Adaptation and Mitigation: Food Production in a Rapidly Warming World

So I’ve been advocating a move to indoor food production for a while, and I often get pushback on it, some of which… seems to miss the point. Someone linked me an article from 2018 over on Bluesky (follow me, as a reason why vertical farming “won’t save the world”. It’s an interesting article, for what it is, but it crucially does not address the main reason why I believe what I believe. Before I get into that, however, I want to address one other issue, because whenever this subject comes up, and I mention indoor farming and microbial food production, people ignore that latter part, to focus on the former. My guess is that this is because most people don’t know much about microbial food production, and so don’t have much to say about it, in which case, I should probably do more to talk about it. I’ll give an overview here, but I’ll also just try to post more about it going forward.

Mass production of microbial food is, as I understand it, a fairly new field. It focuses mostly on yeasts, edible bacteria, and microaglae, all of which can be grown in more of a factory than a farm. In both cases, the focus usually seems to be on growing them as a source of protein, to replace animal agriculture and soy beans. Because of that focus, a lot of discussion around this stuff seems to focus on the inefficiency and cost of animal agriculture as a source of emissions, rather than about the fact that food grown in a factory setting is less vulnerable to weather and pests than food grown in fields.

The main concern I have at this point in time – something I’m emailing scientists about – is how well it could replace grains. There’s no question that finding better sources of protein is important, because while I didn’t mention it in my recent post about simultaneous crop failure, one of the likely effects of that is the mass culling or starvation of livestock, because that’s what we do with 77% of the soy we grow. People in the US, at least, could stand to eat considerably less protein, but I don’t believe that forcing that through crop failure is a good way to go about it. That said, humans do actually need carbohydrates, so if microbes can’t produce enough of that, then we may need to think about other options.

I think microbes are still a part of those other options, too. If we do actually need to continue relying on outdoor grain farms, then we should probably not be using that land for things that we don’t need, like mass production of beef. In that way, even if we can only rely on algae and bacteria for protein, we’ll be able to grow and store more grain to guard against famine, so it still seems worth major investment to me.

With all of that dealt with, let’s go back to this article about vertical farms, that was presented as a rebuttal to my belief that we should be moving food production indoors, to guard against global crop failures. My problem is that it in no way addresses my concern, but rather discusses vertical farming’s expenses, and vertical farming as a way to reduce carbon emissions:

First, these systems are really expensive to build. The shipping container systems developed by Freight Farms, for example, cost between $82,000 and $85,000 per container — an astonishing sum for a box that just grows greens and herbs. Just one container costs as much as 10 entire acres of prime American farmland — which is a far better investment, both in terms of food production and future economic value. Just remember: farmland has the benefit of generally appreciating in value over time, whereas a big metal box is likely to only decrease in value.

Second, food produced this way is very expensive. For example, the Wall Street Journal reports that mini-lettuces grown by Green Line Growers costs more than twice as much as organic lettuce available in most stores. And this is typical for other indoor growers around the country: it’s very, very expensive, even compared to organic food. Instead of making food moreavailable, especially to poorer families on limited budgets, these indoor crops are only available to the affluent. It might be fine for gourmet lettuce, or fancy greens for expensive restaurants, but regular folks may find it out of reach.

Finally, indoor farms use a lot of energy and materials to operate. The container farms from Freight Farms, for example, use about 80 kilowatt-hours of electricity a day to power the lights and pumps. That’s nearly 2–3 times as much electricity as a typical (and still very inefficient) American home, or about 8 times the electricity used by an average San Francisco apartment. And on the average American electrical grid, this translates to emitting 44,000 pounds of CO2 per container per year, from electricity alone, not counting any additional heating costs. This is vastly more than the emissions it would take to ship the food from someplace else.


Proponents of indoor techno-farms often say that they can offset the enormous sums of electricity they use, by powering them with renewable energy — especially solar panels — to make the whole thing carbon neutral.

But just stop and think about this for a second.

These indoor “farms” would use solar panels to harvest naturally occurring sunlight, and convert it into electricity, so that they can power…artificial sunlight? In other words, they’re trying to use the sun to replace the sun.

But we don’t need to replace the sun. Of all of the things we should worry about in agriculture, the availability of free sunlight is not one of them. Any system that seeks to replace the sun to grow food is probably a bad idea.


Sometimes we hear that vertical farms help the environment by reducing “food miles” — the distance food items travel from farm to table — and thereby reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

This sounds logical, but it turns out to be a red herring.

Strange as it might seem, local food typically uses about the same amount of energy — per pound — to transport as food grown far away. Why? Short answer: volume and method of transport. A larger food operator can ship food more efficiently — even if it travels longer distances — because of the gigantic volumes they work in. Plus, ships, trains, and even large trucks driving on Interstate highways use less fuel, per pound per mile, than small trucks driving around town.

Plus it turns out that “food miles” aren’t a very big source of CO2 emissions anyway, whether they’re local or not. In fact, they pale in comparison to emissions from deforestation, methane from cattle and rice fields, and nitrous oxide from over-fertilized fields. And local food systems — especially organic farms that use fewer fertilizers, and grass fed beef that sequesters carbon in the soil — can reduce these more critical emissions. At the end of the day, local food systems are generally better for the environment, including greenhouse gas emissions. Just don’t worry about emissions from food miles too much.

No shame to the author of this article, of course. He didn’t set out to discuss the merits of vertical farming as a guard against crop failure, so he didn’t do that. My problem is with the person who linked this article, because it doesn’t even acknowledge the main reason I want to move food production indoors, as much as we can. The article makes good points – building and operating something like a vertical farm absolutely is very resource-intensive, and the recommendations made at the end – that we focus on better farming practices – are 100% on-point. We need to do that.

But the question – for me – is not whether vertical farms are the most efficient way to grow food, compared to existing, more conventional methods, or whether they’re as profitable (accounting for subsidies). It’s whether they’re a more reliable way to grow food, in a rapidly warming climate. I don’t have a clear answer to that, in part because the focus in this sort of discourse is still mostly about reducing emissions and preventing the warming. That’s all important stuff to take into consideration, but I think we’ve reached a point where we also have to consider what it will take to keep people alive, because we haven’t actually made all of those changes to agriculture that everyone’s been talking about for the last few decades. The clear answer I do feel I have, is that the odds of global crop failure are increasing, and if we don’t plan for that eventuality, a lot of people are going to die needlessly.

The other point made on Bluesky, and I think it’s a good one, is the concern that a shift in food production would hurt people who are currently farmers. My answer to that is twofold. First, as with fossil fuel workers, we as a society have a responsibility to make sure that farm workers are not left destitute because of a societal change over which they had no control. I think nobody should be left destitute in a world with abundant resources, but we should also have dedicated programs to making sure farmers are taken care of.

