Aboriginal Genesis & More

Mary Graham, a lecturer and Kombumerri person (Aboriginal from Gold Cost, AUS) discussed Aboriginal culture with my class Tuesday, May 22nd. During her talk, I learned about Aboriginal genesis stories & Aboriginals’ relationship with the environment.

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Mary Graham

Land Made Us

Graham was given permission by her Aboriginal peers to share the following Dreamtime story – Many of which are sacred. I’m confident 90% of the below is accurate according to what she said heheh (*nervous laugh).

Approximately 15,000 years ago, there was nothing but land on a flat Earth – no flora nor fauna. Around that time though, life forms began to arise from the land. These beings took the forms of megaflora & megafauna (enormous plants & animals). The flora & fauna shaped the land and each other through their own personal dramas (adventures, battles, etc.).

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An example of megafauna

The last life form to emerge from the land was a proto human. Just like they did to the land and each other, the flora & fauna helped develop the proto human.

With time, the megaflora & fauna returned home as normal-sized plans & animals came to be. At that time is when life started.

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Aboriginal Dreamtime story artwork

Although variations in this story arise among different tribes, the notion that land created plants & animals, which in turn created man, remains consistent as a major theme. In Aboriginal culture there is no God, heaven nor hell.


How to Address Climate Change

Graham spoke a good deal on effective ways in communicating climate change. I assume most of these methods bare effectiveness especially in the Aboriginal community. From what I understand, according to Graham, understanding the science is perhaps less important than the following:

  • Accept uncertainty

Graham said it’s important to realize anything is possible and although one may feel strongly about his/her theory, it’s vital to recognize others theories – even the unthinkable ones. She mentioned Aboriginal culture is non-judgmental and all perspectives are considered valid.

  • Mental preparedness

Also essential is being psychologically strong in the midst of environmental disaster. Graham said along with being able to cope during a hurricane, tsunami, etc., one must be resilient when dealing with aftermath.

During her talk, Graham said Aboriginals don’t believe in faith, just a psychology of life. For some reason, this has stuck with me.

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Study abroad group & Mary Graham – Throwing up our horns Photo cred: Rachel Robillard

‘Till next time

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Climate Change & Feedback

This post had me follow up on a PowerPoint presentation we went over in class: Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 1.16.17 AM

Because I’m a noob, I found the presentation’s breakdown of climate change & the greenhouse effect, especially in comparison to one another, very important.

Before reading on, expect to find several Wikipedia links. Yeah yeah, it’s not super scholarly; but I think it’s effective in establishing basic knowledge.

The greenhouse effect describes the process in which (greenhouse) gases absorb and reradiate (re + radiate; to radiate again) energy from the sun, producing an overall warming effect on Earth (Wiki).

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From the presentation, I learned the greenhouse effect is

  • a well-established theory
  • not debated among scientists
  • essential for life on Earth (warmth)

Not to be confused with the greenhouse effect, climate change describes effects (physical, agricultural, economical, etc.) Earth may endure because of its ever-warming state.

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A polar bear and her two cubs in Manitoba, Canada

Farmer in Chiang Saen - Climate Change Impacts Mekong River (Thailand: 2007)

A dying corn plantation in Thailand

 

The greenhouse effect is a main contribution to Earth’s warming. Unfortunately, human activity, esp in relation to CO2 emissions, acts as a deadly catalyst to this naturally-occuring and necessary process.

Because I found it so important, distinguishing different terms that laypeople (hello!) think are synonymous is useful when reporting on climate change.

In my case, I know now the indisputable greenhouse effect isn’t bad, but actually essential, when left to the auspices of nature.


Positive Feedback 

This is tricky to understand in the first place, so explaining it will be…fun #layperson

What I gather is that positive feedback describes a process in which the effect of a certain change/disruption to an environment (non-specific) in turn causes more change/disruption.

A produces B which produces more of A… (Wiki)

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A positive feedback loop

 

This loop begins (and ends) with climate warming. A warm climate causes water vapor via evaporation. Water vapor, the most abundant greenhouse gas, absorbs and reradiates the Sun’s energy. Reradiating of the Sun’s energy leads back to our initial change, climate warming.

