A Young People’s History of the United States: Free e-book for a limited time only!

Something to add to your quarantine reading list:

To provide access to people’s history materials for students while school buildings are closed, Seven Stories Press is making the e-book version of A Young People’s History of the United States available for free download for 48 hours — on Wednesday, March 25 and Thursday, March 26.

This is the young adult edition of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present, adapted by Rebecca Stefoff for a middle-school reading level.

Invite students and colleagues to download the e-book to an e-reader during the 48-hour window from Wednesday March 25 to Thursday, March 26.

Find lessons for teaching people’s history on this website and in the Rethinking Schools publication, A People’s History for the Classroom. Find close to two dozen young readers’ editions of social justice and people’s history classic texts at Social Justice Books.


Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, layoffs have increased, job interviews have been indefinitely postponed, and many places aren’t hiring new workers. All of that means I really need help paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head. Patreon.com is a way for you to help with that, even if it’s just a little bit, and get some perks and extra content in return. You control how much you give, and how long you give it, and every little bit really does help. When lots of people pitch in, it can make a huge difference. Please help if you’re able, and share my work with others. Thank you!

Domino’s franchise goes on strike. This is what America needs right now.

Update: Go here for more info on direct action!

Update: This is the original post, from what I can tell. It’s a bit unclear whether this is an actual strike or aspirational, and I can’t find info on the exact location.

A tip if you engage in a strike- Tell the local press – don’t wait for them to find out secondhand.

[Image is a post from r/Dominos:

It finally happened. All employees are sitting outside our store on strike.

This morning our GM announced he would no longer continue working unless offered paid sick leave and store shutdown for 14 days, as our entire store has been confirmed to have been exposed to COVID-19.

He then told us “good luck!” and walked outside. Every single driver on shift right now followed him outside. The other two insiders did as well. The store is fucking empty.

Every employee is sitting outside the store on the curb, turning away anyone who tries to come inside.

I peeked inside a few mins ago and we’re like 85 orders down and you can see tags just pouring out of the printer.

Franchise owners have become aware of this and are apparently on their way to talk to us in person.

Hopefully local news comes here as well, as word about this is spreading pretty quick.

I urge you guys to do the same.]

 


Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, layoffs have increased, job interviews have been indefinitely postponed, and many places aren’t hiring new workers. All of that means I really need help paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head. Patreon.com is a way for you to help with that, even if it’s just a little bit, and get some perks and extra content in return. You control how much you give, and how long you give it, and every little bit really does help. When lots of people pitch in, it can make a huge difference. Please help if you’re able, and share my work with others. Thank you!

Research furthers our understanding of the potential to tweak Earth’s climate using sulfur dioxide aerosols

In 2016, back before I moved to Freethoughtblogs, I wrote a blog post titled “Geoengineering is dangerous, irresponsible, and unavoidable“.  My basic conclusion was this:

It’s tempting to simply wave away geoengineering as a bad idea that we should bury and be done with. There are countless ways that it could go horribly wrong, especially when enacted by billionaires like Gates and his ilk, who have little to no understanding of the ecosystems with which they want to tamper. With the possible exception of planting more trees and creating more wild spaces (which would, without question, work), pretty much every proposal for geoengineering has the potential to have devastating side effects that could make life on Earth much more difficult.

There’s one compelling reason not to throw it away altogether. The reality is that we are already engaged in geoengineering, and there is no question that the path we’re currently on will end badly. Like it or not, humanity has become a force of nature. The size of our population and the scale of our technology mean that we exert a global influence of the chemical makeup of our planet’s oceans, atmosphere, land masses. Currently, we are engaged in the kind of geoengineering that Svante Arrhenius calculated was possible over a century ago – raising the planet’s temperature by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations.

For the sake of our own long-term survival, not to mention the rest of life on Earth, we need to come to terms with the fact that our species exerts a global influence, and we need to take deliberate control of that influence. We are already geoengineers, we’re just not taking responsibility for it. It’s past time to do more than simply work on reducing our fossil fuel use – we need to think about how we manage the surface of the planet we live on, and how we can manage it for the benefit of all life on Earth – ourselves included.

Because right now, we still seem to be pretending that we can just stop having a planetary impact, and with our population headed for 10 billion in just a couple decades, that is the one option that is no longer available to us.

I think that geoengineering still presents a great deal of danger, particularly if it’s left up to despots or oligarchs with little concern for human life and a massive, wealth-induced case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome, where they think their wealth means they know better than people who spent their lives studying an issue, rather than hoarding money.

Still, it’s good that research continues into the various ways to make our interference in the planet’s climate deliberate and constructive.

