A is for the Arctic, Which is Melting

“I have been looking at Arctic weather patterns for 35 years and have never seen anything close to what we’ve experienced these past two winters,”

— Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (via Quartz)

When it comes to talk about the effects of global warming a lot of focus has been on Antartica, which saw record low levels of ice this past year, but as winter in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end all eyes are on the Arctic as the trend toward higher temperatures, low sea ice levels, and shockingly low levels of human panic and action continue.

For a bit of background, when I talk about the Arctic I am talking about the sea of ice to the north of Canada and Russia. In the summer, every summer, the ice melts as the sun becomes a constant fixture in the sky, and every winter the ice freezes again. It’s all normal and all due to Earth’s orbit, tilt, and the natural warming and cooling the seasons bring.

This winter the Arctic froze, and when scientists measured the ice at it’s largest extent, there was a whole lot missing. Average Arctic ice extent should be something like 6.04 million square miles, in March of 2017, when we take these kinds of measurements, we had 5.57 million square miles of ice. We are missing 471,000 square miles of ice! And this isn’t the first time we have been below average, and it is not going to be the last.

Less ice might not like such a big deal, except that it is. Arctic sea ice melt contributes to further and faster warming, since our bright white ice cap will be gone, it won’t reflect the sun’s rays back into space ad instead the heat will be absorbed by the ocean. Sea levels will rise, of course, and that’s bad for anyone living along the coast which is a whole lot of American citizens. Ocean and air currents will change due to the ice being gone and the temperatures being warmer. This leads to more climate change on average and more unstable weather patterns day to day.

And of course, in the end, it all boils down to more death and suffering for animals and mostly poor people who are already suffering, but it won’t end with them. We will all feel the ramifications of this.

A wise man once said “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” and despite the fact that, yes, sea ice freezes and melts according to the seasons and yes anomalies happen and some years are freakishly colder or warmer than others the truth is  that for a while now we have been trending farther and farther outside of the averages. Take a look at the terrifying graph below for example:

nsidc_global_extent_byyear_b
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that part on the right that’s clearly outside of the gray area average, that was the end of 2016, far outside even a regular bad year. See the little line on the left sitting below every other year back to 1978? That’s the beginning of 2017 continuing along on a catastrophic path toward sea level rise, ocean ecosystem disruption, and the first signs of the end times.

Now, if we remember our geometry education back in high school, we know that area and volume are different. Could it be that the ice is still there but just taking on a different shape? Nope. Take a look at this graph of bad news showing monthly global ice by volume:

giomas-year-global
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that line veering off to the right well outside the mean and below every other year as far back as 1981, that’s 2016. I haven’t seen a version with 2017 on it yet, but I would bet a lot of money that just like ice area measurements we are still trending down and still, no one is doing anything about it. Instead, we’re running around arguing about whether or not the problem is even real.

This is not normal. None of this is normal! You may hear people talk about natural cycles but take a look at another graph. This one shows measurement of atmospheric CO2 found in drilled ice cores containing bubbles of air from thousands of years ago. See that big spike on the end, well outside of anything ever, that 1950 to now. It is us! We are doing this!

15_co2_left_061316
https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

Now, this is all pretty bad, but it actually gets even worse. So much worse. All hope of stopping these trends is gone. We have done too much damage. CO2 measurements will continue to rise, and the ice is going to go on melting, even if we stopped everything, all the cars, all the deforestation, all the burning, today. There is just no way, right now, that we can get the gasses we put into the atmosphere, and the ocean, back out.

We are fucked. We are so fucked and so stupid.

Scientists started warning us back in 60s that burning fossil fuels and putting greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane into the atmosphere were going to lead to a warmer Earth which would lead to collapsing ecosystems and unstable weather patterns but too many people wanted to keep on making money and fought long and hard, and are still fighting today, to keep you from panicking or changing the way you do things.

So what can you do now? Hell, why do anything if we are already too far gone?

Well, even thought the earth is going to warm and the climate is going to change, and many many people and animals are going to die, we can lessen the extent and the suffering if we start today.

The EPA has a list of things you can do today, but ost of us have read it and have made the changes that we can, but what we really need to do now is get the people who are in charge to stop being so damn selfish and stupid and do something about it. We need to contact our leaders in Congress and let them know that we will not stand for their cowardice any longer. You can even fax them by text now! There is no excuse.

Change needs to happen now if we want to have a future where humans can at least survive, and you need to ask yourself here and now, do you care? Be honest with yourself, do you want something to be done, or do you like it better when you pretend there is no consensus or science to back this up? Are you a part of the solution or part of the problem?

