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June 08, 2008

Enormous Changes At The Last Minute

I've suddenly started thinking much more about global warming. And I mean "suddenly" and "much more" in the same sense when I turned twelve I suddenly started thinking much more about girls. One day my thought process was "Doop doop soccer doop homework doop de doop pizza video games doop" and the next it was "[SOUND OF GIANT SCREAMING AIR RAID SIREN]"

The bad news regarding global warming is: impending global cataclysm. The good news, I've come to believe, is that we do have a real chance at mitigating it, and in the process making the world far nicer in many ways. But we absolutely must get started now in a big way.

In any case, I'd appreciate hearing anyone else's thoughts about this; ie, where you get your information, what organizations you belong to, what you're personally doing, etc. I myself endorse Bill Kibben's new group 350. And while I know less about Brighter Planet, they have the McKibben seal of approval, so I'm happy to put up their badge in the sidebar. Check them out—and if you put their badge on your own blugg, they'll offset 350 pounds of carbon on your behalf.

I hope to have more thoughts from the giant screaming air raid siren in my head soon.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 8, 2008 10:55 AM

Global warming makes you horny?

Posted by: Eh? at June 8, 2008 01:27 PM


I would say more, but it's too private.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at June 8, 2008 01:36 PM

I'm looking at a methane well in my front yard, right now. (it stands out like a sore thumb in the middle of an otherwise PRISTINE hay pasture) Up over the hill, wells and pumps (like a giant factory) as far as one can see, it seems, where 10 years ago all looked as much the same as 100 years ago. What YOU really want is clean air and water but still be able to ride the roads (in comfort), to fly, to burn all the electricity YOU want and need to run all the gadgets YOU've bought. Since YOU don't mind PAYING to have a million human beings killed to have the good life, my guess is that cutting back, using less, (I don't mean changing light bulbs) is pretty much out of the question. EVERYBODY is invested into fossil fuel (gas or diesel vehicle, buy electricity, watch tv, don't grow YOUR OWN food) with more people using more fuel everyday. One could always get a horse, burn candles, read books, walk everywhere close by, mini farm. I personally do all of these, have converted to 12 volt dc and use solar chargers, am converting the windmill to produce electricity, but then I don't live downtown and I am only one person out of 6 billion.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 8, 2008 02:00 PM

I'm fond of's pissing matches with skeptics, and gristmill works pretty good for me as a clearing house for activist debates about policy. Personally, the easiest thing I've found to not do is eat cow.

Posted by: buermann at June 8, 2008 02:16 PM

I'm a cynic so I'm hoping this global warming thing destroys us all. And quick too.

Posted by: littlehorn at June 8, 2008 03:12 PM

I go to and for climate change and eco-sustainability-related things. As for what I'm doing... well, not much behaviorally at the moment. Most changes will need to be systemic in nature--the only way to reduce your carbon footprint to "one Earth" in the US is to not eat meat, don't drive, and live with 4 or 5 roommates in a largely unpowered apartment. Well, I exaggerate a bit, but the US's infrastructure is set up to be so CO2 intensive that individual actions, no matter how extreme, may not be able to bring our carbon footprints down. This isn't an excuse for doing nothing though--every little bit helps.

I've just started going back to school and am now enrolled in Arizona State's School of Sustainability. So, I'm devoting my life to sustainable energy and sustainability in general.

Posted by: Bolo at June 8, 2008 03:18 PM

I see you used "mitigated," which shows an understanding of how unlikely it is for CO2 forcing effects to be halted. The IPCC were (as groups of scientists in general are) conservative (not in the political sense) in their extrapolations, especially for the N Hemisphere. There's little doubt in my mind that within the next ten years the Arctic Sea will be ice cap free for the summer no matter what we do now. The albedo reduction will be enormous. The permafrost will have to find a new name. Concomitant methane emissions will have an underappreciated effect in immediate warming.

