The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption by Dahr Jamail

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The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption is a work of investigative journalism by Dahr Jamail, conducted during the period April 2016 to July 2017 on the front lines of human-caused climate disruption. Having lived in Alaska for ten years (1996-2006), Jamail had witnessed the dramatic impact of global warming on the glaciers there.

Jamail’s original aim was to alert readers about “the urgency of our planetary crisis through firsthand accounts of what is happening to the glaciers, forest, wildlife, coral reefs, and oceans, alongside data provided by leading scientists who study them.” His reporting took him to climate disruption hot spots in Alaska, California, Florida, and Montana in the United States; Palau in the Western Pacific Ocean; Great Barrier Reef, Australia; and the Amazon Forest in Manaus, Brazil. His grief at what was happening to nature made him realize that “only by having this intimacy with the natural world can we fully understand how dramatically our actions are impacting it.”

Below are excerpts of assessments expressed to the author by scientists and other professionals working on the front lines.

Gulkana Glacier – Alaska – USA
Photo Credit: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

The magnitude of change in Alaska is easy to miss because Alaska is such a massive state, and largely undeveloped. That is why you’ve had no idea that Alaska’s glaciers are losing an estimated 75 billion tons of ice every year.
~ Dr. Mike Loso, a physical scientist with the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

[The rate of melting of Montana’s glaciers] is an explosion, a nuclear explosion of geologic change. This is unusual, it is incredibly rapid and exceeds the ability for normal adaption. We’ve shoved it into overdrive and taken our hands off the wheel.”
~ Dr. Dan Farge, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research ecologist and director of the Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems Project, Montana.

This last summer [2015], the Gulf [of Alaska] warmed up 15℃ [59℉] warmer than normal in some areas… And it is now, overall, 5℃ [41℉] above normal in both the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, and has been all winter long.
~ Bruce Wright, a senior scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) and former section chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for eleven years.

St. Paul Island – Pribilof Islands – Bering Sea – Alaska
Photo Credit: St. Paul Island Tour

We hardly eat seals anymore, or the birds, and people now get food stamps and social handouts and welfare and shop at the store. When I grew up, we didn’t need any of that because we always had seals and birds and fish to eat. If the fur seals aren’t here, neither will we be.
~Jason Bourdukofsky Sr., the president of TDX, Alaska’s native corporation on St. Paul Island, Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea.

Bleached Coral – Great Barrier Reef – Australia
Photo Credit: Great Barrier Reef Legacy

The warming [of the oceans] we’re seeing now is happening far too fast to allow for [coral] evolution…. So what we’re seeing now is death. That’s what [coral] bleaching is…. Right now the largest ecosystem on Earth is undergoing its death throes and no one is there to watch it.
~ Dr. Dean Miller, a marine scientist and director of science and media for Great Barrier Reef Legacy, Australia.

Even if your home [in South Florida] may be elevated, all the infrastructure and freshwater and sewage treatment and getting rid of the sewage…all of this infrastructure is critically vulnerable to sea level rise.
~ Dr. Ben Kirtman, one of the leading sea level experts in the world and program director for the Climate and Environmental Hazards program at the University of Miami’s Center for Computational Science.

Sea level rise is going to accelerate faster than the models, and it’s not going to stop. So the government [of the State of Florida] has to have a plan that includes buyouts. It’s cheaper to buy this area [Coral Gables] out than it is to maintain the infrastructure.
~ Dr. Harold Wanless, professor and chair of the Department of Geological Science, University of Miami, Coral Gables campus.

Sea Level Rise – Matheson Hammock Park – Coral Gables – Florida (2016)
Photo Credit: Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA)

You know what the burden is? It’s looking up through the political hierarchy above me to the state legislature, to the governor, U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate, the White House, and you ask, Who is minding the shop? Who else knows what I know?… What kind of morality allows them to ignore what is going to happen?
~ Dr. Philip Stoddard, mayor of South Miami and a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University.

We need to educate people about what is really going on with climate disruption…. I made a personal decision to not have kids, because I don’t have a future to offer them. I don’t think we are going to win this battle. I think we are really done.
~ Dr. Rita Mesquita, a biologist and researcher with Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA), Manaus, Amazonas.

The dire position we’re in now is solid evidence of the fact that the predominant civilization does not have a handle on all the interrelationships between humans and what we call the natural world. If it did, we wouldn’t be facing this dire situation.
~ Stan Rushworth, elder of Cherokee descent who has taught Native American literature and critical thinking classes focused on Indigenous perspectives.

