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Current Events from a Science Perspective

Partisan Politics Kills People: When Covid Came to Kansas

     Posted on Tue ,18/01/2022 by admin

“Had the United States Republican leaders developed strong guidelines for dealing with Covid 19, the Kansas Legislature would probably have followed them. However, no guidelines were forthcoming, and the pandemic became a partisan political issue. “

Covid-19 first appeared in the United States in January of 2020. It spread rapidly and by early March cases began to appear in Kansas. Two legislators were required to quarantine because they had been exposed to the virus. Governor Kelly declared a state of emergency and issued a series of executive orders designed to keep the virus from spreading. When cases began to appear in Topeka, some members of the Kansas House of Representatives became alarmed. Several of them had health problems that put them at risk. They realized that if they were exposed, the virus would be carried to all parts of Kansas when the legislature adjourned. They decided to pass the budget and adjourn as soon as possible.

To make sure someone was in charge of the virus response when the Legislature was not in session, the House passed a bill giving the Governor emergency powers to manage the virus response until January 2021. The Senate, however, did not want to give that much power to the Governor, saying she might take private property or take your guns away. She could not and would not, but that set up a week of haggling before the Legislature finally passed SB 40 which limited the Governor’s emergency powers. It put a time limit on the emergency declaration and gave the Legislative Coordinating Council, (LCC), whose majority is the Republican Leadership, the right to veto any of the Governor’s emergency orders.

The LCC and the Governor were able to reach acceptable compromises on most issues. However, with Easter coming up, the LCC canceled her executive order that limited the size of gatherings to 10. The Governor sued, and the court ruled she had the power to make decisions under the emergency declaration until April 25th. That prompted the Republican Leadership to call a Special Session to pass legislation to restrict the Governor’s powers. She vetoed it, and there were not enough votes to override her veto. Later, the Governor had to call another Special Session as it was necessary to extend the disaster declaration. There, the legislature passed legislation extending the emergency declaration, but it also gave counties the control of COVID restrictions. The Governor could not veto this, as it would have ended Kansas’s emergency declaration and cost the state billions of dollars in disaster aid. Giving the counties control of the Covid response turned out to be a disaster as many counties refused to enforce public health guidelines.

The Kansas Legislature did not set a good example. Our public health experts said we could stop the spread of Covid by wearing masks, following good hygiene practices, socially distancing, and avoiding mass gatherings. The first Special Session had rules for following those health guidelines, but the Republican leadership did not enforce them. It soon ended up with over 100 legislators, with few wearing masks, packed together in the House chamber. This was in violation of the public health restrictions, but the Republican leaders seemed not to care. By bad example, bad legislation, and inflammatory rhetoric, the Legislative Leadership politicized a public health issue and destroyed Kansas‘s opportunity to contain the virus. Those who complain about damage to the economy and the mental health issues caused by isolation have only the Legislative Leadership to blame. They managed to nullify the Governor’s plan to control the virus in the state, and that has been a disaster. By giving the counties control of the COVID-19 response, Kansas ended up with a patchwork of regulations across the state with 25 counties that followed the public health guidelines and 80 counties that did not.

For example, the Sedgwick County Commissioners immediately voted to relax the health guidelines. The number of Covid cases in Sedgwick County soon grew to over 11,000 with over 130 deaths – and the toll is still increasing. It is now at 75,671 cases with 891 deaths. The virus toll soon grew in Kansas to over 75,000 cases and over 1000 deaths and is now at 500,400 cases with 6,900 deaths. Humans are the virus’ main host, so every case increases the chance of further spread – or even mutation of the virus. This did not have to happen. Our Republican Leadership has shown that they are incapable of keeping us safe.

Vaccines for Covid 19 became available in December of 2020 and were made free to everyone in the United States. Two doses of the vaccine and a booster have proven to be effective in preventing or lessening the severity of Covid 19 and its variants. Booster shots are very important, as they make the vaccines more effective against the Omicron strain of the virus. In spite of effective, free vaccines, the number of cases of Covid in Kansas is still increasing. The partisan battles undertaken by the Kansas legislature have shifted from size restrictions on meetings, mask mandates, testing, and contact tracing – to resisting vaccinations. Though effective vaccines have been available for almost 2 years, over 39% of eligible Kansans still remain unvaccinated.

