Saturday, December 10, 2005

Montreal December 2005 Posted by Picasa
KNOCK KNOCK: Unprecedented Drought in Amazon

FROM A Record Amazon Drought, and Fear of Wider Ills

MANAQUIRI, Brazil - The Amazon River basin, the world's largest rain forest, is grappling with a devastating drought that in some areas is the worst since record keeping began a century ago. It has evaporated whole lagoons and kindled forest fires, killed off fish and crops, stranded boats and the villagers who travel by them, brought disease and wreaked economic havoc.

In mid-October, the governor of Amazonas State, Eduardo Braga, decreed a "state of public calamity," which remains in effect as the drought's impact on the economy, public health and food and fuel supplies deepens. But other Brazilian states have also been severely affected, as have Amazon regions in neighboring countries like Peru, Bolivia and Colombia.

"There have been years before in which we've had a deficit of rainfall, but we've never experienced drops in the water levels of rivers like those we have seen in 2005," said Everaldo Souza, a meteorologist at the Amazon Protection System, a Brazilian government agency in Manaus, the nine-state region's main city. "It has truly been without precedent, and it looks like it is only going to be December or January, if then, that things return to normal."

Scientists say the drought is most likely a result of the same rise in water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean that unleashed Hurricane Katrina. They also worry that if global warming is involved, as some of them suspect, it may be the beginning of a new era of more severe and frequent droughts in the region that accounts for nearly a quarter of the world's fresh water.
"The Amazon is a kind of canary-in-a-coal-mine situation," said Daniel C. Nepstad, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and the Amazon Institute of Ecological Research in Belém.

"We have no idea of the game we have played into by running this worldwide experiment of pumping so much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere," Mr. Nepstad said. Even more than in other parts of the world, people who live in the world's largest rain forest depend on water for transportation, food, sewage removal - in short, just about everything, so the drought has touched nearly every aspect of their lives.

"I am very frightened," said Jair Souto, the mayor of a sleepy market town, Manaquiri, that started seeing signs of drought in September. "One thing goes wrong, and the entire system follows."

Montreal: The Last Try

from BBC News Saturday

Ministers at the climate change conference in Montreal have made a series of breakthroughs in plans to combat global warming. On the conference's last day, Kyoto Protocol signatories agreed to extend the treaty on emissions reductions beyond its 2012 deadline.

And a broader group of countries including the US agreed to non-binding talks on long-term measures. The US had refused to accept any deal leading to commitments to cuts.

Earlier, former President Bill Clinton said the US approach was "flat wrong". After Mr Clinton's remarks - which were warmly received - the official US team appeared to shift its position.

The BBC's Tim Hirsch in Montreal says the deal was finally agreed in a mood of some euphoria after a last-minute procedural objection by the Russians held up the talks for several hours.

Formal talks can now begin over the precise targets which will be set when the first phase of the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012. Our correspondent says that, crucially, it sets the scene for discussing how large developing countries like India and China could be brought into the system of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Canadian Environment Minister Stephane Dion, who is hosting the conference, described the agreement as "a map for the future, the Montreal Action Plan, the MAP".

on events of the evening before the agreement, from the Guardian:

The US administration was facing condemnation last night after it refused to sign up to a UN statement intended to reopen worldwide talks on how to tackle climate change.

The American move, at a high-level summit in Montreal, after two weeks of talks appeared to renege on a commitment made at the Gleneagles G8 summit, and promised embarrassment for Tony Blair, who has spent 18 months trying to woo George Bush back into the debate on global warming.

Undeterred, more than 150 other countries were poised last night to take the Kyoto protocol into a second phase, extending the international agreement to cut emissions of greenhouse gases when its first phase expires in 2012.


As UN conference begins, climate crisis
demonstrations around the world,
including here in Montreal. All photos AP. Posted by Picasa

Canadian PM Paul Martin:"I say there is such a thing
as a global conscience, and now is the time to listen to it.” Posted by Picasa

We are not amused: U.S. rep Paula Dobriansky.
U.S. delegates came in before they walked out. Posted by Picasa

Clinton to UN: Bush is flat wrong on opposing treaty
Posted by Picasa
Montreal: Bushcorps Temper Tantrum, World Sighs

Bush Delegation Stages “Walk Out” at Climate Talks from Think Progress

Not content with simply remaining outside the international agreements on climate change, the Bush administration is now trying to block other countries from making progress without it.

