Climate Emergency Redux

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We’ve actually been here before.

If you watched History Channel back in the day when they didn’t define “history” as including the current lives of truckers in the Arctic and entire programs breathlessly reporting on the latest mouthbreather  ordinary citizen  claiming to have seen Bigfoot, they ran entire one-hour programs about dead civilizations that had done themselves in by various forms of disregard for the condition of the land they lived on.

On Easter Island, the major theory, borne out by considerable archaeological evidence, is that the Rapa Nui depleted their natural resources which, in turn, physically eroded the soil, leaving a weakened and declining remnant population that was easily finished off by the introduction of European diseases.

Thy must have read the signs – but they refused to change their ways. In fact, some researchers believe that their attempts to appease their gods and their chieftains pushed them to redouble their efforts, using up what little remained in ever-greater rituals and monuments.

What the Anasazi of the Southwestern United States left behind them show that deforestation, along with water management problems and long term drought conditions, precipitated violence and religious and political upheaval, which in turn led to social collapse and abandonment of their homes and major centres.

The Mayan, and the Moche, too, failed to adapt to changing environmental conditions on land and in the oceans and continued to exhaust soils and forests, despite a noticeably shrinking resource base, and ultimately, these societies collapsed, as well.

The demise of every major Late Bronze Age society, a widespread collapse that affected most of the Mediterranean and the Levant and even India, shows strong evidence of climate change that included volcanic eruptions sending massive amounts of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, hydrochloric acid and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, which possibly played a decisive role in almost every one of the social implosions during that period.

Closer to home, there were the Norse in Greenland. While the unexpected climate change (the “Little Ice Age”) was partially due to a volcano on Lombok Island in Indonesia, the underlying demise of the colony was exacerbated by deforestation of  already limited timber resources, along with overgrazing by domestic livestock, which in turn contributed to soil erosion. The inability of the colonists to change their European ways and adapt to the new conditions saw the entire population wiped out by the early 1400s.

And if you watch any programs about these now-defunct societies, you will notice the smug superiority.

The condescending tone that implies (when it does not outright state) that obviously these people could see what was happening to their land, to their culture.

Such stupid people, to not have acted promptly, and taken care of their land, to not have addressed the problems head-on, before they became not merely problems, but a death sentence.

We, of course, are much smarter than that.

Well, aren’t we?

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Flash Fiction Friday!

Prince Whitney always took precautions, especially with fruit.

He made sure to peel every pear, every apricot, and especially every apple before he allowed himself to bite into it, inspecting the flesh closely for signs or scents that all was not well.

He knew too much about his family history not to suspect that his step-grandma’s friends and relations might not try that hoary old trick again.

Unscheduled Food Post!

We’v been attempting to do at least one meatless meal every week, and I was trying to find something new and interesting when I was reminded of Mom’s Moroccan Vegetable Stew.

There should be a picture here, but we were starving, and in a hurry, and ate it immediately because………………….

This. Is. The. Best. Thing. Ever.

Spice mix:
(all amounts are minimums. Increase them if you like).

1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp Kosher salt, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/8 tsp curry powder. Mix these together in a little bowl.

Remaining ingredients

1 tbsp butter

1 can chick peas (drained)

1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)

1 large onion, diced

1 bunch fresh spinach (or the equivalent amount of kale), shredded

1 large sweet potato (or two small ones) cubed

three or four carrots sliced

8-10 dried apricots, chopped (or 1 can, drained and rinsed, although the flavour is nowhere near as intense as dried. But dried ones are expensive. I get it.)

1 large white potato, cubed

1 tbsp honey

3-4 cups vegetable broth

fresh ground pepper

cornstarch, water

 

Melt the butter (I usually add a bit of oil so that the butter doesn’t burn), and gently saute the onions until translucent, then add the spice mix, stir, and cook for another minute or so.

Add the shredded spinach or kale, and let it JUST begin to wilt, then add the remaining veggies, the chick peas, the diced tomatoes and liquid, and the vegetable broth.

Stir really well, and add the honey, then simmer gently for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Mix a swack (maybe 3/4 tbsp) of cornstarch into cold water, bring the stew up to boiling and add the cornstarch. Stir until thickened, reduce the heat and make sure everything is really well incorporated, and then serve it up.

 

This goes really well with a sourdough bread, or something similar.

It tastes really good the next day, too.

As with all of Mom’s recipes, the amounts, and the ingredients are starting points. If you don’t like sweet potatoes, use some squash. If you hate spinach and kale – try shredded zuchinni. And so on.

Whistling Past Our Own Graveyard

Updated for more science: more information

The other night on Twitter, @thedavidcrosby was arguing about nuclear power. (He’s against it, for a myriad of reasons.)

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What struck me was the number of people advocating for it as a solution to the current emergency that the reliance of fossil fuels has brought to us.

Now, there are a lot of reasons why many of us don’t like the idea of turning to nuclear power. One of the big ones is the nexus it represents of human error and human greed, along with incredibly short life-spans for the facilities. California alone can show why this is a hazardous enterprise.

Consider the Rancho Seco plant outside Sacramento, where in 1986, a rapid over-cooling of the reactor vessel was caused by the combination of a power outage and human error. It saw two workers exposed to an “apparently safe” level of radiation and the plant had vented a reportedly “harmless amount” of radioactive steam into the air over Sacramento Valley pastures. It had cost over $375 million when it was built in 1974 ($1.52 billion in today’s dollars) and never re-opened.

– info from the LA Times

Or take the San Onofre plant that was begun around 1968.

