Excessive Heat: Have We Passed a Threshold?

Threshold book coverAll across southern California and the Colorado River Lower Basin in Arizona as far south as northern Mexico, an excessive heat warning has been declared by the National Weather Service for the next 4-5 days.

Phoenix is expected to reach temps as high as 120 degrees — well above the norm for this time of year.

In my soon-to-be-released novel, Threshold, heat and evaporating water supply are two threatening conditions that impinge on characters. While the book is set in the “very near future”, the plot is contemporary and presupposes what might happen in a metropolitan city like Tucson, Arizona.

The impacts of climate change will be felt differently across a city or region depending on a person’s personal resources, both financial and social. I wrote the story in Threshold to explore what might happen, and allowed characters to tell me what they would do.

Enrique dabbed his grandmother’s face with cold water, but her breathing grew shallow. He ran to fill the tub with water. But when he turned on the faucet, no water came out. In a panic now, he returned to his grandmother. . . It took him a few seconds to comprehend what had happened.

WILL A “NEW NORMAL” SPUR INNOVATION?

The Citizen’s Guide for Resilience to Climate Extremes is a planning guide for neighborhoods to increase their resiliency and to institute climate solutions such as planting trees for shade and making walk-able, bike-able neighborhoods. It is a community-based model any city will find useful to mobilize citizen’s for climate change.

Check back to read Guest Bloggers from Tucson and the Southwestern region. 

 

Birth of a novel…

Books I read that informed Threshold.
Books I read that informed first draft of Threshold.

In terms of years spent writing as a principle activity, I am a relatively new writer. In 2003 I decided to leave working full time to begin a life as an independent businesswoman. This gave me time to write with more purpose. Up until then, I had written memoir and nonfiction pieces, attended a few writing workshops, but had not truly found my purpose nor honed a writing life.

When I made the Big Transition from working for an institution to working for myself, I had been serving the Desert Museum in Tucson as the Director of Education. This was a great privilege for me–one that brought me close to many experts and passionate defenders of the biodiversity and cultural diversity of desert communities.

At the same time, scientists were reporting increasingly disturbing forecasts about climate changes on global scale. The Tucson and Phoenix metro areas were also reexamining their water management plans. Working for myself gave me more uninterrupted time to read and to plan a book.

Writer's Cabin - Frank Water's Foundation
Writer’s Cabin – Frank Water’s Foundation

Threshold was first drafted at the Frank Waters Foundation in 2006 after I was offered an 8-week writer’s residency. The little adobe artist’s cabin on the Frank Water’s property sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Frank Waters’ spirit pervades the property. He is considered the grandfather of the Southwestern novel, writing and publishing fiction and nonfiction works from the late 30s to the 80s. All his books are still in print, a fact that proves the relevance of his thoughts and writing. As I wrote my story, I felt Frank’s spirit about.

Aspen grove by cabin - Frank Waters Foundation
Aspen grove by cabin – Frank Waters Foundation

Armed with an outline for a plot that spanned three novels stretching to 2100, I drafted a speculative fiction novel with an enormous cast of characters. I left the mountains with a 400-page manuscript.

This was an impossible task for a new writer of fiction. But, sometimes ignorance allows a creative mind to accomplish more than expected.

TO BE CONTINUED

What the military knows about climate change…

350 Pensacola will host a talk by Brigadier General John Adams, (U.S. Army, Retired) on April 12.  He will discuss how the U.S. military is making plans for climate change at home and abroad.

When I worked in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of West Florida, I reviewed grant opportunities from the various military branches for research related to climate change. Going back to 2010 when I began serving UWF as a Senior Grant Specialist, I became aware that our own military was well “down the road” in planning for climate change. In contrast, our city and state were hard-pressed to let the words climate change leave their lips.

This disconnect is critical to American citizens working in their own communities to help plan for climate change.  Check out these sites below to see what our military is doing to prepare to mitigate climate change, and be sure to mark April 12 on your calendar. Go here for time, location, and more about General Adams’ lecture and discussion.

