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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Change

 I’m not a scientist. I didn’t even take a science class in college, unless you count psychology. My knowledge about science comes from a lifelong interest in scientific topics: in no specific order, plants, space, chemistry, ecology, technology and geology. I read Discover Magazine, thank you Wilda Morris for my free subscription, and listen to Science Friday religiously, pun intended. 

I love to write about nature. It gained an idyllic representation in the late 18th and early 19th century literature, but it can be quite ruthless. Ask anyone who has seen a cat play with a mouse or a flood wash away a car. Nature is not a person, has no emotions, no personality. When the temperature rises to a certain point, ice melts. When trees burn, they release carbon. When animals lose habitat, they move or die.


As a pioneer in Early Childhood Special Education Technology, I learned of the stages of change and the reactions of people to that change. Shawn Galloway(1) characterizes people according to their reactions: pioneers, yes people, crowd followers, skeptics and cave people. 


I’d like to think we have finally made it to the crowd follower stage of development. New books, news items, and even college studies are common, although our country is still divided in opinion. I have already written about Greta Thunberg. Bill Gates says we need to get to zero emissions to reverse the heating. Will anyone listen to him?




Galloway, Shawn, “Five Types of People in Organizational Change”, 1/1/2017, accessed 3/31/2021

https://ohsonline.com/articles/2017/01/01/five-types-of-people-in-organizational-change.aspx?admgarea=magazine&m=1

Friday, February 26, 2021

Climate Disasters: I Was So Certain

 Climate Change 2.0



If you weren’t paying attention this month, there was a catastrophic climate event. This was the third Polar Vortex in my lifetime of 73 years, and all three occurred in the last 10 years. The first time it happened, my mother was still alive. I drove to her house before the snow hit so that I could be there in an emergency. I didn’t try to figure out why it was happening, but with another in 2019 and 2020, it dawned on me that if we are experiencing polar weather, then it is not occurring where it is supposed to - at the pole. Sure enough, some scientists believe the air at the pole is displaced when the air at the pole is warm. 


“This warming is believed to be weakening and fragmenting the polar vortex, and distorting the polar jet stream, the ring of westerly winds that typically keeps the ultra-cold air mass contained to the Arctic Circle.”(1)


With polar temperatures warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, I’m afraid I agree with Greta Thunberg, who says we have less than ten years to change the environmental history of the planet.


I talked about feedback loops last month, but I’d like to talk about the poles this month. Many years ago, I took a class online from a Canadian University. Sorry, I can’t remember which one, but it was a GREAT class. One thing I had never thought about was the salt content of the oceans. Salt drops to the floor of the ocean when the water freezes. Ocean currents pick it up and carry it all over the world. But what if less water freezes? 


Salinity levels are important for two reasons. First, along with temperature, they directly affect seawater density (salty water is denser than freshwater) and therefore the circulation of ocean currents from the tropics to the poles. These currents control how heat is carried within the oceans and ultimately regulate the world’s climate. Second, sea surface salinity is intimately linked to Earth’s overall water cycle and to how much freshwater leaves and enters the oceans through evaporation and precipitation. Measuring salinity is one way to probe the water cycle in greater detail. (2) For a detailed explanation of oceanic warming, this web site has colorful graphics to show you: https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/ocean-warming#:~:text=Data%20from%20the%20US%20National,over%20the%20past%20100%20years. IUCN stands for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. 

In the last month, two events have surfaced in my life. First, the Chicago Gifted Community Center is hosting a Kids’ Climate Summit on April 13th. For more information, look here: https://www.chicagogiftedcommunity.org/KCS-2021, then I got Bill Gates’ new book in the mail, and watched his interview with Trevor Noah. 


Today, after I wrote this, Science Friday interviewed a climate scientist who shot my theory down. Oh well.


 I have been an environmentalist since the 1960s but I am still learning. Hope you are, too.





  1. https://www.chicagotribune.com/weather/ct-met-polar-vortex-climate-change-20190130-story.html, accessed 2/27/21.
  2. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/14092020/ocean-saltwater-climate-change-extreme-weather/, accessed 2/27/21.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Climate Change 2021

Climate Change




The theme I chose for this year is Climate Change. I had hoped to learn and write about it last year, but it was impossible not to get sidetracked. I’m not going to address people who don’t believe it is occurring or even those who don’t believe mankind is causing it. This is for people who believe in the science and read what scientists have to say about it. 


There has been a benefit to the containment caused by the COVID-19 epidemic and that is that we have all had to rely on technology to see our friends and learn about the world. I had the pleasure of watching Greta Thunberg and the Dalai Lama discuss climate change with two climate scientists at my breakfast last week. Susan Natale  (renowned Arctic scientist with Woodshole Oceanographic Institute) and William Moomaw (lead author on reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change/IPCC, and the co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize) each gave a glimpse into their research and talked about feedback loops that aren’t even considered in the Climate Change international agreement. There are three videos that help to visualize what is going on ecologically.


