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This is probably as close to a hippyish post as you'll get out of me.… - CERisE's Testing for L

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December 8th, 2004


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03:04 am
This is probably as close to a hippyish post as you'll get out of me. Obviously, I've been in Santa Cruz too long ; )



I guess about a week ago, I was helping my friend Alex out with CS 111 (Operating Systems). This meant nice long hours teaching him how to navigate through bitmaps and so on. On this particular day, I got out at ~4am or so to head back home. He's only a few blocks away from where I live, so it's no trouble at all to head over.

I came out, hopped in my car, and started everything up. Then I noticed that I couldn't see through the windshield. My wiper blades have been itching for replacement for a bit now (they're barely servicable, but they still do the job, so I've been slacking on that front), so they weren't doing the number on my windshield. What they were doing was making that horrible blade on dry glass sound.

My windshield in California at roughly sea level was frozen over with ice.

Now, I read a lot and I know a lot of people back East, so it's not a completely out of the ordinary thing to me. I did the logical thing, took a napkin out of the car, and wiped off my windshield with it. The ice came off OK and I drove my merry way home.

While I was wiping everything off, I was sitting there, listening to only the hum of my motor and thinking about how out of the ordinary it was and I got that sort of twinge. The feeling like the end is near and you can't really do anything but wait for it. You know it's there. You know that the ship's going to run out of oxygen or that you've had a fatal dose of radiation, but you aren't dead yet, so you're trying to manage in the meantime.

A while ago, a friend of mine pointed me at some posts of a supposed time traveler on usenet. The guy talks about a civil war starting in the US in 2005 which goes on for about 10 years. In 2015, Russia launches a nuclear strike against Europe, China, and the United States. I read the whole thing as entertainment. There are inaccuracies and one could trivially go through and determine what hasn't happened.

I'm not interested in that. I'm more interested in wondering what's around the corner for us. In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson makes the point that the reason we figured things out about DDT was mostly because of people who noticed that there weren't as many birds singing. Little bits of my environment changing in ways I can see worry me a bit.

It's hard to describe feelings and I can tell that I'm really just throwing words at it. That feeling of standing outside my car wiping the windshield off in the bitter cold wasn't frightening in the sense of someone threatening your life, but almost meditative like the way I felt before getting hit by that trailer. It was cold (literally and figuratively) and almost a little lonely.

Anyway, it hasn't happened since then, but I do wonder a bit about recent reports of climate changes (along with places setting record cold temperatures for the time of year).

(18 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:msmaggiemayhem
Date:December 8th, 2004 12:22 pm (UTC)
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This is a really good post.

And it's made me feel a bit chilly.
[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:December 8th, 2004 10:47 pm (UTC)
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Thanks 8)

As for feeling chilly, it's clearly because your icon isn't wearing anything (visible) except glasses ; ) Go put on a warmer icon and sit in front of the fire with a cup of hot cocoa.

I recommend marshmallows and peppermint for the time of year 8)

[User Picture]
From:level_head
Date:December 8th, 2004 05:39 pm (UTC)
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You'll be pleased to note that the Coming Global Warming Catastrophe ... isn't. It is hyped, supported, talked up, worked on by scientists who hope for it (try to get funding if you're skeptical) -- but the predictions made by its proponents have not come true.

The first basic essence -- that a change in temperature of a few degrees over the next century will cause a global climate catastrophe -- is simply unsupportable by anything but wild conjecture and clever misleading.

The second basic essence -- that humans can dramatically change the environment by shifting the production of CO2 from the United States to China and thus save the world -- is just silly, and offensive in its political naivete.

Of the expected 2 degree rise, the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would reduce this by 0.15 degree. Proponents say that this is only the first step of a much more draconian set of measures that will be required to stave off this disaster.

But ... what disaster? We've learned in the last five years that the heat balance is not working as we thought, that the Earth is reflecting more sunlight than our models called for (determined by carefully analyzing Moon photos and from other evidence) and we've been just wrong in underestimating the resilence of the planet.

The halocline (primarily Gulf Stream) collapse predicted by doomsayers is NOT supported by history, especially since Europe's heat budget is only 10% from this source -- but scientists write about this "possibility" in scary terms, and the media laps it up.

I've followed the topic of climatology -- and paleoclimatology -- since scientists were afraid of global cooling three decades ago. I watched with interest when Scientific American published a statement three years ago that vowed that they would never print ANY article that suggested that global warming was NOT a catastrophe in the making -- and last year when they sheepishly admitted that the Ross Ice Shelf was in fact not about to collapse. "But things could get bad in the future!" they warned, covering themselves.

