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Here’s how coronavirus affected carbon emissions in every state

The pandemic is far from over, but some states are opening back up again, creating a situation where life is going back to some semblance of normal in some areas of the United States and staying eerily quiet in other places. A new analysis in the science journal Nature Climate Change sheds light on what happened to emissions during the months when the U.S. was maximally locked down.

Previous estimates of emissions reductions due to COVID-19 said the pandemic would take an 8 percent bite out of global emissions this year. This study, published Tuesday, is the first to analyze and quantify emissions drops on a day-to-day basis across 69 countries and state by state in the United States.

It found that the world is on track for the biggest emissions drop since World War II, or maybe even the biggest drop in history, depending on how long global lockdowns stay in place. (The study estimates that by the end of the year emissions could decline anywhere between 2 to 13 percent overall, depending on the nature and duration of governments’ lockdown policies.) During the peak of global lockdowns in early April, average daily emissions decreased by 17 percent compared to the 2019 average, hitting their lowest point since 2006. Nearly half of those emissions were from “surface transport,” like car rides.

In the U.S., emissions dropped by about a third for a couple of weeks in April, a development that Robert Jackson, a co-author of the study and a Guggenheim fellow at Stanford University, told Grist was “absolutely unprecedented.” On a national level, emissions decreased by about a quarter on average during each country’s peak of confinement.

Jackson and his fellow researchers created a “confinement index” to describe how locked down 69 countries were between the months of January and April according to three levels of confinement ranging from broad travel restrictions to “policies that substantially restrict the daily routine of all but key workers.” By examining six economic sectors — aviation, electricity, transportation, public buildings and commerce, residential, and industry — the study’s authors were able to determine to what extent economic activity, and the carbon dioxide emissions that accompany it, slowed as a result of which lockdown measures. The 69 countries they analyzed represent 97 percent of global CO2 emissions.

In the U.S., the study showed some major differences between states’ daily maximum emissions reductions. Washington state, for example, saw a more than 40 percent drop in emissions during its peak confinement, whereas the pandemic swallowed up just under 18 percent of Iowa’s emissions during its peak. Jackson says there’s a fairly straightforward reason why some states saw such big emissions deficits. “In general, states that are more rural acted much more slowly than states with big cities,” he said. In a few months’ time, those differences between states could deepen even more as the easing of lockdown restrictions in some states spur an increase in emissions.

Clayton Aldern / Grist

For the most part, the emissions decline will only last as long as the lockdowns. “Previous crises have not dented emissions very much,” he said, referencing the 2008 financial crash that decreased emissions globally by 1.5 percent for a year. By 2010, emissions had come roaring back, increasing 5 percent globally. “We’re forcing people to stay at home,” Jackson said. “That won’t last. If they hop back in their cars and consume at the same levels things will go back to normal.”

But Jackson says the pandemic has provided an opportunity for people to rethink transportation, at the very least. Sitting in an hour of traffic to get to work doesn’t sound super appealing after months of commuting 30 seconds to the dining room table. “That could jolt us into a longer-term drop in emissions,” he said.

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Here’s how coronavirus affected carbon emissions in every state

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Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors – Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan


Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: September 15, 1992

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • “Exciting and provocative . . . A tour de force of a book that begs to be seen as well as to be read.”— The Washington Post Book World World renowned scientist Carl Sagan and acclaimed author Ann Druyan have written a Roots  for the human species, a lucid and riveting account of how humans got to be the way we are. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a thrilling saga that starts with the origin of the Earth. It shows with humor and drama that many of our key traits—self-awareness, technology, family ties, submission to authority, hatred for those a little different from ourselves, reason, and ethics—are rooted in the deep past, and illuminated by our kinship with other animals. Sagan and Druyan conduct a breathtaking journey through space and time, zeroing in on critical turning points in evolutionary history, and tracing the origins of sex, altruism, violence, rape, and dominance. Their book culminates in a stunningly original examination of the connection between primate and human traits. Astonishing in its scope, brilliant in its insights, and an absolutely compelling read, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a triumph of popular science.

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Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors – Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan

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Elizabeth Warren’s new climate plan can go the distance, even if her campaign can’t

Elizabeth Warren once again trailed her top competitors in Saturday’s South Carolina primary. Another poor showing on Super Tuesday — the day when the greatest number of Democrats can go to the polls — could spell the end of her presidential aspirations.

