Surferbird News-links, 60th Edition

The Magic Grottoes 1870 from a public domain image, by GDJ, openclipart.org

The Magic Grottoes 1870 from a public domain image, by GDJ, openclipart.org


Swimming the once-polluted La Villete canal basin in Paris, grieving and climate change, plastic-free water filtration, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, sustainable palm oil, the real meaning of prudence, a road trip to the end-Permian boundary, an interview with Paul Hawken and a Davy D poem: These are just some of the stories in today's edition of Surferbird News-links.


News from my wood

Greetings! Did you think I got lost in the surf? The owl doesn't surf, but she did get lost switching her website to Squarespace. Their support team was more than helpful, though, and I'm enjoying getting acquainted with this new platform.

Now, I'm lost in the moving process because I'm relocating an hour up the road with my son. I found a school that I hope will be a good fit for him, but many of our belonging will remain at our current home. So I'll be hopping back and forth between locations throughout the year. Even though it's a big change, I look forward to being surrounded by open space, leaving the crowded freeways of the Bay Area behind. 

On a different note, I plan to resume weekly posts. But since I'm moving, I'm not making any promises about next week's schedule. Meanwhile, today's edition of Surferbird News-links is packed with exceptional articles and a poem that captures the essence of today's s stories. Welcome! 

Views

Paris reclaims canal for swimming,(theguardian.com)

Take a look at Parisian swimmers cooling off in the La Vilette canal basin. After years of being too polluted to swim in, the city of Paris cleaned it up. Now, for the first time in 100 years, La Villette is legally open to swimmers. What's not entirely surprising, though, is that the canal was even more polluted in 1870. But this isn't your typical chlorine-filled swimming pool. Swimmers describe the water as "murky," yet, they appreciate having a natural swimming zone in the middle of Paris. Plans are in the works to make the Seine swimmable, too!

Environment

Living with grief, Beauty and justice in an era of climate change,(hcn.org)

Don't let my foreboding intro, above, chase you away because this essay by Brian Calvert is an excellent read and one that I'll be reflecting on for a while. To summarize a long-form essay like this doesn't do it justice. But I'll give it a shot.

Brian explores his personal losses along with his sadness over humans' destruction of the environment. He weaves in art, history and poetry by Robinson Jeffers, my favorite of which is "Rearmament." But even though this piece is tinted with shadow, perhaps, all is not lost. The author suggests that beauty and justice can lead us through the ecocide, preventing our descent into darkness. 

In addition to reading the essay (many times), I also enjoyed researching the people and links referenced in this piece: namely, Paul Kingsnorth, The Dark Mountain Project and Nick Bowers' "Scared Scientists," which you can read more about, here (huffingtonpost.com). Although the links and the article offer a darker perspective than I usually present, reflecting on Brian's powerful feelings and insights will linger long after you read his words. 

Beyond switching to renewables, removing CO2 from the atmosphere is critical if we're going to prevent runaway climate change.,(ensia.com)

Decarbonizing our economy is one thing, but removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is quite another. Yet, many scientists are convinced that we'll need to develop technologies that accomplish this if we want to prevent runaway climate change—temperatures that exceed 2 °C. On the bright side, some of these technologies are currently available. Yet, they require both money and planning to put into usage. It's reassuring to learn, however, that low-tech methods are also effective at sequestering carbon dioxide, such as afforestation and reforestation, carbon farming and cultivating and protecting coastal habitats. In reality, though, we'll need to employ a combination of approaches to successfully reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Read and learn about these fascinating methods at Ensia, and let's hope that scientists, farmers, communities and businesses can implement them on a larger scale— and soon!

A trip to the Permian,when high carbon dioxide levels almost destroyed life on Earth,(theatlantic.com)

Are you ready for a road trip 252 million years back in time to the end-Permian extinction? That's OK. We're only going as far as Wyoming, where lifeless, red Permian rocks reveal Earth's traumatic past—casualties of burning fossil fuels. But back then, however, it wasn't humans doing the burning; most scientists think that volcanoes spewed a trail of magma, which ignited Earth's coal, natural gas and oil stores, releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. The atmosphere contained so much of it that life on our planet nearly ended. The author's description of Earth during the end-Permian extinction is surreal—resembling a Martian landscape.