Second, and I think this is more important, investing in indoor food production should not come at the expense of outdoor food production, at this stage. The reason I want to do it now, is that we don’t need it now, but everything I’ve seen about the rate of warming and the effects of warming suggests that we will need it in the not-so-distant future. I expect that if we make this investment, and shift away from animal agriculture, that will free up farmland, which can then be put to different use, but the first priority is feeding humanity, which means that at this stage, we still need normal farms, operated more responsibly as the article above suggests. We have the resources to do both, while also working to end fossil fuel use, and one of the downsides of so many decades of inaction is that we now also have a growing need to do both, as the temperature continues to rise.

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Should we be worried about ancient frozen bugs? Yes, but not for the reasons you might think.

Human discourse about pathogens tends to be pretty narrowly focused on those viruses and organisms that directly infect humans. This is, I think, entirely understandable. Our health is hugely important to every aspect of our lives, as we all become aware when we get sick, or develop chronic health problems. I know nobody reading this has any personal experience with this, but if you add in something like an epidemic that goes global, well that adds a whole other layer to it. We have ample reason to be somewhat obsessed with our health and things that affect it.

Second to that, we care about the health of our food and our working and companion animals, which I would argue is also mostly about our own health.

Less attention is given to how pathogens affect wildlife. We tend to view nature as something that takes care of itself, when we’re not actively destroying it, but of course other life forms have all the same health concerns we do, adjusted for the specifics of their species. More than that, humans have acted as something akin to global plague rats, as we’ve scurried about all over the surface of this planet, introducing animals, plants, and microorganisms everywhere we go. Well, now we’ve found a new way to introduce microbes are new to our ecosystems, this time because of their age.

We’ve seen it in science fiction and horror, folks, and now it’s time for the real life version. Are you prepared for a panoply of prehistoric pathogens?

The idea that “time-traveling” pathogens trapped in ice or hidden in remote laboratory facilities could break free to cause catastrophic outbreaks has inspired generations of novelists and screenwriters. While melting glaciers and permafrost are giving many types of dormant microbes the opportunity to re-emerge, the potential threats to human health and the environment posed by these microbes have been difficult to estimate.

In a new study, Strona’s team quantified the ecological risks posed by these microbes using computer simulations. The researchers performed artificial evolution experiments where digital virus-like pathogens from the past invade communities of bacteria-like hosts. They compared the effects of invading pathogens on the diversity of host bacteria to diversity in control communities where no invasion occurred.

The team found that in their simulations, the ancient invading pathogens could often survive and evolve in the modern community, and about 3 percent became dominant. While most of the dominant invaders had little effect on the composition of the larger community, about 1 percent of the invaders yielded unpredictable results. Some caused up to one third of the host species to die out, while others increased diversity by up to 12 percent compared to the control simulations.

The risks posed by this 1 percent of released pathogens may seem small, but given the sheer number of ancient microbes regularly released into modern communities, outbreak events still represent a substantial hazard. The new findings suggest that the risks posed by time-traveling pathogens — so far confined to science fiction stories — could in fact be powerful drivers of ecological change and threats to human health.

I tend to have mixed feelings about this kind of simulation research, but there is no question that there are viruses, bacteria, and even roundworms that were frozen tens of thousands of years ago (or thousands of thousands, in the case of that bacterium), and that are viable once thawed. While it’s certainly possible some of them could directly infect humans, it’s far more likely that the danger from these ancient microbes lies in their potential to further disrupt ecosystems that are already collapsing under the weight of habitat destruction, pollution, and global warming.

Some of you may recall that I posted last year about the way European earthworms have been colonizing and altering North American ecosystems for centuries, to the point where most folks in the US have never seen an indigenous earthworm. More recently, there was that research indicating that invasive species cause more economic damage than earthquakes, so you can see why some people might have fears about ancient frozen bugs that have absolutely nothing to do with worrying about the next pandemic.

As I so often say, humans are part of the ecosystems that surround us, and we ignore that fact at our peril. The physical changes that we’ve caused on the surface of our planet are devastating, and they’re more than enough to cause a mass extinction all by themselves. Add in prehistoric organisms, which could end up altering the climate themselves, and it’s hard to tell what could happen. Unfortunately, it’s also very easy to look at all of this and feel some level of despair. I do get that, and of course I feel it myself sometimes, but I continue to believe that we have the means to survive this crisis, as a species. That window of opportunity is closing, but it’s never over till it’s over, and the more we understand about what’s happening, the better our chances of finding a way through.

If you value the work I do, please consider helping to pay for it over at Even small contributions like a couple dollars per month add up to make a big difference! If you can’t afford that, then I definitely don’t want your money, but I’d appreciate it if you shared this post with others, to help me increase my readership. Thanks for reading, and be sure to take care of yourselves in this scary world!

Video: Amsterdam Just Closed their Busiest Road

All cities have their charms and their flaws, but every time I watch a video from Not Just Bikes, I find myself wanting to live in Amsterdam. While it seems like there’s even more never-ending construction there than in most other cities, the governing philosophy seems very appealing, at a glance. Amsterdam puts a lot of effort not just into economic and building activity, but into finding and enacting new ways to make the city more pleasant for the people living in it. The construction is probably at odds with this goal, but it means that there’s always something new going on. Amsterdam had a period, in the 1960s, when they built some pretty big roads in an effort to join the trend of redesigning cities around cars. Now, they’ve closed their busiest road to car traffic for a period of six weeks, from 6am to 11pm, so that they can study how that affects traffic for the rest of the city. At the same time, there are community events and temporary decorations to help give an idea of what life would be like without that road. I imagine this will make life less pleasant for a number of people who drive, but Amsterdam is a good city for getting around without cars, and is known as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. The video below breaks down what’s happening, and the context in which it’s happening, and it makes me wish more cities were willing to experiment with design like this.

Video: Let’s talk about heat, pavement, and Arizona mostly…

I talk a lot about parts of the world becoming uninhabitable, as the temperature rises, but I generally focus on stuff like the increase in wet bulb conditions. Beau of the Fifth Column has rightly pointed out that there’s another way in which heat makes the outdoors dangerous – the temperature of pavement. As you’re probably aware, when temperatures climb past the 90s, asphalt in the sun can get literally hot enough to fry eggs. Those conditions are increasing as well, meaning that for longer periods of the year, simply falling over can give you severe, even life-threatening burns. This is a good reason to be careful during heatwaves (be careful of your dogs as well – their paws cook just as easily as our skin), but it’s also a good reason not to keep expanding roads and car-dependence. Paving the world is increasingly going to turn places like parking lots into death traps. Content warning for descriptions of burns:

“Summers are our busy season, so we anticipate that this sort of thing is going to happen. But this is really unusual — the number of patients that we’re seeing and the severity of injuries — the acuity of injuries is much higher,” said Dr. Kevin Foster, director of burn services at the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health. “The numbers are higher and the seriousness of injuries are higher, and we don’t have a good explanation for it.”