That said, there are things we can do - seeding the seas with iron filings to produce giant cyanobacteria blooms to convert CO2 to O2 (the way our planet became oxygenated in the first place), Spirulina (a complete protein) farming on fresh water bodies for livestock feed, seeding the upper atmosphere with ozone to produce hydroxyl radicals which break down methane - but I don't see the human race making a serious effort to reduce GG emissions. The entrenched powers have too much at short-sighted risk, not to mention population trends, Third (and Second) World modernization, and the Law of Social Inertia. Witness the ludicrous ethanol-from-foodstuffs (instead of biodiesel from hemp and/or chaff) or nuclear options (not in the political sense) dominating most alternative energy discussions. There's profit for the status quo in them thar paths, not much in the way of BTU-per-CO2-emitted gains, though.

Deep-drilling techniques may eventually allow geothermal to be a panacea; short-term, however, the solutions, such as they are, will vary with locale.

On a personal level, I keep my bicycle tires at 90 psi. Oh, and I second Real Climate as a worthy site.

Posted by: cavjam at June 8, 2008 03:28 PM

Hydrogen as a fuel is being dumped on by disinformation agents of the oil industry and untruths are spread about its expense. Here are some of my thoughts written to other people concerning water as a fuel. Americans, as well as the rest of the world, have to stand up to the profiteering elite of the world using oil to rape our economies and the environment. The Germans, in WWII, used Hydrogen, derived from water, to fuel the V-2 Rocket and their Rocket Propelled Fighter. Both of these weapons used H2O2 and Alcohol as fuel. The U S Air force has used water, as a supplemental fuel in B52 Bombers, C141 Cargo and KC 135 Tankers for over 30 years. The water is injected after the jet fuel combusts and the water is converted to hydrogen and oxygen to boost takeoff thrust. Cheap energy is a fact and water is the fuel. The Scramjet technology uses water vapor as fuel. The atmosphere is compressed and heated until the water vapor becomes hydrogen and oxygen and combusts when the temperature is above the flashpoint of hydrogen providing thrust. An endless energy supply. Zero Point Energy Generators also perform the same process at ground level. I have created inventions that use these principles. My web site is

Posted by: m at June 8, 2008 04:31 PM

Not doing anything until we get a more equitable re-distribution of goodies.

Why would I sacrifice so that my betters can keep their second (or third home), drive in gas guzzlers, jetset around and continue raising the disparity curve. One effect of $5 gas is that it keeps the roads clear for the rich.

Apocalypse -- it's the great equalizer and my (only) friend.

Posted by: Labiche at June 8, 2008 05:42 PM

1.29 volts dc breaks water into hydrogen and oxygen, 1.28 volts dc if the ambient temperature is over 80 degrees F. Peroxide, H2O2, is created with water and a lot of ampereage, must be 70 to 90 % pure for use as an oxidizer and/or fuel (3% for medical use). Highly corrosive, must be stored in PURE aluminum containers or glass, will explode upon contact with nickel or nickel alloys(stainless steel). Highly corrosive, will oxidize anything organic. Breaks down readily into water and oxygen, therefore NON-poluteing.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 8, 2008 07:20 PM

We're growing some of our food on our roofs.

Posted by: Bruce F at June 8, 2008 09:33 PM

Politically, I am trying to adapt to thinking on a state level. I don't think of where I'm living as "home," but I'm trying to change that. Why? The only way to have an impact on climate change is to affect large amounts of the population. Sure, as a personal ethic, you can change your behavior, and, certainly, you can evangelize your code of honor to others, but the majority of our pollutants are the results of business practices and even the most sever alteration of behavior of consumers will NOT prevent the eventual destruction of our normal climate.

So the upshot is we need to change the way our society is run, and to do that we need to change the content (personnel and institutions) of our government. Once I get settled in, I will start attending city council meetings and become more locally involved. I also want to start researching ways for municipalities to save money on green techs: the problem with pollution in our right-wing corrupted society is that it is the result of the socialization of private waste, but the silver lining is that there are plenty of ways to save money by redirecting those costs to the producer of the pollution. So the plan: learn about little ways to help, cooperate with activists to get these innovations effected locally, and elect those who think similarly.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at June 8, 2008 09:48 PM

The ultimate goal is to get my state to be a leader on this stuff. We must write off the federal government, for the most part, but there is hope that progressives can get the states on the job. (Even that will be a mixed success: as soon as states take the lead, the fed will do their damndest to preempt them, literally, with federal regulations -- such as the CA fuel standards thing).

