Category Archives: General News

You can’t ignore climate change

I recently started reading Tom Friedman’s book Thank You for Being Late. He lays out a timeline of technological accelerations (like AI and the growth of high speed bandwidth globally) that I thought would be good information for my podcast.

Mr. Friedman devoted a chapter to climate change in the book and paints a fairly horrific picture that got me thinking about the climate, especially in the United State’s current political situation.

The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. For the vast majority of the planet’s existence, the climate was not be hospitable for humans (the first billion years our planet couldn’t support the simplest life).

Human beings showed up 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it started around 6,000 years ago. An interesting fact about this timeline is that the planet shifted into the Holocene epoch around 11,000 years ago.

First what is an epoch?

In geochronology, an epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale that is longer than an age and shorter than a period. Rock layers deposited during an epoch are called a series.

Basically geologists study layers of rock to determine different changes in the chemical composition of the earth at different times (air, water, etc). Humans developed functional society during the Holocene epoch:

The Holocene also encompasses the growth and impacts of the human species worldwide, including all its written history, development of major civilizations, and overall significant transition toward urban living in the present.

Do you think the Holocene being a climate friendly period to human life and the proliferation of civilization is a coincidence? Earth’s current temperatures haven’t been this hot since the Eemian period 120,000 years ago (sea levels were 20-30 ft higher).

Everything was fairly balanced until the last 200 years. It seems humans have created so much concrete, chemicals, and unnatural materials like plastics that the planet is literally covered in a new layer of man-made dirt that is starting to be called the Anthropocene epoch.

This is exciting for geologists but will probably be bad for everybody else.

The industrial age is the origin point to this story. We figured out how to make more: more food, more materials for housing, better clothing, better medicine. Because there was abundance, there was more people.

The population doubled in the last 50 years. The UN is projecting that there will be almost 10 billion people on the planet by 2050.

This growth is being driven by the obvious countries like India and China, but more than 50% of that growth is expected by African countries like Nigeria. The population of the African continent could reach 4.2 billion by 2100.

More people are consuming more of everything (food and materials), which is causing even more impact to the environment. More production, more cows, more fishing means more carbon dioxide in the air and water and (most likely) consuming more trees.

Speaking of plant life, the use of pesticides and fertilizer has leached so many chemicals into the water tables that existing plants are not performing as well as they did at consuming carbon dioxide and there are less of them around.

The increase in green house gases is leading the ice caps to melt. Less ice at the caps mean less reflection of the sun’s rays which leads to more ice melting and the overall water temperature to heat up. This totally messes up ocean currents and causes insane weather patterns and super-storms.

The ice is also releasing even more CO2 gas (that was trapped during pre-human periods) and is increasing the acidity of the ocean which is impacting coral reef and fish populations.

So what does it all mean? Take the most extreme scenario off the table (all the ice melts), just a few feet causes major geo-political problems. Rising water means less coasts which forces huge groups of people to relocate. A continent like Africa which is already resource constrained, in a seemingly constant state of political unrest, and is experiencing a population boom… it is a recipe for disaster.

The climate problem is a political issue. A distracted and quarreling world population will not be in a position to address the environmental problems to ensure future generations can thrive.

Longing for the return of coal mines instead of investing in renewable resources is troubling (since it is becoming cheaper to produce nationally). But solar and wind aren’t going to get the job done in the short term which is why there needs to be investments in nuclear or molten salt reactors.

The global population has to figure out how to get CO2 out of the air and water ASAP. This is problematic considering that fossil fuels account for 87% of China’s energy consumption. Even though China is being praised for their investment in renewables, they are still going to burn a massive amount of coal (about 4 billion tons vs. 1 billion in the US) to keep growing economically.

Why am I taking the time to write a 1000 words on the topic? This entire situation scares me. My wife and I probably won’t live to see the most problematic aspects of climate change, but my son and his children will.

I don’t understand how politicians can see what is happening in Greenland, at the polar caps, and observe the extreme weather we have experience the last decade and deny there is a problem. Humans have literally changed the world over the last 200 years in the worst possible context.

Forget the two-party system, they are all responsible for this situation. This “kick the can down the road” mentality is a death sentence for future generations and will undoubtedly become the ignition point for future global warfare (what happens when we run out of fresh water?).

We have to elect people who acknowledge there is a problem and actually have a plan to start dealing with it.

Besides elections, here are some other ways to address climate change as an individual:

Update (1/20/2017): It hasn’t been 8 hours since Trump assumed office and the official White House website has dropped any mention of climate change.

