Opinion | With the Coronavirus, It’s Again Trump vs. Mother Nature – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

“. . .  Mother Nature was not impressed by Trump or his markets. Mother Nature, alas, doesn’t “open” her workday at 9:30 a.m. or close it at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and then take weekends off. So precisely when Trump was autographing his one-day stock chart to be touted by the knuckleheads at Fox, Mother Nature was silently, relentlessly, mercilessly and exponentially spreading the coronavirus among us.

As Rob Watson, one of my favorite environmental teachers, likes to remind people: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.”

You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot manipulate her. And you certainly cannot tell her, “Mother Nature, stop ruining my beautiful stock market.”

No, no, no. Mother Nature will always and only do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last,” says Watson, “and she always bats 1.000.” Do not mess with Mother Nature.

But that is exactly what Trump did initially with the coronavirus — and is trying to do still with climate change. Yes, we must absolutely focus on combating this virus now. And Trump seems to have finally become properly awed by the power of Mother Nature’s Covid-19, ordering federal distancing guidelines to stay in place until April 30. That is a good thing.

But as we win this battle with the coronavirus and begin to think about the next round of stimulus that we want to inject into the economy — and there will be a next round — it is vital that we keep in mind just how much more destructive climate change could be for all of us, and make sure that we invest in long-term resilience against that as well.

Because there is one huge difference between the coronavirus and climate change: Climate change doesn’t “peak” — and then flatten out and then maybe dissipate or be permanently prevented by vaccine — so normal life resumes.

No, when the Greenland and Antarctic ice melts, it’s gone, and we humans will have to contend with the implications of sea level rise, mass movements of populations and various kinds of extreme weather — wetter wets, hotter hots and drier dries — forever.

There is no herd immunity to climate change. There are only endless impacts on the herd.”

The Original Long Islanders Fight to Save Their Land From a Rising Sea – By Somini Sengupta and Shola Lawal – The New York Times

By Somini Sengupta and 

“SHINNECOCK NATION, Southampton, N.Y. — A maritime people who once spanned a large swath of the eastern Long Island shore, the Shinnecock Indians have been hemmed into a 1.5-square-mile patch of land on the edge of a brackish bay. Now, because of climate change, they’re battling to hold on to what they have left.

Rising seas are threatening to eat away at the Shinnecock lands. But the tribe is using everything at its disposal to calm the waves and restore a long, slim beach at the edge of Shinnecock Bay: dredged sand, sea grasses, beach grasses, boulders, oyster shells.

It’s a forever battle. Climate change is swelling and heating the world’s oceans at an accelerating pace. Inevitably, the Shinnecock will have to bring more sand to replenish what the rising tide keeps washing away. More grass will have to be planted. This spring, Shavonne Smith, director of the tribe’s environmental department, wants to expand the oyster reef designed to dissipate the energy of the waves.

“We have an inherent responsibility to protect the homeland,” Ms. Smith said on a recent Monday morning walk along the shore. “It’s not the type of thing where you can work against nature. You work with it.” “

David Lindsay:

Thank you Somini Sengupta and Shola Lawal for a lovely article. The Shinnecock Indians are using nature to fight the rising sea in eastern Long Island, which is important. However, overpopulation and pollution caused by humans are root causes of global warming and the rising sea, according to about 99% of credentialed climatologists. Edward O Wilson of Harvard has written that some scientists think that the right population for the planet is perhaps 4 billion, or approximately half of the 7.6 billion we are at now.

I am currently reading “A Distant Mirror,” by Barbara Tuchman, about Europe in the 14th century, and how it dealt with the Bubonic Plagues that wiped out roughly half of Europe’s population. The doctors then said it was caused by the position of the planets. Most common people were sure it was God’s punishment for unpardonable sins—like Noah’s flood. No one suspected it was a tiny thing called a virus, carried by the rats and fleas which were part of every day life.