I'm of the same mind on health care: get your state to take the lead.

In fact, I'm beginning to think the same way on federal issues like veteran's benefits. At this point, it's the states job to take care of former soldiers because, frankly, assholes in the Republican party HATE our armed forces. We'll have to do it all ourselves, ladies and gentlemen, and the environment is no exception.

Last point in an overlong post: once we've managed to set standards on emissions, given pure electric cars tax breaks, and so on in the blue states, we'll be pushing entire industries to get onboard, so we'll have a nice ripple effect even in our more politically blighted parts of the nation. State-level politics aren't just a necessity, they're a pretty good idea.

And I'll be taking down the links you all posted and looking into them. Thanks.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at June 8, 2008 09:48 PM

By "taking down" the links I meant recording them. Mistyped.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at June 8, 2008 09:50 PM

me? - buy only 'green' energy; shop locally; absolute minimum driving; always try to use public transport; absolute minimum water and electric use; never fly; will be first for a solar powered car; never eat meat; make love not war; no throw away gadgets; the garden's healthy and ready -

- but for my money we've known what's coming for decades, and i, for one, can't wait for a simpler world - the blue planet is such a beautiful place and is so slow to change it's ways - but this might be a problem for those in a hurry to get back what they may be about to lose . . .

- so fast to kill - so slow to create - so easy to change . . . yourself

Posted by: deon at June 9, 2008 02:18 AM

Peak oil is going to loom larger than even Global Warming is going to.

I'd rather be preparing for that.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at June 9, 2008 04:39 AM

Preparing for peak oil looks a lot like mitigating global warming, so either way.

There's no particular imperative to not burn up every last drop of crude we pump out of the ground if peak oil is the only concern, on the other hand. The global-warming-is-a-librul-hoax folks I know are all rather excited about leveling the rockies flat and processing the oil shale. A trillion barrels, they exclaim, energy independence at last!

And if we could do it in-situ at $50/barrel it wouldn't be a terrible idea, except for this whole sending-the-climate-into-a-death-spiral thing.

I definitely need to get a roof. That looks delicious.

Posted by: buermann at June 9, 2008 10:44 AM


[The comment link isn't showing up under the post "The World's Most Delicious Roof", so I'll leave it here.]

Thanks for mentioning our little project on your site.

It's tough to find something that individuals can do in response to these massive problems. We think making and then using these containers to grow food gets people involved in a meaningful way. Where do they go from there? Who knows.

I'd like to add that you don't have to do it on your roof. Any place that gets enough sun and can support the weight of a person will do.

The basic design of the containers allows non-gardeners, like myself, to get good results. The official product claims "more than double the yield of a conventional garden using less fertilizer, less water, and virtually no effort". It might be easier to do if you don't have a lot of "real" gardening experience, since a lot of it's counterintuitive for long time gardeners.

Thanks again for the post.

Posted by: Bruce F at June 9, 2008 10:51 AM

I agree with putting gardens atop all the tall, flat-roofed buildings.

At the same time, i think we should apply a coat of white "paint"--mebbe some kind of insulating material--to every PITCHED roof in the country, and on every parking lot, every street, and any other otherwise unused horizontal surface of human manufacture to reflect light/heat and surrogate for the disappearing ice on the poles.

i also think the State (state/fed, machts nichts) should underwrite the process of installing some kind of photo-thermal or photo-voltaic collector on all that roof-space, too. Making individuals CONTRIBUTORS to the community energy pool, and not just consumers, will i think be crucial to any even remotely successful efforts to garner BEEG public support for the cxhanges that are coming. It is NOT inappropriate that the "state" should underwrite much of this expense, since it is no less than the commonweal which is at stake...

in any kind of disinterested calculus (the inter-planetary ethnologist, e.g.), humanity does not have the right to exterminate any and all but its domesticated animals in the exploitation of the planet's energy resources, but that is almost certain to happen unless there are specific infrastructural prohibitions against it. so the preservation of bio-diversity must be non-negotiable, for either moral or practical reasons, whichEVER is most persuasive.