But regardless of what happens to the Massachusetts senator this week, her climate plans, some of the most detailed and thoughtful in the primary, could live on — much like those of Jay Inslee, the campaign’s original climate candidate, who left the race last August. (Warren, among others, adopted elements of the Washington State governor’s climate platform upon his exit.)

That’s especially true of her latest proposal, aimed at stopping Wall Street from continuing to finance the climate crisis. As far as Warren’s climate plans go, this one is as on-brand as they come. Evoking the 2008 financial crisis, she writes in the plan, posted to Medium Sunday morning: “Once again, as we face the existential threat of our time –– climate change –– Wall Street is refusing to listen, let alone take real action.” (Larry Fink over at BlackRock might disagree, nevertheless, Warren persists.)

Many other candidates, including Warren herself, have previously unveiled climate risk-disclosure plans, designed to compel corporations to reveal to stockholders and the public potential climate-related liabilities to their business — ranging from fossil fuel investments on their books to parts of their operations with exposure to, say, sea-level rise. But this plan, introduced as the stock market continues to plunge amid coronavirus fears, is different in that it is aimed directly at Wall Street banks.

Climate change, she says in the Medium post, destabilizes the American financial system in two major ways: physical property damage (think the wreckage of coastal cities in the wake of catastrophic hurricanes or Western towns post-wildfires) and so-called “transition risks.” For those of you without a degree in economics, transition risks in the context of climate change means, for instance, investments in the fossil fuel industry that could suddenly lose value as the nation switches to a green economy. Theoretically, such a shift could create conditions for a financial meltdown.

“We will not defeat the climate crisis if we have to wait for the financial industry to self-regulate or come forward with piecemeal voluntary commitments,” Warren writes. So she suggests taking aggressive steps to reign in Wall Street and avoid financial collapse by using a number of levers at a president’s disposal — some old, some new.

First, she says, if elected, she’ll use the regulatory tools in the Dodd-Frank Act — enacted in the wake of the 2008 crash — to address climate risks. Specifically, she would ask a group created by that legislation — the Financial Stability Oversight Council, comprised of heads of regulatory agencies — to assess financial institutions based on their climate risk and label them “systemically important” where appropriate.

Next, she’d require American banks to self-report how much fossil-fuel equity and debt they acquire yearly, in addition to the assets they hold in that sector. She’d also mandate insurance companies disclose premiums they derived from insuring coal, oil, and gas concerns. She’d ask the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Labor, the two agencies in charge of regulating pensions, to identify carbon-intensive investments. Current pension systems, she writes, are “leaving all the risk of fossil fuel investments in hard working Americans’ retirement accounts.” In addition, she’d staff federal financial agencies with regulators who understand the connection between financial markets and climate change, “unlike Steven Mnuchin,” she says (seemingly unable to pass up the opportunity to drag Trump’s unpopular Treasury secretary).

Perhaps the most important piece of Warren’s plan concerns international cooperation, which echoes a theme in previous climate plans she’s introduced. She’d join other world powers in making climate change a factor in monetary policymaking, and prompt the Federal Reserve to join the Network on Greening the Financial System, a global coalition of central banks. And she’d make implementation of the Paris Agreement a prerequisite for future trade agreements with the U.S. “Addressing the financial risks of the climate crisis is an international issue,” Warren writes on Medium.

As is her calling card, Warren’s latest plan is designed to protect consumers from a potential financial bubble that could burst on the horizon. And if she’s unable to continue campaigning after this week, her competitors might be smart to heed her warning and give this plan a good look, particularly the international components. As John Donne famously wrote, no market is an island.

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Elizabeth Warren’s new climate plan can go the distance, even if her campaign can’t

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Are Earth’s species really doomed? This study has a hot new take.

When it comes to human-driven species slaughters, there’s (new) good news and there’s (old) bad news.

The bad news, as those of you who read that 2019 United Nations biodiversity report remember, is that experts predicted we are on track to wipe out 1 million species as a result of polluting, clearing forests for agricultural purposes, expanding cities and roads, overhunting, overfishing, mucking up water resources, spreading invasive species, and generally microwaving the planet. But take heart! A new paper shows some critters may be more resilient than scientists thought, and we still have a sliver of time to ensure that we don’t wipe out all the Earth’s animals (the bar is set so high these days).

Why the (slightly less awful) adjustment? Past studies on climate-driven extinction and biodiversity loss tended to lump a bunch of different factors under the climate change umbrella. But this paper, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, parsed some of the factors driving extinction in order to determine which aspects of climate change have the biggest impacts on species loss.

By looking at 581 sites around the world and 538 species across those sites, researchers found that the best predictor of a local extinction event was an increase in that location’s maximum annual temperature: when the hottest days of the year got hotter. “If it gets too hot, [some species] basically can’t live there anymore,” study co-author John Wiens told Grist. Surprisingly, the average increase in temperature in a given place over the course of a year — what we typically think of when we talk about climate change — didn’t appear to have much to do with extinction events at all. In fact, the researchers found local extinctions were happening more often in places where the mean annual temperature hadn’t increased a lot.

In short, it’s really those record-breaking hot days — the kind that has all of Paris splashing in fountains, or force normally temperate Washington state to open cooling centers — that spell doom for at-risk species.

How that actually plays out depends a lot on what, if anything, humans do to stem the climate crisis. The study found that if the hottest days of the year (the maximum annual temperature) increase 0.5 degrees C, half of the world’s species will go extinct by 2070. If those maximum temperatures increase by 3 degrees C, that is, if we continue to produce emissions business-as-usual, then 95 percent of species will go extinct. “That’s really bad,” Wiens said.

But if humanity can keep a handle on those uncharacteristic heat waves, plants and animals may still have some wiggle room for survival. That’s because a given plant or animal may be able to do something called a “niche shift,” which means the species can change the range of temperatures in which it is able to survive.

That versatility may buy some critters a little time, but experts caution it’s not an excuse for complacency about the climate crisis. “At some point,” Wiens said, “it’s going to get too hot.”

Here’s the good news: if we stick to the only global climate agreement we have — an agreement that aims to keep temperatures from increasing more than 1.5 degrees C. — those species loss numbers could be much, much lower. “We have to talk about the Paris Agreement,” Wiens said. “If we’re able to stick to that, then it might be a loss of only 15 percent or so.”

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Are Earth’s species really doomed? This study has a hot new take.

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Goodbye, January — goodbye, another heat record

If you found last month unusually balmy for the middle of winter, you’re not alone. According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, January was the hottest one of its kind on record, squeaking past the previous record holder, January 2016.

Temperature records have become a fixture of 21st-century life under climate change. Last year, June and September all broke records for global temperature, and July took claimed the hottest month ever recorded. And of course, the last five years have ranked among the hottest years in history.

In some ways, these records seem trivial: After all, last month was just 0.03 degrees Celsius (0.054 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than January 2016. But averages have a way of belying the intensity of temperature changes. Nobody experiences the “global average” increasing temperature; instead, you feel particular anomalies depending on where you live.

Last month, the most extreme temperatures were felt in parts of Northern Europe and Russia, where temperatures were up to 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. Some Scandinavian cities were without snowfall in January for the first time ever; Helsinki, Finland, had less snow than Washington, D.C.

The record warmth threatens livelihoods and pastimes. Skiing areas in Norway and Sweden have been forced to bring in artificial snow to compensate. Meanwhile, in Australia, record-high temperatures and severe drought combined to devastate local wildlife and destroy thousands of homes. Some fires are still burning.

The sobering thing is that these heat records, and even extreme weather events, may soon become so regular that they no longer grab your attention. The steady drumbeats of higher temperatures become background noise, as passing or matching a record every other month becomes the new normal. That’s the problem with broken records: We’re always breaking them.

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Goodbye, January — goodbye, another heat record

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Complexity – M. Mitchell Waldrop



The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos

M. Mitchell Waldrop

Genre: Physics

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 1, 2019

Publisher: Open Road Media

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

“If you liked Chaos , you’ll love Complexity . Waldrop creates the most exciting intellectual adventure story of the year” ( The Washington Post ).   In a rarified world of scientific research, a revolution has been brewing. Its activists are not anarchists, but rather Nobel Laureates in physics and economics and pony-tailed graduates, mathematicians, and computer scientists from all over the world. They have formed an iconoclastic think-tank and their radical idea is to create a new science: complexity. They want to know how a primordial soup of simple molecules managed to turn itself into the first living cell—and what the origin of life some four billion years ago can tell us about the process of technological innovation today.   This book is their story—the story of how they have tried to forge what they like to call the science of the twenty-first century.   “Lucidly shows physicists, biologists, computer scientists and economists swapping metaphors and reveling in the sense that epochal discoveries are just around the corner . . . [Waldrop] has a special talent for relaying the exhilaration of moments of intellectual insight.” — The New York Times Book Review    “Where I enjoyed the book was when it dove into the actual question of complexity, talking about complex systems in economics, biology, genetics, computer modeling, and so on. Snippets of rare beauty here and there almost took your breath away.” — Medium   “[Waldrop] provides a good grounding of what may indeed be the first flowering of a new science.” — Publishers Weekly  

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Complexity – M. Mitchell Waldrop

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Climate change gets a single question at the fifth Democratic debate

Ten Democratic candidates for president took the stage in Atlanta to talk impeachment, health care, the economy, paid leave, and, oh yeah, our overheating planet.

