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This sign, in black and yellow like a traffic warning sign, reads, “WARNING: No Easy Answers Ahead.”

Easy answers

Does it seem to you that all the easy answers have gone away? We live in a complicated time, a complicated world.

Covid-19 upends our lives with its invisible, omnipresent death-threat. The American West is burning. Women’s progress in the workplace has turned into eroding sand beneath our feet. Relentless inequities, laid bare by the Covid-19 recession, have thrown our social order into chaos.

It is terrifying. Infuriating. And exhausting.

If only things were easier

Remember the ad campaign with the “Easy” Button™ you supposedly could press to solve all your office supply needs? I wasn’t the only person who really wanted an Easy Button™ in 2005 (for me, that also was a rough year).

The iconic Staples® “Easy Button™” is a round, red-and-silver button marked “easy” in white.
A 2005 ad campaign featured the “Easy Button™” and the motto “That was easy,” to promote the Staples® office store’s services. The company now sells them as novelty gifts. Image courtesy of Staples.

I plan to dig mine out and display it prominently, after we finish renovating the Library and my new home office there (Yes, I have a library room in my house, yes, it’s normally full of books, and yes, it’s awesome when it’s in good shape). But the joke only amuses for a little while.

We can make cracks about easy solutions, but the truth remains stubbornly complicated. Very few easy answers stand up to an objective, critical interrogation.

This hasn’t been the year for “Easy”

Seems like this year we just can’t catch a break. Many of our most popular slogans turn out to easier said than done.

Defund the Police

Remember “Defund the Police”? Yeah, we knew that one wasn’t going to be a quickie, and it sure hasn’t been. Several cities actually are trying. Some look as if they might make real changes.

But the movement isn’t (yet?) popular. Polling tells us the proponents of “defund and reallocate” have a long way to go before a majority of Americans agree enough to act.

Donald Trump’s “Law and Order” message seeks the exact opposite of defunding. His opponent Joe Biden went on the record against defunding, too, although he agrees Federal funding should be tied to “basic standards of decency.” Whatever those turn out to be in practice.

When you consider the history of policing, however, and the baked-in practices and attitudes that have persisted for decades, it’s clear that reforms of existing agencies pose a challenge.

Black Lives Matter

Remember “Black Lives Matter”? That seemed pretty basic. Black people’s lives should be considered to be as important and valuable as everyone else’s. Easy, right?

Then came the inevitable pushback, as if somehow the movement was intended to shove everybody else aside. The unfortunate truth of how our society devalues Black civil rights blazes through in a drumbeat of daily headlines.

Amber Ruffin’s painfully funny skit, “The White Forgiveness Countdown Clock” dramatizes it all too well.

Climate Change is real

Can we at least agree that the forests in the American West are burning up for the same reason that we’re several letters into the Greek alphabet on named tropical storms this year? That climate change not only drives these forces, but it stems from human recklessness?

Not if you think the “Climate Arsonist”-in-Chief is right. He says “science really doesn’t know” why it’s such a bad year for wildfires. On the tropical storms, it’s not what he said. It’s what he didn’t say.

In this cartoon a signpost stands on a plateau with a cliff to the left and a winding road to the right. The sign says “ANSWERS.” Under it an arrow pointing to the left and the cliff reads, “Simple but wrong.” Next to that, an arrow above a bookcase, pointing to the right and the winding road, reads “Complex but right.” A crowd of people have lined up on the road, headed for the signpost. The vast majority of them go left, with only the occasional person choosing the right-hand road.
We probably know who’d be in which line. Cartoon by Wiley Miller/Go Comics/Non Sequitur, via the “Climate Etc.” blog by Judith Curry.

Covid-19 is dangerous

Another pesky “science thing” is the Covid-19 pandemic. Administration efforts to contain worries about the novel virus started at the beginning of the pandemic, in contrast to actual disease-containment efforts.

Nothing if not consistent in this area, these efforts have continued through the summer. The “denial” response continues even today, despite the President’s own diagnosis.

Yet all year long, people have perversely continued to get sick and die.

This is a screen-grab of a world map showing the spread of Covid-19.
Worldwide Covid-19 spread, by country, as of October 6, 2020. Go to the New York Times for a larger, better, interactive version of this map.