Posted by: woody, tokin librul at June 9, 2008 11:09 AM
in any kind of disinterested calculus (the inter-planetary ethnologist, e.g.), humanity does not have the right to exterminate any and all but its domesticated animals in the exploitation of the planet's energy resources, but that is almost certain to happen unless there are specific infrastructural prohibitions against it. so the preservation of bio-diversity must be non-negotiable, for either moral or practical reasons, whichEVER is most persuasive.

All you flower children are harshing my buzz.

Every time we get close to cataclysm -- political, environmental -- you all get busy preventing it, and preventing real change along the way.

I like woody's paragraph above, but there's a real conflict between economic, scientific and human rights that people tend to gloss over.

My belief: we need some sort of universal (global) conference on re-defining human rights and freedom from molestation by political and economic forces resulting in a redefinition of nationalism/border politics. Cataclysmic events would necessitate this and focus attention, where small incremental changes obviate the need.

Posted by: Labiche at June 9, 2008 11:26 AM

Living differently on a personal level seems to be an essential first step. It is a daily inspiration that change is possible, and a better way of living can be beautiful and fun.
What we do personally makes us strong-- strong enough to be a collective force that must be reckoned with in the politcal/economic realm. Collectively, our remaining power (absent a meaningful democracy) may be our ability to "starve the beast" by not feeding it. Carefully targeted boycotts may be the leverage we can use to affect the changes that can make a difference globally. is a great idea. Can we use our collective strength now to bring it off?

Posted by: susan m at June 9, 2008 01:09 PM

Bruce F. Beautiful garden, Great idea.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 9, 2008 02:13 PM

Because the subject paralyzes me with anxiety, I've avoided it. So while I've accepted for many years the big picture that rising carbon concentrations will lead to terrible, unthinkable consequences, I'm at a very basic/stupid beginner level in my grasp of the details.

As a result, when I visited the site, one of my first questions was, "What's the atmospheric concentration now?"

It was surprising to find no help at the site; not only no answer, but no pointers to anywere else.

From the relentless and somewhat desperate cheeriness of the site it seemed likely that we must be beyond 350 now, so that the problem is reducing atmospheric carbon rather than slowing the increase to avoid going beyond 350 ppm.

Wikipedia has a figure of 374 ppm as of November 2007. That makes me think we're hopelessly fvcked. To the extent that I retain hope we're not, it makes me one hell of a lot less interested in creative ways to increase awareness of "350" than in ways to get there.

Perhaps you're beginning to get a sense of why I've shut down on this in the past.

Posted by: Nell at June 10, 2008 02:30 AM

A couple of years ago when my car expired (not the registration, but the car), I decided against replacing it. My wife is the commuter in the family, but since I work from home, I couldn't justify the expense.

I didn't forego a 2nd vehicle solely for environmental reasons, but if peak oil and global warming hadn't been on the radar, I'm certain I would have repaired my car or purchased a new one.

Although I'm in a semi-rural area, 95% of the trips I took were unnecessary. We're mindful about combining errands, and on the rare occasion I have an appointment during the week, I will take my wife to and from work, something I do maybe once every three or four months. Our annual fuel consumption is probably down by 35%. The reduction in monthly car payments, maintenance and insurance expenses has been considerable.

It wasn't easy convincing Mrs. Hill a second vehicle was a waste of money, but she begrudgingly came around. As is often the case in matters of disagreement with a spouse, attrition pays.

Posted by: Arvin Hill at June 10, 2008 03:03 AM

Nell: I do this stuff because it saves me money, its INTERESTING and fun to do. I enjoy designing and building my oun systems, LOVE gardening, and it seems to relieve what little stress I have in my life. SAVE THE WORLD--- really never crosses my mind except in conversations such as these. (the horses are just my family and friends)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 10, 2008 10:00 AM

Nell, I DO understand feeling paralyzed with anxiety. We have had to take in and think about the most horrendous events and issues these last ten years-- and now this issue looms over all. I urge you to look up Bill McKibben's article "Civilization's Last Chance", easily Googled. It should be on the site, and I don't know why it's not. Read it and take heart that there are many wonderful folks (some who have commented here) that are moving toward big changes personally and collectively-- and these changes are healthy for us and for the world. We're not "fvcked". Not yet.