Jamail concludes that we are already facing mass extinction. We can’t remove the heat now stored in the oceans, yet we keep on pumping 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Our future is uncertain. Writing this book was his attempt to bear witness to what we have done to the Earth. “I am committed in my bones to being with the Earth,” he writes, “no matter what, to the end.”

DAHR JAMAIL

Dahr Jamail, a reporter for Truthout, is the author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Disintegration of a Nation (co-authored with William Rivers Pitt). Over the past fifteen years, Jamail has also reported from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. An accomplished mountaineer who has worked as a volunteer rescue ranger on Denali, Alaska, he won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism and is a 2018 winner of the Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism. Jamail is also the recipient of the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, and five Project Censored Awards. 
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“The Leash” – Poem by Ada Limón

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Front Cover The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limón
Milkweed Editions – Minnesota/USA – August 2018
Photo Credit: Ada Limón

 

My Poetry Corner March 2019 features the poem “The Leash” from the poetry collection, The Carrying: Poems, by Ada Limón. Native of Sonoma, California, Limón is a poet, writer, and teacher. After earning an MFA in creative writing from the University of New York, she spent the next ten years working for various magazines, such as Martha Stewart Living, GQ, and Travel + Living. In 2011, she moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to be close to her now-husband, Lucas, a business owner in the horse racing industry. In addition to working as a freelance writer, she serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte (NC) and the online and summer programs for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center (MA).

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader magazine (August 2018), Limón says that The Carrying, her fifth book of poetry, “is incredibly personal. It’s more political than my other books… It deals with the body, with fertility. It also deals with what it is to do the day-to-day work of surviving.”

In her poem, “The Vulture & The Body,” she shares her struggle with infertility. In coming to terms with the failure of fertility treatment, she asks:

What if, instead of carrying
a child, I am supposed to carry grief? Continue reading

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The basic science for how climate change triggers severe cold weather in wintertime — The Secular Jurist

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By Robert A. Vella. It may seem paradoxical to laypeople that we would have severe cold weather spells in wintertime given that the world is rapidly warming up due to manmade climate change; and, climate change deniers are quick to exploit this paradox for political reasons.  But, it is true.  Global warming is increasing the incidence of extreme weather events of every kind from prolonged droughts and powerful storms to deadly heat waves and brutal cold snaps.  The following details the basic science behind the phenomenon popularly, though inaccurately, known as the “polar vortex.” The real polar vortex is something else altogether…

via The basic science for how climate change triggers severe cold weather in wintertime — The Secular Jurist

The Green New Deal: Are Americans ready for bold action?

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Sunrise Movement protesters outside then Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s Office – December 10, 2018
Photo Credit: Sunrise Movement

 

While our president is fixated on building a wall along our southern border to keep us safe from the invasion of “bad hombres,” he refuses to acknowledge our greatest existential threat: climate change disruption. Young climate change activists, clamoring for bold action, have found a champion in the newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). At twenty-nine years, she is the youngest member of the US House of Representatives.

On February 7, 2019, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) introduced a nonbinding resolution that sets out the framework for the Green New Deal. The proposal has gathered 64 House and nine Senate Co-Sponsors, including presidential hopefuls Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In an interview with Politico, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), not present at the unveiling, referred to the proposal as a mere suggestion.

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi said. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is but they’re for it right?”

The Green New Deal Resolution – List of Co-Sponsors
Photo Credit: Sunrise Movement

 

In the preamble, the Green New Deal Resolution cites the critical findings of the October 2018 “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5℃” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment: Volume II Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States. Continue reading

“There are Many Traps in the World” by Brazilian Poet Ferreira Gullar

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Historical Center of São Luís – Maranhão – Brazil
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Portuguese colonial architecture
Photo Credit: Kamaleao

 

My Poetry Corner February 2019 features the poem “There are Many Traps in the World” (No Mundo Há Muitas Armadilhas) by Ferreira Gullar (1930-2016), a Brazilian poet, playwright, art critic, and essayist. Born in São Luís, capital of the northeastern state of Maranhão, he was the fourth child of eleven siblings of a poor, working-class family.

As a young man, while earning a living as a radio announcer and editor of literary magazines, Gullar frequented poetry readings and devoured books of poetry by the best of Brazilian and foreign poets. At nineteen, he published his first poetry collection. But he saw no future in his suffocating, small-town life in the impoverished northeast region. He fled to Rio de Janeiro in the early 1950s, where he worked as a journalist for magazines and newspapers.

