Tag Archives: climate change

With a Little Help from My Friends

The recent shameful departure of my country on the Paris Agreement on global climate change is the dominant story in the news and the most pressing issue on my mind, but I just don’t have the energy (and that is not a pun) to restate the same facts about how we humans, and especially me and mine in America, are responsible for rapidly heating up this one habitable planet we have always known, and until the ignorance of greed consumed too many of us, has been a world we loved as well. I love it still, and the billions of humans and wildlife that live upon it, which is why I worry so much. In the interests of not wishing to belabor a point that needs to be repeated, but not so much to my audience who already understands its severity, and for the sake of not wishing to deviate from my original plan for this post, I will not personally cover (at least for this week) the Paris Agreement tackbacksies that my poorly-led nation idiotically enacted, however, my favorite late night host and his team have put together another fantastic segment this time covering just that:

Thank you, John. You make it easier to endure this madness, and though I’ve never met you, I feel like you could be a friend, which is precisely what we all need through hardships and celebrations, and as it happens, it was 50 years ago last week The Beatles taught the world to cherish friends, as well as to embrace the nature of change for the better and the mixing of culture and art in one of the grandest musical contributions of all time.

On May 26,1967 in England, and June 2 in America, the greatest band to ever play music released one the greatest records ever cut. The Beatles were already at the top of the musical world as they had been for a few years thanks to their tremendous popularity with young pop rock and roll fans. Yet the group felt tired of playing music for screaming girls and wanted to make some “serious music”. They stopped touring concerts to ease their exhaustion and focus on their music. Some people were pissed about this, but regardless of those frustrations from fans and the members of the band itself, all were rewarded with a masterpiece set into motion with about 11 seconds of orchestral warm-up and ambient crowd chatter eagerly awaiting a show that strikes out of the theater noise with drums and guitar that instantly grab our attention so that we are all ears when Paul McCartney starts singing in the fabulously fictitious Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sgt. Pepper’s remains one of the most influential and unique albums of all time for a variety of reasons. It was pioneering, not just for rock and roll and pop music, but for all music, containing an assortment of instruments and musical styles that culminate in one of the most masterfully varied records, but one with a terrific flow, thanks in large part to the first time omission of the few seconds of silent space between songs. On Sgt. Pepper, Beatles producer George Martin was once again the man behind most of the technical effects that lend a certain feel to the album as a whole. The band had been experimenting with new sounds for their last few records, like Rubber Soul and Revolver, records that really allowed The Beatles to rise above the pure pop that many desired them to be. Sgt. Pepper’s was not the first instance of The Beatles breaking away from the mainstream – honestly, I’m not sure they ever were in the mainstream as much as they were paving the way for it – yet the discography of the band truly took off into an unforeseen level of the musical and cultural atmosphere with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles were essentially the first band to walk on the musical Moon. They had been approaching their desired destination with their previous work, but Sgt. Pepper’s was their Apollo program, and led them and many, many others to a new world of musical production.

One fascinating example of this is in the lively album cover that depicts a wealth of celebrities from many walks of life and eras. The Nerdwriter declares it to the “Holy Grail of album covers”, and he is not wrong as the artwork is multi-layered with meaning and references to the essence of the band and its members. He explains this in one of his excellent video essays:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is revolutionary in many respects, but chief among its merits is the quality of its songs and their arrangement. Rolling Stone considers it to be the best album ever made, and while its influence is undeniable and a major reason for their favoring of it, the great music and lyrics that defined The Beatles better than anything else ever could are exceptional throughout the record.

Starting off with the opening I mentioned earlier, the titular “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” provides a terrific introduction both as a song and the theme of the journey we are about to take. It also provides a bookended finish with a short reprisal of “Sgt. Pepper’s” as the penultimate song of the record. It was Paul McCartney’s idea to make the album’s premise be a concert sang by a fictional band. This fit his and the band’s characteristic whimsy, but also allowed them to push the envelope a little further with the safety of being able to let any controversy fall back upon the fictitious group in place of the real one. Oh that wasn’t us; that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club.

The title track segues perfectly into what is probably the most popular song on the album, and is certainly one of the band’s best songs. I mean, I did name this post after it. After his alter ego Billy Shears’ introduction at the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, Ringo Starr begins to sing the classic “With a Little Help from My Friends”. This is one of my favorite songs for its joyful melody, harmonious vocals, and encouraging message that friendship is the key to enjoying life through the good and bad. Despite their differences and the trials each of them were going through at the time, it is clear that The Beatles worked so well, not just on this record, but throughout the years because they were friends. This song is the epitome of that love for one another. It’s all you need after all – wait, that’s the next record.

From the epitome of friendship we roll on to the epitome of psychedelia with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. There are many references to drug use on featured within the album, including an overt one in the previous song, but John Lennon always maintained that this song was based on a drawing his son made of a girl in his class named Lucy. As one radio host on the newly launched Sirius Beatles Channel said, Lennon never shied away from discussing drugs and did write “Cold Turkey” in his post-Beatles career, so even though the nouns in the title begin with the letters LSD, drugs did not inspire this song. However, that does not mean they did not influence this song, which they almost certainly did, although not just in the trippy description of Lucy’s land as the song (an album entire) serves as an allusion to the flower power movement that saw the cultures of East and West blending together like a tie-dye T-shirt. This is certainly apparent on the one song on the album John Lennon and Paul McCartney did not write, George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” which is driven by Harrison’s sitar and other Indian instruments.

The highlight of the album for many is the closing orchestration that is “A Day in the Life”. I say orchestration because Martin and The Beatles brought in an actual orchestral arrangement to play the unnerving transitions between the two wildly distinctive tones of the song. The reason for these drastically different pieces from Lennon and McCartney is simple as they began as two different songs. Lennon needed something to connect his song that was inspired by stories in a newspaper, and McCartney offered a separate song he had been working on and they sandwiched it in and spread the orchestra to make it more cohesive. The final piano note was actual multiple pianos played simultaneously and then stretched out by Martin in the sound mixing booth. The end result is a slightly disturbing note of finality to a slightly disturbing song that perfectly punctuates the album.

The album has a perfect transition from song to song which is all the more impressive given its great variation of styles. This could have been a magnificent failure for a lesser group, but as I’ve said before and will say again, The Beatles are the greatest band of all time and they managed to make a clash of genres and technical trials (Paul McCartney is credited with playing a “comb and tissue paper”) into their defining work… until next year’s release of their best album, but we can talk about that next year. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a massive success from the start and continued to establish The Beatles as the master musicians they were and deserve to be recognized as. I encourage you to listen to this and all their other albums. It’s easy to call The Beatles great, and not hard to recommend such a well loved band, but these guys are in another league. Remember when I said Sgt. Pepper’s was like The Beatles landing on the Moon? Well, their continued career took them across the universe to places other musicians can only dream of. That pun was absolutely intended, but also absolutely true. The Beatles are not my favorite band – anyone who’s read my previous posts knows that honor belongs to another British rock band – but I will defend until my dying breath that they are the best band because they are. No one is more varied, talented, and has such an extensive body of work that is as high quality as The Beatles’ discography. Also, they are my second favorite band, so it’s not like it’s hard for me to admire them, but it helps that they’re really, really good.

