The Point of No Return

Eric Holthaus, "The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here," Rolling Stone, August 5, 2013.

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public's attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren't cut, "We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization" . . . .

James Hansen, the dean of climate scientists, retired from NASA in 2013 to become a climate activist. But for all the gloom of the report he just put his name to, Hansen is actually somewhat hopeful. That's because he knows that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that's also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up. This idea has already been pitched to Congress several times, with tepid bipartisan support. Even though a carbon tax is probably a long shot, for Hansen, even the slim possibility that bold action like this might happen is enough for him to devote the rest of his life to working to achieve it. On a conference call with reporters in July, Hansen said a potential joint U.S.-China carbon tax is more important than whatever happens at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.

One group Hansen is helping is Our Children's Trust, a legal advocacy organization that's filed a number of novel challenges on behalf of minors under the idea that climate change is a violation of intergenerational equity — children, the group argues, are lawfully entitled to inherit a healthy planet.

A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn't just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it's also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.

Scout’s Miwok Research

MIwok millstone

1. Google: Miwok kidfriendly

2. Miwok, First People of California: A Set on Flickr

3. Google: Miwok shelter

4. Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933): Shelter

5. Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933): Sweat-House

6. Brandon Smith's Indian Tribe Report

7. Miwok Park Fact Sheet

8. Google: Miwok houses, clothing and food

9. California Indian Food and Culture (PDF)

Jafar Sharif-Emami in Exile

Jafar Sharif-Emami

Sharif-Emami's memoirs were recorded by me during three sessions lasting a total of nine hours on May 13, 1982 and May 12 and 24, 1983 at his apartment in New York City. Although I had met Mr. Sharif-Emami a number of times before the Revolution, I had not seen him since then.

In April 1982, while in New York City, I obtained his telephone number from a mutual acquaintance, called, and asked to see him. He invited me to his home. He lived on the East Side in a modern building in which he occupied an apartment on one of the top floors. At the initial meeting, I told him about our project to collect the oral history of Iran and he agreed to participate. He had certain conditions, however. He said, for instance, "I'm not going to discuss personal matters relating to the Shah or his sister." I said we wanted him to be comfortable with whatever he said.

In early May 1982, I telephoned him again and arranged to go to his apartment at 9:30 A.M., Thursday, May 13 to begin recording his memoirs. All three recording sessions took place with the two of us alone in his study. His study was furnished with a desk, a large sofa and a couple of leather chairs. Facing the sofa was a bookcase filled with perhaps 100 to 150 books, mostly on Iran. Before we began recording his memoirs, he told me that he had left nearly 11,000 books in his house in Tehran which, along with the house, he had offered to give to the new government to be designated as a public library. He had also offered certificates of deposits in a Tehran bank, income from which was to be used to maintain the library. He had sent this proposal to the Revolutionary Council through his wife who was still in Tehran. The Council had accepted his gift and conditions, according to Mr. Sharif-Emami, and the agreement had been implemented for a few months before the books were transported to Qom and the house was confiscated for other uses.

Mr. Sharif-Emami also spoke of having kept a diary for the preceding thirty years, containing notes regarding various appointments in Iran and meetings and discussions around the globe as president of the Senate and prime minister. He was very dismayed that he had not brought these notes out with him. He said, "I knew there was going to be a revolution, but I didn't think the revolution was going to be so extensive as to affect things such as my diary and memoirs-because I did have the chance to bring them out but didn't think of it. And later when I wrote my daughter and asked her to send these notes to me, she told me that during one of the initial inspections of the house, the revolutionary guards had spotted these notes because they were hand-written and had taken them." He was wondering whether the notes were still available or whether they had been thrown away or destroyed. This reminded me of similar regrets expressed in his interview by Mr. Abolhassan Ebtehaj who had kept notes for decade-the essence of his work and his meetings and his career which were no longer available to him to use to write his memoirs.

Mr. Sharif-Emami told me that his daily routine consisted of going to bed at midnight and waking up at 6 A.M. After reading the morning newspaper, he would begin work in his study in the same serious way he had in Iran prior to the revolution. Part of his day was spent learning Spanish. He repeated what many other narrators had told me: the revolution had forced him into retirement. Otherwise he would still be carrying on his long daily work schedule.