What he said…

January 6, 2012

From our friends at xkcd.

Photo by Cotinis via Flickr

Oh bitter irony. It appears the Tea Party’s symbolic mascot may be in danger of extinction unless the dreaded Feds step in and invoke gub’mint regulation in the form of the hated Endangered Species Act.

Mother Jones reports that the coiled Eastern Diamondback that appears on the iconic Gadsden Flag  numbers only 100,000 critters compared to its  peak population of 3 million.

Which means there are probably more snake flags flying from the backs of pickup trucks than there are actual snakes.

MoJo notes that Ben Franklin himself took time out from inventing 5-and-dime stores to lobby for the Eastern Diamondback as a symbol because it  “never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders.”

Unfortunately, it’s surrendered about 97 percent of its original habitat, which stretches from eastern Louisiana to North Carolina.

The Eastern Diamondback, or Crotalus adamanteus as it was known before the English-only types got ahold of it, is the largest and most powerful species of American rattlesnake. And best of all, it tastes like chicken.

The biggest ever recorded weighed 26 pounds, and they average over five feet in length. They typically live in pine woods, grass lands and coastal dunes and have even been known to swim among barrier islands.

It made its first appearance on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List in 2007 because of its declining population, which is largely due to habitat destruction and hunting. In fact, one Alabama community that holds an annual rattlesnake roundup used to get 400 Eastern Diamondbacks, but now only gets 70.

Which is just one of the reasons The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning to have it declared an endangered species.

And while that may not sit well with the anti-gub’mint crusaders,  it may be one way to let their snake-spangled banner yet wave a little longer.

But if they’re really conflicted maybe they should do a little soul searching. But instead of asking WWJD, they should punt to the Old Testament and ask, WWED — What Would Eve Do?

— John D’Anna

Earth Day has been around 41 years. Good Friday has been around for about 2,000. But today is the first time they’ve ever converged, and it won’t happen again until 2095, when we’re all worm food. Most of us anyway.

So today seems like as good a time as any to ask, WWJD about the environment?

We don’t have to look far for evidence. The Bible – go ahead, I’ll wait while you dust yours off or find another book to prop up that broken leg on your night stand – says quite a lot about the environment, starting with Genesis where it says God made man a steward of the Earth.

In fact, The Good Book contains some of the earliest – and finest — examples of environmental writing in the Western tradition.

 Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.0rg and the author the first and perhaps best book about climate change, points out that the 38th and 39th chapters of the book of Job contain some of the most gorgeous environmental descriptions ever written. It start’s with God’s question to Job about who created the glories of the earth, and culminates in Chapter 39 as God continues the interrogation:

 Do you give the horse his strength, and endow his neck with splendor?  Do you make the steed to quiver while his thunderous snorting spreads terror? He jubilantly paws the plain and rushes in his might against the weapons. ..Is it by your discernment that the hawk soars, that he spreads his wings toward the south? Does the eagle fly up at your command to build his nest aloft? On the cliff he dwells and spends the night, on the spur of the cliff or the fortress. From thence he watches for his prey; his eyes behold it afar off…

Elsewhere in the Old Testament, odes to the glories of creation abound. Genesis, Isaiah, The Song of Solomon and the Psalms.

In fact, Psalm 104 echoes the language of the book of Job, only as praise instead of rebuke:

The trees of the LORD are well watered,
   the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
 There the birds make their nests;
   the stork has its home in the junipers.
 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
   the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
   and the sun knows when to go down.
 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
   and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
 The lions roar for their prey
  and seek their food from God.
  The sun rises, and they steal away;
   they return and lie down in their dens.

The New Testament as well gives us guidance:

Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Romans 1:19-20 – …since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

And Revelation 11:18 – The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great — and for destroying those who destroy the earth.

It’s pretty clear that God would not be happy with the way things are now. In fact, there’s  an old bumper sticker that said “Jesus is coming, and boy is he pissed,” which later became the lyrics to a country song, so you know it’s got to be true.