Ice-albedo feedback 

This video and its excruciatingly enthusiastic characters explain a positive feedback loop involving climate warming & ice melting.


My area of focus in Australia is the bush. Here’s a positive feedback loop involving climate change I propose occurs there.

1. We start, again, with the initial change, climate warming.

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2. Climate warming causes bushfires.

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A helicopter water bombs bushfires in southern Australia early 2014.

File photo of a koala named Sam receiving water from Country Fire Authority volunteer fire fighter in the area of Mirboo North

Firefighter feeding Sam the koala water, after bushfire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Bushfires cause greenhouse trapping via CO2 production.

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4. Greenhouse trapping leads back to climate warmingta-dah

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Now I’m supposed to interpret & explain what the below graph (last PowerPoint slide) depicts…

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My bff Wikipedia tells me Mauna Loa is a Hawaiian volcano that is monitored for its atmospheric content, well above human-generated influences. Wiki also assures that adjustments are made to account for the volcano’s own CO2 emissions.

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Mauna Loa has historically been considered the largest volcano on Earth (Wiki).

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Mauna Loa erupting

 

Because Mauna Loa’s isolated conditions, along with the quote on the PowerPoint slide, my investigative journalism skills lede (#punny) me to believe the graph gives perspective on the scale of human-influenced climate change.

Yes, parts-per-million is a miniscule measurement. Significant, though, is the consistently rising trend line – More and more CO2 is being released into the atmosphere. What I find to be most significant here, is the context – These measurements weren’t taken in Manhattan or China, places filled with manmade CO2 emitters like cars and factories. This expresses the idea places that don’t contribute as much to climate change face unwarranted consequences.

Climate Change & The Media

This assignment had me analyze coverage two media outlets gave a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report was accepted by the panel March 30, 2014.

Specifically, we’re dealing with IPCC’s Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. It consists of two documents: The Final Published ReportSummary for Policymakers, the latter baring more significance to the layperson in terms of clarity & understanding. Luckily for laypeople like me, a press release & video compliment the report.

Press release – Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Working Group II video 

From the press release, I gather the report is similar to many publications we see today regarding climate change – Nothing I read/saw I would call groundbreaking; but perhaps I’m so saturated in climate change science, every revelation/claim seems hyper-realistic.

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This unimpressed kangaroo is judging me for just saying that.

This report in particular focuses on risk in relation to climate change. Here’s what I found significant from the press release & vid:

  • Those living in poverty, especially in the Third World, are more susceptible to the risks of climate change due to their lack of resources.
  • The sooner we implement solutions, the less likely we’ll experience severe risk – Common sense but useful in developing optimism
  • I enjoyed seeing solution efforts implemented, especially the reforestation of South Africa by the local community.
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A reforestation project aiming to offset aprox 50,000 tons CO2 was established in Buffesldraai Regional Landfill Site (Buffesldraii Community Reforestation Proj)

Reforestation Project – Buffelsdraai Community 


The Media

We were to evaluate a New York Time’s article and an NBC News special on their coverage of the above report.

Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come – NYT article, published 31 March 2014

Our Year of Extremes: Did Climate Change Just Hit Home? – NBC News special, published 7 April 2014

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Before I evaluate either source, I’d like to direct you to one of the other maymester students’ blog post touching on media coverage of climate change: Climate Change in the American Media, In a Nutshell

Analysis of the Two 

To start, these media sources are different in form – one is an article, and the other a video sequence (split into six, sevenish-minute segments).

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I thought the NBC special succeeded in portraying the big picture of current climate change findings/happenings. Ann Curry, NBC News reporter, spent a lot of time covering the connection of recent weather disasters, like the drought on the US’ West Coast & the long, harsh winter of 2013/14, with the occurrence of climate change. Is climate change causing these catastrophic events?, seemed to be one of the main questions during the special. From what I gathered, the most-acceptepted answer was, Probably but not we don’t know. The known, of course, includes the fact that Earth and oceans are warming and sea level is rising. The combined effect of the two may be a direct cause of all this severe weather.

