Antarctic ice sheet past ‘point of no return’

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Language Controversy: My Queer History and the Fur Coat in The Garbage

From Huffington Post:

Corvette Hunt

My last name is Hunt. When I was in third grade, the other boys at school found another word that rhymed with Hunt, and that was what they called me. Back then, I was a sissy boy who got beat up, a lot. And by the end of third grade, that four-letter word that rhymed with Hunt, was what all my classmates called me. It became my name.

I was a strange boy. My greatest childhood memory was finding a pair of emerald-green satin pumps in the back of my mom’s closet. The closest I came to personal power as a kid was when I stole those shoes, put them on and tip tip tipped down the sidewalk of my suburban neighborhood. Which of course didn’t help with the beatings up and my new four-letter name.

So, I grew up with a name that held a great level of shame for me. Eventually I went to New York and left my entire name behind to go in search of a new one.

Everything changed when I came to New York. And one night in particular enlightened me. It was a Tuesday night in 1994, where I was up-in-pumps (drag), feeling wild and reckless. I ended up stranded in the Meatpacking District wearing only a bra, red-hot-red panties, a blonde wig, black fishnet stockings, a sparkly, violet sequined hat that once belonged to Marsha P. Johnson, and a stolen pair of Vivienne Westwood high heels.

I was stranded and half-naked. But then I found a leopard-spotted fur coat in the garbage. I put it on and tip tip tipped through the cobblestone streets, where I stumbled upon a door with a long line of beautiful people that wrapped around the corner, a little red velvet rope, and a Catwoman-like door girl named Kitty Boots who let me inside the nightclub Jackie 6O. Hello.

Inside that nightclub were drag superstars, downtown artists, and sexy go-go boys proudly wearing t-shirts that read, I (Heart) Trannys. Then a tall Queen with jet-black hair, dressed head to toe in black leather and gun-metal-lipstick-painted lips, spotted me from across the room. She walked over, eyed me up and down, and called me that name — the word that brought back all my childhood shame. I got heat in my nerves, and up the back of my neck, and along the hairline of my platinum blonde wig.

But then she explained something to me.

That Queen was the Misstress Formika. And that night, she explained to me how, amongst the sisterhood, that word was the highest compliment a Queen could pay another Queen. She was giving me approval. This information transformed me. I had walked into that club wearing garbage and internal baggage, and I left proudly embracing it all.

I know that owning a word and stripping it of its negative effect is not a new idea, but that moment changed the way I heard and used language. Now I could own this word — amongst other past slurs against my sexuality — with pride and power.

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This Is What a Holy Shit Moment for Global Warming Looks Like

From Mother Jones:

According to two new studies, the collapse of much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may now be irreversible. That could ultimately mean 10 feet of sea level rise.

If you truly understand global warming, then you know it’s all about the ice. That’s what matters. Planet Earth has not always had great ice sheets at the poles, of the sort that currently exist atop Greenland and Antarctica. In other periods, much of that water has instead been in liquid form, in the oceans—and the oceans have been much higher.

How much? According to the National Academy of Sciences, the globe’s great ice sheets contain enough frozen water to raise sea levels worldwide by more than 60 meters. That’s about 200 feet. And it makes all the sea level rise that we’ve seen so far due to global warming appear piddly and insignificant.

That’s why scientists have long feared a day like this would come. Two new scientific papers, in the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters, report that major glaciers that are part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appear to have become irrevocably destabilized. The whole process may still play out on the scale of centuries, but due to the particular dynamics of this ice sheet, the collapse of these major glaciers now “appears unstoppable,” according to NASA (whose researchers are behind one of the two studies).

The first study, by researchers at NASA and the University of California-Irvine, uses satellite radar to examine an array of large glaciers along the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, which collectively contain the equivalent of four feet of sea level rise. The result is the documentation of a “continuous and rapid retreat”—for instance, the Smith and Kohler glaciers have retreated 35 kilometers since 1992—and the researchers say that there is “no [major] obstacle that would prevent the glaciers from further retreat.” In the NASA press release, the researchers are still more vocal, with one of them noting that these glaciers “have passed the point of no return.”

The other group of researchers, based at the University of Washington, reach similar conclusions with their paper in Science. But they do so by using a computer model to study one of these glaciers in particular: The Thwaites Glacier, pictured above, which contains about two feet of sea level rise and is retreating rapidly. “The simulations indicate that early-stage collapse has begun,” notes their paper. What’s more, the Thwaites Glacier is a “linchpin” for the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet; its rapid collapse would “probably spill over to adjacent catchments, undermining much of West Antarctica.” And considering that the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet contains enough water to raise sea levels by 10 to 13 feet, that’s a really big deal.