The coronavirus COVID-19 is a reminder that God, or nature, works in mysterious ways. It is a tragic irony, that such modern plagues might help mitigate the onset of global warming and the sixth great extinction of species. We have only decades, not centuries, to reduce our carbon dioxide and green house gas footprint to zero, or see the wrath of God again, as in 1348.

If you are a Franciscan Christian, or an environmentalist of any persuasion, that believes in the sanctity of all forms of life, and values non-human species, you have to be torn, when the plague comes knocking at your door. As you and some of your loved ones die a wretched death, you can temper your despair. The silver lining is that it might, possibly be for a greater good.

The Gates Foundation has developed a cleaner, safer nuclear power plant and reactor – by David Lindsay Jr – InconvenientNews.Net

Yesterday was a wonderful day full of good news for environmentalists. And I’m not thinking about Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobushar, but of Bill and Melinda Gates. Someone at a recent  CT League of Conservation Voters meeting recently suggested to Kathleen Schomaker that she watch the new Netflix documentary, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, who won an Academy award for “An Inconvenient Truth.”

There are three episodes, each about an hour. Part One, while describing Bill Gate’s blessed childhood in Seattle, bounces up to the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The short segments on the foundation, tell the story of it improving  sewage conditions in third world countries, especially by starting an international competition to invent a new toilet: a stand alone, recomposting toilet. The foundation also developed a new power plant that runs on fecal waste, creates electricity, and produces clean potable water. I have posted three reviews of the series at my blog, and one of them said that the reporting was full of technical “wonky” details on revolutionary toilet ideas!

Episode Two covered Bill’s high school years and getting to Microsoft, and how the Gates Foundation set about to eradicate polio from the planet. They were nearly successful in some of the worst places for polio in the world, like Nigeria, until the rise of Boko Haran. The terrorists started killing the vaccinators, and polio hasn’t been eradicated in Boko Haran territory.

But it is part three than got us wildly excited. The personal details of Bill and Melinda’s courtship and marriage, and the anti-trust cases against Microsoft were informative, but the big news was the third project of the Gates Foundation—developing a cleaner, safer nuclear power plant and reactor. A team of teams led by Bill came up with a new and radically different nuclear reactor design that they are quite confident will not be able to have a meltdown during even a missile strike. It will not run as hot, or need water for cooling, and it will run on nuclear waste–used and depleted uranium–so it will not create much more waste, and will give a use to all the nuclear waste dumps in the world today and use the waste up. If it works, it is a game changer. They decided the best place to build the first one was in China, since the Chinese were still actively building nuclear power plants, but when Trump came to office, he began tariffs and cancelled the carefully arranged partnership. The episode ended without more info. We just know that the Gates Foundation still has to build and test their first prototype somewhere, to see if the simulations in their labs and on their computers are accurate.

Inside Bill’s Brain review: a Netflix docu-series that keeps getting distracted – The Verge

“The title of Davis Guggenheim’s three-part Netflix documentary Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (which debuts on Friday, September 20th) speaks to its subject’s opacity. What makes one of the world’s wealthiest people tick? What formed him? How did he come to dominate a fiercely competitive industry so thoroughly that the US government sued Microsoft under antitrust statutes?

Guggenheim gets into all that… sort of. Over the course of nearly three hours, Inside Bill’s Brain covers the basics of Gates’ life: his childhood, education, Microsoft stewardship, marriage to his wife Melinda, and the charitable foundation they co-manage.

At times, though, it seems like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is this doc’s real subject. Each episode of Inside Bill’s Brain focuses on one of the foundation’s major initiatives: improving sewage conditions in developing countries, eradicating polio, and developing a cleaner, safer form of nuclear power. Each of the three parts shifts rapidly between interviews, biographical material, and fly-on-the-wall footage of the Gates team’s philanthropic missions. Guggenheim eschews traditional transitions, and instead jumps from subject to subject, even when there’s no clear connection between them.”