U.S. Military Links

Department of Defense (DoD)

Center for Climate and Security

Warming Earth, Changing Climate

Everywhere there is evidence that the Earth is warming at rates not seen in recorded history. Ice ages and temperate periods like the epoch in which we live (the Holocene) have come about over thousands of years. As human populations have increased exponentially, and as we have mined and refined carbon rich ores and deposits of oil, the concentration of greenhouse gases has increased in concert with emissions.

Warming the planet, changing the dynamics of wind and ocean currents, we are beginning to see changes in our ways of life. Agricultural changes include drought, floods, insect booms, and altered growing seasons. The ranges of tree and plant populations, and the insects and birds associated with them, are moving to higher altitudes in many places–changes that go unnoticed except by scientists and Peoples of Place (farmers, naturalists, indigenous cultures).

Without significant and coordinated actions at all levels of human government, we are likely to see major disruptions in our ways of life, and social conflict from disparities in resources to respond and survive.

Find out what your community is doing. Do you have solar companies? Other alternative energy companies? What is your state doing about carbon dioxide emissions?

SOLUTIONS ABOUND: WE NEED CITIZEN PARTICIPATION TO GET THERE

Florida Solar Energy Center

Southeastern Solar Research Center

Rocky Mountain Institute

Go to NOAA’s Vital Signs of the Planet to keep track of Earth changes.

For Sale: The Future of Gulf Coast Communities

cropped-pensacola-beach.jpgOn March 23, Pensacola citizens, ranging from age 7 to 70, traveled to New Orleans to protest the sale of 45M acres of Gulf Coastal waters and land for oil and gas exploration. 350 Pensacola rallied citizens to represent our area. Forty members of the community made the trip–nearly 20% of the 200 protesters who disrupted the sale of coastal lands at the Superdome on Wednesday.

During the protest, representatives from the oil and gas industry bid on the lands. Two chilling aspects of the experience were: 1) hearing the actual bids, some very low, for our precious resources called out during the chants from protesters; 2) observing the implacable faces of the industry representatives in the face of uninterrupted chanting and singing from protesters.

Later, as we enjoyed a beautiful day in New Orleans, I kept thinking about those faces, unmoved, like masks. I wondered what happens to people to become part of a violent process that is destructive to marine waters and impacts the health and well being of the people who live in the path of oil spills or  areas where petroleum is refined. Hilton Kelley, a Texas citizen and winner of a Goldman Environmental Prize, addressed the protesters and media about the struggle and successes of his community in Port Arthur, Texas to work with industry to protect people from harmful chemicals and spills from petroleum refining. Kelley is also a poet:

Escambia and Santa Rosa County face their own threats to ocean and estuary habitats. Florida – a state which has notoriously exploited its own natural resources – banned offshore drilling to protect its major industry: tourism. Now, however, the state legislature is opening up its fragile aquifers to fracking and oil exploration. Santa Rosa County has already approved applications from oil companies for exploration in the shared aquifer with Pensacola. Escambia County has an application from Breitburn Operating for one as of July 2015. In a parallel process, the Escambia Board of County Commissioners is making decisions about how to spend $10M in BP fines from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill which devastated Pensacola’s economy and impacted the health of marine environments locally.

As I think back about my experience on Wednesday, this chant, and the little children up front chanting with their homemade signs rang in my memory:

“The people united can never be defeated.”

 

 

 

 

 

Living Dangerously

Fish and Wildlife Photo: www.fws.gov
Fish and Wildlife Photo: http://www.fws.gov

“We are living dangerously by not being able to change in a time of climate change.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

To the Best of Our Knowledge broadcast an interview with Terry Tempest Williams. Here she talks about researching and writing her soon to be released book (The Hour of Land) on the history of our public parks, in this the centennial year of the founding of the National Parks.

Here is the interview.