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“Devastating” Impacts of Climate Change Increasing

From Truth Out:

By Dahr Jamail
Tuesday, 13 May 2014

“One does not sell the land people walk on.”
~ Crazy Horse

A massive collapse of an ice sheet in Western Antarctica has begun and, according to scientists, is most likely an unstoppable event that will cause an inevitable rise in global sea levels of at least 10 feet.

The rise will be relatively slow at first, but by 2100 will ramp up sharply. This could happen sooner, warn the scientists, as the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD/climate change) continue to intensify.

“This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said. “There’s nothing to stop it now.”

On April 13, the world’s leading scientific body for the assessment of ACD warned of a “devastating rise of 4-5C if we carry on as we are.”

According to Mike Childs, the head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, an increase to 4C warming would mean a “devastating” impact on agriculture and human civilization. Childs added that we would face even more extreme weather events and lose approximately 20-30 percent of the wildlife on the planet. This assessment may even be overly hopeful, given that humans have never lived on a planet at 3.5C or higher.

A report released in April by a joint Australian/US research team states that escalating CO2 emissions now threaten the entire marine food chain, given that more than 90 percent of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans.

The extreme temperature duality witnessed across the US this past winter is likely to become the norm, thanks to ACD, and it was again revealed who the largest CO2 emitters are. China, the US, and India lead as the world’s largest polluters.

The rapidity with which ACD is progressing now is truly astounding. Greenhouse gas emissions grew in the first decade of the 21st century at a rate nearly double that of the previous 30 years combined—this, despite the massive economic downturn in 2008.

With full steam ahead for the industrial growth society that dominates the planet, this dispatch reveals another month of dramatic impacts and stunning reports that show, starkly, how humans are disfiguring all facets of the earth.

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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): Climate Change Debate

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This Planet Comes with Limits

From Common Dreams:

by Carl Safina

When I was in my 20s, a girlfriend surprised me by saying that we didn’t have to worry about overpopulation because technology would make sure we always had what everyone needed. Of course, economists have been saying this for decades.

And of course, billions of people today don’t have what they need.

Because such people as my old girlfriend and economists presuppose that unlimited economic growth is necessary and also believe adding billions more humans to the world is desirable, I would like to share some thoughts about such thinkers, whom I’ll call “Growthers.”

Why do Growthers think we should add billions more humans to the world? Do they want more consumers? Or is it something deeper, more biblical, more fruitfully multiplied? All of the above? Whatever their impulse, compulsive craving for “no limits” to economic growth and human numbers is irrational. A finite planet comes with limits.

The United Nations expects the population to grow to about 9.6 billion people by mid-century; that’s two more Chinas. That worries me. Yet in The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, April 26, Matt Ridley expressed these views when he reassured us, “There are no limits because we can invent new ways of doing more with less.” He doesn’t see that this very acknowledgment undermines his premise. If limits don’t exist, why would we need to do more with less?

He continued: “Oil and gas … will run out one day, but only in the sense that you will run out of Atlantic Ocean one day if you take a rowboat west out of a harbor in Ireland. Just as you are likely to stop rowing long before you bump into Newfoundland, so we may well find cheap substitutes for fossil fuels long before they run out.”

Is it possible to think more incoherently about matters of such importance? And as a mariner I must point out — if only for safety — that a rowboat far in the open ocean is a frail and vulnerable craft.

Another big blind spot in the unlimited growth view is the fact that other species also need to live here with us. But other creatures pay for our growth. Meanwhile, populations of fishes, amphibians, mammals, reptiles and birds are all declining worldwide. Species are going extinct about 1,000 times faster than the natural rate — in other words, the rate it would be if humans weren’t around.

North America’s pursuit of growth obliterated the tall prairies, exterminated the continent’s most abundant birds and marginalized many mammals. An Africa of unlimited human growth will lose free-living elephants, apes and cats, natural landscapes and free-flowing rivers. It happens when farms and towns replace plains and forests.

Would farming Africa like we’ve farmed the Plains solve Africa’s problems? Food isn’t Africa’s only problem.

Already, Ethiopia’s planned dams threaten the nation’s own people and Kenyans who rely on Lake Turkana for water and food. Competition and conflict always shadow the broad edges of humanity’s tent, and a bigger tent tends to inflame tensions. Like all continents, Africa focused on growth would still have poverty, hunger and conflict. Better to focus on reducing poverty, hunger and conflict.

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