U.S.A. – The weather and climate change in 2011

With climate extrema continue to expose human and natural system vulnerabilities, natural disaster cost are skyrocketing and dozens of billions in damages each year become common, many are asking how this will continue.

According to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) 2011 is estimated to become the costliest year for weather-related disasters since they began tracking billion-dollar disasters in 1980. There seems to be a pattern of more extreme, more frequent and more hazardous weather disasters emerging. Based on HVRI data (in 2009 USD) 6 of the 15 costliest years of the last 50 years where during the last decade. With losses of property & crop in 2009 totaling up to USD 67.4 billion after the record losses of USD 111.6 billion in 2005 and the almost 3 times the average (USD 11.4 billion) year of 2004 with USD 30.4 billion, losses of USD 23 billion in 2008, USD 16.2 billion in 2001 and USD 11.9 billion in 2006 these 6 peak years of the last decade combined have caused damages of USD 260.5 billion. That there is a change in extreme weather phenomena happening becomes even clearer when looking at the overall damage totals from the last 50 years (USD 573.6 billion) where those 6 peak years of the last decade represent more than 45% of all losses occurred during the recorded time frame (HVRI has data published from 1960 – 2009).

The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) tracked 3 more than an USD billion disasters for 2010 and 2011 has already topped their 30 year record of 2008 (8 events) with so-far 10 (multi)-billion disasters (Hurricane Irene being the 10th).

Click on the image below for the link

Significant events for August and summer 2011

(image source NCDC)

Munich Re which has the worldwide largest database of natural catastrophes has a total of 950 natural catastrophes recorded for 2010 globally, the second-highest number of natural catastrophes since 1980. The U.S. got lucky that year escaping one of the severest hurricane seasons of the past 100 years with no hurricane hitting the U.S. during 2010. Their data also shows that Asia and America are most frequently hit by catastrophes, with 365 events recorded on the American continent and 310 in Asia during 2010 (The global distribution of natural catastrophes in 2010 was comparable to previous years). According to Munich Re already in June 2011, record global damages this year have surpassed the entirety of 2005, the previous record-holder of the most damaging year.

In the U.S. 2011 has so far seen the longest list of billion-dollar disasters with damage estimates without the Upper Midwest Flooding Summer 2011 and Hurricane Irene already beyond USD 30 billions for these most severe events alone. Add at least USD 3 Billion for the Upper Midwest Flooding Summer 2011 of which some predict that damages could be as high as the USD 25 billion record flood of 1993, and Hurricane Irene of USD 7 billion, 2011 will become another peak year on the list of the 15 most costliest years during the last 50 years. These estimates might rise substantially when all numbers have become available later this year.

When looking at data for the past decades it becomes clear that the economic cost of disasters have been continuously on the rise for the last 50 years. Already at the beginning of this decade losses were more than 7 times greater than during the 1960s. And most of these losses are reported from highly developed countries.

Many of these numbers account only for direct losses of property, infrastructure and other assets but do not take into account other economic implications like reduced levels of production, future productivity or output e.g. with farming, property value impacts etc. In Florida, for example, the U.S. government a few years ago had to indemnify property insurers from potential extreme losses of natural disasters by taking over coverage of damage payouts above a certain (few billions) level. Otherwise insurers would have most likely already stopped covering most ocean front property from natural disaster damages. With the high share of these properties in the overall U.S. property value this weather related change alone would have had devastating consequences for the U.S. housing markets and overall economy – most likely at least at a scale similar to the economic / housing crisis of 2008.

Even more life and long term changes are occurring in Texas where Governor and wanna-be U.S. president Perry is suggesting to his voters to pray for rain as a remedy for the now already year long exceptional (beyond extreme) drought affecting more than 82% of the lone state. Currently 98% of the pasture and range land in Texas is considered to be in poor or very poor condition. The image from Drought Monitor below shows the current extend of the exceptional drought that earlier the year also reached into the South-Eastern states of Alabama, Kentucky and Florida. We would like to suggest to Gov. Perry to watch a movie from a religious group of farmers & gardeners called “Back To Eden” that reminds everyone to return to sustainable farming, repair the land and not to further deplete resources and start preparing for the years to come (This might of course not go down so well with the lobbyists backing/paying that person).

