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The Mountains of Saint Francis: Discovering the Geologic Events That Shaped Our Earth – Walter Alvarez


The Mountains of Saint Francis: Discovering the Geologic Events That Shaped Our Earth

Walter Alvarez

Genre: Geology

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: December 17, 2008

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

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

One of the world's leading geologists takes readers into Italy's Apennine Mountain Range—the Mountains of Saint Francis—on a journey to discover the fascinating secrets of the Earth's deep history. Modern geologists, Walter Alvarez among them, showed in the last decades of the twentieth century that the history of our planet has witnessed events profoundly more dramatic than even the most spectacular chapters in human history. More violent than wars, more life altering than revolutions—understanding the geologic events that have shaped the Earth's surface is the quest and the passion of geologists. In the knowledgeable and graceful prose of Alvarez, general readers are led to explore the many mysteries that our planet guards. The author has chosen Italy as a microcosm in which to explore this amazing past for several reasons. First, it is the land where the earliest geologists learned how to read the history of the Earth, written in nature’s rock archives. Second, it is where Alvarez and his Italian geological friends have continued to decipher the rock record, uncovering more historical episodes from the Earth’s past. And third, the lovely land of Italy is unusually rich in geological treasures and offers examples of the key processes that have created the landscapes of the entire world. The Mountains of Saint Francis begins in Rome. We discover that the landscape of Rome was built by violent volcanic eruptions in the very recent past, almost certainly witnessed by our human ancestors. Next we travel to Siena and come face to face with a fundamental discovery of the geologists—that much of the dry land that we currently inhabit was once underwater, beneath ancient seas or oceans. Then we stop in the small medieval city of Gubbio and contemplate the amazing secret that the limestone rocks kept hidden for 65 million years—that a huge asteroid smashed into the Earth, disrupting the environment so severely that the dinosaurs, and perhaps half of the other forms of life inhabiting the Earth at the time, disappeared forever, opening the way for the rise of the mammals and eventually of humans. The impact theory that came from those Italian limestones at Gubbio was one of the great geological discoveries of the twentieth century. Just as important to the field of geology was the theory of plate tectonics—the understanding that the outer layer of the Earth is divided into crustal plates that move around, sometimes carrying continents into collisions with one another, like the great collision between Italy and Europe that built the Alps. And yet, to explain the Mountains of Saint Francis requires something more than a collision between continents. These are mountains that are still jealously guarding the secret of their past, and in this book we go along with the geological detectives as they try to uncover that secret. It is a journey that has seen the land of Italy lifted out of the sea, squashed and folded, torn apart, left high and dry when the Mediterranean Sea evaporated away, and then flooded when the Atlantic waters poured back in. The story of the Earth's history is fascinating in its own right, but with Alvarez as the tour guide, the journey takes on a human dimension, full of stories about the landscape and history of Italy and about the great geologists who uncovered the deep past of this land. It is a journey recounted in warm tones and subtle colors, reflecting the transcendent beauty of Italy itself.

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The Mountains of Saint Francis: Discovering the Geologic Events That Shaped Our Earth – Walter Alvarez

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The pope might make destroying the earth a sin. Will Catholics listen?

Pope Francis is not your average pope. He’s weighed in on prison reform and women’s rights, and he wrote a whole encyclical on climate change in 2015. On Friday, at the 20th World Congress of the International Association of Penal Law, Francis waded into the climate change debate again with an unusual idea: perhaps environmental destruction should be classified as an official sin.

During his speech, Francis said he was thinking about adding “ecological sin against the common home” to the catechism, the book that summarizes Catholic belief. “It is a sin against future generations and is manifested in the acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment,” he said.

Some theology experts think the pope’s interest in the environment is a reflection of his social justice beliefs. “Climate change will impact the poor and marginalized first and worst across the world who have the least capacity to adapt or to recover from disasters,” Erin Lothes Biviano, associate professor of theology at the College of St. Elizabeth, told E&E News. “It’s viewed not as an environmental problem, but an environmental and social problem.”