Natale discussed her studies in the Arctic and the feedback loop being created there. The permafrost is thawing and temperatures are rising twice as fast as the rest of the planet. When the permafrost thaws, it releases gas that has been frozen. In addition, the ground collapses like a slow mudslide. Twice as much carbon is released in permafrost as in the rest of the planet.


Moomaw discussed his research on forests. When temperatures rise, plants release more CO2. This increases droughts, pests and fires. Fires release more carbon and dead trees don’t absorb any CO2 . Carbon began to increase in the atmosphere in the 1750s with industrialization. Half of the carbon in the atmosphere was created since 1992. Eleven billion tons of carbon have been released, but there are only five billion tons still there. The rest has been absorbed by the oceans and plants. Carbon is stored in dry wood, leaves and soil. Of the carbon stored in the Northern Hemisphere, 50% of it is located in temperate forests. He called for us to rely on wind and solar power, and save and expand the temperate forests, wetlands, marsh and grassland.


Why are these not included in carbon budgets? One reason may be that not many people live at the poles. It is also hard to get data from the poles.


The Dalai Lama noted that the snow is disappearing from the mountains of Tibet. Ecology is looking into the future and favoring preservation over “progress”. 


Since the first Earth Day, I have heard the argument that we can’t sacrifice our economy for Mother Nature, and I have always thought that Mother Nature will have her revenge if we don’t think about what we are doing.


Serendipity: from “The Thread,” My two must-reads in early 2021 on climate change are:  David Pogue’s “How to Prepare for Climate Change” and Bill Gates’ “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.”


  1. Dalai Lama https://www.facebook.com/339188887615/videos/262379708552887/
  2. David Pogue https://www.publicmediamarket.org/blogs/blog/how-to-prepare-for-climate-change-by-david-pogue?utm_campaign=The+Thread_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sfmc_&utm_content=
  3. David Pogue https://authory.com/DavidPogue
  4. Bill Gates https://www.gatesnotes.com/How-to-Avoid-a-Climate-Disaster
  5. The Thread, https://www.mprnews.org/arts/books?utm_campaign=The+Thread_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sfmc_&utm_content=


Sunday, December 6, 2020

Still Waiting

It seems like a decade has passed in the last year. Living alone has been a blessing and a curse. I went to Florida in January and found it lonely, although my good friends and I were able to visit. I walked four miles a day on the beach and never found it boring. My return trip was stressful because I realized I had forgotten my “tech” bag in the hotel. God bless Hilam Patel for returning everything to me intact. 1 


I stocked up on groceries and waited two weeks for my tech, then rested a bit from the trip and the worries. By the beginning of March, our leaders were telling us to stay home because of COVID-19. When I had to go get groceries, I would notice everything I touched. I sanitized and washed my hands at every opportunity, although items for sanitizing disappeared from the shelves. Of all things, toilet paper and yeast were scarce, too. I quilted most days and read a lot, walked a couple of miles a day and called loved ones. Without human contact, I struggled to find a reason for living. Overnight, I realized that I could not control when I lived or died, I could only control how I lived, and that would be in service to others. 


Summer came, and we were able to get together on our decks and at some restaurants. We felt in touch with nature again, when the heat didn’t drive us indoors. In the city, riots broke out. In my opinion, the heat and the stress from “Rona” were the triggers, as well as the high cost in lives in minority neighborhoods. 


By fall, people were openly ignoring the mask requirement and the disease spread throughout the suburbs as well as the city. I experienced the illness as a migraine-like headache, nauseau, diarrhea, lack of smell, taste distortions, muscle pains, fatigue, and a foggy brain. The initial symptoms lasted just a few days, but it was a full 7 weeks before I was free of fatigue and muscle pain. To keep busy, I found a renewed interest in genealogy.


A few weeks later, my son experienced symptoms and tested positive. He was ill for about a week, I believe. (Long-distance runner, stair-climber, marathoner) Luckily, his symptoms cleared up and he doesn’t seem to have any long-term damage.


November was another lonely month, and I tried to busy myself with sewing and reading and writing.  Thanksgiving dinner was canceled and I got a cold. Such joy! Just a cold! In a week, it was gone. Good news in the form of a vaccine has come along and now the fighting begins to see who gets it. It looks like the greedy, wealthy countries are once again shoving to the front of the line. Will human nature never change?


December is upon us and the plague rages on worse than ever. We are social animals. So social, we will die rather than miss our loved ones. Once again, I turn to my sewing machine, genealogy, books, and writing. One of the lucky ones.










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