***

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This post was written for the 2017 Blogging A to Z Challenge. My theme is The World is Really an Awful Place. You can read the rest of the posts under the AtoZ2017 tag.

Featured image via Unsplash

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When Elections Are Just About Winning, We All Lose

“The ultimate effect of democracy is to render political leaders helplessly incapable of true governance, since they are inevitably forced to gratify and flatter the common people, who can turn on them with impunity as soon as they fail to please.”

— Elizabeth Watson Scharffenberger,
Introduction to Republic by Plato

Inauguration day is just one week away, and there are a lot of people still trying to wrap their heads around our new President, how he came to be elected, and what he will mean for our future. Many of us are angry. Many of us are still in shock. Many of us are trying to figure out what weakness in our system lead to this and how can we fix them for the future.

One place blame has been placed, rightfully so I believe, is squarely on voters. Elections have become little more than a game show to us. Most of us are not informed. We don’t want to be informed either. We don’t carefully consider our candidates let alone the impact their views will have on all Americans. Instead, we join a team, Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, Tea Party, Green Party, and cheer our players on.

Our elections are no longer about the happiness and cooperation of American citizens but about who has a claim on what America is. It is about who America belongs to, a question  I thought we had answered a long time ago.

Every cycle we do whatever it takes to win, the job of governance be damned.

When we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt. And when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

Barack Obama

President-elect Trump ran on a platform of hatred and fear. He has promised to work closely with a party that is known for pushing a brand of governance that favors some groups over others. A party that many would argue not only doesn’t serve all Americans but in many ways perpetuates harm and humiliation onto Americas most vulnerable.

This has happened not because the majority of Americans agree with the President-Elect or his party but through a quirk of American politics that is fair in some ways and unfair in others, the Electoral College. Most Americans wanted one thing, but those Americans weren’t spread out enough, and so the other thing happened, and now we can’t agree on who was right or what to do now.

I think our system is broken, but I don’t have any the answers. No one does. Or maybe we do, it’s only that so many of those answers make us uncomfortable.

We Americans are arrogant when it comes to governance. No one does it better than us right? We have it all figured out. Even through all the infighting and political road block we are sure we are doing it better than everyone else. I would argue that this last election proves the system needs a little tweaking. I wonder:

  • Should we have a system where the popular vote elects the president?
  • Should we have a system where one party can be allowed to control all branches of government?
  • Should there be more qualifications for President of the United States? Should there be more for his cabinet appointments too?
  • Should Congress be allowed to vote in their own interest?
  • Should the government be allowed to take away rights and care from its citizens, for example defunding Planned Parenthood or repealing the Affordable Care Act?

There aren’t any easy answers to these questions but they are things we need to start considering. Our system is failing and that means people are scared and suffering. There should be no excuses for this.

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power. We, the people, give it meaning — with our participation, and with the choices that we make and the alliances that we forge.

Barack Obama

There is no question that we have taken our right to vote for granted. We have forgotten to use our voice for good. We have forgotten that we had a dream once, to be the greatest country on Earth. We forgot about freedoms to live the way we wanted, to tolerate and cooperate, to work together to overcome any obstacle. We forgot that education and hard work are what we are all about. There was a time when the most qualified person got the job, but now the loudest, crudest, and cruelest are our only qualifications.

We have not earned the great privilege we possess.

No, that we should ever take away the right to vote from any citizen, in fact, I personally believe it should be much easier to vote. We should never make anyone earn it or prove that they deserve it. What needs to change instead is our philosophy around voting and political participation.

We should feel a need to be worthy of what is given us by birthright. We think the geographic luck of our place of birth makes us better. We are Americans, and we are too good to have to care who are elected officials are and where they plan to take us. Maybe we think nothing bad can ever happen to us. We are like naive and inexperienced teenagers enjoying the thrill and never believe we might actually die.

I am embarrassed by our behavior. I am sickened by our disregard for one another and our high and mighty attitude.

We should have been taught better what the right to shape our collective future means in the context of history. We should have been shown what can happen when people have no voice. We should have been told it can happen to us.

We should have been reminded that we aren’t better by birth but by our attitude, our ethics, and our drive to take the high road no matter how hard it may be. We are better because we care. We are better because we are inclusive and nurturing. We are better because we look to the future and do what needs to be done to ensure that we not only survive, but thrive.

At least, we used to be.

I want to think we can get back to that and I hoped we could do it by looking at the mistakes of others. But most people have to learn the hard way, and maybe nations follow the tendencies of the people. I hope we all can survive the next four years and I hope we all come out of it with a greater sense of obligation to participate in the future of our country.

But remember, none of this happens on its own. All of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting , regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.