Posted by: susan m at June 10, 2008 12:41 PM

Oh, I can get deeply into the gardening part. I'm a veteran of the first wave of eco-enthusiasm in the 1970s, in addition to having been raised by gardeners.

I was a pretty accomplished urban gardener in the 1980s and early 1990s, especially considering how often I moved in those years. Scrounging 5-gallon buckets and cabinet-shop sawdust for hot composting, intensive raised beds... good times.

The most satisfying part of that era was inspiring and advising a number of Central America solidarity friends, passing on the things I'd learned from Iowa labor organizers and Democrats years before. Growing good food and beautiful plants is wonderfully recharging for activists on the edge of burnout.

It's the part where I think about the bigger, structural, non-personal changes that my mind melts down. If I thought rooftop gardens and millions of personal changes would do the trick, I'd be greatly reassured.

They're essential, don't get me wrong, and they're as essential for their recharging and grounding and sanity-maintaining virtues as for their positive role in reducing carbon load and fossil fuel use.

Posted by: Nell at June 10, 2008 12:53 PM

@Bruce F:

Some questions about your rooftop setup. The tubing and netting: trellises for the plants to grow up (beans, squash, etc.), or critter-proofing? I'm guessing the former.

Are the triangular frames a way to spread out the weight of the containers, keep them off the roof surface for drainage, or...?

It's appealing and impressive.

Posted by: Nell at June 10, 2008 01:16 PM

Thanks for the compliment.

The answer is some version of "all of the above".

What I came up with works, but it's functional, not so good to look at. Since plants aren't growing in it for half the year, I wish I'd given a little more thought to that.

I needed to solve a few problems.

How to use the weight of the tubs to anchor a trellis system without making holes, and potential leaks, in the roof. How to spread the relatively concentrated weight of a fully watered tub (roughly 80 lbs) over a large enough area so it wouldn't make indentations in the roofing membrane. How to keep water from collecting/ the roof to drain properly. How to weatherproof it and make it able to withstand the occasional 60 mph wind that we get every summer. How to do all this using inexpensive, commonly available materials.

Yes, the netting is for growing beans, tomatoes, squash, cukes, vines,.... and made of nylon so it should last a little while. You can buy it at Home Depot or Park Seed Company.

There's a picture from the Flickr page that touches on this.

Posted by: Bruce F at June 10, 2008 01:54 PM


I forgot to add that another problem was the tubs bulge when full of soil and water. The short horizontal pieces of electrical pipe, seen in the photo I linked to in my most recent comment, that are part of each "cradle" keep that from happening.

Thanks for the questions. Are you thinking of doing something similar?

I'd encourage it. I can't make any scientific claims about it actually lowering my carbon emissions, or how "useful" my actions are, but doing this has lessened my anxiety a tiny bit.

Posted by: Bruce F at June 10, 2008 02:05 PM

If you're on a runaway train to disaster, i suppose you could do all kinds of things to distract yourself during the "doomsday" ride-- but why not join the rowdy folks in the back car who are looking for a way to slam on the brakes?
If optimism is a prereequisite for action, only a few starry-eyed souls would be out doing anything. A cool appraisal of the facts doesn't support any likelihood of the kind of success we would wish for, at least by the means we usually try. So why do I say we are not fvcked? Because we are humans, with all our badness, madness, and **ability to change with our conditions**, Who knows what is possible? The question I ask myself is, "why not try?"

Posted by: susan m at June 10, 2008 02:37 PM

The global-warming-is-a-librul-hoax folks I know are all rather excited about leveling the rockies flat and processing the oil shale. A trillion barrels, they exclaim, energy independence at last!

And if we could do it in-situ at $50/barrel it wouldn't be a terrible idea, except for this whole sending-the-climate-into-a-death-spiral thing.

- buermann

This shows some great thinking on their part. Oil shale extraction requires a lot of water. Water is scarce in the Rockies. And it's not so much a matter of oil price competition but energy returned on energy expended; Last I looked, it was either an energy sink or up to maybe 3x's; not sensible in any case. Plus, a ton of shale yields ~ 40 gallons of oil; that's a lot of picture postcard, heart-stopping beauty destroyed to propel two tons of ugly Detroit steel to buy some Chinese goods at the mall.