Every single one of the 45 beds in the burn center is full, he said, and one-third of patients are people who fell and burned themselves on the ground. There are also burn patients in the ICU, and about half of those patients are people burned after falls.

“It has definitely taken its toll,” Foster said.

The area has been hotter than usual, even for Arizona, and that, experts said, means that the ground can be dangerous for anyone whose bare skin comes into contact with it.

Asphalt is dark and dense. While concrete is lighter and reflects some sunlight, when the sun shines on asphalt, its dark color causes it to absorb light and it heats up.

Since it is a dense material, it also holds the heat even after the sun has been shining on it.

On a hot day, asphalt can easily be 40 to 60 degrees hotter than the air, some studies show. Last Thursday, the air temperature reached 119 degrees Fahrenheit. Phoenix had six consecutive days at or above 115 degrees by Saturday; the streak ended Sunday, with high temperatures reaching only 114 degrees.

“The temperature of asphalt and pavement and concrete and sidewalks in Arizona on a warm sunny day or summer afternoon is 180 degrees sometimes. I mean, it’s just a little below boiling, so it’s really something,” Foster said.

It can take only a “fraction of a second” to get a “pretty deep burn,” he said. For people who have been on the pavement for 10 to 20 minutes, “the skin is completely destroyed” and the damage often goes down deep, meaning it is a third-degree burn.

Foster sees burns like that after people survive a house fire. “These are really serious injuries,” he said.

Patients with third-degree burns will require multiple surgeries and have to spend weeks or even months in the hospital and have years of reconstructive surgery and therapy. “It is a really substantial injury,” Foster said.

Be careful out there!


AMOC Time: Entering a New Era in Ocean Currents

Confession time: I’ve been conflating the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and the Gulf Stream in my head. The two aren’t unrelated, but they’re not the same thing. As I currently understand it, the Gulf Stream is a surface current driven by trade winds, which in turn are driven by Earth’s rotation. The AMOC is a set of currents deeper in the ocean, driven by changes in temperature and salinity at the poles, and it’s just the Atlantic “loop” of a global set of currents. While the AMOC does follow a similar path to the Gulf Stream, and may contribute to its speed from below, they’re different phenomena driven by different things.

This distinction is good to make, because as Rebecca Watson noted, a number of news outlets have been wrongly claiming that recent AMOC research is about the Gulf Stream. The good news is that the Gulf Stream is not expected to collapse any time soon, because the factors driving it – Earth’s rotation and the shape of the continents – aren’t affected by global warming very much.

The bad news is that the research does indicate that the AMOC is in danger of collapse. Worse, while that collapse had initially been forecast for some time in the 22nd century or even later, it now seems that we can expect it this century, with a low but non-zero chance of it happening as early as two years from now.

Now. What does this mean?

Well, it doesn’t mean that the current will collapse in 2025. While it is technically possible, that’s the scary end of this study’s margin of error, not The Prediction. That’s important to state, because as with Al Gore’s predictions of an ice-free Arctic, deniers will absolutely pretend that the prediction was for a collapse no later than 2025. That is not what’s going on here. It seems increasingly likely that, on our current trajectory, the AMOC will collapse this century, but beyond that, it’s hard to tell. Climatologist and oceanographer Stefan Rahmstorf gave his thoughts on this over at, and you should really read the whole thing if you want to understand what’s going on. In particular, though, I wanted to draw attention to his reasoning for why the standard climate models used by the IPPC are likely underestimating the risk of an AMOC collapse:

Standard climate models probably underestimate the risk. There are two reasons for that. They largely ignore Greenland ice loss and the resulting freshwater input to the northern Atlantic which contributes to weakening the AMOC. And their AMOC is likely too stable. There is a diagnostic for AMOC stability, namely the overturning freshwater transport, which I introduced in a paper in 1996 based on Stommel’s 1961 model. Basically, if the AMOC exports freshwater out of the Atlantic, then an AMOC weakening would lead to a fresher (less salty) Atlantic, which would weaken the AMOC further. Data suggest that the real AMOC exports freshwater, in most models it imports freshwater. This is still the case and was also discussed at the IUGG conference.

The post overall provides a great breakdown of the available data, why scientists say the AMOC has been weakening, and how the “blob” of cold water off Greenland is a part of that process. It also, nearer the beginning, gives a great overview of the importance of this subject:

The AMOC is a big deal for climate. The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is a large-scale overturning motion of the entire Atlantic, from the Southern Ocean to the high north. It moves around 15 million cubic meters of water per second (i.e. 15 Sverdrup). The AMOC water passes through the Gulf Stream along a part of its much longer journey, but contributes only the smaller part of its total flow of around 90 Sverdrup. The AMOC is driven by density differences and is a deep reaching vertical overturning of the Atlantic; the Gulf Stream is a near-surface current near the US Atlantic coast and mostly driven by winds. The AMOC however moves the bulk of the heat into the northern Atlantic so is highly relevant for climate, because the southward return flow is very cold and deep (heat transport is the flow multiplied by the temperature difference between northward and southward flow). The wind-driven part of the Gulf Stream contributes much less to the net northward heat transport, because that water returns to the south at the surface in the eastern Atlantic at a temperature not much colder than the northward flow, so it leaves little heat behind in the north. So for climate impact, the AMOC is the big deal, not the Gulf Stream.

If the AMOC collapses, western Europe gets colder. It wouldn’t happen overnight (since people have been referencing The Day After Tomorrow), but it would happen pretty quickly. As always, the damage of this isn’t just about the absolute temperature – plenty of people live with winters of the kind we’re likely to see from this – but about what we’re used to, and what our infrastructure can withstand. The flat in which I currently live is a for example, doesn’t appear to have much if any insulation. If it does, it’s undercut by the drafts coming in around the loosely-set windows, and the fact that every single room has an un-closeable vent to the outside, probably to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. If we were hit by a Newfoundland winter, I think there is approximately zero chance that our ancient gas boiler could keep the apartment at a livable temperature.