Thanks for reading, watching, and listening! Be sure to check out anything you can from The Beatles even if you’ve heard it all before. They certainly are worth listening to more than once. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to revolve back here next week for more hopefully good news or fun topics. Whatever I write about, I promise I’ll throw in a joke or two.

I hope you have enjoyed the show,

Alex

State of the Season 9: Strange Things a Happenin’ on Netflix through Strange Things a Happenin’ on the Diamond – Lot’s of Love and Some Loss

Happy Halloween! Here’s hoping your candy quest pans out all right tonight. Sometime in the coming days I am watching a curse end, but as for now we will be celebrating the day we adults are cursed with having to purchase our own source of sugar (unless you have kids; you’ve earned your cut of their candy). Today, on this spooky occasion, I am recapping the last three months on this site for the ninth time since its beginning. Before we get into it though, you may be wondering where Chris Pratt’s picture has gone. Normally my man-crush has the esteemed honor of headlining the header of each State of the Season post, but today that section is being utilized as a tribute to the late John Hicks, an Ohio State lineman from the early 1970s who passed away yesterday. I, along with my mother and friend, Brandon, were lucky enough to meet Mr. Hicks after the 2010 Rose Bowl game. After exiting the stadium, we just happened to run into the man who had been inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame earlier in the day, and he agreed to take a picture with us. In the excitement of the Buckeyes’ big win that had just occurred, it seemed surreal bumping into one of the stars of the stadium’s rich history. I confess, I didn’t know who he was before his introduction during the ceremony at the game, but after returning home I looked him up and discovered he is revered as one of the greatest players in Ohio State and college football history. So here’s to you, John Hicks. Thanks for smiling when my mom got into the picture.

Now, onto the season’s recap.

Strange Times at Hawkins High” is my expression of admiration for Netflix’s Stranger Things. I added my voice to the choir singing its praises for providing great storytelling through acting, directing, visuals, music, and a great story. I, along with so many others are stoked for season 2 which delivered an exciting trailer with nothing but names of the next round of episodes. Rewatching this series tonight is not a bad idea; fighting demogorgons is.


An Overly Momentous Occasion” took a look at the uh, I guess, expensive? Batman v. Superman movie with the help of a great explanation from the Nerdwriter1 of the difference between cool looking moments and substantial scenes in film. I compared the DC debacle with a single excellently crafted scene from Django Unchained. The featured picture of the Lego versions of the movie’s heroes seemed fitting to represent how through all the pomp and circumstance this movie was essential a guy smashing his toys together on screen.


Science for Your Senator” is a prompt I wrote in college for a class on global climate change. It can be used as a template for you to send to your respective representative in government, no matter where in this world you live. Considering that climate change affects us all, it helps to chime in with your own voice to your own senators, congressmen, mayors, mothers, fathers, farmers, friends, enemies, neutral parties, political parties, and anyone else that I didn’t name in that circle, because this sphere we’re on is extremely important to some of us.


Love and Science: A Match Made in the Creative Cosmos” is me raving more about Interstellar, but this time I had help from Mikey and the gang at Chainsawsuit Original. Oh shit! They just churned out a video on John Wick! Gotta see what they say about the gun-fu master!


An Appreciation for the Wilder Things” is my tribute to the great Gene Wilder. In it I applaud his character, and seven of his best characters on film.


Never Forget” is my remembering of my day on September 11th, 2001. It certainly is not as harrowing as the day remains for too many, but I hope that it can help you recall how the day affected you if you lived during it, and perhaps give a glimpse of how it impacted a person who did if you were born after.


Royal Rovers: The Marvelous Migration of Monarch Butterflies” is a look at the amazing migration that one of the most recognizable and beloved endangered species makes in North America. There is also a migration in New Zealand that is pretty cool.


Not Quite Animal House, But It Will Serve” is a compilation of experiences and moments my friends and I had during our junior year of college. Reading through these helped me compose my best man speech for my friend Joe. If you’re wondering how it went, I knocked it out of the park, of course.


I [heart emoji] U” is my analysis of what exactly constitutes as love inspired by emotions awakened by my friends’ wedding. Or perhaps hormones. Or both. Research is still ongoing.


Droop Snoot Riot” is the annual Mach 1 Week celebration that explores Concorde. My resident airplane and engineering expert/friend Dan got to see one of the few remaining Concordes with a random chance glance when he was in England a few months ago. I meet football players; he meets planes.


Earth Naturel” expresses my interest in encouraging care and conservation for natural spaces and the flora and fauna within them through education and inspiration. I was inspired to write this piece by the trailer of the upcoming Planet Earth II. You lucky Brits get the first glimpse, while us in the States have to wait until January 28th!


It’s About Damn Time!” is my revel in the current World Series matchup that features the two teams with the longest title drought. My apologies to teams that have never won the series, or even been there, but you still have some time to catch up on the drought the Indians, and especially the Cubs have endured. I would be satisfied with either team hoisting the trophy, but my heart is with Cleveland. Let’s go Tribe!

Oh, and bonus baseball tidbit: the Houston Astros were once called the Colt .45s.

Thanks for reading and re-reading. Keep coming back each week for more posts every Monday. The pieces I hinted at in the last State of the Season are still on their way, along with who knows what else?! If you ever have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them to monotrememadness@gmail.com.

As a Halloween treat, I have included a few scenes that I found particularly scary in their respective movies the first time I saw them (and every subsequent viewing). I’m aware that WhatCulture has done a similar thing throughout this month, but they don’t have the monopoly on scary scenes this time of year. They are not ranked in any way, but each scene sends shivers down me timbers from the gushing blood of the Overlook Hotel’s elevators to the terrifying flash of a demon face in Father Karras’ dream to Ben Gardener’s head bobbing in his boat. Bear in mind there may some spoilers, but you’re safe if you’ve seen these movies:

  • The Shining
  • The Exorcist
  • Jaws
  • Zodiac
  • The Descent
  • Cat People (1942)
  • Alien

All of these are great watching if you’re looking for a good movie for tonight. If you need more to sustain your scares, might I suggest what I already have?

13 Frightening Film Favorites for Halloween

 

13 Spooky Songs to Pumpkin Spice Up Your Halloween

And the scariest:

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

Alex

P.S. You can begin voting for your five favorite nominees to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this April, here.

