How to Reason with the Climate Denier in Your Life

A new book by two philosophy scholars imagines conversations with skeptics and deniers. Here are four lessons we learned from it.

Outside Online

April 26, 2017

{9FFFEDF2-9833-4A38-8988-156193A4F99A}Img100Everyone working to address climate change, from activists to scientists, knows that success depends in large part on their ability to convert climate change skeptics (or even straight-up deniers) into proponents for action. Most of us have someone in our lives—a family member, co-worker, or friend—whose views on climate change conflict with the latest science, and you’ve likely had some exasperating, polarizing, unconstructive conversations with them.

Philip Kitcher, an MIT professor of philosophy, and Evelyn Fox Keller, an MIT professor emerita of history and philosophy of science, have co-written a book that imagines six of those very conversations. The Seasons Alter: How to Save the Planet in Six Acts (W.W. Norton; $25) reads like six screenplays set in different locations and with two different people in each act. The dialogue—well, it probably won’t pass your sniff test. The authors describe the conversations in the book as “constructive, careful, and amicable,” but they mostly sound stiff.

Even if they don’t ring true to life, many of the book’s exchanges contain useful clues on how to unpack specific issues and work around conversational impasses. Here, culled from The Seasons Alter and other experts, are four guiding principles that could fix the way we talk about climate change.

Read the full story here.

Guardian: How to Visit America’s National Parks Without the Congestion

Traffic congestion has become part of the experience of visiting popular national parks in the US. Now, more parks are beefing up their public transport options.

The Guardianisland-explorer-jordan-pond-house-1-9-3-09

If you’ve ever visited an iconic national park like Yellowstone, Yosemite or Glacier, your first glimpses of arresting, postcard-perfect vistas were probably framed by a car window. That’s how I first glimpsed Yosemite’s Half Dome. After driving through the tunnels on Big Oak Flat Road, the road curved and the valley came into view. Angels sang. I was so overwhelmed by that monolith’s grandeur and beauty that I had to pull over onto the shoulder and have a good cry.

Years later, I stuffed my backpack with supplies and headed out my front door, Yosemite bound once again. I walked 10 minutes to the nearest San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) station, which I rode east, to the Richmond station, and transferred to Amtrak. I used the train’s free Wi-Fi to get some work done during the scenic two-hour and 40-minute ride to Merced, California, where I waited a half hour for a Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (Yarts) bus up to Yosemite, another two-hour trip.

In total, my fares were double what I’d have paid in gas, but bus riders are exempt from the park’s entrance fee ($20 then, $30 now). The trip took more than an hour longer than driving would have, though slogging through Bay Area traffic could have evened that scale. One less car in the crowded, summer-packed Yosemite Valley that day made an imperceptible difference to the park’s clogged roads and parking lots. But once I was inside the park, the free park shuttles and my own two feet took me everywhere I wanted to go. I experienced zero road rage and could have wept over Half Dome to my heart’s content without worrying about swerving off the road.

Read the full story here.

 

 

The Unholy Alliance of Climate Change and Paragliding in the Alps

Vice Sports

You can’t land a paraglider on the summit of Mont Blanc (15,781 feet) in July unless the cloudbase reaches about 16,000 feet, and that requires above-average temperatures. Paragliders rely on thermal convection currents to gain and maintain altitude, and July in the Alps is rarely warm enough to get the job done. But this year was different.untitled-article-1437148891

During the first week of July, temperatures in Chamonix, France, probably the most popular place in the world to paraglide, lingered in the mid 80s, about five degrees warmer than average. Hundreds of paragliders flew near, over, and around Mont Blanc during the weekend of July 4, and several were able to top-land on the summit. So many paragliders were circling the mountain at one point that a search-and-rescue helicopter couldn’t reach a crash victim for fear of colliding with a glider.

Read the full story here.

A Norwegian company’s plan to make ice cubes out of glaciers unsettles some

A tiny coastal town in Norway is about to become home to an ambitious enterprise that will turn a diminishing glacier into a high-end cocktail cooler. Is there cause for alarm?

The Guardian
April 4, 2015

Logo-GuardianGlomfjord, Norway, is a coastal town of 1,120 residents just north of the Arctic Circle. For decades, it was home to a chemical plant that produced ammonia. After it was shuttered in 1993, two Norwegian solar power entrepreneurs saw an opportunity, and Renewable Energy Corporation began making solar panels in the former ammonia plant in 1997. Sadly, lower manufacturing costs in Asia forced REC to move its domestic production overseas, and it closed its doors in Glomfjord three years ago.