Photo: John Towner

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Google Alerts is Down (1/10/2017)

Heads up Google Alerts users… the service seems to be down.

There isn’t anything on the Google Alerts page, but I poked around on twitter and found this article on Chron saying Alerts has been down for a few hours.

The Chron post also links to a Google Product Forum that states the issue has been corrected…

As of 8 PM EST my feeds are still not getting articles and there are about a dozen people commenting in the forum that the service still isn’t working for them.

I will provide updates here if I find any other information.

 

 

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New Trend: Quitting because of Trump

It has been an interesting few months globally and here in America.

The aftermath of the election of Donald Trump as POTUS has resulted in extremely mixed emotional reactions.  Recently, there has been news of these reactions taking place in an unexpected setting… white collar offices.

The trend seems to have started with IBM.

In November, after the election, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty wrote a public letter to Trump congratulating him on his victory, providing a few compliments, and offering IBM’s assistance to “make America great again.”

As a result of this letter, an IBM employee, Elizabeth Wood, made national headlines by quitting the company.  Some called the move brave, others have questioned her sanity… I call it wisely calculated:

Wood acknowledged that she had experienced frustrations of working in a company as large as IBM but said she had not been planning to leave the tech giant before seeing Rometty’s letter. A writer and “content strategist,” Wood also said she was aware her move had the potential to raise her profile; she has pinned the letter she wrote to the top of her LinkedIn profile and her Twitter feed.

Wood was already frustrated working within IBM and this letter brought considerable attention her way.

Putting aside personal politics, Rometty made the right move by sending the letter.  The US government is a major IBM customer. Losing that business would place even more IBM employee’s jobs at risk. The letter also resulted in Ginni participating in early business transition meetings (the only technology CEO in the group initially).

As the weeks have passed, more technology employees are having similar reactions as their leaders engage the Trump administration. An Oracle cloud manager resigned after co-CEO Safra Catz joined Trump’s transition team.

Most of the technology workers criticizing their leaders are concerned with Trump’s social politics towards Muslims, Latinos, women’s rights, and homosexuals. The fact that so many people feel their civil rights are at risk is a massive alarm that needs attention and discussion. But business leaders can’t hide from this administration, they have to engage and steer this ship in the right directions.

Tim Cook, Apple’s openly gay CEO took a meeting with Trump last week:

“Personally, I’ve never found being on the sideline a successful place to be,” writes Cook. “The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena. So whether it’s in this country, or the European Union, or in China or South America, we engage. And we engage when we agree and we engage when we disagree. I think it’s very important to do that because you don’t change things by just yelling. You change things by showing everyone why your way is the best. In many ways, it’s a debate of ideas.”

Both IBM and Microsoft have publicly refused to work on any project that would result in a Muslim registry within the United States. Yet both companies have recently earned new business with the Federal government.

Donald Trump isn’t going to go away. He might not be the person we wanted, but he is the guy we got. The only way left-leaning people are going to keep their social concerns alive is to remain engaged and you can’t do that by quitting or freaking out over a letter.

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski

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Solidarite’

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My thoughts are with the people of France right now.

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Picture: Full Sized Snickers?

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I found this picture months ago and thought it would be perfect for Halloween week.
Happy Halloween!

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Mystery meat found in hot dogs?

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A recent report shows that the meat found in certain hot dog brands are not what was advertised. No, it isn’t rat parts (I hope)… it is more like pork being found in kosher brands.

Oh and they also found human DNA in the hot dogs.

HUMAN DNA.

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Vintage TV sent to space for music video

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Director Joe Connor sent up two vintage Sony televisions via weather balloons for Kelvin Jones’ video for his song Call You Home.

Yup, that really is a TV in space, for real. I created this video by sending a vintage Sony TV into orbit on a weather balloon provided by Sent Into Space, surrounded by cameras so as to capture this spectacular footage hovering above the Big Blue Marble itself.

More precisely, it took two launches – both from Snowdonia in Wales, with two identical TVs, with each launch providing the opportunity to rig the GoPros in different positions.


Photo: NASA

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Video: Anthony Bourdain: Kramer Knives

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Anthony Bourdain has a new web show covering hand crafted items. In this episode, he features hand made knives by Bob Kramer of Kramer Knives.

It is pretty incredible to see these this metal pounded into steel and then crafted into a pretty incredible knife.


Photo: Li Tsin Soon, Flickr

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Video: Hotel Okura

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Japan’s Hotel Okura which has been heralded for its design and timeless features is about to undergo a massive redesign. Check out this documentary on some of the design feature that made the hotel a classic.

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