The Federal government mandated that Federal employees, healthcare workers, and employees in large private businesses either be vaccinated or tested weekly. The Kansas Legislature leaders were so incensed by this that they wanted to call another Special Session in November to discuss how to end the Federal government’s overreach. It is strange that Speaker Ron Rychmann supported this as he had a serious case of Covid in July. Though he kept it a secret and made light of it when discovered, he spent ten days in the hospital and was quite sick. Still, he fought to hold the Special Session with the goal of ending vaccination mandates. The November Special Session required the signatures of two-thirds of the legislators, but with a little help from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce (KCC), they were able to get signatures from all the Republicans. How did that come about?

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act allowed corporations who hid their intellectual assets offshore to bring them back at a reduced tax rate. During the 2019 legislative session, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce thought Kansas businesses that had hidden their assets offshore, should get a Kansas tax cut as well. The bill would have cost the state about $600 million over three years. There was little justification for doing that and it failed as a number of moderate Republicans opposed it. During the 2020 election, the KCC targeted the moderate Republicans and they were purged from the legislature. In 2021, the KCC got the tax it wanted but it had unintended consequences. The purge of moderate Republicans gave a supermajority to the far-right Republican legislators who were opposed to vaccines and public health restrictions. There is little the KCC could have done that would have hurt Kansas and its businesses more.

The Special Session to end Federal vaccine mandates ended up with a compromise bill which the Governor agreed to sign. It allowed employees to opt out of vaccines and required employers to accept medical and religious exemptions without question. If an employee is terminated for refusal to be vaccinated, they may file for unemployment. Employers who deny an exemption request or terminate an employee for not being vaccinated can be fined up to $50,000 per violation. This puts businesses in a tough position as the federal and state requirements are different. This comes in spite of the Republicans’ claimed pro-business stance, and their concerns that the depletion of unemployment funds might cause a tax increase.

Several states, including Kansas, sued the federal government to stop the vaccine mandates. This should have had little chance of success as there are precedents for vaccination mandates. A 1905 Supreme Court ruling, Jacobson v Massachusetts, upheld the state’s right to require vaccinations. Although the ruling only applied to Massachusetts, it made clear that the liberty we enjoy does not give us the right to act to the detriment of others. In December of last year, the Supreme Court refused to hear cases appealing New York’s and Massachusetts’ Covid 19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers. These decisions reflected a long-standing precedent for upholding the ability of the government to impose mandatory vaccination requirements.

However, in January of 2022, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases concerning vaccine mandates, one involving businesses and one involving healthcare workers. If they had followed precedents, the Court would have upheld the mandates. Even the Justices who rely upon originalism should agree. George Washington ordered the Continental Army to be vaccinated against smallpox, and the soldiers complied. However, the Supreme Court upheld mandates for healthcare workers, but not for businesses. This ruling denied OSHA, which is charged with protecting the health of workers, the best way to protect workers from the Covid virus.

Kansas is now in the midst of another surge in Covid cases as the Omicron variant of Covid is spreading in the state. The Governor has just issued another emergency declaration, along with mandates, because the states’ ICU units and emergency rooms are filling up with Covid patients. The 2022 legislative session is just beginning, and we can only hope that the Kansas Legislature and the Governor will put aside partisan politics and form a united front to keep Kansas citizens safe.

Covid and Its Omicron Variant

     Posted on Mon ,10/01/2022 by admin

Coronavirus is the type of virus that causes common colds, but it can also cause more serious diseases such as SARS, MERS, or COVID – 19. The virus is only about 0.025 µm in diameter, far smaller than the human eye can see even with the best optical microscope. In comparison, a fine human hair is about 40 µm in diameter. When people talk, cough, or sneeze they eject small droplets which vary greatly in size but the average is about 1 µm. Each small droplets can hold hundreds of thousands of viruses and the droplets can persist in the air for several hours.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Coronavirus-2.jpg

This image is that of a coronavirus as taken by an electron microscope. The virus gets its name from the small structures on the surface which look like crowns. When the virus encounters a human cell, the crown attaches to the cell’s surface and injects its own RNA into the cell, which then takes over the cell mechanisms and produces copies of the virus. They eventually cause the cell to burst which can release up to 50,000 new viruses. The Omicron mutation of the virus has a second new type of crown – which makes it more effective at attaching to a cell.