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Dried mud flats in San Luis Resevoir near Los Banos, Calif.

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Snow & ice stall traffic in Atlanta on Jan 28, 2014

newyorktimes-logoUnlike the NBC special, Justin Gillis’ NYT article didn’t stray far from the IPCC report – not a bad thing whatsoever. Along with touching on recent severe weather and the vulnerability of the impoverished, he also cited the report’s claim that the effects of climate change may lead to violent conflict over land, water or other resources. IMO this theory is one of the scariest regarding effects of climate change.

Toward the end of the article, Gillis reveals that pressure from several wealthy countries, the US included, caused the IPCC to remove a portion of its report claiming that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change. That portion of the report is significant, Gillis says, because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September. The wealthy countries argue the $100 billion-figure is too high.

Sneaky, America. Very sneaky

Sneaky, America. Very sneaky


 In Relation to Australia 

What key points are most relevant to my Australian adventure?

The coverage, especially by the NBC special, of severe weather relating to drought is extremely relevant. Most of the Australian continent is already uninhabitable because a lack of inland water. Intensifying these already-dry conditions is a looming drought.

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A helicopter water bombs bushfires in southern Australia early 2014.

This isn’t recent but I had to share it:

After responding to a bushfire in early 2009, a firefighter holds a koala’s hand as he feeds her water. The video of the koala later named Sam went viral after being posted online.

 

What ideas occur to you for reporting on your Australian ecosystem?

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Carnarvon Gorge, Australia

My Australian ecosystem, in this case, is the Outback or bush – The students in my maymester were each assigned an ecosystem in which to lead journalistic coverage on. My group will be in charge when we’re at Carnarvon Gorge.

The use of videos & photos will obviously come in handy for coverage. Carnarvon is an oasis of the bush, so we could focus on comparing it to the dryer areas of the Outback. Perhaps if we found an odd dry patch at Carnarvon, we could somehow explain, with visuals, the patch may be the gorge’s new reality if drought continues. Interviews with experts on the region will also be useful. It would be effective to conduct an interview while walking through the bush. Doing so would not only make the interview more visually appealing, but also give more context.

Tbh though this will probs be me trying to conduct a smooth interview, scream and all:

Economy vs. Environment: Americans Side With Latter

This blog assignment required me to choose a climate change poll, or article, from Gallup.com and explain it, in no less than 500 words (blank face), ‘to the layperson’.

Ok, the word layperson has been used about 6fafj922 times in my maymester seminar since we began discussing science.

Layperson – a person who does not belong to a particular profession or who is not expert in some field (Merriam-Webster)

Exhibit 1: Me

Exhibit 1: Me

Ok, jokes aside, I’m a student of journalism, not science. By no means would I ever pretend, or could pretend, that I was an expert of science. BUT, although journalists aren’t science experts, we can still accurately report on scientific happenings, given we do our homework.

Does hw


gnDEFAULT

Gallup is a research-driven company that helps leaders solve their most pressing problems. It aids both the public & private sector, though is most known for its public opinion polls (Wikipedia).

Tbh I was disappointed I wasn’t more familiar with Gallup before this assignment. Gallup‘s research and polls seem to be of the highest regard. The company is very popular come election time.


 

Now onto the poll I chose – It was published 20 March 2014.

Climate and Change: Americans Prefer Environmentalism Protection Over Economic Growth


Play-by-Play

0:00 – 0:34

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After a brief intro complemented by that lovely, yet twerk-inducing, generic news theme music, Gallup‘s Editor in Chief, Dr. Frank Newport, gets down to business. He rhetorically asks, Which should have the priority: Economic growth or the environment? Newport mentions Gallup has been asking this question for years and just updated the current opinion results. He says that although recent results from Gallup polls show a lack of concern and worry in climate change specifically, Americans are now more concerned about the environment over economic growth – This hasn’t been the case in recent years.

