Margaret Renkl | This ‘Shazam’ for Birds Could Help Save Them – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — I spent my entire childhood playing in the woods and meadows of rural Alabama. The world back then was lush and green: cooled by creeks, carpeted by pine needles, attended by birdsong. In those days there were nearly three billion more birds in North America than there are today, and my young days played out beneath the sound of their music.

The staggering loss of birds — nearly a third of them since 1970 — is due to human behavior: to climate change, to deforestation and ecosystem fragmentation, to insecticides and free-roaming pets, to light pollution in our skies and microplastics in our waterways, to glass-encased skyscrapers protruding into migratory flyways, among other choices that favor our own convenience over the lives of our wild neighbors.

I can’t help but wonder how much of the blame lies, too, in indifference, our failure even to notice what we’ve lost. Birds can be secretive creatures, staying high in the treetops or deep in the underbrush. Even those in plain sight often move startlingly quickly, appearing as hardly more than a flash of color, a blur of wings. Except for the background sound of birdsong, many people are never aware of how many birds — or how few — they share the world with.

Apps like iNaturalist from National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences help to close that gap, functioning as both electronic field guides and vast data-collection devices. They learn as we learn, improving with every photo and map pin we upload, helping experts understand a planet undergoing profound change. But what of the vast number of birds we never see, those we only hear? To offer that feature — one that accurately and consistently recognizes birds by sound alone — would be the birding equivalent of finding the Holy Grail.”

She describes just such an app. “Last month, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology released an updated version of its Merlin Bird ID app, which allows users to identify birds by song.”

Maureen Dowd | Apocalypse Right Now – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Holy smokes.

It feels like we are living through the first vertiginous 15 minutes of a disaster movie, maybe one called “The Day After Tomorrow Was Yesterday.”

Heat waves are getting hotter. Forests are ablaze. Floods are obliterating. An iceberg nearly half the size of Puerto Rico broke off from Antarctica.

Florida’s fleurs du malalgal blooms known as red tide, have become more toxic because of pollution and climate change. They are responsible for killing 600 tons of marine life, leaving beaches strewn with reeking dead fish.

It’s Mad Max apocalyptic. Crazy storms that used to hit every century now seem quotidian, overwhelming systems that cannot withstand such a battering.

The heat wave that stunned the Pacific Northwest, killing nearly 200 people, was followed by a bolt of lightning igniting the dry earth in Oregon. The Bootleg Fire has now devoured 400,000 acres, with flames so intense, they are creating their own weather pattern capable of sparking new fires. The smoke has traveled from the West to the East Coast, tainting the air.

As Angela Merkel and President Biden touted a climate and energy partnership on her recent visit here, nature mocked them. While the two leaders had dinner, rains submerged huge swaths of Germany, including medieval towns.”

Opinion | We Owe Haiti a Debt We Can’t Repay – The New York Times

” . . . . President Jefferson, mindful of the desires of his Southern political base, adopted a hostile stance toward St. Domingue. The stage was set for isolation of the tiny island nation, a choice that had enormous consequences for its development.Napoleon brought a new challenge to St. Domingue when he decided in 1802 to reassert control over French colonies in the Americas. He sent a fleet to the island to accomplish the task. The residents fought back and, with the help of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries yellow fever, repelled the invaders. This victory was fateful not only for the residents of St. Domingue, who went on to form an independent republic that they renamed Haiti, but also for the course of American history.Napoleon, as part of his plan to re-establish the French empire in the Caribbean, was hoping to use the territory of Louisiana as a supply station for the island colonies. Once the Haitians had shattered his dream, Napoleon saw no reason to hold on to the territory. He was eager to sell it, and President Jefferson was equally eager to buy.The purchase doubled the size of the United States, which obtained 530 million acres for $15 million. If not for the French defeat at the hands of the Haitians, the sale may not have come off, leaving the United States possibly forever divided by a huge swath of French-controlled land or forced into armed conflict with the French over it. Of course, what the United States really bought from France was the right to contend with the various Indigenous people who had their own claims to the land.” . . .

Opinion | America in 2090: The Impact of Extreme Heat, in Maps – The New York Times

Susan Joy Hassol, Kristie Ebi and 

Ms. Hassol is the director of the nonprofit organization Climate Communication. Dr. Ebi is a professor at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle. Ms. Serkez is a graphics editor for Opinion.

“Yes, it is getting hotter. And while you might be able to escape the intensifying tropical storms, flooding or droughts by moving elsewhere, refuge from extreme heat is no longer easy to find.

Even in Siberia.

Summers that seemed exceedingly hot 50 years ago are becoming much more commonplace. The extreme heat of that era — which had a chance of occurring of only one-tenth of 1 percent during the summer season — is now reached more than 20 percent of the time, according to calculations by the climate scientist James Hansen. That’s 200 times as often. And nights are warming faster than days, at nearly twice the rate. So much for relief.

And though the deadly, intense heat that baked the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada recently was startling, extremely hot temperatures have struck elsewhere in recent years, in surprising places and with calamitous consequences.

This should be reason enough — along with the recent disastrous floods in China, Germany and other European countries — to move quickly to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming.”

The Fisherwomen, Chevron and the Leaking Pipe – The New York Times

“GBARAMATU, Nigeria — When the tide rose under the rickety wooden house-on-stilts of Onitsha Joseph, a fisherwoman who lives above the twisting rivers of the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, it brought a slick of crude oil.

Before long, she saw dead fish floating on oil inches thick, and fishing — her livelihood — became impossible. The fumes were so strong at one point that Ms. Joseph fainted. She was rushed to the hospital on a speedboat.