COVID-19 Virus is a new virus in humans that entered the population for the first time in 2019. The virus cannot live long outside a human host, and the main vector for its transmission is those who travel to and from infected areas. We have little natural immunity to the virus and about 97% of those infected recover within 14 days. Particularly severe cases must be put on a ventilator to keep the patient breathing until the virus runs its course. The virus is sometimes lethal for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms: The symptoms of the virus are headaches, fever, pink itchy eyes, coughs, sneezes, sore throat, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, inflamed toes, and loss of smell or taste. The incubation period after exposure is from 5 to 14 days. People exposed may transmit the virus to others before they experience symptoms. However, some people with the virus may never have symptoms, yet still be able to transmit the virus to others.

Transmission: The virus is transmitted by direct contact between individuals from small droplets ejected when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. The social distance of 6 feet is usually enough to prevent the virus being transmitted directly. However, small droplets from coughs or sneezes may travel much further than 6 feet and may contain hundreds of thousands of viruses. The droplets may persist in the air for several hours. They eventually settle on surfaces where the virus may live for up to several days, depending on the type of surface. For example, the virus is found to exist for a day on cardboard and up to three days on tile or plastic.

Infection: The virus infects a person by entering through their eyes, nose, or mouth. It may happen from being near an infected person, particularly if they are coughing or sneezing. Small droplets that settle on surfaces are transferred when you touch the surface and then they may infect you when you touch your face. Once on your hands, you will transfer the virus to everything else you touch until you wash your hands or kill the virus with hand sanitizer.

Precautions: The best precautions aim to keep the virus from being transmitted from person to person. From what we know about the virus, the following guidelines have been developed to keep it from spreading:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home as much as possible, particularly if you may be sick.
• Keep a social distance of at least 6 feet from other people when you are in public.
• Avoid touching surfaces in public places. Assume anything you touch may be contaminated.
• Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your face, particularly rubbing your eyes.
• Wear a mask when in public, primarily to keep you from infecting other people. Remember you may spread the virus even though you have no symptoms.
• Avoid traveling to and from areas that have high levels of infection. Human movement is the main vector for the spread of the virus.
• Avoid gatherings, particularly those which have more than 10 people.

Get vaccinated. Vaccines are now available which are free and effective. Two doses plus a booster will prevent most infections or, in case of an infection, will make the symptoms much milder. Avoiding hospitalization is very important, especially now as many hospital emergency rooms and ICUs are overloaded with Covid – Omicron cases. It is much less likely that a fully vaccinated person will get the Omicron virus. Even if they do, it is usually a much milder case that does not require hospitalization. Over 90% of the patients in ICU or on ventilators with Covid have not been vaccinated. The Omicron virus tends to infect the upper respiratory system rather than the lungs, so it tends to be milder, but like any infection- it can move to the lungs.

Omicron and Masks: You may have heard that masks are less effective against the omicron strain of the coronavirus. That is NOT correct. An N95 mask blocks 95% of small droplets that are 0.05 µm in size, no matter what the droplet contains. Recent studies have shown that the omicron variant is more infectious because it is more effective at entering cells. Because of this, it takes fewer droplets to cause an infection.
Masks are still the most effective way to prevent the transmission of the virus from one person to another. If both people are wearing masks, there is a 99.8% chance that the virus will be blocked from being transmitted. If both people are wearing standard green surgical masks, the probability drops to 99% – but that is still pretty good.


The Future: Most states have issued orders based on the precautions above in order to keep their citizens safe. Some states were worried that the restrictions would hurt the economy – but they relaxed them too soon and we experienced the Delta and Omicron surges of the virus. That prolonged the pandemic and hurt businesses even more.

No matter what your state orders, it would be a good idea to follow the precautions above until the OK is given by healthcare professionals. It is imperative that you become vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones. The decision is ultimately yours. Please follow the guidelines above to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

The Beatles Get Back: An Inexpert Review

     Posted on Mon ,13/12/2021 by admin

I really like the Beatles so I was excited to see that “The Beatles Get Back” was now available on Disney. It was a three-part series with each part lasting over two hours. What could be better than almost 8 hours of the Beatles? It turned out it wasn’t exactly what I expected.

I first saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. Like most everyone else, I really liked them. They had a fresh new sound and immediately became a hit. I bought some of their albums, I listened to them on the radio, and I saw Paul McCartney perform when he was in Wichita in 2017. Other than that, I didn’t know much about what happened to them after they returned to England. I was interested in finding out more about their early years, their families, and what happened to them after the band broke up. I thought that this series would fill me in on that.

