#66: I'm your huckleberry

You guys thought I was kidding about the cow farts. That it's allllll fun and games. Well, guess what, folks. Those same cows who eat most of our corn and speak for most of our antibiotics? Yeah. Their toxic farts? We're gonna need a bigger boat

"A new estimate of the global methane emissions from cow mouths and butts is 11 percent higher than previous stats suggested. The study was funded by NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System program, and published in the journal Carbon Balance and Management. Fortunately, it seems that the U.S. estimates are still on track. It was mainly the global numbers that varied.

That may seem like a tiny amount to be off by, but the dose makes the poison—and boy is there a lot of poison billowing into our atmosphere. This updated estimate says that livestock pushed about 119.1 million tons of methane into the air in 2011 alone. Carbon dioxide emissions are far greater in terms of volume, but because methane captures more of the sun’s energy, it’s actually a more potent greenhouse gas. And underestimating emissions means we also underestimate how much we need to do to combat climate change."


On to the news!

 

HERO OF THE WEEK


New feature! Please enjoy this effort to highlight those invaluable humans who are carrying more than their share of the load to progress our species past, you know, the dumpster fire we're currently marinating in. 

For our debut week, we've got three VERY worthy contenders. Meet our contestants!

She's called "the most influential marine biologist of our time". Please give a warm welcome to Ayana Elizabeth Johnson!

"Earlier this year, Johnson co-directed th March for Science (full disclosure: Important, Not Important is a partner of the March for Science, because they're fucking awesome) the largest coalition of scientists in history, with more than 300 organizations participating. During her time as executive director of the Waitt Institute, a marine conservation nonprofit, she helped launch the Blue Halo Initiative, working on sustainable policies with governments in places like the Caribbean.

Now Johnson is an independent consultant on ocean conservation, so she hasn’t been doing as much diving or specimen research as she used to. One day she may be drafting and editing policy or traveling to coastal destinations to meet clients; the next day, Johnson will be hosting seminars at New York University, conducting research, surveying a site, or writing articles to inspire the masses."



Myles Allen wants to stick it to the oil companies that got us here, so yeah, we're down with that.

"MYLES ALLEN takes no prisoners. Few lay into the sluggishness of politicians or the self-serving pronouncements of big-oil CEOs with more vigour than the chief climate modeller at the University of Oxford. That’s just as well, since he is fighting science’s corner in two vital areas: the scientific attribution of extreme weather to climate change, and the attribution of climate change to corporate emissions. He wants to join the dots and show the world – and particularly the courts – where the culpability lies for global warming.

I catch Allen in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The evidence is clear, he says, that “climate change increases the risk of such intense, short-duration rainfall events”. As a result, he wants the contribution of climate change to be pointed out in every weather report. “It’s time meteorologists put our estimates of the impact of climate change into their weather forecasts.”

For more than a decade, Allen has been calling for a direct approach to fighting climate change. Rather than trying to get reluctant governments to redesign their energy systems or create carbon-trading schemes, he wants to hold fossil fuel firms accountable in law for the downsides of their emissions and hit them where it hurts, like the tobacco companies."



Philippe Joubert, the founder and CEO of Earth on Board, wants to drag corporate boards into the emission-free future. We're in.

"Says Joubert: "There is no solution without government and there is no solution without business, so coalitions are key to our success. It is a fallacy to think the market alone will solve this, because the challenge is external to markets. Government should set a long term stable direction and allow price signals: business will then price externalities and will definitively change their models."

+ YOU LISTENING, DIRT BAG?

 

FUCKWIT OF THE WEEK


If we're gonna zero in on the helpful folks, we've gotta point out the derelicts, right? And who else could possibly lead the way in our inaugural edition?

Whether it's blowing hoards of tax-payer cash installing entirely unnecessary phone booths in his officeblowing hoards of tax-payer cash on flights home and to industry events, or bringing on a longtime hater of nature and breathable air and puppies, or having his agency put out quotes like this: "As E.P.A. has been the poster child for regulatory overreach, the agency is now meeting with those ignored by the Obama administration”, E.P.A. chief Scott Pruitt takes this one in a landslide, and probably will continue to do so, unless of course T2 was wrong, and a T-800 Model 101 finally succeeds in killing Sarah Connor, in which case, the award would be passed right to that hunk of metal and we're all toast, anyways.


 

GUY WE'RE PRETTY GODDAMN UNSURE OF


Deus ex machina: former Google engineer is developing an AI god. - The Guardian

"Anthony Levandowski, who is at the center of a legal battle between Uber and Google’s Waymo, has established a nonprofit religious corporation called Way of the Future, according to state filings first uncovered by Wired’s Backchannel. Way of the Future’s startling mission: “To develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”

 

PUT YOUR CARDS ON THE TABLE


Identifying those folks/orgs who are boldly saying COME AT ME, BRO to various disbelievers.


Well, holy shit.* - The Guardian

"More than 40 Catholic institutions are to announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.