At first, she had no idea where it was coming from. Then, out with some other fisherwomen one day in February, she said they spotted something bubbling up to the river’s surface. Ms. Joseph steered her oil-blackened canoe closer.

Far below her snaked a pipe. The American oil giant Chevron laid that pipe 46 years before, according to many neighbors of Ms. Joseph who were there at the time, and now, they said, it was leaking.

So began a battle between Chevron and hundreds of fisherwomen in the Niger Delta. Chevron denies that oil was spilling from its pipes. But the women insisted that this was just another instance of oil companies refusing to take responsibility, and decided to take the fight to the oil company’s doors.”

Paul Krugman | Should Only the Little People Pay Taxes? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I yield to no one when it comes to cynicism about politicians who see tax cuts for the rich as the answer to every problem. Indeed, the claim that tax cuts can perform magic is a prime case of a zombie idea — an idea kept alive, despite overwhelming evidence against it, because its survival serves the interests of wealthy donors.

Yet even I was caught by surprise when Republicans negotiating over a possible infrastructure bill ruled out paying for it in part by giving the Internal Revenue Service more resources to go after tax evasion.

This is a big deal. The Treasury Department believes that there is a “tax gap,” taxes owed but not paid, of more than $500 billion every year; some estimates put the number much higher. And the Biden administration proposes giving the I.R.S. enough resources to reduce this gap as a way to help pay for investment in America’s future.

But if the administration goes this route, it will apparently do so with little, if any, Republican support.”

‘Moana’: Disney’s delightful tropical adventure sets sail | Soren Andersen – The Seattle Times

Movie review of “Moana”: Disney’s tale of female empowerment is told in rousing fashion, with humor and passion and grace. Rating: 4 stars out of 4.

“Moana” is a joy.

A feast for the eyes. From Disney, it represents a pinnacle of CG animation. Its colors are incredibly vivid. The screen is bathed in bright cerulean hues of the limitless ocean sparkling in the sun and the lush greenery of tropical-island paradises.

A delight for the ears. Songs by “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer Opetaia Foa‘i and Grammy-winner Mark Mancina are at a “Lion King” level of excellence. The picture’s “We Know the Way” is an anthemic ode to exploration and self-discovery that has the hallmarks of an instant classic.”

Source: ‘Moana’: Disney’s delightful tropical adventure sets sail | The Seattle Times

Richard H. Pildes | In Nearly All Other Democracies, This Is Not Normal – The New York Times

Mr. Pildes has spent his career as a legal scholar analyzing the intersection of politics and law and how that affects our democracy.

“The ability of the American political system to deliver major policies on urgent issues is hampered by features of our institutions that we take for granted and rarely think about. Take the Constitution’s requirement that House members serve for only two-year terms.

Just a few months into a new administration, as the country grapples with issues of economic recovery and renewal, Congress’s actions are being shaped not by the merits of policy alone but also by the looming midterm elections. It’s not just the fall 2022 election; many incumbents are also calculating how best to position themselves to fend off potential primary challenges.

In nearly all other democracies, this is not normal.

The two-year House term has profound consequences for how effectively American government can perform — and too many of them are negative. A longer, four-year term would facilitate Congress’s ability to once again effectively address major issues that Americans care most about.”

German Candidates Fail to Find Footing in Flood Response – The New York Times

BERLIN — Floods have had a way of reshaping German politics.

“Helmut Schmidt made a name for himself responding to deadly floods in Hamburg in 1962, and went on to become chancellor in the 1970s. Images of Gerhard Schröder wading through muddy water along the Elbe River in 2002 are credited with helping him win another term.

The floods that ravaged Germany last week — more severe than any in centuries — are already doing their work in this election year. But the striking thing they have revealed, political analysts say, is that none of the major candidates has been able to demonstrate the level of leadership in a crisis the public has grown accustomed to under Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
It is my hope that this flooding disaster prompts the German leadership and people to rethink their complete exit from nuclear energy as a short term bridge to a completely sustainable and circular economy. Bill Gates and associates have a new nuclear technology, that can not melt down or explode, and runs on old nuclear waste. There are about 20 new nuclear power designs, all much safer than the technology of 50 years ago. There is a growing number of scientist who think that we can’t make a transition fast enough without some new technology, and these new nuclear power plant designs are worth exploring and probably worth developing. We at least have to test them out.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of “the Tay Son Rebellion” about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Floods in China Leave Many Searching for Loved Ones Amid Outages – The New York Times

MIHE, China — Chen Shuying was sitting at home with her husband and their 3-year-old grandson on Tuesday when water began to surge through the door. Within minutes, it was well above her waist. “The water came so fast,” she said.

They made it to the roof, where they waited for hours for the water to recede. Two days later, she still cannot return home, she said. They were lucky. Three neighbors — a grocery shopkeeper and two of the grocer’s customers — were swept away by the floodwaters and have not been seen since.

The formidable destructive power of the floods that engulfed Henan Province in central China became clearer on Thursday, even as new areas were inundated. Still more rain is in the forecast, following days of torrential downpours, including the strongest on record in the area on Tuesday.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
The silver lining of this tragic flooding in central China, is that the Chinese government deserves to be reprimanded for its insistence that it is their turn now to pollute for 300 years, like the western countries did in the last 300 years. They continue to build new coal plants in China and around the world, and insisist that they can increase their carbon emissions for at least another 15 or 30 years. While their position makes good sense morally, it ignores the science of the climate crisis. And it isn’t good for the people of China. The people of earth have to stop all climate change causing pollution emissions, or we all will suffer the awful consequences. The problems we are seeing today are just the prequel, the beginning of what could turn out to be an existential threat of floods, droughts, famines, epidemics, dislocation and war over diminishing resources.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.