It goes well beyond that, however. It’s not clear to what degree an AMOC shutdown would affect the overturning circulation in the Pacific, but even if we’re lucky and the collapse was limited to the Atlantic, there would be global weather implications. I would freeze, but the heat that I’d be missing would be released elsewhere, possibly causing a big spike in temperature further south. It would also, without question, affect rain patterns all over the planet, which would increase the odds of those multiple simultaneous crop failures we were talking about earlier this month.

This research is more of a warning than a forecast. It’s not that we have a collapse coming and there’s X amount of time to prepare, but rather that we’re entering a period during which that collapse could happen with very little warning.

That means that we don’t know how much time we have to prepare, but the sooner we get to work on that, the better, because I expect it would take a decade of unprecedented effort and investment to make us “ready” for any effects of an AMOC shutdown. I’ve discussed some this before, but “preparation”, in this case, means a few different things. The biggest one, in my opinion, is changing food production. We should move as much of it indoors as possible, and work on things like factory-produced bacterial and algal foodstock. We should also have stored food, of course, but it’s not clear that weather patterns would ever recover, at least within our lifetimes, from this. It also means investment in infrastructure, both to handle the extreme weather that would be sure to follow the shutdown, and to handle any sudden changes in regional sea level due to the current’s disruption.

As always, this news adds to the urgency, but it doesn’t really change what you or I need to be doing. Join unions and left-wing political organizations, organize those unions and organizations if they don’t exist, build a store of food for you and your neighbors if you’re able, encourage organizing and direct action in those around you, and do what you can to elevate and empower those around you. We’re in a bad place, and on our current path, it’s only going to get worse. The way out is to reject the individualistic and anti-community dogmas of capitalism, practice solidarity, and work together.

If you want me to be able to store food for myself and my neighbors, or if you just want to support this blog, head over to Patreon and give me a couple bucks. If you found this post useful, please share it around! Thanks for reading, and take care of yourselves out there.


A Desert Full of Bones: Razor Wire, Asylum, and Fascism

There’s a scene in the 1981 film Time Bandits (spoiler warning), in which Kevin the landscaping angels who kidnapped him find themselves in a flat, barren landscape, with mist in the air, and the bones of strange creatures strewn about. They’re following a divine map, but it’s leading them so far into the desert that they might never find their way out. It’s a fair concern, given that time God “guided” the Israelites on a 40-year version of an 11-day trek, but just when the group is close to giving up, they hit a wall. An invisible barrier.

Randall shatters it with a skull, and they continue on their quest into the lair of Evil, but what if the barrier hadn’t broken? What if they’d come all that way, braving ogres and giants, shipwrecks and cannonfire, only to die in that desert, and become just a few more bones littering the ground outside the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness?

When I hear Republicans (and some Democrats) demand that we build a wall along the southern border, this desert full of bones always comes to mind. At first, it felt too “extreme” to say, but there has never been a question that every barrier erected along that border means more people dead. It has also become increasingly clear that Border Patrol and the people howling for a closed border absolutely do want to fill that desert with bones. They want to kill anyone trying to cross that border from the south who doesn’t go through a checkpoint. They don’t care that US law states that all humans have a right to enter the United States, by any means, to request asylum. Those who do so have a right to have their request considered, before any action is taken to deport them. When they talk about “The Law”, what they mean is “what we think ought to be the law”, and they feel fully justified in “enforcing” that, regardless of the actual legality, or the harm done. They look at some of the most desperate and powerless people in the world, and they want them to die.

They are sadistic, murderous extremists, and I no longer feel any hesitation in labeling them as such.

Honestly, I haven’t felt much hesitation about that for a while now. Desantis committed human trafficking for political gain, and conservatives across the US cheered him on, but now Gregg Abbot has taken things to another level, by actively trying to kill and maim anyone trying to cross using razor wire barriers and traps in and around the Rio Grande. Content warning for descriptions of horrifying violence, and discussion of hate speech going forward.

“Stuck in razor wire”

If that phrase doesn’t give you a reflexive chill, take a moment to really think about what it means.

And think about what it means that someone would see razor wire, and try to cross it anyway. We hear a lot about how dangerous the journey north can be, and when you see people willing to risk shredding their bodies like that, it’s hard not to conclude that they must be fleeing something genuinely awful; so awful that no amount of deterrence will dissuade them. It’s very clear that the people who want a closed border don’t actually care whether someone has a legitimate asylum request. They neither know nor care about the history or conditions of the countries from which people are fleeing, and if we’re honest, they don’t even see these people as human.

In addition to the buoy barrier, it appears that there are barrels wrapped in razor wire, presumably to tempt anyone crossing the river to use the barrels as floats, only to be cut up or – in the case of the child mentioned above, stuck on the blades of the wire. It also seems that there’s razor wire just in the water, where nobody crossing would be able to see it. This is, as said in this interview, torture. It’s also attempted murder, because in case anyone needed to hear this, slashing someone with a blade while they’re trying to cross a river dramatically increases their chances of drowning, not to mention the danger from the injury itself.

The Biden administration has not been great on the border issue. They didn’t stop separating children from their families, and they’re continuing to push for unreasonable – and unconstitutional – restrictions at the border. That said, this stuff with the razor wire was too much for them, and the DOJ has sued Texas for failing to remove the barriers as directed:

The DOJ suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas, seeks an injunction to block the state from placing more of the wrecking ball-sized, razor wire-topped buoys, which have already reportedly injured several people. The complaint accuses Texas and Abbott of violating the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act by erecting the barrier in a U.S. waterway without permission.

“This floating barrier poses threats to navigation and public safety and presents humanitarian concerns,” Associate U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. “Additionally, the presence of the floating barrier has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging U.S. foreign policy.”

The lawsuit came on the same day that Abbott defiantly refused a DOJ request to dismantle the 1,000-foot barrier, which was installed along with netting and razor wire in and along the river that Mexicans call the Río Bravo near Eagle Pass in Maverick County.

“Texas will fully utilize its constitutional authority to deal with the crisis you have caused,” Abbott wrote in a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in response to the DOJ’s request. “Texas will see you in court, Mr. President.”

In a weekend CNN appearance, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) called Abbott’s anti-migrant efforts “barbaric” and “extreme cruelty.”

“For him, this isn’t about border security—it’s about using taxpayer money to feed red meat to right-wing extremists,” Castro said of Abbott on Twitter.

It is also, I think, not just about immigration. This is how they want to respond to global warming. They know that global warming is already causing migration, just like they’ve always known that their efforts to close the border were killing people. Their solution to climate change is to maintain US power, and to use that power to force poor countries to keep supporting the rich ones, and to murder anyone who steps out of line. For that plan, climate change is actually a benefit, because it will make it that much harder for poorer nations to stand on their own, and to try to improve their conditions. At the same time, it will make it harder for people to survive the journey to the US and the crossing. They absolutely want that desert full of bones – they’d string bodies up along the wall as a warning, if they could – but deaths that happen before reaching the border make them happy too.