Earth Naturel

What an incredible planet we live on. Time and again I am reminded of how magnificently beautiful our cosmically infinitesimal blue ball is. Often these reminders come when I venture out into a natural space like a park or wildlife refuge that has preserved or recreated some section of non-urban environment for a number of flora and fauna species. I am lucky enough to have a few critical marsh, swamp, and forest habitats around me, as well as unique oak savanna, and the riparian (river) and liminal (lake) habitats that occur in the Great Lakes region, and I enjoy these spaces to the fullest. Yesterday, I saw my first flock of American White Pelicans at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge on the northern Ohio shore of Lake Erie. Yeah, there are pelicans in the Great Lakes! They, like many other bird species, frequently pass through the region when migrating. I am privileged to get to see a wide array of bird and other animal species, as well as plants and fungi, thanks to my proximity to the largest freshwater system in the world. Additionally, I live in an ecologically important area that is valued by its local citizens, which helps to protect these spaces. When people care about the natural spaces around them, they feel inclined to preserve them so that they remain for their enjoyment, and the enjoyment of others and future generations. I’m sure the wildlife also appreciate the safeguarding of such places as they serve as a necessary source of shelter, food, and water.

As great as preserves like Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and its fellow lakeside parks and protected spaces are, there are still so many habitats throughout the United States that are being devastated by human action. Whether it be habitat destruction for industry or residential expansion; accidental damage through chemical and oil spills; climate change; or invasive species introduction, Americans are still doing harm to the natural areas around them, thereby negatively affecting the wildlife that live there. In many other countries, especially poorer and lesser-developed nations, there is even more natural damage, and even desolation. However, here in the States there is a lot of effort -and also quite importantly federal and state money – being put toward habitat protection and restoration. This is good for the living things around us, but also for us too.  For example, wetlands like the marshes and swamps I mentioned earlier are pivotal in cleaning contaminants out of water that we often use for our daily needs, especially drinking. Furthermore, wetlands are helpful in managing excess water from storms to prevent flooding in the surrounding areas. This is but one example of beneficial natural habitat preservation.

Okay, so we’ve all heard that trees and flowers and baby deer are nice, and you probably enjoy seeing them, but why should you care so much about the preservation of natural habitats around you? Well, if you live in the US or other well developed nations with the care and capital to maintain and reclaim natural areas, then you are lucky enough to have some of these spaces already, and you may take them for granted like I used to. When I was a kid, I routinely went out to the parks around my house with my dad to look for birds and other wildlife. I marveled at how many places there were, and since the world always looks bigger through a child’s eyes, it seemed like they were especially huge. As I stated, I do live in an area with a lot of protected habitats, and in fact there is more of it than when I was a child. Nevertheless, I now realize that these spaces are relatively tiny compared to the urban and suburban developed areas where we all live. Around my home there is even more of this area too, and the human habitats have outgrown the wild ones. The extra natural areas that have been designated protected spaces have mainly been made such in reaction to the overreaching of human development, not purely out of the kindness of our hearts for our natural neighbors. I understand that we live in an ever-growing world, and that it is difficult to get everyone on board to setting aside land (and water) to be left for our feathered and furred friends. It can expensive, and that space could be utilized for something useful to humanity, like a library, fire station, or indoor trampoline park. Despite all this, I am convinced that we should, whenever and wherever possible, preserve and restore natural areas to ensure that there is still wilderness in the world.

My words may be a middling effort to persuade you to share my opinion, but I am not alone in my sentiment. A group of international individuals have united and utilized a much more effective tool for education and inspiration is to show and explain the natural wonders of the world. So if you roll your eyes at my pleas for conservation, glue them to the screen with the majesty of our home that is showcased beautifully by the BBC Natural History crew in their nature documentary series. The high-definition sequences of the filmmakers coupled with the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough make for the grandest of nature films which better than any others display the even grander goings-on of Earth in all its glory. The finest of these is the Planet Earth series that debuted ten years ago. Planet Earth was ground-breaking, presented the spectacle of not just big animals on the African savanna, but fauna (animals) and flora (plants) of all sizes from all over the world. Additionally, the series looked at other biota (living things) like fungi, and even non-living things like cave crystals and other geological structures. What sets Planet Earth apart from other still great nature documentaries is its comprehensive coverage of the life and environments of our world. BBC Natural History has produced some other fantastic documentaries before and since Planet Earth, such as The Blue PlanetLife, and Frozen Planet. You can watch the complete Planet Earth series on Netflix, and there are clips on BBC One’s website.

Earlier this year in February, BBC announced they would release another Planet Earth series, and they will sometime in November. We got our first looks at what the series holds last week with the release of a trailer on October 9th, followed by an extended trailer on Mach 1 Day.

As I stated before, when people care about the natural places and inhabitants around them they want to protect them. First they must learn about them, and documentaries like Planet Earth help to introduce people to such areas while educating about what depends on each space. I look forward to seeing the follow-up to the greatest nature documentary ever filmed and learning more about the awesome Earth we all share.

Thanks for reading. Check out Planet Earth if you have not already, and maybe rewatch it if you have. It and it’s fellow BBC Natural History documentaries are all worth another viewing. I hope you’ll also return here next week, and send me any questions or comments to monotrememadness@gmail.com.

The time is now,

Alex

Royal Rovers: The Marvelous Migration of Monarch Butterflies

Imagine making a tedious journey across 3000 miles over two months without accounting for extreme weather or other factors that might delay you. Now imagine that you weigh less than a quarter of an ounce and are only 3-4″ in size. Seems a little tough, doesn’t it? The farthest I have ran is 6.2 miles in a 10K segment of a marathon and it drained all my energy for a week. Now, I’m no Olympian by any stretch, but I have got considerably more going for me than Danaus plexippus, the Monarch butterfly. I am a larger, less fragile organism aided by a wider diet and intellect, among other things, and I can contently set up shack in the same shelter over the course of the next 80 years with relative comfort. I do not have to worry about predators. Heart disease and motor vehicles offer a greater threat to me than do the likes of birds or other insects, not to mention storms or shifting weather patterns. In spite of everything against them, monarchs in North America make an incredible migration from the northern reaches of the United States and Canada down into the heart of Mexico every fall. They do this to better survive the harsh cold of winter to give rise to the next generation, however, their biggest threat today is not the cold, but the continuing impact of human alterations to their environment.

Monarch butterflies are as delicate as they are beautiful, but they do not need to fear much from predators thanks to a steady diet of exclusive milkweed as caterpillars. Milkweed contains toxins that are poisonous or at least downright distasteful to many mammals and birds, and adult monarchs have bright orange and black wings to stand out to warn potential predators of this. This does not take them off the menu for every animal, especially other insects who don’t mind the milkweed, but it keeps them safe from a high number of hungry creatures. Their warning colors are so effective, that Viceroy butterflies copy it to trick predators into thinking that they are poisonous like monarchs. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all.

