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Part II

A Personal Relationship

The story of how I met climate change and where that led.

It is a combination of something immediate and personal leading to thoughts of the beginning of the universe to why it was created and then how the creaton seems incomplete my profession of photographing the landscape and looking for a maple tree with red leaves for my book about Walden; a bit of knowledge of the universe, how it began and how the earth and it inhabitants were the end result; some thoughts on what it means to be alive and how the earth gave us that meaning.

And finally the collosal tragedy that we, ignorant as can be, greedy beyond belief, not giving a damn for anything but political position and money, have begun to destroy the ability of the earth to be a place of joyful living.

(The contents of this EPILOGUE are in the menu above. The first page is th

Morning Lights
My own experience of the earth.

When I first read about climage change 15 years ago, it shocked my to my roots. My engineering background, in reaction to the melting of the tundra and the release of methane, brought by memories of what we called “thermal runaway” when germanium transistors melted due to faulty circuit design.

I see the earth in many different ways, from different places, from different times, and through different eyes, but it is always the place where I am alive. I walk on it, plow it, clear it, (used to) ski on it, photograph it, and love it. It is a part of me in a way nothing else is. It is part of my universe and of the grand universe, a result of the most astonishing process ever: the creation of space and time. But I devote Part III to his topic, for although nothing can do it justice, I will have a better place to concentrate my thinking.

My awareness of the universe goes back to my early teens and I have followed the science of cosmoligy ever since. That has been the beginning of my relationship.

However, at a time when I was working for my MIT faculty advisor, Dr. Amar Bose as the 5th employee of his company, some motivations of which I was barely aware moved me from engineering to marketing and caused me to buy a 4x5 view camera.

I have mostly given up trying to explain why, except for the few times that I tried to make a good photograph with my ordinary 35 mm camera, I felt failure and I tried some experiments with a borrowed 4x5 camera. One weekend I said to a friend, “lets got to New York, I want to buy a view camera.” I only bought a lens and got the camera by mail from a company that mostly equipped photography schools. So, in a sense I had a student’s camera. I wore that one out and bought a second identical one.

However, the earth came did not really come into my life until I began looking, hoping to find beauty. I went to the top of a high mountain and found a grand vista that was clearly not was I was looking for, instead I found hidden nature by ordinary roadsides (if you can call Interstate Highways ordinary). None of my images were where I would have expected to find them and never did I meet another photographer while I was photographing. Eventually I began calling my work The Hidden World of the Nearby. I photographed the four corners of America and a bit in Europe but it was the few places near home that I could visit again and again and again, usually for several years when I could develop a kind of relationship with how the earth changed between visits, just as good friends are different each time you see them as the days and years go by.

Twentyh eight years and 20,000 sheets of film many of which I still need to see with my mind and eyes as they are today.

The earth is alive. The growth it supports and the changes that happen make it feel like a large group of friends.

But already it is not the same as when I began in 1974. I began noticing subtle changes in the 1990s that I could not explain.

I stopped photographing in 2002 having begun to struggle in the fall to find the colors I remembered. I returned a few years ago to where I had found the red tree at Walden Pond, and there were no red leaves anywhere.

Then I learn that it is being changed, damaged, and it is a blow to every part of me, and a blow to how I think of other people who live here. And as I write and talk about may experiences of how it is changing I find that very few feel the way I do.

15 Years go I spoke to the Thoreau Society about my fears for the earth.
Although Thoreau is often considered the first conservationist, no one took any action. It puzzled and upset me. The earth is sacred to me, both as a scientist and as a photographer of the landscape and I cannot understand why the world doesn’t rush to its rescue. It has been damaged badly in the 15 years since I spoke. Now we cannot be sure it will survive for we are damaging it more and more every year. And suddenly I realize my clock is broken. t=0 for me is in the 1950’s when I grew up, when winter might see minus 20°F, when snowmaker at ski areas was rare, and there was no talk of the earth every changing, unless someone screwed up and fired off some nukes. The damage is a lot greater than 15 years ago, and 1941 when I was born might just as well be the Civil War (see Figure 1, below).

Then I look at Figure 3. The Bahamas, Huston, California, Puerto Rico have been more or less destroyed at 1.0°C and the (extremely unlikely) 1.5°C is the best we can hope for and an MIT scientist characterized over 2.0°C as “horrible” and based on what is happening my guess is at least 3.0°C.

This is a horror movie. Already the earth is far from what it used to be and it is going to be further still and it is as if a poisonous invisible fog r enveloped us and we are arguing about whether it is there or not when our poison fog meters are going off scale.

And I go to bed at 3:30 am with a strangere worked on this monster for two years and it has changed me a lot, it is not finished with me. Yet I feel alone. A distant cousin who is a civil engineer dealing with water drops by and dismisses the whole thing as bad data. And oil execs are promising to burn their entire reserves.

Something is wrong with us.