Source: Inside Bill’s Brain review: a Netflix docu-series that keeps getting distracted – The Verge

‘Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates’ Review – 9/4/2019 by Stephen Farber| Hollywood Reporter

Oscar-winning documentary director Davis Guggenheim enlists Gates’ cooperation for a three-part Netflix series on some of the billionaire’s passion projects.

“One of the hottest tickets at this year’s Telluride Film Festival was not one of the eagerly awaited narrative features but the first showing of a Netflix docuseries on Bill Gates. Patrons lined up for the screening of Inside Bill’s BrainDecoding Bill Gates, with the subject himself on hand for a discussion. The series was directed by Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient TruthWaiting for SupermanHe Named Me Malala), and it contains some of the filmmaker’s best work.

No doubt Gates trusted the director enough to provide candid interviews on his personal life, along with information on his ambitious projects to use his wealth to build a better world. Although the docuseries does not skirt controversial episodes in Gates’ past, it gives him credit as a visionary thinker while also painting a surprisingly human portrait of the computer geek turned philanthropist and concerned citizen.

The three parts of the series encompass Gates’ efforts to provide clean drinking water for people in the poorest countries of the world, his battle to eradicate polio and his efforts on behalf of safe nuclear power as an alternative to climate-destroying fossil fuels. Along with exploring these potent issues, the film delves into Gates’ early family life and his marriage to Melinda, who is partnered with him on his charitable foundation, which he has focused on since stepping down from Microsoft in 2008.

Guggenheim collected an impressive group of pundits to discuss some of these issues, including scientists and technical experts, along with New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof, who provides especially pithy interviews. But the series also includes interviews with Melinda, Gates’ two sisters and, of course, extensive talks with Gates himself. Some of the most revealing interviews concern Gates’ relationship with his mother, a strong woman and something of a community leader in Seattle; he describes her early death as the most difficult time in his life.

Gates’ developing relationship with Melinda also provides fascinating material. Clearly Bill had difficulty entering into personal relationships, and when he was debating whether to marry Melinda, he prepared a detailed chart listing the pros and cons of a union. She has proven to be an invaluable partner; for one thing, he acknowledges that she is much better at dealing with people, a crucial quality in accomplishing the goals that he wants his charities to produce.

One of the thorniest of these issues is Gates’ commitment to nuclear power. As the film indicates, he and his team were making progress on changing public opinion until the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011 once again incited widespread fears. There are also issues regarding the disposal of nuclear waste, and Trump’s trade war with China has made Chinese cooperation on this project more challenging.”

Source: ‘Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates’ Review | Hollywood Reporter

Review: Netflix documentary on Bill Gates reveals chaos, determination and love ‘Inside Bill’s Brain’ – BY KURT SCHLOSSER – GeekWire

“In his relentless pursuit to try to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems around sanitation, disease eradication and climate change, Bill Gates is practically robotic in his quest for information and in his inability to give up. It’s glimpses of the Microsoft co-founder’s human side that help power “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” a three-part documentary series from Netflix.

Directed by Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”), the series is at times an intimate and revealing look at Gates’ life, from his upbringing to his education, his family and friendships, the drive to make Microsoft a global powerhouse, the transition to philanthropy, and his love for and partnership with wife Melinda Gates.

For those familiar with many of the benchmarks and anecdotes from Gates’ long life in the public eye, there are repeated tales of his accomplishments and idiosyncrasies. They are spliced throughout three 50-minute episodes with footage from his home and offices in Seattle to far-flung locations around the planet.”

Source: Review: Netflix documentary on Bill Gates reveals chaos, determination and love ‘Inside Bill’s Brain’ – GeekWire

Opinion | To Survive Disaster, Plan for the Worst – By Tina Rosenberg – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Rosenberg is a co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

Credit…Rehman Asad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Disaster relief works like this: There is a flood, a drought, an earthquake, a famine, an exodus of refugees. Reporters swarm in, broadcasting images of suffering. Humanitarian workers on the ground analyze who needs what relief and draw up plans. The government asks for help. The United Nations coordinates international pledges. Relief comes in — money, bags of grain, medical supplies.

