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Posts Tagged ‘geography

“Climate change isn’t an “issue” to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake-up call.”*…

 

climatechange

“Whitening” the ocean (to reflect more solar radiation) by widely dispersing films, foams, floating chips, or other reflectors– or by towing icebergs from the Arctic down to lower latitudes, so the whiteness of the ice would reflect the sun.

 

The 1990s were a critical decade for action on climate change, as world governments prepared to finalize the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement by 37 countries to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. They were also a decade when oil companies poured millions of dollars into government lobbying and public relations, trying to persuade the world there was little to worry about. In 1997, with the Kyoto accord almost complete, Mobil, the major American oil company, published an advertisement in the New York Times and the Washington Post: “Let’s face it: The science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil,” it said. “Scientists cannot predict with certainty if temperatures will increase, by how much and where changes will occur.” Around the same time, Exxon CEO Lee Raymond argued in a speech to the World Petroleum Congress that “the case for so-called global warming is far from airtight.” (In 1998, Exxon and Mobil would join in a $73.7 billion deal, the largest corporate merger in the world at the time.)

Recent reporting by the Los Angeles Times and others revealed, however, that Exxon’s rhetoric ran counter to its own internal conclusions about the risks of climate change, as the company reengineered oil platforms and pipelines to account for the rising sea levels that both top executives and the publicity department claimed didn’t exist. Today, even as Exxon endorses the scientific consensus on climate change, supports emissions limits, and even backs some form of carbon taxation, the company exudes a vague optimism, regarding the climate problem as something they can build their way out of…

Perhaps our best guess at the kind of solutions Exxon may have in mind can be found in an obscure 1997 study on the topic of geoengineering. During the peak of Exxon’s obfuscation, the company’s top climate scientists, Brian Flannery and Haroon Kheshgi, along with two other scientists who didn’t work for Exxon, coauthored a chapter in a book called Engineering Response to Global Climate Change. Using dense, technical language, they outlined more than a dozen planetary-scale fixes to global warming. Not every idea was their own—some were borrowed, at least partially, from prior scientific literature—and the scientists also cautioned that the proposed solutions were not necessarily ready to be implemented. “Geoengineering may well have unintended and unforeseen consequences,” they wrote.

Indeed, geoengineering was considered fringe science in the 1990s, not least because there was still widespread hope that carbon emissions could be reduced through global agreements like Kyoto. (President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the accord in 2001.) It would take a decade before Scientific American declared that climate intervention had “gained respectability,” and almost 15 years until the United Nations’ climate-research body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would begin publishing assessments on geoengineering options. That’s because while some of the ideas featured in the Exxon study were straightforward (planting trees, for example), a lot of them were quite insane…

Destroying the earth to save it?  Review several of the oil giant’s visionary “solutions”: “Giant Mirrors. Ocean Whitening. Here’s How Exxon Wanted to Save the Planet.”

* Naomi Klein

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As we head for the hills, we might spare a thought for Robert McCorkle Netting; he died on this date in 1995.  A geographer and anthropologist, he pioneered the field of cultural ecology.  Among the many findings from his extensive field work, he argued that worldwide, small farms succeeded where large-scale agricultural enterprises tended to fail, the household being the most effective management unit.  His methodology has been widely adopted, and his textbook, Cultural Ecology, is widely used.

nettingrobertthm source

 

Written by LW

February 4, 2019 at 1:01 am

“There was no doubt about it: the City was the culmination of man’s mastery over the environment”*…

 

population2

 

The good folks at The Pudding mashed together demographic and geographic data to create an interactive map of the world that allows one to explore the world’s population in 3 dimensions.  See the population in 2015 or in 1990; see them compared; and see the change.  Explore “Human Terrain.”

And put it in a broader historical context at “Mapping the World’s Urban Population from 1500 – 2050.”

Then think about how the pace of change might accelerate with the increase of climate-driven migration about which the World Bank is warning: “143 Million People May Soon Become Climate Migrants.”

* Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel

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As we go to ground, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Konrad Zacharias Lorenz; he was born on this date in 1903.  A  zoologist and ornithologist, he founded the modern field of ethology.  His work– popularized in books like King Solomon’s RingOn Aggression, and Man Meets Dog– revealed how behavioral patterns may be traced to an evolutionary past, and explored the roots of aggression.  He shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for developing a unified, evolutionary theory of animal and human behavior.

220px-Konrad_Lorenz source

 

Written by LW

November 7, 2018 at 2:01 am

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”*…

 

 

Food

Food regularly plays a role in religious life, in forms that range from communion wine to Kahlua cheesecake…

A sampling of 34 cloistered comestibles: “A Guide of Heavenly Cuisine.”

* Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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As we devour with devotion, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the first “Got Milk?” ad premiered.  Created by the advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board, it  was later licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers nationwide.  The campaign launched with the now-famous “Aaron Burr” television commercial, directed by Michael Bay.

 

Written by LW

October 29, 2018 at 1:01 am

“There is only one perfect view — the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these views on earth are but bungled copies of it”*…

 

7 sq miles

(Clockwise, from upper left) Seven-square-mile views of Manhattan; Chaganbulage Administrative Village in Inner Mongolia; Venice, Italy; and farms in Plymouth, Washington

 

Spending time looking at the varying and beautiful images of our planet from above in Google Earth, zooming in and out at dizzying rates, I thought it would be interesting to compare all of these vistas at a fixed scale—to see what New York City, Venice, or the Grand Canyon would look like from the same virtual height. So, the following images are snapshots from Google Earth, all rectangles of the same size and scale, approximately three and a half miles (5.6 kilometers) wide by two miles (3.2 kilometers) tall—showing seven square miles (18.1 square kilometers, or 4,480 acres) of the surface of our planet in each view…

The Atlantic‘s Alan Taylor takes us a remarkable tour of the earth:  “Seven Square Miles.”