Barack Obama

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

Defunding Planned Parenthood Isn’t Pro-Life

I woke up to breaking news this morning that Senate Republicans have voted to defund Planned Parenthood. More accurately, they voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and included in that bill was a a provision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood too. Worse they rejected two amendments to this bill that would have increased, or at least left alone the funding. They have wanted to get rid of Planned Parenthood for a long time and with this vote they knew what they were doing.

Except what they are doing is completely idiotic. For one, Planned Parenthood provides much more than just abortions, and two, defunding Planned Parenthood does nothing to stop abortions. Duh!

Attacking an organization that provides critical care for millions of Americans, and in fact provides high quality care. I for one strongly support Planned Parenthood and the work that it is doing. In my view instead of trying to defund Planned Parenthood, we should be expanding funding so that every woman in this country gets the healthcare that she needs. Mr. President it is also my sincere hope that people throughout this country including my colleagues here in the Senate and across the Capitol and the House understand that bitter vitriolic rhetoric can have serious unintended consequences. Now is not the time to continue a witch hunt for an organization that provides critical healthcare services.

– Bernie Sanders

Here’s a little story about me. When I was very young, I had a scare, a condom broke. I freaked out thinking that this is when my life was going to be ruined. I was going to get pregnant, I would have to quit school, and become a mom before I could even get a job that doing more than stocking shelves or flipping burgers. Lucky for me there was a Planned Parenthood right by my school.

I went there feeling ashamed and afraid. I remember the woman at the counter asking me what was wrong but I couldn’t speak. I remember her motioning for me to come to an exam room so I could have privacy and tell her what happened. I don’t remember much of the conversation but I remember I felt like she cared. I remember that I was given Plan-B and sent home with free birth control and condoms, and a better understanding of how to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. I remember that when I left I didn’t feel scared or ashamed.

I left knowing that if I needed anything else there was a place  could go.

Many people are saying that defunding Planned Parenthood is okay because there are plenty of other clinics that women can be treated at but this reeks of bullshit. Not only is the information they are providing on what alternative clinics there are misleading (Most of these clinics don’t even have an OB-GYN on staff!) they fail to mention that a lot of community clinics do not even accept medicaid. Nearly half of Planned Parenthood’s patients are on Medicaid, where will they go?

What I really don’t understand though it why should women have to go anywhere else. You already have an organization committed to providing quality care without judgement so why move away from that?

Now to the meat of the problem with Planned Parenthood, abortions. I won’t get into the merits of either side of the pro-choice/pro-life debate but I will say I am pro-choice. The reasons this doesn’t matter to the debate about Planned Parenthood’s federal funding are:

  1. Abortions are legal in this country and defunding planned parenthood does not change that.
  2. Any federal funding Planned Parenthood receives is not actually used to provide abortions because the law already says they can’t do that!
  3. And abortions are not the primary service Planned Parenthood provides, not even close.
planned-parenthood-services
Planned Parenthood’s Financial Year 2013-2014 annual report via Washington Post’s “How Planned Parenthood actually uses it’s federal funding

 

So logically, when you take away federal funding that is not being used for abortions what you are really doing is taking away funding for services like cancer screening and prevention and birth control. And when you say that women can just go somewhere else even though these clinics already provide excellent services and are set up accept medicaid you sound like this is a personal grudge, or a religious one, rather than for the benefit of women’s health care.

Not caring about women’s health is not pro-life.

I firmly believe that because of what Planned Parenthood did for me that day a later abortion was actually prevented. I may not have become pregnant that time with out without them but the education (and birth control) I got prevented me from getting pregnant after that. I don’t know if any other clinic would have provided that kind of care, and for free!

The president has threatened to veto this bill if/when it hits his desk and I sincerely hope he does. I see acts like this from the GOP as an attack on women’s healthcare choices. Planned Parenthood has helped countless women across the country, including me, and I will always stand with them.

Musings and Ramblings on the Election Results

I’m not going to pretend to be very informed about the issues and what happened last night. I am, however, taking time today to figure out where the country stands, post-election. At first glance this morning it seemed a bit depressing. I looked at a map of the election results and I saw a whole lot of red. I’m not going to lie, that scares me.

I should clarify here that I am not exactly a Democrat. In fact, I am a registered libertarian. I like the core values of social-liberalism coupled with fiscal responsibility. I don’t always agree with other Libertarians though and I do not like their tendency to vote Republican. I consider myself to be a left leaning Libertarian who is leans farther left every election cycle. In my opinion people who say they are socially liberal are only socially liberal when it comes to things they want. Libertarians I have met in person often end up showing me their true colors over time. They are often secret racists or homophobes.