But by that point, weeks or months have gone by.

Rarely is there preplanning, pre-fundraising, or pre-agreement on a plan. “This is medieval,” said Stefan Dercon, a professor of economic policy at Oxford and a former chief economist of Britain’s bilateral aid agency, the Department for International Development. He and Daniel Clarke, head of the London-based Center for Disaster Protection, wrote the book “Dull Disasters? How Planning Ahead Will Make a Difference.”

“It is as if financial instruments such as insurance do not exist,” they wrote. “This is begging-bowl financing at its worst.”

But here’s what can happen instead — what, in fact, did happen in the Kurigram district of northwest Bangladesh in July. With colossal rains predicted, the United Nations World Food Program and the Bangladesh government identified about 5,000 particularly vulnerable families. Three days before the flood hit, they used mobile phone banking to send each family the equivalent of $53. With that money, the families secured their houses and belongings — for example, buying materials to lift their furniture off the ground. And they could pay the costs of taking their livestock and fleeing.”

Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows – By Hiroko Tabuchi – The New York Times

“Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.”

The End of Australia as We Know It – By Damien Cave – The New York Times

By 

Photographs by 

“SYDNEY, Australia — In a country where there has always been more space than people, where the land and wildlife are cherished like a Picasso, nature is closing in. Fueled by climate change and the world’s refusal to address it, the fires that have burned across Australia are not just destroying lives, or turning forests as large as nations into ashen moonscapes.

They are also forcing Australians to imagine an entirely new way of life. When summer is feared. When air filters hum in homes that are bunkers, with kids kept indoors. When birdsong and the rustle of marsupials in the bush give way to an eerie, smoky silence.

“I am standing here a traveler from a new reality, a burning Australia,” Lynette Wallworth, an Australian filmmaker, told a crowd of international executives and politicians in Davos, Switzerland, last month. “What was feared and what was warned is no longer in our future, a topic for debate — it is here.”

“We have seen,” she added, “the unfolding wings of climate change.”

Like the fires, it’s a metaphor that lingers. What many of us have witnessed this fire season does feel alive, like a monstrous gathering force threatening to devour what we hold most dear on a continent that will grow only hotter, drier and more flammable as global temperatures rise.”

David Lindsay:  Horrid, excellent story, and good comments, such as:

Hugh Garner
Melbourne
Times Pick

The gravity of this article is well founded. For me, as an Australian, it is more than heart-breaking. I feel like the burnt countryside, scarred by the inferno. It has changed me forever. An enduring image for me is the picture of the Australian Prime Minister, Morrison, standing in the Parliament with a fatuous grin, holding a large lump of coal, in his apology for a mind, making a point against the environmentalists. This man and his supporters, denying reality, must be thrown out. There is no forgiving. Morrison, the Prime Minister, and his lackeys, are nothing but “fossil fools”.

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Climate Change: It’s a Buzzkill for Bumblebees, Study Finds – By Kendra Pierre-Louis and Nadja Popovich – The New York Times

A queen Bombus affinis, collected in Racine, Wis.All photos from the U.S.G.S. Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

“Behold the humble bumblebee.

Hot temperatures linked to climate change, especially extremes like heat waves, are contributing to the decline of these fuzzy and portly creatures, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Researchers found that bumblebee populations had recently declined by 46 percent in North America and by 17 percent across Europe when compared to a base period of 1901 to 1974. The biggest declines were in areas where temperatures spiked well beyond the historical range, which raises concerns that climate change could increase the risk of extinction for bees, which are already threatened by pesticide use and habitat loss.

“The scale of this decline is really worrying,” said Peter Soroye, a doctoral student in biology at the University of Ottawa and lead author of the study. “This group of organisms is such a critical pollinator in wild landscapes and agricultural regions.”

The common eastern bumblebee, or Bombus impatiens, shown below, is an important pollinator in eastern North America. It’s also the species you’re most likely to encounter in your garden.”