Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Weekend ruminations

December 8, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 8, 2019

One night this week, I parked by my house and started picking my way across the yard to the front porch. In the dark, I put my left foot down on something that was neither flat nor stable. (It was a little chunk of concrete, I found the next morning.) My left ankle rolled sharply, and I yelped in pain. It’s been slightly tender ever since.


On Wednesday morning, I woke to a text from someone who works for my landlord:

Hello! Lowes has called and said they will be delivering the new machines today between 12pm-2pm. We’ll be meeting them there to install it.

This was welcome news. I’d reported a problem with the combination washing machine and dryer some time in early November, after the washer failed to drain. The rental management agency took a look at it and, after receiving the needed parts, dispatched workers to fix the appliance on Nov. 20.

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Recent Readings for May 9, 2019

May 9, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 9, 2019

Author’s note: One of the articles linked below involves a porn star; the article is not particularly explicit, but I wanted to give warning. Also, two of the articles below contain upsetting details about violent crimes. MEM

Gosh, I haven’t done one of these in nearly two and a half years. Let’s see what’s been running through my mind lately!

• “The Sunday school children: The little-known tragedy of the Sri Lankan Easter attacks.” Rebecca Wright, Sam Kiley and King Ratnam of CNN take a detailed look at one of the bombings in the terrorist assaults that killed about 250 Christians and tourists last month. Be aware that this story is filled with a number of heartbreaking details.

• “Student slated to attend Western Michigan University beheaded in Saudi Arabia.” This was one of a series of government executions, the particulars of which should shock the conscience of every American. Alas, it’s hard to imagine that our freedom-loving pro-life president giving this matter more than 30 seconds of thought. As I tweeted: “The details presented here are shocking, and comprise a not-so-gentle reminder that this nation produced 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001.”

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Recent Readings for Oct. 22, 2015

October 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 22, 2015

Being a fool for love turned this woman into a criminal. Brendan Koerner has a harrowing profile of Audrey Elrod, a Southern divorcée whose desire for affection helped her fall prey to an online racket run by Nigerian con artists. Unfortunately, while Elrod’s case may be unusual in the degree to which she fell prey to romantic delusions, it is by no means unique:

[T]he romance-scam industry is flourishing as people become more accustomed to finding soul mates online. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, American victims of online romance scams lost more than $87 million in 2014, compared with just $50 million in 2011. In the UK, a 2012 study by researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Westminster estimated that 230,000 Britons had already been duped by Internet swindlers whose promises of love inevitably segue into demands for cash.

Koerner concludes his article on an absolutely heartbreaking note.

• More information doesn’t always lead to better choices. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan summarizes the findings of a new psychological study published by Nature: Climate Change which indicates that learning that natural disasters have struck a particular community “increased participants’ appetite for risk,” in the study’s words. As Campbell-Dollagahn writes,

Plenty of people have expressed consternation about why the last few years’ widely-publicized fires, floods, hurricanes, and other weather events haven’t scared more people. But it seems that … the horror of the first-person accounts, photo essays, and other reporting about these disasters have an unexpected effect: They subtly reinforce the idea that “most of the time,” we’re safe.

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2009 documentary ‘Home’ depicts a planet on the brink of enormous change

August 17, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 17, 2015

Home, the visually stunning 2009 documentary film directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, is partly a biography of the planet Earth, partly a history of the human species and partly an environmental manifesto.

According to its promotional material, the movie was shot in 120 locations in 54 nations. The images, fittingly, seem to cover every environment on the planet, from arid desert to lush jungle to frozen landscape to artificial archipelago. At one moment narrator Glenn Close is discussing a city filled with skyscrapers; the next, seemingly, focus has shifted to a plain covered by nigh-identical suburban homes and the network of asphalt roads that serve the cars these communities require. Or perhaps we’re exploring the antithesis of these places — poverty-stricken urban sectors where electricity, food and clean drinking water are luxuries, not givens.

But more on that in a minute. Another thing that’s striking about Home is the movie’s varying time scales. The movie begins by describing events in terms of thousands of millennia. The age of the Earth, for instance, is about 4.5 billion years. The first organisms began appearing a few hundred million years after that.

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Will the future resemble the past? Our changing atmosphere and our peculiar institution

May 23, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 23, 2014

I’ve spent a significant amount of time over the past few days reading about two disparate issues. One, climate change, is very contemporary; the other, slavery, continues to affect American society despite the fact that the practice was outlawed about 150 years ago.

Let’s start with climate change — specifically, with Bill McKibben’s 6,200-word essay on the subject from a 2012 edition of Rolling Stone. It is subtitled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” and it focuses on three numbers: The amount of temperature rise that the planet might — might — be able to sustain without triggering catastrophic environmental and geopolitical changes, the number of gigatons of carbon dioxide that scientists estimate humanity might be able to pump into the atmosphere while still retaining a chance of keeping below an unsustainable temperature rise, and the number of gigatons of carbon dioxide that would be added to the atmosphere if all known reserves of coal, oil and gas reserves are extracted and used.

McKibben focuses on those three numbers, as stated, but the most frightening part of the article can be boiled down to one sentence: Known fossil fuel reserves are capable of producing roughly five times the amount of carbon dioxide that the atmosphere is thought to be able to absorb safely.

Consider the other topic for a moment — slavery, which has euphemistically been called America’s peculiar institution. The Atlantic has just posted a comprehensive feature article by Ta-Nehisi Coates titled “The Case for Reparations.” The work comprises about 15,000 words; it’s also accompanied by “An Intellectual Autopsy,” a 2,100-word addendum (that I have yet to read) in which Coates explains how his opposition to reparations changed over the last four years.

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One Wondrous Sentence: The perils of climate change

January 16, 2013

This one wondrous sentence captures some of the dire news contained in a quadrennial federal report — suspended, incidentally, during the administration of President George W. Bush — about changing meteorological conditions.

The draft Third National Climate Assessment, issued every four years, delivers a bracing picture of environmental changes and natural disasters that mounting scientific evidence indicates is fostered by climate change: heavier rains in the Northeast, Midwest and Plains that have overwhelmed storm drains and led to flooding and erosion; sea level rise that has battered coastal communities; drought that has turned much of the West into a tinderbox.

Source: Neela Banerjee, “Climate assessment delivers a grim overview,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 11, 2013.

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