But will Catholics accept the idea that destroying the environment is an offense against God? The pope’s past efforts to integrate environmental stewardship into the Catholic faith haven’t always convinced his flock. A survey conducted a year after he published his climate-themed encyclical found that the call to action backfired among conservative Americans. Right-leaning Americans were less worried about rising temperatures after hearing his message. Only 22.5 percent of Americans who had even heard of the encyclical expressed concern over climate change. And the Pope actually lost some credibility with conservative Catholics.

Francis might not be the climate influencer advocates hoped he’d be. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all Catholics are ignoring his message. Emma Frances Bloomfield, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Las Vegas and the author of a book called Communication Strategies for Engaging Climate Skeptics, says it all depends on whether people believe the environment is related to faith.

Folks who see environmental conservation and religion as two entirely separate spheres will likely ignore Francis’ emphasis on the subject. But for religious people who are already inclined to think the two go together, an authority figure like the pope pushing for stewardship might be highly effective. “The idea of casting environmental damage as an ecological sin really amplifies how important the pope and Catholics think environmental damage is,” she said. “If Pope Francis really solidifies it as part of the catechism it can encourage Christians who are uncertain about the environment to consider it more strongly.”

In other words, preaching to the choir may actually be useful … when the pope does it.

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The pope might make destroying the earth a sin. Will Catholics listen?

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Maps of Meaning – Peter Jackson


Maps of Meaning

Peter Jackson

Genre: Earth Sciences

Price: $52.99

Publish Date: November 12, 2012

Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Seller: Taylor & Francis Group

This innovative book marks a significant departure from tradition anlayses of the evolution of cultural landscapes and the interpretation of past environments.  Maps of Meaning proposes a new agenda for cultural geography, one set squarely in the context of contemporary social and cultural theory. Notions of place and space are explored through the study of elite and popular cultures, gender and sexuality, race, language and ideology. Questioning the ways in which we invest the world with meaning, the book is an introduction to both culture's geographies and the geography of culture.

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Maps of Meaning – Peter Jackson

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Empire Antarctica – Gavin Francis


Empire Antarctica

Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins

Gavin Francis

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: September 16, 2013

Publisher: Counterpoint Press

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

“It is difficult to read this engaging memoir without a smile on one’s face . . . moments of sheer joy . . . [a] mesmerizing and memorable book.” — The Economist   Chosen as a Book of the Year by the Scotsman , the Financial Times , and the Sunday Herald Gavin Francis fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition when he spent fourteen months as the basecamp doctor at Halley, a profoundly isolated British research station on the Caird Coast of Antarctica—so remote that it is said to be easier to evacuate a casualty from the International Space Station than it is to bring someone out of Halley in winter.   Antarctica offered a year of unparalleled silence and solitude, with few distractions and a rare opportunity to live among emperor penguins, the only species truly at home in the Antarctic. Following penguins throughout the year—from a summer of perpetual sunshine to months of winter darkness—Francis explores the world of great beauty conjured from the simplest of elements, the hardship of below-zero temperatures and the unexpected comfort that the penguin community brings. Empire Antarctica is the story of one man’s fascination with the world’s loneliest continent, and the emperor penguins who weather the winter with him.   Includes maps and illustrations   “Part travelogue, part memoir, part natural history book, a fascinating, lyrical account of one of the strangest places on earth and its majestic inhabitants.” — Esquire   “Highly readable, enjoyable . . . the author writes vividly of auroras, clouds, stars, sunlight, darkness, ice and snow . . . A literate, stylish memoir of personal adventure rich in history, geography and science.” — Kirkus Reviews

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Empire Antarctica – Gavin Francis

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4 ways the melting Arctic is wreaking havoc near you

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The Arctic is in the throes of what sea-ice scientist Peter Wadhams called a “death spiral.” As the region’s once abundant ice melts, giving way to a less reflective surface, the Arctic heats up faster — now at a rate that is double the rest of the planet.

“The ice is much thinner and lighter and broken and kind of slushy,” Jennifer Francis, a scientist who focuses on the Arctic at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told Grist. “It’s been described as rotten.”