The American delegation staged a dramatic walkout last night in a bid to scuttle the entire U.N. climate change conference in Montreal. The theatrics were billed as a protest of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin’s harmless remarks from Wednesday. (Martin said, “To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say there is such a thing as a global conscience, and now is the time to listen to it.”)

Compounding the embarassment, the U.S. delegation actually had to first walk in to the negotiations before they could “walk out,” because they hadn’t been regularly attending the meetings.

U.S. frustrations aren’t based in substance: the U.S. delegation rejected language that was lifted directly from the G8 communiqué that President Bush himself signed in July. Rather, the problem is that this week’s negotiations reinforced that the Bush administration is more isolated than ever in dealing with global climate change. Simply put, the U.S. delegation recognizes that the rest of the world is making progress, and it is pulling out all the stops in order to keep that from happening.

Later: “Bush-administration officials privately threatened organizers of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, telling them that any chance there might’ve been for the United States to sign on to the Kyoto global-warming protocol would be scuttled if they allowed Bill Clinton to speak at the gathering today in Montreal, according to a source involved with the negotiations who spoke to New York Magazine on condition of anonymity.”

from Clinton Says Bush Is 'Flat Wrong' on Kyoto AP

Delegates from around the world worked into the final hours of a U.N. climate conference on Friday to produce a plan for deeper cuts after 2012 in greenhouse-gas emissions, buoyed by a last-minute message of support from former President Clinton.

Clinton, in an applause-filled appearance at the Montreal meeting, said President Bush was "flat wrong" to claim that reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to fight global warming would damage the U.S. economy. But the ex-president urged the negotiators from more than 180 nations to find a way to "work with" the current U.S. administration.

Throughout the two-week conference, the Bush administration repeatedly rejected Canadian and other efforts to draw it into future global talks on emission controls, just as in 2001 it renounced the existing Kyoto Protocol and its mandatory cuts.

Despite Clinton's message, many here seemed resigned to waiting for a political change in Washington.

"It's such a pity the United States is still very much unwilling to join the international community, to have a multilateral effort to deal with climate change," said the leader of the African group of nations here, Kenya's Emily Ojoo Massawa.

"The administration just doesn't seem to get it. They don't understand the world is suffering from climate change," said Jennifer Morgan of the environmentalist group Climate Action Network.

Negotiations among the more than 150 nations that ratified Kyoto went on until dawn Friday and then resumed later in the day, as they hammered out final details of a plan whereby a working group would begin developing post-2012 proposals. The tentative document included no deadline for that work, but said it should be completed early enough to ensure that no gap develops after 2012.

At UN conference,Mucktar Akumalik
registers Inuit formal accusation
against Bush government for violating
Inuit human rights by failing to act on
climate and thaw of their Arctic homelands. Posted by Picasa

On the 25th anniversary of John Lennons murder, young
Montreal demonstrators adapt the John & Yoko bed-in
for peace in Montreal, this time for global climate crisis. Posted by Picasa

Voice of Youth "Stop asking how much
it will cost you and start asking
how much it will cost us." Posted by Picasa
Montreal: Give Earth A Chance

from "Youths Make Spirited Case at Climate Meeting" in New York Times

MONTREAL On Wednesday night, as negotiations over the future of two international agreements on global warming ground on, it was time for a break.

The lobbyists for coal and oil companies and the nuclear power industry fanned out to Montreal's storied restaurants and high-priced hotels. The campaigners for big environmental groups hunkered down to talk strategy.

But a stream of participants hiked through the frigid night to a corner building on the far side of Chinatown that pulsed with light and thudding music. Inside, a local nonprofit group called Apathy Is Boring was giving a party.

There was no apathy in attendance - just 300 people, most in their 20's, who had come from as far away as Australia and Los Angeles to pester the "fossils" - the legions of gray-suited negotiators who, these young people said, were hijacking their future.

"Major social changes start with a shift in philosophy, and then a new generation is born with that at their core," said Josh Tulkin, 24, who works for a group focused on climate issues in the region outside Washington, D.C., and also for a network of youth organizations called SustainUs. "That generation is us."

Some wore T-shirts emblazoned with a message aimed at delegates: "Stop asking how much it will cost you and start asking how much it will cost us."

Through nearly two weeks of treaty talks here, the young attendees, more than 500 in all, have been staging daily demonstrations, mainly lighthearted, to highlight the meeting's importance for their generation. And they have been buttonholing delegates to share their concerns about the lack of significant new action to cut greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

On Thursday, the major action of the day was a "bed-in" on the sprawling polished floor outside the main meeting rooms. About 15 people lay down on pillows near pictures of a similar protest staged in Montreal in 1969 by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

They started singing old Beatles songs, but with new lyrics: "We all live in a carbon-intensive world" and "All we are saying is give youth a chance."