Unit 1 was decommissioned in 1992. Unit 2 was started in 1983 and Unit 3 in 1984. Upgrades supposedly designed to last 20 years were made to the reactor units in 2009 and 2010; however, both reactors were shut down in January 2012 after premature wear was found on more than 3,000 tubes in replacement steam generators that had been installed in 2010 and 2011. It was closed down in 2013.

– info from Wikipedia.

And then back in the late 70s, there was an attempt to add an LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) plant at Point Conception and export site with a nuclear power plant next door to run it.

This was protested madly on a number of fronts.

One was that it proposed cutting into a sacred Native site (imagine if someone wanted to demolish the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to put up a McDonald’s in Jerusalem).

Another was that it would be sitting on top of a major earthquake fault zone – not exactly a good idea for anything, but especially not this.

And the third was that the proposed harbour for loading and shipping the LNG had, on average, less that 20 days a year of maritime safety in terms of loading the LNG, because of weather and ocean conditions.

The thing about LNG is that if/when it combusts, it would have the ability to simultaneously freeze, burn, and suffocate everyone within a pretty large radius – and that particular plant would have, if anything went wrong, destroyed not merely the plant generating its power, but the city of Santa Barbara along with several other communities around it.

Human greed and a lust for the power to overrule common sense seemed to be the primary drivers of the project – but I digress.

There are a lot of unresolved questions about nuclear power plants themselves, and they are really important questions, too.

As noted above, the plants themselves don’t have very long operating lives, for a start, which doesn’t seem like a good option when you are trying to reduce the overall impact humans are having on the planet.

More than that, though, we haven’t really solved the long-term disposal of the toxic waste that the plants inevitably produce.

Add to this the well-evidenced tendency of contractors bidding low and then having to cheap out on materials and time invested in inspection et cetera….well, you can see what potential disasters are lurking.

But that’s just the practical factors of the dilemma.

The other part of this is the number of people who still want a costly, tricky, human-error-prone, and fossil-fuel-dependent solution to the #ClimateEmergency.

Folks: relying on 20th century technology to save us from our 20th century technology is the height of insanity.

We need to move forward.

It is the implicit and unquestioning reliance on expensive, complicated “tech” (not science, but “tech” – essentially, just gadgets, when you come right down to it) to weasel our way painlessly out of problems the tech itself created –  that’s what brought us here in the first place.

Solar and wind energy solutions are already taking over the bulk of the energy needs in many countries.

And 21st century tech is doing this. The gains will only increase as we go forward – the innovations seem to arrive almost weekly.

So why (forgive my generalization here) are so many people (mostly rich white men) still insisting on an expensive and questionable solution that has already had disastrous failures (Think Chernobyl. Think Fukishima. Think Three Mile Island.) is the way to go?

Flash Fiction Friday!

He was a refuge.

That was his role in this place: to be a shelter, a defense. To protect the woman, so she could live in safety.

Once he’d had a different purpose. He could just dimly remember when he’d been something else, something that roared with energy and wild abandon, screaming down the black, rain-slicked roads like some eldritch demonspawn, something for whom speed and noise were like food and drink.

But no more. His tires were worn, and his leather seats cracked and stained, and his once-pulsating heart was silent. He had thought, long ago, that this would be death, until the woman had forced his locks and crawled in to escape the fierce winter winds, and he had realized that he could be so much more.

Doing it right – Cosplay and Consent

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I don’t go to a heckuva lot of sff cons or fan expos, but I guess I get to maybe two in a year. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

And I’ve read a lot of stuff on the Internet about consent generally, and the abrogations of consent in the Cosplay community – photographers trying to take pictures of “what’s underneath the costume”, of women grabbing male cosplayers’ crotches in public – a myriad of transgressions that I’m sure you all could add to, ad infinitum.

But at one convention, I saw something that cheered me immensely.

There was a woman in a fairly revealing, very beautiful outfit. People loved it.

A young man in a costume that matched it, more or less, came up to her, wanting a photo of the two of them together – would that be okay?

“Sure,” she said. The man’s friend took charge of his phone and they stood side by side as the friend tried to get the right distance to get them both into the picture at the right angle or whatever. These were big costumes. It was tricky.

“Is it all right,” asked the man, “if I put my arm around your shoulder?”

“I guess,” she said, a little doubtfully.

He did. Carefully. His arm was touching her bare shoulder, but I could see, from where I was standing, that as his hand curved around her upper arm, that he was meticulously NOT touching his fingers to her skin. He was holding them a couple of millimetres away.

Picture was taken.

The man thanked her, and went on his way.

Gentlemen and ladies: THIS is how you do it. You ask first, and then you take absolutely no additional liberties than what was explicitly agreed upon.

How hard is that?

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday!

The people who lived in the wide plains below the fortress did not think much about the past.

There were stories, of course. How this was the abode of ancient gods, endlessly feasting in splendor and comfort. Dark stories, some of them: how they would come out of the fortress to demand tribute in exchange for their august favour.

But that was all long ago, when the world was a very different place: harder, and crueler. When they had needed any small tilt in the odds, if they were to survive at all.

There were stories of a Golden Age, too: before the gods came, or, perhaps, had once lived among them as men and women. An Age of Wonders, with food aplenty, and warmth gotten with just a flick of a finger.

Before the Changes. Before the Darkness.

Still, things were better now. Over the long years, they had learned how to live with the fluctuating seasons, to adapt, to be careful with their resources.

It seemed that the land was grateful, too, for the crazy swings of storms and drought were less acute, and less frequent now than those old legends told of.

And no one had seen a god for longer than any of them could remember. Certainly not in their own lives, nor in their parents’, at least.

The gods were dead. They were finally free.