Click on the image below for the link

U.S. Drought Monitor September 27, 2011

(image source Drought Monitor)

In Texas, the corn harvest is already lost, cattle is dying in thousands of thirst on dry pastures, drinking water shortages in main cities are increasing. Many farmers are since months selling whole herds of cattle before they die from the drought. Thousands of farmers and their families often having harvested their land for generations, are now considering to give up ranching and farming. Once most of their water holes have fallen dry and they can not rent other land or feed their cattle with purchased supply, they have to sell their herds or watch them dying. With the driest period since 1917 bush and forest fires that have this year already devastated more than 10’000 square miles are doing the rest. And many of the cowboys that now have found work at cattle auctions & markets will become unemployed by the year end with little chance to find new work afterwards. Even if it would now start raining for a long period so that water reservoirs would refill to normal levels, ranchers will need years to rebuild their livestock. Many of their haggard cows if they manage to survive will certainly not have calves next year.
Already now only 1 out of 5 ranchers can live of their land alone, the extreme drought means that even more will have to look for a second job aside.

Click on the image below for the link

Persistent Heat: Number of days with max more-equal 100F

(image source NCDC)

While previous sell-outs of livestock have deteriorated meat prices, this time with the ever increasing global demand for meat, prices have remained merely stable. As a consequence for the next years this most likely also means that meat prices will further rise when U.S. production will not return to levels before the drought. Other farm commodity prices could also rise substantially – hay (alpha-alpha) for example has so-far seen a doubling of its price during the last 12 months.

And the outlook for the area from California to Texas is rather bleak.

In difference to Gov. Perry who is in full denial and seemingly does not care for the consequence to millions of Americans (as long as it does not affect himself), even U.S. government agencies have started to acknowledge that much of this climate change, the increase in frequency and strength of hazardous weather is man-made by pollution and the way we use our resources.

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program has already warned in a 2008 report that more frequent heat waves and warm spells, more frequent and intense heavy downpours, increased areas affected by droughts and more intense hurricanes will become more likely and more frequent in the future. Based on simulations and decades of data most of these weather phenomena were linked to human activity and their likeliness strongly increasing if pollution levels will not reduce over the next years.

The pattern of change is visible and laid out in front of us. The time to act is now.

Further information and data:

Music: Space Oddity

This is ground control to Major Tom …. can you hear me Major Tom …

…and I’m sitting in a tin can, far above the moon, planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do…

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Humor: Facebook’s new Timeline feature explained

Finally the ultimate background info on Facebook we’ve all been waiting for.

Click on the image below for the link

link to Geek & Poke (large size image)

If you’re not paying for it you might not be the customer. You might be the product being sold.

cartoon by Geek & Poke

Portugal: Where you have to study to be a slave – Parva Que Sou – Deolinda

Not only in the Arabic world where young protesters have overturned regimes installed decades ago and kept alive by generous aid from abroad and oppression of their citizens, this summer also in Europe young people in many countries were filling the streets with their protest and anger.

In Lisbon, Portugal earlier this year about 300’000 people were protesting against so-called austerity cuts and the way how current politicians want to remedy the damages from the global financial crisis on the back of the poorest and the young. These were the biggest protests in Portugal since the Carnation Revolution in 1974 that overturned dictatorship.

A song that got accidentally famous on the Internet in Portugal is currently making its way across Europe. It strongly expresses the feelings of the “lost generation” in Portugal and other European countries where unemployment in this age group can be as high as 40% (Portugal 27%) with many of the “others” receiving just marginal pay for their work as interns.

The song is by the Portuguese group Deolinda and is called “Parva que sou” (“I’m a fool”). You’ll find the Portuguese lyrics with the video below on YouTube. We’ve included our best shot at a translation and the English lyrics for “Parva que sou”.

English translation for “Parva que sou”:

I’m from the generation “without-pay”.
And that doesn’t even bother me.
What a fool I am!

Because this is bad and it’s going to continue.
And I’m already lucky that I can work as an intern.
What a fool I am!

And I’m thinking,
which world is so stupid
where to become a slave you need to study.

I’m from the generation “mom & dad’s house”
If I already have everything why bother for more?
What a fool I am!

Children, a husband, I’m always delaying,
and I still have to pay for the car.
What a fool I am!

And I’m thinking,
which world is so stupid
where to become a slave you need to study.

