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Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind – David Quammen


Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind

David Quammen

Genre: Nature

Price: $13.99

Publish Date: September 17, 2004

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Seller: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

"Rich detail and vivid anecdotes of adventure….A treasure trove of exotic fact and hard thinking." —New York Times Book Review For millennia, lions, tigers, and their man-eating kin have kept our dark, scary forests dark and scary, and their predatory majesty has been the stuff of folklore. But by the year 2150 big predators may only exist on the other side of glass barriers and chain-link fences. Their gradual disappearance is changing the very nature of our existence. We no longer occupy an intermediate position on the food chain; instead we survey it invulnerably from above—so far above that we are in danger of forgetting that we even belong to an ecosystem. Casting his expert eye over the rapidly diminishing areas of wilderness where predators still reign, the award-winning author of The Song of the Dodo and The Tangled Tree examines the fate of lions in India's Gir forest, of saltwater crocodiles in northern Australia, of brown bears in the mountains of Romania, and of Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East. In the poignant and troublesome ferocity of these embattled creatures, we recognize something primeval deep within us, something in danger of vanishing forever.

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Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind – David Quammen

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15 of the Best Foods to Buy in Bulk

Buying food in bulk can help you save money and cut waste. But that only works if you actually end up consuming everything you purchase. Using FoodKeeper ? a database for food quality standards from the USDA, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute ? here are 15 foods that should stay fresh for a long time, making them excellent options to buy in bulk.

1. Chia seeds

Credit: Diana Taliun/Getty Images

Consume within: 18 months

?Chia seeds are often referred to as a superfood due to their impressive concentration of omega-3 fats, fiber, magnesium, calcium and antioxidants,? according to Healthline. They can be a bit pricey, so you?ll get more bang for your buck when you buy in bulk. Store them in the pantry, and they should be fresh for about a year and a half.

2. Cinnamon (ground)

Consume within: 3 to 4 years

Many spices have a shelf life of several years, so don?t hesitate to stock up on the ones you use most often. If you?re a cinnamon fan, you?ll be happy to hear it can last for up to four years, as long as it?s stored in an airtight container in the pantry. Another seasoning you might want to buy in bulk? Salt. It can maintain its quality indefinitely when stored in a well-sealed container.

3. Coconut oil

Consume within: 3 years

Many oils tend to spoil in a matter of months. For instance, olive or vegetable oils last six to 12 months in the pantry (and three to five months after opening), according to FoodKeeper. But coconut oil can stay fresh for up to three years when stored in a cool, dry place. ?Coconut oil ? is more resistant to oxidation than other vegetable oils,? Healthline says. ?Plus, unrefined virgin coconut oil contains powerful antioxidants that are thought to help protect the oil from spoilage.?

4. Dried beans

Credit: KenWiedemann/Getty Images

Consume within: 1 to 2 years

Store dried beans in the pantry, and they can stay fresh for up to two years (and one year after opening). Although they take some work to prepare, they?re typically the most economical choice when it comes to beans ? especially when you buy in bulk. Older beans might take longer to get tender, according to Food Network. So you should keep them in an airtight container to preserve their quality for as long as possible.

5. Dried fruit

Consume within: 6 months

If you can?t manage to eat all your fresh fruit before it goes bad, you might want to try some dried fruit. Many dried fruits ? such as raisins, apricots, mangoes and cranberries ? will last about six months when stored unopened in the pantry. After opening, it?s best to move the fruit to the refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for about six months (compared to one month opened in the pantry). ?Keep in mind that dried fruit is higher in calories and sugar than fresh fruit and should be eaten in small amounts,? Healthline says. ?Choose unsweetened dried fruit whenever possible to limit added sugar intake.?

6. Frozen berries

Consume within: 8 to 12 months

Frozen fruit also can be a great alternative if you often find yourself with spoiled fresh fruit ? especially for berries. ?Frozen berries are similar in nutritional value to fresh berries and can be purchased in bulk at lower prices,? Healthline says. Varieties ? including blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cherries, cranberries and raspberries ? typically last for less than a week in the refrigerator but for up to a year in the freezer, according to FoodKeeper.

