Read in Crosscut.com
Read in High Country News
Read in EarthFix
Forty feet below the surface of Puget Sound, a marbled murrelet dives for its catch. The water is cold, dark — and incredibly noisy. A ping-ping-ping emanates from the shore over second-long intervals and continues on for the next several hours, sending a series of pressure waves through the ocean. For the endangered bird, these sounds could result in anything from a disturbing annoyance to internal injuries or even death.
The pings come from installing marine piles, concrete or steel pipes that are driven into the sediments to hold up piers or other platforms over the sea. Piles are ubiquitous in waterfront cities like Seattle. In the early 2000s, however, researchers began to realize there was a connection between installing piles and the dead fish that turned up floating on the water when they did it: the pile-driving noise was so loud, it was literally killing the surrounding marine life.
Read in Crosscut
It’s been called global warming’s evil twin. Scientists have pegged it as the culprit behind low shellfish harvests, and some researchers warn that it will kill off some of the main players at the base of the marine food web.
Commonly called ocean acidification, the phenomenon occurs when carbon dioxide infiltrates the sea, changing the water chemistry and thus lowering the pH. And while we usually think of it in the context of a global affliction — it is driven by the same rise of CO2 in the atmosphere that also drives climate change — a report released Monday points out that it is also a local problem, with uniquely local solutions.
In short: If we’re worried about Puget Sound’s acidifying waters, we should clean up the wastewater that we’re pouring into it.
Read in Crosscut
I’m sitting with my back against a rotting, red log, my chin resting on my knees as I hug them in toward my chest.
I close my eyes, and listen. There’s the drip, drip, drip of rain hitting the hood of my jacket. There’s the sound of leaves rustling as I fidget, trying to find a more comfortable position without sitting on the wet moss and soaking my pants. There’s my own breath, which suddenly seems like an absurdly loud nuisance I can’t escape. In fact, I feel like I’m messing up the very thing I came out here to find: silence.
I’m in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, at a spot that has been christened the “quietest square inch in the United States” by Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist who spent more than three decades traveling the globe and making sound records of pristine environments. These days, however, he is more concerned with protecting these soundscapes than in documenting them — starting with the very patch of forest where I’m sitting.
Seattle Aquarium cancels annual Valentine’s Day mating ritual, fearing cephalopods might turn to cannibalism.
Published in Crosscut
It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, which means one thing: It’s time to show a little love for one of our most enigmatic local creatures from the deep — the giant Pacific octopus. Yes, it’s Octopus Week! Only this time without the sex.
Every February for the past decade, the Seattle Aquarium has hosted this celebration of cephalopods, and these 8-armed mollusks give us plenty to ooh and ah over: shape-shifting abilities that let them squeeze their bulbous bodies through pencil-thin crevices; the ability to instantly change the color and pattern of their skin to blend into their environs; and a surprising cunning and intelligence.
The highlight of Octopus Week is usually the “blind date,” in which the aquarists bring two of their octopuses together to mate in front of a large audience. (Really, I could not make this up.) Unfortunately, the octopus copulation has been cancelled this year — not because it was deemed too sordid an affair, but because staffers were worried that this year, one of the animals might get eaten instead.
Published in Crosscut
When a doctor determines a patient has a brain tumor, the next step is usually surgery. Knife in hand, the surgeon is soon presented with an inevitable conundrum: how much is the right amount to cut away? Too little and, if the tumor is malignant, the patient will be subjected to more toxic chemotherapy or radiation than necessary. Too much, and the doctor will be slicing into healthy tissue—and possibly causing the patient undue brain damage.
Yet this high-stakes surgical process can be surprisingly rudimentary. “Surgeons don’t have a very good way of knowing when they’re done cutting out a tumor,” Jonathan Liu, a University of Washington assistant professor of mechanical engineering, said in a press release. “They’re using their sense of sight, their sense of touch, pre-operative images of the brain—and oftentimes it’s pretty subjective.”
Which is why research groups and companies around the world have been working to build technology that can distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous cells, right in the operating room. A device developed by Liu’s UW research group, along with partners at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford University and the Barrow Neurological Institute, is on the frontlines.
Published in Grist
Green cred: Polls show that climate change is one of the biggest issues for Latinos. But even within the environmental movement, their voices are often not heard. Which is why Quintero created Voces Verdes, “in an attempt to highlight and elevate Latino leadership on climate change,” she says. “While there’s been a tradition of environmental justice, there aren’t a lot of groups that are Latino led or Latino dominant.”