The sum involved has not been disclosed but the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than a previous church record, and adds to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5tn.
Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, hailed Tuesday’s move as “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission”.

She said: “I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative.”

Church institutions joining the action include the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the spiritual home of the world’s Franciscan brothers.

A spokesman for the €4.5bn German Church bank and Catholic relief organisation Caritas said that it was committing to divest from coal, tar sands and shale oil. 
In a symbolically charged move, the Italian town of Assisi will also shed all oil, coal and gas holdings the day before a visit by the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, to mark St Francis’s feast day.

Assisi’s mayor, Stefania Proietti – a former climate mitigation professor – told the Guardian: “When we pay attention to the environment, we pay attention to poor people, who are the first victims of climate change. 
“When we invest in fossil fuels, we stray very far from social justice. But when we disinvest and invest in renewable and energy efficiency instead, we can mitigate climate change, create a sustainable new economic deal and, most importantly, help the poor.”


*pun intentional, because this isn't amateur hour



SETI Astronomer Seth Shostak: We'll Find Intelligent Alien Life Within 20 Years- Futurism

"In an interview with Futurism at the Worlds Fair Nano NY, Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, discussed where we currently are in the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. He began by boldy stating that he “bet everybody a cup of coffee that we’ll find intelligent life within 20 years.”

When asked what science has to say currently about the existence of aliens, Shostak said, “Very little — because we haven’t found any.” Shostak went on to say that while we may not have found evidence confirming extraterrestrial life yet, what we have discovered about our universe, say, over the last 20 years, has not been insignificant. In fact, those findings might mean a lot to our search. One thing we know now that we didn’t know decades ago is that there’s a lot of unexplored cosmic real estate out there."




Jeremy England: life is inevitable. Suck it, humans are lucky to be here/an accident/religion theories. - Quanta Magazine

"Jeremy England made waves in 2013 with a new theory that cast the origin of life as an inevitable outcome of thermodynamics. His equations suggested that under certain conditions, groups of atoms will naturally restructure themselves so as to burn more and more energy, facilitating the incessant dispersal of energy and the rise of “entropy” or disorder in the universe. England said this restructuring effect, which he calls dissipation-driven adaptation, fosters the growth of complex structures, including living things. The existence of life is no mystery or lucky break, he told Quanta in 2014, but rather follows from general physical principles and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

Since then, England, a 35-year-old associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been testing aspects of his idea in computer simulations. The two most significant of these studies were published this month — the more striking result in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and the other in Physical Review Letters (PRL)."


+ Why's this #important? See, above, re: finding other intelligent life out...there.


General Motors is going all electric - WIRED

“General Motors believes the future is all-electric,” says Mark Reuss, the company’s head of product. “We are far along in our plan to lead the way to that future world.”

Reuss did not give a date for the death knell of the GM gas- or diesel-powered car, saying the transition will happen at different speeds in different markets and regions. The new all-electric models will be a mix of battery electric cars and fuel cell-powered vehicles.

To be sure, GM’s sudden jolt of electricity is planned with its shareholders in mind. The Trump Administration may be moving to roll back fuel efficiency requirements in the US, but the rest of the world is insisting on an electric age. France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Norway have all said they plan to ban the sale of gas and diesel cars in the coming decades. More importantly, China—the world’s largest car market—and India, a rising star, plan to join them. No automaker can compete globally without a compelling stable of electric cars.

GM intends to grab as large a slice of the Chinese market as possible. It has previously announced plans to launch 10 electric or hybrid electric cars in the country by 2020. This summer, it started selling a two-seat EV there, for just $5,300. Last year, it sold more cars in China (3.6 million) than it did in the US (3 million)."


+ Which is all verrrrrry interesting just six months after whining to the new administration about Obama's more stringent fuel standards. In the end, it's $$$$$ that talks. Or, in this case, ¥¥¥¥¥¥.


States rebellion against Trump climate bullshit gains steam - Mercury News

"The U.S. Climate Alliance, as the group is calling itself, released a report last week showing that through expanding solar power, wind energy, incentives for electric cars, building efficiency standards and other local efforts, the participating states cut greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent between 2005 and 2015, compared with 10 percent for the rest of the U.S. They are already on track to meet the Paris target of a 26 percent reduction by 2025.

Meanwhile, economic output in those states grew by 14 percent from 2005 to 2015, compared with 12 percent for the rest of the country. The group is made up of states that have 107 million residents — 36 percent of the U.S. population — and a $7 trillion dollar combined economy, enough to be the world’s third largest country."


+ And following up on last's weeks news re: California kissing gas-powered cars goodbye: how they can do it.


This one hits close to home:

Can Hollywood Movies About Climate Change Make a Difference? - New York Times

“As opposed to terrorism or drugs, there is no clear enemy with climate change,” he said. “We’re all participating in the climate crisis — if there is an enemy, it’s us. And it’s hard to go to war against ourselves.”
And when climate change is depicted on screen, it’s often in an onslaught of fire and brimstone, an apocalyptic vision that hardly leaves room for a hopeful human response.