There were a few articles that went around, during Trump’s first (and hopefully only) term as President, about how folks close to him were big fans of a book called The Camp of the Saints. This book, beloved of Stephens Bannon and Miller is a revolting work of  propaganda from a French white supremacist who died in 2020 (good riddance), and it tells the story of a fleet of refugee boats sailing from India to France. The basic overview is that the Indian refugees are described throughout the book in disgusting and dehumanizing terms, as a liberal French society welcomes their approach, and the conservative “heroes” recommend that the boats be sunk at sea (sound familiar?) to save France from the zombie-like horde.

I do not recommend you read the book, but I do recommend you check out this overview of it by Youtuber José. I’m putting emphasis on this book right now, because I think it is extremely relevant to the current international fascist movement. Fascists seem to be driven by an obsession with humiliation and disgust. They constantly think and talk about cuckoldry, and the defeat of the “West”, and when they talk about groups of people they hate, they always find ways to invoke disgust. My first encounter with it was a website I found, back in highschool dedicated to hating Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was tortured to death in 1998. It was filled with graphic descriptions of what the website’s creator apparently thought gay people did, and all of them, including body fluids and excrement, could have come straight from the pages of The Camp of the Saints. Likewise, fascists love describing their targets as diseased – another thing immigrants apparently share with LGBTQIA people.

There are many groups under attack right now, but all of them are facing the same threat, and it is a very real threat. Fascists are actively coming for trans people and asylum seekers, just as the Nazis did in the early days. Defending those groups should be enough motivation for any decent person, but even if it’s not, they never stop there, because they always need people to blame and punish for their society’s problems.

I think it’s likely that the courts will rule against Abbot and his death traps, but they will keep hurting and killing people in the meantime. More than that, this will not be the last such attempt. If you take anything away from this let it be that, as long as fascists have any power, they will use that power for these ends. What’s happening at the border is shocking, but it’s not actually very far from what’s considered acceptable in US political discourse. Plenty of Democrats support closing the border. Plenty of Democrats support US meddling in South and Central America, and want to continue doing it. Part of the reason fascists have power in the US, is because the Democrats are a center-right party within a government that has spent decades supporting and aiding fascist groups all over the world, in the name of opposing left-wing movements. This is why I don’t have much faith in the Democratic Party’s ability to fend off rising fascism, and why I think it’s so important for us to build organized, collective power that’s not centered around elections or beholden to political parties. There is ample evidence that even if the Democrats are in power, they won’t do what’s needed without relentless pressure from the left. We are fighting fascism, with all of the horror and death that brings, and that means being clear about both the danger, and what tools and allies we do or do not have in that fight.

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Video: Let’s talk about a trillion trees and the GOP

“That’s nice, but it’s nowhere near enough” is something of a mantra around here. We are still far, far behind where we need to be if we want global warming to be anything other than totally catastrophic, and I find it infuriating to see politicians who’ve been avoiding or opposing action longer than I’ve been alive, patting themselves on the back for ill-conceived quarter-measures. That’s why this message from Beau of the Fifth Column is not one I’m especially excited to hear. That said, I think he has a point.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was asked for the GOP solution to global warming, and he responded that they’d plant a trillion trees. Whether or not you think that’s an adequate plan, Beau makes the case that those who want climate action should vocally celebrate this, and avoid criticism. If they get positive feedback for this idea, and it catches on, then the conversation shifts from whether we should do anything at all, to which approach is best, with the need to act now being taken as a given.

That’s progress worth making. It should have been made decades ago, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is progress worth making.

I think it’s also worth noting that while the Democrats have started doing things about climate change, those things are still a kind of low-urgency economic “nudging” that might have been enough if it had started in the 90s. Nobody in the US government is taking the problem seriously, but if the GOP does start spending money on planting trees, the Dems will lose their coveted status of being not quite as bad as the Republicans, and that would increase pressure on them to do more.

And more than that, the GOP adopting their trillion tree plan would normalize the need for climate action in their base. McCarthy and his ilk have earned our scorn a hundred times over on this subject, but their power is real, and their obstruction is damaging. I think Beau makes a good tactical case for celebrating this.


Marine ecosystems are struggling, and mining is set to make it worse.

I was poking around the internet, looking for something to write about, when I came across two research headlines that I think form a depressingly good microcosm of what we’re doing to the planet (and ourselves) as a whole. The first is grim, if unsurprising news; a catchy headline reading, “Multiple ecosystems in hot water“. The study was a 10-year review of California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which concluded that because of global warming, they aren’t actually helping much. MPAs are, as the name suggests, protected from fishing, industrial activity, tourism, and other activities, depending on the relevant laws. These don’t just protect habitat from destruction, they also serve as a sort of bio-reservoir that can help replenish fish stocks depleted by industrial fishing. The problem is that the absolutely staggering amount of heat that the oceans have been absorbing – equivalent to seven Hiroshima-sized nuclear explosions per second in 2021 – has been making it hard for protected areas to replenish themselves, let alone other nearby habitats.

 As MPA managers around the world face increasing climate shocks, the extent to which MPAs can buffer the worst of these events has become an important question. The working group scientists asked how the ecological communities in California’s protected areas fared after such a severe and prolonged heatwave: Would the communities shift and if so, how? Would they ‘bounce back’ when the marine heatwave subsided? Could the marine protected areas protect sensitive populations or facilitate recovery?

To find answers to their questions, they synthesized over a decade of data collected from 13 no-take MPAs located in a variety of ecosystems along the Central Coast: rocky intertidal zones, kelp forests, shallow and deep rocky reefs. The team looked at fish, invertebrates and seaweed populations inside and outside these areas, using data from before, during and after the heatwave.

They also focused on two of these habitats, rocky intertidal and kelp forests, at 28 MPAs across the full statewide network to gauge whether these locations promoted one particular form of climate resilience — maintaining both population and community structure.

“We used no-take MPAs as a type of comparison to see whether the protected ecological communities fared better to the marine heatwave than places where fishing occurred,” said Smith, now an Ocean Conservation Research Fellow at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The results are somewhat sobering, though not altogether unexpected.

“The MPAs did not facilitate resistance or recovery across habitats or across communities,” Caselle said. “In the face of this unprecedented marine heatwave, communities did change dramatically in most habitats. But, with one exception, the changes occurred similarly both inside and outside the MPAs. The novelty of this study was that we saw similar results across many different habitats and taxonomic groups, from deepwater to shallow reefs and from fishes to algae.”

