Archive for ‘Earth’

September 7, 2011

Global Temperature Trends

by Vince Giordano

More on the above chart here.

August 27, 2011

Where Poverty Comes From

by Vince Giordano

A very interesting story:

Seth Masket effectively exposed the logical fallacy of French’s argument, but I want to point out the harmful nature of the argument itself.

I worked hard and got a good education, yet I am poor. I have no money and haven’t worked in years, and if it weren’t for my parents letting me stay with them I would be homeless. The notion that poor people are just lazy isn’t new. People have been asserting that Randian trope for years. French adds a claim that religious attendance (if this were true, Nigeria should be an economic superpower) and moral depravity are also to blame.

The problem with this argument is that I believed it.

It may seem obvious to others that someone who completed an undergraduate double major in three years and graduated from a top ten law school can’t really be described as “lazy” but it took *years* of therapy before I could even contemplate the idea that it wasn’t my fault, I am not lazy or a bad person, but that I am suffering from depression. It is still sometimes difficult for me to accept that this isn’t my fault, but French seems to have no problem assigning that blame.

I wonder how this affects other people who are living in poverty. It seems like if you tell people that they are poor because they are lazy and immoral, the message that you’re sending is that there is no hope. Unless you believe that the poor have just decided that they would prefer to be lazy and depraved and they can wake up one day and simply choose to become virtuous hardworking citizens.

I started receiving food assistance last December after hearing about the program from a neighbor. My parents would be struggling financially even if they weren’t paying for my therapy and medication, so I figured it would help a lot if they didn’t have to feed me as well. I get $200 a month which can only be used to buy unprepared food. A few days after I started receiving this I happened to hear my state’s new House Speaker, Jase Bolger, talking about plans to limit the program I had just joined. He made it clear that he was doing this to *help* people on assistance:

“Michigan should help its citizens break the cycle of dependency, not create one for them,” Bolger said.

Really? $200 a month for food is going to create a cycle of dependency? People would go out and get a job but they just don’t want to give up that free six and a half dollars a day of food? The minimum wage in Michigan is $7.40/hr, and you think people are not working because you’re giving them less than that a day in food assistance? If there really are people with such an epic level of laziness I would suggest that the threat of starvation will not magically turn them into hardworking, moral citizens.

I like capitalism. I believe it is very effective and I value the freedom that it brings. But free markets are not bags of pixie dust that can be sprinkled on all of societies problems, and all of the failures of the market cannot be blamed on the moral failings of the less fortunate.

H/T: The Dish

July 5, 2011

Ocean Sky

by Vince Giordano

By Alex Cherney:

This time lapse video is the result of almost 1.5 years of work, 31 hours of taking images during six nights on Southern Ocean Coast in Australia.

June 24, 2011

Picture of the Day

by Vince Giordano

Pictured: Cape Alava is the westernmost point in the lower 48 states, and the site of a Makah settlement for more than 6000 years.

June 7, 2011

Iceland Creates Light

by Vince Giordano

Raw Lightscapes from Enrique Pacheco on Vimeo who captions:

Iceland is much more than the volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Iceland is the place where the light is made.

June 5, 2011

America is Exceptional and Hypocritical

by Vince Giordano

The first point is a horse beaten to death. Get your fill in the “sermon” by Tim Pawlenty above.

As for the second point, this deals not with politics but with agricultural work. I read this article in a different lens after working on the farm the past week. I have grown up working hard with my dad (who has been a landscaper for 30 years), with my Boy Scout troop creating 13+ feet high campfires and completing maintenance tasks, and now pulling out malta flora rose bushes that are entangled with vines overgrown for the past 10 years.

I take back my part about politics being out of this topic. It is at the center of it. Barack Obama is taking action by requiring all ag workers to be cleared as U.S. citizens before they can work. This sounds pragmatic, but troubling for a few sectors. 80% of the labor force in the ag field is made up of illegal immigrants.  An easy response to that glaring labor need is to hire Americans. The ironic point in all of this is that for as exceptional and great America is, how far advanced, smug, and pompous we are, we (to some large degree) refuse to do this kind of available work:

“We are headed toward a train wreck,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat whose district includes agriculture-rich areas. “The stepped up (workplace) enforcement has brought this to a head.”

Lofgren said farmers are worried that their work force is about to disappear. They say they want to hire legal workers and U.S. citizens, but that it’s nearly impossible, given the relatively low wages and back-breaking work.

“Few citizens express interest, in large part because this is hard, tough work,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak said this past week. “Our broken immigration system offers little hope for producers to do the right thing.”

Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers, said migrant farm workers are exposed to blistering heat with little or no shade and few water breaks. It’s skilled work, he said, requiring produce pickers to be exact and quick. While the best mushroom pickers can earn about $35,000 to $40,000 a year for piece work, there’s little chance for a good living and American workers don’t seem interested in farm jobs.

“It is extremely difficult, hard, dangerous work,” Rodriguez said.

Last year Rodriguez’s group started the “Take Our Jobs” campaign to entice American workers to take the fields. He said of about 86,000 inquiries the group got about the offer, only 11 workers took jobs.

“That really was thought up by farm workers trying to figure out what is it we needed to do to show that we are not trying to take away anyone’s job,” Rodriguez said.

Several times in those sections Americans are hinted to be unwilling to take some of these available jobs. If such a glaring gap in inquiry and taking a job (86,000 inquiries the group got about the offer, only 11 workers took jobs) is present, can anyone then blame the President and the crummy economy and not their own unemployed self?

Straying away from open jobs has pushed our country to strongly desire comfy, cozy work and benefits that are unsustainable in the long term.Yes, this may be a larger problem in the educational sector than many other jobs, but much of our IT work has too been outsourced.

America the great. America the exceptional. Figure this out (along with our huge prison issue) or continue to sound hypocritical.

June 1, 2011

The Magical Mystery Tour of Sarah Palin

by Vince Giordano

As I noted earlier today, Palin is making her cross-country trip, effectively rousing the people for a possible 2012 GOP bid. Palin is taking an unconventional route (no pun intended) in that she is purposefully eluding the press (and even her fans) and making them find her. In a sense, this tour will either give Palin the green or red light in terms of running in 2012:

According to a source with knowledge of Palin’s thinking, the tour is a test of whether she can do it “her way,” which the source described as “nontraditional, low-cost, high-tech…. The key is to be totally unpredictable and always keep her rivals off-balance.”

With that under-the-radar approach, Palin may have some gold up her sleeve:

Unscripted moments that go badly can haunt a politician on YouTube during a campaign and into the future, but Palin’s ease with a rope line and her politicking skills are one of her best assets. A Palin campaign may not have a press bus or the more formal interviews that reporters crave, but her team will undoubtedly factor in added time for her to greet supporters and campaign not just in large rallies but one on one as well.

The one major trait of Palin that could doom her chances is her divisiveness. Everything from her comments post-Tuscon to her Tweets, she polarizes the political debate to awful extremes (sometimes even cultural ones). Andrew Sullivan made this ironic point when she moved to Arizona, a state bitterly divided between the white, conservative north and the Hispanic south.

One other irony: Palin made the comment that she loves the smell of emissions. This comment could have many meanings behind it. It coincidentally was said by her the same day this report (eyes widen) was released:

According to the IEA, a record 30.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere last year, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. In light of these shocking numbers, experts now fear that it will be impossible to prevent a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius — which scientists say is the threshold for potentially “dangerous climate change.”

Picture by Flickr user Dave77459

May 31, 2011

Picture of the Day

by Vince Giordano

Pictured: Afghan poppy farmer, Zareen (left) stands in his poppy field with son Azim, 8, in Faizabad, Badakshan, Afghanistan, on May 25, 2011. Local authorities in Badakshan use a tractor to destroy cabbage size poppy plants at their early stages as to lessen the burden on the farmer. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) the cultivation of poppies in the Badakshan region has more than doubled this season. Opium production in Afghanistan has been on the rise since U.S. occupation started in 2001, and more land is now used for opium in Afghanistan than for coca cultivation in Latin America. In 2007, 92% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan, reportedly amounting to an export value of about $4 billion, with a quarter being earned by opium farmers and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords, and drug traffickers. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

May 27, 2011

Long Read of the Day

by Vince Giordano

OutdoorLife magazine has an exclusive interview with Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

May 27, 2011

Tornado Watch

by Vince Giordano

I woke up this morning feeling really thankful that I still had a roof over my head. We lost power last night for four hours due to a severe storm sweeping through central Pennsylvania. A few trees came down and I heard a house got struck by lightning nearby. I turned the radio on this morning and heard of the continued destruction across the Midwest and South and now floods in Vermont.

Again, I’m very thankful. I haven’t lost power for that long of a time in a few years. I’m just not use to mother nature going haywire in my area. Pennsylvania seems to be mostly a lucky place in that it misses tornado’s and major storms.

My thoughts and prayers are out for those hurting across the U.S.A.