The team found that halving warming by adding aerosols to the stratosphere could moderate important climate hazards in almost all regions. They saw an exacerbation of the effects of climate change in only a very small fraction of land areas.

Lead author, Professor Peter Irvine (UCL Earth Sciences), said: “Most studies focus on a scenario where solar geoengineering offsets all future warming. While this reduces overall climate change substantially, we show that in these simulations, it goes too far in some respects leading to about 9% of the land area experiencing greater climate change, i.e. seeing the effects of climate change exacerbated.

“However, if instead only half the warming is offset, then we find that stratospheric aerosol geoengineering could still reduce climate change overall but would only exacerbate change over 1.3% of the land area.”

The team emphasise that solar geoengineering only treats the symptoms of climate change and not the underlying cause, which is the build-up of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It should therefore be considered as a complementary approach to emissions cuts as a way to address climate change.

[…]

“Our results suggest that when used at the right dose and alongside reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, stratospheric aerosol geoengineering could be useful for managing the impacts of climate change. However, there are still many uncertainties about the potential effects of stratospheric aerosol geoengineering and more research is needed to know if this idea is truly viable,” added Dr Irvine.

[…]

The team are now researching the projected effects of stratospheric aerosol geoengineering on the water cycle in more depth to try to understand the potential benefits and risks to society and ecosystems.

I’m not a fan of the sulfate aerosol approach. There seems to be potential for real ecological damage from increased acidity in precipitation, particularly if it’s hitting ecosystems already weakened by the effects of a warming planet. There’s also the worry that the temporary cooling from the aerosol spray could slow efforts to adapt to climate change, and to transition to non-fossil energy sources. A reminder – if greenhouse gas levels continue to rise while the sulfate effect is keeping temperatures down, then as the aerosols precipitate out of the atmosphere, the planet will start warming faster, because there will be more insulation to trap heat. If we haven’t already massively changed how we respond to crises and to science, we could do more damage with this approach than if we did nothing at all. The proper place for something like sulfate aerosol distribution is after changes have already been made to our economic and political systems, and the work to seriously address climate change is already underway.

Doing this research is good, but it’s essential that we address the political/sociological elements of the problem.

Otherwise we won’t be solving the problem, we’ll be entering into a version of the Futurama “giant ice cube” approach, but with sulfur instead of ice. That’s not a road we want to go down.

 


Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, layoffs have increased, job interviews have been indefinitely postponed, and many places aren’t hiring new workers. All of that means I really need help paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head. Patreon.com is a way for you to help with that, even if it’s just a little bit, and get some perks and extra content in return. You control how much you give, and how long you give it, and every little bit really does help. When lots of people pitch in, it can make a huge difference. Please help if you’re able, and share my work with others. Thank you!

Vital quarantine reading – free audiobook on youtube right now!

I know one thing I’m adding to my to-do list for this quarantine! Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is an important book about how wealthy capitalists use disasters to increase their wealth and power. The lessons here may help those of you confused by the way some people in power seem to be so incompetent that it’s like they’re trying to screw everything up. The answer may be that they are.

And the audio-book has been on Youtube since September of 2018! I had no idea! Understanding disaster capitalism is essential both to understanding how people like the Tories and the GOP seem to view the world, and one of the conflicts of interest that is probably interfering in efforts to actually do something about climate change.

Whether you go with the audiobook or any other format, I think this is well worth your time. As a bonus, here’s the UK’s Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson explaining their plans for the British economy:


Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, layoffs have increased, job interviews have been indefinitely postponed, and many places aren’t hiring new workers. All of that means I really need help paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head. Patreon.com is a way for you to help with that, even if it’s just a little bit, and get some perks and extra content in return. You control how much you give, and how long you give it, and every little bit really does help. When lots of people pitch in, it can make a huge difference. Please help if you’re able, and share my work with others. Thank you!

Confirmed case of COVID-19 in ICE concentration camp

This is one way that concentration camps can become death camps. People crowded together without adequate sanitation, health care, or even sleeping conditions is a KNOWN formula for spreading disease and increasing the death rate.

It’s also a great way to increase the rate of mutation within the camp, which gives better odds on a newer, more dangerous form of the disease coming out of them via guards and other staff. This, in turn, may become justification for other, more brutal “measures”.


Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, layoffs have increased, job interviews have been indefinitely postponed, and many places aren’t hiring new workers. All of that means I really need help paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head. Patreon.com is a way for you to help with that, even if it’s just a little bit, and get some perks and extra content in return. You control how much you give, and how long you give it, and every little bit really does help. When lots of people pitch in, it can make a huge difference. Please help if you’re able, and share my work with others. Thank you!