I've read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report -- and the odious distortions of it in the summaries (written by political aides) released to the press. It seems reasonable that humans are having some effect on the underlying temperature cycle -- and estimates range from 10 to 60 percent, with about a third being a reasonable consensus. But there are problems -- the glaciers began melting BEFORE the Industrial Age (and CO2 increases) got started. We had decades of DECREASE right in the middle of the CO2 growth. And the increase over the past two hundred years (and projection for the next hundred) is such a tiny blip in this planet's history that it is egocentric to think that the Earth would notice.

During this century, we'll stop using oil, and we may have to start looking for other ways to keep the CO2 going into the atmosphere, to keep crops and forests growing as they have been.

The Earth is more resilient than we thought -- and we won't admit it for political reasons. But you should not fear that the End Times are coming.

===|==============/ Level Head
[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:December 9th, 2004 12:00 am (UTC)
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There's been a tendency at least as far back as Tesla and Edison for scientists to overstate their points in the interest of getting public attention. I'm still waiting for my death ray.

I'm taking that into account. I don't think the world is going to 'end' in my lifetime. Perhaps, more pointedly, I don't expect to encounter any of the potential effects of global warming in my lifetime. Or that of my children. Or grandchildren.

What I do know is this: We've had a measurable impact over a relatively short period of time (say, the last two to three hundred years). Considering that the climate is a complex system, it has a tendency for delayed effect. No one can say with any certainty how strong an effect it'll end up being. That we're noticing it now has the definite suggestion that a continuation of the status quo will see progressively stronger effects.

Now, I'm not exactly saying that the polar ice caps are going to suddenly flash melt and bring about all sorts of super storms. But, in ten thousand years time, it's not unlikely that we'll see progressively more dramatic climate changes.

I don't know about you, but I like the Earth more or less the way it is now. I'd like my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren to be able to flit back from Mars and appreciate the relatively nice climate of California.

Santa Cruz can burn, but that's a whole other story ; )

It's prudent for us to overreact given our current evidence. I'm all for those 'draconian' measures in Kyoto. The fact is that we don't know a whole lot about the way our climate works. What we do know is that we're having a large effect on it and it's in our best interest to stop causing that effect.
[User Picture]
From:level_head
Date:December 9th, 2004 12:14 am (UTC)
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Even if every human on the planet committed suicide, the temperature would continue to rise; some of this is natural variation. The Kyoto Protocol will not regulate the Sun.

Your notions above are hypotheses; they are susceptible to making predictions, and those predictions can be tested. They HAVE been. Also, hypotheses must account for the observations that we know about. The gloomies' predictions are failing. They DO seem disappointed, and that saddens me.

There's an excellent textbook called simply Paleoclimatology from 1998; it's an accessible resource for someone as technically inclined as you are.

The Earth's climate is complex, but you'd be surprised how much we DO know about it.

===|==============/ Level Head
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From:testing4l
Date:December 9th, 2004 03:42 am (UTC)
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Even if every human on the planet committed suicide, the temperature would continue to rise; some of this is natural variation. The Kyoto Protocol will not regulate the Sun.

You know as well as I do that the point isn't a matter of whether temperatures are rising. It's a question of degree. We exaggerate that degree at present.

You made the point that more Republicans donate to charities than Democrats. I've never actually seen statistics on it, but if you are correct, then there seems to be a tremendous disconnect in what they consider to be a worthy cause and what they consider to be a worthy political cause.

I'm certainly interested in that reference. Since it sounds like I'm a shoe-in for a job, I think I'll raise that a few notches in my priority queue. I simply haven't been reading enough lately and I'm starting to suspect that it's having an adverse affect on me (last night, I sleepily mentioned "Tennisee's" legislature =/)
[User Picture]
From:level_head
Date:December 9th, 2004 05:06 am (UTC)
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I could not turn up the one from last year quickly -- but this PDF discusses Atlanta particularly, and has similar trends.
www.atlcf.org/Webdata/Documents/27/CFTS%20Qtr%205%20Final%20Report.pdf

Amazing how many hits are for overseas numbers, even including "Republican" and "Democrat" in the terms.

In the Atlanta study, the volunteers for "environmental causes" were equal for "frequent church attendees" and "less frequent". Except for the most recent quarter (which the study's authors say they did not check) Republicans volunteered substantially more time, as well as gave more dollars.

The .PDF file seems to be corrupted somewhat -- save open windows before loading it! Acrobat is poor at recovering from such things, and I've spent the last half hour extricating myself from the gigabytes of virtual memory it just ate.

===|==============/ Level Head
[User Picture]
From:aaronlehmann
Date:December 8th, 2004 09:04 pm (UTC)
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You probably have sleep habits that are incompatible with windshield icing. A few weeks ago my sister reminded me that I used to have to deal with it in the early mornings during the winter (she still does). Since I came to college I forgot that it happens in California.