7. Frozen vegetables

Consume within: 8 months

Just like with fruit, if you don?t eat your veggies fast enough you might want to consider some frozen options. Frozen vegetables often are nutritionally similar to fresh produce. And sometimes they might even ?contain more vitamins and phytonutrients than days-old fresh items, though additional cooking and storage after defrosting may close that gap,? according to Harvard Medical School. Just be aware of any added ingredients, such as salt, that are in the frozen varieties.

8. Nuts

Credit: ThitareeSarmkasat/Getty Images

Consume within: 1 year

In general, FoodKeeper says nuts in a jar or can last about a year when stored in the pantry, though certain varieties have slightly different lifespans. After opening, they?ll maintain freshness for roughly two to nine months in the pantry, four to six months in the fridge and six to 12 months frozen. Plus, nuts still in their shells tend to last longer than shelled nuts. And even though they can be tedious to crack, that extra work might be worth it. ?An extra benefit of nuts in the shell is that it takes more time and effort to prepare them than shelled nuts, which may slow eating and lead to a reduction in calorie intake,? Healthline says.

9. Oatmeal

Consume within: 1 year

If you?re an oatmeal fan, stock up on this heart-healthy food. ?Oats are high in B vitamins, magnesium and zinc, as well as a particular type of fiber called beta-glucan, which may help lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar levels and increase feelings of fullness,? Healthline says. And according to FoodKeeper, the oats can last six to 12 months after opening, as long as you store them in an airtight container in the pantry.

10. Pasta (dried, no eggs)

Consume within: 2 years

Fresh pasta can last for a couple of months in the freezer. But dried pasta can maintain its quality for about two years in the pantry ? and one year once it?s opened. ?After opening, store the remaining pasta in an airtight container to prolong its shelf life, and toss it if you find any bugs or off odors,? Food Network recommends.

11. Peanut butter

Consume within: 1 year

Natural peanut butter can be a little pricier than the more processed alternatives. But it should be good for about a year when stored in the refrigerator ? and for up to four months after you open it. So it?s likely worth it to spring for the large container if you tend to eat peanut butter a lot. The more processed peanut butters have similar lifespans, but they often can be stored in the pantry.

12. Popcorn (kernels in a jar)

Credit: Teen00000/Getty Images

Consume within: 2 years

Whole popcorn ? the kernels that typically come in a jar with no additives ? can be a very healthy snack. ?Popcorn is high in fiber, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and polyphenol antioxidants,? according to Healthline. And it can stay fresh for up to two years in the pantry ? one year once the container is opened. So spend fewer bucks a pop by getting this snack in bulk.

13. Quinoa

Consume within: 2 to 3 years

Uncooked quinoa can last a whopping three years if it?s stored in a tightly sealed container in the pantry. And when you buy in bulk, you usually can get this nutritious little seed (technically speaking, it?s a pseudocereal and not a whole grain) at a much better price. Quinoa is one of the few complete protein sources from a plant, meaning it has all nine essential amino acids. And it?s full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and more, making it a great choice for a bulk buy.

14. Rice

Consume within: 2 years (white, wild), 1 year (brown)

Rice is another grain that you shouldn?t hesitate to buy in bulk. White and wild rice will stay fresh for up to two years ? one year after opening if you keep it in the pantry and six months if you store it in the fridge. Brown rice has a slightly shorter lifespan overall, but it also keeps for about a year in the pantry and six months in the fridge after opening. ?Just watch for bugs or other contaminants (and if you find any, toss the whole container),? Food Network says.