Part One started off great. It described how the band got together, their tours, how their popularity grew, and snippets of some of their greatest hits. They became so popular that they decided they would not perform in public because of all the commotion it caused. In 1968, they took a trip to India where they studied Transcendental Meditation (TM) with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The trip had an influence on their music and their lives as they denounced the use of drugs in favor of Transcendental Meditation. After that 20-minute introduction, the series shifted to the Beatles’ 1969 decision to perform in public again. The next two hours of Part One described Days 1 through 7 of practice for that new public performance. It gave some insight into their interactions and a bit of information about their special friends. Mostly, it was just them playing a bit, talking, and much smoking. It might be of great interest to diehard Beatles fans, but otherwise, it was mostly uninteresting.

Part Two was day 8 through 16 of practice, and very little of interest happened except that George Harrison decided to leave the band. John, Paul, and Ringo convinced him to rejoin the band – and they moved the jam sessions to Apple Studios. They changed their plans for their upcoming public appearance from Libya, then to outdoors in London, and finally to the rooftop of the Apple Studio.

Part Three finds them finally moving to the roof of the studio and giving their public appearance to the people who happened to be on the street below. It spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on the police officers who tried to close them down because of the public disturbance. Still, it was much like attending one of their concerts and the music was great. Unless you’re really a serious Beatles fan, I would recommend you watch the first 20 minutes of Part One and all of Part Three. That will be about two hours and 40 minutes long and you will get the flavor of the series without spending 8 hours.

I was curious about what happened to the Beatles after the band broke up. Though most people liked the Beatles, a few on the religious right considered them non-Christians and socialists. In 1980, John Lennon was shot to death on his doorstep by a religious fanatic. Yoko Ono, John’s wife, has since become known worldwide as an artist and activist. She has used Lennon’s fortune for philanthropic causes and to spread his message of peace and love.

In 1999, George Harrison was stabbed by an intruder who hated the Beatles and thought George Harrison was a witch. Harrison survived the attack but died two years later of lung cancer. He had earlier survived throat cancer which he attributed to years and years of heavy smoking. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are both alive and well and have recently been doing tours. They did one performance together that brought the house down with their rendition of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. However, their touring days now seem over. I felt very lucky to be able to see Paul McCartney on one of his last tours. 

Is Carbon Capture and Storage a Viable Option?

     Posted on Sun ,17/10/2021 by admin

The countries of the world have reached a consensus that we need to reduce our carbon emissions. One proposal to do that is to switch to a hydrogen economy. The problem is that currently about 95% of the hydrogen we use is made using fossil fuels, which is an energy-intensive process that produces more CO2. The fossil fuel companies plan to get around that is to capture the carbon produced and store it (CCS). The questions that must be answered are how to capture the carbon, where to store it, and how much it will cost.

It is possible to capture the CO2 and there are now several plants currently doing it. Much of the captured carbon is currently used to produce more fossil fuels, so there is little gain in doing it. The chart below will give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem. Currently, we are adding 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. The amount of carbon currently captured is 0.006% of that, an amount so small that it could not even be seen on the chart.


If carbon capture could be scaled up to capture most of the CO2 we are emitting, then where would we store it? The most obvious solution is to store it where it came from. The carbon from coal is mostly from strip mines and open mines, and it cannot be stored there. For petroleum and methane, storing it back underground is a possibility. However, burning them combines them with oxygen – and increases the mass and volume by a factor of two or three. It would be impossible to store more than a fraction of the CO2 back underground.


Assuming we could capture the carbon and find a place to store it, what would be the cost? This would involve acquiring the land, building the thousands of CCS plants required, and providing the energy necessary for the process. That cost has been estimated to be about $5 trillion a year, at current prices, for the rest of this century. There are certainly much less expensive options available.


So there you have it, the amount of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere is far too great to capture, there is no adequate place to store captured CO2, and the cost would be astronomical. However, the fossil fuel companies are willing to try if we subsidize their costs, fund their research, and wait 80 years. It will be painfully obvious, long before then, that CCS is unworkable. The best plan is obviously to stop putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a solution the fossil fuel companies are unwilling to accept.


The Effect of the Increasing CO2 on the Earth

     Posted on Fri ,27/08/2021 by admin

Science is about using observation and reason to understand the physical world. Here are some of the latest observations showing how increasing greenhouse gases are changing the Earth.

CO2: Man is now putting about 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. About half of it dissolves in the ocean, making them 20% more acidic, and the rest increases the concentration in the air.

