Climatically Speaking: The Best Stories on Climate, Food, Science and Culture, (2nd ed.)

Icebergs, Photo by Ghost Presenter from  Pexels

Icebergs, Photo by Ghost Presenter from Pexels

Second Edition

End of Snow, a lovely video; U.S. states quiz; recycling solar panels; Antarctica's feedback loop; agroecology; U.S. map of diseases spread by global warming; baby wipes and food allergies; cars and romaine lettuce; the circular nature of time and much more.

Welcome to Climatically Speaking: The Best Stories on Climate, Food, Science and Culture. Two of my favorite stories in today's post are a 20-minute video on snow, or, rather, the lack of it, and a test on ten U.S. states. And you thought you were done with elementary school—no such luck. For the record, I failed the U.S. states quiz twice. But the best way to learn about this too-hard-to-pass quiz is to read today's stories. So, let's go!

climate, environment and energy

today's featured video

This gorgeous video, End of Snow, from Outside Online, is a poignant reminder of how climate change is decreasing snow pack and water supplies in the western U.S., where scientists, a rancher and a snow guardian—snow guardian?—share their stories from the Colorado River Basin. It's kind of sad, but also entertaining. Yet, the characters do leave you with a sliver of hope, which the owl is thankful for because she has a bad case of the climate change blues. 

today's quiz

So here's the U.S. states quiz I promised, from The New York Times. At this point, you might be thinking you already know your states. But the state maps in this quiz are tricky: They illustrate what ten states would look like in 10,000 years if we keep increasing our greenhouse gas emissions at our current rate into the next century. You have a list of states to choose from. But even with that, I still failed. 

A word of caution, though: The New York Times limits the number of free articles available to non-subscribers. So if you think other household members might also want to take the quiz, or you wish to take it multiple times, keep the link open in your browser until you're finished. I was able to reset the test by using the refresh button.

It's also important to note that, according to the article, half the 170-foot-sea-level rise (52 meters) would occur within the next 1000 years. So that's 85 feet (26 meters) of sea-level rise in 1000 years and 42.5 feet (13 meters) in 500 years. In 500 years, my city would be nearly underwater. That makes it seem a lot more relevant. As a reminder, sea-level rise (NASA) doesn't necessarily occur at a steady rate. Oh, and I almost forgot: At the end, there's some bonus material. But you have to take the test first. Have fun!

more stories

Did you know that solar panels only last 25 to 30 years? And then what? It's an important question to ask because, pretty soon, a lot of them will come off line. And since they contain many different materials, recycling them presents a challenge. Learn how the recycling and solar industries are preparing for the upcoming used solar panel surplus in this piece by Nate Berg at Ensia.  

In the last edition of Climatically Speaking, I rambled on and on about a possible slowing of the AMOC, which you might want to read about, here. But in a recent study, which Chris Mooney reports on in The Washington Post, scientists discovered that a similar process is occurring in two areas off the coast of Antarctica. As Antarctica's glaciers melt, freshwater enters the ocean, which prevents cold, salty waters from sinking to the bottom. So warmer water gets trapped underneath a layer of cold water, which sits at the top of the water column. Because this warmer water can reach the base of glaciers, it causes them to melt. As they melt, more freshwater enters the ocean, preventing cold, salty waters from sinking, and this starts a feedback loop. Although scientists aren't sure when this process began, they do know it's happening now. And rising global temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions are likely to accelerate the process. Or, another option is to prevent catastrophic sea-level rise by taking action.

climate, environment and energy in brief

As Reuters reports, Michael Bloomberg will cover the $4.5 million that the U.S. pledged to the Paris Climate Agreement, before Trump pulled us out. And at U.S. News, Katelyn Newman writes about China's water crisis—both its quantity and quality issues. But China is doing a lot to solve a complex problem. Speaking of water, read about the California megafloods that will likely occur this century in this piece by Eric Holthaus at Grist. Also, Michael Greshko reports in National Geographic that many of the world's islands, including the Marshall Islands, will go the way of the sea within decades.  Given that, it should come as no surprise, then, that houses in low-lying coastal areas are not keeping pace in the market with those located safe distances from rising seas, as Joe Romm reports at Think Progress. And finally, on a lighter note, an article at DW suggests that passengers will fly on electric planes within 20 years, but only for shorter distances: from 155 miles (250 kilometers) to 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers).

food and farming

This piece on agroecology by Antonio Roman-Alcalá at Civil Eats is astounding. I didn't realize until I read this selection that agroecology encompasses much more than farming methodology. I was already on board with it, but, now, I'm even more so. As this piece suggests, it would be a mistake for large, corporate farms to adopt the farming practices of agroecology at the expense of pushing small farmers out of the market because this would betray the true spirit of the movement.  

Placing a much stronger emphasis on the off-the-farm social, political, and cultural changes needed to support ecological farming, agroecology in its maximal form demands a holistic view of agriculture, linking issues like poverty, gender inequality, access to land, and human rights.
— Antonio Roman-Alcalá, Civil Eats (April 24, 2018)

science, health and technology

Eek! That was my first response when I viewed this map in a piece by Dipika Kadaba at The Revelator. The map illustrates how climate change could help ticks and insects spread diseases across the U.S. If you're curious, you can enter your zip code in a search bar to see which diseases could fester in your area as the planet warms. Great. But I'm lucky: Only one disease shows up for my zip code—Leishmaniasis. How about yours?

Is there a connection between baby wipes and food allergies in infants? Perhaps there is, when you also factor in genetics, according to this article by Sarah Wiedersehn, writing for the Daily Mercury. 

And what on Earth do cars and romaine lettuce have in common? James Hamblin weighs in on the subject in this great read from The Atlantic. But I'm not going to chatter on and on and spoil it for you.


Do you feel out of step with the cultural norms that most people accept without question? I do. It wasn't so much a problem when I was younger, but over time, I developed a sense of not quite fitting with the rhythms of daily life. Take cars, for example—lots of cars, going very, very fast—and clocks and "I'll take what's mine, Earth be damned." The march of progress can weigh heavy on the spirit, depending on the spirit. If you feel similarly, or wish to explore this perspective, take a look at Paul Kingsnorth's new essay at Emergence Magazine. You can revisit the life and works of W. B. Yeats, as Kingsnorth and Yeats remind us of time's circular nature. 

closing thoughts

That's all for today's edition of Climatically Speaking. And I confess that I did a bad job of keeping it short, as I promised. Though you might want to check out Climate Point for more stories because I don't want to write about Scott Pruitt and the EPA. But fortunately, Sammy Roth does, and he doesn't ramble so much. Learn about the EPA's latest shenanigans, four politically conservative states that get 30 percent of their energy from wind power and much more in the latest edition of Climate Point, here. I hope you have an excellent week!  —Laura

Please note: My editor took off for the hills and hasn't been seen for years. If you're a journalist or scientist and find mistakes in these summaries, please reach out through the contact form in the menu at the bottom of this page. I don't mind being corrected at all. Thanks!

did you miss last week's edition of climatically speaking? catch up on more fascinating stories, below. also, you can subscribe at the bottom of this page.