But what's most striking to me is that in parts of middle America, where the landscape bares the red hues and salty layers from the Permian—gas compression stations, pipeline transfer stations, pipes, valves, oil pumpjacks and cows feeding on grain that's grown with fossil-fuel-derived fertilizer carry on business as usual. The American heartland powers the country: It's like a giant heart, pumping oil and natural gas through veins and arteries bound for both coasts. And in addition to that, there's the description of the huge open-pit coal mine in Wyoming, which, like the ticking of a clock, never rests. Yet, all these activities, which emit copious amounts of carbon dioxide, occur within striking distance of the end-Permian boundary.

One final thought I want to leave you with, though, is that as a result of burning fossil fuels, humans are emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a faster rate than the volcanoes did during the Permian. In a sense, we're playing with fire—toying with a scenario that, according to the article, could repeat itself.

An interview with Paul Hawken, author of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global warming, (e360.yale.edu)

I can't think of a better way to wrap up the environmental segment of Surferbird News-links than this interview with Paul Hawken. His book is excellent, by the way. Will we reverse global warming fast enough to prevent a catastrophe? I don't know. But Paul Hawken's book focuses on solutions that address both human and environmental concerns because the two are connected. In my opinion, that's a more positive way to have a conversation about climate change.

Food and Farming

A short video about sustainable, organic palm oil, (dw.com)

This video is only five minutes long and paints a more hopeful future for palm oil and its farmers—if only all palm oil plantations could be like this one. When purchasing products that contain palm oil, check to see if the palm fruit was grown sustainably. And watch out because it's often an ingredient in soap and even lipstick. Although I don't purchase many products that contain palm oil, when I do, I still check company websites because, sometimes, the labels don't provide enough information. Many times, though, I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that the palm oil does, indeed, come from sustainable palm plantations. So instead of avoiding palm oil altogether, it helps to do a little research first.

Home and health

Plastic-free water filtration, (miyabi-charcoal.com)

Please note: Check the safety of your water supply by zip code, here. Carbon filtration alone may not be the best choice for you, depending on where you live. By all means, do your homework. Going plastic-free isn't worth damaging your health by not filtering out a dangerous contaminant. 

Because I'm setting up a second household and purchasing kitchen supplies for my new apartment, I decided to try charcoal water filters, sans plastic; I'm leaving my Brita pitcher behind. I learned about Miyabi from Zero Waste Chef. She wrote a post about Miyabi, here. To use the bamboo charcoal, simply drop a few pieces in a pitcher of water (after boiling them for five minutes). Then, wait about an hour before drinking. And the best part is that there's no plastic surrounding the charcoal! After four weeks, compost the spent charcoal and replace with fresh pieces.

Another option is Kishu Binchotan, (kishucharcoal.com) which is sourced from the ubame oak tree. You can buy these on the Kishu website and, also, here (Life Without Plastic). None of these product and store links are affiliate links or paid advertising. And both kinds of charcoal can be purchased from other sources, too, such as Amazon and Food52. 

Even though charcoal filters effectively remove carbon-based impurities and chlorine (science.howstuffworks.com), don't use these if your water supply is unsafe because some contaminants don't bond to the carbon and remain in your tap water. But I haven't found a water filtration system (for renters), however, that does it all. In other words, I have to choose between filtering arsenic and chromium-6. So, these look like a good option for improving the quality and taste of my tap water while creating less plastic in our landfills. Besides, I appreciate the aesthetics of using a glass pitcher with a stick of charcoal inside—simple and beautiful. 

Perspectives

The true meaning of prudence,(nytimes.com)

And it's probably not at all what you're thinking. In fact, the true meaning is antithetical to our current notion of prudence, which suggests aversion to risk. But according to the author, and based on the works of German philosopher Josef Pieper, prudence is "the willingness to do the right thing, even if that involves fear and risk." It's comforting to know that, like the author, I'm also prudent. Or, perhaps, I'm merely rash. 

Poetry

Instead of sharing an earwom today, I'm sending you to Davy D's blog for "No More Poppies in July." Davy D published this poem the same week I read Brian Calvert's essay, above. In fact, I think it's remarkable for the reader when works that are similar in thought and tone, yet from different genres, converge simultaneously. The reading experience becomes even more memorable. I was deeply moved by both pieces, which, in addition to the other stories, made for an excellent week of reading. Enjoy!

Laura