0:34 – 1:03

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Click to enlarge

Newport introduces two inversely-related trend lines expressing how Americans have valued the economy vs. protecting the environment since 1985. He mentions that Americans were given a forced choice between the two. The environment trend line starts out overwhelmingly more valued than its economy counterpart. A gradual decline of the environment line, complimented by a rise of the economy line, occurs until 2004-2005. Once again, environment rises while economy declines – just for a couple years though. The Great Recession commences (’07) and Americans prioritize the economy over the environment. The graph ends with economy up and environment down

1:03 – 1:17

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Newport shows the most current poll results and says we’re kind of where we were in the ’80s & ’90s with 50% of Americans saying protection of the environment should be given priority over economic growth. A lesser 41% of Americans now say economic growth should be given priority. Newport also mentions that the shift in position is likely due to a healthier economy.

1:17 – 2:12

Newport concludes by showing a demographic breakdown of those who voted in favor of protecting the environment.

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Young people are more likely to vote in favor of the environment that those 65 & older.

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Republicans are less than half as likely to vote in favor of the environment than Democrats.


What to Take Away from Poll

At least from the POV of the environment, the poll’s results are hopeful. Since the economy has received its attention, perhaps environmental protection will now shine in the limelight. I believe Americans are a bit more satisfied with the economy (at least more so than in ’07-’09) and are realizing the environment, now, requires much-needed help. It’s a shame Gallup‘s polls show a lack of concern in climate change but I think these results are a start. cubs

So There’s This Thing…and It’s Called Climate Change

In addition to baring my personal endeavors in informing/entertaining (I hope) on my experience with the Reporting on Our Changing Environment: Australia maymester, Crikey! now serves as a requirement for class.

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But don’t fret!

Along with my attempts at personal blogging, expect more science & climate change content. Don’t worry though – I’m not a scientist or expert. My goal is to present any scientific content in an understandable way.

First up…The IPCC & AAAS

In my maymester seminar class, we’ve analyzed reports from two “places” – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change & American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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The IPCC & AAAS are two separate organizations that aim to do the same thing – provide a voice for the scientific community. From what I understand, both organizations devote their efforts to informing on, rather than carrying out, scientific experimentation.

AAAS_logo605Each year, the IPCC & AAAS release reports presenting current scientific findings. My maymester class analyzed two such reports – The 2013 Report for Policymakers (IPCC) & What We Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change.

Just like the organizations, both reports aim to do the same thing – inform on the scientific community’s current findings on climate change.

In the scientific community there is little to no debate regarding the occurrence and cause of climate change.

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About 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. (AAAS)

 

What’s interesting about these two reports are the differing mechanisms used by their contributors to express similar research.

The 2013 Report for Policymakers

  • Heavily relies on numerical statistics
  • Lots of scientific jargon – language used by specific group of people (i.e. exceptionally unlikelyvirtually certain – See 3rd paragraph of Introduction)
  • My (very) informal analysis: Here are the statistics, now choose what to do about it 

What We Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change

  • More of a narrative than collection of statistics
  • Alarmist tone (Said by student in class – Everyone thought it was a pretty accurate description)
  • My (very) informal analysis: Here’s why we must act on climate change and do so now! 

 

Koala meme

I think the main reason our maymester leader, Dr. Kris, had us analyze both reports was to observe a possible shift in the way science is reported on. Coming from one of the most highly-acclaimed scientific organizations, alarmist reports that call for action, such as What We Know, are rare. In the past, similar organizations have prided themselves with the utmost objectivity. They have striven to JUST show the facts – To do otherwise would stimulate a conflict of interest.

Why the Change? 

The most widely-accepted theory we discussed in class was that science writers feel the need to be alarmist because climate change is still taboo to the (American) public. For the science to be so substantial, too many people are still confused by the idea of climate change. Perhaps science writers feel it’s crunch time. Perhaps they feel for policy to change, first must the minds of an overwhelming majority of the public.


I’ll end with my new fave koala meme, kudos to Google. ‘Till next time!

3p5azz