Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, February 13, 2017

DRUMPF’S PIPELINE AND AMERICA’S SHAME

Bill McKibben:

The Drumpf Administration is breaking with tradition on so many fronts—renting out the family hotel to foreign diplomats, say, or imposing travel restrictions on the adherents of disfavored religions—that it seems noteworthy when it exhibits some continuity with American custom. And so let us focus for a moment, before the President’s next disorienting tweet, on yesterday’s news that construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline will be restarted, a development that fits in perfectly with one of this country’s oldest cultural practices, going back to the days of Plymouth Rock: repressing Native Americans.

Just to rehash the story briefly, this pipeline had originally been set to carry its freight of crude oil under the Missouri River, north of Bismarck. But the predominantly white citizens of that town objected, pointing out that a spill could foul their drinking water. So the pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, remapped the crossing for just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This piece of blatant environmental racism elicited a remarkable reaction, eventually drawing representatives of more than two hundred Indian nations from around the continent to a great encampment at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers, near where the pipeline was set to go. They were joined, last summer and into the fall, by clergy groups, veterans groups, environmental groups—including 350.org, the climate-advocacy organization I co-founded—and private citizens, who felt that this was a chance to begin reversing four centuries of literally and figuratively dumping on Native Americans. And the protesters succeeded. Despite the German shepherds and pepper spray let loose by E.T.P.’s security guards, despite the fire hoses and rubber bullets employed by the various paramilitary police forces that assembled, they kept a nonviolent discipline that eventually persuaded the Obama Administration to agree to further study of the plan.

More remarkably, it was the U.S. Army that took the lead—the same agency that had massacred and harassed Native Americans since its founding. On December 4th, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, announced that the easement required for E.T.P. to dig beneath the Missouri would not be granted. Instead, the Army Corps of Engineers would prepare an environmental-impact statement, a lengthy process that effectively put the pipeline on hold. “It’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said at the time. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.” So the Corps set about organizing public hearings and taking testimony; until Tuesday afternoon, we were in the middle of that period, with signatures coming in by the hundred thousand. But at three o’clock yesterday, acting on the President’s suggestion that the environmental review be “expedited,” the Army reverted to ancient form, shutting down the public-comment process and issuing the permits that E.T.P. needs to begin digging again. Suddenly there was not “more work to do.” Somehow, in the eighteen days since Donald Drumpf had taken office, Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, had obtained “sufficient information” to grant the approval.

One feels for the Army brass. Had they continued to act responsibly and in line with their previous commitments, their careers likely would not have progressed. (Speer is apparently no Sally Yates, though those of us worried about the choleric Drumpf and his proximity to the nuclear-launch codes must hope that someone in the Pentagon is.) In any event, digging is scheduled to begin as early as this afternoon. There should, and will, be substantial protests. The first demonstrations began in major cities today, and the Standing Rock Sioux have asked Americans to descend on Washington, D.C., on March 10th. By that point, the pipeline may be all but finished, but the tribe and its attorneys at the environmental group Earthjustice have vowed to keep fighting it in the courts, even once it is carrying oil.

The bigger battle, however, may be in the tribunal of public opinion. The pipeline is a bad idea on many grounds, none of which is likely to sway Drumpf. (The fact that the oil it carries has the same carbon footprint as nearly thirty coal-fired power plants would perhaps seem a plus to him.) Tom Goldtooth, the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, recently noted that Drumpf has yet to meet with any Native American leaders since taking office, which is possibly for the best, given the casual racism that might ensue. But the protests at Standing Rock have reopened the question of how the rest of America, those of us not in the White House, will treat the continent’s original inhabitants. In this standoff, we have confronted our oldest and one of our most shameful stories. That shame will deepen now—which may, once Drumpf is gone, allow us to move closer to real reconciliation. At any rate, we owe a great debt to the protesters, who have acted with a dignity conspicuously lacking in the Oval Office. New Yorker


Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker staff writer, is the founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A BAD DAY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT,