15. Tea

Credit: 4kodiak/Getty Images

Consume within: 18 to 36 months (bag), 2 years (loose)

If you?re a tea drinker, you?ll be happy to know you can save some money by buying in bulk without sacrificing freshness. According to FoodKeeper, tea bags will last up to three years in the pantry, and loose tea will keep for about two years. Aim to consume your tea about a year after opening. For peak quality, store tea bags in their original box or a sealed container to limit exposure to odors and moisture, The Kitchn recommends. Likewise, keep loose tea in something airtight that will keep out light.

Main image credit: sagarmanis/Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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15 of the Best Foods to Buy in Bulk

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California’s battle against climate change is going up in smoke

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This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Just a few months ago, climate activists in California were celebrating an impressive victory: New data showed that the state had brought greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels, four years earlier than planned. The win, a cut of emissions to 429.4 million metric tons (the equivalent of taking 12 million cars off the road) was the result of steady decreases in emissions most years.

“California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results,” Governor Jerry Brown tweeted. The next step was to cut emissions another 40 percent by 2030 — “a heroic and very ambitious goal.”

But by November, skies across the state were gray. Wildfires were raging, including a blaze which would prove to be the deadliest and most destructive in state history. The conflagrations have set California back: The recent Camp and Woolsey Fires, officials say, have produced emissions equivalent to roughly 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, more than three times the total decrease in emissions in 2015. Recently, the Department of the Interior announced that new data shows the 2018 California wildfire season is estimated to have released emissions equal to about one year of power use.

California’s wildfire problem

Of course, wildfires are not new to the West Coast. But the kind of vast, devastating conflagrations seen in California in recent years — this fall’s Camp Fire decimated 153,000 acres in the Butte County area and destroyed almost 14,000 homes — are becoming more common. According to the state’s most recent climate assessment, California could see a 77 percent increase in the average area burned in wildfires by 2100.

All this is bad news for a state committed to decreasing its carbon footprint. But California’s official emissions score will not be affected by the extraordinary amount of carbon released during wildfires this year, because the agency that calculates emissions — the California Air Resources Board — considers wildfires to be a part of the earth’s natural carbon cycle. (The ARB is a regulatory body and, as agency spokesperson Dave Clegern noted, “can only regulate what can be controlled.”)

But the agency is looking into ways to better track carbon emissions from conflagrations. Right now, Clegern says, the ARB uses data including the size of the fire and the kind of fuel burned to estimate its carbon footprint. But, he said, scientists don’t currently have a good way to accurately calculate emissions from disasters like the Camp Fire, which burn residential and commercial properties. While those findings won’t be included in the state’s emissions tally, Clegern said it’s still important to gather the data: “We need to know what goes up in the air when these things happen. Our first mission is to protect public health.”

The increasing size of wildfires in California is driven by several factors linked to climate change, scientists say, including a shift in the jet stream that causes the state to suffer more hot, dry spells. The state’s seven-year drought has weakened forests and left millions of acres highly susceptible to lethal attacks from insects like bark beetle. In recent years, more than 100 million trees are estimated to have died statewide. Dry, dead forests are a fire hazard, and they pose a threat so severe that, in 2015, Governor Brown declared a state of emergency and created a task force to identify areas of particular risk. This January, scientists at the University of California-Berkeley reported that the situation was “compounded by the long-established removal” of naturally occurring, frequent, and low-intensity fires in the state’s forested areas, “a key ecosystem process” in hazardous wildfire prevention.

Aside from preventing deadly conflagrations, protecting forests also means preserving the state’s best tool for regulating carbon emissions. By removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it as carbon in soil, branches, and tree trunks, forest have historically worked as a “carbon sink” for the state. But research shows that between 2001 and 2010, tree die-off meant California’s forests emitted more carbon than they sequestered.

Wildfires accelerate this process. Conflagrations release carbon into the atmosphere as they burn and, once the smoke has cleared, leave fewer trees to sequester carbon. In the years following a fire, dead trees begin to release their stored carbon back into the atmosphere. And a recent study also showed that forests which burned at high severity suffered worryingly low regeneration rates. In some places, no trees grew back at all.

