Sunday, July 20, 2014

Northern Canada is On Fire, And It's Making Global Warming Worse

(Mother Jones) For the past few weeks, dry and warm weather have fueled large forest fires across Canada's remote Northwest Territories. The extent of those fires is well above average for the year to-date, and is in line with climate trends of more fires burning in the northern reaches of the globe.
Of the 186 wildfires in the Northwest Territories to-date this year, 156 of them are currently burning. That includes the Birch Creek Fire complex, which stretches over 250,000 acres.
The amount of acres burned in the Northwest Territories is six times greater than the 25-year average to-date according to data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center.
Boreal forests like those in the Northwest Territories are burning at rates "unprecedented" in the past 10,000 years according to the authors of a study put out last year. The northern reaches of the globe are warming at twice the rate as areas closer to the equator, and those hotter conditions are contributing to more widespread burns.
The combined boreal forests of Canada, Europe, Russia and Alaska, account for 30 percent of the world's carbon stored in land, carbon that's taken up to centuries to store. Forest fires like those currently raging in the Northwest Territories, as well as ones in 2012 and 2013 in Russia, can release that stored carbon into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Warmer temperatures can in turn create a feedback loop, priming forests for wildfires that release more carbon into the atmosphere and cause more warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's landmark climate report released earlier this year indicates that for every 1.8 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperatures, wildfire activity is expected to double. Read More

Examining the Growth of the ‘Spiritual but Not Religious’

(New York Times)  “Spiritual but not religious.” So many Americans describe their belief system this way that pollsters now give the phrase its own category on questionnaires. In the 2012 survey by the Pew Religion and Public Life Project, nearly a fifth of those polled said that they were not religiously affiliated — and nearly 37 percent of that group said they were “spiritual” but not “religious.” It was 7 percent of all Americans, a bigger group than atheists, and way bigger than Jews, Muslims or Episcopalians.
Unsurprisingly, the S.B.N.R.s, as this growing group is often called, are attracting a lot of attention. Four recent books offer perspectives on these Americans who seem to want some connection to the divine, but who don’t feel affiliated with traditional religion. There’s the minister who wants to woo them, two scholars who want to understand them and the psychotherapist who wants to help them.
The Rev. Lillian Daniel’s book “When ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Is Not Enough” (Jericho, 2013) began as a short essay for The Huffington Post, in which she voiced her exasperation with the predictability that she found in spiritual but not religious people.
“On airplanes,” Ms. Daniel wrote in the essay, in 2011, “I dread the conversation with the person who finds out I am a minister and wants to use the flight time to explain to me that he is ‘spiritual but not religious.’ Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo.” Before you know it, “he’s telling me that he finds God in the sunsets.”
“These people always find God in the sunsets,” Ms. Daniel said. “And in walks on the beach.” Read More

Washington’s volcanoes get more scientific scrutiny

(Associated Press)  Washington’s volcanoes are getting some enhanced — and high-tech — scientific scrutiny this summer.
This weekend, about 75 geophysicists from around the world are gathering at Mount St. Helens to bore 23 holes into the mountain so they can create seismic waves with small explosions equivalent to a magnitude 2 earthquake.
They also will be locating some 3,500 new seismic sensors all around the volcano.
The new measuring devices mark the final preparation for a big volcano mapping project that scientists say will enable the equivalent of an ultrasound and CT scan of the volcano’s internal plumbing.
“Mount St. Helens and other volcanos in the Cascade Range threaten urban centers from Vancouver to Portland, and we’d like to better understand their inner workings in order to better predict when they may erupt and how severe those eruptions are likely to be,” said Alan Levander of Houston’s Rice University, lead scientist for the experiment.
Meanwhile, a study of Mount Rainier’s internal plumbing system was published this past week in the science journal Nature.
Researchers from Utah, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Norway used seismic imaging as part of an effort to look at the ways rocks and liquids affect magnetic fields in the Cascade Range, Seattlepi.com reported.
The “images” they made captured the way magma is fed into a reserve 5 miles under Mount Rainier that will be tapped eventually for eruptions, said geophysicist Phil Wannamaker of the University of Utah. Read More

A new state of consciousness

(Maple Valley Reporter) During the next few days, legal pot stores will start popping up all over King and Pierce counties. However, some of our cautious, duly-elected, local  officials have, diplomatically and politically, decided to slap a moratorium on legal pot within city limits. Of course, that’s only temporary, until they figure out how they want to handle the issue. In the meantime, to get your buzz on you’ll have to drive to retail weed stores in cities without a moratorium or just about any other wide spot in the road.
I knew this would happen sooner or later, but it’s still a bit boggling to realize the hour has finally arrived. Yet, upon the eve of this auspicious occasion, there are still many people who can’t get their heads around the idea. The other afternoon, a rather casual acquaintance and I were sharing coffee in the Lee, when he turned to me and said: “I just don’t understand why a fella wants to try that crap. Can you explain that to me?”
Well, yeah, I probably can. (And it isn’t very often I can explain much of anything.) There actually seems to be an innate, genetic reason for our desire to use not only pot, but a host of other stimulants and depressants and psychedelics, running the gamut from caffeine to heroin.
Yes, you read that correctly. Inherent in our very DNA, there appears to be a desire – a biological need – to experience and seek new and original states of consciousness. Read More