Those hoping for a debate heavy on what Bernie Sanders called “the existential threat of our time” were surely disappointed. Climate change was awarded a single question, though candidates found chances to bring it up throughout.

Moderators from MSNBC and the Washington Post opened the night with a question about impeachment. Healthcare and the economy also dominated the conversation (no surprise there). About halfway through the night, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked the debate’s only question about rising temperatures. Many viewers care deeply about climate change, she said, then Maddow offered up a question from a viewer in Minnesota: What do candidates plan to do about it, and how do they aim to drum up bipartisan support for their plan?

The question went to a frontrunner, naturally. Just kidding. Representative Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii got first dibs. Gabbard said she aims to prioritize climate action if elected, a promise that would be easier to take at face value if she wasn’t the only candidate on stage who hasn’t unveiled a comprehensive plan to combat rising emissions. To be fair, Tulsi introduced the OFF act, a bill to wean the United States off fossil fuels, in Congress last year. Tom Steyer, the billionaire who runs a progressive advocacy group called NextGen America, got a chance to take a stab at the climate issue next and made a more passionate case for action.

“Congress has never passed an important climate bill ever. That’s why I’m saying it’s priority one,” Steyer said (an echo of Governor Jay Inslee’s line: “If it’s not number one it won’t get done.”) Steyer was the only candidate on stage who said he aims to declare a national emergency over climate change as president.

Sanders was the first to bring up the subject on his own, calling it “the great existential threat of our time.” Later, he talked about climate change refugees, something he said will become a major security issue in the coming year. He promised to go after oil and gas companies, an industry he said could be criminally liable for knowingly misleading the public about the effects of burning fossil fuels. “They have lied and lied and lied,” Sanders said. He also took issue with the idea that the effects — drought, floods, and extreme weather — are decades away. “If we don’t get our act together in eight or nine years,” he said, major cities will be underwater all over the world.

Even though moderators asked one question about rising temperatures, several candidates were able to weave the topic into responses to other questions. Andrew Yang and Steyer shared a moment of camaraderie when Yang gave Steyer props for using his money to tackle the climate crisis. “You can’t knock someone for having money and spending it in the right way,” Yang said.

Pete Buttigieg talked about a farmer in Boone, Iowa who told him farmers would rather be focusing on conservation over trade wars. “American farmers should be one of the key pillars of the solution to climate change,” he said. Elizabeth Warren plugged her proposal to employ 10,000 young Americans and veterans in public parks and climate resiliency projects. Toward the beginning of the debate, Steyer incorporated the need for sustainability in urban planning and development.

Climate change has been the topic of less than 10 percent of the questions asked at each of the previous four debates, and this debate was no different. But the fifth debate did demonstrate once again that candidates are ready to talk climate, even if moderators aren’t.

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Climate change gets a single question at the fifth Democratic debate

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2020 candidates have answers to the climate questions debate moderators didn’t ask

On Tuesday night, 12 candidates took the stage in Ohio to debate the issues most important to the Democratic electorate. Gun control, reproductive rights, health care, the company Ellen DeGeneres keeps (yes, you read that right), and more were on the menu. One issue was conspicuously absent: climate change. Somehow, the debate’s two media hosts, CNN and the New York Times, managed to go three hours without bringing up a global crisis that polls show is not only a top issue among Democrats, but young Republicans and independents, as well.

Climate advocates and even some of the candidates themselves were unhappy about the omission. And why wouldn’t they be? Most of the candidates who qualified for the debate are actually quite well versed in climate change, thanks to pressure from activists, previous debates with a former competitor (climate hawk and Washington Governor Jay Inslee), and of course, the impacts of warming they and other Americans have experienced.

Don’t believe us? We have proof.

David Roberts of Vox (formerly David Roberts of Grist) and his colleague Umair Irfan asked all of the 23 currently active Democratic campaigns to answer six questions about climate change. These weren’t softball questions about whether candidates would rejoin the Paris Agreement or when they wanted to reach net-zero emissions. The point was to go beyond the climate science consensus and get into the power dynamics relevant to passing climate policy in 2021.