But the damage doesn’t end there. When a forest is burned for the first time, “between 5 and 20 percent of the carbon goes up,” explained Nic Enstice, regional science coordinator at the state’s Sierra Nevada Conservancy agency. That’s because even a high-severity fire will not incinerate every tree in a forest. But if a second wildfire ravages through an already-burned area, the dead trees are more readily consumed, resulting in even greater carbon release.

The fire season’s growing effect on the state gives scientists all the more reason to study its emissions. “That’s the kind of issue we’re wrestling with now,” Clegern said.

California’s best hope for reaching its ambitious climate goals may lie in technology and rebuilding the state’s dilapidated forests. The state is relying on energy companies like utility giant PG&E to increase purchases of renewable power and invest heavily in burgeoning industries like electric transportation over the next decade. (PG&E, meanwhile, could be on the hook for billions of dollars in fines if an investigation finds the company’s equipment ignited some of California’s recent conflagrations.) Plans are also underway to push harder on forest restoration efforts: In May, the state announced its Forest Carbon Plan, which included a pledge to double the rate of forest rehabilitation to an average 35,000 acres a year by 2020.

“We know that we have to increase the health of our forests pretty significantly over the coming years,” Enstice said.“What we saw in the Camp Fire, the Rim Fire, the King Fire — these are all out of the normal patterns.”

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California’s battle against climate change is going up in smoke

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3 things to know ahead of this year’s U.N. climate talks in Poland.

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Thousands of the world’s top officials have gathered in Katowice, Poland to negotiate over the nuts and bolts of global climate solutions. The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (otherwise known for its jazzier name, COP24) kicks off on December 3, and will continue over the following two weeks.

A lot is riding on the summit. This year marks the deadline set by the Paris climate agreement during COP21 to hammer out a rulebook for critical commitments made by nearly every country in the world to slow down climate change and avoid hugely damaging natural, economic, and human costs.

According to the Nature Conservancy, “This COP is just as important as the one in Paris, but without the fanfare.”

We’ll always have Paris … but a lot has changed since that climate accord was signed in April 2016. The United States has turned away from its Paris agreement pledge. The United Kingdom is preoccupied by Brexit, making it less likely to be able to focus on environmental goals. And Brazil, which recently backtracked on its offer to host next year’s U.N. climate talks, is about to inaugurate a leader who wants to open up the Amazon rainforest to deforestation, and could eff up the planet for all of us.

So what are we to make of COP24 against all this ruckus? Here are three signs that already hint to what we might expect from this year’s global climate talks.

Most U.S. politicians are sitting this one out.

Look, given his recent comments on his administration’s own climate report, no one expected President “I don’t believe it” Trump to high-tail it to COP24. But few if any top Democrats, who recently said they plan to use their House majority to prioritize the issue of climate change, seem to be schlepping it to Poland this year. According to Axios, no Democratic senators will be attending COP24. Even the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, will be sending staff in his place.

Last year, several big-name politicians, including California Governor Jerry Brown and Oregon Governor Katie Brown, attended COP23 in Bonn, Germany — but they won’t be attending this year. What gives? According to congressional aids, it’s about timing: COP24 is a being held nearly a month later in the year compared to 2017’s talks, and Congress is still in session.

Coal is going to be creeping on the conference.

COP24 will be held in Katowice, a coal mining city that is among the most polluted in Europe. Poland’s coal habit is becoming more expensive and damaging to the environment, but the country is still struggling to part ways with it. Poland currently uses coal to meet a whopping 80 percent of its energy needs. One of Poland’s leading coal companies, Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW), was the first official sponsor of the climate talks. Several other coal companies have followed suit.

The Trump administration has not been shy about its own love affair with coal. This year, it’s planning to have its own coal convention as a side event to COP24 touting the “long-term potential” for so-called “clean coal.” Pffft.

The recent flurry of climate reports might add real urgency to negotiations.

