Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Look Back at Harry Potter

The most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine (one of my guilty pleasures) had the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie on the cover. I didn't care about that too much, but it turned out the issue contained page after page of interesting material on various aspects of the Harry Potter movies and books.

The most interesting of all was this map, hand-drawn by J.K. Rowling years ago to explain the area around Hogwarts:

From this map, I finally realized how the road from the train station runs around the lake, past Hogsmeade, and then to the gates of Hogwarts. What a silly way to build a transit node!

The other coolest thing was a pair of sketches of the first book's cover. First, the cover they used:

The magazine layout shows the way the illustration wraps the spine, and it keys several parts of the art to call out the story elements portrayed.

The magazine also included this alternate cover sketch for the first book, featuring the three-headed dog:

Mary GrandPré, the illustrator of the original U.S. book series, added a lot to the success of the books and I'm happy to see her recognized for that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A New Cover for Dune

I share a common beloved book with many science fiction readers of my generation: Dune by Frank Herbert. I remember that I borrowed it from my high school library in 11th grade. It was a big fat paperback and I put off starting it, though I must have heard somewhere that it was worth reading, because the back cover blurb said something about giant worms.

As the day drew near when my two or three weeks with it was up, I debated whether to renew it. While sitting in play practice one day, I started reading it and so I decided to give a few more weeks. Good choice, 16-year-old me!

The book (like much science fiction writing that has come since then) is kind of a hard start: Herbert immediately immerses you in a universe without any back story, and I probably spent the first half of it trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

But then I caught on and loved it to the point where I wrote an unassigned term paper about it my senior year.

Anyway... yesterday I saw this new cover for the book while I was perusing Uncle Hugo's selections:

Beautiful and evocative. A+ to the cover designer.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Some Land Masses Have More to Mass than Others

In a recent post, I showed a map that scales countries relative to their populations. It showed (of course) that Russia and Canada are pretty dang small, compared to how much territory they cover.

But I didn't mention that the Mercator projection, the version of the world we usually see, is also really distorted when it comes to Russia (and Canada and Greenland) and the Northern Hemisphere in general. And particularly that downplays the massive size of Africa.

Jason Kottke today posted several graphics and a video that visualize those distortions.

First is this animated gif by Neil Kaye dramatizes the reduction needed of those inflated countries. The animation gives this comparative result:

Kottke also reminded me of one of his posts from 2016, which showed these three particular comparison maps:

The blue land mass is Greenland, which is smaller than India, though you would never know it from the Mercator projection.

Looking at some of the places, I see that Alaska is about as large as Libya, when Mercator makes it look as though it's as large as all of West Africa. The Lower 48/Australia comparison shows that Australia is basically the same size as the Lower 48, minus New York and New England.


I have discussed the Mercator projection in the past... but every time I'm reminded, it hits me almost like it's the first time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Transportation Energy Efficiency

Check out this graph from Evolving Cities, which was shared by former Vancouver head planner Brent Toderian:

Not surprisingly, the modes that don't use fossil fuels or the electric grid are most efficient. (They also take up the least space.) But there are a couple of surprises in there:

  • Motorcycles use a lot more energy than buses and trams/light rail, and are not that much better on energy use than cars
  • Planes are worse than trucks or taxicabs, of course, but not as much worse as I would have thought (and, I assume, ride services like Uber and Lyft have a similar energy use)
  • And cabs are bad, bad, bad!
This info is not about greenhouse gas emissions, of course: I assume planes would be the worst on that, and other differences would emerge as well. But it's still an interesting way to look at it.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Another Upside of Renewable Energy

This story, from the Los Angeles Times, predates the IPCC report by over a month, but I just heard about it today when it was excerpted in the Star Tribune's Sunday science and tech section. It's titled "Wind and solar farms can make their own weather, including extra rain over the Sahara."

The upshot is that researchers modeled three scenarios of renewable energy installations in the Sahara and the adjacent Sahel region: one all-wind, one all-solar, and one a mix of the two. Then they modeled the effects on the local climate.

The solar panel scenario covered 20 percent of the land. The wind turbines were 300' tall (no mention is made in the story of how much area they covered). The mixed scenario would produce about 82 terawatts of electrical power (for scale, that compares with 17 terrawatts currently used worldwide).

For the wind-only scenario, the researchers' first finding sounds like bad news:

...the giant turbines would cause warmer air from above to mix with cooler air below, bringing more heat close to the surface. Air temperatures near the ground would increase by nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
But that heat has positive effects:
the turbines [also] would interrupt the smoothness of the desert surface. Winds blowing through the area would move more slowly.

