The Stranger, 3/21/2018
For us here in Seattle, our environmental and cultural matriarchs are the Southern Resident killer whales, or orcas. If you are a good Seattleite, you know this because you likely have some sort of orca art in your home or bathroom. What you might not know is that, as of December 2017, there are only 76 Southern Resident killer whales remaining in Puget Sound. This is a 30-year low for a population listed as an endangered species. The Southern Residents, in reticent and cautious scientific terminology, are “significantly imperiled.” When you hear the numbers, the fragility of these populations becomes a bit clearer. We are talking about handfuls of orcas. A backyard chicken coop of orcas. A small hobby farm of orcas.
Great News! It's Now Illegal to Dump Human Shit In the Puget Sound
The Stranger, 4/13/2018
What would it be like if we viewed Puget Sound not as a bonanza playground of resource extraction and transportation, but as a piece of our collective identity and culture. What if we viewed prioritizing the health of Puget Sound as non-negotiable, rather than as some middling artsy-fartsy pastime for granola-eating losers. I don’t know how to realize that future and I’m not sure we ever will. But I want to live in that world and I definitely want the children of western Washington to know that they live in a land of silver and black ghosts.
The Stranger, 1/29/2017
Let me break this down. There are four fundamental components of the earth system that contribute to climatic changes: Milankvitch cycles (wobbles in Earth’s orbit), the carbon cycle (which is fundamentally about ocean circulation, because the ocean dominates the carbon system of the planet), tectonics (including volcanism, the weathering of mountains, and the movement of continental plates), and solar variability (because the sun itself varies in the amount of solar energy produced). Oh, also, you know what else changes Earth’s climate? Asteroid impact events.
Did you read about weather anywhere in this list? No. Of course not. Is it dumb to point to cold weather events as if they debunk climate science? Phenomenally dumb.
Misogyny is a system in which we are all embedded. A system that rewards some people and brutally punishes others, that degrades and diminishes the contributions of some, while celebrating the mediocrity of others. Such systems are comprehensive, with physical and sexual violence at one side of the spectrum to mockery and derision at the other.
Science isn’t just million-dollar instruments in a vacuum; actual people do this work. If you care about science, and our ability to answer questions, steward public policy and improve public safety, then you must care about the people who make up the scientific community. Women, pregnant women, people of color, immigrants and refugees, disabled or LGBTQ, scientists are a diverse, intersectional galaxy of identities, histories and expertise. To advocate for science requires us to address and dismantle institutional misogyny and racism. Anything less is morally disingenuous.
Ocean Mud, Ocean Burping, and Why the Climate Could Change Abruptly
The Stranger, 10/27/2017
So, short-term changes in climate in the past matter. A lot. Because these events demonstrate pieces of the Earth system (i.e. ice, ocean circulation, volcanoes, ice sheets) that are connected to shifts in the carbon system. One of my favorite positive feedbacks in the system is the idea that the deep ocean “burps” enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, through the upward mixing of deep ocean waters, during abrupt warming events. Another positive feedback that I enjoy is the idea that catastrophic ice shedding, and the resultant unweighting of the continental crust, causes volcanic eruptions, which emit volcanic-sourced carbon into the atmosphere. These examples scratch the surface of how ocean sediments allow for the investigation of past changes in the carbon system. They are vital for understanding celestial mechanics and Earth system feedbacks.
Climate concerns are not just about temperature. Big pieces of the Earth's system also change when we alter the global carbon cycle through adding a heat-trapping greenhouse gas "blanket" to the atmosphere. For us in the Pacific Northwest, this means that our snowpack and mountain recreation lifestyles are vulnerable; our rivers of salmon and eagles are vulnerable; and our cold coastlines and marine economies are vulnerable. Put simply, our water and our people are at risk.
We have a lot to lose in the face of unchecked climate warming. Not to be too personal, but have you been to San Diego lately? I would be a different person had I grown up in the heat and glamor of Southern California, rather than in cold, dark, rainy Seattle.
Woman, Scientist…Activist: Female Researchers Take Charge
The value of human life is priceless. The people of this country deserve public leadership that values the lives of everyone, not just straight, white, affluent men. In turn, science too is priceless, and people are inseparable from science. The United States needs public leadership that will make decisions using evidence, data and information, not dogma, innuendo and conspiracy.
Because I have the privilege of writing in public, I will use it to say this: It is worth it to do the right thing. It is worth it to show up for the big problems that have been laid at the world's feet: racism, misogyny, climate change, poverty, disease and violence. A better world is possible.
The Stranger, 9/19/2017
We need to poke a hole in this toxic narrative and news cycle around climate attribution. When I say attribution, what I am referring to are the ongoing arguments of attributing specific weather events to climate change: Was Hurricane Harvey caused by climate change? Was the low snow year of 2015, up and down the Cascadian mountains, caused by climate change? These questions—individually—are interesting and important to answer. But the science of Earth system change is not altered by the relative statistical significance of our attribution certainty. Far from it. What’s more, this framing of attribution uncertainty is continually used to support climate action obstruction and denialist voices in our culture. When you hear pandering equivocation about climate and weather events, alarm bells should start ringing in your head. This news cycle is absolutely toxic and we together need to get our broad cultural conversation off this hamster wheel.