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I learned that the earth was being warmed by the burning of fuels that gave off carbon dioxide. They are called fossil fuels. They all come from organic matter buried in the ground millions of years ago. They were used only rarely until the invention of engines that could produce useful motion such as turning a shaft in a machine. The world was turned upside down by the first of these the steam engine.

Such machines proved so useful that thousands and then millions of such machines were built and they powered factories, trains, automobiles and much more. There use was assisted by so-called “oil companies” that processed the raw material that came from the ground into fuels such as gasoline, diesel, keroscene and others.

The oil companies did research to see if burning these fuels could be harmful and they found that it would, but kept the knowledge to themselves. They were also warned by the famous physicist Edward Teller when the oil companies celebrated 100 years of their business. Excepts from his talk are reproduced below.

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How Many Are There?

Earths, That Is

How many earths ARE there. It is impossible to tell. There may be billions. There may be a few. There may be one.

It all depends on a host of factors. (SETTI, The search for extraterristral intelligence, listening for radio signals in our galaxy for the past 40 years has heard nothing.) If there is life like ours, then perhaps we would hear a radio signal with clear information in it.

Or, we can look through telescopes, but that dosen’t reveal a whole lot. It all depends on how much needs to be just right. It is possible there is only one, or that there are billions. My own intuition says there are a ”few.” But perhaps the number doesn’t matter. What matters is what the earth does for us, and that is how global warming brings up the greatest question there is.

As best as we know life originated on the earth and evolved over millions of years to create homo sapiens. That is us.

So “us” is asking the question what is LIFE (caps intentional). This is the place where something throws me, because I have to answer the question about Life, and hardly anyone talks about it even the physicists who talk about theories of everything. As far as I know they talk about the four laws of physics and leave it at that. Then I start asking what is it that is so special about being alive and that blows my mind.

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Make To Order And Throw Away the Mold

It seems impossible that one planet would be perfectly made.

from the article: Earth, Just Right For Life

The Rare Earth Hypothesis: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe.’


“... Earth...boasts several features that make it ‘just right’


The right ingredients: A planet needs liquid water, an energy source and chemical building blocks like carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen for the life forms we're familiar with to thrive.

The right crust:Gas giants and molten worlds need not apply. Luckily, Earth possesses the suitable distribution of elements to ensure a hot metallic core and a rocky mantle.

The right temperature: The necessity for liquid water also means that planetary temperatures must permit the substance to retain its liquid form in some regions.

The right moon: Our large moon ensures climate stability by minimizing changes in planetary tilt. If our planet didn't have a tilt, it wouldn't have seasons. Likewise, a severe tilt would result in extreme seasons.

The right star: The sun provides Earth with the energy for life and is thankfully rather stable. Imagine baking a pot roast with an oven that might suddenly surge in temperature, die or explode. It wouldn't work for your pot roast, and it certainly wouldn't work for life.

The right core: Earth's solid inner core and liquid outer core play crucial roles in protecting life from deadly solar radiation. Differences in temperature and composition in the two core regions drive this powerful dynamo, emitting Earth's protective electromagnetic field.

The right neighbors: Jupiter shields Earth from constant stellar bombardment. Without the gas giant in the neighborhood, scientists predict that Earth would endure 10,000 times as many asteroid and comet strikes [source: Villard].

In short, Earth contains all the ingredients and environmental necessities for life to emerge, plus the relative safety for it to evolve unmolested for hundreds of millions of years on end.

How common are these combinations in the universe?

Astronomers have now discovered thousands of planets. Some obviously are not suitable for higher forms of life. Others, it is impossible to tell. As a guess, if there is a 1% chance of each of seven requirements, the probability of a planet possessing these characteristics is 0.017 or 10-9 which is one in a billion.

A deeper examination of a greater range of parameters may be found by clicking on PLANETARY HABITABILITY.

Searching the web will reveal a number of sites devoted to the possibility of planets that could support higher forms of life. One such is Humans May Be the Only Intelligent Life in the Universe, If Evolution Has Anything to Say. Curiously, the author, Nick Longrich - Senior Lecturer, Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Bath, using an entirely different set of assumptions arrives at the same number: 1 in a billion.

I believe it is likely there are other planets with higher formers of life, but not many. The SETTI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) program has been operating for about 40 years with no successful detections. My own assessment is that the overall requirements make the earth still more special with the probability of earth-like planets exceedingly rare.

Whatever the number, it is the earth that incubated life and helped it evolve over billions of years. And we are doing our best to kill it, windmills and solar cells notwithstanding.

MIT has a plan and it has the right ingredients except for two. How to implement it and how aggressive it should be. By agressive I mean how fast to we get carbon emissions down and do we do the job right and go backwards: scrub the air and get us from what will likely be 500 to 600 ppm carbon dioxide (it is now 420 and started at 270) and get it back to Bill McKibbens target of 350 (350.org). Any more than that and the earth will keep getting warmer and warmer and soon or later becomes a place of horrors.

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