Monarchs are champion migrants also. As I previously stated, some travel as far as 3000 miles (4828km) to their wintering grounds. This is amazing enough for such a small creature, but especially so when you consider all the work that goes into making a complete cyclical migration to Mexico and back. You probably were introduced to the annual monarch migration early on in your academic career, perhaps even as the first real-world example of animal migration, but did you know that it takes 5-6 generations to make the round trip? It does! The first round of monarchs born in Mexico gradually work their way north, some to the western US, some to the East, and some farther on into Canada. Over the course of the spring and summer 4-5 generations live, migrate, reproduce, and die as they steadily ease on up the States and the land of the Maple Leaf until the final generation is born at the end of summer. This last generation of the year – the one that currently is heading south – is bigger and stronger than their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. They can be as much as twice as large, all the better to help them make the long trip to Mexico. This final generation is the one that makes the big flight you learned about in grade school. They arrive in Mexico, chill out (literally), and produce the first generation of next year’s journey. Most generations only survive for about 2-6 weeks, but the final, far-flying migrant generation lives for 6-8 months, spending most of it enduring the winter weather.

Yes, even in Mexico it gets chilly. The BBC had a nice segment explaining the overwintering of monarchs in their 2009 nature documentary series Life.

Sorry for the crummy video quality, and more so for the lack of original David Attenborough narration (I guess Oprah’s all right). As she said, predators not deterred by the bad taste and natural occurrences like frost can kill thousands of these butterflies as they wait out the winter, but ultimately their sheer numbers of approximately 300,000 significantly outweigh these natural losses. Nevertheless, that number was once over 1 billion butterflies, and not that long ago either. In the last 20 years, the population of monarchs has dropped almost 90%. This monumental loss in total population does not bode well for such a tiny animal susceptible to even the slightest change. As with any other living thing on Earth, monarchs are detrimentally affected by global climate change and habitat loss (particularly in their Mexican winter sites), both of which have wreaked havoc on the species. The greatest direct threat to monarchs though is the systemic indirect decimation of milkweed.

Monarch larvae (caterpillars) eat only milkweed, not the more variable sugary nectar they consume as adults, so if milkweed decreases, so too do the monarchs. Milkweed is not a plant we harvest as a crop, nor is it as heavily desired as a showy gardening plant as traditional European garden flowers (although interest for the sake of butterflies is growing), so we don’t really give much notice to it when we consider our own eating or aesthetic desires. This is especially the case when we manage our food needs on a mass scale. In order to most effectively protect our desired crops, such as corn and beans, we spray herbicides that kill off those other plants we aren’t going to send to the table. Today this is easily achieved with genetic modifications to the crop plants that protects them against the harmful effects of the herbicide. The plants we want grow healthier than ever while everything else is eliminated. I am not trying to sway you against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in fact I think they have the potential to help us manage and produce all of our plant-based food needs. Nonetheless, GMOs are a major source of controversy that should be thoroughly discussed with more than our stomachs in mind. One large consideration to be made is in the case of native plants necessary to native wildlife. Milkweed for monarchs is a prime example of this.

Fortunately, there are many people working to remedy the plight of monarch butterflies, and most of them are not sporting Ph.D.s… well, not yet at least. Monarch Watch is the primary source of data collection and research on monarchs. Based out of Kansas University, located in the central flyway of many migrating monarchs, Monarch Watch is one of the largest citizen science programs in North America, meaning that it relies on data collected by people of all ages and trades. Oftentimes it is used as an active teaching experience for students in middle school and up. Monarch Watch provides tags and data sheets that allow those helping to fill out information regarding the release location, date, gender (males have two black pouches on the hind wing that females lack), and whether the specimen(s) released were a wild-caught or captive-raised stock. The tags are stickers placed on the wing that do not inhibit the flight of the butterflies, but make it easy for anyone involved in Monarch Watch to take a look at and report where a specific butterfly is at at any given time. This information is used to track the general course of migration each year and can be used to gauge population health, among other things. ideally, someday sooner than later we can decrease the number of detrimental effects we have on monarchs while simultaneously increasing the number of people involved in citizen science programs like Monarch Watch to better understand the mysterious Monarch.

Thanks for reading! If you are interested in Monarch Watch, check out their website, as well as these sites with some general information that helped me write this post:

Xerces Society

USDA Forest Service

National Geographic

Contact me with any questions, comments, butterfly love, etc. at monotrememadness@gmail.com, and be sure to come back for more fun next week.

Flutter flutter,

Alex

Science for Your Senator

Hello! With the upcoming American election that is so much more than just a presidency (although it is immensely important for being one of those), I felt that it might be helpful to offer a template that others can use to send to their respective legislative representative(s) that warns of the dangers of what should be the most important and pressing bipartisan issue: global climate change.

Back during my junior year of undergraduate studies I took a class called Global Climate Change that focused on just that. We spent most of our time studying the science of the past and present to gauge the frightening future, but that is not all we did. Our professor, and essentially the rest of our Biology department instructors of all specialties, showed us some of the reasons why people ignore the science, and how it gets lost in the political shuffle of Washington D.C. or pushed to the back at best. One of our assignments was to compose a letter to our senator or congressman that contained a plea for supporting this scientific research and listening to it by making changes to curb our greenhouse gas emissions ASAP and facilitate generally greener lifestyles in America. The following is an updated version of the letter I wrote that I encourage you to use as either a template to base your own personal letter to your political representatives off of, or as a carbon copy (teehee, science joke) that you can fill in your appropriate information to.

Firstname Lastname

5555 Somewhere Street

City, OH 55555

Aug 22, 2016

 

Senator Sherrod Brown

1301 East Ninth St., Suite 1710

Cleveland, OH 44114

 

Dear Senator Brown,

 

My name is Firstname Lastname. I am a ?? year old from City, OH and a student in my current year at Local State University studying Biology / an employee at [Local Non-profit Org.]; [the law firm of Local and Legal]; [etc.]. Currently, I am taking a Global Climate Change class / independently researching global climate change and I have been learning about the effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the global environment. I have learned a lot from the class / my research, however, most of what I have learned is extremely disconcerting. Based upon current projections put forth by scientists in peer-reviewed journals it will be a much warmer and far different world for my grandchildren. This is because GHGs raise the global temperature by thickening the atmosphere. And at the rate we are releasing GHGs, the temperature by the end of the century could increase to over 3°C higher than it is now, at the very least.

The most well known greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2). Since 1896, humans have been aware that CO2 affects the climate by raising the global temperature. The current level of CO2 is over 400 parts per million (ppm) the highest it has ever been since humans have lived on the Earth, and it is getting higher each day. Therefore, we have to do all that we can to reduce our CO2 emissions and the emissions of other GHGs. Easier said than done, I know, but it is more feasible than most in your position seem to assume. I feel that tax incentives and rewards to companies that do their part to reduce GHGs, as well as increased taxes on those that produce too much without making any effort to reduce, are necessary to ensure that companies conduct themselves in the most fuel efficient manner. The average American should also be encouraged to live a greener lifestyle, as well. Providing nationwide carpool lanes and switching the lights in government run buildings to florescent light bulbs offer the everyday citizen greener alternatives and show that their government can practice what it preaches. Nonetheless, none of it will matter if the government allows companies (especially oil and coal companies) to freely fill the atmosphere with GHGs. If things stay as they are now, then the temperature will continue to rise, and American apathy regarding global climate change will rise with it.