The implication of these findings, according to Smith, is that every part of the ocean is under threat from climate change. “MPAs are effective in many of the ways they were designed, but our findings suggest that MPAs alone are not sufficient to buffer the effects of climate change.”

Did we need this study to tell us that? Well, sort of. I think most informed people would have guessed at this result, but it’s good to actually know. We do actually need to check our predictions against reality, and when we find something unexpected, that’s generally a source of new information. This is yet another piece of evidence that climate change is damaging our world right now, and the longer we wait to take that seriously, the less will remain to be saved.

And that brings me to the second piece of research that caught my eye. “Ocean animals vacate areas both around and outside deep-sea mining operations“. A lot of the worries I’ve read about deep-sea mining have related to noise. The sounds from a mine can carry for hundreds of kilometers through the ocean, and with sound being a vitally important tool for marine organisms, that’s a serious issue all by itself. Unfortunately, sound is far from the only problem. Just like its dry-land counterpart, deep-sea mining destroys habitat, and generates a great deal of pollution: .

In 2020, Japan performed the first successful test extracting cobalt crusts from the top of deep-sea mountains to mine cobalt — a mineral used in electric vehicle batteries. Not only do directly mined areas become less habitable for ocean animals, but mining also creates a plume of sediment that can spread through the surrounding water. An investigation on the environmental impact of this first test, published July 14th in the journal Current Biology, reports a decrease in ocean animals both in and around the mining zone.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), which has authority over seafloor resources outside a given country’s jurisdiction, has yet to finalize a set of deep-sea mining regulations. However, for companies looking to mine the ocean’s floor for minerals such as cobalt, copper, and manganese, the ISA is required to either adopt a set of exploitation regulations or consider mining exploitation under existing international laws starting July 9.

“These data are really important to get out,” says first author Travis Washburn, a benthic ecologist who works closely with the Geological Survey of Japan. “A set of regulations is supposed to be finalized soon, so a lot of these decisions are happening now.”

The team analyzed data from three of Japan’s visits to the Takuyo-Daigo seamount: one month before the mining test, one month after, and one year after. After taking a seven-day boat trip from port, a remotely operated vehicle went to the seafloor and collected video of the impacted areas. One year after the mining test, researchers observed a 43% drop in fish and shrimp density in the areas directly impacted by sediment pollution. However, they also noted a 56% drop in the fish and shrimp density of surrounding areas. While there are several possible explanations for this decrease in fish populations, the team thinks it may be due to the mining test contaminating fish food sources.

The study did not observe a major change in less mobile ocean animals, like coral and sponges. However, the researchers note that this was only after a two-hour test, and coral or sponges could still be impacted by long-term mining operations.

“I had assumed we wouldn’t see any changes because the mining test was so small. They drove the machine for two hours, and the sediment plume only traveled a few hundred meters,” says Washburn. “But it was actually enough to shift things.”

The researchers note that they will need to repeat this study several times to gain a more accurate understanding of how deep-sea mining impacts the ocean floor. Ideally, multiple years of data should be collected before a mining test occurs to account for any natural variation in ocean animal communities.

“We’re going to need more data regardless, but this study highlights one area that needs more focus,” says Washburn. “We’ll have to look at this issue on a wider scale, because these results suggest the impact of deep-sea mining could be even bigger than we think.”

I like to say that we humans are a part of the ecosystems that surround us. We’ve tried to pretend otherwise, but we depend on the “services” they provide to us, and the ocean is no exception to that. My favorite example is the way modern medicine – including every COVID vaccine – relies on the blood of horseshoe crabs, but there are a myriad of other ways in which marine ecosystems help us. There’s the food, obviously; around 20% of the protein humans eat comes from fish, and most of that is from the oceans. As with dry land, marine ecosystems also mitigate pollution, generate oxygen, and provide cultural, aesthetic, and spiritual value to people.

It seems like a problem, then, that we’re just moving ahead with mining the sea floor. I mean, obviously, we’ve been doing seafloor oil drilling for ages, and we definitely need to change how we go about getting cobalt, but as I wrote a couple months ago, we’ll never know the full scale of oceanic biodiversity that we’ve already destroyed. The effects of seafloor mining that we already know about are bad news all by themselves, but when you add in the research about what’s happening to MPAs, more mining could end up being like gasoline on a flame. At a time when global warming is already pushing ecosystems beyond what they can bear, I think that we should be wary of adding more destruction. Rather than mining the sea floor, we should be vastly improving conditions in the mines on land, and investing in better ways to recover things like cobalt from dysfunctional electronics.

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Climate Threat to Crops Underestimated: What can we expect as the world warms?

If I could snap my fingers and make one, single change to most improve humanity’s shot of surviving this global warming event, I would move all of our food production indoors. We are vulnerable to climate change in a lot of ways, but one of the biggest is the fact that the vast majority of our food production is tied to historically reliable seasonal weather patterns. Human agriculture has been shaped through history by the regional climates in which we’ve lived – the best times and crops to plant and harvest, the behavior of fish and game to supplement crops and livestock. Growing up, my dad told me that when the goldenrod bloomed, it was 6 weeks till the first frost, and that fireflies and Juneberries mean the mackerel are running. These and other such things are bits of regional “climate wisdom” that once contained vital information for getting enough food to survive the winter, but have been mostly useless for well over a decade.

For the most part, the changes we’ve seen thus far have been manageable, but we’ve always known that there would be a point at which that was no longer the case. Crop failures due to drought and other weather events are not a new thing, but there has never been any question in my mind that we’re very close to a time when there are so many climate-related crop failures at the same time, all around the world, that it causes serious problems. It’s arguable that that has already been happening in the past couple years, to some degree. From last year:

June 28 (Reuters) – Eric Broten had planned to sow about 5,000 acres of corn this year on his farm in North Dakota, but persistent springtime rains limited him to just 3,500 in a state where a quarter or more of the planned corn could remain unsown this year.

The difficulty planting corn, the single largest grain crop in the world, in the northern United States adds to a string of troubled crop harvests worldwide that point to multiple years of tight supplies and high food costs.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a major agricultural exporter, sent prices of wheat, soy and corn to near records earlier this year. Poor weather has also reduced grain harvests in China, India, South America and parts of Europe. Fertilizer shortages meanwhile are cutting yields of many crops around the globe. read more

The world has perhaps never seen this level of simultaneous agricultural disruption, according to agriculture executives, industry analysts, farmers and economists interviewed by Reuters, meaning it may take years to return to global food security.