 

Temperature: CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, and NASA’s graph shows how its increase is changing the Earth’s temperature:

NASA GISS Data

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The Sun: The current global warming is often wrongly attributed to an increase in intensity of the sun. The sunspot activity does not show up above the noise in the temperature record above – and the solar irradiance increased slightly until 1960 and has declined slightly since then.

Arctic Ice: Many of the changes in the Earth are subtle but this NASA picture clearly shows  how the Earth is changing:

The Arctic is Warming: This is affecting the ocean currents and the jet stream – and causing extreme weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.

Arctic ice:  The next two graphs show quantitatively how both the extent and the volume of the Arctic ice are changing.

Antarctica: Research by Steig and by O’Donnell  show that Antarctica is warming. The warmer oceans result in more snowfall which increases the inland glacier mass, but the erosion of ice by the warmer oceans is causing an overall loss of ice mass.

Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.
Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.

Greenland: The Greenland ice sheets are also beginning to decline. Melting Greenland’s ice would cause sea levels to rise 10 feet,

Ocean Level Rise: The melting ice sheets, melting glaciers, and thermal expansion are causing the oceans to rise by about 3 mm per year which, though it seems small, amounts to an increase in ocean volume of 1190 cubic kilometers/yr.

Severe Weather: Warmer temperatures increase both the rate of evaporation and the energy and moisture in the air. This has doubled the incidence of severe weather, floods, droughts, and wildfires.

Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.
Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.

Economic Costs: Large secondary insurance companies such as Suisse Re now consider global warming a risk factor as there has been a fivefold increase in billion-dollar weather events in the last 30 years.

Droughts:  Since 1980, drought conditions have grown worse worldwide, and no one disputes the effect of droughts on food production. Here is how droughts have become worse in the Southwest United States.

Food Production: The increasing CO2, temperatures, and droughts are expected to decrease food production worldwide.

Figure-28

Extreme Temperatures: Climate scientists now have enough data and computing power to estimate the probability of extreme weather events. The figure below, from a paper by Hansen et. al., shows how the distribution of temperature has varied over the past 60 years. Extremely hot temperatures, those over 3 standard deviations from the mean,  are now over 20 times as probable as for the 1950 – 1980 period and 10 times as probable as for the 1980 – 2010 average.  That means that extreme temperatures that affected 1% of the landmass in 1980, now affect almost 10% of the landmass annually.

Note: This was posted on 08/31/2011 and updated on 04/03/2012,08/11/2012, and 02/12/2013. It was reposted on 08/27/2021.

(c) 2011  J.C. Moore

Related

Science, Global Warming, and the Ice Age MysteryDecember 31, 2010 In “Climate Change”

Is Global Warming Naturally Occurring? November 12, 2010, In “Climate Change”

Science, Climate Change, and the Greenhouse effect December 13, 2010, In “Climate Change”

Tags: Acidic OceansAntarctica iceBillion-dollar weather eventsClimate ChangeCO2droughtsextreme temperature probabilities.global WarmingGreenhouse Effectice-agesJames-HansenKeeling CurveMunich ReNASA’s temperature graphOcean level risePalmer Drought Indexpolar ice meltingSolar irradianceSunsunspot activity

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor Poorer

     Posted on Mon ,09/08/2021 by admin

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act (TJCA) really did a job on the American people. The results were predictable. A similar tax cut in Kansas in 2012 was a disaster for Kansas. It benefited the rich, led to a stagnant economy, took money from infrastructure and schools, and put Kansas far in debt. States cannot run a deficit, so Kansas finally had to make up for it in 2017 with the largest tax increase in Kansas history.  

The TJCA was based on the trickle-down theory which, as experience has shown, increases public debt and makes the wealthy wealthier – at the expense of the middle class and low wage earners. The CBO estimated that the TJCA would increase the national debt by almost $1.9 trillion over the next 10 years. It cut the corporate tax rate from 39% to 21% and allowed companies to bring their intellectual assets (GILTI) back to the United States at an even lower tax rate. Those who profited the most were the wealthy and corporations, as it gave permanent tax cuts to corporate profits, investment income, inheritance taxes, estate taxes, and preferential tax treatment to pass-through income*. Some banks, for instance, will pay far less than the 21%. Some of the tax cuts went to the middle class, but they will sunset in 2025 while the tax breaks for businesses and corporations do not sunset.