May 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

by Vince Giordano

“Sit with God as you might with the ocean. You bring nothing to the ocean, yet it changes you.” –Sean Caulfield,  from The Experience of Praying

May 26, 2011

Picture of the Day

by Vince Giordano

Pictured: Libyan men react as the main fuel depot in Misrata, Libya burns after a bombing by pro-Qaddafi forces early Saturday, May 7, 2011. Witnesses say Qaddafi forces have bombed the main fuel depot in Misrata, intensifying the regime’s campaign against the rebel-held city that has been under siege for over two months. (AP Photo/ Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

May 18, 2011

Learn Something New Today

by Vince Giordano

Writer/filmmakerRansom Riggs (of “Be Amazing!” fame) explores the post-apocalyptic landscape of California’s Salton Sea and its largely abandoned resort community, Salton City.

May 17, 2011

Political Cartoon of the Day

by Vince Giordano

May 17, 2011

Addressing Thy Fears

by Vince Giordano

From our military budget ($800 billion – part of it goes to nuclear subs, which we have over a dozen and China doesn’t even have 1 yet) to our fears, we clearly are still in a Cold War frame of mind. Notice the fears of nuclear attacks, nuclear run-off, poisoning, and so on. Even in Japan after their tsunami and earthquake, the bulk of news reporting was focused on nuclear contamination. In the long run, a few hundred people could die from the nuclear contamination. In the short run, tens of thousands of people died from the earthquake. Irrational?

We worry about some things more than the evidence warrants (vaccines, nuclear radiation, genetically modified food), and less about some threats than the evidence warns (climate change, obesity, using our mobiles when we drive). … [This Perception Gap] produces social policies that protect us more from what we’re afraid of than from what in fact threatens us the most (we spend more to protect ourselves from terrorism than heart disease)…which in effect raises our overall risk.

May 17, 2011

Food Waste vs. Food Loss

by Vince Giordano

For those of you who care:

And in case you didn’t know the difference between the two:

It makes an important distinction between food loss and food waste. Food losses (the blue portion of the bar) tend to occur due to crumbling infrastructure, harvesting technology, or poorly designed packaging, whereas food waste (the red portion) results from restaurants and people like you and me throwing edible, slightly malformed fruits and vegetables into the trash.


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May 13, 2011

Comparative Timelapse of the Day

by Vince Giordano

A side-by-side synchronized comparison of the dark winter days and bright summer nights in Helsinki, Finland.

May 12, 2011

Brazilian Waterfall

by Vince Giordano
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March 29, 2011

The Obama Doctrine

by Vince Giordano

PM Carpenter explains how we wish things were with foreign interventions:

I suppose at the root of such resistance is an aversion to human ambiguity. We don’t want answers so much as we demand predeterminations; we’d like to think that global politics and its occasional corollary of regional conflict resemble a kind of preestablished moral physics. Event A occurs, which sparks B, which then results in C — each and every time.

This we demand — or I should say, some demand it — of commanders in chief. Unfortunately they sometimes deliver it, even though each Event A is distinguishable from other Events A, which either should or should not spark B.

Not to go all Rumsfeldian on you, but how is one to know, until A happens and all its knowable elements are known?

He goes on to connect it to the Bible:

Yet what strikes me as most incongruent is that so many of our yearning, anguished absolutists of doctrinaire diplomacy are undoubtedly also Sunday religionists who somehow find peace and mental comfort in worldly contradictions of literally biblical proportions. Their Judeo-Christian God wasn’t — and still isn’t, I assume, since He has sent unto us no exacting editors — fussy about consistency; He could say one thing one millennium and the confounding opposite the next, yet somehow it all blends together in acceptable text.

In other words, they cut God some slack, but for this U.S. president, they don’t.

I disagree with his 2nd point but his first point provides clarity to many of our inner desires.

March 28, 2011

Celebration of Virtues Amidst Earthquake’s and Tsunami’s

by Vince Giordano

Meet Hideaki Akaiwa, who reportedly rescue his family who were submerged underwater:

Hideaki’s wife of twenty years was still buried inside the lake somewhere. She hadn’t gotten out. She wasn’t answering her phone. The water was still rising, the sun was setting, cars and shit were swooshing past on a river of sea water, and and rescue workers told him there was nothing that could be done – the only thing left was to sit back, wait for the military to arrive, and hope that they can get in there and rescue the survivors before it’s too late. With 10,000 citizens of Ishinomaki still missing and unaccounted for, the odds weren’t great that Hideaki would ever see his wife again.

For most of us regular folks, this is the sort of shit that would make us throw up our hands, swear loudly, and resign ourselves to a lifetime of hopeless misery.

But Hideaki Akaiwa isn’t a regular guy. He’s a fucking insane badass, and he wasn’t going to sit back and just let his wife die alone, freezing to death in a miserable water-filled tomb. He was going after her. No matter what.

This story is N-U-T-S-! It is so worth a full read.