15 of the hottest years on record (on a global scale) have occurred in the last 16 years, and as a result the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets have lost more ice than ever; 30,000 people died from extreme heat in Europe in the summer of 2003; and, most painfully in our memory, Hurricane Katrina and other massive tropical storms battered the United States. As ocean temperatures rise, these storms will become more intense and the polar ice caps will continue to melt at increased rates. And as the ice caps shrink, the ocean level rises, putting people who live beside coastlines and large river deltas at great risk for flooding. The oceans are rising now and will continue to rise unless we greatly reduce our GHG emissions very soon. The best estimate we have now is for a 1-1.5 meter rise by 2100 from melting ice in just Antarctica. However a 2 meter (>6 feet) global rise is possible by the same date, depending on how quickly and effectively we cut our GHG emissions. This should not be taken lightly in a country that stretches from sea to shining sea. And we have already seen the water-related damage that can be done to the Mississippi River delta because of hurricanes like Katrina and Rita. Even disregarding the fiercer storms, the sea level rise that will come as a result of the melting ice caps will flood low-lying cities and towns all over the world unless something is done to protect them. Coastal cities like New York and Miami will need a sea-lock system like those in the Netherlands and on the River Thames in England. And even though they have come a long way from the devastation of 2005’s storms, New Orleans is even less protected from flooding and severe weather now than they were before Katrina struck. It amazes me that a progressive country like America would just clean up the mess in one of its most important cities rather than take the necessary steps to protect it so that nothing like the Katrina/Rita disaster could ever happen again.

Being a senator / congressman / congresswoman / etc., I am sure you are aware of various climate change legislation currently being put forth, as well as other legislation pertaining to topics such as energy, environment, and funding for organizations that study American and global interest in these.. While we may not be able to solve all of the problems associated with global climate change with one such law, we can certainly help to bring about greater activity towards reducing American GHG emissions. America is certainly not the only country producing GHGs, but we are easily one of the largest contributors in the world. Furthermore, America has always been a worldwide leader who sets the global example, so if we can reduce our GHG output significantly then the rest of the world can follow suit. This being said, I feel that it is important that you stand up with your fellow senators to bring about pertinent legislation in the hope that it brings about an end to putting the problem of climate change off. It is not a question of science, but a question of ethics. The scientific data we have regarding Global Climate Change has been obtained and presented in fair accordance with the Scientific Method. Now it is up to politicians like you to urge on climate change legislation to bring about a reduction in GHGs. While we can never completely know what the future holds for our world, we can be sure from the evidence we have now from scientific data of the past and present that the consequences of continuing to ignore global climate change or to do little to counteract it will be extremely severe and far too harsh on the lives of our children and generations to come, for if we do not face this problem now, our children will have to face a bigger one.

 

Sincerely,

 

Firstname Lastname

 

Firstname Lastname

Here are some easy-to-read sources of the information presented in this letter:

Earth’s CO2 Home Page

NASA, NOAA Yearly Temperature Analyses

Washington Post Articles in Response to New Data published in Nature earlier this year:

“Scientists nearly double sea level rise projections for 2100, because of Antarctica”

“The alarming science driving much higher sea level projections for this century”

You’ll notice that there are options in the letter for whether you are a student or professional, as well as options for whomever you are sending this letter to. Feel free to add your own bits and pieces in, as long as they are accurate in accordance with current research, and I would encourage offering your sources.

Despite the fact that it would save trees to email, sending a traditional letter often conveys a more personal and important message, sentiment that is helpful when urging action on such an imperative issue.

Even if you do not live in the United States, I would still encourage you to send something along the lines of this to your respective legislative representative(s), especially considering this is a global issue.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for passing on your concerns to your local politician! While this was originally intended to be presented to someone at a more local level, you can certainly also send a letter to higher government officials as well, and not simply in regards to this (although I stand by my statement that global climate change is the most important global issue), but for any issue you feel strongly about. Your legislative representatives exist to represent your legislative interests, so what you want addressed is what they should address, and the best way to let them know what you want addressed is to tell them! So let your voice be heard, and in the meantime make sure to stop back here next week for more science and an occasional attempt at humor.

Melt hearts, not ice,

Alex

Little Birds, Big Impact

Who knew a bunch of little birds could be such a big deal?

Growing up as a nature lover in northwest Ohio, with a particular emphasis on birds, I can tell you, here they are a HUGE happening. We are currently in the midst of the annual spring migration for neotropical passerines, a.k.a. pretty songbirds, and so far the colorful creatures have not disappointed. Just take a look at these lists of sightings in Lucas County and Ottawa County where most of the hotspots for warblers, flycatchers, vireos, orioles, tanagers, and so many more are located. Parks and preserves along the western shoreline of Lake Erie in Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada, as well as the islands in between, provide the last untainted or revitalized areas of natural habitat needed for migrating songbirds and their preferred sources of food and shelter. In northwest Ohio, places such as Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, Maumee Bay State Park, and other parks along the lake; as well as the Toledo Metroparks, especially the unique oak savannas and pine forests of Oak Openings Preserve, serve as essential resting and refueling stops for birds continuing on north to their breeding grounds. Many will stay in this area, however, the majority of warblers – the main reason so many bird enthusiasts come out in droves – are hanging around for only a short time to eat their fill of insects (primarily midges) and chillaxing from the hundreds to thousands of miles they’ve already flown before fording on over the Great Lakes into the boreal forests of Canada.