WITH MANY MORE TO COME
By Bill McKibben January 24, 2017

On Tuesday, Donald Drumpf signed an executive order expediting approvals for the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, overturning perhaps the two biggest environmental victories of the Obama years.PHOTOGRAPH BY DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX

Tuesday began with news that the Drumpf Administration had imposed a comprehensive gag order on employees of the Environmental Protection Agency. According to a leaked memo, “no press releases,” “no blog messages,” and “no social media will be going out,” and “no new content can be placed on any website” until further notice—perhaps an attempt to camouflage the other big E.P.A. announcement, which was that the agency’s grants and contracts had been temporarily frozen, effectively halting its work. Then, at nine o’clock, the President had breakfast with a group of beaming auto executives. Drumpf told them that he was “to a large extent an environmentalist,” but apparently his long participation in that movement had persuaded him that “environmentalism is out of control.” The last time Detroit’s C.E.O.s came to the White House, in 2011, President Obama got them to agree, grudgingly, to increase average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon, a pledge they now hope to recant. The day went on. Just before noon—surrounded by his increasingly familiar cast of white guys in suits—Drumpf signed an executive order expediting approvals for the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, thus overturning perhaps the two biggest environmental victories of the Obama years, both of which the advocacy organization I helped found, 350.org, fought for vigorously.

There is, in other words, a new day dawning, and we’re sure as hell not going to use any of that sunlight for energy. Instead, it’s clear that we’re about to witness the steady demolition, or attempted demolition, of the environmental protections that have been put in place over the past five decades. Another leaked memo, released on Monday and attributed to Myron Ebell, the veteran climate-change denier overseeing Drumpf’s E.P.A. transition team, made clear some of the Administration’s first priorities: stopping Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which uses the Clean Air Act to regulate power plants; revising the rules on development in crucial wetlands; and even such granular tasks as reining in efforts to halt the rampant pollution of Chesapeake Bay. The full list, I imagine, will stretch on and on. The nascent effort to prevent leakage from fracking wells, for instance, will likely be abandoned, meaning that we’ll continue to spew methane as well as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. At the Department of the Interior, they’re getting ready to start leasing coal from public lands again; at State, Rex Tillerson says he wants a “seat at the table” in international climate negotiations, but probably won’t push them forward. The drive to free up polluters is so strong and ingrained that it overrides even the usual Republican commitment to states’ rights: Scott Pruitt, who sued the E.P.A. fourteen times before being named to head it, ominously said at his confirmation hearing that he couldn’t promise California would continue to receive the waiver that allows it to set its own vehicle-emissions standards.

“You say you’re going to review it?” Senator Ed Markey, of Massachusetts, asked him.

“Yes, senator,” Pruitt said.

“When you say ‘review,’ I hear ‘undo,’ ” Markey said.

There’s not the slightest evidence that Americans want laxer environmental laws. A poll released last week showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans would prefer that the E.P.A.’s powers be preserved or strengthened. Solar power, meanwhile, polls somewhere in the neighborhood of ice cream among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike. But the survey that counts in the Drumpf Administration is of plutocrats, and, as Jane Mayer demonstrated in her book “Dark Money,” the moguls of the right-wing funding network, whose disciples are now in place across the Cabinet, hate environmental regulation with a passion. We know some of them—the Koch brothers, for instance. But there is a whole league of cartoonish villains, including John Menard, Jr., the richest man in Wisconsin, whose company was once charged with labelling arsenic-tainted mulch as “ideal for playgrounds.” Having paid hundreds of millions in fines, these people paid tens of millions in campaign contributions, and now their bill has come due.

Against them stands reality, as a rogue employee of the National Park Servicereminded us on Tuesday afternoon, defying another gag order by tweeting out climate data from the official Badlands National Park account. The reason we have environmental regulations is because, when we didn’t, the air was filthy and the water sour. Cleaning up our skies and our streams has been an enormous success in every way, including economically: any attempt to tally things like lost work days or visits to the emergency room shows that curbing pollution has huge returns on investment. (Just ask the Chinese, who are desperately trying to cobble together their own system of environmental protections.) As in so many other cases, the returns on deregulation will go to a handful of very wealthy Americans, and the cost will be spread across society, falling particularly hard on those who live near the highways and on the flood plains. Reality gets plainer every day on a planet that just saw the hottest year ever recorded, where sea ice is at an all-time low, and where California’s epic drought has suddenly given way to epic flooding. History will judge the timing of Drumpf’s crusade with special harshness—it is, you might say, a last-gasp effort.


Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker staff writer, is the founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College.
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Badlands

. was forced to take down their tweets about climate change, but don't worry we saved them - now let's help spread them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Facts

Andy Revkin (@Revkin)
In farewell address, Obama called on Americans to center on "a common baseline of facts". Worth trying grist.org/briefly/in-his… via @grist

Obama’s faith in the eventual solubility of things is closely related to his reverence for the Enlightenment, which he name-checked while speaking of another good that Drumpf threatens to destroy: the truth. Obama posited reason as the link between challenges as diverse as climate change and international terrorism, placing it as a counterpoint to fear, which might tempt our citizenry to shake off, or take “for granted,” the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution... (New Yorker, continues)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The overview effect

...It was always part of NASA’s mission to look inward, not just outward. The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which established the agency, claimed as its first objective “the expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space.” nasa’s early weather satellites were followed, in the seventies and eighties, by a slew of more advanced instruments, which supplied data on the ozone layer, crops and vegetation, and even insect infestations. They allowed scientists to recognize and measure the symptoms of climate change, and their decades’ worth of data helped the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conclude, in 2007, that global warming is “very likely” anthropogenic. According to a report released last month by nasa’s inspector general, the agency’s Earth Science Division helps commercial, government, and military organizations around the world locate areas at risk for storm-related flooding, predict malaria outbreaks, develop wildfire models, assess air quality, identify remote volcanoes whose toxic emissions contribute to acid rain, and determine the precise length of a day.

These seem like key functions of civilization as we know it...

...We seem to need to see the planet as a whole in order to think about it as such.

Generations of astronauts, after looking at Earth from space, have professed a profound new understanding of it. Edgar Mitchell, who, in 1971, became the sixth man to walk on the moon, said, “From out there . . . international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’ ” Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong’s crewmate on Apollo 11, expressed similar sentiments in his memoir, “Carrying the Fire,” which was published in the midst of the Cold War. Seeing our home planet from afar, he wrote, prompted an epiphany: “The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied.”

Mike Massimino, in his memoir, “Spaceman,” reports having spent almost a full day staring out a window of the Space Shuttle Columbia, watching sunrises and lightning storms (“like a form of communication, like a sequence, like the clouds are alien creatures speaking to each other in code”). On his second spacewalk, Massimino told me recently, he had a spare moment to “take in the view.” He recalls being struck not only by Earth’s incredible beauty—“We are living in a paradise”—but also by its fragility. From out there, he said, especially during night passes, “you can see the thinness of the atmosphere,” a bluish-green line. This sudden perception of Earth as a delicate, intricate system is so common among astronauts that the writer Frank White coined a term for it: the overview effect...

"NASA’S OVERLOOKED DUTY TO LOOK INWARD" continues

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Thawed skepticism

Half a decade before he took this trip to the farthest reaches of the north, Andreas Muenchow had his doubts about whether warming temperatures were causing one of the world’s great platforms of ice to melt and fall apart.

He even stood before Congress in 2010 and balked on whether climate change might have caused a mammoth chunk of ice, four times the size of Manhattan, to break off from this floating, 300-square-mile shelf. The University of Delaware oceanographer said he wasn’t sure. He needed more evidence.

But then the Petermann Ice Shelf lost another two Manhattans of ice in 2012, and Muenchow decided to see for himself, launching a project to study the ice shelf intensively.

He was back again in late August, no longer a skeptic. It was hard not to be a believer here at 81 degrees north latitude, where Greenland and Canada very nearly touch. The surface of the bumpy and misshapen ice was covered with pools and puddles, in some cases frozen over but with piercing blue water beneath. Streams carved through the vast shelf, swelling into larger ponds or even small lakes.

The meltwater was a sign the ice shelf was growing more fragile, moving closer to the day when it might give up more city-size chunks of ice.

