The Friends of California Libre...

11 May 2007

The Earth Says Mayday Mayday Mayday

Greetings, friends,
Among our other charming quirks, we librarians keep on top of the Internet like nobody's business. Now, along with my Yahoo account, e-mail, Skype, and MySpace identities, you can find me in Facebook and Second Life - you may have been "spammed" by Facebook, which regardless I find a lot mellower than MySpace.

If you happen to already be in Second Life, look for my avatar Rane Lubitsch if you stumble in. I could use a friend in this dangerous virtual world! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's the "next big thing", and many librarians are beginning to network in this virtual world. It's also the most personal and therefore creepiest of the new "social networks". Many of you (especially parents) are already familiar with the World of Warcraft, where instead of playing against computer generated enemies, you fight and ally with real people all over the world. Second Life is the adult version...a virtual world completely manufactured by individual beings. You can buy land, design your own buildings, sell services, etc. You can shop, go to gigs, meet people, and do many other things you can't do in your "first life" - you can fly (realistically), change your gender, or even live as a real "furry" (look it up). It is very imaginative and more realistic than I anticipated.

My initial impressions are: You need a good computer, and although I'm kinda blown away, a lot of "first life" problems are apparent, even more than in MySpace. Imagine the kind of havoc punk kids (there is an 18 and up limit in Second Life, but it is not enforced yet) could wreak in a virtual environment without rules. Because your avatar (the person you are) has certain physical properties (you cannot walk through walls, etc.), you can be yelled at, shoved, pushed down, even shot up. I've read reports of people "griefing" each other, a sort of an automated computer attack. For example, I read where a group of avatars were kicked out of a club for "orbiting" (a kind of prank where you send another avatar to a location high above Second Life, where it can take an hour to fall back to the ground; this is all serious) and they reacted by attacking the club with guns (weapons which either dissolve or "rez" an avatar), essentially disrupting a live gig and causing everyone to reboot their computer session. I also read an account of a woman who was "virtually raped" when two avatars teleported into her private garden (as I said, you can own land and build a house for yourself in Second Life) and tried to force her to teleport to a sex club with them. She was able to teleport away, but they disrupted her work and then were able to damage her house. It is also possible to "destroy" a virtual building in Second Life (although they are restored when you reboot). Wild! But in order for there to be "freedom" (an interesting analogy to our own world), it is impossible to create a virtual object, whether a house or an avatar, completely invulnerable to a computer attack.

Pretty creepy, huh? There is a brisk self-defense trade in Second Life because of this freedom - guns, shields, even hired "bouncers", private security avatars who are skilled with "weaps" and at sussing the intentions of others. I must say, I signed up in Second Life to attend a virtual library conference, not to get my ass blown away. I haven't been attacked yet, but I did get verbally insulted in Spanish because my avatar has a beard, and I'm pretty sure a
French avatar (male) was picking up on me, standing very close and nudging me backwards. Bizarre! The virtual world we were expecting in the 1980s is much closer to reality.

An aptly timed poem from Miss Dorothy Parker (thanks, Sergei):

If I had a shiny gun,
I could have a world of fun
Speeding bullets through the brains
Of the folk who give me pains;

Or had I some poison gas,
I could make the moments pass
Bumping off a number of
People whom I do not love.

But I have no lethal weapon--
Thus does Fate our pleasure step on!
So they still are quick and well
Who should be, by rights, in hell.

One advantage of flying is that you can "think in three dimensions" (remember "The Wrath of Khan") and avoid a lot of the assholes who walk around looking for trouble. Here is a "virtual photo" I took of my avatar Rane Lubitsch standing on a tall tower (you can also see that Second Life, like my own hometown, is very smoggy!):

Now for the weather report...just a few weeks ago I was bragging about taking my Century 21 cashmere coat out in the rain, then it was pushing 100 and nearly a quarter of Griffith Park just burned. This is the largest fire any of us have seen in the park:

Yikes! As of this writing, I still don't know if my precious Cedar Grove survived; in the image below it's in the unburnt area at the lower right, next to the City Nursery (by the letter T in ROOSEVELT), which also may have survived:

That wasn't the biggest disaster we suffered last week, either:
Trader Vic's Closes After 52 Years
Iconic Beverly Hills bar and restaurant Trader Vic's closed its doors today after more than 50 years of serving its famous tropical drinks and cuisine to a long list of Hollywood legends.
This article originally appeared at:,0,4083936.story?coll=ktla-newslocal-1

One thing is certain, the entire center of Griffith Park is a blackened scar because one nimrod dropped his cigarette. Currently a much larger fire is gutting the center of Santa Catalina Island offshore, and it's only MAY, the jacarandas are just blooming, and we have a very long, hot summer to look forward to. If there is one positive, many of the flammable exotic trees in Griffith Park, particularly the resinous pines and eucalyptus, were burnt up. The City now has the opportunity to start fresh with drought tolerant natives, the manzanita, oaks and sycamores. We'll see...or, ahem, you'll see. I'll hopefully be in a wetter place as this world dries up and burns.