The first young people who attended climate negotiations came at the invitation of Greenpeace in 2000, fanning out in the halls at a meeting in The Hague aimed at completing the Kyoto Protocol, one of the agreements being discussed here. But in the past, they were mostly recruited by big international environment groups. Now many of them are from homegrown independent nonprofit groups of their own making, many focused on local issues like cutting universities' use of fossil fuels. They have their own Web sites, with one Web log,, the centerpiece.

"It has gone viral," said John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, in a telephone interview. "There's never been a social movement that didn't have young people as the moral standard bearers. They realize the fate of their world is being decided in the shadows at these conventions."

There is little time for leisure. While some delegates went shopping with the per diem money provided by the United Nations, the campaigners, wielding cellphones and laptops, continued pressing delegations for meetings. On Thursday, about a dozen young people trooped through a maze of corridors to a room used by American negotiators for confidential talks. There they sat around a rectangular table with Daniel A. Reifsnyder, the director of the State Department's office of global change.

They met in part to lay out their case for new actions to reduce greenhouse gases, but also to complain about the fate of Nia Robinson, a young campaigner from Detroit working for Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, a group focused on the social impact of global warming.

She had been ejected from the meeting hall on Wednesday for trying to deliver a "climate change survival pack" to American officials, consisting of a face mask for air pollution, a life jacket to counter the threat of rising sea levels and a can of Spam, symbolizing the potential disruption of traditional food sources for indigenous people.

They were politely told that the United States had nothing to do with her expulsion, which was carried out by security officials working for the United Nations. They were also told that the United States had no plans to start negotiating new agreements on climate change, that existing policies were already producing results.

As they emerged, Mr. Tulkin, of SustainUs, was near tears.

While this upsets us, it also motivates us to go back and fight as hard as we can back in the United States," he said. "We know we have to take it back into our own hands. That's what we're doing at the cities, the campus and our communities. This is our future and we need to take control of it right now, today, take action."

Friday, December 09, 2005

jansma from doors of Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"For every poet it is always morning in the world. History a forgotten, insomniac night; history and elementary awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of history."

Derek Walcott

Holiday Books from 2005: Design & the Future

The Things of Shapes To Come

by Bruce Sterling
Mediawork Pamphlet Series
The M.I.T. Press

I tend to see the future in terms of story, while real professional futurists see it in terms of design. (Then there’s Star Trek, which sees it as both. I know, you don’t want to hear about Star Trek.)

As a science-fiction writer and a futurist, Bruce Sterling also sees it as both. This particular slim but very full of pith and moment book (under 150 pages) is about designing---and redefining---things, as leading the design of the future.

Things, as created objects, and more. “Properly understood, a thing is not merely a material object, but a frozen technosocial relationship. Things have to exist in relationship with an organism: the human being.” Though this book comes pre-underlined and highlighted, that’s a quote I lifted all on my own.

But things are not generic. They are, for example, artifacts, machines, products, gizmos, spimes and arphids. My spell-check doesn’t like spimes and arphids, they come pre-underlined in red, but that’s because these are new words Sterling coins to extend the technosocial relationships into the present and future of new proportions of physicality and information.

This is all pretty fascinating, especially when Sterling links the design future to the sustainable society he understands as the only lengthy future we can have as a civilization, though he assumes this more than makes a case for it. There are real designers referenced---the section on Raymond Loewy, for example, is informative and entertaining. I like the brisk elegance and wit of Sterling’s prose, so I went along for the ride even when I wasn’t quite sure where I was going, or even where I’d been.


click image to enlarge. For an even better look, go to the
source: San Francisco Chronicle. Posted by Picasa
More Tax Cut Socialism for the Wealthy: The Rich Get Richer, America Gets Poorer for Longer

from New York Times

The House passed the last and biggest part of $95 billion in tax cuts on Thursday, a move that reflected the willingness to place tax cuts above the risk of higher deficits in years to come.

Voting 234 to 197, almost purely along party lines, the House approved $56 billion in tax cuts over five years, one day after it passed other tax cuts totaling $39 billion over five years. The biggest provision would extend President Bush's 2001 tax cut for stock dividends and capital gains for two years at a cost of $20 billion.