So what about the results? Well like I said, seeing a whole lot of red scares me. I’m afraid that all the progress we’ve made for marriage equality will come to a screeching halt over the next few years. I’m afraid reproductive rights will be set back. I’m afraid affordable health care is out the door. And I’m also afraid that no progress will be made as Republicans continue to hinder any good the President tries to do.

My biggest issue is trying to figure out how this happened? A lot of people are saying that this country has made it clear that we are unhappy and want a different kind of change but I don’t believe that is entirely true. I believe two things were working against us.

One, people who identify as Liberals are often the ones who believe voting does no good. Yesterday I noticed a lot of liberals, both online and in my own circle of friends, who not only chose not to vote, but even bragged about it! Their reasons were mainly because they believe their vote didn’t matter, they didn’t like any of the candidates, or they were ignorant of the issues.

I honestly never hear Conservatives talk this way. Conservatives believe whole heartedly in the voting process and always show up for their party and candidates. I believe that if Liberals showed the same enthusiasm we would easily win!

The other issue is the Millennials. The Millennials were born anywhere from the early 80s to the early 2000s. I myself am a Millennial. We tend to be more liberal, we tend to vote Democratic, but we also tend to sit out midterm elections. I blame the candidates for that though. I think young people have a hard to identifying with candidates and I think a lot of young people think midterm elections are boring and unimportant. Candidates need to work harder to connect with young people and let them know they care about them.

votingage-nbcnews

I can honestly say that even though I did vote is was not because any one candidate really spoke to me or made me feel like I was truly represented. I voted because being a lesbian politics often directly affects my day to day life. I can easily see though how the everyday average person can feel like politics has nothing to do with them. I can see the disconnect between these candidates and regular people who are younger, poorer, and non-white.

So whats done is done now and hopefully the next two years won’t be too bad. I honestly do hope the Republicans can do some good, but I am afraid of their intentions. I am thinking of getting more involved myself. I think I’d like to look in to volunteering in some way next election round. I need to do something because for me this is very important. I love my country very much and I want to see us move forward. I want to see us become a country that cares for all it’s citizens and where the American Dream we all talk about can be realized by everyone.

Results Map via Politico

Graph via NBC News – Where Are the Millennials? Midterm Voters Skew Old

It’s Voting Day!

Here in the U.S. it’s that time again. It’s voting day! I admit I am usually a much more informed voter than I am today but through the power of Google and social media I am taking time today to look up candidates and ballot issues and doing my best to vote with my conscious.

I am a big believer in the power of democracy and I am encouraging everyone I know to get out and vote today too. Unfortunately, my efforts are being met with a lot of indifference. Most people are either claiming ignorance of the issues or lack of confidence in the system as their primary reasons for not voting today. I fell like all I’m hearing are excuses for laziness and a means of skirting responsibility when the government isn’t working the way the people want it to.

For me voting is of the utmost importance. How can we hope to change anything when so many people are choosing to not even get involved in the process. This country is very polarized and so many of these elections and issues are poll at an almost 50/50 split. In this day and age every vote really does matter.

This morning I took to Twitter to help encourage the undecided and uninformed to at least make some kind of effort today. One person tweeted that even if you are uninformed but have good intentions you should vote, if for no other reason than to cancel out the votes of the uninformed but ill-intentioned. I liked that. There are many out there who are voting along party lines just because their party has more racists or hate poor people more. The good intentioned could really even things out.

https://twitter.com/SoloExMachina/status/529637559149015041

I was also surprised to see so many women and POC proclaiming proudly that they weren’t going to vote today. Most of them claimed that voting doesn’t matter and that the government will do whatever they want to do anyway. I cannot prove that this isn’t true but I do not that if it isn’t true the people who want the government to be able to do whatever they want will today by default. So I figure it’s better to make the effort just in case.

I also have issues with people who don’t vote, yet constantly complain about the government. We get mad that abortion rights are still an issue, but then we choose not to vote. We get mad the there is no help for the poor, then we choose not to vote. We get mad that marriage equality isn’t moving forward fast enough, then we choose not to vote. This make no sense! Laws are changed in many ways but the easiest and simplest way to change the country and the laws is to VOTE!

And if that doesn’t sway you, at least try to remember that there were many people who fought and died so that you could be heard today. Remember that there was a time when whole groups of people didn’t get a say in who was elected or what laws were enacted. Some of those people were threatened, and beaten, and killed, so that you could be represented. I think the least you could do to thank them is to take a few minutes of your time every two years to go and vote.

So please, please, please, for the love of God, go vote today. It isn’t hard and as long as you do your best and vote with good intentions I promise you will feel good about it afterwards. And you get a sticker! :)