The Petermann Ice Shelf serves as a plug of sorts to one of Greenland’s largest glaciers, lodged in a fjord that, from the height of its mountain walls down to the lowest point of the seafloor, is deeper than the Grand Canyon. There’s enough ice piled up behind Petermann to raise oceans globally by nearly a foot someday.

The question for Muenchow is no longer whether Petermann is changing — it’s how fast it could give up still more ice to the seas. That’s why he and British Antarctic Survey colleague Keith Nicholls ventured here by helicopter to take the measure of the Petermann shelf, which had been shifting and surging in a way that damaged the scientific instruments they had left behind a year earlier — behaving as though it didn’t want to be known...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Who cares about climate change?


Here’s a question you probably shouldn’t ask yourself unless you’re prepared for an unsettling answer: which problems facing the modern world do you really, truly care about the most, as measured by how emotionally exercised you get, and how willing you are to take action? Somewhere near the top, for me, is the man who illegally parks his dark blue van outside my apartment building almost every week; he reliably renders me furious, and I never fail to make an online complaint. A little lower down the list comes the recent decision by my fellow Brits to leave the European Union; and below that, terrorist atrocities: appalling as they are, they’re so incomprehensible that my main response is bafflement. Below all these comes climate change. Apart from brief flashes of raw sadness at what’s happening to the planet, and my complicity in it, the shameful reality is that it generally just isn’t a regular cause of motivating emotion.

This probably makes me a bad person, but I’m not a stupid one: I can see that my priorities, judged by the vehemence of my emotions, are precisely upside-down. Like many other people, I’m a walking embodiment of Sayre’s Law, coined by the American political scientist Wallace Sayre: when it comes to political disputes (and, he might have added, other societal challenges) intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to what’s at stake. We tend to care most about what matters least, and vice versa – a very human flaw, perhaps, but one that may yet bring about our destruction. The problem of humanity’s impact on our natural habitat feels too complex to understand; too big for any individual to make a difference; and potentially so catastrophic as to be painful to contemplate. No wonder it’s more appealing to pursue my vendetta against Blue Van Guy instead.

This predilection for focusing our energies on precisely the wrong things is nothing new: in his famous letter On the Shortness of Life, the Stoic philosopher Seneca bemoaned his fellow Romans’ tendency to fill their lives with pointless busywork, rather than using their short span of time more meaningfully. (Which meant, Seneca argued, using it to do philosophy.) What’s different about climate change, psychologically speaking, is the way it triggers an unprecedented combination of our in-built self-sabotaging impulses. As recent research in behavioural economics has shown, we’re largely unable to make small sacrifices now to avert major losses later on – and we’re much more troubled by threats we can mentally picture (a terrorist planting a bomb, a thief with a gun) than those that are harder to visualise (the systemic ramifications of a one-degree rise in global temperatures, say). Besides, when we do take some selfless action, such as donating to an environmental charity, we become immediately prone to ‘moral licensing’, the phenomenon whereby the warm inner glow of having done the right thing provides an excuse for doing something that cancels out the benefits, such as eating more meat, or turning up the air conditioning. Some of these cognitive biases have evolutionary justifications: in early human communities, for example, easy-to-picture dangers probably did pose the greatest threat. Now, though, they’ve become a serious impediment to our safety – one that Daniel Kahneman, the doyen of cognitive bias researchers, has said he’s personally pessimistic we’ll ever manage to surmount.

Yet perhaps the most interesting and troubling psychological feature of climate change, ironically enough, is how boring it is to so many of us. The filmmaker Randy Olson has called this “the great unmentionable” of the environmental movement, and at first glance it makes little sense: such a severe, planet-wide threat might well terrify us into paralysis, but you’d hardly expect it to seem dull. The truth, though, is that modernity’s most pressing problems are frequently among the least interesting – in part because they involve not exciting individual human dramas, which seize our attention and evoke empathy, but complex interconnected systems and endless quantities of data. The global financial meltdown of 2007-8 was of little interest to anyone other than specialists, or those worst affected, until it began to involve TV images of homeowners forced from their dwellings, or fired bankers carrying out boxes of their belongings on to Wall Street.