Yes, folks, it all comes back around to global warming, and that's the sad truth. It's hitting my precious desert Southwest hard:
It's August in March for Fire Agencies
By Hector Becerra and Andrew Blankstein
The Los Angeles Times
Drought a Drain on Flora, Fauna
By Rong-Gong Lin II
The Los Angeles Times
Southwest May Get Even Hotter, Drier
By Marc Kaufman
The Washington Post

One of the rarest and most lovely environments in Arizona, the cool mountaintops of aptly named Summerhaven, are probably doomed:
Heat Invades Cool Heights Over Arizona Desert
By Timothy Egan
The New York Times

And the entire US is at risk:
El Niño Has Bigger Bite With Climate Change
By Bernarda Claure
Global Warming May Put US in Hot Water
By Seth Borenstein
The Associated Press
Panel Says US Faces Change as Climate Warms
By Edith M. Lederer
The Associated Press

Hell, folks, the entire world is in peril:
Scientists Detail Climate Changes, Poles to Tropics
By James Kanter and Andrew C. Revkin
The New York Times
Is Earth Near Its "Tipping Points" From Global Warming?
By Dan Vergano and Patrick O'Driscoll
USA Today
Collapse of Arctic Sea Ice "Has Reached Tipping Point"
By Steve Connor
The Independent UK
Study: More CO2 Will Shift Climate Zones
UN Scientists Warn Time Is Running Out to Tackle Global Warming
By David Adam
The Guardian UK

In some places melting ice reveals new land:
An Island Made by Global Warming
By Michael McCarthy
The Independent UK
Arctic Sea Ice Melting Much Faster, Experts Find
Antarctic Melting May Be Speeding Up - Scientists
By Michael Byrnes

And some of the most populated areas on Earth are sinking beneath the ocean:
Rising Sea Levels Threaten Indian Islands
By Bappa Majumdar
The First Refugees of Global Warming
By Laurie Goering
The Chicago Tribune
Coastal Mega-Cities In for a Bumpy Ride
By Srabani Roy
Inter Press Service
Study Shows Sudden Sea Level Surges Threaten One Billion
By Michael Kahn

The news just gets worse, friends; what we have going on in the US is nothing compared to Australia, where they may have to choose between farms and drinking
Australia's Epic Drought: The Situation Is Grim
By Kathy Marks
The Independent UK

This bodes ill for the global food supply:
World's Most Important Crops Hit by Global Warming Effects
By Steve Connor
The Independent UK
Millions Face Hunger From Climate Change: Report
The Associated Press
Poor Nations to Bear Brunt as World Warms
By Andrew C. Revkin
The New York Times

And hunger isn't the only problem:
Global Warming Health Effects
By Jane Kay
The San Francisco Chronicle

If you aren't depressed already, let's continue...many people have been sending me various articles on this strange disappearance of honeybees, which if it continues, makes global warming moot, as many of us will just starve to death:
Deserted Beehives, Starving Young Stun Scientists
By Dan Vergano and Patrick O'Driscoll
USA Today
What's Happening to the Bees?
By Moises Velasquez-Manoff
The Christian Science Monitor

There are some radically different theories:
Are GM Crops Killing Bees?
By Gunther Latsch
Der Spiegel
(thanks, Mark):
Subject: Are Cell Phones killing off honeybees?
Maybe yes, according to this article in the UK's Independent:

I predict humanity will opt for new Razr phones over a steady food supply, when push comes to shove...
Are Mobile Phones Wiping Out Our Bees?
By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross
The Independent UK
Experts May Have Found What's Bugging the Bees
By Jia-Rui Chong and Thomas H. Maugh II
The Los Angeles Times
Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons
By Alexie Barrionuevo
The New York Times

For other animals, the future is equally bleak. For example, I have good news and bad news for the infamous baby harp seals in Canada...the good news, there won't be many hunters out clubbing them to death this season. The bad news, the ice off Newfoundland has melted early and most of the seals probably drowned:
Global Warming Disaster as Thousands of Harp Seal Pups Perish: Experts Call for Annual Seal Hunt to Be Cancelled
E-Wire Press Release
Climate Change: Canada's Cruel Harvest
By David Usborne
The Independent UK

In Florida, the manatee is likewise losing out to luxury homebuilders:
Manatee's Status May Change
By Peter Whoriskey
The Washington Post

Other animals face confusion and distress as their food supplies move or disappear, and our brethren the whale have their minds literally blown by the sonar on our warships:
Migratory Birds, Whales Confused by Warming, UN Says
By Alister Doyle
Pacific Whale Decline "a Mystery"
By Richard Black
Sound Effects
By Bree Ullman
The Honolulu Weekly
Activists say sonar kills whales. The Navy isn't listening.

