Monday, March 23, 2015

Stephen King on "persiflage" of the rich

This rant must partly have come about as a result of his recent tweet-spat with our lovely governor. Most interesting. (Note: Contains bad words, children. Read at your own risk.)

Come to think of it, while undoubtedly accurate, and even funny, his most notable phrase, "b*llsh@t persiflage," is somewhat redundant. But who am I to complain? Just goes to show that the English language doesn't have to be formal to be powerful.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Solar Eclipse to test Euro Grid. Or Not?

Solar Eclipse 20.3.2015 on COSMO-7 Domain from Oliver Fuhrer on Vimeo.

"In the UK, more than half of the solar generation could be lost. But this will be largely offset by the drop in demand caused by people stopping what they are doing for a few minutes to wonder at the astronomical event. If it is cloudy, as currently forecast, then demand will increase but the drop in power, and thus the effect on the grid, will be negligible." (Karl Mathieson, The Guardian, today.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lambing live

Some slight difficulties ensued yesterday when lambing season began here on the farm. We normally "schedule" our lambs for the college's Spring Break, by allowing the ram access for "tupping" exactly five months before. Unfortunately, the first two ewes to give birth hadn't read the calendar, and as a result my teaching was almost interrupted.

The first two, to older ewe Quinn, came before class. Actually, we don't know when they were born, but they were waiting for me at feeding time this morning. That gave me just enough time to sort them into a lambing pen and provide the mothers a separate feed and hay and water facility before my 8am class.

The second two, to first-time mom Tia, came during faculty meeting time. Aimee was home with Roo, and tried to manage while also holding the baby, but needed help and emailed me. Luckily there wasn't any item I particularly wanted to vote on or debate, so I raced home. These two lambs were cold and slow and wet and needed to be placed on the mother's teat and helped to begin feeding, not something you should attempt while holding a six month old since it requires wrestling the mother to the ground.I was able to get it all sorted in time for my 12.30 pm Physics lab.

It's now nearly midnight, and while I've had a few hours sleep, I'm also up again, first to cut off a couple of lambs' tails, their mother having bitten them both to the point of bleeding. This is something sheep mothers sometimes do. We use elastrator bands to stop the bleeding. All that accomplished, I managed to sneeze on my way back to bed and wake our own baby, so now I'm working on getting her back asleep.

Such is the life on the farm, but at least there's new life, both human and sheepish.

SEM grad becomes poster model for solar campaign

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

GL4003 second midterm

GL4003 Global Change
Second Midterm Exam

Professor Womersley

Due Thursday after Spring Break in class or by email

This is a take-home exam. Answer all questions, showing work where necessary to demonstrate skills or learning, diagrams if asked or if it helps. If you don’t know or can’t work out an answer, put down what you do know. You may research answers.  You may discuss them with the instructor. You may not confer with other students. Submit electronically, multiple files allowed including statistical files in JMP, Excel, or Smith’s.

Exam is 20% of grade for class, 10% given for each problem below

  1. Test the hypotheses that change in average annual temperature is a function of the phase of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation, the level of deposition of volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere, the amount of solar energy hitting the top of the atmosphere, and the combined effect of anthropogenic influences, following the method pioneered by Judith Lean and David Rind (2008). Report the results, with all statistical parameters explained. Provide a discussion of the meaning of the results.

  1. Using the model or estimator produced by the above method (i.e., using the full equation), and Microsoft Excel, compare the predicted time series to the actual (HadCRU 3) using a graph. How accurate is your model? To what use might it be put?

Monday, March 9, 2015

NASA's new aerosol video

Eine Klein Nachtmusik

Naomi Klein's new polemic, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate is being serialized in the Guardian. I'm fascinated by this, not so much because I agree with Klein, but because the Guardian is allowing comments, and these particular comments constitute a wealth of qualitative data related to current public perceptions of the climate problem. They include interesting passages from Americans, Europeans, and of course the Guardian's British compatriots.

Consider the second installment here, which currently has around 750 comments. Many of them are in reaction to Klein's indictment of market fundamentalism, an indictment I tend to agree with, although I disagree with the remedy she proposes, which is essentially to deeply revise the pro-capitalist polity that underlies the fundamentalist approach.

Others, reminiscent of language I've heard from our local chapters of Occupy and Earth First! and other more home-grown radicals, are more supportive of her program, which so far in the serialization is implied to be some level of re-collectivization of the economy.

Good luck with that, in today's political climate!

But what I find most interesting is how Klein has managed to stimulate the debate. You have to give her credit.

Klein is not an economist of any stripe, not even a competent political economist, and I doubt she would claim to be such. But she has managed to start a discussion we should have been having all along, which is, if climate change is so bad, what kind of polity will we need to fix it?

The answer, as I gave in my recent Fishbowl talk here at Unity College, is that we will eventually need an ecological economic polity.

But, as I also mention, we don't have time to get one.

Getting to a political system that provides fairly and legally for the very strong boundaries to economic activity needed to protect the world's great ecological systems and cycles will take decades, and huge amounts of science and political science education, that we just don't have time for right now. I want to get there, believe me, but we're nowhere near right now, and the conservative nature of the current electorate all over the democratic world will prevent us from getting anywhere near in time to manage the climate crisis using such a system. Instead we'll have to muddle through with the system we have. Which, unfortunately for Klein, means harnessing those capitalist markets she so thoroughly despises.

But the reason why we have to do this is also right in Klein's own essay. She describes clearly how the collapse of communism in the early 1990s led to global market integration and a vast increase in consumption all around the planet. She's critical of such things, and seems to want to go back to the more austere world of collectivist wartime rationing and "Victory gardens" my grandparents described.

Victory gardens are all well and good. My grandad, a WWI and WWII veteran taught me to grow them, and I grow a pretty good one every year. It's a fund hobby, and I recommend it. I even run a pig club, another wartime agricultural idea. But to go back to those days of collectivist austerity en masse would throw millions of people into poverty all around the world, resulting in a vast reaction against such a policy. It's a non-starter.

While harnessing the massive strength of those markets in an all-out capitalist drive to energy efficiency and renewable energy wouldn't be so recessionary. Indeed, it would likely enhance economic growth in the short term, because the decentralized nature of renewable energy and energy efficiency gains means that they are not so easily aggregated and concentrated as fossil energy profits are. The decentralized capitalism of renewable energy and energy efficiency is a threat to the centralized capitalism of the fossil elites, but it's a stealth threat, not an overt threat. And it can't be controlled through politics, at least not easily.

In the long term, even if we were to fix the climate crisis, another ecological crisis will come down the same road (likely one of these nine) and eventually, after another such crisis, or another, we will begin to realize we  need an honest-to-goodness ecological economics and a polity that supports such an economics.

But that will take a lot more time than we have.

Here's my Fishbowl, by the way. The slides are here, while the video is below.

Applying Realism to Climate Policy Presented by Prof. Mick Womersley Feb. 26th 2015 from Quimby Library Unity College on Vimeo.