That, combined with the added heat, would change the atmospheric conditions over the Sahara and bring more moisture to the area. Average rainfall would increase by up to 0.25 of a millimeter per day — about double what it would have been otherwise, according to the study.

The additional water would fuel plant growth, and those extra plants would reduce the amount of sunlight that’s reflected off the desert surface.

From there, it’s a positive feedback loop, the researchers explained: The reduced reflectivity (or surface albedo) enhances precipitation, which fuels plant growth, which reduces albedo, and so on.
The solar panels don't increase the temperature as much as the turbines, but also have a positive effect because their dark surfaces inherently reduce the desert's albedo and lead to a similar feedback loop of increased rain, more plants, and so on.

The scale of these imagined installations is obviously gigantic, but that's what it will take to replace our fossil-fuel-based energy system. It's good to see that it's possible the installations themselves can have positive effects in the places where they might be located.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Hillman Prize and Sidney Award

There's an update on Hannah Dreier's ProPublica/This American Life audio story called The Runaways (which I wrote about here): She won the October 2018 Sidney Award, which is given for socially conscious journalism. I hope the award means a lot more people will listen to the story. Looking through the past winners, I see lots of stories I remember from when they were published. Good work, people. You're doing the job of journalism.

The award is named for Sidney Hillman and given by the Hillman Foundation, which was created in 1946 to honor the founder and leader of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. The foundation also has given a Hillman Prize in several media categories since 1950. The winning book for 2018, for instance, is Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law (which I have previously recommended here and here).

If you're looking for good reading on a range of topics, I recommend using these prize lists as a guide.

Friday, October 12, 2018

When Neutral Is Not Neutral

Here are a few recent examples of supposedly race-neutral policies that are anything but. Most have to do with voting rights, but not all.

For instance, in Ohio, people who live in counties with high unemployment are able to receive EBT (food stamps) without having to show they are looking for work. People who live in counties with lower unemployment have to show they are looking for work. Well, wonder of wonders, guess who lives in the exempt counties? White people. And while the unemployment rate may be lower in the counties where black folks are more likely to live, that's the overall unemployment rate, not the black unemployment rate, which history shows is usually at least twice the white unemployment rate. (And I wonder how the exact unemployment cutoff percent was determined, too. Cherry-picking?)

On voting, there are almost too many examples to name, but here are a couple.

Native Americans living on reservations are not served by the U.S. Postal Services to their doors. (Now there's a fact I did not know until recently.) Whether they mind that or not, I don't know, but they've gotten by using P.O. boxes in nearby towns. Now, though, this reality is being used by the legislature of North Dakota to bar native people from voting, because after 2012, when Heidi Heitkamp won reelection to her seat in the U.S. Senate by about 3,000 votes, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a law insisting that the voter IDs required at the polls show a street address. Which, as they knew, many reservation-based native people do not have because of the USPS policy. Clever, huh? What you almost might call surgical precision in its targeting.

Then there's the attempt in Alabama a few years ago to close DMVs (where voter registration takes place) in black-majority counties across the state... that was abandoned after major outcry. Now, instead, we have Georgia enforcing an "exact match" name policy that just happens to snag way more black and Latino voters than it does white voters. 53,000 of them, in fact. (Hyphenated names, names with accents in them that may or may not be included depending on data entry, unusual names that get misspelled by workers... gee, who would those details affect the most?) Not to mention the secretary of state for Georgia — the one who's responsible for free and fair elections — is a white guy who's also running for governor against a black woman, so he has no interest in making sure black people get to vote.

Oh, and Indiana has purged 20,000 voters... and an Ohio court just upheld that state's purging. As Ari Berman has documented, Florida has a history of purging black and Latino voters by labeling them felons when they aren't; I'm hoping the state will pass its November ballot initiative to restore voting rights to people who have served their sentences, which would take care of these purges as well.

The clever part is that these purges and other exclusions remove some white voters too, because it's a numbers game: as long as the few white voters excluded are greatly outnumbered by the voters of color, it works for the cause, because it's all about winning, rather than having free and fair elections.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Signs from Afar

Signs are one of the things I can't help noticing, and when I'm in a new place, there are just so many that are worth remembering! Here are a few from my trip to Europe. They seem to fall into two categories: beautiful (often vintage) and funny.

First, the beautiful ones:



Copenhagen. I appreciate these 19th century kiosks, but I wonder why they only display old posters and placards, rather than current ones? This use relegates them to the past instead of supporting Copehagen's present-day street life.

One of the many public art displays in Freetown Christiania, Copenhagen.


Antwerp (in an antique store).

A child care center in Copenhagen. How many U.S. child care centers have this much personality? (The name means Aunt Olga's Child House.)