That, climate researchers and social scientists say, is exactly the wrong message to give.

“Typically, if you really want to mobilize people to act, you don’t scare the hell out of them and convince them that the situation is hopeless,” said Andrew Hoffman, a professor at the University of Michigan who is the author of “How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate.”

But that is just the kind of high-stakes film that Hollywood loves to produce — like “The Day After Tomorrow,” which depicted New York City as a frozen dystopian landscape. Or “Geostorm,” due Oct. 20, in which the climate goes apocalyptically haywire, thanks to satellites that malfunction.

Copious research shows that this kind of dystopian framing backfires, driving people further into denial and helplessness; instead of acting, they freeze.

“You have to frame these things so people feel like they have an entry point,” said Max Boykoff, a professor and director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado-Boulder."



 

ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, LIKE THREE OTHER CRAZY IDEAS THAT AREN'T QUITE FULLY-BAKED BUT MAY SAVE/KILL US ALL


We’re nearly ready to use CRISPR to target far more diseases - New Scientist

"The CRISPR genome-editing method was only developed in 2012, but it is proving so powerful and effective that around 20 trials in humans have already begun or will soon. Almost all of these involve removing cells from an individual’s body, editing their DNA and then putting them back into the body.
This approach has immense promise, for instance, it is being used to alter immune cells to make them better at killing cancers. It’s relatively easy to remove immune cells or blood stem cells, edit them, and then return them to the body, but this isn’t possible with most bodily tissues.

So editing cells inside the body would allow us to treat far more conditions – from genetic disorders to high cholesterol – and would also be cheaper than growing and editing cells outside the body. What diseases could be treated this way?

“Absolutely everything,” says Irina Conboy of the University of California, Berkeley."


+ Emphasis mine because dear lord that's nuts.


The Future of Pharmaceuticals is Custom-Printing Drugs - Gizmodo


"Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a technique that they say can print precise doses of multiple drugs onto a variety of surfaces. One day, they report in a new study in the journal Nature Communications, the technique could lead to on-the-fly printing of custom medications at pharmacies, hospitals and other locations."


Look, there's pros and cons to everything.

Two Looming Volcanic Eruptions Could Slow Climate Change, But They Aren't Going to Stop It - Earther

"Mt. Agung in Bali, Indonesia has forced 144,000 into shelters beyond the 7.5 mile exclusion zone, while the volcano on Ambae Island in Vanuatu has forced all 11,000 residents to evacuate, according to CNN. The rumbling volcanoes could turn paradise into paradise lost, sending lava bombs in all directions, incinerating rainforests and turning crystal waters muddy brown. 

But they could also have another impact: temporarily slowing climate change. Scientists have known about volcanoes’ impact on the climate for a long time, but new research published this week shows how fleeting the chill of future eruptions could be."


We should upload human minds on Stephen Hawking's interstellar mission - Dear Future

"Our first trip to the stars may be made by highly miniaturized robotic probes equipped with the best our planet can produce. Too bad the nanoprobes themselves, while able to capture images and data, will be dumb, unthinking and unfeeling hardware. Or will they? Perhaps the universe deserves thinking and feeling ambassadors. 

It seems likely that the first swarms of Starshot probes would, at the earliest, be launched well into the second half of the century. By that time, we may have have operational implementations, or at least research prototypes, of: 

  • Sentient, human-like Artificial Intelligence;
  • Human mind uploads, and;
  • Powerful nanocomputers and/or quantum computers able to run consciousness within the size, weight, and power of a StarChip (or a swarm of StarChips). 


Therefore, it might be possible to send the first sentient ambassadors (AIs, uploads, or hybrids) to the stars. 
The first two possibilities -- AI and uploads -- are linked. In fact, sentient AIs will likely be based on generic "mindware" able to support human-like consciousness. Mindware will permit building a new conscious AI from scratch, or a software personality modeled after a specific human being, which (or, better, who) thinks and feels like a continuation of the original."


 

BE PREPARED

Look, whether it's an AI revolution (don't hold your breath), a climate-related catatrosphe (maybe hold your breath) or some superbug blowing through your neighborhood/city/region/continent (definitely hold your breath), you're gonna want to be prepared. On the list of things you can't survive without: water/La Croix, and food. Lots of it. Looks like Costco got the message.

Costco is selling a year's supply of emergency food for $1,000 - FoodDive




END NOTE


We'd like to send our deepest condolences to all of those affected by the murderous rampage in Las Vegas last weekend.

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries. Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States' gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. Gun violence is the third-highest cause of death for children. Should a war movie portray a soldier in a clock tower successfully shooting over 500 people and killing at least 50 of those, the audience would be stunned into horrified silence.

We are the only nation on the planet -- in the universe -- to allow the extermination of a classroom of children, a club full of lovers, a church full of worshippers, and many hundreds more heinous gun acts, and all in such a tremendously short time frame. We allow such carnage on a daily basis, and we're doing nothing about it. Check out EveryTown for more.

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