That was welcome news for a president whose tax plans looked all but dead a few weeks ago. All the maverick Republican conservatives in House, who had pushed party leaders to pass $51 billion in spending cuts, voted enthusiastically for tax cuts costing nearly twice as much.

Democrats accused the Republican majority of expanding the cuts to the very richest families while cutting programs to help the poor.

"The choice is clear, tax relief that goes to people making a million bucks or more and cutting student loans, cutting food support for people who need it and cutting child support," Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said.
Take Away American Rights and Call It the Patriot Act--Not So Fast This Time

From the New York Times

House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise agreement Thursday to extend the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, but critics from both parties said they found the plan unacceptable because it did not go far enough in protecting Americans' civil liberties.

The plan is expected to come up for final votes in the House and Senate early next week, but its passage was uncertain Thursday, with some Democrats, including Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, threatening a filibuster to block a vote.

After weeks of what negotiators described as extremely difficult negotiations, the compromise plan would retain most of the expanded surveillance and investigative powers given to the federal government after the Sept. 11 attacks, permanently extending 14 of 16 provisions set to expire at the end of the year. But it would also put in place additional judicial oversight and safeguards against abuse.

Three of the most-debated measures would have to be reviewed again by Congress in four years, rather than the seven-year window originally favored by some House leaders in a tentative agreement that was reached last month but then derailed by last-minute concerns from members of both parties.

Those measures that would be extended for four years involve the government's ability to demand records from libraries and other institutions, conduct "roving wiretaps" in surveillance operations and single out "lone wolf" terrorists who operate independently of a larger group.

In another concession to lawmakers who pushed for greater government restrictions, the plan agreed to on Thursday eliminated a proposal that would make it a crime punishable by one year in prison for anyone receiving certain types of records demands from the government to disclose them publicly.

The current plan also does not include measures that would have increased penalties on some terrorism-related crimes and would have expanded the government's ability to seek the death penalty in some cases.

Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who leads the Judiciary Committee, acknowledged that he would like to have seen tougher civil liberties safeguards included in the compromise plan, but he faced resistance from House negotiators and administration officials who argued that new restrictions could limit the government's ability to fight terrorism.

Mr. Specter added that Bush administration officials "have been very worried that they wouldn't get a bill, and we came perilously close to not getting a bill at all."

Even before Mr. Specter finished announcing the agreement at a news conference, a bipartisan group of six senators who have been active in the debate were attacking the compromise, saying they were "gravely disappointed" in the deal and would oppose it.

"We still can, and must, make sure that our laws give law enforcement agents the tools they need while providing safeguards to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans," the senators said in a statement, which was signed by three Republicans, Senators Larry E. Craig of Idaho, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska, and three Democrats, Senators Feingold, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, refused to sign on to the compromise plan, saying Democrats were excluded from important negotiations. With provisions of the law set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts to renew them, Mr. Leahy proposed a three-month extension unless a different plan was reached.

The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, called the agreement a "sham compromise" and said it would not prevent possible abuses by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in demanding records and conducting surveillance operations that may have little or no connection to terrorism.

The latest deal drew praise from the Bush administration, with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales calling it a "comprehensive" bill and urging quick passage.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

 Posted by Picasa
It's Still A Drag

I was in New York City the last day of John Lennon’s life. We breathed the same cold air. I was flying west when he was shot. I learned about it in Los Angeles. That made it even more surreal---in that sudden soft air and sunshine, after the dirty wind and gray chill of New York.

The radio played his songs, Beatles songs, constantly the next day when I was driving around in a rental car, and there was a period of silence that Yoko Ono asked for as a memorial, which I spent on Santa Monica Beach. When it was over and I was walking back to the car, I saw his name written in the sand. Imagine. Lennon Lives.

Paul McCartney's first quoted reaction, widely criticized at the time, was "It's a drag." Now I know all the inarticulate grief locked in those words. It's still a drag.

I’ve resisted joining the chorus reevaluating Lennon today. I guess 25 years since the day he died is a reasonable day to do that, but I don’t want to remember him for his sudden and sickening murder. Plus the friend I spent the most time with that evening and the next day, sharing all those half-spoken feelings of awe and dread and the tentativeness of being alive, is also dead now. She also died young and suddenly, not many years later. And more beauty was lost from the world.

The Beatles are certainly still part of my life, even of a lot of days. I’ve felt closest to George the past few years, and I admire how Paul and even Ringo have conducted their lives as they age beyond what we could even imagine then. But John was the one I admired the most then, who opened the most doors to perception.

