Reality check

first_imgLast year, author-turned-activist Bill McKibben ’82 spent just 60 days sleeping in his own bed. The rest of the time he was on the road, organizing what he deems essential to force political change on a warming planet: a global grassroots movement.In remarks at Harvard on Monday (March 8), McKibben — whose 1989 book “The End of Nature” popularized the science of global warming — apologized for the greenhouse gases that his worldwide travel consumed, a bigger carbon footprint than most small villages, he said. But with glaciers melting, oceans acidifying, and climate zones shifting, he said, the world needs a political makeover fast.His new organization,, could help by educating the political classes to a new reality that greenhouse gases shrouding Earth should go no higher than 350 parts per million in carbon dioxide equivalents.One problem, of course, is that the level of such gases is already at 390 ppm “and rising fast,” McKibben told listeners in a crowded Sperry Room at Harvard Divinity School. The world is running out of oil, though perhaps slowly, he said, and that requires the political will to think beyond petroleum.Beyond oil’s decline are the stark, immovable facts of physics and chemistry, said McKibben, the “deep physical limits” caused by proliferating greenhouse gases.So what can people do?“A new logic prevails,” he said in a talk called “Reality Check: How the Facts of Life on a Tough New Planet Shape Our Choices.” The event was part of a lecture series called “Ecologies of Human Flourishing,” co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of World Religions. The session included a conversation with Harvard climate scientist Daniel Schrag.By this “new logic,” said McKibben, security and stability will become more important that constant economic growth. “All the glory associated with the concept of growth will start to tarnish,” he said. “Maturity will become our credo.”He said that centralized energy systems dominated by fossil fuels will be slowly replaced by systems that are dispersed and localized, and that rely on renewable energy. McKibben’s house in the Vermont woods, for instance, has an array of solar panels on the roof. “On sunny days,” he said, “I’m a utility.”And food systems — the way we grow and distribute what we eat — will shrink from global to regional models, he predicted. Farmers’ markets are among the fastest growing sectors of the economy. (In Madison, Wis., one regional market draws 100,000 shoppers on a Saturday.) And the last five-year census of U.S. agriculture showed the first growth in the number of farms in 125 years, most of them small-scale operations.Current U.S. farming and food systems are like much of modern Western life, intensively dependent on oil. Farming requires fertilizers, tractors, and carbon-based transportation systems, he said. “The food you eat is essentially marinated in fossil fuel before it reaches your lips.”In addition to asking what we can do, said McKibben, another important question is: How can we flourish? Perhaps by living better, but with less, he said.He sketched in a world of sprawl, increasing social isolation, and declining happiness, an America of “enormous houses, and enormous cars to drive between them.”McKibben said the chief untold consequence of our dependence on fossil fuels is that oil “has made us lonelier people than we were before.” We are inhabitants of “bigger houses farther apart from one another,” he said, isolated by television, and enjoying half the meals we had with friends in 1950. Meanwhile, “human satisfaction” polls show that American happiness peaked nearly 60 years ago, despite a trebling of material prosperity since then.“These are enormous changes,” said McKibben, but shifting our sense of scale might help. He cited a recent study showing that shopping in farmers’ markets engendered 10 times the number of personal interactions that a stroll under fluorescent lights at the supermarket does.“I love hearing Bill talk. Bill always makes me hopeful,” said Schrag, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology and professor of environmental science and engineering, and director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.But other reality checks are required, he said. For instance, only about 40 percent of Americans think climate change is actually happening. And just 15 percent think climate change is “actually serious,” said Schrag.Add to that the speed and gravity of the ecological consequences of climate change. California’s rivers that are now fed by glacial melt may run dry by the end of the century, stranding water-hungry farms. And by as early as 2035, melting glaciers in the Himalayan mountains may cause dry conditions on farms far downriver that presently feed 3 billion people.Then there are problems with renewable sources of energy, said Schrag. Rooftop photovoltaic solar arrays such as McKibben’s are expensive.Renewable resources such as wind and solar will require massive construction projects, an idea