Just a few months ago, the kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram was a cause célèbre: There was the ubiquitous hashtag (#BringBackOurGirls), celebrity supporters (some misguided) and political pressure from the international community. And then, just like every other viral movement, it faded from public view.
Much like the #Kony2012 campaign, #BringBackOurGirls seemed to highlight the worst of hashtag activism: People’s tendency to jump on a viral bandwagon until the next media-ready cause rolls into town.
register and vote!
Bill Nye Talks About Canadian Oil and the Certainty of Climate Change
Yesterday, Bill Nye touched down in Toronto to attend the International Astronautical Congress, an annual gathering where space enthusiasts (where, as Nye says, the nerd factor is “turned up to 11”) share research papers. Since his mega-hit show, Nye has taken the reigns of the Planetary Society, an organization founded by Carl Sagan in the 1980s that focuses on science advocacy, research, and outreach.
As the CEO of the Planetary Society, Bill Nye is clearly using his powers as a celebrity scientist for good. During a keynote speech at the University of Toronto last night, he discussed a project the Planetary Society was developing to conquer the possibility of an asteroid hitting Earth. Their solution? Laser bees. These “bees” are tiny robots that surround an offending asteroid and by using mirrors, “focus sunlight onto a spot on the asteroid” that can “gently move it.”
Anyhow, I caught up with Bill Nye before his speech to chat about Canada, the tar sands, and the Harper government’s muzzling of scientists.
Bill Nye: I’m hip with VICE, I’m down with the VICE.
VICE: Oh awesome, that’s good to hear. Let’s jump right into it then… Climate change has been immensely politicized. How do you respond to outside influences, like industry and government, that try and control the message of the scientific community?
The government in Canada is currently being influenced by the fossil fuel industry. [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper is a controversial guy in the science community because [of] the policies, especially in western Canada, with regard to the production—that’s the verb they use, “producing,” but you’re taking old earth and burning it. [The production] of tar sands, oil shale… is there tar shale? Is there sand goo? Whatever.
I used to work in the oil field, albeit much farther south, in Texas and New Mexico. Oil is noxious, but it’s not that noxious as stuff to spill on the ground. However, when you start taking this tar sand and oil shale, where you’re you’re strip mining many, many tons of earth to get to this stuff, and then you have to burn a lot of it to make it soupy enough to pump. The environmental impact is huge! And there was some trouble with some train cars, and some explosions.
A town exploded.
Yeah. This is all stuff that could be controlled, but part of it, at least for me as an engineer, is that the extraction methods in that part of the world are so aggressive, it’s so hard to get this stuff to [a point where it’s] useful. The bad news, writ large, is that we’ll never run out of fossil fuels. There’s so much stuff, so much coal, so much tar sand oil shale everywhere around the world that we’ll never use it up. But we will use up the really easy to burn gasoline, easy to burn diesel fuel.
More than 400,000 people showed up on Sunday for the People’s Climate March in New York City, rallying in solidarity with a planet that’s facing an onslaught of climate change, greenhouse gases and rising seas. See more of these adorable kids voicing their opinions on climate change here.
"Louisiana, the most common way to visualize the state’s existential crisis is through the metaphor of football fields. The formulation, repeated in nearly every local newspaper article about the subject, goes like this: Each hour, Louisiana loses about a football field’s worth of land. Each day, the state loses nearly the accumulated acreage of every football stadium in the N.F.L. Were this rate of land loss applied to New York, Central Park would disappear in a month. Manhattan would vanish within a year and a half. The last of Brooklyn would dissolve four years later. New Yorkers would notice this kind of land loss. The world would notice this kind of land loss. But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders. This is surprising, because the wetlands, apart from their unique ecological significance and astounding beauty, buffer the impact of hurricanes that threaten not just New Orleans but also the port of South Louisiana, the nation’s largest; just under 10 percent of the country’s oil reserves; a quarter of its natural-gas supply; a fifth of its oil-refining capacity; and the gateway to its internal waterway system. The attenuation of Louisiana, like any environmental disaster carried beyond a certain point, is a national-security threat.
Where does it go, this vanishing land? It sinks into the sea. The Gulf of Mexico is encroaching northward, while the marshes are deteriorating from within, starved by a lack of river sediment and poisoned by seawater. Since 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has delisted more than 30 place names from Plaquemines Parish alone. English Bay, Bay Jacquin, Cyprien Bay, Skipjack Bay and Bay Crapaud have merged like soap bubbles into a single amorphous body of water. The lowest section of the Mississippi River Delta looks like a maple leaf that has been devoured down to its veins by insects. The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.”
Signs from the Climate March
Amazing experience being a part of the largest social demonstration in the last decade, and the largest climate demonstration in history yesterday.