It is already incredible that any animal can make such a long journey on its own power, but realize that the warblers and other passerines flying back and forth between North and South America every year are tiny birds, making it all the more impressive. The tried and true routes they take every spring and fall are called flyways. They are not necessarily strictly adhered to, as major weather systems and the fluctuating nature of the start and end of seasons can shift migrations east or west, occasionally dramatically, however, for the most part the birds keep taking the same path up and down the globe each year (they return to Central and South America each fall). That path consistently drops them in the wealth of preserved land and resources in northwest Ohio even if their final destination is hundreds of miles farther on from this spot. This is due to the fact that this area is so much richer in the birds’ food and shelter needs thanks to the density of managed parkspace than anywhere else at this latitude in the United States. This is not to say that migrating songbirds will not frequent other parts of the country, because they do, but they do not stop over in anywhere near the same numbers  as they do here. Northwest Ohio has been christened “the Warbler Capital of the World” and with good reason. That reason is because Kim Kaufman, the executive director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) that puts on the “Biggest Week in American Birding” every year, made a bunch of signs that said that and marketed it well. Still, you can’t knock Kim and her colleagues, which includes her field guide author/world renowned bird celebrity husband Kenn, for labeling the annual migration in such a way (especially considering it is accurate) in order to drum up support for the birds. Not to mention, that as a result, the impact has been beneficial for all: birds, bird lovers, and businesses. It is an amazing natural event that prompts not only birds to flock to this area every year. BSBO may be the organization orchestrating the Biggest Week each year, but they are not the only ones chiming in and adding notes to the grand symphony. The focal point of the festivities is the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, but this wildlife area is only one of many in the area, and all levels of government and private management of natural resources work toward ensuring that the spaces the birds and their fans frequent stay protected and pretty. More land around northwest Ohio, including much in adjoining states, is gradually being fenced off and given back to nature through a variety of programs seeking to add to the already established parks. This is what the Biggest Week in Birding truly exists for: to spread the word (the bird is the word) and encourage people from all around the world to protect their own natural spaces and the animals that inhabit them so that there is more food, shelter, and clean, green, space available for birds and their buddies (and their predators with whom I assume they are less chill) so that they do not need to go out of their way to funnel in to the land of plenty. The irony is that by educating and inspiring people to care and conserve for these birds with the hope of recreating more natural space, BSBO and their associates will be spreading out the passerine migration to its former flyways prior to major human development, which is good, but will cause the birds to disperse more evenly across the country and not be so concentrated. Nonetheless, everyone in northwest Ohio thinks this doom of their festival of the bounty of birds they have now is one worth working towards for the betterment of the birds and other flora and fauna. And of course, it isn’t as if the birds will all disappear from the top left corner of the Buckeye state because those lands will remain rich and ideally will also grow. All of this is contingent upon us as humans doing our part (and then some) to reclaim natural areas and live more within our means. Habitat loss, pollution, and climate change are the most universal threats to all living things, ourselves included, and Cerulean warblers are not about to host a G-20 Summit anytime soon (no thanks to their own high vulnerability to these factors). This means it is on us to clear the air in a few different ways for the betterment of birds, bees, and boys and girls of all ages.

Thanks for reading! If you are interested in checking out any of the celebration of the Biggest Week in American Birding then consult their webpage for more details. While you’re at it, look up the Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s information too. No matter if you are a bird novice or expert, make your way to the marsh someday, whether it be this year or in the future, because it is such a spectacle. In terms of must-see ecological events in America, this surely ranks in the top 10. And of course, whether this is your first time reading my blog or if you’ve caught every one of my posts (Have you tried to go out and meet some new people?) be sure to come back next week for more fun. In the meantime feel free to reach me at monotrememadness@gmail.com and stay cool.

Fly like a neotropical passerine,

Alex

A Case Against Oil Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge… and hopefully the rest of Alaska… and the rest of the world

Hello everybody! I’ve kind of phoned it in over the past few weeks, but there’s a good reason for that. What? Did you want me to share it with you? Well I don’t want to, so tough. Live in suspense, my loyal and occasional and apathetic and non-existent readers. Some sweet day you may learn of what has been new in my life and why it’s distracting me from my normal blogging duties, but it is not this day! Until then, be content with the last post before the fourth quarter-annual State of the Season, and see if you can contribute to the change that is necessary to literally save the world.

Last Wednesday, US President Barack Obama’s administration granted permission for Royal Dutch Shell PLC – better known simply as Shell Oil, or that gas station that accepts my Kroger Fuel Points – to begin exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea of Alaska. The intent is to curb the United States’ dependence on foreign oil reserves, yet the economic benefits of this drilling and any drilling are debatable, and the risk of detrimental impact on the environment in the Chukchi Sea and everywhere else is, as Jimmy McMillan says of New York’s rent, too damn high.

When I was in college, I wrote a paper about the problems concerning the potential drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeast Alaska. What follows is a paraphrasing of that composition with jokes added in and a list of my references at the end. Please feel free to check them out for greater detail on the debate of whether or not to drill in ANWR. I present this to you all now not because I’m continuing to be lazy in my writing (well, maybe a little) but because I feel it applies to the current situation. I’m a much bigger fan of unlimited and cleaner renewable fuels like solar, wind, and water power than I am of finite and dirty sources of energy like oil, natural gas, and coal. It makes more sense to me to pay the heftier upfront cost of switching over our primary energy sources to the longer lasting and cheaper overall renewables than to continue to run with the polluting power we’ve got for only so much longer. I’ll get more into my reasons for concern in a bit, but first some historical background is in order.

In 1960, one year after becoming a state, Alaska preserved 8.9 million acres of land in its northeastern coastal area as the Arctic National Wildlife Range.  In 1980, 9.2 million more acres were added and it was renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and was deemed “off-limits” by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), so that it could not be developed in any way. However, Section 1002 of the Act reserved 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain for oil development if Congress votes for it. This coastal plain is referred to as the 1002 Area. I know, wildly original, right?

Negative impacts on the local environment

As I hinted at before, oil drilling can have detrimental effects on both animals and humans, and the 1002 Area is no exception. Three common impacts on the environment from oil development are: “1.) increased soil erosion and siltation of streams” as a result of deforestation, construction, vehicles, and explosions; “2.) disruption of surface and groundwater flow” as a result of surface compaction, drilling wells, and extracting water for drilling; and “3.) persistent loud noises” as a result of explosions. Furthermore, oil facilities pollute the air and water with: “(a) oil, grease, and other contaminants left on the ground surface, (b) well blowouts and subsequent evaporation or burning of the oil, (c) mudpit flooding or leaching, and (d) pipeline ruptures or leaks”. Surprisingly, one of the most ecological damaging impacts resulting from increased oil production is the roads built in formerly wilderness areas. Roads allow for more vehicles to travel to the oil facilities, but this also leads to more dust and noise being generated as well as more collisions with the native wildlife. Such collisions are usually not fun for either party involved. (Stege et al. 1986)

One example of a species directly affected by the oil development in the refuge is the Porcupine River herd of caribou that travels each year to the 1002 Area to give birth to their calves. There are about 123,000 caribou (that is an actual estimate and not a number made up for convenience, although it is nice and round) that come within two miles of oil equipment, but scientists believe that further oil facility development will push the herd back 30 miles from their normal birthing grounds, gradually reducing their overall herd population. (Kotchen et al. 2006)

