The Epidemic No One’s Talking About

For the last few months, the world has been watching the spread of the deadly coronavirus and lives have been upended in the uncertainty of its trajectory. Governments have been mobilizing their responses and businesses have shut down operations. And all the while there’s been another lethal and massive epidemic building. One that has largely escaped our attention. For the third time in the last five years, the Great Barrier Reef’s corals are predicted to undergo widespread bleaching. On February 16, NOAA’s coral reef watch system issued an alert level of 1, meaning significant bleaching was likely, for the northern and southern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef, a region that spans 1400 miles, roughly the distance from Tijuana to Vancouver. Today, the alert has been raised to the highest level. NOAA’s map of the reef is slathered in blood-red. Severe bleaching and significant mortality […]

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Our Ocean 2017

Something happened that I didn’t see reported in any news sources that I follow and I think more of us should know about it. On October 5th and 6th, leaders from around the world met for the fourth Our Ocean conference. Started by Secretary John Kerry in 2014, the meeting is like a G20 or UNFCCC for the oceans. It’s high-level talks about the health of our seas. The real reason why this meeting is newsworthy is because it’s not supposed to be just talk. The goal is to produce commitments to ensure the oceans’ safety and health. This year, over $6 billion was pledged. The EU hosted the meeting in Malta and also committed more than $645 million to tackle problems like plastic pollution, protecting marine ecosystems, combating climate change, and countering piracy. Participants from 100 countries were there including 50 Heads of State or ministers. […]

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Groping for Hope?

  Last week I attended the SXSWeco conference in Austin and had the enormous pleasure of meeting, Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist whose mission is to connect people over solutions to climate change, one of the most polarizing issues in our country. There is no one more articulate at explaining why we all share the values needed to solve climate change. Oh, and she’s also an Evangelical Christian, which puts her in a very lonely place on the Venn diagram of the United States. Katharine is such a breath of fresh air during a tough season. From a Presidential election with too much talk about groping to more bombs in the Middle East and the horror of Hurricane Matthew, it’s been a cacophony of bad news lately. But just when it has all seemed too much, there, in the usually gloomy recesses of climate change news, Katharine pointed out that some truly wonderful stories […]

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By-the-wind Sailor

Since April, hordes of bright blue jellies have been stranding themselves on the Pacific coast. Reports from Oregon and Washington started washing in mid-April with numbers of jellies in the thousands. They swept down the coast to northern California where reported abundances reached millions. When the jellies surfed into southern California in early May, news stories claimed billions of cookie-sized azure animals carpeted the shoreline. Not just beaches, but coastal waters have been inundated. The Columbia River sector of the Coast Guard has responded to nine potential oil spills that turned out to be floating armadas of indigo jellies. The species of jelly blanketing the Pacific coast goes by a number of names, all equally poetic. The Latin name of this animal is the melodic Velella velella, which means “little sail,” and that’s one of the common names of the creature too. But it also goes by purple sail […]

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Rethinking Mother Earth at the Arcade

The prize store at the Main Event, a family fun center in a strip mall in north Austin, sucks. And I know I’m not just an aged-out mom on this count. My kids hate it too. They just don’t realize they hate it. My daughter is stuck deciding if she wants to spend her prize tickets on the cheap, sparkly headband that leaves her with 10 tickets and not get the Sour Patch Kids candy. Because those cost 20 tickets. Or she can get seven packets of Sour Patch Kids candy, and no headband. She knows the headband will break soon. But it’s so sparkly. Yet, the candy is so good and sour and I won’t buy it for her. So the place sucks. And it requires much walking in circles evaluating choices. Adding, subtracting, agonizing, eventually tears. By the time the tears come, I’m so overstimulated from […]

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A Winning Lottery Ticket

“More Canadian-produced Crown Royal is shipped to Texas than anywhere else,” explained Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer speaking to the Jackson School of Geosciences at UT just before spring break. Tall, distinguished, with a shock of gray-hair, Doer added, “I think it would be easier to get whiskey in a pipeline to Texas than oil.” The quip was aimed at the elephant in the room, the controversial Keystone-XL Pipeline, which is intended to ferry oil from the tar sands of central Canada to refineries near Houston. Environmental groups have launched attacks on the pipeline and their loud opposition grabbed the attention of the Democrats, including President Obama, who has delayed giving the project his approval for almost five years. Demonstrating Canada’s awareness of and involvement with key environmental issues, Doer reminded the audience of the Montreal Protocol, signed in Canada, which brought together the entire world to bar […]

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