There has been a spate of major scientific reports in the run-up to COP24, including this one and this one and this one. The most comprehensive of these is arguably the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which underscores just how far governments still have to go if they’re to reach the goal agreed upon in Paris — namely to try to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But the IPCC report found that even in a 1.5-degree scenario, there will likely be an increase in extreme weather conditions, resulting in a major uptick in hunger, poverty, mass migration, and resource-driven conflicts.

The reports just might be the scary kick-in-the-ass world leaders need to up their commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

Stay tuned for Grist’s on the ground coverage of the goings-on at COP24.

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3 things to know ahead of this year’s U.N. climate talks in Poland.

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China and California want to trump Trump on climate. But can they act fast enough?

A romance between California and China blossomed on stage Wednesday morning at the opening ceremony for a conference in San Francisco. California and China share a common adversary in President Donald Trump, giving them common purpose and strengthening the cross-Pacific bonds of affection. As the proverb says, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

The ceremony kicked off the opening of the “China Pavilion,” the name for the Chinese-organized part of the Global Climate Action Summit initiated by California Governor Jerry Brown.

Chinese government officials in black suits smiled, shook hands with the Californian politicians, and pledged to work together with California to slash greenhouse gas emissions, while Brown exhorted them to treat that climate change as an existential threat. But Brown delivered that message in a jocular way.

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“We are going to hell very quickly, very quickly,” he said. “It isn’t certain we are going to avoid that awful outcome, so don’t feel too comfortable even as you drink your California wine and get a little tipsy, I hope. Never forget, we are on the road to perdition. I don’t know how they say that in Chinese, but it’s not good.”

The fact that the room was packed with Chinese officials “says volumes about the commitment of China to confronting climate change,” Brown said.

Representatives from California and China signed several memoranda of understanding, detailing plans to work together on fuel cells, zero emission vehicles, and such, but if you were hoping for China to announce it’s shutting down all its coal plants next year, well, nothing like that happened.

Instead, Xie Zhenhua, who has served as China’s climate negotiator at the United Nations, gave examples of the ways his country is trying to figure out how to lift people out of poverty without the aid of fossil fuels. It all added up to a banal, if honest, assurance: “We have been exploring our own way of green, low-carbon development,” he said.

The future of the world depends on China being able to pull it off, said Nicholas Stern, an expert on economic development and the economics of climate change. “It couldn’t be simpler. We need to find a new growth story.”

China’s Belt and Road Initiative — a bid to extend its economic aegis across Asia — would encompass roughly half the world’s population, potentially bringing them better lives as well as much bigger carbon footprints. “If that group of people have a growth path in the next 10 to 20 years that looks like China’s, we would be in trouble,” Stern said.

California’s path is easier since the state is already tremendously wealthy compared to much of the world. But its challenge is tougher than China’s in that every Californian is responsible for some 11 tons of emissions every year. The average Chinese citizen emits some 7 tons, Brown noted. “It’s too damn much. But we’re worse! But we’re going to get better together, that’s the key point.”

Brown hopes to change that. On Monday, he signed a eye-popping executive order telling California to squeeze off all emissions by 2045. “We have no chance of getting there unless China invests hundreds of billions of dollars in all the technology that will be needed,” Brown told the audience in the China Pavilion.

The potential for Sino-Californian climate collaboration, trade, research, and investment has grown more interesting as Trump rolls back U.S. commitments and slaps tariffs on Chinese products. There’s a clear connection for Trump between climate action and trade because he believes that, as he tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

For politicians with a better grasp of reality, Trump’s antagonism toward China, and toward climate-change policy, has created a natural opening. In 2017, Brown began courting China in an attempt to sideline Washington.

You can find plenty of contradictions in China’s attempts to balance its ambitions for growth and environmental sustainability. Its emissions tripled from 2000 to 2012, and the country is still building coal plants. At the same time, large-scale Chinese manufacturing has made renewable energy cheap, and China is building clean mass transit infrastructure on a scale that puts the United States to shame.

