Date:  June 30

In this program, we discuss climate change with Professor Anthony Barnosky of UC Berkeley. He is the author of a book called Heatstroke that looks at the prospects for the environment in response to Global Warming.  (Washington: Island Press, 2009).

Recent News on Global Warming:

In probably the most interesting and even exciting news on this front, last Friday, the House narrowly approved the Waxman-Markey climate change bill by 219-212 vote. Its passage is the first comprehensive climate change and energy legislation in the U.S.

An article on Politico dot com explains:

The complex bill mandates a 17-percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and a 83-percent cut by 2050, reductions that will be accomplished by putting a price on carbon dioxide through a cap-and-trade system. It mandates that 20 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources and increased energy efficiency by 2020. And the legislation gives electric utilities, coal plants, energy-intensive manufacturers, farmers, petroleum refiners, and other industries special protections to help them transition to new, less-fossil fuel-intensive ways of doing business.[…]The legislation split both the environmental and business communities. Although environmentalists have pushed for stricter controls on greenhouse-gas emissions for more than a decade, more left-wing groups like Greenpeace wanted stronger emissions reductions and fewer protections for greenhouse-gas guzzling industries like coal. While some electric utilities, auto manufacturers, and Fortune 500 companies supported the bill, large business associations like the Chamber of Commerce argued that it would impose a crippling regulatory burden on the economy that would push factories and jobs abroad.

Jim Tankersley of the L. A. Times was part of a small group of reporters who talked with President Obama at the White House on Sunday. He reports that the President called the bill:

“an extraordinary first step” toward halting global warming and reducing the use of fossil fuels, but he expressed reservations about a controversial provision that would slap tariffs on imports from countries that did not similarly crack down on greenhouse gas emissions.  [Obama] predicted that the measure would spark innovation and jobs, and that its costs to consumers would fall well short of critics’ warnings. He castigated opponents for “lying” about cost projections and “scaring the bejeezus” out of voters, and accused Republicans of being stuck in a 1990s-era debate on energy when the American people “have moved forward” with concerns about climate change and hope for renewable power.,0,1735155.story

Robert Stavins of the Harvard Economic Development Program, writing on Huffington Post, argues that there are a number of flaws with the bill, but he generally sees it is a positive step forward, especially with the opportunity given to the Senate to make adjustments in the House version.  Most important, Stavins believes, the Waxman-Markey bill makes a long-overdue statement about the U.S. willingness to tackle climate change:

So, the Waxman‑Markey bill has its share of flaws, but it represents a reasonable starting point for Senate deliberation on what can become a national climate policy that will place the United States where it ought to be -‑ in a position of international leadership to help develop a global climate agreement that is scientifically sound, economically rational, and politically acceptable to the key nations of the world.

Our Questions for Anthony Barnosky:

Professor Anthony Barnosky of the University of California—Berkeley has written Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming. He’s a dirt-digging cave-exploring paleontologist and at Cal he’s  a Professor of Integrative Biolog, and a  and researcher in Cal’s natural history museums.

Part I: Global Warming and Heatsroke—What is the science and what is it saying?

  • As you say in your book, global warming is no longer a matter of speculation or debate, but the possible effects are not well “known” or easily predictable. Please tell us about the broad range of predictions you make in the book. What will/might/can be the effects of “heatstroke.”?
  • Let’s talk about the Pizzly and the Marmots and what their behavior is showing.
  • We have had periods of global warming on earth before. What do those periods tell us to expect as our own climate heats up?
  • What do you see happening under best- and worst-case scenarios between now and, say, 2050, when some compacts are aiming to stabilize or reduce C02 emissions worldwide?
  • The research studies you cite in the book are often quite ingenious in figuring out climate effects—investigating the nests of packrats, for instance, or the fossil teeth of voles—to see what these indicate about what was living at different ages.  How “certain” is this science? What are some of the rules or parameters do you use in coming up with viable generalizations?
  • Please tell us a little about Magnetostratigraphy and the “paleomagicians” who use it.
  • What’s a “keystone” species and what is their role in keeping ecosystems afloat? What are the keystone species telling us about heatstroke?
  • You are a professor of “integrative biology.” Is your book an example of the work in this field?

Part II:  Possible Cures for Heatstroke

  • You write about the Gang of Four—global warming, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, and population growth—as teaming up to alter our ecosystems irrevocably.  But you are also modestly optimistic that ecosystems can be saved. Why are you optimistic?
  • You also mention that simply “slowing down the train” does not mean that we will return to an ecological status quo—in fact, you say that forces already present will continue to operate, “gaining momentum” far into the future? So what should we do? Is there really any hope?
  • Among your arguments is one for saving “certain species and assemblages of species.” Please explain. Do we really have the knowledge (or the right) to make such seemingly god-like decisions?
  • Please explain your “Keep,” “Connect,” and “Create” approach to ecological restoration.
  • You dedicate your book to the graduating classes of a high school, a middle school, and an international school “and to young people of their generation everywhere.” You tell those kids:  “You have the talent, the power, and the responsibility to change the world for the better.” What steps might politicians, activists, parents, educators, and just-plain-citizens do to ensure that these kids make this happen? What can we do now in order to affect change and not leave it all to the next generation?
  • What do you think of the recently passed Waxman-Markey bill?

