Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, when asked to define reality, famously responded “reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
Ninety-seven percent of scientists who have published peer-reviewed articles about climate change agree that the rise in temperatures over the last 150 years are caused by human activities. In spite of this, many science teachers face increasing public pressure to teach “both sides” of climate change, as though it was an issue of social preference or opinion. Many politicians insist on framing climate change as a “debate” as though scientific phenomena shift according to ideological viewpoints.
Dick’s definition applies well in this case. Climate change will continue to develop as a problem, whether or not people believe in it. Climate change reflects the alteration of the bio-chemical composition of the atmosphere and the cascading effects of this change on everything from temperatures, the acidity of the oceans, precipitation, impacts on terrestrial soils and ecosystems, and the stability of agriculture.
Despite scientific consensus, climate change, for several reasons, remains an elusive topic to teach. First, climate science is inherently complex and multi-disciplinary, evading the simplification that messaging often requires. Second, it seems overwhelming in magnitude. We can get our hands around preserving our favorite wilderness area, reducing cough-inducing smog or addressing urban pollution that caused the Cuyahoga River to burn. We know that the climate is there and its biochemistry has changed, but it is not something that we can see or experience directly.
This past year, I taught a course on the natural history of the Black River, the river which defines the watershed in which Oberlin College resides. The class focused on the dynamic natural history that led to the formation of Lake Erie, the glacial soils that cover much of Ohio and more contemporary environmental issues affecting the river’s health. The course provided a deeper sense of place and ethic of ecological stewardship.
The course focused on how we project a sustainable future for the watershed, accounting for the geological proportions of human impacts on climate. As a class, we read the book Future Scenarios—How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change, written by David Holmgren, co-originator of Permaculture Design. In the book, Holmgren presents four scenarios that relate to our response or failures to respond to climate change.
The first scenario, referred to as Brown-Tech, assumes that we continue to exploit carbon-based fuels at current levels, staving off peaking of oil production, but greatly accelerating the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere. This scenario assumes a continuing consolidation of economic and political power followed by greater long-term climate destabilization. This scenario reflects our current political trajectory and is embodied in the exploitation of tar sands oil or other carbon-based fuel sources that are increasingly difficult and costly to extract.
The second scenario, referred to as Green-Tech, assumes a significant reduction in overall energy use and deployment of higher-tech renewable energy systems. In this scenario, slower energy decline and more mild climate change symptoms correspond to a more distributed and democratic political-economic landscape. This scenario is best embodied by projects like the Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College on hybrid cars. They still rely on industrial manufacturing processes with high energy inputs, but hold potential to create new jobs, innovations and businesses.
The third scenario, referred to as Earth Stewardship, assumes a more rapid peaking of energy resources and more mild climate change symptoms. Permaculture most closely resembles this scenario, through its efforts to design functional human landscapes that run on current solar income and do not rely on extensive outside infusions of energy, capital or resources.
The final Lifeboats scenario presents a cautionary tale for a complete failure to act and adapt. While nobody wants to accept the collapse of civilization, history is littered with the remains of civilizations that exceeded their ecological supports. It is the height of arrogance to assume that our civilization is somehow immune from this potential outcome. But given our ability to better understand warning signals and to quickly deploy innovations, we have every reason to want to avoid this outcome.
The students each came up with a re-enactment of one of the four scenarios. These vignettes range from optimistic to apocalyptic. Each of the scenarios presents a possible future outcome based on the decisions that we make today. The present provides our greatest point of leverage in determining the future.
What does an energy descent future look like? How do we begin to mobilize at the community level to raise our resilience in the light of changes in climate and global energy supply? How can we share innovations, best practices and new business models across communities and accelerate our transition away from fossil-energy?
If we keep putting off action, reality will eventually catch up with us.
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A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.
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By Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Carolee Bull
Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.
