debris.

This has been an intense period of time for me. Half of my family, virtually everyone on my wife’s side, is recovering from the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico.  Two weeks in, they have just gotten running water, but are still without power.  Unless you have spent time in the islands, I don’t think you can fathom trying to sleep amidst the intense heat and humidity without so much as a fan to stir the air and nevermind the mosquitos.  In most places, the vegetation is stripped bare, so there is no longer even shade from trees.  It’s sweltering.

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attribution science.

When a drunk driving accident happens we have no problem implicating alcohol, even though there are countless other elements of the situation that may have contributed.  We all agree though that drunkenness enhances the likelihood of the event.  So we punish drunk drivers.

The climate change ‘debate’ is still focused on the claim that individual weather events can’t  be linked to human activites, which, as it turns out, is false.  Scientists are making great progress in understanding the connection.  What follows from this is that eventually it may lead to accountability; industries being held to blame for death and loss of property.   No wonder there is a ‘war on science.’

Read how scientists are building a body of evidence to attribute individual weather events to climate change here.

 

I Think I Might Have Killed Someone’s Grandma…

Actually, several of them.  There may have been a Grandpa in there as well.

 

Many people in academia are familiar with a wonderful little tongue-in-cheek study that was done to assess the probability of certain relatives dying at various times of the semester.  It’s called the Dead Grandmother Problem.  It was written up in research format and the findings seem to suggest that familial mortality is linked to challenging academic undertaking s such as exams.  I might add that discussing troubling and controversial topics such as climate change may have the same overall effect.    You can read that study here.

Water in Bottles

Environmental science at a small college is my thing.  I lecture on important topics that are relevant to the sustainability and to the persistence of this human condition.  Every year, I see the pendulum swinging back and forth on important issues; I see it on the faces of my students and I read it in the lines of their papers.  This has been a fairly good year, so far.  Amongst my students climate change is more or less a given.  There are a few dissenters, but by and large most are on board despite the enormous media campaign to paint the dramatic and devastating winter on the east coast as not a sign of global warming, but rather of global cooling.  This tells me that things are not as bad as they sometimes seem.

Yet, there are outliers and anomalies to reconcile this with.  For example, this was a year that clearly bucked the trend in terms of students’ disposition toward plastics and the sale of bottled drinking water.

Despite our overview of the problem of plastics’ persistence in our environment and the resultant Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean, many students this semester maintained that people consume bottled water because it is either safer or tastes better than water derived from conventional and municipal sources.  It, in effect, is simply something we cannot do without.

Neither of these assumptions is born out in reality and regardless of the overwhelming nature of the arguments against bottled water neatly and popularly summarized in ‘The Story of Bottled Water,’ when you step back and look at it from a distance it seems almost incredulous and maybe even patently lunatic that we wander about carrying bottles of water that were sold to us.  My wife recently passed this satire on to me and I loved it.  ‘The Story of Bottled Water’ follows below, in case you have not yet seen it.

 

And here is ‘The Story of Bottled Water.’