Update on an Antarctic glacier

Hey, did you know that this blog is normally focused on climate change? Crazy, right? I’ve been caught up in current events, but I’m going to start doing more stuff about climate change and responding to it, along with other projects.

It’s been pointed out one or fifty times that the current COVID-19 crisis provides a nice demonstration of how the entire species can take dramatic action on an issue, provided those with power actually feel the need to do so. I think it also provides a useful parallel in that the warnings and calls for immediate action were downplayed and ignored for long enough that the problem grew out of control in many places. While the pandemic response has decreased air pollution and emissions quite a bit, that’s a small, temporary change, and the effects of over a century of accumulated CO2 continue on.

East Antarctica’s Denman Glacier has retreated 5 kilometers, nearly 3 miles, in the past 22 years, and researchers at the University of California, Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are concerned that the shape of the ground surface beneath the ice sheet could make it even more susceptible to climate-driven collapse.

If fully thawed, the ice in Denman would cause sea levels worldwide to rise about 1.5 meters, almost 5 feet. With this sobering fact in mind, the UCI and NASA JPL scientists have completed the most thorough examination yet of the glacier and surrounding area, uncovering alarming clues about its condition under further global warming.

The team’s assessment is the subject of a paper published today in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“East Antarctica has long been thought to be less threatened, but as glaciers such as Denman have come under closer scrutiny by the cryosphere science community, we are now beginning to see evidence of potential marine ice sheet instability in this region,” said co-author Eric Rignot, chair, Donald Bren Professor and Chancellor’s Professor of Earth system science at UCI.

“The ice in West Antarctica has been melting faster in recent years, but the sheer size of Denman Glacier means that its potential impact on long-term sea level rise is just as significant,” he added.

According to the study, Denman Glacier experienced a cumulative mass loss of 268 billion tons of ice between 1979 and 2017.

[…]

Denman’s eastern flank is protected from retreat by a subglacial ridge. But Brancato said that the western flank, which extends roughly 4 kilometers, is characterized by a deep and steep trough with a bed slope conducive to accelerated retreat.

“Because of the shape of the ground beneath Denman’s western side, there is potential for rapid and irreversible retreat, and that means substantial increases in global sea levels in the future,” she said.

In December, Nature Geoscience published a paper on the BedMachine Antarctica project led by Mathieu Morlighem, UCI associate professor of Earth system science, which revealed that the trough beneath Denman Glacier extends 3,500 meters below sea level, making it the deepest land canyon on Earth.

The UCI and NASA JPL scientists report in the Geophysical Research Letters paper that the bed configuration of Denman is unique in Antarctica’s eastern sector. Other major glaciers, such as Totten and Moscow University, feature prograde beds that slope down in the flow direction, providing some measure of stability, Rignot said.

[…]

“We need to collect oceanographic data near Denman and keep an eye on its grounding line,” Rignot said. “The Italian COSMO-SkyMed satellite system is the only tool for us to monitor grounding line conditions in this sector of Antarctica, and we are fortunate to have on our team Dr. Brancato, who is skilled in extrapolating the data to give us the precise and up-to-date information we require.”

Sea level rise is just one of many dangers posed by our rapidly warming climate, but it’s one that presents massive difficulties. A huge portion of the global population lives close to sea level, along with infrastructure and industry. It’s almost certainly too late to stop the seas from rising for the rest of this century, though we might be able to slow that rate a bit. That means that we need to work out how to respond to it. Whether we try to build up cities to be able to continue existing where they are, regardless of sea level, or retreat from the water’s edge and rebuild at higher elevations, there’s a lot of work to be done. If we simply wait for the water to rise, and take a reactive, rather than a proactive approach, many people will die, resources will be lost, and the remains of cities and factories will pollute the waters they crumble into for decades to come, like sunken ships, but much, much bigger.

Climate change moves more slowly than a viral pandemic, but just as with COVID-19, there will come a time when the accumulated changes exceed the capacity of our existing infrastructure. We had a chance, until maybe the year 2000, to “contain” the problem, and to prevent catastrophe. Like with the American response to COVID-19, we blew that chance. We’re now in “flatten the curve” territory. We can reduce the rate of warming, and we can take measures to reduce the damage that warming does to our societies. The pandemic is showing us what a serious, global response to a crisis looks like. We need to take advantage of that, and push hard for things like the Green New Deal, and to take power away from the people who have, for decades, prevented action through corruption and misinformation.


Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, layoffs have increased, job interviews have been indefinitely postponed, and many places aren’t hiring new workers. All of that means I really need help paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head. Patreon.com is a way for you to help with that, even if it’s just a little bit, and get some perks and extra content in return. You control how much you give, and how long you give it, and every little bit really does help. When lots of people pitch in, it can make a huge difference. Please help if you’re able, and share my work with others. Thank you!

Cat Contemplating Quarantine

I thought that for this Saturday I’d share some pictures of my cat engaging in his third favorite activity. Then I couldn’t figure out how to upload the images, so you’re getting it today instead.

His Holiness Saint Ray the Cat had a troubled childhood. We think he lived under the house our apartment was in, back in Somerville, because whenever Tegan came home from work, there was this tiny, noisy kitten demanding attention.  In time, we ended up taking him in. He had Giardia, worms, and other such things. After taking him to the vet, we realized that as it was late autumn at that point, he was probably a couple weeks away from death. For the first couple weeks, all he did was eat, sleep, and poop. If you’re ever wondering what Giardia is like, I’m pretty sure this tiny little kitten pooped his own weight every day.

He was not a well cat.

The perkiness he had shown in demanding attention vanished as soon as he got inside. I think he decided that he was now safe, and being fed, and could focus on healing, and on his one true passion: sleep.

Once he got out of Giardia/flea quarantine in the bathroom,  he began exploring the apartment. He would toddle slowly for about 5-10 feet, then curl up on the floor wherever he had gotten and sleep for a while. Then he’d get up, get another few feet, and sleep again. It took him a few days to actually get a feel for the place.

One thing is certain – he decided that he was done with being outdoors. I’ve never had a cat that was so uninterested in leaving the apartment. He’ll look at the door if you leave it open. He even managed to get outside once, but he ran right back in. I think he was traumatized by his childhood. He’d been there, he’d done that, and he was committed to living the rest of his days as a very, very lazy indoor cat, a career he has pursued to this very day.

So for him, the only difference from the quarantine is that Tegan’s around more. Like me, he seems to like that.

And what is his third favorite activity? Well, after sleeping and eating (we have to regulate his diet, because his not-so-secret ambition is to become spherical), he likes sitting on the sill of our living-room window and gazing out at the wildlife of Scotland. By this I mean the rather pleasant alley between our apartment building and the one next to it, and the people, dogs, and magpies that frequent it:

The picture shows my cat, St. Ray, looking out the window. He is a cat of solid build, with dark gray and black striped fur on his back, tail, and head. His muzzle, chest, legs, belly, and a collar on his shoulders are snowy white and very, very soft to the touch.He is at the bottom of a door-sized window, seated on the sill, with his tail hanging down in a neat curl. He's looking out at people who cannot be seen in the street below. Outside, parts of a tree are visible, buds still just barely starting to open for the spring. The building across the way has shuttered windows, below stone arches carved with leaves and flowers - I believe they are thistles.

His Holiness gazes upon the unwashed masses

The picture shows my cat, St. Ray, looking out the window at a different angle. He is a cat of solid build, with dark gray and black striped fur on his back, tail, and head. His muzzle, chest, legs, belly, and a collar on his shoulders are snowy white and very, very soft to the touch. He is at the bottom of a door-sized window, seated on the sill, with his tail hanging down in a neat curl. He's looking out at people who cannot be seen in the street below. Outside, parts of a tree are visible, buds still just barely starting to open for the spring. The building across the way has shuttered windows, below stone arches carved with leaves and flowers - I believe they are thistles.

THOSE unwashed masses are BIRDS. St. Ray finds birds to be fascinating.

The picture shows my cat, St. Ray, looking out the window. He is a cat of solid build, with dark gray and black striped fur on his back, tail, and head. His muzzle, chest, legs, belly, and a collar on his shoulders are snowy white and very, very soft to the touch.He is at the bottom of a door-sized window, seated on the sill, with his tail hanging down in a neat curl. He's looking out at people who cannot be seen in the street below. Outside, parts of a tree are visible, buds still just barely starting to open for the spring. The building across the way has shuttered windows, below stone arches carved with leaves and flowers - I believe they are thistles.

In which His Holiness contemplates the deeper secrets of the universe. How long has it been since he last ate? Is it time for food once again? Will we ever know?


Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, layoffs have increased, job interviews have been indefinitely postponed, and many places aren’t hiring new workers. All of that means I really need help paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head. Patreon.com is a way for you to help with that, even if it’s just a little bit, and get some perks and extra content in return. You control how much you give, and how long you give it, and every little bit really does help. When lots of people pitch in, it can make a huge difference. Please help if you’re able, and share my work with others. Thank you!

Second depression, same as the first, a bit more tech, and possibly worse?