And then the funny ones:





Antwerp. (If only our beg buttons could accomplish this!)


Antwerp. (Exterminate!)

The last sign, from the Vesterbro neighborhood in Copenhagen, doesn't fit into either of my categories, though I think it's pretty well-designed. I just liked its image of a Sisyphean stick figure pushing the anarchy symbol up a hill:

The text at the bottom of the poster translates roughly as "You are stronger than you think...and they fear the day you find out."

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Workers Museum

One last museum from my trip to a few European countries. This one is the Workers Museum in Copenhagen. It's not a large museum, and as might be expected from its topic, it's humble compared to many other museums I've seen. The experience of going through it is not as controlled through layout as in most museums I've visited, for instance.

We started with an exhibit that contained this wall-hanging:

Which is the Danish wording of the well-known labor adage, "8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest, 8 hours for what we will."

The museum and its content are unapologetically social-democratic.

One section focused on the retirement benefits won over the years through the workers' struggle.

Speaking/reading no Danish at all, sometimes I could only appreciate the beauty of the lettering on some of the historic signs included:

This sign is inside a recreation of a 1950s working-class coffee bar.

The biggest exhibition in the museum was on the second floor of the labor hall adjoining the main museum. It featured the work of Peter Peitersen (1922–1988), a bricklayer, illustrator, and graphic designer. To protest working conditions, Peitersen drew posters and flyers for demonstrations and protest meetings, created large figures to be driven around on vehicles when demonstrating, and produced drawings for the unions’ papers. Here are a couple of his posters:

According to the accompanying panels, Peitersen believed "art should not only reach the people — it was a weapon in the battle to improve conditions for ordinary people."

He was born in Aarhus, Jutland, where he also lived most of his life. Every day he walked from one building site to the other estimating the prices of the work he bricklayers were to do.

He knew the streets, the workplaces and the pubs like the back of this hand. Above all, he knew the people he encountered there. His pictures are about these people.

As a youngster Peter Peitersen took a drawing course. In the mid-1950s, he also attended a course, where he drew a live model. He never had any other artistic training and taught himself the rest.

In the 1950s he exhibited his pictures with the artist group De 10 at Aarhus town hall, but this wasn’t satisfying. He didn’t want to create pictures only to exhibit them. His pictures were to depict the reality of the worker and the unemployed. They were to be seen by ordinary people and give them a feeling of solidarity.

Through art, he could make himself be heard and protest the injustices in society.
One prominent piece in the exhibit wasn't a poster, but a piece of political art, called Cultural Imperialism and dated 1952:

The accompanying card reads, "It looks like a drunk standing in a gateway vomiting, but it’s American culture that has been on the menu. Was Peter Peitersen inspired by the Marshall Plan aid to create the drawing?" (I can't help thinking the vomiting figure, representing the U.S., looks like our current president, but that's not possible, given the date.)

Last out of the mouth is a fat-cat banker, but he's preceded by a soldier, a bunch of crosses, a copy of the Danish newspaper Avisen, a woman in a bikini, a café sign...

...the Lone Ranger (or maybe just a cowboy), a superhero, a pinup girl, Popeye, an airplane, and a few other figures I can't identify.

It seemed to fit squarely in the tradition of anti-imperialist art that used to be common but isn't seen much anymore, and I wish I could have reproduced it better here.

See more of Peitersen's work on the museum's website.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Hard to Read, But Necessary

I know it seems, from reading this blog lately, as though my only information access is through Twitter. That's not true, since I read two newspapers and allow myself one news/commentary show a day, but Twitter is usually where I see news first. It may not surprise you to know that I follow a lot of journalists and community activists.

Here are two threads from yesterday that both set me back.

First, from SaraSuze @tragedythyme (content warning for sexual harassment and worse):

A quick reminder for men: Common events for you can turn into really scary situations for women in a snap. Case in point: This week I listed a clothes dryer on the Letgo app. Because it was a dryer, a neutral meeting location was impractical. I needed it taken out of my house.

To try to stay safe, I decided to only allow people to pick it up after 5:00 when my husband would be home. But a guy who works nights asked if he could come in the a.m. instead; I said yes as long as you're here before husband leaves for work.

The next morning, buyer isn't here before husband leaves. I message and tell him not to come. He shows up 15 minutes later. In addition to being late, he has no dolly or help, despite the ad saying the dryer was in a basement and you'd have to remove yourself.

He says he will come back with help, I say after 5:00 would be great. He then asks if he could just see it real quick before coming back and bringing someone over, in case he doesn't want it. So, now I have a decision to make.

I quickly try to assess my likelihood of danger, as every woman has done so, so many times. It's instinct. First, what's his age? Late 60s, early 70s. He's tall but thin. Wearing a wedding ring. Hasn't smiled at me strangely or looked at me for too long. I make a judgment call.

Feeling like he's more likely to be safe than unsafe, and feeling badly about not letting him see the dryer, I invite him in. Once in the basement, he's POSITIVE he can get it out with just a LITTLE help he says, looking at me. Fuck it. I pick up a side.

Walk to the stairs is fine. We're sharing the work. With each stair, I'm feeling more and more of the weight. I'm sweating. Heaving. Pissed. Halfway up the stairs and it feels like he's doing NOTHING. And then I see it. The look on his face.

He's staring at me, hard. Right in the eyes, sly smile on his lips. My hair is matted to my forehead. I can't get a comfortable grip. I'm just about to ask him what's going on - is he even lifting? - when he starts to speak.

"Damn, girl. Look at you. Man, those thighs. Put em to work, huh? That sweat looks good on you. Workin thighs like that, I bet your husband is a happy man. C'mon, show me what you got." I was mortified. And I'm realizing I can't get out. He & a dryer I'm lifting are blocking me.

So I do what women do, lower my eyes, pretend to laugh a little, start lifting faster. The comments and staring hey worse but I try to block them out. As soon as I am free of the basement I walk straight past him to my phone, wait 5 seconds, and say, "honey, the buyer is here!"

And wanna guess what happened? He left without buying it. Was this guy going murder me? Probably not. But I'm not sure. Am I pissed I had to worry about being murdered in my own home because grandpa creeper likes sweaty women? Yeah. Fucker.

The point - other than my being pissed and wanting to tell people - is that events like this, even when we come out ok, take an emotional toll. I was scared. He left more and more of the weight on me and watched me squirm. And now I have one more "thing" that I have to worry about.

So men, if you want to be allies, then recognizing that assault is bad is just the minimum. For every sexual assault, there are thousands of events that don't lead to violence but which scare the shit out of us, especially after our "assessment" turns out to have been wrong.

And obviously, if you ever are in a woman's home alone, whether during a service call or an online sale like this, accept if she's home alone, she's likely done the assessment. Respect her space, don't do gross shit. The basics. Please.

UPDATE: This man just showed up at my house. It's 10pm. Husband answered doorbell, drunk guy mumbles "wrong house" and goes back to his truck. I looked out the window and saw it was him. Tomorrow I'll be here alone with my 4-year-old while my husband is at work. Terrified in my own house.

UPDATE 2: Called the police, they were VERY helpful and said I'm in a great spot for rotating cars to sit outside as much as they can tomorrow. Going to see about taking my little one and spending the day at a friend's house tomorrow just in case. Thank you to everyone for support.

NEXT DAY UPDATE: To all of the men on here [responding on Twitter] pointing out what I did wrong to bring this on myself, please know I am taking articulate notes with your suggestions and cannot wait to follow your instructions and enjoy my new life of extreme safety.
I had so many feelings of anger, disgust, and fear when reading that. I hope everyone who can handle reading it (especially men) will empathize and learn something.

Then, on a completely different topic, there was this from David Neiwert, an author and correspondent for the Southern Poverty Law Center:
There’s been a lot of hand-wringing in the media pundit corps and centrist politicians these days about the loss of comity, post-Kavanaugh. And then Donald Trump made them all look absurd with his remarks at his rally last night when he said, 'You don't hand matches to an arsonist and you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob, and that's what they've become. Democrats have become too extreme and too dangerous to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law, not the rule of the mob.'

This is a remarkable moment in American politics: The President of the United States just declared an entire political party fundamentally illegitimate. And the media are treating it as just another of Trump’s crazy things.

I’m almost surprised that, after the remark about the rule of the mob, Trump didn’t then lead the crowd in a chant of “Lock her up!” That’s how brazen they have become. But this is the state we are at now. One side of the political aisle, and only one, appears intent on provoking a violent civil war in America. And it is the party currently in power.

Sure, they like to claim that the Left is planning to provoke a civil war. You can find all kinds of people saying that, including Tucker Carlson. But no one on the left actually talks about it or, for that matter, really even thinks about it much. There are no left-wing pundits talking about civil war. But you can find dozens of right-wing pundits doing so.

They pay lip service to denying that they hope for it, but their constant obsessing and chatter about it tells us otherwise. Especially when they fantasize about the better world that would emerge afterward.

Of course, the most prolific promoter of the “civil war” idea is Alex Jones and his Infowars operation. But it has spread everywhere on the right, including to Fox News (see Carlson above) and to Rush Limbaugh. Mind you, this is nothing new for Limbaugh. He made nearly an identical claim back in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing occurred.

Indeed, as I explain in some detail in Alt-America, the militia/Patriot movement is where the whole “modern civil war” idea originated, and it has remained largely alive in the same sector in the intervening years. It gained real life in the Tea Party movement, which hosted organizations like the Oath Keepers that openly discussed preparations for a civil war. This is also where we saw it become common for people to talk among themselves about killing liberals.

Let’s also not forget radio host Michael Savage, an early and prominent Trump supporter. He published an entire book dedicated to essentially fomenting a civil war (under the guise of preventing one).

In the run-up to the 2016 election, this kind of talk intensified. Militias especially were planning a violent resistance to a Clinton administration. Recall especially the Kansas militia gang that planned a McVeigh-style truck bombing of a community of Somali Muslims in Garden City. Their plans called for the attack to take place the day after the election. This kind of talk became common among not just militia types, but spread to rank-and-file Trump supporters as well. After Trump won, it only took a week or two for them all to shift gears and begin preparing to act violently in Trump’s defense. They ginned up the whole "violent radical left" storyline in the run-up to Trump's inauguration.

Now when you hear talk about a civil war, it is most common in the context of preventing his impeachment. And now we have gangs of heavily armed right-wing thugs, largely outsiders from rural and exurban areas, invading liberal urban centers with the full intent of provoking violence so that they can portray the American left as innately violent.

I’ve covered about a dozen of these events. I hang out among the alt-righters and militiamen who populate that side and listen to them. They all are brimming with eagerness to beat the shit out of liberals, and they’re prepared to kill if they deem it necessary. The Proud Boys are a classic proto-Brownshirt operation in the formative stages. Look at the shirts their members have been wearing to the “free speech” events they organize with the intent of provoking a violent response.

[Photos of men wearing black T-shirts with white letters reading PINOCHET DID NOTHING WRONG!]

What does that mean? Well, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet murdered thousands of his own citizens in the 1970s simply for opposing him politically. He had right-wing death squads do most of the dirty work. A number of these murders occurred when the death squads would drop political dissidents from great heights out of helicopters. Thus the back of the T-shirt. Which is now sold as official Proud Boys gear. Moreover, all these shirts are being printed with a logo calling them “Right Wing Death Squads.” There’s even a webpage devoted to their apparel. Google it. Here's their logo:

So now the faction that has long fantasized about civil wars is openly fantasizing about murdering their fellow Americans by various means, most of them as cruel as a good psychopath can dream up. These folks are fanatical authoritarians.

And they are entirely right-wing. There is no counterpart to this on the left. Even the most rabid anarchist/communist/whatever group doesn’t direct this kind of rhetoric at its opponents. Moreover, the far left is a tiny and powerless faction. Unlike the alt-right.

Moreover, it is the far right that now controls all three houses of government in the United States. And the most powerful of all, the president, has a long habit of using eliminationist rhetoric to attack his opponents: “Lock Her Up!” was just one of many such. Now he is describing half of America – the larger half that did not vote for him, and which now opposes his agenda at every turn – in such terms. Dismissing them as a “mob” and suggesting that they not only cannot govern but cannot BE governed is lethally dangerous

Yet to hear the centrist media figures and their favorite subjects, centrist politicians, discuss all this ferment, you would think that both sides are engaging in this kind of prewar rhetoric. It’s absurd.

So, listen up, Chuck Todd, Evan McMullin, Susan Collins, and every other hand-wringing centrist wannabe: IT’S NOT BOTH SIDES. Only one side is trying to gin up a civil war in this country. Only one side talks about it. Only one side buys caches of guns to prepare for it. Only one side is sending clusters of activists into politically opposing communities with the intent of stirring up violence. Only one side makes up memes celebrating the murder of the other.

So when we talk about the lack of civility in our common discourse, it’s important first to understand that that particular horse fled the burning barn many many moons ago. And again, it was not the left that lit the match.

More to the point, their concern presupposes that both sides remain interested in democracy and normative political discourse. That is only true of one side in all this. The right has made clear that it has no such interest. It is their authoritarian way, or the highway. Or given enough time and enough destruction of democratic norms at their proto-fascist hands, it will be their way or the helicopter.

All of this is being normalized by hand-wringing centrists and their "bothsiderism."

So it would be nice if centrists recognized that their ideology (built around a logical fallacy – the Fallacy of the Middle – in any event) has failed them. It would be nice if they awoke to the reality that the radical right intends to target them just like the left. Or haven’t they yet noticed that simply disagreeing with the radical right gets you labeled a “leftist”? Centrists may not be first in line, but they too eventually will become targets of right-wing authoritarians, especially those in power.

Unless, of course, they all just bow their heads and fall in line. Which is what, eventually, they all seem to do anyway.
Read the original thread on Twitter for his links to examples supporting the claims he makes.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Screaming Does No Good But That's What I Feel Like Doing

Twenty people were killed when a stretch-SUV-limo driver ran through a stop sign at full speed in rural New York State. As man-bites-dog-tragic as that is, should it have been gotten more prominent placement in today's New York Times than the 73,000-alarm-fire report of the IPCC that shows global temperatures will be 1.5°C warmer by just 2030 (since it's already 1°C warmer than pre-industrial levels)? And that averting that reality will take an almost immediate change in how we do just about everything?

Which leads me to two threads from Twitter. First, there's meteorologist and climate writer Eric Holthaus summarizing the IPCC press conference in real-time last night:

The world's top climate scientists are about to announce that—without radical coordinated action—the world has locked in warming of at least 1.5°C. Heroic efforts are now necessary to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

IPCC: Limiting climate change to below 1.5°C would require "unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society."The world has already warmed 1.0°C above pre-industrial levels. On our current path, the world will reach 1.5°C warming in as little as 12 years.

IPCC: Limiting warming to less than 1.5°C would save 10 million people from sea level rise displacement vs. warming of 2°C and *several hundred million* people from climate-related extreme poverty.

IPCC: The world would need to reduce emissions by about half from current levels by 2030 to be on track for limiting warming to 1.5°C. The current pledges in *every country in the world* are not enough.

1st Q, from BBC: What's different about this report? IPCC: "It's very clear that half a degree matters."

2nd Q, German press agency: Is 1.5C feasible? How optimistic are you on a scale from 1-10? IPCC: We identified 6 different conditions we'd need to meet to hit 1.5C. Is it possible within the laws of physics? Yes. But the political feasibility? Frankly, that's up to politicians.

3rd Q, Associated Press: What is the impact of the US withdrawal from Paris? IPCC: We don't look at individual countries. We have sent a clear signal to the collectivity of countries. Feasibility isn't something for the scientists to decide, that's up to the countries of the world.

IPCC: We can tell countries what would need to happen to limit global warming to safe levels. But the question of what will happen... that's up to the 195 sovereign countries of the world.

IPCC: "We are at the crossroads. What is going to happen between now and 2030 is critical.... If we don't act now" it will be essentially impossible to limit warming to 1.5°C.

"The only linking word you can use is 'and' in order to achieve the level of ambition necessary."

IPCC: "It's a tremendous collective endeavor."

"We did feel the weight of working on this report. ... We exist in this shrinking space of possibilities."

"This report comes with wishful thinking that the message is being taken up by public and policy makers."

Q: What message do you have for small island nations, who have staked their very existence on limiting warming to less than 1.5°C? IPCC: "It is within the scope of what humans can achieve."

Q: How soon do coal, oil, and natural gas need to be phased out entirely? IPCC: "The report is quite clear ... all pathways require quite significant changes in the pattern of fossil fuel use. ... Coal will have to be reduced very, very substantially by mid-century."

IPCC (paraphrased): Carbon pricing might be most useful in motivating the now-necessarily massively vast carbon removal that needs to happen by mid-century.

IPCC: This report could become an anchor for sustainable development globally.

Really important question from @blkahn: "What about geoengineering?" IPCC: We didn't consider the possible impact of geoengineering in this report. "We have to follow the literature," and there is essentially no reliable information to know what would happen.

Q: "What about aviation and shipping?" IPCC: Aviation and shipping aren't part of the UNFCCC. But, it's very difficult to keep planes in the air without petroleum or biofuels. This report shows drastic reductions in petroleum use by mid-century.

IPCC: Remember, hundreds of millions of people will benefit from meeting the 1.5°C goal. The cost of radically reshaping human society to achieve this goal is less than the cost of not meeting it.

IPCC press conference is over. It's me again. Folks, if the world takes this announcement seriously, it would become quite simply one of the most important moments in human history. If the world doesn't take it seriously -- our civilization itself is at stake. Stark, but true.
Second, from George Monbiot:
We know that climate breakdown presents an existential risk to human populations and much of the other life on Earth. Yet the gas guzzler still accelerates towards the cliff edge. Why?
  1. Because the lobbying power of fossil fuel-based businesses outweighs that of any other faction. The fossil fuel industry uses its profits to lobby for continued extraction and use. Its tactics are highly sophisticated.
  2. Among these tactics is the use of covertly funded front groups, denying or downplaying the risks, and granted a platform by a receptive media, much of which is owned by members of the same oligarchy. The media misrepresents both the problem and the necessary solutions. [See this earlier post about Alex Steffen and what he calls the "frame of denialism."]
  3. This campaign of denial resonates with an innate resistance to change, reinforced by a tendency known as System Justification: a fundamental human weakness.
  4. But deeper than any of this are the stories we tell ourselves: that progress means growth and growth means well-being. What climate breakdown and the rest of the environmental crisis reveal is that perpetual growth is the greatest threat to our well-being.
  5. Perpetual growth was impossible until coal was widely used: before then, industrial expansion led to agricultural depression, breaking the cycle of accumulation (see EA Wrigley, Energy and the English Industrial Revolution). So we came to see progress = growth = fossil fuel
  6. We know what we need to do. Leave fossil fuels in the ground. Replace them in their entirety with cleaner energy technologies. Recognise planetary boundaries as the limits economic activity should not transgress. Set well-being as our goal, rather than growth.
  7. This shift will not occur through buying different products or reducing the use of plastic bags, or any other form of voluntary consumer action, valid as these may be. It will occur only through political action.
  8. What does this mean? Mobilisation on a massive scale, through groups such as, to put environmental breakdown at the front and centre of political life. We need to break through vested interests, denial and System Justification to force government action
  9. This is the fight of our lives. Yet most people have not yet acknowledged it, let alone joined it. So all those of us who have done so have a duty to recruit: to break the awkward silence and talk about the subject other people want to avoid.
  10. We need to get embarrassing about it, to overcome our own reticence, even when we are labelled Jeremiahs or Cassandras, and risk upsetting people in alerting them to what is happening and what we need to do.

So aptly translated by cartoonist Andy Singer to this:

More details on the report and responses:
From one of the authors: 47% cut in CO2 by 2030, net zero by 2050. We can use small amounts fossil fuels but only with [carbon capture] or other negative emissions. [There are] 4 scenarios [for reductions to stay at] 1.5C, for no overshoot: coal down 97% by 2050 from 2010, oil down 87%, gas down 74%.

What media everywhere should be doing this week: hyper-local features about what it would look like in practice for their city or region to take 1.5C seriously. What would land use look like? What would transportation look like? What major local industries would change? @raludwick

Took me almost two years to get a bike corral at my kids' school because New York City is worried about taking one car parking space from drivers, but I'm sure we can completely decarbonize and avoid catastrophic climate change by [checks calendar] 2040. @BrooklynSpoke

If you're reading the news coverage from the IPCC report and thinking "that sounds terrible" remember that you're hearing about the summary - which has been edited and agreed by political leaders. The actual report, by the scientists is much much worse. Happy Monday everyone... @alex_randall

Every Democratic candidate in 2020 must commit to fighting for a Green New Deal to achieve a 100 percent renewable energy economy by 2030 and create millions of unionized, living wage green jobs. @nikhilgoya_l

As people who have dithered and wanked around this long, sorry, we don't get to be hopeless. We don't get to give up. We haven't earned it. We don't get to give up until we've really tried. So yeah, the news is bad, but pull your pants up and get to work. @drvox (David Roberts)
And finally, also from Dave Roberts, What genuine, no-bullsit ambition on climate change would look like.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Dutch Resistance Museum

If you're ever in Amsterdam, I recommend the Dutch Resistance Museum. My familiarity with Holland during World War II was limited to the Anne Frank story (and the general concept of gentiles hiding Jews in their houses). But, as with all things in history, there's a lot more to it.

First of all, I didn't know how the Nazis came to occupy the Netherlands, which had remained neutral during World War I. In a surprise attack in early May 1940, Hitler invaded with three times as many troops as the entire Dutch army, then bombed the hell out of Rotterdam (the largest port on the North Sea), killing 800 civilians and leaving 85,000 people homeless. The Dutch government surrendered, rather than have the rest of the country and civilian population treated the same way. The queen, Wilhemina, and the rest of the government went into exile.

At first, the Germans thought the Dutch would join up with their fellow Aryans:

The Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging [NSB, National Socialist Movement, the Dutch Nazi Party] was set up in the Netherlands at the end of 1931, modeled after Hitler’s NSDAP. The party remained small. After May 1940 the NSB finally had a hope of taking control. Thousands applied for membership. But the Germans did not jump at the chance of close cooperation. They did not have a high opinion of the NSB, and they knew that most Dutch people strongly detested the party.

The members of the NSB pushed their way in the limelight by holding ostentatious parades. Gradually it became clear that they were virtually the only loyal supporters of the occupying forces. So in December 1942 the Germans permitted NSB leader Anton Mussert to call himself Leader of the Dutch People, although he had no real power. (All quoted material is from the museum's explanatory panels.)

"A New Netherlands - in a New Europe."

The anti-Jewish propaganda began with anti-Bolshevist messages like this one, a common association made by Nazis to this day:

Translation: "Bolshevism Is Death!" (complete with slaughtered Christians). And the move against Dutch Jews also began gradually:
The first anti-Jewish regulations seemed rather harmless. In October 1940, all civil servants were required to fill in an “ancestry form,” indicating their religion and that of their parents and grandparents. Everyone knows that the purpose is to register Jewish civil servants, yet the response is massive compliance. One month later the Jewish civil servants were dismissed. In Leiden and Delft, students went on strike to protest against the dismissal of their Jewish university teachers.

In January 1941 all Jews had to report for registration. Almost everyone obeyed. After all, what can possibly happen if you refuse? And why shouldn’t you be open about your origins? However, this registration makes it easier for the Germans to carry out other measures against the Jews later on.
In 1941, Allied airplanes started dropping pamphlets that challenged German propaganda. The letter V became the symbol for Victory. By summer that year, the Germans tried to coopt the V in their own campaign: V = Victory, because Germany is victorious on all fronts:

Victory, for the Nazis, was symbolized by crushing an anti-Semitically caricatured Jewish man with the V:

In turn, the Dutch vandalized the posters. The V became W for [Queen] Wilhelmina, or V for Verliest (loses) or Verzuipt (drowns):

Or, as you can see in the card in the center of this photo, they wrote O Z O around the V, which stood for Oranje Zal Overwinnen, translated as "Orange Shall Triumph." (Orange refers to the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange.)

By 1941, it was becoming clear to the Germans that the most of the Dutch were not joining up, and they began labeling the Jewish population with stars on their clothes.
Public facilities were closed to Jews. Separate Jewish schools were opened. In summer 1942, the deportations begin. Jews were required to report for 'employment in Germany'.
Of the 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands, this is the result of Nazism:

107,000 deported: 5,500 survived; 101,500 died. 25,000 in hiding: 18,000 survived; 7,000 died. 8,000 other (sterilized, etc.): 8,000 survived
One part of the exhibit I especially appreciated was the section on the resistance press. Many examples are given, including these stereotype plates (at the bottom of the photo), which were used to transport seditious material for printing in various parts of the country because they were much lighter than moving the metal plates themselves (shown at the top of the photo):

Artists of the resistance also created images like this one:

As the Allies began winning the war after Stalingrad (more than a year before the D-Day invasion in early June 1944), the Dutch waited and continued to resist. In March 1943, a group of resistance partisans bombed the Amsterdam Registry Office, where records of the Jewish citizens were kept. The museum currently has a visual retelling of that story called Risk of Explosion, describing the people who carried it out and putting it in context with today... asking questions like, When is violence allowable as a means of struggle or resistance?

The results of the attack are also listed with nuance:
  • 12 people were executed
  • 10 were sent to prison or concentration camp
  • 15% of the ID cards were permanently destroyed
  • Two shadow archives were unaffected, having been set up in the Hague since 1941
  • The Registry Office was out of operation for five months after the attack
  • The issuance of the second ration certificate was delayed one year, which made it difficult for people in hiding to obtain food
  • The largest number of Jews had already been taken away when the attack happened
  • The attack inspired others to resist
A video at the end asks: Back then it was the Germans, but who are “they” now?

Another thing I learned was that the winter of 1944-45, as the Nazis were clearly losing the war and the Allies had already liberated Brussels and Paris, Holland remained under Nazi occupation and it was a time of extreme hunger (the Hunger Winter). They ate tulip bulbs... and 20,000 people died of starvation. The war dragged on and on with no food and no hope in sight, it seemed.

The exhibit ends with posters like this one:

After the war, 120,000 Dutch collaborators were imprisoned and 34 executed, including the NSB leader Mussert.

The last item is a national festival skirt made by resistance member A. Boissevain-van Lennep. She introduced the skirt as a member of the committee that created guidelines for celebrating the liberation:

The skirt, made out of pieces of old clothing that recalled events in the life of the family, was to become the symbol of reconstruction and national solidarity.

At commemorations held in 1946, 1947, and 1948, several thousand women wore festival skirts.

The last thing I learned at the museum was that it was founded by the elders of the resistance in the 1980s as they once again saw the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment among Dutch people. While they still had time to speak, they wanted people to remember what intolerance and hatred can lead to.