Nine candidates — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bennet (yep, he’s still running!) — sent in responses. Here, we offer some highlights.


The candidates were in agreement that climate change should be a top priority during their first 100 days in office and on a number of other things, including building off of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and decarbonizing the economy by mid-century. But the questions about eliminating the filibuster (in order to pass climate legislation) and holding fossil fuel companies accountable shed the most light on which candidates will really put the pedal to the metal on averting climate catastrophe.

Abolishing the filibuster — a move that would allow the Senate to approve legislation with a simple majority versus a requisite 60 votes — doesn’t sound climate-related, but it is. Over the past six years, lots of progressive policy proposals have hurtled through the House only to be stopped short, primarily by Senate Republicans. Abolishing the filibuster would give Democrats the potential to actually accomplish something as big as a Green New Deal (an idea almost all of the Democratic 2020 candidates have endorsed). The downside to this, of course, is that it’s an absolute gamble. If Democrats take the Senate, abolish the filibuster, and go hog-wild on progressive legislation, Republicans could do the same with conservative bills down the road, if they retake control.

So who’s willing to take the gamble, or at least reform the filibuster? Seven candidates: Warren, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, O’Rourke, Steyer, and Klobuchar. Warren even brought it up during the debate on Tuesday, in response to a question about gun reform. Biden and Bennet said they would not scrap it.  That means those two candidates will have to find another way to pass their comprehensive climate plans by, we guess, trying to appeal to their Republican colleagues.

All of the candidates told Vox they would hold polluters accountable, but a few went above and beyond. Sanders and Steyer used the word “prosecute” in their responses, raising the possibility of pinning polluters on criminal charges. “They have evaded taxes, desecrated tribal lands, exploited workers and poisoned communities,” Sanders said. “[I] believe this is criminal activity, and, when [I am] president, [I] will hold the fossil fuel industry accountable.” Steyer said it’s time to “create real — potentially criminal — consequences for actions they may have taken to knowingly spread false information and slow climate action.” Warren also noted she would hold polluters criminally accountable, noting recent legislation she introduced to do just that.

The candidates’ answers to these questions are a reminder of how important it is that moderators ask questions about climate change during debates. Voters don’t just need to know whether or not their candidate of choice will implement a carbon tax. They need to know whether their candidate is prepared to use the full powers of the executive branch, if she or he is willing to change the rules to get legislation through the Senate, and if fossil fuel companies will ever actually have to pay for past cover-ups and crimes.

Alas, the most recent debate didn’t get viewers any closer to understanding the nuanced differences in how those vying to face Donald Trump will fight for climate action. We do, however, now know that at least two of the 12 candidates on stage dearly miss the late John McCain. But what will they miss when the planet descends into a fiery, sodden, polluted hellscape?

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2020 candidates have answers to the climate questions debate moderators didn’t ask

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Why Extinction Rebellion is occupying an NYC park

Hundreds of climate protesters around the world were arrested Monday, kicking off Extinction Rebellion’s “International Rebellion,” two weeks of direct action and civil disobedience protests in 60 countries. In London, protesters blocked all major roads around the Houses of Parliament, including Westminster Bridge, while hundreds more occupied Trafalgar Square. In Argentina, activists in hazmat suits and blood-red cloaks with white face paint called the “red brigade” occupied a Bayer-Monsanto office in Buenos Aires. And in the Netherlands, more than 100 people were arrested for trying to set up a tent city in a major tourism area.

In New York City, protesters staged a “die-in” in the middle of Wall Street in downtown Manhattan on Monday morning as part of what they called a “funeral procession for the earth.” Two famous statues, Charging Bull and Fearless Girl, dripped with fake blood that the activists had splattered all over their fellow protesters and the cobblestone streets. (The group cleaned up all the blood after the action ended.) Around 60 people were arrested.

Extinction Rebellion, a decentralized, non-hierarchical environmental action group born in the U.K., is different from Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement in a few notable ways. For one thing, the group is made up of people of all ages, not just youth. For another, the group’s main strategies are civil disobedience and other non-violent disruption techniques. The youth climate strikes, by contrast, are generally cleared with local governments and permitted ahead of time. This means Extinction Rebellion protesters are more likely to get arrested for things like trespassing and marching without a permit.

