Monday, July 10, 2006

Update on Tulip Poplars and Bradford Pears

This weekend, on my first run through the University Park town park after the storm on Tuesday, I noted 8 trees down. All were tulip poplars. Seven were uprooted like the one in our neighbor's yard (the other one had snapped off at 10 ft. or so above the ground). These are very big trees, like the one still standing in front of our house (seen just to the right of the house in the picture at Other trees (oaks, beech, maple) were not uprooted.

The Bradford Pears, in contrast, lose limbs. In addition to the one in front of our house, I saw five badly damaged Bradford Pears along 40th Ave. (in some cases, the main trunk split). While our pear was certainly pruned (to put it mildly), and will therefore less dangerous for a few years, it is the possible uprooting of the tulip poplar that would be disastrous. Typically, the tulip poplar falls over, pulling up a shallow root ball, and ends up lying flat. Janet has researched this a bit, and found an article in "What's Up Annapolis," (May 2004: Beauty, But Beware!) that confirms our fears, and concludes with some advice, both useful and ironic ("move to the basement when the winds howl, and be ready to duck.").

We will follow the useful advice (to trim branches and check insurance coverage), but we're also talking about having it removed. We do love our home.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

4th of July damage

We had an incredible thundershower yesterday afternoon that was very hard on our neighborhood. It struck right as the world cup match between Germany and Italy went into overtime (yes, we missed the end). Something extra special happened right around our house. There are six very large trees down within two blocks. The Bradford pear through which the power line to the house runs lost all of it's major branches. Unbelievably, no house or car was destroyed. I've put some pictures up on Yahoo. This is officially the beta version of Yahoo! photos, and there are some bugs (if you don't open it in a wide browser window you won't see all the buttons, and if you're using Netscape, don't bother trying), so if this doesn't work for you, let me know and we'll email you some.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Fitting Climate in our Time

A few weeks ago Janet and I saw "An Inconvenient Truth", Al Gore's movie about global warming, at the E street cinema. The movie is the first I have seen that is adapted not from a book, a play or a television series, but from a slide show! It was very well done, and did not stretch the truth in ways that I feared it might. For example, while "warming can be predicted accurately based on knowledge of how Earth responded to similar levels of greenhouse gases in the past" (Hansen, see below) it is not at all clear how that warming will affect some downstream climate events such as hurricane intensity and ocean currents. To his credit, Gore was careful to refer to these risks (which are certainly serious) without claiming them as likely to the same degree. He emphasized sea level rises, which are certainly going to happen, although the magnitude of this effect is likewise unclear.

Today I am reading Jim Hansen in the New York Review of Books ("The Threat to the Planet"). He is Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "His opinions are expressed [there], he writes, 'as personal views under the protection of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.'" It's outrageous that our Federal agencies are not permitted to draw logical conclusions from the data they generate. Jim Hansen caught my attention years ago when a report of his was altered, leaving the appearance that his position was more moderate than it truly was. He is a frequent target of liars for hire, (e.g. a recent statement by liar for hire, Patrick J. Michaels).

One particularly apt quotation in the film was from Winston Churchill (in 1936), regarding the need to act in the face of imminent danger from Hitler's Germany. I suspect that history will judge George W. Bush and the American Petroleum Institute a bit more harshly than Chamberlain, who opposed such action. Although Chamberlain was clearly wrong, it is likely that he genuinely believed that he could achieve peace, and he had broad support. I suspect that those who deny global warming are a bit more like the tobacco executives who don't want their own children smoking. They know in their heart of hearts that what they are doing is bad for the country and for future generations. They may not agree that their denial is actually putting the U.S. in an ever-weaker competitive position, but they certainly understand that they are lying to the public and hurting the nation and the world in exchange for short-term financial gain. Chamberlain is heroic in comparison, but the analogy is certainly apt. Gore certainly lacks Churchill's charisma, but he may have found a way of sounding an alarm nonetheless. Hansen's article ends with this: "It makes one wonder if the American public has not been deceived by the distorted images of him that have been presented by the press and television. Perhaps the country came close to having the leadership it needed to deal with a grave threat to the planet, but did not realize it."

There are reasons to be optimistic. Since I last wrote on this topic (Why boycott Exxon? Note to the oil industry: we might trust you if you stopped lying!) it has become even clearer that some oil companies, including Shell and BP (see the New York Times, "A Refinery Clears the Air to Grow Roses"), are no longer denying the science of global warming. Similarly, the attainability of greater fuel efficiency seems clear, and the example of successful limits on CFC emissions sets a precedent for success in areas like this. Finally, although we all want to find natural solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ways of taking active steps to cool the planet will be increasingly considered (see the New York Times, The Energy Challenge | Exotic Visions: How to Cool a Planet (Maybe)).

Note: the title refer's to Chamberlain's speech, "Peace in our Time."


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Republicans hope to gain by attacking the Constitution and American values!

In response to a recent Supreme Court decision, the Republican's are seeking political advantage by attacking the U.S. Constitution and American values directly. You can't make this stuff up! My source is the Washington Post but it's easy to find examples (Ronald A. Cass on Yahoo!, Slate). The decision is available online at the Supreme Court site (Go to opinions/latest slip opinions for the PDF) and there are objective summaries on wikipedia and NPR. The common theme of right-wing commentary seems to be that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld have greater wisdom than the founding fathers and the principles of freedom that our Constitution embodies. I respect the American people too much to believe that this is going to work. The appeal to security concerns is clearly persuasive with many but ignores the fact that dispensing with the U.S. Constitution and American values because you believe that Bush knows what he's doing is not only dangerous but will ultimately wear pretty thin with those who have sacrificed to protect those things.