The Arctic is heading toward irreversible melting and ecosystem destruction, according to the annual Arctic Report Card released on Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The researchers found that the Arctic has lost nearly 95 percent of its oldest ice. On top of that, the once-pristine region is becoming quite dirty: In addition to a growing toxic algae problem, the Arctic Ocean now has the highest concentration of microplastics of any ocean on Earth. (The tiny, barely visible plastics pose a threat to any seabirds or marine life that accidentally eat them.)

For people living up north, the warming Arctic has immediate effects. Coastal Arctic communities, including indigenous peoples, are literally losing land as coastal ice (also called “shorefast ice”) melts. “The decline of shorefast ice is exposing communities to increased storm surge, coastal flooding, and loss of shoreline,” Donald Perovich, a professor of engineering at Dartmouth and a contributor to the report, said in a press conference.

For Americans in the continental United States, though, these changes in the Arctic can feel far away. It’s hard to imagine they’ll have much effect on daily life here. However, the implications are far-reaching. We’re not just talking sea-level rise: The melting Arctic is disturbing Earth’s weather system, causing profound changes to weather beyond the North Pole.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” said Judah Cohen, an MIT climatologist who wasn’t involved in the report.

Drought, heatwaves, and wildfires

Warning: You’re about to learn a lot about the polar jet stream, a river of wind that travels around the Northern hemisphere. The air in the north wants to flow to the south, where the layer of air is hotter and thicker (hot air expands, remember?). The now-warmer Arctic makes it so there’s less of a pressure difference, so what once was a mountain in the sky becomes a gentle hill.

OK, OK, so the atmospheric hill in the sky is less steep. So what? Like a river moving down a soft incline, the jet stream moves more slowly and more erratically. In the United States, these changes in the jet stream are linked to a persistent “ridge” — like a hump in the sky. The “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,” as it’s come to be known, causes weather patterns to linger, “perpetuating drought, heatwaves, and extensive wildfires across much of western North America,” according to the report.

Nor’easters and severe cold

A strong jet stream ridge is often associated with a trough, an elongated low pressure system. The trough in the eastern United States may have earned itself a new nickname. “I figured the trough should have a name too, because it’s very persistent,” Francis said. “So I call that the Terribly Tenacious Trough.”

Francis likens the trough to leaving the refrigerator door open. It allows “frigid Arctic air to plunge southward, bringing misery to areas ill-prepared to handle it,” Francis wrote in an article in The Conversation. This phenomenon, according to the NOAA report, brought a “parade of destructive nor’easters along the eastern seaboard” in the winters of 2013-14 and 2017-18. Most notably, it led to what has been dubbed the “bomb cyclone,” an intense blizzard along the East Coast in January 2018.


When a ridge becomes very sharp, it can break off and form an eddy that runs counter to the ridge’s current. This phenomenon is known as “atmospheric blocking,” and it locks weather systems in place. “It’s like a traffic jam and in the air,” Cohen said.

Atmospheric blocking brings all kind of severe weather, including the slower, more intense hurricanes we’ve seen of late. Harvey and Florence, which hovered over the coast for days and dumped trillions of gallons of water, were dangerously stuck in place thanks to a “block.”

Even more climate change

As the warming Arctic sloughs off more layers of ice, it threatens to release stored carbon into the atmosphere — thus contributing to global warming and making extreme weather even worse.

This begins on a micro level: When the ground thaws, it activates microbes in the soil. “They start breathing out carbon dioxide or methane, depending on the situation,” said Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “It’s a feedback because if you put more of that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that warms up things further. Right now the question is, ‘OK, is when does that kick in?’”

The Arctic as we know it is slipping away, and there are still a lot of unknowns about what that means for all of us. “Exactly how the northern meltdown will ‘play ball’ with other changes and natural fluctuations in the system presents many questions that will keep scientists busy for years to come,” Francis wrote in the report, “but it’s becoming ice-crystal-clear that change in the far north will increasingly affect us all.”