Oddly, the John song I like doing the most these days is a minor one, "Crippled Inside." But it's so John.

You can shine your shoes and wear a suit

You can comb your hair and look quite cute

You can hide your face behind a smile

One thing you can't hide/ is when you're crippled inside

These days the song I feel closest to is one of Paul’s, which I didn’t take note of much when it came out about two years after John's death, called “Tug of War.” It's only been in the last year or two that I've come to feel these lines:

“In another world, in another world
We could stand on top of the mountain with our flag unfurled;
In a time to come, we will be dancing to the beat

played on a different drum…”

And these:

“In years to come, they may discover
what the air we breathe and the life we lead
are all about.
But it won’t be soon enough,
soon enough for me.

No, it won’t be soon enough,
soon enough for me. “

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Snow leopard Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Others only have to look at me and suddenly I'm what they say I am. That's
what evil is."

Max Frisch

Peter Matthiessen, one of the authors encountered in
"The Land's Wild Music" from Trinity U. Press. Posted by Picasa

Holiday Gift Books from 2005: Nature & Science

You might notice the Powell's bookstore box on this page. You can use it to search for a new or used book, and if you buy it, this site gets a cut.

Encounters with our Given World

by Mark Tredinnick.
Trinity University Press.

The author calls them “encounters,” with the kind of care for parsing both words and experience that characterizes this author’s approach to what others might just call profiles of four prominent “nature writers” (another troublesome term, especially to these writers): Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, Terry Tempest Williams and James Galvin.

In a lovely essay called “The Job is To Pour Your Heart Out,” Edward Hoagland writes, “I believe, incidentally, that those of us who care about bears and frogs haven’t much time left to write about them, not just because---among the world’s other emergencies---a twilight is settling over them, but because people are losing their capacity to fathom any form of nature except, in a more immediate sense, their own.”

These four writers grapple with both problems, which pushes them to more public roles as advocates and activists. They (and the author) also rebel against the usual notion and sometimes past practice of nature writing as being pretty and ornamental, or even as separating humanity from the active context of nature. They are all engaged in “Encounters with Nature” (the title of a collection of Paul Shepard essays.)

For more of this review, a new review on a book about Antarctica, and other recommendations in nature, environment and science, go to

Captain Future's Log

Upcoming in Site Crime...

A book I'll be getting to in a day or two put me onto a website called Viridian Design, apparently the web face of a futurist organization in which Bruce Sterling, otherwise known as a science fiction/cyberpunk author, is a principal.

There are all kinds of neat things about this site but I'm especially enjoying Sterling's "Viridian Notes," which are like blog entries of a special kind. The entries that knock me out are documents---speeches, news stories, etc.---with Sterling's interpolations, which are both stunningly funny and on the mark cogent and insightful.

He's very good on climate crisis matters, for instance his slice and dice of a Guardian story on the so-called Pentagon report on sudden climate change
here, which is even more hilarious--and his comments more perceptive--a couple of years later.

Or a more recent
note, a speech by Al Gore on global warming. Apart from being bracingly clear-minded about what's really going on, Sterling's comments are unusually witty by net- snark standards---pithier versions of what we really think when we hear or read this stuff (and in this piece, Sterling is generally sympathetic to Gore's points; in fact the post is a kind of extended lament that this guy isn't the president).

For example, after Gore begins his speech with the pro forma announcement that we must address this crisis now, Sterling writes, "I also wonder why politicians always say "the time to act is now," even when it's crystal-clear that the proper time to act was quite a long time ago.

I'm bringing this to your attention because I hope you'll get as much of a charge out of reading this as I did. And also because I plan to steal this technique, and this constitutes fair warning, if not fair use.

Dave Brubeck. photo c by Milken Family Foundation. Posted by Picasa

60s NOW

Ebony and Ivory When It Counted

From "Dave Brubeck: Take 85" in the San Francisco Chronicle. Brubeck at 85 still tours and composes. An account of his latest Bay Area visit with some history; it ends with Brubeck telling his audience at the conclusion of the show, "Maybe I'll see you again." Link to the full article below.

"Playing in the South was eye-opening," he said. One of his most memorable experiences took place in 1958, when he appeared at a college in Georgia to perform. Minutes before show time, the dean told him the black bassist "can't go on." So Brubeck shot back: Either the bassist performs or the show's off.

At a North Carolina college that summer, the same thing happened: A dean told Brubeck five minutes before show time, "You can't play with a mixed group."