What is better than lobbying? It is electing Legislators who the large corporations can depend on to cut their taxes. For Republicans, adding to the national debt has always been anathema. Sadly, it was a Republican President and Legislature who passed the TJCA. The chart above lists some of the corporations who donated heavily to Republicans who they could depend on to vote to cut their taxes. It also lists the amount they gained from the tax cuts. Those corporations received about a 6000% return on their investments in electing compliant politicians. Not bad, especially when your bank pays you about 2%. Not only that, but the New York Times reported that there were 55 very profitable companies, such as Nike, FedEx, and Duke Energy, that paid no taxes at all last year. Considering subsidies, some of them had an effective tax rate of as much as a -50%.

Also, the US subsidizes oil and gas companies so that investors never lose. Every year, the U.S. federal and state governments pour around $20.5 billion in subsidies into the oil and gas industry. New research, published in Environmental Research Letters, puts a value on the effect that the16 tax breaks and exemptions will have on the 1,000 U.S. oil and gas fields projected to be built before 2030. The paper found that if fossil fuel prices stay high, most of the subsidies — 96 % in oil, 87% in gas— will go directly to the pockets of investors as profit. And if prices go down, these subsidies will help 60% and 74% percent, respectively, of new oil and gas fields to remain profitable.

So there you have it. If you’re wondering why you pay so much in taxes yet receive so little back, it is because your state and federal governments give away so much money to help the wealthy and profitable companies become wealthier and more profitable. Please consider that when you vote.

*A recent study by Treasury economists found that the top 1% of Americans by income have reaped nearly 60% of the billions in tax savings created by the pass-through provision. And much of that went to the top 0.1%. 

Observations of Climate Change in Kolkata

     Posted on Fri ,30/07/2021 by admin

This is a guest post from Pabitra Mukhopadhyay, who is a hydrological engineer in Calcutta. It was originally written in Bengali, and a rough translation is below.

” · আজ থেকে দশ পনের বছর আগে যখন ক্লাইমেট চেঞ্জ নিয়ে লিখতে শুরু করি তখন অধিকাংশ মানুষ বুঝত না, ব্যাপারটা কি। অনেকের ধারণা ছিল ক্লাইমেট চেঞ্জ মানে বরফ টরফ গলে শুকিয়ে মরুভূমি হয়ে যাওয়া। এখন কলকাতায় বসে একটা বাচ্চাও বলে দেবে ব্যাপারটা ঠিক ওরকম নয়।পরপর তিনবছর আমরা কলকাতায় সুপার সাইক্লোন দেখছি। নিশ্চিতভাবে কয়েক বছরের মধ্যেই বছরে একাধিক সুপার সাইক্লোন দেখব। বেশ কয়েক বছর হল বর্ষার ধরণ লক্ষ্যনীয়ভাবে পাল্টে গেছে। এখন বর্ষাকালেও নিম্নচাপের বৃষ্টি হয়। একদিনে একমাসের বৃষ্টি হয়। আমরা যারা নদীসংক্রান্ত কাজ করি তারা জানি গত এক দশক ধরে নদীতে জোয়ার ভাঁটার পূর্বাভাসের তুলনায় জলস্তর ক্রমাগত বৃদ্ধি পেয়ে চলেছে। এখন উচ্চফলনশীল বীজে ধানচাষ হয়, এই প্রজাতির ধান বৃষ্টিপাতের হেরফের অনেকটাই সহ্য করতে পারে। তবুও চাষীদের কাছ থেকে জানা যাচ্ছে কৃষিতে ফলন কমছে। এবং আশ্চর্যভাবে যে সব ফল বা সব্জি দেশের এই অংশে কোনদিন ফলত না, সেগুলো ফলছে।সবচেয়ে উল্লেখনীয় যে পতঙ্গবাহিত রোগের স্থানীয় মানচিত্র বদলে যাচ্ছে। পতঙ্গও বদলাচ্ছে। দার্জিলিংএ মশা, ভাবা যায়? ডেঙ্গু মনে হয় কলকাতায় স্থায়ী হয়ে গেছে। হেমন্তকাল বলে একটা ঋতু ছিল কোনকালে। এখনকার কোন টিনএজারকে জিজ্ঞাসা করে দেখুন, তারা ঐ ঋতুর অস্তিত্ব জানে না। আমার এক মিডিয়ার বন্ধু বলছিল টিভিতে আবহাওয়ার খবর দেখার টিআরপি ক্রমশ বাড়ছে। চ্যানেলগুলো ওয়েদার ফোরকাস্ট সেলেব্রিটি তৈরী করার কথা ভাবতে শুরু করেছে।তার মানে স্কুলে স্কুলে ইভিএস পড়ানোই শুধু নয়, ক্লাইমেট চেঞ্জ আমাদের জীবনে ঢুকে পড়েছে পুরোদমে।”