Then there's the "whole sending-the-climate-into-a-death-spiral thing," which is a tad troubling.

Posted by: cavjam at June 11, 2008 12:23 AM

If you're up for reading some science, the IPCC report itself is perfect, and reasonably accessible even to non-specialists (such as myself): . As for blogs, like others here I am a fan of, and also of Tim Lambert's blog Deltoid.

You're a bit of a late bloomer, aren't you?

Posted by: saurabh at June 11, 2008 02:12 PM

I'm not sure at what price oil shale becomes economically viable. Wikipedia has a nice article on the subject, here:
wherein it is claimed that the price point is around $95/bbl. We're well past that now, but first, I'm not sure how feasible such extraction would be on a large scale - tar sands, for example, which Canada has a fuckload of, require enough other inputs (water, natural gas) to make them viable that they really aren't practical as a total replacement for our conventional oil supply. I imagine shale oil is even worse in this regard. Second, I'm not sure our economy can actually sustain itself at $95+/bbl indefinitely. At some point we need to get back to a cheap energy source. And/or reduce our energy dependence.

But, going back to global warming - cavjam, do you really want to create huge cyanobacteria blooms in the ocean? Haven't we done enough stupid shit to the environment for one century, without deliberately introducing destructive elements into the oceans?

Posted by: saurabh at June 11, 2008 02:21 PM

I hope you will come to share my passion in getting the word out on the wonderful solutions provided by Terra Preta soil technology (TP, aka Biochar).

If pre-Columbian Kayopo Indians could produce these soils up to 6 feet deep over 15% of the Amazon basin using "Slash & CHAR" verses "Slash & Burn", it seems that our energy and agricultural industries could also product them at scale.

Harnessing the work of this vast number of microbes and fungi changes the whole equation of energy return over energy input (EROEI) for food and Bio fuels. I see this as the only sustainable agricultural strategy if we no longer have cheap fossil fuels for fertilizer.

We need this super community of wee beasties to work in concert with us by populating them into their proper Soil horizon Carbon Condos.

This technology represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.Terra Preta Soils a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels via Pyrolysis of Biomass........., Massive Carbon sequestration via Biochar to soils (1/3 ton C per 1 ton Biomass)..............., 10X Lower CH4 & N2O soil emissions.............., and 3X Fertility Too.


the current news and links on Terra Preta (TP) soils and closed-loop pyrolysis of Biomass, this integrated virtuous cycle could sequester 100s of Billions of tons of carbon to the soils.

UN Climate Change Conference: Biochar present at the Bali Conference

SCIAM Article May 15 07;

S.1884 – The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007

A Summary of Biochar Provisions in S.1884:

Carbon-Negative Biomass Energy and Soil Quality Initiative

for the 2007 Farm Bill

Bolstering Biomass and Biochar development: In the 2007 Farm Bill, Senator Salazar was able to include $500 million for biomass research and development and for competitive grants to develop the technologies and processes necessary for the commercial production of biofuels and bio-based products. Biomass is an organic material, usually referring to plant matter or animal waste. Using biomass for energy can reduce waste and air pollution. Biochar is a byproduct of producing energy from biomass. As a soil treatment, it enhances the ability of soil to capture and retain carbon dioxide.

( Update; In conference the $500 M was cut to $3M....:( :( :( )

There are 24 billion tons of carbon controlled by man in his agriculture and waste stream, all that farm & cellulose waste which is now dumped to rot or digested or combusted and ultimately returned to the atmosphere as GHG should be returned to the Soil.

If you have any other questions please feel free to call me or visit the TP web site I've been drafted to co-administer.

It has been immensely gratifying to see all the major players join the mail list , Cornell folks, T. Beer of Kings Ford Charcoal (Clorox), Novozyne the M-Roots guys(fungus), chemical engineers, Dr. Danny Day of EPRIDA , Dr. Antal of U. of H., Virginia Tech folks and probably many others who's back round I don't know have joined.

The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) conference held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007. The papers from this conference are posted at their home page;

Posted by: Erich J. Knight at June 12, 2008 12:40 AM