As I’m writing this, deaths in the world have risen past one million, and in the USA we’ve topped 210,000. The only certainty seems to be that these numbers will continue to rise.

Yet mask-wearing in the United States continues to rouse partisan ire. Flouting or following basic health guidelines remains a partisan issue. This video dates to last June, but the flaring tempers and divisions persist.

Controversy over the timing of a vaccine rollout provides another instance of science at odds with politics. So do efforts to end the ACA (“Obamacare”) in the middle of the pandemic. And of course, many want to force schools to open for in-person classes, although transmission rates in many areas remain well above recommended guidelines.

Easy answers remain hard to find

This year, more than ever, the “low-hanging fruit,” the easy answers, elude us. Yet I do think I’ve found a few, pretty basic ones, while on preventive lockdown for seven-months-going-on-eternity.

Seek your guidance and information from scientists, physicians, climatologists, and other experts trained and seasoned in their field.

Don’t share or retweet shocking things until you check the story with a factual source.

Give thanks for the wondrous devices that allow us to connect with each other, even when it’s only virtually.

Listen to others. Grieve with those in mourning. Rejoice with those who’ve found joy, and remind yourself and others that bad times eventually pass.

Wear a mask, socially distance (looks as if 6 feet isn’t enough), and vary your list of 20-second songs, so you don’t get bored and shorten your hand-washing.

Be gentle with yourself, and with others. Everyone has a heavy load, right now. Friends and family should try to nurture one another.

That’s Jan’s list. What’s yours?


Many thanks to SixDay Science for the warning sign image, and to Mykola Lytvynenko via 123RF, for the “warning stripes” background on the header. I appreciate Staples® for the “Easy Button™” image. Many thanks to Peacock and YouTube for the Amber Ruffin “White Forgiveness Countdown Clock” video. I’m grateful to Wiley Miller, Go Comics/Non Sequitur, and Judith Curry’s “Climate Etc.” blog, for the “Answers” cartoon. I appreciate the New York Times for the World Covid-19 map, and I hope you took a moment to look at the interactive one at the link.

Are we feeling it yet? These youthful climate protesters in the UK are worried it's almost past time to mitigate climate change.

Are you feeling it yet?

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

Are you feeling it yet? I don’t think anyone in the world lives a charmed enough life to avoid bumping up against the effects of climate change in recent years. No matter how hard they close their eyes, cover their ears, and try to make it go away by ignoring it.

My montage of four photos showing dramatic aspects of climate change is titled "are you feeling it yet?"
Are you feeling it yet? The signs are all around us (photo credits below).

Are you feeling it yet? In my area recently we’ve been feeling it in the form of extreme weather,from historic flooding to a recently-broken heat wave that blanketed well beyond half the USA in feels-like-triple-digits humid misery

Are you feeling it yet? Earlier this year it was more wildfires in the mountain west, although we might miss a super-violent hurricane season (had enough of those lately, thanks!). Unfortunately that doesn’t mean sea-level rise is slowing down. Just the opposite: it’s speeding up!

Are you feeling it yet? Sorry to say, we all are. What steps are you taking to fight it? The future will never forgive us if we give up now.

IMAGE CREDITS: I created a montage of four representative photos for today’s post. I am grateful for them to the following, clockwise from upper left: Youth climate change protesters photographed by Gary Calton for The Observer, as posted online by The Guardian; a storm flooding Prince Edward Island‘s Oyster Bed Bridge, as photographed by Don Jardine and published online by Maclean’s; insanely hot weather blisters an unnamed city in a photo by Ralph Freso of Getty Images, published online by Grist; and the Maryland Climate Coalition stages a protest in a photo credited to them and published in online by Public News Service.

The photo shows a flat wetland area with a large number of herons

The moment is now

The Artdog Quote-Pairing of the Week

This image consists of a quote by Hal Elrod: "The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life."
This image is a graphic that shows three versions of a battery symbol. the one on the left is full of a picture of wetlands biodiversity. The one in the middle is only half-filled with the same picture. The one on the right shows an empty battery symbol like when a battery is dead. The words surrounding this image say: "We are not powerless against climate change. Stop draining wetlands."

When must we do something about climate change? The moment is now.