There are, of course, dramatic human stories unfolding right now as a consequence of the climate crisis – but they tend either to be happening far away, or difficult to attribute definitively to global warming. (Those displaced by flooding and fires in the US, for example, rarely get described as climate refugees.) The conspiratorial thinking of climate denial, by contrast, positively teems with gripping tales of evil scientists scheming in backrooms. These stories may be false – but you can’t claim they’re not compelling. They are testaments to what the literary scholar Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, has called “the vast, witchy power of story in human life”. Stories compel us, whether or not they’re true; facts may not, even though they are.

Or maybe the feeling of boredom is better explained psychoanalytically, as a defence against emotions we daren’t make conscious – a numbing but easier alternative to confronting the horror we’re helping to perpetrate? Either way, it’s natural enough for climate campaigners to want to shock people out of their listlessness with graphic imagery and dire warnings. But as a widely reported study showed in 2011 – and subsequent research has confirmed – such messages can easily backfire. The more alarming they are, the more likely audiences are to discount them because of the challenge they pose to the ‘just world bias’, the widely held, if usually unarticulated, assumption that life is generally safe, predictable, and fair. When confronted with evidence that contradicts a deeply-held belief, we’re frighteningly skilled at dismissing the evidence, rather than changing the belief. And even if they don’t backfire, they risk working too well, inducing a sense of helplessness. That despair can then serve as a defence mechanism: if there’s no point in caring about the climate, nor can there be any ethical obligation to do so.

It would be absurd to propose any simple remedy for this predicament. (Who said the existence of a problem entails the existence of a solution anyway?) Personally, though, I’ve found both solace and motivation in the work of Derrick Jensen, a co-founder of the environmental movement Deep Green Resistance. Jensen keeps fighting in the face of despair, he has written, because he’s “in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms… and if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don’t determine whether or not you make the effort.” Though it risks sounding sentimental, thinking in terms of love is actually highly clarifying. Instinctively, we understand what it entails: most of us would condemn a parent who stopped caring for a child simply because the experience was often tedious, or inconvenient, or scary, or because success couldn’t be guaranteed. If we claim to love the planet, why should things be any different? “If my love doesn’t cause me to protect what I love,” as Jensen puts it, “it’s not love.”

The climate crisis may sometimes bore me, or strike me as hopeless, or fail to make me as viscerally angry as it should (or as Blue Van Guy does). But so what? Virtually everyone already knows the experience of investing time and energy in caring for those you love, regardless of whether, in that very moment, you happen to feel like it. You don’t usually do it for some future payoff, or even for the warm inner glow. On the contrary, it’s self-justifying. You do it because it’s what needs to be done.

Monday, December 26, 2016

"Cancer and climate change"

I’M a climate scientist who has just been told I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

This diagnosis puts me in an interesting position. I’ve spent much of my professional life thinking about the science of climate change, which is best viewed through a multidecadal lens. At some level I was sure that, even at my present age of 60, I would live to see the most critical part of the problem, and its possible solutions, play out in my lifetime. Now that my personal horizon has been steeply foreshortened, I was forced to decide how to spend my remaining time. Was continuing to think about climate change worth the bother?

After handling the immediate business associated with the medical news — informing family, friends, work; tidying up some finances; putting out stacks of unread New York Times Book Reviews to recycle; and throwing a large “Limited Edition” holiday party, complete with butlers, I had some time to sit at my kitchen table and draw up the bucket list.

Very quickly, I found out that I had no desire to jostle with wealthy tourists on Mount Everest, or fight for some yardage on a beautiful and exclusive beach, or all those other things one toys with on a boring January afternoon. Instead, I concluded that all I really wanted to do was spend more time with the people I know and love, and get back to my office as quickly as possible.