The book is Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming, and it’s published by Island Press. You can learn more about it at


In past editions of Ecotopia, we’ve offered a number of do-it-yourself suggestions for reducing one’s carbon footprint, ideas like drying clothes on the line rather than in a drier, and turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth. Rather than repeating those, we will refer you to Green Wiki, which has an extensive list: Check out the link on our web site.

We also want to highlight some kid projects that earned recognition in the 2008 President’s Environmental Youth Awards

Up to 10 winning projects are selected each year from EPA’s 10 regional offices. Young people  are invited annually to participate in the PEYA program, which is aimed at encouraging individuals, school classes, summer camps, youth organizations and public interest groups to promote environmental awareness and encourage positive community involvement.

Among this year’s winners is  Green Your Lives, a student-led initiative in the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School in Derry, New Hampshire. Students developed a community outreach program including an informational Web site,  public service announcements, educational posters,  a model solar car, and a  hydro prototype. Their “Give and Go” program encouraged students and members of the public to recycle items they no longer needed and eleven vanloads of materials were diverted from landfill disposal and sold by the local Salvation Army, which netted $3,000 at its summer garage sale.

Another winner in the President’s Environmental Youth Awards is Change a Lightbulb, created by Ryan Morgan, Moscow, PA.  He wrote more than 100 letters to celebrities and businesses requesting donations to buy the energy-efficient bulbs he then gave away. Bruce Springsteen, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., John Mellencamp, Philips Lighting, and Harper Collins were among his contributors. He obtained more than  2,000 bulbs to give away. He also created pamphlets, posters, PowerPoint presentations, and a Web site to promote his project and also made a display on how to dispose of CFL bulbs at his community center.

Cory Adkins of  Lewisville, North Carolina  became dismayed by the sight of $75 textbooks that were thrown in the dumpster after his school’s book sale. He created the Green Books Project to sell used textbooks online. In turn, this project has funded an environmental club that collects and recycles old books. The proceeds from book sales have been reinvested into the community and used to purchase recycling bins. Cory also designed and distributed a “how-to” manual for others who might be interested in starting a similar program. Excess books that are not sold are largely donated to prisons, elementary schools, and a mobile library in Kenya.

The Wetlands Education Team (WET) was founded by the students of West Geauga (Ohio) Middle School. They created an outdoor classroom at their school, including native plants, signs, birdhouses and feeders, a trail to a seating area, a directional signpost, and a weather station. The students also travel to nearby schools and communities to educate others and to help area schools create their own outdoor classrooms and they have collaborated with several community environmental organizations to map wetlands and teach other students how to use global positioning system (GPS) technology. Finally, they successfully petitioned the Ohio State Senate to declare the  the spotted salamander as Ohio’s state amphibian.

OUTRAGE is an anti-tobacco youth group made up of middle school and high school students from Provo, Utah.  Some of the OUTRAGE members came from households where their parents smoke and thus have experienced first hand the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. OUTRAGE members recognized that many other young people in Utah County were being exposed to second-hand smoke in public parks. They created a Smoke Free Parks project and held more than 40 planning and training meetings, where the group planned events and trained other youth on the harmful effects of tobacco. From 2007 to 2008, these kids planned and implemented 21 major events, including included health fairs, concerts, a Relay for Life, the Utah County Fair, and multiple rodeos. Finally, they presented their work to elected officials and Board of Health, which passed a regulation banning smoking in all city parks, outdoor recreational areas, and outdoor mass gatherings throughout Utah County.

A project called A Plastic Predicament was developed by two kids identified only as Clay and Chance, from San Leandro. They created a video to educate the public and to propose pragmatic solutions to the environmental threats associated with use and disposal of plastic products. They’ve shown their video at 4H meetings as well as in public venues such as farmers markets. They met with the mayor of San Leandro and made a presentation at a city council meeting. Clay and Chance participated in discussions of a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags at a meeting of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority attended by more than a dozen East Bay mayors. They furthered their outreach when their video was displayed by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation’s blog site and used as part of an online ecology course at Las Positas Community College. The video also encourages smart recycling and notes that used plastic bags can best be recycled as clothing or construction materials, rather than ending up as landfill mass or marine pollution.

To learn more about those amazing kids and many more, visit the EPA web site–

Playlist for Ecotopia #39–Heatstroke

1. Danger (Global Warming) – Radio Mix            3:35    Brick Casey  Danger (Global Warming)

2. Oceans Rising     3:58    Kristen Grainger & Dan Wetzel   Part Circus, Part Rodeo

3. My Oklahoma Home (It Blowed Away)            5:01    Sis Cunningham  The Best of Broadside 1962-1988: Anthems of the American Underground from the Pages of Broadside Magazine

4. Global Warming Blues   3:42    Lenny Solomon  Armando’s Pie

5. Pollution    4:50    Basskick  Sound Of The Nature – Collection 5

6. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary  The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave        2:46    Martha & The Vandellas The Ultimate Collection: Martha Reeves & The Vandellas

8. Powerhouse         2:56    Don Byron  Bug Music

9. New Frontier (Album Version)  6:23    Donald Fage   The Nightfly

10. Long Ago and Far Away          2:21    James Taylor  Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon