Sunday, December 6, 2009

Final chapters

I must say that I was excited to read the chapter about Burlington, Vermont. I live in Alburgh, Vermont, less than an hour from Burlington, and I have heard about different things the city has been doing to reduce emissions. I had heard about a “no idling” ordinance in which cars would be ticketed if they were parked but running. I really enjoyed reading about simple things the city has been doing, on a local level, to combat global warming. I think it’s very important for people to see what a small city can do on their own to make an impact. Honestly, this was probably one of the most influential chapters of the book. If there isn’t anything else in the book that would move people into action, this chapter, I believe, would provide the motivation to do so.

The way Kolbert ended the final chapter left me a bit disappointed. Not because I felt there could have been a better ending, but it just left me a bit hopeless. She says, “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” I suppose she is right; we have been ignoring the signs and the mountains of data thrown in our faces, awaiting something “conclusive.” By the time we, as a society, ban together and finally make the decision to do something, it will be too late. It may already be too late. As I have expressed before, I am very passionate about global warming. I wish I knew what I could do to make a difference. Kolbert has written this book, a valiant effort to inform people of the threat of global warming. I hope this book can instill in people the passion burning inside of me. If I knew what I could do to let my voice be heard, to evoke change in policy, I would do it. This issue is honestly a key factor that motivates me to be a journalist. I know my words are not the most eloquent, captivating, or fluent, but I try because I know I want things to change. This is the only way I know how to do it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chapters 7/8

Kolbert did a great job with these two chapters. I enjoyed reading them, and most of my questions were answered. I even learned a few things.

I didn’t know about “wedges.” They sound like really good ideas, and I wonder why many aren’t implemented today. I would think that any measures to reduce CO2 emissions would be difficult to pass up.

One thing that left me wanting more information was BAU, or “business as usual.” From what I understand, well, I really don’t understand. Why is a continual rise CO2 levels considered a normality? Kolbert discusses how scientists are more worried about global warming, saying “Wake up! This is not a good thing to be doing.” I don’t see what’s normal about that.

What I liked about chapter seven is that it incorporated everyday “business,” in all different aspects. She looked not only at the science of how CO2 is climbing each day, but also how people wake up and start contributing their own personal CO2.

Chapter 8, I thought, was very well written. The title, “The day after Kyoto,” struck me as a bit comical. I was also amused at the interview with Paula Dobriansky. We’ve all interviewed a Paula Dobriansky, someone who keeps repeating key phrases and refusing to say anything useful. It made me think of my own interviews like that and how frustrating they can be. I liked how this chapter discussed the underlying political factors that influence climate change policies. It lets readers know that there is more than science that goes into saving the planet.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chapters 5/6

I liked chapter six in the reading this week, and while chapter five was hot and steamy, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Personally, I prefer a nice, hot chai tea, but this was more of a lukewarm green tea. I feel like chapter five was more of a placeholder than a chapter. Like green tea, it serves its purpose. It is served to a reader who drinks up every word, on the pretense that they will learn about global warming. While it accomplished this goal, it left this reader dissatisfied.

Every other chapter in the book (possibly excluding chapter four) has had a little bite to it, like a good cup of chai tea should. Sure, it may burn the tongues of a few, but it ultimately leaves a reader with an air of satisfaction; chapter five did not. Here is my point: as quaint as my tea analogies may be, they unnecessarily delay my message to readers.

The only thing I would criticize is that Kolbert seems to progressively add more and more fluff to her chapters. The story about Akkad was interesting, but it could have been said in one page and we would have gotten the point. Also, she mentions at one point that she was with someone in a big office with lots of pottery when his secretary brings in finger sandwiches and something to drink. I thought the climatologist would go on to make some kind of reference to global warming being like finger sandwiches, but the reference never came and I was confused as to why it was ever mentioned.

I learned about climate models, and that they break the earth’s atmosphere into hundreds of little boxes. This part interested me because I interviewed several professors and scientists about global warming, and most mentioned climate models and how there are so many variables to account for. It was neat to actually see how they work. I also liked how she mentioned some people were preparing for the climate crisis by settling down in “amphibious homes.” I guess I’ve never really heard of them before, and it was an interesting thing to add.

For the most part, I liked her style. I like how she tells a story, and then ties it in with global warming. I believe she is losing her touch, though, and should keep her introductions and playful analogies to a minimum. After all, the book is about global warming, not finger sandwiches.

At the end of the day, Kolbert’s message is still the same: we’re in hot water. Some have prepared for the future with their amphibious homes. I think I’ll grab some tea bags.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chapter 4

I’m not sure how effective this chapter was. I have enjoyed reading this book so far, but this reading really didn’t strike me as something I should pay attention to. I guess I didn’t care about the mosquitoes, perhaps?

Kolbert started out with the scientific name of the comma butterfly, which is something you told us not to do because it makes a dry lead. You were absolutely right, because the beginning of this chapter was not exactly riveting.

I understood the point of the chapter being that different species tend to migrate as climate changes, and that many species are moving now is an indication of said change. I’m not sure the examples were the greatest, and I think it could have been more exciting. However, I believe she wanted to include the butterflies, toads, and mosquitoes in the reading to show that climate change affects even the smallest creatures, not just the iconic ones.

The most memorable part of the chapter was when Kolbert mentioned a sign on a lab door saying something about mosquitoes sucking blood out of your eyes. It made me wonder if that was even possible. And then it made me wonder what kind of person would not blink long enough for a mosquito to get away with such a thing. And then I googled it, but I couldn’t find anything about mosquitoes sucking anyone’s eye blood. In any case, I’m finally happy to wear contacts.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chapters 2/3

Kolbert presents several new pieces of evidence to support the sentiment that the earth’s climate is changing. One of her strongest examples, I believe, is presented in the form of a retreating glacier. She mentions how glaciers melt a little bit each year, but then expounds upon that by saying in recent years, the glacier has shrunk by hundreds of feet.

In the last few sentences of the third chapter, Kolbert reiterates how drastically the climate is changing when she notes how far the glacier stood from the rock that used to mark its place. When she said, “So I climbed back up to take a second look,” she insinuates that global warming is real, it’s a big deal, and things as we know them now are not going to remain that way for long. Not that she tells us to take a "second look," but she indirectly tells us her opinion and that she isn't going to waste the opportunity.

Another piece of evidence Kolbert presents is the “Keeling Curve.” The graph shows a jagged line, steadily increasing as the years progress. Numbers sometimes go over my head, but actually seeing the statistics in a way my mind can easily interpret them, it became more clear how serious the issue has become.

I am a pretty firm believer when it comes to global warming, but putting that aside, there is perhaps one area where Kolbert could improve her argument. She does a great job at showing effects of global warming in certain areas, but so far, I believe, only within the Arctic Circle. She wants everyone to read this book, and I’m sure she wants everyone to know how global warming is going to affect them personally. Obviously, I haven’t finished the book yet, so I can’t say if she does or does not go on to do this, but I think her case would be improved if she included how global warming is and will change the environments in which everyone lives. She even said in the last chapter that there aren’t a ton of people living in Greenland. Well, the people in Greenland know how global warming is affecting them. How are the rest of us affected? Her arguments may be in the right neighborhood, but they aren’t hitting close enough to home yet.

I like Kolbert’s writing style. I think it’s clear and easy to understand. The way she adds random information and humor (sometimes morbid humor) really adds to the story. The book reads more like a story than a text book, which is why it is easier to read and take in the information she is presenting us with. She definitely makes thinks clear, giving examples and analogies even to explain graphs that you can see.

I believe her writing is fairly objective. She obviously is trying to convince all of her readers that global warming is a real problem we need to start addressing, but when there are two ideas or viewpoints, she states them both. She asked Steffen what he thought the ice shelf would look like in 10 years (pg 57) and he said the “signals should be much more distinct.” Then she adds Zwally’s opinion afterward. It’s hard to give both sides of the story when you’re only with scientists who believe in global warming and study its effects. So for what the story is, she is as objective as she can be.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Field notes


The language in this book is easy to follow. It is written without a great deal of scientfic jargon, which is where many get lost.

The author uses many analogies to reinforce the effects of global warming. In the preface, she mentions how she wants "everyone" to read this book. I think she writes it in a manner that is appealing to "everyone," even those who are not scientifically inclined.

The author began the book with an anecdote about an Alaskan village. The fact that she brings global warming down to a local level, showing local effects, with perspectives of people who see the changes to their own community, really drives the issue of global warming. Like she mentioned, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of studies and books written on global warming. After years of listening to global warming this, global warming that, people might not pay close attention, thinking 'I've heard this before.' But by bringing attention to certain areas, and mentioning how many other areas could be used to study the effects of global warming, I think she really adds to her points.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Burly Tree

By Jenna Burleigh

While on assignment for Cardinal Points, I came across an interesting story regarding the uncertain futures of two of the oldest trees on campus. Not nearly as impressive as they may have once been, the trunks of both trees wore scars from pervious battles with chain saws. But damaged and scarred as they were, the trees still held a certain character about them. They are bur oaks.

The bur oak is found extensively across The United States, stretching from Maine to Montana, and south to Texas. The spread of the oak is representative of its ability to survive in different environments.

Resistant to drought, the bur oak is a deciduous tree can live in arid as well as moist regions. It is also tolerant of different soil types, and is an efficient user of water, according to this article. Within its first growing season, a bur oak’s roots can penetrate the soil up to more than four feet. Fast root development and good water use could explain why this tree can be found in many different soil-types and climates.

The bur oak is aptly named for the shape of its acorns. They are about the size of a golf ball, growing up to two inches long, with bristly whisker-looking “burs” that wrap around the top and sides of the acorn. The bur oak can grow to be over 100 feet high or wide (the crown, not the trunk), according to this article. The acorns of this oak are the largest of all native oaks in North America.

The bur oak, or Quercus macrocarpa, begins to produce seed after 35 years, and can seed up to 400 years or older (Quercus, meaning oaks, and macrocarpa, the “macro” referring to the size of its unusually large acorns). The acorns fall, either on their own or with a little help from hungry squirrels, and can immediately begin germination or remain dormant until the next spring.

After discovering how hardy this species of tree is and how much they can survive, I was a little disheartened to learn that these trees may need to be destroyed in order to make room for more construction projects on campus. Humans appear to be one factor this natural wonder cannot endure.