A short bus ride away from the meeting on the far northern edge of San Francisco is an exhibit that underscores the tensions inherent in China’s growth. “Coal and Ice” displays large photographs of melting glaciers, floods, and other effects of climate change, paired with photographs of coal miners from around the world, including rare images of Chinese workers looking downtrodden and tired. The exhibit first opened in China, but shortly after government officials caught wind of the content, they shut it down.

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China and California want to trump Trump on climate. But can they act fast enough?

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The Wonder of Birds – Jim Robbins


The Wonder of Birds
What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future
Jim Robbins

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 30, 2017

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

A fascinating investigation into the miraculous world of birds and the powerful—and surprising—ways they enrich our lives and sustain the planet Our relationship to birds is different from our relationship to any other wild creatures. They are found virtually everywhere and we love to watch them, listen to them, keep them as pets, wear their feathers, even converse with them. Birds, Jim Robbins posits, are our most vital connection to nature. They compel us to look to the skies, both literally and metaphorically; draw us out into nature to seek their beauty; and let us experience vicariously what it is like to be weightless. Birds have helped us in so many of our human endeavors: learning to fly, providing clothing and food, and helping us better understand the human brain and body. And they even have much to teach us about being human in the natural world. This book illuminates qualities unique to birds that demonstrate just how invaluable they are to humankind—both ecologically and spiritually. The wings of turkey buzzards influenced the Wright brothers’ flight design; the chickadee’s song is considered by scientists to be the most sophisticated language in the animal world and a “window into the evolution of our own language and our society”; and the quietly powerful presence of eagles in the disadvantaged neighborhood of Anacostia, in Washington, D.C., proved to be an effective method for rehabilitating the troubled young people placed in charge of their care. Exploring both cutting-edge scientific research and our oldest cultural beliefs, Robbins moves these astonishing creatures from the background of our lives to the foreground, from the quotidian to the miraculous, showing us that we must fight to save imperiled bird populations and the places they live, for the sake of both the planet and humankind. Praise for The Wonder of Birds “A must-read, conveying much necessary information in easily accessible form and awakening one’s consciousness to what might otherwise be taken for granted . . . The Wonder of Birds reads like the story of a kid let loose in a candy store and given free rein to sample. That is one of its strengths: the convert’s view gives wide appeal to those who might never have known birds well.” —Bernd Heinrich, The Wall Street Journal “Engaging, thoughtful . . . worthy of a place alongside David Attenborough’s documentary The Life of Birds or Graeme Gibson’s The Bedside Book of Birds  . . . This offering will appeal to naturalists, anthropologists, linguists, and even philosophers as well as to lay readers.” — Library Journal “In this deeply felt and well-supported argument for avians’ value to humankind, science writer Robbins hits the full trifecta for engrossing and satisfying nature writing.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review) “Using enchanting stories and rich historical references, Jim Robbins explores the role of birds on the evolution of human self-awareness.” —Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “It’s one for the birds—what a wonderful book! It will give you wings.” —Rita Mae Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Rubyfruit Jungle “ The Wonder of Birds provides a great and well-timed gift: a portrait of the quiet miracles around us on each day of our ordinary lives.” —Michael Punke, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Revenant “Jim Robbins writes masterfully, with lucid prose and deep insight into the human psyche and natural world.” —Peter Stark, author of Astoria

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The Wonder of Birds – Jim Robbins

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California’s fire tornado is what climate change looks like

For weeks now, the world has been in the grips of a global heat wave — one of the most destructive and unusually hot summers in human history. And we know that a summer like this couldn’t have happened without climate change.

In California and in wildfire zones around the world, survivors are sharing the images and videos they captured while fleeing some of the most destructive fires in history.

From an on-the-ground, human perspective, July looked and felt like hell.

The video above is of the massive Carr Fire, still burning mostly uncontained near Redding, California. At last count, 1,555 homes have burned — one of the most destructive fires in California history. Six of the state’s 20 most destructive fires on record have occurred in the past 10 months.

