Wednesday, October 30, 2013

EII Climate Questions

Thanks to Jen for transcribing our list of questions from the whiteboard:

Hello Mick,

Here are the list of questions about climate change that were generated today in class.

Initial Questions:
What is climate change? Has it happened before?
Who or what is causing it?
What role does the weather play?
What areas does it affect?
What human/social problems have resulted? How is society changing as a result?
Quantitative detail--evidence and statistics
What wildlife/conservation problems result?

Derived Questions:
Is it too late?
How long do we have left?
Kyoto Treaty?
What are we doing to fix it? And the government?
Any current or past success?
How can we cope?
How are we educating about climate change?
How do we counter denial?
Innovation? What are others (ex. other countries) doing?

Have a good evening,

Monday, October 28, 2013

Light humor

I can't be the only one who finds it funny that the headquarters of the Koch-funded denialist front "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" is located on "Wacker Drive," (in Chicago).

Ahead of the curve

We're often out in front here at The Little College That Could.

Sometimes we're so far ahead, people can't even see us.

This was a nice affirmation.



Relative to my previous post, a large crane has now fallen on the Cabinet Office, Whitehall. The Prime Minister's committee room is in this building.

No-one was hurt, thankfully.

Funny thing is, the best way to remove the wreckage quickly and efficiently might be an RAF helo!

Question is, Mr Cameron, do you get the message?


A British weather tradition is the "equinoctal gale," with winds of hurricane force, sideways rain, and other frightening phenomena, which occurs around the spring and fall equinoxes. I could tell you horrific stories about running search and rescue operations in weather that might occasionally pick you off your feet and deposit you tens of feet away from the start point. Our system was, to train for the worst, and so we regularly found ourselves hiking and navigating in such weather. At times you would literally have to crawl across the ground.

The question might be, is climate change making them worse?

This is as good a starting point as any for our discussion of climate change in EII today.

Meanwhile, have some empathy for the underpaid, understaffed UK emergency services personnel, particularly as the conservative government has cut the number of positions and hours.

In my editorial this year for my ex-servicemans' journal, I railed against the cuts, which will privatize our famed Sea King emergency helicopter squadrons. I suggested, rather sourly, that the best justice might be, if the next extreme weather event were to hit square on the small Oxfordshire town of Chipping Norton, home to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and many of the United Kingdom's new international uber-elite.

Looks like I may have been prophetic, because that's exactly what has happened. The results are not in yet, but I can state that the today's weather report for that spot includes a wind speed "amber" warning, with gusts slated to top out at 45 miles an hour, more than enough to fell trees, knock out power, and prevent vehicle travel.

(To be honest, I was hoping for a slightly stronger message. But give it time. And yes, British towns do seriously have names like Chipping Norton and Scratchy Bottom! It's a long story.)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

More from the Zeitgeist front: Divestment hits the yUKe

Here's news of McKibben's campaign hitting the UK.

One of these days we're going to wake up and realize that we helped lead this, and it that was meaningful and good, and a major milestone in saving the planet from climate change.

(We might then be permitted a slight moment of warm smug. Before moving on to the next 21st century environmental problem.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

The wrong Brand?

This one is for you serious green intellectuals out there, but with far more than just a pinch of irreverent, vitriolic, and incredibly funny bile.

Consumer Health Warning: Read at your own risk, and don't tweet it or repost it on your FaceBook page, especially if your staid, religious grannie is also your FaceBook "Friend!"

British-American comedian and TV personality Russell Brand has taken an almost revolutionary swipe at the neo-liberal-capitalist-political-industrial complex, in an amazing essay for the New Statesman. Brand is famed for his off-color sense of humor, so this is difficult reading for the neo-Puritans (and neo-Jesuits!) among you.

But he manages a fascinating and almost Orwellian commentary on the sad state of our world, and his underlying humanitarianism shines through.

Like I said, it's a hard read, and I don't agree with all of it or even very much of it, particularly where it goes -- the end game, were we to follow his prescription would likely be another century of socio-political strife like the one that just ended. And even if Brand manages to stoke the revolution, I doubt very much that he'd be in the vanguard. He'll retreat to his gated community with the rest of the uber-rich.

But it is a fascinating piece of writing. If nothing else, it captures the Zeitgeist of our age.

PS: The reaction is almost as fascinating. And just in case you thought I was out-of-line encouraging M. Brand, people I think of as serious people, like Nafeez Ahmed, are taking him seriously.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Russia and the west

A truly excellent round-up of the current situation from the Grauniad. Recommended for all you sophomore (but not sophomoric) diplomats and policy wonks. Juniors and seniors too.

