arctic" --Big Global Change 34-Million Years Ago Shows Shift from Greenhouse Age to Ice Age

The image above shows how North America appeared in the Eocene Epoch,33.9 - 55.8 million years ago. Earth's climate was warm relative to today. Polar ice sheets were smaller and sea level was higher. The climate in Nebraska was warm and humid, but began to cool and become more arid toward the end of the epoch Eocene. To the west, the Rocky Mountains continued to form. Sediment shed from the uplifting mountains was carried eastward by river systems and deposited in Nebraska.

The dominant factors in the rise and fall of the diversity of life on Earth has been a point of debate for scientists nearly as long as they have studied the processes of evolution. In the 1970s, evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen began calling the case for biological factors (such as competition with other organisms for food, space and mates) the "Red Queen" hypothesis, after Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass" character who tells Alice she must run hard in Wonderland just to stay in the same place. The alternative argument, backing the nonbiological forces of the environment (physical characteristics like chemistry and temperature or relative catastrophes like asteroid impacts), came to be known as the "Court Jester" hypothesis.
"This question—which one is pulling the strings?—is a big one for people who study the history of life on Earth," says Shanan Peters, a University of Wisconsin–Madison geoscience professor. "And what we've found is that it's actually both. They just play very different roles."
Peters and Clay Kelly, a fellow UW–Madison geoscience professor, chose to pit the Red Queen and Court Jester against each other on the high seas, over planktonic foraminifera: tiny, shelled, ocean-dwelling creatures with an outsized impact on the planet and science. Read More

Monday, January 7, 2013

Scientists’ Dreams for 2013: Fix Science TV, Make Climate Change Sink In, and More

Last week, as 2013 dawned, Future Tense asked members of the scientific community: What would you like to see change in—or for—science in the coming year?

“My most ardent wish,” ornithologist/ecologist Gordon H. Orians replied, is “acceptance that Earth’s climate is really changing, that we are the primary cause of those changes, and that those changes, which are already serious, are certain to impose major challenges for human life. Widespread denial impedes progress in designing and implementing appropriate policies and regulations.”

Renowned geologist and author Richard Alley has been testifying before Congress about climate change since 2003, and he thinks mainstream media are the problem. “It would be nice to see more members of the press––not just the best of you but most or all of you––explain more clearly the difference between what one scientist may say on a contentious topic, and what the National Academy of Sciences, or the other authoritative assessment bodies, say about that topic.”
Former Nature editor Chris Gunter thinks scientists are the ones who have to adapt. She proposes including “a new section at the end of traditional scientific papers, titled ‘outreach resources.' ” She adds, “If we can't explain our work to non-specialists and non-scientists, then we will never be able to effectively compete for funds, especially in times of turmoil, like now.”
William Conrad, a pharmacology Ph.D. candidate at Seattle’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is also focused on publishing. “First,” he says, “make articles freely available within one year of publication; second, make peer review more transparent.”
We also need to recalibrate the balance between science and entertainment. “I want science to be re-injected into science television,” said paleontology journalist and author Brian Switek; “We're in a sorry state when [the network formerly known as] The Learning Channel's main claim to fame is a tiny prima donna hopped up on Mountain Dew, and Animal Planet is able to trick viewers into believing that there's a government conspiracy to hide Mermaids.” Read More

Asteroids: The news offers a “new Thing to Be Feared for 2013”

By Steven T. Corneliussen
When it comes to threats of natural disaster, where's the line between sensationalism and good sense? Maybe the decision involves presenters' credibility.
This media report engages asteroid-impact news, but consider something recent about volcano news from the New York Times's Neil Genzlinger:
Well, that didn't take long. Two days into the new year, having barely had time to celebrate that we survived 2012 despite the apocalyptic predictions, we are being introduced to the new Thing to Be Feared for 2013: Iceland. And not by some crackpot reality show; by PBS.... In consecutive hours on Wednesday night, an installment of Nova and then the premiere episode of a six-part series called Life on Fire make clear that Iceland is a seething caldron on the verge of going kablooey, and that Icelanders aren't the only people who should be worried.
"Not by some crackpot"? Much the same can be said about the Washington Post's "Still watching for the end of the world" (the paper-version headline), a review of the book Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us. The reviewer is Marcia Bartusiak, executive director of the MIT graduate program in science writing and two-time winner of the Science Writing Award given by the American Institute of Physics (publisher of Physics Today). The book's author is Donald K. Yeomans, manager of NASA's near-Earth object program office.
Bartusiak begins by announcing that it's "just the book to sober you up—and quick." She reports some pretty sensational stuff. For example, she quotes Yeomans's judgment that an object with a diameter of a mile or more has "the capacity to wipe out an entire civilization in a single blow," then continues:
There are about 1,000 objects of that size out there, though no huge one is threatening us at the moment.... Yet despite the low probability of a devastating hit this century, Yeomans notes, such an event would be of high consequence. There was that little matter of the dinosaurs being exterminated some 65 million years ago in the aftermath of a catastrophic impact.
Later she characterizes "the devastating potential of near-Earth objects" as "worldwide firestorms, a blackened atmosphere that cuts us off from sunlight (stopping photosynthesis for our food), acid rain and possibly herculean tsunamis."
Such is the mix of the sober and the inescapably sensational from both a distinguished science writer and a NASA expert. What does this say about the Wall Street Journal's recent treatment of the asteroid-impact question? Read More

Ice Swirls off the Coast of Greenland…For Now

NASA's Aqua satellite view of ice swirling off the coast of Greenland.
Global warming is real. Temperatures are changing, climate is changing, and most importantly, arctic ice is changing, melting. It is absolutely critical we understand this process better so that we can better understand the implications, and some of the most formidable tools in our possession are Earth-observing satellites. Their keen and unblinking eyes watch the planet below, recording a host of characteristics so that we may record their changes.

NASA’s Aqua satellite is one in this fleet, mapping out the entire surface of the Earth—and in particular the water covering our world—every day or two. On December 30, 2012, it took this incredible picture of the southeast coast of Greenland in the late afternoon:

Right now, in the depth of winter, the ice over Greenland and the Arctic is growing. But come March, when temperatures warm, that ice will start to melt. Over the past few years the melting has been larger nearly every year, with the extent (area covered) and volume (total amount) of the ice decreasing rapidly. In late summer 2007 the historical record for lowest sea ice extent was broken, and then in 2011 that record was shattered again. Last year, Greenland experienced a melting season unlike anything that has been seen in a long time; there were unusual conditions that led to this event, such as a large heat wave, but the overall trend is clearly not good. And the reason is very, very clear; global warming, caused by human activity. Read More

May Winter Solstice mark a shift in consciousness, a change in worldview

Winter solstice is the longest night and shortest day of the year. A time of ending and new beginnings as now the days will slowly begin to lengthen again. For Pagans, Solstice is symbolically the night when the Sun Child is reborn out of the womb of Mother Night. For the Mayans, this year marks the end of a 30,000-year calendar cycle. For pop culture, somehow this has become the end of the world.
We might laugh at that idea, but then something stops us. This year, we’ve seen the skyline of New York grow dark. We’ve suffered record droughts, floods, enormous storms: all the predictions of the climate change scientists coming true. Deep inside we sense that we are, indeed, approaching some kind of end: the end of our current way of life, fueled by cheap oil and the illusion that we can endlessly and thoughtlessly exploit the living systems of the earth without dreadful consequences.
We desperately need to make an end of our destructive practices, lest we leave our children a world that is at best impoverished and at worst, uninhabitable. And yet we often seem paralyzed, knowing what we need to do and unable to marshal the will to do so. Maybe the Mayans can help? Read More