“Typically when we’re in a tight supply-demand environment you can rebuild it in a single growing season. Where we are today, and the constraints around boosting production and (war in) Ukraine … it’s two to three years before you get out of the current environment,” said Jason Newton, chief economist for fertilizer producer Nutrien Ltd. (NTR.TO).

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that the world faces an unprecedented hunger crisis, with a risk of multiple famines this year and a worse situation in 2023.

Ahead of a crucial North American harvest, grain seeding delays from Manitoba to Indiana have sparked worries about lower production. A smaller corn crop in the top-producing United States will ripple through the supply chain and leave consumers paying even more for meat than they already are, as corn is a key source of livestock feed. read more

Global corn supplies have been tight since the pandemic started in 2020, due to transportation problems and strong demand, and are expected to fall further. The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) expects end-of-season U.S. corn stocks to be down 33% from pre-pandemic levels in September before this year’s harvest, and down 37% in September 2023.

There are factors at work here that are separate from climate change, but with weather-related harvest reductions all around the world, it’s clearly part of the story. I said the other day that we’re not prepared for what’s coming in the very near future, and a big part of that is the fact that very, very little has been done to climate-proof food production. I’ve been saying (to my tiny readership) that we’ve got to move things indoors, because if we don’t do it now, we’ll be doing it later, after far too many lives are lost to famine. Indoor farming does require spending energy on grow lights, but it is vastly more water-efficient, and the controlled environment means a dependably idea “climate” for the crops, and much, much less of a pest problem. There are other options, like using more of a factory setting to grow algae and edible bacteria, but what matters is that there are options, and we need to be building them up right now.

I am quite certain that hydroponics, and aeroponics, and bacterial cultures, and fungus farms, and any other ways of growing food indoors will have problems that need to be sorted out. Power failures would be a much greater danger for food production, for example, and given that extreme weather tends to mess with the power grid, that means that we’ll need to either improve the grid, have excellent backup for these facilities, or ideally both. That’s just one example, though, and it would be far better for us to figure out those problems now, while we still have plenty of food grown the old-fashioned way.

The question is, how much time do we have?

My answer, as always, is “not enough, so we should get to work now”. I’ve long felt that the possibility of simultaneous crop failures around the globe has been criminally under-reported. I don’t entirely trust mainstream news outlets not to turn potential food shortages into a Malthusian overpopulation thing, but this is something that needs to be addressed, because I believe it’s coming sooner than most people think, and it looks like the science agrees with me:

The risks of harvest failures in multiple global breadbaskets have been underestimated, according to a study Tuesday that researchers said should be a “wake up call” about the threat climate change poses to our food systems.

Food production is both a key source of planet-warming emissions and highly exposed to the effects of climate change, with climate and crop models used to figure out just what the impacts could be as the world warms.

In the new research published in Nature Communications, researchers in the United States and Germany looked at the likelihood that several major food producing regions could simultaneously suffer low yields.

These events can lead to price spikes, food insecurity and even civil unrest, said lead author Kai Kornhuber, a researcher at Columbia University and the German Council on Foreign Relations.

By “increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases, we are entering this uncharted water where we are struggling to really have an accurate idea of what type of extremes we’re going to face,” he told AFP.

“We show that these types of concurring events are really largely underestimated.”

The study looked at observational and climate model data between 1960 and 2014, and then at projections for 2045 to 2099.

Researchers first looked at the impact of the jet stream – the air currents that drive weather patterns in many of the world’s most important crop producing regions.

They found that a “strong meandering” of the jet stream, flowing in big wave shapes, has particularly significant impacts on key agricultural regions in North America, Eastern Europe and East Asia, with a reduction in harvests of up to seven percent.

The researchers also found that this had been linked to simultaneous crop failures in the past.

One example was in 2010, when the fluctuations of the jet stream were linked to both extreme heat in parts of Russia and devastating floods in Pakistan, which both hurt crops, Kornhuber said.

The climate events of 2010 are something I’ve brought up before when making this point. I want to say that when it comes to most climate-related things, I very much want to be proven wrong. Everything I’ve seen indicates that things are going to get worse that most people expect, faster than most people expect. I do feel a small amount of satisfaction when I see things I’ve been saying break into the mainstream more (though I played no role in that), but I’d much rather climate change turn out to be not a serious problem. There are people to whom I’d enjoy saying “I told you so”, but none of them read this blog, and chances are good that many of them will ever know I exist.

At this point, as we consider the possibility of a global food shortage driven by our rapidly warming climate, I want to take a brief moment to use the history of my current home – Ireland – to discuss how those first climate famines are likely to unfold, assuming no major changes to our global agricultural system.

So, as most of you are aware, Ireland had a devastating famine from 1845-1852, during which time around one million people died, and around two million people left the island in desperation. Leading up to that point, British colonial rule had led to the Irish relying heavily on potatoes to survive. They had to grow food to export, for the profit of English landlords, and potatoes can feed more people more easily per acre of crops than grains, so the tenant farmers subsisted on them to maximize land for the cash crops. When the potato blight hit Europe, it specifically took out the primary subsistence crop for the island. All the other food – grains and cow products especially – was grown for money, and so while Ireland starved, more food was exported than was needed to feed the nation. There’s a lot of stuff out there on this, but if you want a brief overview, I recommend this video from the Gravel Institute:

This is not directly analogous to the global situation today, but where Ireland was dependent on potatoes, and forced to keep exporting food “owed” to English capitalists as they starved, a great many nations in the world are dependent on food imports bought with money earned by growing cash crops, almost always for the profit of multinational corporations. Africa, in particular, is extremely dependent on imports – a problem that has been maintained through neocolonial debt traps, and a capitalist system backed up by threat of war or the assassination of any leader that tries to put their country on a new track. What this means is that when (not if) climate change creates major crop failures, it’s probably not going to result starvation for people in rich, white countries, at the beginning.

As with Ireland, the cash crops will continue to be exported, but as food prices rise, African countries will have a harder time importing the food they need to survive, and so starvation will hit there first. There will be people dying of malnutrition in rich countries, of course, but that’s a matter of routine policy to keep workers in line, as I’ve discussed in the past. The same global capitalist system that exploits the former colonies will also act as a buffer between rich countries and certain consequences of climate change. Poor nations, just like poor citizens in rich countries, will be sacrificed for the “greater good” of maintaining the wealth, power, and comfort of the capitalist aristocracy.

I think that the way the English press reported on the famine can also inform what we will hear, as those people starve:

The worst famine in a century was depicted as an extension of normal, recurring events, and the newspaper consistently complained about the financial burdens forced on British workers for the sake of the starving Irish. On 15 September 1846, its editorial declared,

‘It appears to us of the very first importance to all classes of Irish society to impress on them that there is nothing really so peculiar, so exceptional, in the condition which they look upon as the pit of utter despair’.