offensive to many people in an environmental movement inspired by pastoral ideals.Then there is the issue of energy density, said Schrag. A wind farm may create a watt for every square meter of its physical footprint. But a coal mine in Wyoming may represent an energy potential that is a million times denser.A social movement such as McKibben’s is important, and even necessary, said Schrag. But any such movement “has to support trade-offs,” like the “massive building projects” that a shift to renewables will require.McKibben said he understands that, and he is in favor of a wind farm proposed near his beloved Siamese Ponds Wilderness in New York’s Adirondack Park. “Build this as fast as you can,” he said, bowing to the grave urgency of global warming. “There’s not going to be winter there in 40 years.”But at the same time people make compromises in the cause of renewable energy, they can certainly do more with less, said McKibben. Profligate use of energy is “astonishing,” he said. “We’ve spent the last decade driving semi-military vehicles back and forth to the grocery store.”This year’s campaign by includes a “great power race,” he said, a competitive challenge to universities in China, India, and the United States to prompt novel ideas for sustainable energy.Last year, sponsored the largest political demonstration held worldwide, with 5,200 rallies in 181 countries, which engendered 25,000 pictures on the group’s Web site.The capstone day this year for is Oct. 10 — 10/10/10 — with a “global work party” that will install solar panels, lay out bike paths, dig community gardens, and demonstrate other local projects that have a light carbon footprint.Global warming is too grave a problem to solve one project at a time, but a worldwide gesture, said McKibben, “will help us make the point to our leaders that if we can do this work, they sure as hell can too.”UpcomingNext in the “Ecologies of Human Flourishing” series: “Does Thoreau Have a Future? Reimagining Voluntary Simplicity for the Twenty-First Century,” a lecture by Lawrence Buell, Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature in Harvard’s Department of English. It will be held Thursday (March 25) from 5:15 to 7 p.m. in the Sperry Room, Andover Hall, 45 Francis Ave., Cambridge, Mass.last_img read more

Update on the latest sports

first_imgNFL-LEAF ARRESTRyan Leaf arrested for domestic batterPALM DESERT, Calif. (AP) — Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf was arrested in Southern California on Friday.The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said the second player taken in the 1998 draft was taken into custody on a domestic battery charge in Palm Desert, about 110 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Leaf was being held on $5,000 bail at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility.Leaf finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 1997 and led Washington State to the Rose Bowl. Drafted by the Chargers, he won just four of 18 games as a starter in three seasons with the team. He was 0-3 with the Dallas Cowboys in 2001 and finished his four-year career with 14 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions. In other developments related to the coronavirus pandemic:— Canada’s NHL teams have offered season ticket-holders rebate or refund options in acknowledgment that no more 2019-20 regular-season games will be played in front of fans in their respective buildings. The Canadian Press says all seven teams contacted their season ticket bases last week with options and/or deadlines to make a decision.— The Washington Nationals have changed their plans for a virtual World Series ring ceremony after players decided they would rather wait until they could reunite in person to receive their new jewelry. The Nationals previously announced they were going to give out the rings during a show broadcast on television and online. They still plan to unveil the design of the ring Sunday, the anniversary of the date they began their turnaround from a 19-31 record to World Series champs.— The Alaska Baseball League has canceled its summer season, which was scheduled to begin on June 29. The five-team league is made up of college players from mostly the Lower 48 states but also from places as far away as Taiwan. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, travel and housing would have been a logistical challenge during the seven weeks of play.— President Donald Trump played golf Saturday for the first time since declaring the pandemic a national emergency more than two months ago. His return to the course is one more sign that he wants the country back to pre-outbreak times, even as the U.S. death toll from the virus nears 100,000. That’s twice what he once predicted it would be. The outing was Trump’s first to any of the money-making properties he owns since March 8, when he visited his private golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida. — Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are getting ready for another made-for-TV match, this time with friends from the NFL. Woods and Peyton Manning take on Mickelson and Tom Brady in what’s being billed as “The Match: Champions for Charity.” It will be the second straight Sunday live golf is on TV. The purpose is to raise $10 million for COVID-19 relief efforts and to provide entertainment.