With everything that has been going on, and the recent announcement that the United States might be hitting 30% unemployment soon, there has been a lot of talk about the Great Depression, and the various similarities and differences between now and then. There are a lot of parallels, and most of them are not comforting. We have a global pandemic that looks poised to kill millions by the end of the year. The economy, after decades of being undermined and redesigned for the sole benefit of the rich and powerful, is collapsing. We’re in the midst of an ecological crisis which, just like the pandemic, is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The problems caused by the growing inequalities in wealth and power are leading to a rise in extremist far-right political movements, violence, and scapegoating aimed at those with the least power. As the saying goes, history doesn’t repeat, but it sure does seem to rhyme.

So what’s different?

Lots of things. For one, we’ve gotten better at medicine. Even with the disastrous equipment shortage we’re faced with, we have a far better understanding of how diseases spread, how to treat their symptoms, and how to develop medicines that make a real difference. We’re also better at moving stuff around the planet. Equipment, doctors, food, and raw materials can be shipped to where they’re needed much more quickly and easily than they could in the 1920s.

I’ve heard some people worry that, compared to the Great Depression, fewer people have the space, know-how, or pre-existing gardens to grow their own food. I think that is a valid concern, but how much of a concern is probably going to depend a lot on policy. As I mentioned, shipping food internationally has never been easier, and while we can’t rule out massive crop failures with the unstable global climate, it’s been mentioned many times that the world grows more food than is needed to feed everybody already. All that’s lacking is the will to invest in distribution. Likewise, with modern technology, a national jobs program could include investment in the construction and running of indoor/vertical farms, and cities could begin to grow their own food. This could both reduce pressure on the various ecosystems currently used for food production, and reduce pollution generated by shipping across great distances.

Things like that aren’t likely to be “crowdsourced” into existence, but if we’re going to be spending vast amounts of taxpayer money to keep the economy afloat, we might as well be using it to address other problems that need solving. Now is definitely time for the Green New Deal.

And that brings us to the key difficulty. Addressing all of these problems requires placing power in the hands of people who want to address them, and taking power away from those who want to prevent the changes we need. Electoral politics is definitely one of the ways to do this, and I would encourage everybody who hasn’t voted in the Democratic primary thus far to seriously consider voting for Bernie Sanders – the policies he wants are the policies we desperately need, not just for America, but for the good of the whole planet.

But beyond that, there’s something that we had in the 1920s that we don’t really have right now, or at least not the way we need it. The missing ingredients are the socialist and labour movements. When FDR enacted the New Deal in 1933, it didn’t just happen because everyone got together and agreed that it was the best course of action. It happened because America had a powerful, and angry labour movement, and a powerful socialist movement. FDR pushed for the New Deal, but what made it happen was the fear, on the part of what he called “economic royalists”, that if they didn’t give up some of their wealth and power, then America might be the next country to see something like a Leninist uprising, and they would lose everything. Faced with that choice, some tried to overthrow Roosevelt and install a fascist regime, but in the end, we got the New Deal instead.

I think by studying that era, we can see cause for hope, as well as cause for fear. We can see the work that we need to do, and we can see the kinds of reaction we can expect. The Left is weaker than it was in that era, and we need to change that. Unlikely as it may seem, I’d still like to see a President Sanders, but he won’t be able to do much without the ability to point out the window when the oligarchs say “you and what army?” Likewise, if we get someone like Biden, he will only agree to left-wing policies if there’s a massive movement pushing him to do so. Any way you look at it, what we need right now is class solidarity, class politics, and a mass movement by the working classes, which I would argue includes most of the “middle” class, whether or not folks like to admit it.

As with so many other things these days, the amount of damage done to society seems to depend a lot on policy decisions. Having the “Camp of the Saints” crowd in charge seems like a good way to have a lot of people die due to incompetence that can never quite be proven to be deliberate.

If you have time to kill, read up on the labour movement. Read up on the Civil Rights movement. Read up on political change. Two books that come to my mind are The Zinn Reader, a collection of writings by Howard Zinn, and Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals. I’m honestly not very well-read on this sort of thing, though I’m trying to change that. There’s also a wealth of information to be found online, and useful stuff from Lefty youtubers and people like Richard Wolff. I’ll try to keep linking anything that seems useful as I continue writing.


Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, layoffs have increased, job interviews have been indefinitely postponed, and many places aren’t hiring new workers. All of that means I really need help paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head. Patreon.com is a way for you to help with that, even if it’s just a little bit, and get some perks and extra content in return. You control how much you give, and how long you give it, and every little bit really does help. When lots of people pitch in, it can make a huge difference. Please help if you’re able, and share my work with others. Thank you!