(CNN) Canada will ban many single-use plastic items by 2021, including bags, straws, cutlery and stirring sticks, to cut harmful waste damaging the country’s ecosystems. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the measures Monday, describing “a problem we simply can’t ignore.” “Plastic waste ends up in our landfills and incinerators, litters our parks and beaches, and pollutes our rivers, lakes, and oceans, entangling and killing turtles, fish, and marine mammals,” the Canadian leader said in a statement.” Less than 10 per cent of plastic used in Canada gets recycled. Without a change in course, Canadians will throw away an estimated $11 billion worth of plastic materials each year by 2030.”
This much is clear: the Arctic is warming fast, and frozen soils are starting to thaw, often for the first time in thousands of years. But how this happens is as murky as the mud that oozes from permafrost when ice melts.
As the temperature of the ground rises above freezing, microorganisms break down organic matter in the soil. Greenhouse gases — including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — are released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. Soils in the permafrost region hold twice as much carbon as the atmosphere does — almost 1,600 billion tonnes1.
What fraction of that will decompose? Will it be released suddenly, or seep out slowly? We need to find out.
Current models of greenhouse-gas release and climate assume that permafrost thaws gradually from the surface downwards. Deeper layers of organic matter are exposed over decades or even centuries, and some models are beginning to track these slow changes.
But models are ignoring an even more troubling problem. Frozen soil doesn’t just lock up carbon — it physically holds the landscape together. Across the Arctic and Boreal regions, permafrost is collapsing suddenly as pockets of ice within it melt. Instead of a few centimetres of soil thawing each year, several metres of soil can become destabilized within days or weeks. The land can sink and be inundated by swelling lakes and wetlands.
Abrupt thawing of permafrost is dramatic to watch. Returning to field sites in Alaska, for example, we often find that lands that were forested a year ago are now covered with lakes2. Rivers that once ran clear are thick with sediment. Hillsides can liquefy, sometimes taking sensitive scientific equipment with them.
This type of thawing is a serious problem for communities living around the Arctic (see ‘Arctic permafrost’). Roads buckle, houses become unstable. Access to traditional foods is changing, because it is becoming dangerous to travel across the land to hunt. Families cannot reach lines of game traps that have supported them for generations.
Climate scientists tell us we need to start talking about climate change. Regular folk, like you and me. We need to start talking.
According to climate scientist and communicator Katharine Hayhoe, research shows that about three-quarters of Americans hear someone talk about climate change only once or twice a year. “If we don’t talk about it, why would we care,” she asks? “If we don’t care, why would we act? So action begins with a conversation.”
Conversation is at the heart of Third Coast Disrupted: Artists + Scientists on Climate.The project entails a sustained, yearlong conversation between 14 local artists and scientists centered on climate change impacts and actions happening here and now in the Chicago area. This two-way dialogue will inspire new artworks for an exhibition that will open at the Glass Curtain Gallery of Columbia College Chicago in September 2020.
Through interdisciplinary reflection and artistic expression, Third Coast Disrupted aims to be an engaging way to spur public awareness of – and dialogue about – the impacts of climate change in the Chicago region. By also exploring local responses to climate change, it seeks to instill hope and be a gateway to citizen action.
The artist-scientist conversation begins at a daylong retreat at Indiana Dunes National Park this September, where the participants will meet, learn about each other’s work and engage in on-the-ground field observations. Through the following year, a series of informal salons will continue the conversation, while the artists create their works.
The process promises to be as rich as the outcome.
Third Coast Disrupted is a multi-layered collaboration. As well as that of the artists and scientists is the partnership of the team leading the project. DePaul University environmental science and studies professor, Liam Heneghan, Ph.D., is science curator. Lisa Roberts, Ph.D., expert in museum and unconventional education, and principal of Naturalia, is art curator. And longtime environmental communications professional Christine Esposito, founder of The Ex.Change Project and Terracom, is director and co-curator.
Join us on this journey to Third Coast Disrupted. Learn moreabout the project, and sign up to receive periodic updates as it unfolds.
The exhibition opens September 8, 2020. See you there!
The “teahouse” wasn’t a restaurant or shop but a kind of library. There was no one inside but there were signs prominently displayed throughout, in multiple languages, with just one word on them. Free. Gratis. Libre. I could hardly believe it. The books looked antique and well-preserved. What kind of anonymous benefactor would sponsor such a marvelous public resource? Or was it the case that books, even rare ones, were now almost worthless?
I unzipped my jacket and began to wander through the aisles. Before ascending the stairs, however, I circled back to the bookshelves near the entrance. Only a few minutes passed from the time I entered the building until I found a book on Ahuramazda. I was struck how the book seemed to fall into my hands. Surely, I wasn’t the only visitor curious about the mysterious word above the door of the building. Upon reflection I was almost certain the book was a facsimile and that the management secretly replaced it every evening, perhaps more often (posing as visitors, and pulling copies from beneath their coats). I don’t know why I imagined this should be a clandestine operation, as foreign gods were no longer a menace.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that Ahuramazdawas an ancient Persian God, and a little disappointed by what I read in the first few pages, standing at the bookshelf as I often did when I was a student. Though I appreciated that his name meant Lord of Wisdom, and associated that with both my knowledge of Kabbalah and a minor obsession with Hagia Sophia, here was no great mystery, and no great discovery.
I was, however, intrigued that the symbol of the god, with a circular element and wings, resembled the Egyptian symbol of the winged sun associated with Ra. It reminded me of the ancient city of Heliopolis, constructed to honor the sun. I thought about the obelisks of Heliopolis distributed throughout the capital cities of Europe with a sense of hope, but then recalled that the symbol of the winged sun could be found at the base of the Washington Monument, so close to the seat of a government bent on destroying life through sheer ignorance of the cosmological order. For a moment I prayed I’d never wake up from this vivid dream. As is often the case, I felt I was born out of time, but for the first time in my life I desperately wanted to see the future.
John Kiefner checks soybean plants on his farm near Manhattan, Ill., on July 24, 2018. Midwest farmers will be increasingly challenged by warmer, wetter and more humid conditions from climate change, according to a federal report released Nov. 23, 2018. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)
Tony Briscoe, Chicago Tribune November 26th, 2018
Rising temperatures in the Midwest are projected to be the largest contributing factor to declines in U.S. agricultural productivity, with extreme heat wilting crops and posing a threat to livestock, according to a sweeping federal report on climate change released Friday.
Midwest farmers will be increasingly challenged by warmer, wetter and more humid conditions from climate change, which also will lead to greater incidence of crop disease and more pests and will diminish the quality of stored grain. During the growing season, temperatures are projected to climb more in the Midwest than in any other region of the U.S., the report says.
Without technological advances in agriculture, the onslaught of high-rainfall events and higher temperatures could reduce the Midwest agricultural economy to levels last seen during the economic downturn for farmers in the 1980s.
Overall, yields from major U.S crops are expected to fall, the reports says. To adapt to the rising temperatures, substantial investments will be required, which will in turn will hurt farmers’ bottom lines.
According to the report, the threat to Midwestern agriculture is just one potential blow to the region.
DePaul University, McGowan South, 1110 W Belden Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 (Room TBA)
The DePaul University Institute for Nature and Culture is excited to invite you to a panel discussion with four activists/artists/ecologists who are engaged in crucial struggles for our planetary future and provide models of hope in these arduous times.