“When I started writing about climate change ten or fifteen years ago, most people did not understand, what was the matter. Many thought that climate change meant melting ice or turf turning into a desert. Now even a child sitting in Kolkata will say that the climate is not the same. Three years in a row we have seen Super Cyclones in Kolkata. We will likely see multiple super cyclones per year in a few years. The Monsoon has changed significantly over the years. Now it rains with low pressure even when not in the rainy season. It now rains enough for one month in a day.

Those of us who work at the river know that water levels have been continuously rising compared to the forecast of tides in the river for the past decade. Now that high-fruit seeds grow in the paddy, this species of paddy can withstand much rainfall. Still, it is known from the farmers that the yields in agriculture are decreasing. And surprisingly, many fruits or vegetables that never grew in this part of the country, are now growing. Most notable, the local map of insect-borne disease is changing. The insects are changing too. Mosquitoes in Darjeeling, can you imagine? Dengue fever seems to now have settled in Kolkata.

Once upon a time, there was a season called autumn. Ask a teenager now, and they don’t know that season existed. One of my media friends said that TRP of watching weather news on TV is increasing. Channels are starting to think about creating weather forecast celebrities. That means that not only are we teaching it in schools, but climate change has entered our lives in full swing.”

A Road Trip in an EV

     Posted on Fri ,30/07/2021 by admin

This is a guest post written by Darrel Hart of Wichita, Kansas. Many people have expressed fears about the range of Electric Vehicles or about finding charging stations. This article should put those fears mostly to rest.

“The last 10 days we drove an electric vehicle over 2,700 miles from Wichita Kansas to a mountain resort in West Virginia. We went up and down from parks to waterfalls to cabins, then on to Maryland and back. The cost of the (one way) trip going east was about $70. Charging prices ranged from 1/4 to 1/2 the price of fossil fuel, and sometimes charging was free. The state of West Virginia has free charging in the state parks we visited. Some businesses install charging devices to draw customers. In Frederick Maryland, I know of 2 grocery stores providing free charge while you shop, as does a wine serving establishment, and some hotels have slow chargers at very low prices for overnight.

Tesla has charging stations scattered along the interstate highways. Other brands of charging equipment are already in some markets and the VW/Ford agreement (to increase the number of chargers) is financing more. The (my) car’s computer looks ahead and schedules charging and directs you to it. We zoomed along at 70. Charging times were from 5 minutes to 40, but we ate or bought a coffee and we were back on the road with very little time difference. No time was spent over the fumes and oil spots of a gas station. Your next car should be electric. If you plan to use it on road trips, look for a range of 250 miles or more.”

Please Stop Stereotyping Republicans

     Posted on Fri ,09/07/2021 by admin

There are a lot of articles and posts on social media lately which blame Republicans for a variety of ills in our society. The people responsible for those ills are not necessarily Republicans, and certainly not traditional Republicans. Abraham Lincoln started the Republican Party, freed the slaves, and established that all men are created equal. There been many great Republican presidents since Lincoln, up until Eisenhower. Below is Eisenhower’s Republican platform for 1956. It defines what a traditional Republican mostly supports.

After Eisenhower, with the exception of George H. W. Bush, the Republican Party has had as their presidential candidates a crook, an actor, a cheerleader, and a reality TV star. And, each of those has had a deleterious effect on the Republican Party.

We can probably blame President Johnson for planting the seed. Up until his presidency, the Democrats were mainly responsible for segregation, voter suppression, and human rights violations. Johnson championed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which angered southern Democrats, and many of them changed to the Republican Party. That may have been the reason that Nixon won. Nixon did some good things such as creating the EPA and proposing an affirmative action program for federal employees, but he also expanded the Vietnam War and resigned from office under threat of impeachment.