"After that," Brubeck said, "police would meet us at the airports and escort us to the universities." Refusal to accept the colleges' terms led to 23 cancellations of his 25 shows that summer, costing an estimated $40,000. But Brubeck held strong.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Smiling Buddha, Bayon Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

" Everything you do is right, nothing you do is wrong. Yet you must still make ceaseless effort."

Shunryu Suzuki

Holiday Gift Books from 2005: Arts

This week, a series of reviews and recommendations, with gifts for the discerning reader in mind...Today, a few from the arts. You might also notice the Powell's Bookstore box on this page. You can use it to search for a new or used book, and if you buy something as a result of linking from here, this site gets a teeney cut.

Contemplating Beauty: The Gift
That Keeps On Giving

SMILE OF THE BUDDHA: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art,
From Monet to Today

by Jacquelynn Baas, with a foreword by Robert A.F. Thurman
University of California Press

“It depends a lot on the particular artist, but I certainly am convinced that the mind in the moment of creativity and the mind in the moment of meditation are the same mind.” Yvonne Rand, a Buddhist teacher and a major figure at the San Francisco Zen Center for 28 years, said this to me in an interview. Jacquelynn Baas, this book’s author, calls Rand her teacher, and dedicates this book to her.

Baas selects 20 particular artists, from early 20th century stars like van Gogh, Gauguin, Duchamp and Kandinsky to more recent and widely known artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Jasper Johns, Isamu Noguchi, John Cage, Agnes Martin and Nam June Paik. Her rigorous scholarship and fine writing illuminate the connections between creativity informed by at least some exposure to Buddhist thought, art and practice, and the works we receive (many in illustrations.)

Perhaps even better, Baas looks at somewhat lesser known past(Odilon Redon) and current artists (Vja Celmins), and at the art of two well-known women whose work is seldom examined in the same spirit as other artists, namely Laurie Anderson and Yoko Ono.

Of Course We Can Explain It. We Just Can't
Explain It.

Tropical Storm Epsilon strengthened into a hurricane for the second time in two days on Sunday, perplexing U.S. hurricane researchers who had expected it to steadily weaken over cool Atlantic waters.

The 14th hurricane of a record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season had earlier weakened back into a tropical storm, with winds below the 74-mph (119-kph) threshold that categorizes a tropical storm as a hurricane.

"There are no clear reasons and I'm not going to make one up to explain the recent strengthening of Epsilon," hurricane forecaster Lixian Avila said in a bulletin on the Miami-based hurricane center's Web site. "I am just describing the facts."

The storm posed no threat to land and was expected to loop back to the southwest after a couple of days and dissipate.
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended on Wednesday but it is not altogether unusual for tropical storms to form in December. In other ways, however, the 2005 season has been extremely unusual.

This season saw the most tropical storms on record -- 26 -- and the most hurricanes, with 14. The highest number of hurricanes previously on record was 12, in 1969, and the highest number of named storms was 21, in 1933.

The long-term average is 10 storms per season, six of which become hurricanes.

This year also set a record of three Category 5 storms -- the most powerful on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity -- including Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and killed more than 1,200 in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Hurricane Wilma in October became the strongest hurricane ever observed in the Atlantic, and Vince in October the first tropical storm known to have come ashore in southern Spain.

While most climatologists agree that the large number of storms can be blamed on a natural and periodic switch in climatic conditions, some experts say there are signs global warming could be increasing the intensity of storms.
We Have Met the Aliens, and They Are Us

from my essay in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle Insight:

Paranoia in the Cold War seemed partly caused by our lack of control over sudden and complete destruction. Today it might be that we need to understand the complexities of whatever threatens us before we know what to do.

The Wind Power of Change in the Third World

By Alister Doyle
MONTREAL, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Windmills have far bigger than expected potential for generating electricity in the Third World, according to new U.N. wind maps of countries from China to Nicaragua.

"Our studies show about 13 percent of the land area has potential for development," Tom Hamlin of the U.N. Environment Program told Reuters on the fringes of a U.N. climate conference.

Previously, he said, maybe just 1 percent of developing nations was judged sufficiently windy, discouraging governments and investors from considering the nonpolluting source as an alternative to burning oil, coal or natural gas

Among the nations surveyed, Nicaragua, Mongolia and Vietnam had the greatest potential with about 40 percent of the land area suitable for windmills.

Hamlin said the U.N. maps, part of the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment, could help poor nations facing high bills for oil imports. "A lot of what's really driving investments is the price of oil," he said.