I work for NASA, managing a large group of expert scientists doing research on the whole Earth system (I should mention that the views in this article are my own, not NASA’s). This involves studies of climate and weather using space-based observations and powerful computer models. These models describe how the planet works, and what can happen as we pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The work is complex, exacting, highly relevant and fascinating.Continue reading the main story

Last year was the warmest year on record, by far. I think that future generations will look back on 2015 as an important but not decisive year in the struggle to align politics and policy with science. This is an incredibly hard thing to do. On the science side, there has been a steady accumulation of evidence over the last 15 years that climate change is real and that its trajectory could lead us to a very uncomfortable, if not dangerous, place. On the policy side, the just-concluded climate conference in Paris set a goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.

While many have mocked this accord as being toothless and unenforceable, it is noteworthy that the policy makers settled on a number that is based on the best science available and is within the predictive capability of our computer models.

It’s doubtful that we’ll hold the line at 2 degrees Celsius, but we need to give it our best shot. With scenarios that exceed that target, we are talking about enormous changes in global precipitation and temperature patterns, huge impacts on water and food security, and significant sea level rise. As the predicted temperature rises, model uncertainty grows, increasing the likelihood of unforeseen, disastrous events.

All this as the world’s population is expected to crest at around 9.5 billion by 2050 from the current seven billion. Pope Francis and a think tank of retired military officers have drawn roughly the same conclusion from computer model predictions: The worst impacts will be felt by the world’s poorest, who are already under immense stress and have meager resources to help them adapt to the changes. They will see themselves as innocent victims of the developed world’s excesses. Looking back, the causes of the 1789 French Revolution are not a mystery to historians; looking forward, the pressure cooker for increased radicalism, of all flavors, and conflict could get hotter along with the global temperature.

Last year may also be seen in hindsight as the year of the Death of Denial. Globally speaking, most policy makers now trust the scientific evidence and predictions, even as they grapple with ways to respond to the problem. And most Americans — 70 percent, according to a recent Monmouth University poll — believe that the climate is changing. So perhaps now we can move on to the really hard part of this whole business.

The initial heavy lifting will have to be done by policy makers. I feel for them. It’s hard to take a tough stand on an important but long-term issue in the face of so many near-term problems, amid worries that reducing emissions will weaken our global economic position and fears that other countries may cheat on their emissions targets.

Where science can help is to keep track of changes in the Earth system — this is a research and monitoring job, led by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and their counterparts elsewhere in the world — and use our increasingly powerful computer models to explore possible futures associated with proposed policies. The models will help us decide which approaches are practicable, trading off near-term impacts to the economy against longer-term impacts to the climate.

Ultimately, though, it will be up to the engineers and industrialists of the world to save us. They must come up with the new technologies and the means of implementing them. The technical and organizational challenges of solving the problems of clean energy generation, storage and distribution are enormous, and they must be solved within a few decades with minimum disruption to the global economy. This will likely entail a major switch to nuclear, solar and other renewable power, with an electrification of our transport system to the maximum extent possible. These engineers and industrialists are fully up to the job, given the right incentives and investments. You have only to look at what they achieved during World War II: American technology and production catapulted over what would have taken decades to do under ordinary conditions and presented us with a world in 1945 that was completely different from the late 1930s.

What should the rest of us do? Two things come to mind. First, we should brace for change. It is inevitable. It will appear in changes to the climate and to the way we generate and use energy. Second, we should be prepared to absorb these with appropriate sang-froid. Some will be difficult to deal with, like rising seas, but many others could be positive. New technologies have a way of bettering our lives in ways we cannot anticipate. There is no convincing, demonstrated reason to believe that our evolving future will be worse than our present, assuming careful management of the challenges and risks. History is replete with examples of us humans getting out of tight spots. The winners tended to be realistic, pragmatic and flexible; the losers were often in denial of the threat.As for me, I’ve no complaints. I’m very grateful for the experiences I’ve had on this planet. As an astronaut I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its future.

And so, I’m going to work tomorrow.

nyt

Piers J. Sellers is the deputy director of Sciences and Exploration at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and acting director of its Earth Sciences Division. As an astronaut, he visited the International Space Station three times and walked in space six times

The Conversation US (@ConversationUS)
If a corporation can have the rights of a person, why can't the natural world have rights? #reversecitizensunited bit.ly/2hQUr5z