Presidents Reagan signed the Montréal Protocol, which limited the greenhouse gases which were damaging the Earth’s ozone layer. Reagan also brought the Moral Majority into the GOP and, by sowing distrust in the government, brought in a number of right wing groups who didn’t like Federal authority. He also brought in the oligarchs by cutting their taxes from 70% to 26%. This greatly increased the national debt and began the income inequality that has plagued our nation since. He also appointed Justice Scalia, who led the Supreme Court in gutting the Voting Rights Act and deciding Citizens United, which allows almost unlimited cash into politics. Reagan, more than anyone, was responsible for starting the GOP down a bad path.

George H. W. Bush gets a pass, as he labeled Reaganomics as voodoo economics, which it is. Though he led little to do with it, it was during term that the Tea Party came into existence at the behest of the oligarchs who didn’t like taxation. As a third party, they would have had little political party power, so they took up residence in the far right wing of the Republican Party.  

George W. Bush won the presidency with the support of the Texas oil companies and he went from being a cheerleader at Harvard to being a cheerleader for the oil companies. He won without the popular vote, due to a controversial ruling by Scalia’s Supreme Court. With the help of Cheney and Rumsfeld, Bush began to undermine environmental regulations –  which brought the anti-environmentalists into the Republican Party. When 9/11 occurred we had the support of almost all the nations in the world, and Bush could have brought them together to root out terrorism and end human rights violations. Instead, again with Cheney and Rumsfeld’s encouragement, he invaded Iraq on a pretense and started an ill-advised war in Afghanistan which has drug on for 20 years, costing over a million lives, destabilizing the Middle East, and adding $3.5 trillion to the national debt.

Donald Trump used his experience with the media and his international business connections to win the presidency, again without the popular vote. Though he was impeached twice, investigated for his ties to Russian interference in our elections, and tried to overturn the results of the last presidential election, he is still being supported by a number of Republicans who describe themselves as conservatives. They apparently are not too concerned about conserving democracy.

Some Republicans have now changed to the Democratic Party. There are still a number of traditional Republicans who support what the GOP was under Eisenhower and want to reform the party. Please try to understand how the Religious Right, the oligarchs, the Tea Partiers, the anti-environmentalists, the militants, and the self-described conservatives managed to establish themselves in the right wing of the Republican Party – and most of all, please do not stereotype traditional Republicans. All Republicans are not the same.

Sustainability Comes to Wichita

     Posted on Wed ,16/06/2021 by admin

The Wichita City Council voted on June 15, 2021, to form a Sustainability Board. This was due to the work of several environmental groups, especially SOAR, who had that as one of its main goals.

In 2017, a group of citizens in Wichita, Kansas formed the Society of Alternative Resources (SOAR) as a way to improve the sustainability of their city. The purpose of SOAR was to advise and assist local government, businesses, and residents on alternative resources, sustainability, and renewable energy issues. Its long-term goal is to ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean air, pure water, and a livable Earth.

SOAR decided to use the STAR communities rating system to interact with the local government. Below is the matrix that STAR uses to evaluate a community’s sustainability. It also acts as a guideline for ways to improve the community and evaluate its progress. 

Each item in the matrix has a further explanation in the STAR-V2 guidelines ( This site is under construction.) Many cities invest millions to attract businesses and make their city more competitive in job creation,  entrepreneurship, workforce development, and capital investment. They also need to invest in their communities’ Sustainability.  The things that attract and keep the millennials, the talent, and the young entrepreneurs to a city fall under Sustainability. Below is a letter from the local Wichita Eagle newspaper designed to promote SOAR and its goals.

 How to Improve the Qualify of Life in Wichita  11/10/2017

“Local Sustainability Issues” was the topic of the October Luzzati Lecture Series at WSU. Zach Baumer, Climate Program Manager of the Office of Sustainability in Austin, talked about the city’s effort to “green” its environment. Sustainable practices and a healthy environment are important issues for businesses, young professionals, and entrepreneurs when they consider locating in a city.

STAR ratings give an overall picture of the quality of life in a city and the desirability of living there. The STAR system considers a city’s progress in nine categories: Built Environment, Climate and Energy, Economy and Jobs, Education, Arts and Community, Equity and Empowerment, Health and Safety, Natural Systems, and Innovation and Processes. Austin rates as a four-star community with 476 points of a possible 720. Wichita has a three-star rating with 231 points.

Clearly, we have room to improve our community’s sustainable practices and our STAR rating. It will take effort and resources, but our businesses, city leadership, Chamber of Commerce, and our citizens should support improvements in the Wichita community. After all, we all have to live here.

(c) 2021 J.C. Moore