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4 ways the melting Arctic is wreaking havoc near you

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How to trick Scott Pruitt into reading about environmentalism

Scott Pruitt runs a “factory of bad ideas.” All five feet and eight inches of him are fully submerged in a scandal bog of his own making, he’s cut staffing levels at the EPA to below Reagan-era levels, and the dude thinks climate change could help “humans flourish.”

Evidently, good samaritans have tried to help Pruitt become a better EPA administrator by sending him a few crucial works of environmental literature. In all, the rumor-ridden science-denier has received 11 books from concerned citizens, including: Pope Francis’ 2015 climate encyclical Laudato Si, Rachel Carson’s game-changing Silent Spring, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and two copies of Global Warming for Dummies.

Alas, like that old dude who wouldn’t eat his green eggs and ham, Scott Pruitt won’t read his green literature. At least one of the people who sent in a book reported that it had been returned. But what would happen if Pruitt read up on climate change? And, more importantly, how could we trick him into getting a well-rounded education? Glad you asked! We have a few ideas.

Tactically slip a copy of Silent Spring into his tactical pants. What better book to carry around in the back pocket of your $1,500 sneaky pants than a seminal work about the chemicals silently killing America’s treasured wildlife?
Print excerpts from An Inconvenient Truth on the back of that Ritz-Carlton lotion he loves so much. Yeah, sending your aides all over Washington, D.C., to track down your favorite lotion is inconvenient, but Pruitt could deal with scaly elbows AND the planet’s dry patches at the same time. Talk about convenience!
Add Pope Francis’ Laudato Si to a Chick-Fil-A menu. Is that a new chicken nugget combo? No, Scotty! It’s “On Care for Our Common Home.” You might be trying to get your wife a job at the Home of the Original Chicken Sandwich, but we’re trying to save the planet: Home of the Original Human Race.
Two copies of Climate Change for Dummies? No problem. We’ll put one copy in the front-seat pocket of his seat on a first class flight, and we’ll use the other to tastefully wallpaper the bathroom in the energy lobbyist’s condo he was staying in.

Look, Sam-I-Am got that guy to eat green eggs and ham in the end — he even ate them in a boat and with a goat. We know Scott Pruitt won’t be reading books about climate change in the rain or on a train anytime soon. But if, as he’s lying on his old Trump hotel mattress one night, Little Scotty P does happen to pull a stack of climate change encyclicals out from under his pillow, we say to him:


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How to trick Scott Pruitt into reading about environmentalism

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Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

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

Much of the eastern United States has been assaulted by brutally cold temperatures over the last week. New Year’s Eve revelers in New York City rang in 2018 in 9 degree weather — the coldest midnight temperature since 1907.

And the worst is yet to come.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that a “bomb cyclone” is expected to batter the East Coast later this week. A weather system only earns that name by dropping in pressure rapidly — at least 24 millibars over 24 hours — in a process called bombogenesis. Winds could kick up to 55 mph just off the coast of New England, a prospect that has prompted local weather stations to warn of hurricane-force winds.

In Boston, which is no stranger to cold weather and has suffered through brutally low temperatures this past week, the National Weather Service forecasts near-blizzard conditions, with just a quarter-mile of visibility.

But the snow won’t be limited to northern states. As far south as Georgia and Florida, forecasters are calling for potentially dangerous winter weather, with several inches of snow in some areas.

In late 2016, Mother Jones reported that climate change may be contributing to such weather events.

The theory — advanced by Rutgers professor Jennifer Francis and other scientists — is that the rapidly warming Arctic is affecting the jet stream in ways that can contribute to bone-chilling weather in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere:

To understand how it works, it first helps to think of the jet stream as a river of air that flows from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing with it much of our weather. Its motion — sometimes in a relatively straight path, sometimes in a more loopy one — is driven by a difference in temperatures between the equator and the North Pole. Southern temperatures are of course warmer, and because warm air takes up more space than cold air, this leads to taller columns of air in the atmosphere. “If you were sitting on top of a layer of atmosphere and you were in DC, looking northward, it would be like looking down a hill, because it’s warmer where you are,” explains Francis. The jet stream then flows “downhill,” so to speak, in a northward direction. But it’s also bent by the rotation of the Earth, leading to its continual wavy, eastward motion. As the Arctic rapidly heats up, however, there’s less of a temperature difference between the equator and the poles, and the downhill slope in the atmosphere is accordingly less steep.