Now, a startup company called Svaice is occupying that old factory, and aims to make a very low-tech product – ice cubes – from an abundant (yet diminishing) local resource: glaciers.

Svartisen glacier Photo: Julian G. Albert/Flickr
Svartisen glacier Photo: Julian G. Albert/Flickr

Specifically, the ice would come from nearby Vestre Svartisen, the second-largest glacier in Norway. Since Svaice, led by local businessman Geir Olsen, announced its business plan last year, it has attracted both interest among local government officials eager to support a new local employer, as well as incredulity among people who cannot fathom commoditizing chunks of a glacier that is already receding rapidly.

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Fall of the Wild: The Trapped Wolves of Isle Royale

Global warming is putting wildlife at risk, leading to hard questions about wilderness ethics

Al Jazeera America
June 4, 2014

Chapter 1: Death of a Wolf

On January 21, Isabelle, a 5-year-old gray wolf, was spotted along the southwest reaches of Isle Royale National Park, which sits on an island in Lake Superior. During a survey flight over the island, John Vucetich, an ecologist with the Isle Royale Wolfe-Moose Study, confirmed the lone wolf’s identity thanks to a reading from her radio collar. “As we circled Isabelle, every few moments she stopped and turned to look back, as though concerned about being followed by other wolves,” wrote Vucetich on his research blog. During the previous year, two other wolves in her small pack had tried to kill her more than once.

“They beat [her] up several times, the female who was to breed [with Isabelle’s brother] would not want another breeding female around. There were times we weren’t sure if she would survive. We would see her laying on the ice and were not sure if she would get up,” explains Rolf Peterson, wolf expert and a retired professor at Michigan Technological University who, with Vucetich, has spent the past 44 years studying the wolves and moose of Isle Royale National Park.

Yet, she did get up and made it on her own through the summer and fall. She fled the island and traveled across 20 miles of ice. But by February 8, Isabelle was dead. Her carcass was discovered on the shore of Lake Superior in eastern Minnesota, on the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation.

According to the necropsy report, a pellet entered Isabelle’s chest and led to fatal trauma and bleeding. Whoever shot her multiple times with an air gun and left her for dead didn’t realize — or just didn’t care — that Isabelle’s arrival on the mainland had given her a second lease on life.

Isabelle’s long-term survival on the island was unlikely, and not only because other wolves ostracized her. Isle Royale’s once-robust wolf pack appears to be trotting toward extinction. From 2011 through 2012, the island’s wolf population declined 56 percent, and it has remained at its lowest total, just eight or nine individuals, since the Wolfe-Moose Study began, in 1956.

When an ice bridge, the only conduit between the island packs and the mainland wolves, formed during this past, frigid winter, Peterson and Vucetich felt buoyed with hope. During the first decade of the study, an ice bridge formed during three out of four winters. But during the past 17 years, because of rising temperatures, ice bridges have been documented only three times. One formed in 1997, followed by an 11-year gap. This winter marked the first bridge since 2008.

During cold winters, Isle Royale, an island located in Lake Superior, is connect to the mainland via ice bridges.
During cold winters, Isle Royale, an island located in Lake Superior, is connect to the mainland via ice bridges.

Rising water temperatures and declining ice cover in Lake Superior (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that by 2011 the lake’s yearly ice coverage had declined 76 percent, compared with 1973 levels) have combined with strong winds to reduce the frequency of ice bridges connecting the 45-mile-by-9-mile island to the mainland of Ontario and Minnesota. Because of this, the last time a new wolf entered the island was in 1997, and that male bolstered the island’s “gene flow.”

JE1H0363 adjusted cropped
Photo: John Vucetich

Within a decade, however, all wolves on the island carried that new arrival’s genes. Today, the nine wolves that live on the island are all closely related. With most organisms, including wolves, this sort of genetic inbreeding reduces the rate of reproduction, and it is the major factor behind the Isle Royale population’s decline.

Another cold winter in the next few years could create another bridge and perhaps draw wolves from the mainland to contribute to the gene pool. However, it is impossible to say how long the current wolf population can survive in these conditions. Given the specter of extinction, Peterson and Vucetich want to transport mainland wolves to the island.

Their hope is that intervention, which scientists call genetic rescue, would result in a more viable wolf population. That decision, however, is not theirs to make — it falls under the purview of the superintendent of Isle Royale National Park. And it is a decision fraught with controversy and disagreement, both on scientific and philosophical fronts.

Chapter 2: What Would Aldo Do?

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