By the way, this is directly connected to sustainability issues. Russia is one of two powerful countries that stand in the way of widening democracy worldwide, the other of course being the Peoples Republic of China.

Lack of democracy -- and I include the weak democracy we currently have in the US in this observation -- is the primary barrier to climate policy. (A truly democratic education is also needed, but that's a whole other debate -- for more of my perhaps distressingly grumpy and radical thinking on these questions, see the STaD Annex.)

But basically, it's not much use reducing emissions in the US and EU, if the Russians and Chinese keep pumping them out faster and faster every year, is it?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

EII Reminder: Mulkey Climate Change Lecture Tuesday at 11am!

A reminder that all four sections of EII are required to attend a climate change lecture by Dr. Mulkey next Tuesday October 22nd PW 204, 11-11.45 am.

Pizza will be provided at 11.45 pm, after which you may stay behind to ask questions of Dr. Mulkey

Thursday, October 3, 2013

ESS plenary session, partner panel line-up

IC 3413
Scenarios and Solutions
Wicked Problems


Community Partners

3 October 2013
6:30 PM


General Education
Unity College

with funding from

Maine Campus Compact
at Bates College
Northern New England
Campus Compact


sub grants program

"Although the information in this document has been funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement to Bates College, it may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred."
IC 3413
Scenarios and Solutions
Wicked Problems


Community Partners

5:30 PM  Social hour:
                             panelists, instructors, guests

6:30 PM  Plenary Session

6:35 PM  Wicked Problems
                             Identified by Panelists

6:50 PM  Discussion:  Panelists and Audience
                             Questions, Ideas, Solutions
                             Tentative Project Proposals
                             Other Stakeholders

7:30 PM  Thanks and Summary

7:35 PM  Breakout sessions

Rick Kersbergen, University of Maine Extension Professor working from Maine Cooperative Extension Waldo County office with statewide responsibility for commercial agricultural and home horticulture, sustainable agriculture, and water quality.  Rick’s work helped influence state policy on farm water quality issues including nutrient management in agriculture.  The Kersbergen family are lake shore residents of Burnham.  Rick is also a volunteer lake monitor for Unity Pond and is current president of Friends of Lake Winnecook, the local lake association

Melissa Bastien, activist with Friends of Lake Winnecook, coordinator for the annual Loon Count sponsored by Maine Audubon Society, and local business person.  Melissa resides on the eastern shore of Unity Pond in Unity. 

Jim Perry, Executive Director, Unity Barn Raisers also represents the committee to develop a new comprehensive plan for Town of Unity.  The comprehensive planning process is just beginning and the committee hopes for significant participation by the college community. 

Paul Gregory, Environmental Specialist, Invasive Species Program, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, is a state resource manager responsible for exotic and invasive species.  Paul also brings expertise with aquatic plants, a topic often minimized at Unity College, but potentially of significant importance if planktonic algae might be controlled at Unity Pond and regionally.  Paul is working with the citizen science project Vital Signs to quantify local environments.

Craig King, Fisheries Specialist, Bureau of Sea Run Fisheries, MDMR, is presently working with river herring restoration in the Kennebec River Watershed.  Assignments also include restoration and endangered/threatened species management of sea run Atlantic salmon, striped bass, and sturgeon.  Craig is a Unity alum ( 2004 Fisheries) who worked on the inshore trawl surveys with MDMR, as fisheries observer with AIS, Inc, and at two salmon hatcheries in Alaska before transitioning to MDMR. 

Jonathan Carman, Superintendent, Unity Utilities District, is a Unity resident, and Unity College alumnus (1977, Environmental Science).  Jon also is manager for other municipal wastewater treatment operations in central and coastal Maine.  Campus wastewater is treated by the district at the lagoons west of Prairie Road.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Niall Ferguson on money, for Introduction to Economics

Broken Rainbow, for class (EII)

Mark Lynas says China blew up the Copenhagen deal

If true, it only lends more credence to my view that the west should create a climate-emissions based "free trade zone" and elbow China out of the global economy until it starts to play nice. Against the WTO? Sure. But that can be fixed, if the alternative is to fry the planet.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The 5AR -- for ESS

As opposed to the FAR. (The biggest global acronym problem of 2013, solved! You read it here first, folks.)

Read it and weep.

The Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) is required. The rest is for deep background.