For a look at how Terry relates to our public lands and actualizes her beliefs, here is a short interview with her on Democracy Now where she describes buying more than 1700 acres of public lands in a rather private sale of public land for oil leasing where an acre costs about a $1.50 for the right to drill and keep the profits. She is redefining “energy” in how she intends to explore these public lands. This is a very enlightening and motivating example of what one person can do to stop the destruction of critical, sacred habitat.

http://www.democracynow.org/2016/2/18/keep_it_in_the_ground_author

Have we traded for something of lesser value?

Little handsIs an education replete of nature literacy of lesser value than an education which incorporates values and skills that enable a person to live responsibly within nature?

Reflecting on meeting a woman who held a doctoral degree, but who admitted that she was unaware of the annual migration of cranes in her own state, Aldo Leopold questioned whether modern education has “traded for something of lesser value”. He said this in the context of being aware, of paying attention to the goings and comings of wildlife and seasons, and by that, knowing fundamentally where you live and how to live there without destroying it.

David Orr goes further by asking What is Education For?

This is not an argument for ignorance but rather a statement that the worth of education must now be measured against the standards of decency and human survival-the issues now looming so large before us in the twenty-first century. It is not education, but education of a certain kind, that will save us.

Orr points out in this essay that its educated people who are most destructive to the Earth and ecosystems. What went wrong?

What do you think? Should education ensure that all American students will graduate knowing their place within the natural world, and understanding the responsibilities therein? Would you consider that kind of education basic literacy? Higher education? Why or why not?

Other Interesting Reading Along These Lines:

Richard Louv: The Nature Principle

What 20th Century Nature Study Can Teach Us

Pinterest: Nature Journals

Capitol Polemic

Staircase Detail Up to DomeHistory and JusticeFreedomCapitol Bldg RotundaHouse Chambers Hall to House of RepsCapital Bldg Daytime19th Century Handpainted Ceiling_House at CapitalDuring a trip to Washington D.C. Congressman John Mica offered to take our group on a special evening tour of the Capitol Building. He is a real history buff and with 21 years serving in the House of Representatives he has a few good stories…

These photos taken with my smartphone speak for themselves. The quality of workmanship and art in the architecture, paintings and sculpture makes my proud of my government. Washington D. C. has long been my personal inspiration.

The workshop I attended was a special session of Florida State Public Universities. We met with representatives from Department of Defense and major uniform services, and then with staffers from Democratic and Republican representatives with the Florida delegation.

Given the acrimony and loss of the traditions of discussion and respect for disparate viewpoints, many Junior Conservative representatives have never experienced what staffers described as the Regular Order of legislation. They all expressed dismay with ongoing sequestration, little hope of a bipartisan spending bill, and the general loss of appreciation for the 200-year-old process of compromise to pass bills that work for the America Public.

Capitol Nightime

Religion’s Role in Caring for the Earth

Religious groups are exploring their role in curbing climate change. One of the Land Ethic Books Clubs that I am facilitating in my community, the Lathram Chapel United Methodist Church in Barrineau Park, FL, is looking deeply into the scriptural directions for caring for the earth.

The Guardian the British news publication and winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service is focusing on climate change. The Greatest Story in the World, a podcast on climate change is part of the current efforts to start deeper discussions about institutional and individual roles in solving climate change. This is Episode 9, Religion. Here is the link. 

Faith groups have huge followings and have adopted climate change as a cause for decades. What can the Guardian learn from religion? Can the paper use the language of sacrifice when it doesn’t have the same offer of salvation?

We strongly recommend that you listen to the series from the beginning.

Related resources
Neil Thorns – How will the world react to the Pope’s encyclical on climate change

Suzanne Goldenberg – Climate change denial is immoral says the head of the episcopal church

Damian Carrington – Church of England wields its influence in fight against climate change

~ Guardian Podcast, Episode 9

Warming Ocean Surface Temps…

From the Environmental News Service

ASHEVILLE, North Carolina, July 21, 2009 (ENS) – The world’s ocean surface temperature in June rose to its warmest since 1880, breaking the previous high mark set in 2005, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville.

The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for June was second-warmest since global recordkeeping began.

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2009 was the second warmest on record, behind 2005, 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit (0.62 degree C) above the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees F (15.5 degrees C).

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