After the die-in on Monday, the NYC Extinction Rebellion group set up more than half a dozen tables and booths in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park, where they’re planning a weeklong occupation dubbed “RebelFest.” Pro-environment musicians and guerilla theater troupes performed and activists delivered speeches. The group’s camp included a food pantry, an art table, and a wellness area, though they didn’t have the city’s permission to table in the park.

Christina See, an Extinction Rebellion NYC organizer, is a film producer who has been dedicating all of her free time to Extinction Rebellion over the last 10 months. Grist / Molly Enking

Christina See, an NYC-based organizer for Extinction Rebellion, said RebelFest is as much about education as it is disruption. There is a “massive difference in consciousness around the climate and ecological emergency” between the U.S. and Europe, See said. “You can see in Europe, there is mass mobilization happening, with people on the streets demanding their governments take action to protect their citizens.” In America, she said, it’s harder to get people mobilized in the same way because the country is so spread out.

RebelFest, See told Grist, “is about having a place for people to come, meet, and see that these are everyday people, not ‘radical activists,’ who are doing this.” See pointed out that she’d only been active with Extinction Rebellion for 10 months. “But we all see what’s happening, and we have a moral obligation to not just us, but future generations and all of the species on this planet,” she said.

Pratt Institute students (from left) Megan Shoheili, Alex Ellerkamp, and Sydney Jones came by to learn about Extinction Rebellion after reading about the morning’s “die-in” on Wall Street. Grist / Molly Enking

Sydney Jones, Alex Ellerkamp, and Megan Shoheili, students at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, came by the park after hearing about the morning’s protests on Wall Street. The students were a fan of RebelFest because, they said, it provides a platform for education, conversation, and building community. They said they approved of Extinction Rebellion’s tactics because more disruptive action can make a bigger difference. “Visually offensive stuff like the fake blood can make more of an impact,” Shoheili said.

All three also agreed that both the permitted marches of the youth climate movement and the civil disobedience of Extinction Rebellion are needed, because not everyone feels comfortable potentially getting arrested, “it sends a stronger message to march without a permit,” Jones said. “Why should we follow the rules, when lawmakers are ignoring the climate crisis?”

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Why Extinction Rebellion is occupying an NYC park

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The Philosophical Breakfast Club – Laura J. Snyder


The Philosophical Breakfast Club

Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World

Laura J. Snyder

Genre: History

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: February 22, 2011

Publisher: Crown/Archetype

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

“[A] fascinating book…about the way four geniuses at Cambridge University revolutionized modern science.“ — Newsweek The Philosophical Breakfast Club recounts the life and work of four men who met as students at Cambridge University: Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones. Recognizing that they shared a love of science (as well as good food and drink) they began to meet on Sunday mornings to talk about the state of science in Britain and the world at large. Inspired by the great 17th century scientific reformer and political figure Francis Bacon—another former student of Cambridge—the Philosophical Breakfast Club plotted to bring about a new scientific revolution. And to a remarkable extent, they succeeded, even in ways they never intended. Historian of science and philosopher Laura J. Snyder exposes the political passions, religious impulses, friendships, rivalries, and love of knowledge—and power—that drove these extraordinary men. Whewell (who not only invented the word “scientist,” but also founded the fields of crystallography, mathematical economics, and the science of tides), Babbage (a mathematical genius who invented the modern computer), Herschel (who mapped the skies of the Southern Hemisphere and contributed to the invention of photography), and Jones (a curate who shaped the science of economics) were at the vanguard of the modernization of science.   This absorbing narrative of people, science and ideas chronicles the intellectual revolution inaugurated by these men, one that continues to mold our understanding of the world around us and of our place within it. Drawing upon the voluminous correspondence between the four men over the fifty years of their work, Laura J. Snyder shows how friendship worked to spur the men on to greater accomplishments, and how it enabled them to transform science and help create the modern world. "The lives and works of these men come across as fit for Masterpiece Theatre.” — Wall Street Journal "Snyder succeeds famously in evoking the excitement, variety and wide-open sense of possibility of the scientific life in 19th-century Britain…splendidly evoked in this engaging book.” — American Scientist "This fine book is as wide-ranging and anecdotal, as excited and exciting, as those long-ago Sunday morning conversations at Cambridge.  The Philosophical Breakfast Club  forms a natural successor to Jenny Uglow’s  The Lunar Men… and Richard Holmes’s  The Age of Wonder.” — Washington Post

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The Philosophical Breakfast Club – Laura J. Snyder

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