What to expect in 2016: “Right now we’re really focused on implementing the Clean Power Plan,” Quintero says. Obama’s plan to limit coal-based carbon pollution would not only help mitigate global warming, but could improve the health of Latinos across the country: According to the NRDC, 15 percent of Latinos live dangerously close to a coal-fired plant.
World view: Voces Verdes also tries to communicate how issues associated with climate change — like drought, wildfires, and flooding — will affect people living in Latin America. “The impacts [there] are very real, and very serious.”
Guilty pleasure: Buzzfeed. “After hours and hours worth of hard news, it’s nice to have a laugh.”
Published in Grist
Green cred: As a specialist in climate modeling and alternative energy, Jacobson has spent much of his career trying to understand, and find solutions to, global warming. He thinks the U.S. is now equipped with the necessary technology and economic means to get off of fossil fuels; in fact, he has done analyses to show how each state could do so by 2050. The only thing that’s missing, he says, is the political will.
But Jacobson isn’t just preaching an idealistic vision from behind the ivory tower: In 2013, he co-founded the Solutions Project — with actor Mark Ruffalo, businessman Marco Krapels, and activist Josh Fox — to engage policymakers, businesses leaders, and the public to try to put the 50-state plan into action.
What to expect in 2016: “We want to finalize the 139 country plan.” Yeah, that’s right: He wants to go beyond the U.S. to map out plans for countries across the world on how they can go renewable, and show how it is “technically, scientifically, and economically possible for each state and each country to implement them.”
On the ballot: New York and California have adopted partial versions of his schemes for clean energy — and presidential hopefuls Clinton, O’Malley, and Sanders stand behind them, too.
Published in Grist
Green cred: From Uganda to Tonga, Mocine-McQueen and Box have hosted storytelling workshops for more than 1,000 people from 60 countries with the Million Person Project. The goal: Teach unsung leaders how to project their voices and their causes using the public speaking and community organizing techniques developed by Harvard professorMarshall Ganz.
Mocine-McQueen and Box have helped embolden and amplify the stories of people who are already facing climate change — people who stand to lose their land, culture, and more with worsening tropical storms and sea level rise. MPP’s clients have gone on to share their stories everywhere, from the United Nations to international news outlets.
What to expect in 2016: Mocine-McQueen and Box will inch closer to their goal of helping to launch one million leaders into the world. In particular, they will continue working with climate activists in the Pacific Islands. Mocine-McQueen says he will never forget the stories they heard there: “They were honest, they were scary, and they were all very clear on one thing: Climate change is here.”
Proud moments: When their client Karanga John used MPP’s storytelling tips to raise $5,000 in one month to build an internet center in rural Uganda. When they worked with the artist Swoon to tell her story about her mother’s heroin addiction, which resonated with readers around the world.
New Year’s resolution they’ll likely bail on: For Box, sticking to moderate exercise. “I’m really good at extremes,” she says. “So I’m probably going to either end up running a half marathon or doing nothing.”
Spirits were high at Mount Baker Ski Area last Saturday as skiers and snowboarders trickled in to the resort’s White Salmon Lodge after a day on the slopes. The day was bright and clear and the mountain was still laden with the snow from December’s winter storms. But the après-ski fare was a little gloomier than you might expect: a talk about a phenomenon that has potential to kill off the very activity they came here for.
It was the first of a three-part lecture series by University of Washington scientists about global warming in the Pacific Northwest. The brainchild of UW ocean scientist and longtime Baker skier Sarah Myhre, the “1.5 Degrees Series,” named for the target set at the recent United Nations climate summit in Paris to limit warming to just 1.5°C, aims to bring climate science directly to people who have a vested interest in fighting it.
Published in ATTN:
Hurricane Patricia, which made landfall on the southwest coast of Mexico, is by all accounts a monster storm. Between Thursday and Friday, Patricia swiftly grew from a category one hurricane to a category five tempest, with sustained winds that peaked at 200 miles per hour and gusts of close to 250 miles per hour. When it made landfall the winds had slowed slightly, blowing at 165 miles per hour, according to the New York Times. It’s the strongest and most rapidly intensifying hurricane on record, and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate from Mexico’s Pacific coast as Patricia barreled towards the shore. Could it also be a product of climate change?
While most scientists are hesitant to directly link this particular hurricane to our greenhouse gas emissions, Patricia could still be a preview of the storms that global warming will set the stage for in the years to come. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, “[I]t is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.”