If it looks to you like a giant fire tornado, you’d be right. And living through it was just as terrifying as you’d expect.

Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown said simply, “We are in uncharted territories.”

Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why he’s right. July was the hottest month ever measured in Redding. Burnable vegetation in the area is at the 99th percentile. These are ideal conditions for a megafire. The Carr Fire alone is more than four times larger than the city of San Francisco; its smoke is setting records for the worst air quality in history as far away as 200 miles away in Reno, Nevada.

But perhaps the most unusual thing about the Carr Fire is the incredibly strong winds it created:

The heat from the fire was so intense that it created a towering, rotating cloud six miles high — meteorologists call them pyrocumulus, but this one effectively was a giant tornado. The wind damage from the Carr Fire is consistent with speeds in excess of 143 mph.*

Winds this strong over such a widespread area are exceedingly rare in wildfires, though they have been documented before. Fires need oxygen to burn, and the Carr Fire created its own weather to ensure a constant oxygen supply — to devastating effect.

Big fires, like the Carr Fire, are getting more common as more people live closer to forests and temperatures rise. But it’s that latter factor that’s most important in making fire size skyrocket in recent years. The heat we’re experiencing right now is unlike any previous generation has ever experienced. And it’s not just happening in California.

In northern Finland, sunbathers lounged with reindeer near the Arctic Circle while a wildfire burned in the distance.

In Greece, there is terrifying footage of people escaping July’s horrific fires.

With more than a dozen large fires burning throughout California, this year’s fire season is already starting to outstrip the state’s resources. Thousands of firefighters have flown in from across the country to help fight the blazes, and wildfire season is just getting started. August is the peak month for wildfires across the western U.S. According to the latest fire outlook released on Wednesday, nearly the entire region will remain at above normal risk until at least October.

In Europe, ideal wildfire conditions are set to return this weekend, with temperatures in Spain and Portugal forecast to challenge all-time European records.

If there’s one thing we should take away from this nightmarish weather, it’s this: As bad as these fires are, climate change isn’t going to let up until we work together to address its root causes. Warming-fueled megafires isn’t a new normal, it’s a new exceptional; a new extraordinary.

*This post has been updated with new information.


California’s fire tornado is what climate change looks like

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Rich countries invested less money in renewables last year. U.S. cities are picking up the slack.

Here’s some bad news: A new report shows that U.S. investment in renewable energy fell by 6 percent last year. Ready for the good news? Six percent ain’t too shabby considering President Trump spent his first year in office announcing plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, slapping tariffs on solar panels, and reneging on decades of environmental policy.

In fact, despite federal setbacks, the report called the U.S. “relatively resilient.” Compare that 6 percent drop to Europe and the U.K, which saw investments in clean energy fall by 36 percent and 65 percent, respectively. The U.S. and its neighbors across the pond face a similar set of obstacles: the end of subsidies for renewables, growing interest rates, and policy uncertainties. In the U.K., the massive drop in investments coincides with the end of a big subsidy for renewables. By comparison, China invested 10 percent more in renewables than it did in 2016, and added 53 gigawatts of capacity — that’s equal to more than half of the world’s total renewable energy capacity.

One reason for U.S. resiliency? Our cities are stepping up to the plate. “The rise of solar power over the past decade has been largely driven by cities,” the Environment Texas Research & Policy Center found in a recent report. Researchers looked at the total solar photovoltaic capacity installed by 20 major cities across the U.S. and found that, as of the end of last year, those cities alone have more solar energy capacity than the entire country had installed by the end of 2010.

Grist / Environment Texas

Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Phoenix, and San Jose were the top five producers of solar photovoltaic capacity in 2017. But the report also highlighted 18 “Solar Stars” — cities that had 50 or more watts of solar installed per person. Honolulu is the shiniest of those solar stars, with three times as much capacity as the next runner up: San Diego. Fresno, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Tucson, Arizona were close behind.