That shrinking temperature difference is what wreaks havoc on the jet stream. “When the jet stream gets weaker, it meanders more,” explained Francis in an interview this week. “It wanders north and south and when it gets into one of these wandering and wavy patterns, that’s when we see these pools of cold air pulled southward.” Those pools of cold air are what vast parts of the country are experiencing right now.

The bomb cyclone is expected to leave bone-chilling cold in its wake — even colder than the last few weeks. Temperatures will likely drop 20 to 40 degrees below normal, the Washington Post reports. That means sub-zero in nearly all of New England — and lows reaching down into the 20s, if you can believe it, in Florida.

Seasoned experts over at the National Weather Service have tips for avoiding hypothermia. President Donald Trump simply suggests we “bundle up.”


Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

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Changes in the Land – William Cronon


Changes in the Land

Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England

William Cronon

Genre: Nature

Price: $7.99

Publish Date: April 1, 2011

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize Changes in the Land offers an original and persuasive interpretation of the changing circumstances in New England's plant and animal communities that occurred with the shift from Indian to European dominance. With the tools of both historian and ecologist, Cronon constructs an interdisciplinary analysis of how the land and the people influenced one another, and how that complex web of relationships shaped New England's communities.


Changes in the Land – William Cronon

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Pope Francis Opens the Possibility of Women Serving as Deacons

Mother Jones

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Speaking to an international meeting of the world congregations of Catholic women on Thursday, Pope Francis announced that the church should create an official commission to examine the expansion of women’s roles, including for them to be ordained as deacons, the National Catholic Register reports. He also described the church’s integration of women as “very weak.”

Ordained deacons are now all male and can perform some official functions—though not to celebrate Mass. Francis’ statement came during a question-and-answer session, during which he was asked to explain the current exclusion of women from serving in ordained roles, especially since women were permitted to be ordained in the early church. One woman asked, “Why not construct an official commission that might study the question?”

“Constituting an official commission that might study the question?” Francis responded. “I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this.”

According to Catholic News, Francis told the group that it was his understanding that women in early scripture were not ordained as permanent deacons, and that he had meditated on the issue with a professor years ago. His announcement on Thursday signaled a historic step that could potentially open the doors for women to serve in that ordained position.

The pope, however, did not comment on the role of women serving as priests, something he has previously rejected as a change that “cannot be done.”

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Pope Francis Opens the Possibility of Women Serving as Deacons

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Can Bernie Sanders Ride Fracking to Victory in New York?

The Democratic presidential candidates have divergent views on the controversial natural gas drilling technique. New Yorkers protest against fracking in 2014 a katz/shutterstock In this week’s tight New York Democratic primary, the fight over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is one issue of contention between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And it could be a deciding factor for some voters. Sanders says he would ban all fracking everywhere. Clinton says the practice should be regulated and restricted, but natural gas is helping the U.S. move away from coal-fired power. Sanders’ campaign has capitalized on that difference, noting in an ad released on Monday that he “is the only candidate for president who opposes fracking everywhere.” Fracking uses a high-pressure stream of water, sand and chemicals to tap into shale formations to release natural gas. The practice has been highly contentious in New York, which contains a lot of natural gas in the Marcellus formation. A number of communities in upstate New York banned the practice, worried about potential impacts on groundwater, along with other health and safety concerns. In December 2014, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would ban the practice entirely. (Sanders’ home state of Vermont banned fracking in 2012.) Read the rest at The Huffington Post. Link:   Can Bernie Sanders Ride Fracking to Victory in New York? ; ; ;

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Can Bernie Sanders Ride Fracking to Victory in New York?

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