Start With Prevention<p>Just as preventive steps like maintaining a balanced diet help keep humans healthy, home growers can take many actions to help their gardens thrive.</p><p>One key step is assessing soil fertility – the ability of soil to sustain plant growth – which can vary widely depending on your location and soil type. Low soil fertility limits food production and predisposes plants to disease and pests. University extension <a href="https://soiltesting.wvu.edu/" target="_blank">soil testing labs</a> can help evaluate the quality of garden soil and identify nutrient deficiencies and acidic soils, often at no charge.</p>
Using weed barrier landscape cloth for planting rows and mulching between rows is an effective way to suppress weeds. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
Diagnosing Problems<p>Common plant pathogens include <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/viral/introduction/Pages/PlantViruses.aspx" target="_blank">viruses</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/prokaryote/intro/Pages/Bacteria.aspx" target="_blank">bacteria</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/nematode/intro/Pages/IntroNematodes.aspx" target="_blank">nematodes</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/oomycete/introduction/Pages/IntroOomycetes.aspx#:%7E:text=The%20oomycetes%2C%20also%20known%20as,foliar%20blights%20and%20downy%20mildews." target="_blank">oomycetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/fungalasco/intro/Pages/IntroFungi.aspx" target="_blank">fungi</a>. All of these microorganisms, especially at an early stage of infection, are too small to see. But when they proliferate, they cause changes in plants that we can recognize.</p><p>Unlike insects, which move around on six legs or on wings through the air, pathogens can move unseen and unchecked from leaf to leaf on the wind, through the soil or in droplets of water. Some microbes have even formed intimate relationships with insects and use them as vehicles to move from plant to plant, which makes these pathogens even more challenging to manage. Unfortunately, by the time some pathogens make their presence known, the damage is already done.</p><p>We recently conducted a <a href="https://twitter.com/kasson_wvu/status/1265989041725624323" target="_blank">Twitter poll</a> of gardeners nationwide to find out which culprits plagued their gardens. People named <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/aphids" target="_blank">aphids</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-vine-borer" target="_blank">squash vine borers</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-bug" target="_blank">squash bugs</a> and <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/flea-beetle" target="_blank">flea beetles</a> as the most problematic insect pests. Their most troublesome pathogens included <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/powdery-mildew" target="_blank">powdery mildew</a>, <a href="https://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/rsol/Trainingmodules/BWTomato_Module.html" target="_blank">tomato bacterial wilt</a> and <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/downy-mildew" target="_blank">cucurbit downy mildew</a>.</p><p>To manage such perennial challenges, the first step is to spend time closely looking at your plants. Do you notice any insects consistently hanging around, or molds colonizing leaves or other plant parts? How about symptoms such as blight, stunting, or leaves that are yellowing, browning or wilting?</p>
This white fungal growth is an early sign of powdery mildew on a leaf of susceptible summer squash. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
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By Emma Charlton
The effects of climate change may more far-reaching than you think.
Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income, according to a new study published on ScienceDirect by researchers from Italy's Ca' Foscari University.
Value of air conditioning imports in selected OECD countries. ScienceDirect
The ‘Golden Thread’<p>The <a href="https://www.endenergypoverty.org/reports" target="_blank">Global Commission to End Energy Poverty</a> calls access to energy the "golden thread" that weaves together economic growth, human development, and environmental sustainability. And one of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/archive/sdg-07-affordable-and-clean-energy" target="_blank">United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals</a> is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.</p><p>Sustainability also has a large role to play in the future of energy and failing to embed green policies in COVID-19 stimulus packages and underinvesting in green infrastructure are current risks, according to the <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_COVID_19_Risks_Outlook_Special_Edition_Pages.pdf" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</p><p>In its vision for a 'Great Reset' – building a better world after the pandemic – the Forum and the IMF jointly backed the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/end-fossil-fuel-subsidies-economy-imf-georgieva-great-reset-climate/" target="_blank">transition to a green economy</a> and called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies.</p>
As if the surging cases of coronavirus weren't enough for Floridians to handle, now the state's Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a person in the Tampa area tested positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba, according to CBS News. The Florida DOH posted a warning to residents to remind them of the dangers of the rare single-celled amoeba that attacks brain tissue.
Scientists are urging the WHO to revisit their coronavirus guidance to focus more on airborne transmission and less on hand sanitizer and hygiene. John Lund / Photodisc / Getty Images
The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding the line on its stance that the respiratory droplets of the coronavirus fall quickly to the floor and are not infectious. Now, a group of 239 scientists is challenging that assertion, arguing that the virus is lingering in the air of indoor environments, infecting people nearby, as The New York Times reported.
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Along the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, oysters live in coastal estuaries where saltwater and freshwater meet and mix.
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Scores of people remained stranded in southern Japan on Sunday after heavy rain the day before caused deep flooding and mudslides that left at least 34 people confirmed or presumed dead.
Care Home Inundated<p>Altogether 16 residents at an elderly care home in Kuma Village are presumed dead after the facility was flooded by water and mud.</p><p>Fifty-one other residents have been rescued by boats and taken to hospitals for treatment, officials said.</p><p>Eighteen other people elsewhere have been confirmed dead, while more than a dozen others were still missing as of Sunday afternoon.</p><p>The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said many others were still waiting to be rescued from other inundated areas.</p><p>Hitoyoshi City was also badly affected by flooding, as rains in the prefecture exceeded 100 millimeters (4 inches) per hour at their height.</p>
More Rain Forecast<p>The disaster in the Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu island is the worst natural catastrophe since Typhoon Hagibis in October last year, which cost the lives of 90 people.</p><p>Although residents in Kumamoto prefecture were advised to evacuate their homes following the downpours on Friday evening into Saturday, many people chose not to leave for fear of contracting the coronavirus.</p><p>Officials say, however, that measures are in place at shelters to prevent the transmission of the disease.</p><p>More rain is predicted in the region, and the Japan Meteorological Agency has warned of the danger of further mudslides.</p>
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