Will global warming leave L.A.’s poor under water?

2014-01-21 12.49Al Jazeera America

LOS ANGELES — A contractor laughed when Robin Rudisill asked, more than five years ago, if she should consider the impact of rising sea levels in her plans for remodeling her taupe-colored three-story house here on the oceanfront walk of Venice Beach. “I was serious,” she said.

Rudisill had moved into the house with her mother, grandmother and daughter a few years after leaving her job as a top financial executive at Bank of America. “I have a lot of people to take care of. I’ve got to figure out how long this place will last,” she said. “He thought that was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard.”

The science has since proved her point. [Read more.]

Can the Stuck-in-Place Economy Help Us Face Climate Change?

YES! Magazine

After I finished high school in the flat, square corn country of central Illinois, I fled—along with many of my fellow classmates. We chased jobs or graduate school in places like San Francisco, New York, or Washington, D.C. I settled in Seattle. It wasn’t until I hit my 30s that I became aware of the social costs of this mobility … .

But in the last couple of years, Americans have begun to change their itinerant ways. Since the mid-1980s, an ever-smaller percentage of people are changing locations. [Read more.]

Bluegrass Uprising

spring_houseThe Nation

Lorrie Reed lives alone in a trailer on a rural road outside Frankfort, Kentucky, on two acres of land that her late husband bought more than twenty years ago. He left the property to her and their daughters when he died in a motorcycle accident. “He told me before he passed that the place was going to be mine, and the only way I’d lose it was if I let somebody mess me out of it,” Reed says.

Ever since this past summer, when land agents approached her—twice—to ask permission to survey a proposed pipeline route across her property, Reed repeats these words to herself. She walks with a limp, an injury from a collision with a dump truck during the years that she worked on road maintenance crews. She owns a pistol because she is afraid of the feral dogs that she says are common in the area. She held the gun in her palm when the pipeline consultants pulled into her gravel driveway. “You’re trespassing,” she told them. [Read more.]

The Education of Bill McKibben: How the Unlikely Activist Learned to Break the Rules

YES! Magazine

The tasks Bill McKibben set for himself were monumental. Start a genuinely grassroots movement at a time when many big environmental groups focus on mouse-click petitions, fundraising, and lobbying done by professionals. Marshal enough political will to put a finger in the proverbial dike: to hold back climate change, the worst crisis to face society. It has been exhausting work, and to maintain his sense of perspective, he returns again and again to a plot of land he owns in rural Vermont, where a friend has set up a beekeeping business.

McKibben’s latest book, Oil and Honey, chronicles his journey into ever-riskier and more confrontational activism over the past two years.

The Meaning of Water

A couple of years ago, when I led the production of a water conservation issue for YES!, we ran a story about centuries-old systems of water management called acequias. Acequias are not merely an engineering feat: They are a cultural system that has allowed communities to negotiate the right to use water. In the Southwest, acequias brought together Spanish traditions and indigenous spiritual values about the sacredness of water.

Yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, Cindy Carcamo reported that drought has put acequias in danger. Some farmers are switching to drip irrigation. The shift may make sense in drier conditions, but let’s hope that it doesn’t diminish the values and traditions that guided water use in these communities. Community problem-solving will be important on an ever-hotter planet—especially when it comes to water.

The Farm of the Future Mimics Nature

Today, Tom Philpott has an excellent #longread in Mother Jones about how no-till and cover crops could save farms in times of drought. The vivid writing would make any one want to join Philpott’s band of “soil geeks,” and I am as enthusiastic about earthworms as any gardener. Of course, some parts of the world may not be viable for farming on a hotter planet—not even at the hands of the most careful farmers and land stewards. This includes some areas of Australia that I visited recently. I’ll be writing more soon about what happens when farming gets too tough.

How Many Degrees of Separation?

Yesterday, The New York Times Justin Gillis parsed the way the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported the more conservative and the scarier predictions for global warming. Are scientists so fearful of public criticism that they are downplaying the most disastrous possible impacts? Gillis argues we should know what the risks could be.

Few people can imagine what a few degrees Celsius means, and why it’s so dire. Last year, The New York Times mapped out one scenario: what major U.S. cities would look like if sea level were five feet higher in 100 to 300 years. Boston’s Logan Airport nearly disappears; most of Galveston, Texas, is under water, along with 94 percent of Miami Beach. Is this the future cities need to plan for, or something worse or milder, and how soon?

The Parable of Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch

Photo by DonkeyHotey

The Nation

Although he successfully runs one of the largest media empires in the world, Rupert Murdoch has more detractors than fans. His persona and appearance so evoke the archetype of a villain (rich, ruthless) that some James Bond enthusiasts believe he inspired the evil character Elliot Carver, who tries to provoke a war to gain broadcasting rights in China in the film Tomorrow Never Dies. 

… In the United States, Murdoch’s most controversial media network is, of course, Fox News. But his company, News Corp, also owns numerous television stations, the book publisher HarperCollins, and such iconic publications as The Wall Street Journal. The Guardian has called Fox a “major driving force behind global warming denial,” citing a recent study that said Fox viewers were more likely to distrust scientists and disbelieve the evidence that climate change is happening.

But there is a parallel universe in which Murdoch has even more power over information—the faraway country where the media mogul was born, Australia. [Read more.]