Even far from the oceans, life on Earth is in peril:
Death in the Rainforest: Fragile Creatures Give the World a New Climate Warning
By Ian Sample
The Guardian UK

In this country, our reaction has been less than stellar:
US 1990-2005 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Up 16 Percent
Scientist Accuses White House of "Nazi" Tactics
By Joel Havemann
The Los Angeles Times
Bush Administration Reinterprets Species Law
By Jeff Barnard
The Associated Press
Exclusive: Report Charges Broad White House Efforts to Stifle Climate Research
By Justin Rood
ABC News
White House Seeks to Cut Geothermal Research Funds
By Bernie Woodall
Why the Right Goes Nuclear Over Global Warming
By Jonathan Chait
The Los Angeles Times

The judiciary, business, even the military are confronting this unsustainable government:
Judge Tosses Out Bush's National Forest Rules
By Janet Wilson
The Los Angeles Times
Climate Change May Worsen Instability
The Financial Times
Ex-Generals: Global Warming Threatens US Security
The Associated Press

We might be saved in the nick of time if we run out of oil...
GAO: Looming Threat to US Oil Supply
By Matt Renner
t r u t h o u t Report

...unless without oil we switch to even more dangerous supplies of energy.
End of Oil Heralds Climate Pain
By David Strahan
BBC News
Let's Call the Coal Thing Off
By Amanda Griscom Little

Coal is definitely not the answer; neither is crop-produced ethanol:
Air Pollution Rules Relaxed for US Ethanol Producers
Environment News Service
Ethanol Cars May Not Be Healthier
Study Warns of Health Risk From Ethanol
By Keay Davidson
The San Francisco Chronicle

In drought-plagued Australia, there is some positive news in this screed, an innovative way of processing biofuels to make them carbon-negative:
Birth of a New Wedge
By Kelpie Wilson
t r u t h o u t Report

In California we are proud to lead the fight:
EPA Revives California's Request to Set Tough Emission Standards
By Samantha Young
The Associated Press
Court Rebukes Administration in Global Warming Case
Challenge to Emissions Rule Is Set to Start
By Danny Hakim
The New York Times

No matter where it will lead us:
We Must Imagine a Future Without Cars
By James Howard Kunstler

In some sick way, it's exciting; all of us will live to see this crisis either pass or come to a head. We truly are living through crunch time for the planet Earth:
Gore Warns Congress of Planetary Emergency
By Felicity Barringer and Andrew C. Revkin
The New York Times
Life Is Hanging by a Thread
By Jane Goodall
The Miami Herald

Even countries that are environmentally sound by tradition will be sorely tested and found wanting:
Gore Calls Canada Climate Plan a "Fraud"
The Associated Press

The crisis is truly global in nature, and the UN will have to stand up at last...or it will not last:
In a First, Security Council to Discuss Climate Change Threat
The People's Daily

The big countries that the US like to blame, like China and India, have already done more than their share:
Poor Nations Brake Greenhouse Gas Rise - UN Draft
By Alister Doyle
Clean Power That Reaps a Whirlwind
By Keith Bradsher
The New York Times

The Europeans, who are implementing strict rules to control their own contribution to global warming (and have much to lose from it), will also need to stand up and confront those who ignore the dangers:
EU Slams United States, Australia on Climate Change
By Jeff Mason
Divisions Over Global Warming Threaten EU-US Climate Meeting
The Independent UK
Crucial Climate Change Agreement Reached After Fierce Debate
By Karl Malakunas
Agence France-Presse

It'll be entertaining, because America is full of morons:
Inhofe Vows to Put Brakes on Gore's "Live Earth" Concert at the Capitol
By Elana Schor
The Hill

But when back against the wall, you'll see that Californians will lead...
Legislature Flooded With Bills About Climate Crisis
By Mark Martin
The San Francisco Chronicle

Even when it seems ridiculous...(but it's really not...)
San Francisco First City to Ban Plastic Shopping Bags
By Charlie Goodyear
The San Francisco Chronicle

...because we're gonna sell salvation to the rest of this idiot country. Woo!
Silicon Valley TechNet Is Keen on Green
By David R. Baker
The San Francisco Chronicle

Device Uses Solar Energy To Convert Carbon Dioxide Into Fuel

Science Daily ­ Chemists at the University of California, San Diego have demonstrated the feasibility of exploiting sunlight to transform a greenhouse gas into a useful product.

The developing world has the message...
Sale of Carbon Credits Helping Land-Rich, but Cash-Poor, Tribes
By Jim Robbins
The New York Times
World Must Pay Poorer Nations to Keep Forests: Stern
By Ed Davies

Time for us to pay up! Let's go!
Hard Choices, Sacrifices Ahead on Global Warming - Including Higher Costs
By Frank Davies
The San Jose Mercury News

Vive le screed!

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