I kicked off last month with a video about climate change refugees. It featured a call to proactive action. This month, I’m pairing quotes about being proactive in one’s life with quotes about climate change. It’s not too late to mitigate the effects–but the moment is now.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Hal Elrod for the quote about taking responsibility, and to Tunza Eco-Generation for the quote about not being powerless. The Featured image is courtesy of Greentumble. The article that goes with it is pretty cool too. Thanks, guys!

A view of flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico on the left and of the burnt remains of Paradise, CA on the right represent some ot the devastation that forces people to become climate refugees.

In your future, too?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

The more I think about this week’s quote, the more truth I see in it. This month I’m focusing some of my posts on climate change migration, and climate change refugees, because it is a growing phenomenon.

My fellow Americans tend to think of refugees as “other people.” But if you’re a Puerto Rican, or a former resident of Paradise, California, I bet it doesn’t feel so remote. Many communities in Alaska also are feeling the effects, but if you’re a Hurricane Katrina refugee, this is already an all-too-familiar story.

This issue isn’t going away, it’s growing. Proactive planning is by far the best response, but we’re not getting enough of that from most local, state, or federal agencies–although a few (too few) corporations are waking up to the problem. This is an issue right here (no matter where “here” is for you) and right now.

A view of flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico on the left and of the burnt remains of Paradise, CA on the right represent some ot the devastation that forces people to become climate refugees.
From flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico to burnt remains in Paradise, CA, there’s too much destruction on US soil for Americans to turn a blind eye to climate refugees.

If you haven’t already started, this might be a great time to write, call or email your representatives, government officials, and others. If you live in a representative democracy, you have the right! Show up at town halls. Demonstrate if needed. Make your voice heard, and remember performance records when you vote. We’re all in the bullseye, for this one.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to AZ Quotes for the illustrated quote from Vivienne Westwood. The other image is a composite of two news photos. On the left is a view of a flooded Puerto Rican town in the wake of Hurricane Maria, courtesy of The Daily Egyptian, photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS. On the left is a view of destruction in Paradise, CA after the Camp Fire in 2018, from Insurance Journal (no photographer credited).

Repeated flooding in parts of south Asia have caused increased climate change migration.

Opportunity now, crisis later. How will we choose?

The Artdog Video of Interest

This week’s Video of Interest kicks off a theme I want to explore this month: migration sparked by climate change. This is one of the most recent short videos on the subject that I could find, and I especially appreciate its approach.

Sponsored by the World Bank, it frames what many see as a problem differently. Countries can take steps now, the video argues, to turn it from a looming crisis to an opportunity.

What are the steps? The first one’s kind of a given: cut greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible to mitigate the effects of climate change. All of us should be doing more toward that goal, individually and in our communities, organizations, and institutions.

The second step should also be an “of course we should” idea, but I rarely see it in my country, where too many powerful elites have too much investment in denying climate change or the need to do anything about it. This step says we should acknowledge that climate migration will naturally happen. Then use that knowledge to plan ahead for when it does. Unfortunately for the USA, some places have banned government officials from even using the words.

The third step also would be hard to do in any state that bans even so much as using the vocabulary. It calls for investing to improve data collection, so more accurate predictions are possible. This is simple common sense, but as many have noted, common sense is not so common. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen in much the USA anytime soon, either.

VIDEO AND FEATURED IMAGE: Many thanks to the World Bank for its hope-inspiring video on this topic.

This image is part of a globe with the words "Earth Day."

Are we paying attention yet?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

We’re heading into the Final Decade (or less) of last-minute chances to pull ourselves out of the (literal) fire. I hope we’ll all take this idea that Every day needs to be Earth Day more to heart. The evidence is all around us, and too many of our fellow Earthlings are still in denial.

This image shows a pretty drawing of a beautiful green and blue globe, surrounded by the words, "Make every day Earth Day."

Return on investment?

The Artdog Quote of the Week:

Two contrasting thoughts on investing in our future, while it’s still April:

Might note that 2014 went on to be the third-hottest year on record (so far), after The Donald tweeted this pearl of perspicacity.

IMAGES: Many thanks to The Triple Pundit via Pinterest, for Dr. Shiva‘s economic reality-check, and to the iamcorrect blog for the tweet from the regrettable orange person who currently resides in the White House. I also am grateful to Climate Central for their telling graphic.