The groundswell of support for renewable energy in American cities is linked to the goals laid out in the Paris agreement. In 2017, Dan Firger (a member of Grist 50 2018) teamed up with former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown to launch a Bloomberg Philanthropies project called America’s Pledge. Since the project went live, 110 cities and have pledged to cut emissions, 13 leading academic institutions have signed on to reduce their environmental footprints, and even local businesses are taking steps to mitigate their impact on the climate. In all, this coalition accounts for half of the spending power in the U.S.

Originally posted here – 

Rich countries invested less money in renewables last year. U.S. cities are picking up the slack.

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How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming – Mike Brown


How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

Mike Brown

Genre: Astronomy

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: December 7, 2010

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

The solar system most of us grew up with included nine planets, with Mercury closest to the sun and Pluto at the outer edge. Then, in 2005, astronomer Mike Brown made the discovery of a lifetime: a tenth planet, Eris, slightly bigger than Pluto. But instead of adding one more planet to our solar system, Brown’s find ignited a firestorm of controversy that culminated in the demotion of Pluto from real planet to the newly coined category of “dwarf” planet. Suddenly Brown was receiving hate mail from schoolchildren and being bombarded by TV reporters—all because of the discovery he had spent years searching for and a lifetime dreaming about. A heartfelt and personal journey filled with both humor and drama, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is the book for anyone, young or old, who has ever imagined exploring the universe—and who among us hasn’t?

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How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming – Mike Brown

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‘Diablo Winds’ spark historic wildfires in California wine country

This post has been updated to include revised figures on the number of fires and death toll. 

It’s peak wildfire season in California, and Monday was one of the worst days in state history. More than 60 blazes are currently underway statewide.

At least a dozen wildfires sprung up Sunday night in and around Napa and Sonoma counties—also known as “wine country,” just north of San Francisco — prompting rushed evacuations of more than 20,000 people. In an attempt to speed the flow of relief and firefighting equipment and make the National Guard available, Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.

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The Northern California firestorm has quickly burned nearly 100,000 acres, and is encroaching on neighborhoods in several places. At around 3 a.m. Monday, a Cal Fire official told a local television station that there was “no hope of containment right now.”

In total, the fires have killed 13 people and destroyed more than 1,500 structures as of Tuesday morning, making them some of the most destructive in state history. More than 100 people have been treated for burns and smoke inhalation at regional hospitals, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and more than 150 people are still missing. Nationwide, this year’s fire season has cost more than $2 billion, the most expensive on record.

Smoke from the fires is visible from across the Bay Area, with many residents reporting the smell of smoke and even ashes falling from the sky. The National Weather Service says that winds at higher elevations in some parts of Sonoma County exceeded hurricane force, with several areas reporting gusts greater than 50 mph.

Several of the worst wildfires in California history have sprung up during October, near the end of California’s months-long dry season. It’s this time of year when a combination of strong offshore winds and low humidity can quickly fan a seemingly innocent spark into a raging inferno.

These winds are usually formed by a strong inland high pressure center, which pushes air down mountainsides and through canyons, causing it to warm up and dry out — a perfect environment for fast-growing fires. In Northern California, they are generally called “Diablo winds,” after Mt. Diablo in the eastern Bay Area. A 2015 study said that climate change is making these wind events more frequent and more severe in California. According to the Bay Area branch of the National Weather Service, conditions will begin to improve starting on Tuesday morning.

One particularly frightening fire in Northern California, the Tubbs fire near Santa Rosa, jumped the 101 freeway, forcing a hospital to evacuate its patients. Officials report evacuation centers that have been set up have already filled to capacity. Aerial images of Santa Rosa on Monday showed widespread devastation of entire neighborhoods.

“People are running red lights, there is chaos ensuing,” Santa Rosa resident Ron Dodds told a local television station. “It’s a scary time. It looks like Armageddon.”


‘Diablo Winds’ spark historic wildfires in California wine country

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