In the beginning

IN THE BEGINNING, something happened.  We are not quite sure what it was.  Planet Earth’s beginning was some four and one-half billion years ago.  The beginning of the beginning was sometime before that.  However and whenever we define the beginning, we know there has been continual change ever since.

At several times in the evolution of our cosmic home, much of the land area of the planet was one large mass.  Slowly over the unknown eons, this land mass split apart, came together and reformed in different configurations.  This occurred most recently about three hundred million years ago.  

Cancer of the planet

Planet Earth, where we all live and from which we draw the resources that support all living species, has a serious illness.  Climate change is a cancer that has found a receptive host.   Ignored or unchecked, the prognosis for a cancer is inevitably death. 

We all have friends, family members, and acquaintances that have been overtaken by serious, even fatal, sicknesses.  Such experiences can leave us in awe of the power of modern medical technology. Depending on the outcome of the illness, we can be either brutally aware of the fragility of the body, or we can be impressed with innate resilience and our ability to make broken parts whole again. 

Now comes the Bakken pipeline

The Straits of Mackinac is a five mile wide expanse of water separating the Upper and Lower Michigan Peninsulas.With Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east, this channel provides a vital link for Great Lakes commerce. The Straits also separate scenic Lower Michigan from even more scenic Upper Michigan.
In 1910, regular ferry service was initiated and access to the Upper Penisula for both tourism and minerals extraction became easier.  Talk of building a bridge across the Straits began in 1921, but it took until 1957 to get the job done.  The Mackinac Bridge is today a striking example of engineering achievement.   

Protect our water

Water protectors. This is the self-proclaimed term used by those who are supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their efforts to prevent construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have won at least a temporary victory with the refusal of the Corps of Engineers to grant an easement for the pipeline across lands considered sacred by the native peoples. This is a victory for the local interests and, more broadly, one small step to hold off the planet-damaging effects of climate change.
Closer to home, we need to scale up our efforts to protect our own vital water resources. Surface water quality in Iowa, our lakes and streams is far from what it needs to be. We are attempting to implement some practices to improve water quality, especially on farmland, but we are not making significant progress.

Being thankful

The Earth formed 4 1/2 billion years ago out of a random collection of cosmic gas and dust.
Over the intervening eons, everything has worked out exactly right to get us to where we are today.
At this season of thankfulness, we should all revel in our incredibly good luck.
Not only has the planet survived this long journey through the void of space, it has developed exactly the right conditions to provide us with the riches we take for granted.

The hand we are dealt

Climate change is apolitical. Climate change is science. Climate change is happening regardless of political pronouncements, administrative actions, legislation, or judicial rulings. Climate change is happening because of what humans are doing to the planet.
This year, atmospheric carbon dioxide is 403 parts per million. Next year it will be over 405 parts per million. This continues the relentless trend of record highs, above anything that has occurred in the past 400,000 years. Science rules and there is nothing that any politician or any group can do to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide from setting another new record next year.

Sicker than we seem

So much to see, we see so little. It's a beautiful day outside our window. The season changes, the colors change, we experience glorious fall days that confirm the joys and marvels of Iowa.
Today is a few degrees warmer (or cooler) than the same day a year ago. This is what we expect and accept as normal. The climate isn't really changing, is it?

We have a choice

In the mid-1800s, people, organizations and companies were in the midst of a major shift in how they met their everyday energy requirements. Wood was being phased out. Coal was in. Shortly natural gas and oil, in addition to coal, would provide energy on a scale that had never been seen before.
Fossil fuels became the drivers of the industrial society. The expansion of the United States and progress around the world over the next 150 years would have only been a dream without cheap, readily available fossil fuel energy.

An optimistic view

My engineering-student grandson, Will, has been exposed to many of my writings on climate change. I have appreciated his feedback and particularly his observation that my view of climate change often focuses negatively on the problems, and not enough on the possibilities that the problems can be solved.
It is refreshing to have this outlook expressed by a young technical person that understands the issue. Most importantly, this is a voice from the generation that will feel impacts of climate change as no other generation that has ever lived, and is the generation that will solve the problem if it is ever to be solved.

Earth doesn't care

Control climate change; save the world. Continue to burn fossil fuels; destroy the earth. These are phrases heard frequently. I have used them in some form or other on a number of occasions. They don't make any sense.
Our world, planet earth, has been around for 4.5 billion years. It was formed out of cosmic dust, gases and energy in a process we marginally understand and that we can only marvel at.

Iowa Summer

What isn't there to like about Iowa in the summer?

Farmers' markets with fresh fruits and vegetables overflowing bins in venders' stalls. Better yet, fresh colorful produce right out of your own garden.

Flowers in yards and accenting houses. Flowers in roadside ditches, accidental or with some measure of planning. Flowers in the infrequent patches of native prairie, found only with persistent searching.

Guns and climate change

Climate change. Gun violence. One threatens our natural environment. The other threatens our social environment. Both are anthropogenic, caused by human activity. Both require immediate and forceful action if we hope to maintain the fabric of life in this country and on this planet.
There is a great deal of similarity in the political response to gun violence and climate change. Both problems have existed for some time. Both are worsening.