Also affected by the activity of oil facilities are birds. A study of shorebirds in the 1002 Area revealed that of the 18 species known to breed in the region: “seven are listed as Highly Imperiled or as species of High Concern in the U.S. Shorebird Conservation plan and updated status lists and five species are listed as Birds of Conservation Concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because of small or declining populations”. These birds of concern and other avian species in the 1002 Area suffer from the oil operations through direct effects like “loss of habitat through construction of roads, drilling pads, and associated infrastructure, and exposure to oil from spills”, as well as “secondary impacts from access roads and drilling pads [including] dust, changes in hydrology, thawing of permafrost, and roadside snow accumulation”. It is also suggested that oil development could reduce “nesting effort due to disturbance” and bring about “changes in predation rates” as a result of human influence on the birds’ predator populations. The scientists conducting the shorebird study concluded that based upon their population estimates “under WHSRN (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network) criteria, the Arctic Refuge coastal plain is an important shorebird breeding area, and the association of many species with wetland and riparian habitats indicates that these areas are of particularly high value.” (Brown et al. 2007)

Humans are no strangers to the effects of oil development either. “Oil workers around the world face significant occupational hazards” such as explosions, fire, and chemical contamination. Humans on and off the rigs can be exposed “to naturally occurring radioactive materials brought to the surface during drilling, as well as through the bioaccumulation of oil, mercury, and other products in mammals and fish that humans consume.” (O’Rourke et al. 2003)

Perhaps the greatest example of human suffering in the ANWR is the gradual loss of culture and resources for the Gwich’in people. Indigenous to northeastern Alaska and Canada, the Gwich’in live in fifteen villages “along the migration route of the Porcupine herd of caribou” . The degradation of the Porcupine River habitat directly impacts its caribou herd which the Gwich’in rely on “for their subsistence and for the survival of their culture”. The caribou are such an important resource for the Gwich’in that the coastal plain in the northern slope of the ANWR where the herd calve their young is considered by them as “the place where life begins”. The Gwich’in refused to receive any money from oil operations in the 1002 Area despite the legal obligations of such companies to reimburse native people for the use of their land under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. Instead, the Gwich’in have opted to “maintain their traditional way of life” of living off of the land through hunting, fishing, and gathering, recognizing that “money is no substitute for caribou” due to its use as food, clothing, tools, etc. In addition to the Gwich’in, similar Natives like the Inupiat Eskimo rely on the bounty of the land and the sea in the 1002 Area for household needs. You go Gwich’in and Inupiat Eskimo people! (Oil on Ice 2010)

Furthermore, if anything were to happen to damage oil operations in the 1002 Area, like an oil spill, the resulting impact on the environment would be disastrous. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez, a supertanker, spilled around 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound when its hull ruptured. To pay for the incredible damage it had done to the once pristine ecosystem, “a federal court ordered Exxon to pay $5 billion in punitive damages” in 1994, but Exxon appealed and got the amount severely cut, and has since only paid out $3.8 billion (Billitterri 2010). This serves as a prime example where an oil company has come into Alaska and dealt destruction that is still hurting the ecosystem today and then left the locals to deal with the catastrophic damage. Who is to say that they will not do the same thing in the ANWR? Or for that matter in the Chukchi Sea?

Economic reasons against drilling

In an intensive economic study of the estimates of oil thought to be in the 1002 Area in the ANWR compared with the costs to acquire that oil, Hahn et al. concluded that “such an initiative would likely have only a modest impact on future world oil prices—on the order of 1%” and therefore, little impact on reducing current oil prices. In 1991 it was determined that “the US Geological Survey’s mean estimate of recoverable oil in ANWR is 3 .45 billion barrels. At 1989 rates of oil use, this represents about 200 days’ supply”. Considering that this is based upon estimates from about 20 years ago, it is safe to assume that today we consume far more oil faster than 3.45 billion barrels within 200 days. The same article raises a good point that, unlike its data, still rings true today: expanding the industry for a “depleted resource base” will simply increase the production of greenhouse gases, thereby accelerating global warming and creating more ecological concerns by putting “some of the nation’s most important and sensitive ecosystems at risk for at most a few years’ additional supply of oil” (Kaufman et al. 1991). Thus, even if we could live with harming the ANWR’s ecosystem through the process of oil drilling, the profit from it would be miniscule.

Alternative fuels

It seems that the most logical course of action is not to fight over drilling rights in the ANWR but to lessen, and eventually eliminate our need for oil as a fuel source. How then do we reduce our dependence on oil? The Oil on Ice website encourages higher fuel efficiency standards for cars in the hope that less gasoline will be consumed and the demand for oil will decrease, but this will only briefly alleviate the current oil predicament. The future of fuel is going to have to be something other than oil and coal, which give off great quantities of pollution and are running out. What we need in America are fuel sources that are renewable with clean emissions. Fortunately, such fuel sources do exist. According to chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Institute, Amory Lovins, “Resources like wind are not only widely available in the market but are sufficiently abundant to meet all U.S. electricity, or even total energy, needs” (Cooper 2005). “The earth’s wind resource is so large that it could technically provide five times the total energy consumed by the entire world from all sources. Wind turbines are part of “the fastest-growing energy source in the world” and wind power “has the lowest cost of any form of renewable energy other than geothermal (Gore 2009)” mainly because of the global availability of wind.

Solar power “uses photovoltaic cells to convert the sun’s energy into electricity”.  Since sunlight is available everywhere except during nighttime and cloudy days it is a nearly ever-present source of energy. Because of this great availability, solar power outshines oil, coal, and natural gas as all of the world’s combined amount of all of those “contain the same amount of energy as the earth receives in only 50 days from the sun”. This is significant because solar power can be used in many ways, like generating electricity for buildings, vehicles, factories, and even entire cities. Furthermore, there are no pollutants emitted by solar technology. These advantages over traditional energy sources make solar power a realistic long-term replacement for our current polluting fuels.

Geothermal energy is the natural heat Earth generates in its core and it can be used to efficiently generate electricity so well that it could “match all of the energy available from coal, oil, and gas combined”. Geothermal plants generate electricity by using a system of pressure tanks that hot water from the earth flow through with the escaping steam triggering a turbine-operated generator. Since geothermal facilities do not use any fuel to function they are inexpensive to run, although the construction of the facility is expensive.

You can say what you want about former California governor and eternal Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the man politically paved the way to literally pave the way for a “hydrogen highway” with hydrogen fuel stations throughout the state for cars with hydrogen fuel cells in the hopes that making hydrogen a more accessible fuel will increase the use of hydrogen-powered vehicles. Greater availability of hydrogen fueling stations will increase the interest and practicality of driving a hydrogen-powered vehicle in America where only gasoline and diesel are widely available vehicle fuels. If other states follow California’s initiative then hydrogen could become a serious alternative to these other fuels, and possibly a long-term replacement for them. Hydrogen’s potential as a chief source of fuel for most of America’s vehicles is growing everyday because hydrogen is renewable and oil reserves are diminishing worldwide. All that is needed now is for the rest of America to construct hydrogen highways of their own while manufacturing more hydrogen-powered vehicles.

By taking advantage of developing and using these energy sources, along with simple tasks to conserve more energy, such as upgrading to more energy efficient appliances and cars and better tires (Weeks 2005), we can reduce our emissions and our need to obtain more oil. Thus there will not be any more debates over whether to drill or not in the future if there is no need to use oil.