Beginning in 1962, his work reflected his concern about combating oppression and social injustice. After becoming a member of the communist party, he joined the struggle against the military dictatorship (1964-1985). Following his arrest and imprisonment in 1968, he went into exile in 1971. For the next six years, he lived in Moscow, Santiago, and Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires in 1975, fearful for his safety in the wake of Argentina’s military takeover (1976-1983), he wrote his best-known work, “Dirty Poem” (Poema Sujo).

Ferreira Gullar among millions of students and other demonstrators gathered to protest against military dictatorship – Rio de Janeiro – Brazil – June 26, 1968
Photo Credit: Folha de São Paulo

 

In the opening stanza of the featured poem, “There are Many Traps in the World,” Gullar makes a simple declaration:

There are many traps in the world
and what is a trap could be a refuge
and what is a refuge could be a trap 

Some traps that we humans perceive as refuge come to mind: religion, cults, Facebook, and narcotic drugs. Continue reading

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Why Technology Changes Who We Trust — The Conversation Room

Trust is the foundation of all human connections. From brief encounters to intimate relationships, it governs almost every interaction we have with each other. I trust my housemates not to go into my room without asking, I trust the bank to keep my money safe and I trust the pilot of my plane to fly […]

via Why Technology Changes Who We Trust — The Conversation Room

The Empire’s Fading Light

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The Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall
surviving projections of great power
of ancient dynasties and empires
defense against barbarian attacks
breached by invaders and internal strife.

East Germany’s Berlin Wall of our times
projection of fear and intolerance
of the communist Soviet Union
defense against divergent policies
razed by cries for freedom and inclusion.

The USA-Mexico border wall
projection of fear and intolerance
defense against criminal invaders
withdrawal from global alliances
to stoke dispersion of moral decay.

The flame of Lady Liberty sputters
a refuge no more for Earth’s dispossessed
freedom, inclusion, human dignity
hostages of cries for former glory
strangled in the empire’s fading light.

“Unwritten Poem” – Poem by Barbados’ First Poet Laureate Esther Phillips

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minister of culture appoints poet esther phillips as barbados' first poet laureate - february 2018

Minister of Culture appoints Poet Esther Phillips as Barbados’ first Poet Laureate – February 2018
Photo Credit: Barbados Government Information Services

 

My Poetry Corner January 2019 features the poem “Unwritten Poem” from the poetry collection, The Stone Gatherer, by Esther Phillips, a poet and educator born in Barbados, where she still resides. In February 2018, she was appointed the first Poet Laureate of the Caribbean island-nation.

After attending the Barbados Community College at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, she won a James Michener fellowship to the University of Miami where, in 1999, she gained an MFA degree in Creative Writing. Her poetry collection/thesis won the Alfred Boas Poetry Prize of the Academy of American Poets.

In 2001, she won the leading Barbadian Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award. Years later, the third of her three well-received poetry collections, Leaving Atlantis (2015), won the Governor General’s Award for Literary Excellence.

Phillips is a Sunday columnist of the Nation newspaper and editor of Bim: Arts for the 21st Century, a 2007 revival of the seminal Caribbean literary and arts magazine, first published in 1942. In 2012, she formed Writers Ink Inc. and, together with its members, the Bim Literary Festival & Book Fair. Continue reading

Year 2018: Reflections

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Year 2018 was filled with disappointments, self-doubt, and loss of direction. After completing my second novel, The Twisted Circle, in September 2017, I failed to grab the attention of literary agents or publishers.

“Not quite the right fit for us,” respondents said.

“You’re not good enough,” my inner critic said.

Drowning in self-doubt, I clung to the recognition that my yet-to-be-published first novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, had received when shortlisted for the 2014 Dundee International Book Prize.

Each attempt to get started on my third novel, to be set in Brazil, fizzled out. The Top Boss in the White House held my afflicted heart in his grip. My mind became a barren landscape of shifting sand dunes. In September, I abandoned my writing project.

Where do I go from here? The answer still evades me. Continue reading

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Dispelling Myths About Migration — my quest blog

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With thousands of migrants from Central America currently stranded just south of the US border in Mexico, it’s time to ignore the political rhetoric coming from Washington for a few minutes and focus on the reasons so many choose to leave country, culture and family behind and walk 2,500 miles (4,000 kms) to an unknown […]

via Dispelling Myths About Migration — my quest blog

This Christmas, I find no reason for celebration. My thoughts are with the desperate mothers and fathers from Guatemala and other Central American countries who seek only a secure life for their children. If we, the world’s largest economy, cannot provide them with refuge, who will?

Learn about Henry Lewis, my guest blogger.