* E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

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As we gaze groundward, we might recall that it was on this date in 1797 that André-Jacques Garnerin accomplished the first successful parachute jump.  He ascended to 2,230 ft. above the Parc Monceau, Paris, with a balloon, then released it and unfurled a silk parachute.  Lacking any vent in the top of the parachute, Garnerin descended with violent oscillations– as a result of which, he suffered the first case of airsickness.

Garnerin releases the balloon and descends with the help of a parachute, 1797. (Illustration from the late 19th century.)

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Written by LW

October 22, 2018 at 1:01 am

“I took the one less traveled by”*…

 

An interactive map highlights the least traveled routes in the country—and some of the most scenic.  Using 2015 annual average traffic data from the Highway Performance Monitoring System Geotab identifies the least traveled roads in each state, and in all of America (replete with a virtual preview of each route via Google Street View).  Then it ranks the top 10 most scenic paths (starred on the map) from those listed, as selected by the conservationist and photographer James Q. Martin.

Explore it here.

* Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

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As we seek solitude, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that the Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET) affirmedto Regional Federal Highway Administrators the minimum clearance requirements for highways that are part of the STRAHNET system: a clear height of structures over the entire roadway width, including the useable width of shoulder, of 4.9 meters for the rural Interstate; in urban areas, the 4.9-meter clearance is applied to a single route, with other Interstate routings in the urban area having at least a 4.3-meter vertical clearance.

The STRAHNET is “a system of highways that provides defense access, continuity and emergency capabilities for movements of personnel and equipment in both peacetime and wartime. The STRAHNET was based on quantifiable DOD requirements, addressing their peacetime, wartime, strategic, and oversize/overweight highway demands. The network consists of approximately 96 000 kilometers of highway. The STRAHNET has been incorporated into the National Highway System (NHS). Almost 75 percent of the system in the continental United States (about 70 000 kilometers) consists of roadways on the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” [source]

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“That’s the place to get to—nowhere”*…

 

In a triumph of data collection and analysis, a team of researchers based at Oxford University has built the tools necessary to calculate how far any dot on a map is from a city — or anything else.

The research, published in Nature last month, allows us to pin down a question that has long evaded serious answers: Where is the middle of nowhere?

To know, you’d have to catalogue and calculate the navigation challenges presented by the planet’s complex, varied terrain and the dirt tracks, roads, railroads and waterways that crisscross it. You’d then need to string those calculations together, testing every possible path from every point to every other point.

That is pretty much what the folks did at the Malaria Atlas Project, a group at Oxford’s Big Data Institute that studies the intersection of disease, geography and demographics. The huge team — 22 authors are credited — spent years building a globe-spanning map outlining just how long it takes to cross any spot on the planet based on its transportation types, vegetation, slope, elevation and more. Those spots, or pixels, represent about a square kilometer.

Armed with this data, and hours and hours of computer time, The Washington Post processed every pixel and every populated place in the contiguous United States to find the one that best represents the “middle of nowhere.”

Congratulations, Glasgow, Mont.!

Of all towns with more than 1,000 residents, Glasgow, home to 3,363 people in the rolling prairie of northeastern Montana, is farthest — about 4.5 hours in any direction — from any metropolitan area of more than 75,000 people…

Remoteness, ranked– see the runners-up and the contenders in other categories at “Using the best data possible, we set out to find the middle of nowhere.”

* D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love

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As we idolize isolation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1815 that Napoleon, who had been banished to France’s “middle of nowhere,” escaped from Elba.  With 700 men, he sailed back to France.

The 5th Regiment was sent to intercept him and made contact just south of Grenoble on 7 March 1815. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within gunshot range, shouted to the soldiers, “Here I am. Kill your Emperor, if you wish”.  The soldiers quickly responded with, “Vive L’Empereur!” Ney, who had boasted to the restored Bourbon king, Louis XVIII, that he would bring Napoleon to Paris in an iron cage, affectionately kissed his former emperor and forgot his oath of allegiance to the Bourbon monarch. The two then marched together towards Paris with a growing army. The unpopular Louis XVIII fled to Belgium after realizing he had little political support. On 13 March, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon an outlaw. Four days later, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia each pledged to put 150,000 men into the field to end his rule…  [source]

So began the Hundred Days of Napoleon’s second reign, at the end of which (on the 22nd of June) he abdicated.

Napoleon returned from Elba, by Karl Stenben, 19th century

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Written by LW

February 26, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Museums are custodians of epiphanies”*…

 

Located on the campus of Georgia Southern University, the U.S. National Tick Collection is the world’s largest curated tick collection

Just one of the extraordinarily-specific museums– from umbrella covers to pencil sharpeners– one will find at “The Ultimate List of Wonderfully Specific Museums.”

* George Lois

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As we defer to the docent, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964, on the eve of a get-together, that T.S. Eliot wrote his pen pal Groucho Marx: “the picture of you in the newspapers saying that… you have come to London to see me has greatly enhanced my credit in the neighbourhood, and particularly with the greengrocer across the street. Obviously I am now someone of importance.”

More on their unlikely friendship here and here.

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Written by LW

June 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

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