“Scientists generally agree that the release of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” through combustion of oil and the other fossil fuels — coal and, to a lesser degree, natural gas — causes far more damage to the environment than oil spills. For decades scientists have known that greenhouse gases, most abundantly CO2, cause a warming effect within the Earth’s atmosphere, and thus, they are aware that the constant release of such gases from oil developing facilities like rigs and refineries are a larger problem than the occasional oil spill. “Polar ice sheets and high mountain glaciers around the world are melting faster than earlier predicted, while droughts and erratic weather patterns are blamed on rising surface temperatures” (Cooper 2005).

Joseph Romm, an Energy advisor for the Clinton administration says that a plus 2°C rise in global average temperature is “an enormous risk,” and he elaborates “Global warming is why we should be willing to consider spending a lot of money to develop a whole new energy system” (Cooper 2005). Sooooo, why are we not doing this? The answer is probably related to our concerns regarding oil production lying elsewhere, mainly through selling a coveted resource that is sure to make a profit. Alternative fuels are still not popular enough to sell on a global scale. Why would an oil company stop selling their most profitable resource to promote an alternative they are unsure of the marketability of while there is still oil available? Especially if the competition is still going to drill for oil, why should an oil company stop be the first to stop drilling and risk a major profit loss?

It seems that the greatest incentive to drill in the ANWR is to reduce our dependence on foreign energy, but “the cost of destroying one of the last great wilderness areas on the planet (Kotchen et al. 2006)” to collect what is only a mediocre amount of oil compared to what is collected worldwide is not worth it. There does not appear to be a very great quantity of oil in the 1002 Area, so any efforts to collect the oil that is there will not provide an outstanding profit. Furthermore, even if every last drop of oil is acquired from the ANWR, there still is a limited amount of oil left in the world, too small of a supply to provide the global community fuel far into the future. Therefore, alternative fuel sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and hydrogen power must carry us on in the distant future. Why wait until then to develop them?

Unfortunately for the alternative fuel revolution, as a result of oil discoveries in the North Sea and Nigeria, the price of gasoline steadily decreased over the years after the 1970s shortage, so the American desire to develop alternative fuels died away. It seems that each time alternative fuels started to gain some ground in the U.S., Americans would shift their focus back to oil, coal, and natural gas. The amount of alternative fuel research funding provided by the Energy Plan that President Carter developed in 1977 was gradually reduced to next to nothing during the Reagan years. Federal funding supplied $1 billion in alternative fuel research in 1981, but only contributed $116 million in 1989. Opposing political party battles continued years later when President Clinton proposed reducing “energy consumption” to 30% below 1985 levels by 2005, but was dismissed by the Republican-controlled Congress (Cooper 2005). Thus, many opportunities to advance alternative fuel study and production have been cast asunder by feuding political opponents over the past few decades.


In summary, the negative impacts on the environment greatly outweigh the meager economic profit that could be acquired from oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The production of oil will yield major ecological detriments to wildlife species, like caribou. Moreover, the local human population could be exposed to many harmful chemicals and waste products associated with the oil facilities. The facilities themselves will pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, like CO2, thus accelerating the warming effects of climate change.

Through the composition of this paper it was interesting to learn “the oil and gas industry in the United States alone creates more solid and liquid waste than all other categories of municipal, agricultural, mining, and industrial wastes combined” (O’Rourke et al. 2003). The engineering of alternative fuel facilities, like solar and geothermal energy plants, was also interesting to study.

It is more economically sound to invest in research and development of cleaner and renewable alternative fuel sources for permanent future use, than to pursue a finite and vanishing resource that has a high pollution rate. More research must be conducted to develop globally available renewable fuels, whether they are wind, solar, geothermal, or hydrogen powered. Gaylord Nelson, the Wilderness Society chairman, says “The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard” (Stege et al. 1986). By reducing our dependency on oil and embracing a future of alternative fuels we can lay the foundation for a more environmentally conscience and fuel efficient future. Hopefully, one that future generations will thank us for.

Thanks for reading and thanks for dealing with my short post from last week (although it was a pretty awesome episode of Rick and Morty that I included)! Let me know your thoughts regarding this issue or any other, or simply send me a request for what I should write about next to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Track your way back next week for State of the Season 4 and another sultry picture of Chris Pratt.

Toodily oodily,

Alex

References

Billitteri, Thomas J. 2010. “Offshore drilling: Is tougher federal oversight needed?.” CQ Researcher 20:24. Retrieved October 28, 2010 (http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010062500).

Brown, Stephen, Jonathon Bart, Richard B. Lanctot, James A. Johnson, Steve Kendall, David Payer, and Jay Johnson. 2007. “Shorebird Abundance and Distribution on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” The Condor 109:1. Retrieved October 28, 2010

(http://www.jstor.org/stable/4122527).

Cooper, Mary H. 2005. “Alternative fuels: Is hydrogen the fuel of the future?.” CQ Researcher 15:8. Retrieved October 28, 2010

(http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2005022500).

——. 1992. “Oil spills: Increasing U.S. dependence on oil imports heightens risk to environment.” CQ Researcher 2:2. Retrieved October 28, 2010

(http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1992011700).

Gore, Al. 2009. “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.” Rodale Books, Retrieved December 5, 2010

(http://ourchoicethebook.com/chapter0/endnotes/)

Hahn, Robert and Peter Passell. 2010. “The economics of allowing more US oil drilling” Energy Economics, 32:3. Retrieved October 28, 2010 Available: ISI Web of Knowledge.

Kaufman, Robert K. and Cutler J. Cleveland. 1991. “Policies to Increase US Oil Production:

Likely to Fail, Damage the Economy, and Damage the Environment.” Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 16. Retrieved October 28, 2010

(http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.eg.16.110191.002115).

Kotchen, Matthew J. and Nicholas E. Burger. 2007. “Should we drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? An economic perspectiveEnergy Policy, 35:9. Retrieved October 28, 2010 Available: ISI Web of Knowledge.

Oil on Ice. 2010. “Our Communities.” Woodside, CA: Oil on Ice Partners, Retrieved December 5, 2010

(http://www.oilonice.org/explore/community.php)

O’Rourke, Dara and Sarah Connolly. 2003. “Just Oil? The Distribution of Environmental and Social Impacts of Oil Production and Consumption.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 28. Retrieved October 28, 2010

(http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.energy.28.050302.105617).

Stege, Alex and Jan Beyea. 1986. “Oil and Gas Resources on Special Federal Lands: Wilderness and Wildlife Refuges.” Annual Review of Energy 28. Retrieved October 28, 2010

(http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.eg.11.110186.001043).

Weeks, Jennifer. 2005. “Domestic energy development: Will more domestic drilling help meet U.S. energy needs.” CQ Researcher 15:34. Retrieved October 28, 2010

(http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2005093000).