— Eleven of China’s professional soccer teams have been disqualified for failing to pay wages and for five teams closing shop on their own terms. The 11 include Chinese Super League side, Tianjin Tianhai. Low attendance and gaudy contracts for overseas signings were already weighing heavily on the industry, even before the outbreak forced it into total shutdown.— Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has announced that the soccer league in Spain will be allowed to resume June 8. It’s not clear when the first games will be held. The top tier, La Liga, has said it wants to resume play on June 12. There has been no play in the top tier due to the coronavirus crisis since March 12.— Around 13,000 cardboard cutouts helped fill the stands at a key soccer match in Germany Saturday. Fans took pictures at home and paid for a cardboard cutout to be placed in the stands at the Bundesliga (BOON’-dehsh-lee-guh) game in Dusseldorf, which could help decide Champions League qualification.— The Czech soccer league has restarted under strict conditions. Teplice beat visiting Liberec 2-0 without spectators in the first match in the First League in 73 days. Six rounds of games in the regular season and the playoffs remain in the league, which is scheduled to be completed by July 15. Update on the latest sports The league is in talks with The Walt Disney Company on a single-site scenario for a resumption of play in Central Florida in late July. It’s the clearest sign yet that the NBA believes the season can continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.The National Basketball Players Association is also part of the talks with Disney.Games would be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a massive campus on the Disney property near Orlando. NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the conversations were still “exploratory,” and that the site would be used for practices and housing as well.ESPN is primarily owned by Disney, one of the NBA’s broadcast partners.Space won’t be an issue, even if Major League Soccer — which is also in talks to resume its season at Disney — is there at the same time as the NBA. The entire Disney complex is roughly 40 square miles, with nearly 24,000 hotel rooms owned or operated by Disney. May 24, 2020 SKI-VEITH RETIRESOlympic ski champion Anna Veith retiresVIENNA (AP) — Olympic ski champion Anna Veith has retired as a racer.Veith twice returned to the top from serious knee injuries but called it a career a year after blowing out her knee for the third time. Veith announced her retirement live on Austrian TV. She says it was not a difficult decision.Veith’s main triumphs were super-G gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and back-to-back overall World Cup titles in 2014 and 2015. She called winning the super-G silver at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics “the most emotional day of my career.” — Jockeys and stall handlers in Britain will be required to wear masks when horse racing hopes to resume next month. The British Horseracing Authority is hoping to get government approval to return on June 1 for the first time since March.NFL-SAINTS-MOVESSaints adding ex-Steelers linebacker Anthony ChickilloUNDATED (AP) — Linebacker Anthony Chickillo has agreed to a contract with the New Orleans Saints after playing his first five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.The former sixth-round pick played in 11 games for the Steelers last season, finishing with 11 tackles and half a sack. Chickillo has played in 65 regular-season games with nine starts while also contributing as a regular on special teams. Associated Press Share This StoryFacebookTwitteremailPrintLinkedinRedditVIRUS OUTBREAK-SPORTSNBA talking with Disney about resuming seasonUNDATED (AP) — The NBA could become a Mickey Mouse operation, although the idea isn’t Goofy. OBIT-EDDIE SUTTONEddie Sutton, Hall of Fame basketball coach, dies at 84UNDATED (AP) — Eddie Sutton, the Hall of Fame basketball coach who led three teams to the Final Four and was the first coach to take four schools to the NCAA Tournament, died Saturday. He was 84.Sutton’s family says in a statement that he died of natural causes at home in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area, surrounded by his three sons and their families. Wife Patsy died in 2013.Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on April 3, Sutton was 806-328 in 37 seasons as a Division I head coach — not counting vacated victories or forfeited games — and made it to 25 NCAA Tournaments.,Tampa Bay Lightning advance to face Dallas Stars in Stanley Cup finals, beating New York Islanders 2-1 in OT in Game 6last_img read more