And we're all in deep trouble.
[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:December 8th, 2004 10:45 pm (UTC)
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I'm not so sure we're all in deep trouble. It seems like this post was something of a Rorschach.

I don't think the world is coming to an end, but that was what some small part of my brain was considering at that time. If the end of the world were coming, that state of mind is exactly the one I'd be in.

In all the times I've gone zipping out in the wee hours of the morning (a not infrequent occurance), I've never had it happen to that extent. Dew and misting, sure. Never actual ice that I had to go out there and scrape off myself.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:December 8th, 2004 10:41 pm (UTC)
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There's only about a billion other cultures to look at, if you think it's related to Judeo-Christian culture. The first thing that comes to mind is the concept of Ragnarok in Norse mythology.

If it's related to anything, then it's a naturally selected sense of paranoia.
[User Picture]
From:level_head
Date:December 9th, 2004 12:22 am (UTC)
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Bill Moyers recently spoke about this subject an an acceptace speech -- but to "prove" his point that conservatives are consciously "hastening the end times", he had to refer to a quote supposedly made by James Watt twenty three years ago. Considering that the same sources say that Watt was fired for making such a stupid statement, it doesn't hold up well as a demonstration of mindset.

Republicans give more to charities than do Democrats; it is my understanding that this includes World Wildlife Fund and other such environmentally-oriented groups but I have no data for that aspect. I am in California, and we donate to these; locally, it seems that most of my fellow donors are conservatives. They don't talk about it as much, though. ];-)

===|==============/ Level Head
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From:relsqui
Date:December 9th, 2004 02:31 am (UTC)
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"Republicans give more to charities than do Democrats..."

This may be another stereotype, but don't they also tend to be richer? I'd say that would kill your point, but I'm not sure which one you were trying to make (since no one mentioned Republicans).
[User Picture]
From:level_head
Date:December 9th, 2004 02:46 am (UTC)
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The potential perception of imbalance of environmental stewardship, I think.

There's a distinction to be drawn between "rich" and "high income" (note, for example, that there is no tax on "rich"). As I recall, something like 80% of political contributions larger than $1 million go to Democrats (and presumably come from Democrats).

But the US, Democrats and Republicans and others together, contribute far larger shares of our income to charities than do other Western nations countries. This is rather contrary to the stereotype of Americans in the perception of our overseas neighbors.

===|==============/ Level Head
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From:level_head
Date:December 9th, 2004 03:19 am (UTC)
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It seems that your stereotype, at least with regard to income, is not unreasonable, at least according to this study:
www.econ.brown.edu/staff/Traci_Tartaglia/rosenthal.pdf

It's a bit annoying in that the researcher explains why he had to work so hard to make his hypothesis work; as a creator of financial modeling systems myself, I found his analysis to be heavily "spun". Nevertheless, the data is there, and seems to show that, since approsimate equality in the early 1950s, Republicans have tended to earn more. Interestingly, the distance has been declining in the past few years.

I'd guess that had he been more precise in his measurements -- i.e. rather than the top quintile (20%) he used the more common 15%, 4%, and 1% divisions, he'd see an upsurge of Democrats in the top 1%. But, the resolution is not there to address that hypothesis.

I recently saw a person pointing to Teresa Heinz-Kerry as an example of this, but that's not quite fair -- she voted Republican before she voted Democrat, ];-) and the money was earned by a Republican.

===|==============/ Level Head
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From:level_head
Date:December 9th, 2004 12:25 am (UTC)
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Thinking about your last sentence, may I gently suggest that you not let dogmatic attitudes indoctrinated by the media ABOUT Christians affect the conclusions that you draw? ];-)

For example -- a substantial majority of Republicans in the US are pro-choice: I'll bet you didn't know that.

===|==============/ Level Head
(Deleted comment)
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From:level_head
Date:December 9th, 2004 02:28 am (UTC)
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I certainly didn't take your comment as referring to me; I'm an atheist. And I offered no criticism of you, just a caution.

The only assumption I made was that you did not likely know about the Republican pro-choice majority; in this, I was wagering that you had that in common with most Westerners, even US Republicans. Perhaps I lost that bet -- but I was not offering any sort of attack.

===|==============/ Level Head
[User Picture]
From:relsqui
Date:December 9th, 2004 02:29 am (UTC)
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Huh, I must be blind, I don't see a direct criticism of you in anything he said. I did see a pretty clear "for example" in front of the remark about abortion, though, suggesting that it was perhaps an example. But since you're not discussing this further, I guess I'll never know what you were referring to. Oh well.
[User Picture]
From:level_head
Date:December 9th, 2004 04:01 am (UTC)
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