Witness:

  • An effort to extract oil from the tar sands in the stunningly beautiful boreal forest in Alberta, Canada, has resulted in a denuded toxic quagmire the size of England. And they want to do the same thing in Utah.
  • A year since BP’s ill-fated Macondo off-shore  well dumped nearly 5 million  gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, followed by  2 million gallons of chemical disbursing agents, we still can’t calculate the damage to fragile marine life, coral and delicate coastal marshlands, where tar balls are still washing up.
  • And in Japan, well, only God knows how that mess will wind up.

A few years ago, a controversial Anglican priest in the U.K. named Rev. Jonathan Hagger delivered a sermon on climate change and creation.

Unfortunately, it no longer appears on his highly entertaining and considerably irreverent blog, which is titled “Of Course I Could Be Wrong…,” but I did manage to save a portion of it:

“When God became human in Jesus Christ, God did not just take on the appearance of a human being, he took on the substance of a human being. The molecules that formed the body of Christ, were exactly the same, with nothing subtracted, as the molecules that form all our bodies. And these molecules can be found, in some form or another, in all animal life and plant life. In fact, they come from the very ground we stand on. They come from the very stars we would see in the night sky if we didn’t have such appalling light pollution in our city. They come from the beginnings of the universe. Therefore, just as we are part of everything, so was Jesus.

That is why we are told, that, at the moment God died on the cross, the whole of creation responded. The very fabric of our planet screamed out in pain and anguish because, it felt the crucifixion. Most human beings, alive at the time did not feel the crucifixion because in their arrogance they had cut themselves from creation. We still do not feel the crucifixion because we are still too arrogant. We do not feel the crucifixion of Christ and we do not feel the crucifixion of our planet. In our arrogance we believe Jesus died just for us. But Jesus is God incarnate in creation so he redeems all creation not just the miniscule little bit of creation that comprises of human beings.

God looked at everything he had made and he saw that everything was good. Everything pleased him.

It would be pleasing to God if we took more care of those things that please God. If we begin now to take proper care of the earth, to live in creation, not against creation, we just might, with the help of God, end up with a habitable planet to hand on to our children. But to achieve this we are first, like Saint Francis, going to have to learn to live in union with creation not at the expense of creation.”

I hope you’ll give that some thought this Earth Day. This Good Friday.

— John D’Anna

If you take the author at her word that these books were destined for the trash heap, then this is pretty cool. I wish it said how it was made. Did they stitch all these things together? Glue? Did they laminate it somehow to keep it from falling apart? Inquiring minds want to know. Click here to read the whole post from Apartment Therapy.

Hat tip to Jennifer Boyer.

One of our favorite YouTube destinations when our boss thinks we’re working —  besides celebrity nip slips and the infamous exploding whale of course — is Peter Sinclair’s Climate Denial Crock of the Week.

Sinclair, a graphic artist and environmental activist, put both skills together to create a series of authoritative, well-researched and entertaining videos that debunk pretty much every arrow in your average climate change denialist’s quiver.

The Medieval Warm Period. The Broken Hockey Stick. The “Unstoppable” 1,500 Year Warming Cycle. The How Can There Be Global Warming When We Just Had a Blizzard? All of them pretty much get blown up, not unlike the aforementioned whale.

He even takes on the whole “Climategate” stolen e-mail controversy.

Only trouble is, we never seem to be near our computer whenever we’re near a climate change denier. And even if we were, we probably wouldn’t have enough gummi bears in our pocket to get them to sit still long enough to watch it.

Enter technology.

Fast Company’s Dan Nosowitz has a cool post about four new iPhone apps to shut up climate change skeptics and to show them how to fix the damage they’re doing.

The first one, Skeptical Science, has handy drop down menus outlining the major categories of denier arguments, then breaks them into subcategories. It summarizes the argument, provides you with the science that debunks it, and even provides links to the studies the science is based on. Best thing is, it’s free.

The next one Nosowitz describes is the Jungfrau Climate Guide, which gives you data about the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. For instance, if you happen to be standing on a glacier, it can tell you how much that glacier has receded and how fast. We decided to pass on the $9.99 iTunes price, mainly because we have no plans to be in Jungfrau anytime soon and because we couldn’t find a way to hide it on our expense account for our day job.

In any case, we’d love to see the developers create a similar app for our beloved Sonoran Desert, which has warmed considerably in the last 30 years and seen a remarkable change in monsoon patterns. But we digress.