Into the storm

The Artdog Images of Interest

Three major signals of climate change’s onset are increased rates and ferocity of fires, deepening drought, and increasingly violent storms. Today’s image focuses on storms.

First, a little “storm porn,” because dramatic, high-contrast clouds plus lightning and panoramic skies make for jaw-dropping storm photos. Here’s a mini-portfolio from American storm-chaser Mike Mezeul II:

Thunderstorm outside Cheyenne, WY by Mike Mezeul II
Thunderstorm over Big Spring TX – Mike Mezeul II
Thunderstorm with internal lightning over Graham, TX, by Mike Mazeul II

I could look at these all day, but a little reminder may be in order that gorgeous clouds can contain devastating downpours, tornadoes, and/or hurricanes that can do millions of dollars’ worth of damages in just a short time. Havoc such as that shown in these photos:

This is what we denizens of Tornado Alley call “a real toad-strangler.” This storm hit the San Fernando Valley in February 2017.
The website didn’t give a location or date for this photo, but I hope that truck had water wings!
Stormy surf at Porthcawl Harbor, South Wales, in 2014. (photo: PA/Mirror)
A man in Northern Ireland excavates his sheep from a snowdrift in 2014.
Dramatic flooding resulted in 2015 from Tropical Storm Etau in Japan.
2016 flooding and mudslides in Victory, WI made for some arduous cleanup afterwards.

As the EPA is still so far able to say on its website, “Extreme weather is typically rare. But climate change is increasing the odds of more extreme weather events taking place.” 

One thing’s clear: we’d better batten down the hatches–and make sure we have an emergency plan. Unfortunately, we never know when we’ll be caught up in the next disaster.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Mike Mezeul II and The Daily Mail for the gorgeous “storm porn” series at the top. I also am grateful to Climate 101 with Jason, for the San Fernando Valley storm photo by David McNew/Getty Images, to Insurance Advocate for the hurricane-swamping-the-road photo with the pickup truck, to the Mirror for the stormy surf South Welsh photo from 2014, and to the BBC for the photo of the Northern Irishman excavating his sheep from a snowdrift the same year. Many thanks to Young Independent for the Tropical Storm Etau image, and to WXOW Channel 19 of LaCrosse, WI for the mudslide photo.

Moral and historical responsibilities

The Artdog Quotes of the Week:

Today I present a study in contrasts.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks for the global community on this one. United States leadership still persists in questioning the science to a greater extent than any other major nation. Including, unfortunately, this guy:

IMAGES: Many thanks to the World Economic Forum for the Ban Ki-moon quote (check the linked page for more good ones), and to Business Insider, CNN and Bill Nye for the quote graphic from the regrettable orange person. Unfortunately, Bill’s solution failed to be implemented effectively.

Water stress

The Artdog Images of Interest

Three major signals of climate change’s onset are increased rates and ferocity of fires, deepening drought, and increasingly violent storms. Today’s image focuses on drought.

A woman in India still can get a little water from her well, but she’s one of 300 million affected in the country during 2016.

As my Images of Interest series in February emphasized, the United Nations has identified access to safe, clean, affordable drinking water as a basic human right. Yet as drought gets entrenched in regions, this basic human need is not being met. India is one of those areas, but as the map below shows, it is far from alone in its plight.

A serious issue in India is the continued heavy water use by multinational corporations (MNCs) such as Pepsico, without recharging the water tables (as required by law). This is despite the “worst drought in living memory” and dramatic drops in local water tables near their bottling facilities.

The 2015 level of California’s Lake Oroville at the height of the recent drought was pretty impressive-looking, but as we know, once the drought broke the lake refilled to overflowing. More troublesome and long-lasting was the hit the aquifers took.

Plunging levels of surface water or snowpack during times of drought are often dramatic (see California’s Lake Oroville, above). Longer-lasting damage is done, however, when aquifers are depleted and not recharged. What has been happening in India is not an isolated case of industrial short-sightedness. Aquifer depletion is a problem in California, the US Great Plains, Australia, China, Africa, and all over the world. Few people are paying much attention to it yet, but it’s a ticking time bomb we all should be working NOW to defuse.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Global Research for the photo of the Indian woman by her well, to the World Resources Institute for the Water Stress map, and to PBS NewsHour for the 2015 photo of Lake Oroville. 

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