It continued, ‘Is the English labourer to compensate the Irish peasant for the loss of potatoes, and secure him a regular employer for this next twelvemonth? Why, the English labourer is in just the same case.’

Indolent Irish

The notion that the Irish were leaching off the English taxpayer (often used as a synonym for the British taxpayer) was a view bound up with contemporary debates about politics, culture and the economy, as well as emerging ideas about race.

The Irish did not fare well in such theories. Amongst politicians and in large sections of the public, they were viewed as inferior and antithetical to the English. While pity and sympathy for Ireland’s plight was not uncommon in early newspaper depictions of the Famine, negative stereotypes were just as prevalent, and the Irish were often viewed in opposition to the English labourer, who typified the ‘respectable’ poor whom the indolent Irish were trying to abuse.

The Times argued that Ireland should ‘pay for its own improvement’ (19 August 1846); the apparent unwillingness of its people to do so demonstrated ‘a case of permanent and inveterate national degradation’ (12 October 1847).

‘Their own wickedness and folly’

Nor was The Times alone in its view. Other publications claimed that the Irish were responsible for their own misfortune. The Economist, founded in 1843, declared on 10 October 1846 that Irish distress was ‘brought on by their own wickedness and folly’.

Punch, a new type of illustrated magazine founded in 1841, portrayed these views pictorially. In one cartoon from February 24, 1849,  we can see a smiling, shabbily dressed Irishman (denoted by ape-like features, clothing and a clay pipe) riding the shoulders of England’s respectable poor with a sack of £50,000 slung over his shoulder.

Blaming the Irish

These national views often complemented provincial reportage elsewhere in Britain. In Liverpool, the extensive immigration of the Irish poor had provoked questions about the social ills impacting the city – questions which Victorian society had become increasingly preoccupied with since the early nineteenth century.

Refugees fleeing Ireland were treated much the same as refugees are treated today. They were scapegoated for all the problems of the host countries, and blamed for problems of their home countries, and this is what we can expect from the climate famines that will come later this century. I feel quite comfortable predicting this, because it’s still very much a part of daily life in rich nations. Any online conversation about problems in Africa will inevitably conjure an army of (usually white) people to talk about how it’s all their own fault and why we shouldn’t accept refugees, and some of them will probably bring up the racist drivel of The Bell Curve.

Take the recent sinking of a refugee boat off of Greece, for example. There’s no shortage of people willing to blame the drowning victims for their deaths, even as it looks increasingly as though the Greek coast guard was to blame. Around the world, look at how wealthy nations are handling refugees of all sorts, and you’ll get an idea for how climate change will turn crop failures into mass starvation and death. Over time, those food shortages will do more than just raise prices in rich nations, but the first wave will break hardest on the poorest nations in the world, and that is by design. It is also by design that refugees will face high death rates as they seek safety, and poor treatment from host countries.

As I’ve said before, there are things we could be doing to prevent this gloomy forecast from coming true. Indoor food production has been growing for years, so many problems have already been solved. A massive investment could make a real difference in a pretty short amount of time, at least when it comes to the mechanics of successfully producing enough food. Unfortunately, neocolonialism is a problem that needs to be solved all by itself. If we don’t do that, then as with Ireland in the 1840s, the former colonies will be “left” to a fate forced upon them.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it around. If you read this blog regularly, please consider joining my small but wonderful group of patrons. Because of my immigration status, I’m not allowed to get a normal job, so my writing is all I have for the foreseeable future, and I’d love for it to be a viable career long-term. As part of that goal, I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy series, so if supporting this blog isn’t enough inducement by itself, for just $5/month you can work with me to name a place or character in that series!

Texas heat wave is a good reminder that we are not ready for a warmer world

Texas is having a heat wave, and everybody trying to get cool has overloaded the grid down there, causing thousands of power outages. This isn’t anywhere close to the first time this has happened, but for some reason, the folks running the state can’t seem to actually improve things, so more people have to die. I wanted to share this video from Beau of the Fifth Column, who makes the very good point that even the US army doesn’t pretend extreme temperatures are something you can just “tough out”.


I also wanted to draw attention to the plight of prisoners in Texas. Prisons are already horrible places, but when something like a heat wave or a pandemic hits, even the most minor offender can end up with a death sentence.

After a week of scorching temperatures across the Lone Star State breaking records and hitting triple-digits, the Senate decision to reduce air-conditioning funding in Texas prisons has many concerns.

“Stifling heat has killed inmates and exacerbated employee turnover in Texas prisons,” the Texas Tribune reported. “But funding for air conditioning was whittled down in the draft budget released in May.”

Last summer, a report recorded that inmates incarcerated in Texas regularly live within 110-degree temperatures during the summer months, with a temperature of 149 degrees recorded in one prison unit, according to the Texas A&M University Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center.

The issue has resulted in a high number of employment vacancies at Texas prisons resulting in secondary problems such as low and overworked staff, according to the Associated Press. While reports vary on how many deaths contribute annually from the heat in Texas prisons, the numbers are difficult to track because of possible underlying health issues, according to reports.

It is noted that during a record heat wave in 2011, multiple deaths were reported in response at Texas prisons.

In 2017, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison in Houston stated the Texas prison system was “deliberately indifferent” to heat risks and subjected inmates to “a substantial risk of serious injury or death.” Ellison’s comments came as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by inmates at one unit.

A perception among Texas lawmakers is that air-conditioning is a luxury, TIME recently reported on Texas prisons after funding was halted during this year’s legislation.

As I’ve said before, in a rapidly warming world, air conditioning is a vital necessity in ever-growing parts of the world. Texas is one such place. When the weather gets hot enough, especially if it’s not what people are used to, air conditioning is as necessary as heating in the winter. The US prison system is already a crime against humanity, but as the temperature rises, that’s going to keep getting worse.

Our society is riddled with pockets of corruption and institutional violence that have been allowed to fester for generations. These sorts of problems tend to grow when a society is placed under strain, and it sure looks like the powers that be are increasing police powers, and increasing the criminalization of left-wing political activism. Given the sadism of the US law enforcement system, this heat is going to become yet another way to torment prisoners, well beyond any simple sentence of imprisonment. In addition to being a reason for us to take climate change seriously, this is also a reason to work away from viewing people as disposable or broken, and towards prison abolition.

Take care of yourselves, and take care of those around you, if you have the ability. Since people are the base of any movement for a better world, caring for each other is caring for the foundations of what we want to build.