The other two apps,  Greenmeter ($5.99) and GreenYou ($0.99), are calculators of sorts. The first helps you analyze your vehicle and your driving habits so you can be more fuel efficient, and the second helps you calculate your carbon footprint.

Of course we couldn’t find an app that calculates the energy your iPhone uses in downloading all these apps. But give ’em time.

— John D’Anna

CCU Cover

Quiz time.

Astroturf is:

A) A type of artificial playing surface that looks or feels nothing like real grass.

B) A particularly potent strain of marijuana.

C) A cynical professionally run public relations campaign designed to appear as though it’s a grass-roots movement — kind of like what Fox News did with their orchestrated teabagger parties.

If you guessed all of the above, go to the head of the class.

If you didn’t guess C), then you need to read the new book on “astroturfing” by our friends over DeSmogBlog.

Written by 35-year PR veteran Jim Hoggan, Climate Cover Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming shows how slimy PR firms have been creating fake grassroots campaigns and bankrolling third-party groups to attack climate change science, keep the oil flowing and basically undermine democracy.

We’ve written before about people like Marc Morano, former lackey of Sen. James Inhoffe, R-Big Oil, who now runs Climatedepot.com, a climate-change denier website.

We’ve also written about Jim Sims of the benignly named Western Business Roundtable, which purports to be an organization of CEOs around the West, but which is really just a slick front for the oil and gas industry.

These guys will do almost anything to get people to believe that global warming is a hoax so that their own oil money spigot never gets turned off.

If you want to read Hoggan’s book, we’d suggest you check you local non-chain bookstore. In the meantime, here’s a video to whet your appetite.

In the meantime, if you can’t find a copy, we’ll give you a chance to win one.

Since we started with a quiz, we’ll end with one, courtesy of the folks at DeSmogblog.  First one to answer all three questions in the comment section wins:

Q: The American Petroleum Institute increased its lobbying budget by what percent in the second quarter of 2009, relative to 2008?

A:

Q: How many lobbyists representing the Oil and Gas industry were registered in the US in 2008?

A:

Q: What percent of American energy demand is filled by renewable energy sources?

A:

Post your answers in the comment section before Oct. 15, and we’ll mail you your copy.

— John D’Anna

The lovely and talented Mrs. Azgreenday is always showing us old black and white movies, no doubt hoping that we’ll take a cue from the leading men and be more romantic.

She’ll have to let us know how that’s working out for her.

In any case, she thought we might appreciate the Jimmy Stewart classic “You Can’t Take It With You,” which, oddly enough won the best picture Oscar for 1938.

We say oddly enough because it was up against ‘Wee Wee Monsieur,” the immortal Three Stooges classic where they join the French Foreign Legion, and “Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb, ” the first Stooges film to use the classic collapsing bunk beds gag.

How those were overlooked by the Academy Philistines is nothing short of scandalous, but we digress.

In the movie, Jimmy sits  in the moonlight with Jean Arthur, trying to get her to show him her tattoos when all of the sudden he starts rhapsodizing about his dream of harnessing the sun’s energy:

“There’s a tiny little engine in the green of this grass and the green of the trees that has the mysterious gift of being able to take energy from the rays of the sun and store it up,” he says.  “If we could find the secret of all those millions of little engines in the green stuff, we could make big ones and then we could take all the power we could ever need right from the sun’s rays.”

We fell asleep before we could find out whether Jean fell for such a lame-o rap, but still it was kind of cool to hear people talking about solar in 1938.

We did some poking around and found out that Capra was actually a little late to the game. None  other than Thomas Edison, the guy they named all the electric companies for,  spent a lot of time finding alternative energy sources for that first bulb, including wind power.

As early as 1912 he spoke about the need to find alternatives to fossil fuels, and in a famous conversation with Henry Ford in 1931, he said solar was the technology of the future.

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy, he said. “What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

Unfortunately we’re still waiting. Let’s just hope it didn’t take Jimmy as long to get to see Jean Arthur’s tramp stamp. Or that it doesn’t take as long for Mrs. Azgreenday to find romance.

— John D’Anna