I’m from the generation “why should I complain”
there is always someone worse off than me on TV.
What a fool I am!

I’m from the generation “can’t take it anymore”
and this situation has been going on for too long.
But I’m no fool!

And I’m thinking,
which world is so stupid
where to become a slave you need to study.

And I’m thinking,
which world is so stupid
where to become a slave you need to study.

More information: Deolinda’s web site

Internet: The Next Net

image Internet map mediumThis article is republished from Shareable.net
Author: Douglas Rushkoff
originally published on Shareable.net at 3 January 2011 Creative Commons License

The moment the "net neutrality" debate began was the moment the net neutrality debate was lost. For once the fate of a network -  its fairness, its rule set, its capacity for social or economic reformation – is in the hands of policymakers and the corporations funding them – that network loses its power to effect change. The mere fact that lawmakers and lobbyists now control the future of the net should be enough to turn us elsewhere.

Of course the Internet was never truly free, bottom-up, decentralized, or chaotic. Yes, it may have been designed with many nodes and redundancies for it to withstand a nuclear attack, but it has always been absolutely controlled by central authorities. From its Domain Name Servers to its IP addresses, the Internet depends on highly centralized mechanisms to send our packets from one place to another.

The ease with which a Senator can make a phone call to have a website such as Wikileaks yanked from the net mirrors the ease with which an entire top-level domain, like say .ir, can be excised. And no, even if some smart people jot down the numeric ip addresses of the websites they want to see before the names are yanked, offending addresses can still be blocked by any number of cooperating government and corporate trunks, relays, and ISPs. That's why ministers in China finally concluded (in cables released by Wikileaks, no less) that the Internet was "no threat."

I'm not trying to be a downer here, or knock the possibilities for networking. I just want to smash the fiction that the Internet is some sort of uncontrollable, decentralized free-for-all, so that we can get on with the business of creating something else that is.

That's right. I propose we abandon the Internet, or at least accept the fact that it has been surrendered to corporate control like pretty much everything else in Western society. It was bound to happen, and its flawed, centralized architecture made it ripe for conquest.

Just as the fledgling peer-to-peer economy of the Late Middle Ages was quashed by a repressive monarchy that still had the power to print money and write laws, the fledgling Internet of the 21st century is being quashed by a similarly corporatist government that has its hands on the switches through which we mean to transact and communicate. It will never truly level the playing fields of commerce, politics, and culture. And if it looks like that does stand a chance of happening, the Internet will be adjusted to prevent it.

The fiberoptic cables running through the streets of San Francisco and New York are not a commons, they are corporate-owned. The ISPs through which we connect are no longer public universities but private media companies who not only sell us access but sell us content, block the ports through which we share, and limit the applications through which we create. They are not turning the free, public net into a shopping mall. It already *is* a shopping mall. Your revolutionary YouTube video has a Google advertisement running across the bottom. Yes, that's the price of "free" when you're operating on someone else's network.

But unlike our medieval forebears, we don't have to defend our digital commons from corporate encroachment. Fighting and losing that un-winnable battle will only reinforce our sense of helplessness, anyway. Instead of pretending that the Internet was ever destined to be our social and intellectual commons, we can much more easily conspire together to build a real networked commons, intentionally. And with this priority embedded into its very architecture and functioning.

It is not rocket science. And I know there's more than a few dozen people reading this right now who could make it happen.

Back in 1984, long before the Internet even existed, many of us who wanted to network with our computers used something called FidoNet. It was a super simple way of having a network – albeit an asynchronous one.

One kid (I assume they were all kids like me, but I'm sure there were real adults doing this, too) would let his computer be used as a "server." This just meant his parents let him have his own phone line for the modem. The rest of us would call in from our computers (one at a time, of course) upload the stuff we wanted to share and download any email that had arrived for us. Once or twice a night, the server would call some other servers in the network and see if any email had arrived for anyone with an account on his machine. Super simple.

Now FidoNet employed a genuinely distributed architecture. (And if you smart hackers can say why that's wrong, and how FidoNet could have been more distributed, please continue that line of thought! You are already on your way to developing the next network.) 25 years of networking later, lessons learned, and battles fought; can you imagine how much better we could do?

So let's get on it. Shall we use telephony, ham radio, or some other part of the spectrum? Do we organize overlapping meshes of WiMax? Do we ask George Soros for some money? MacArthur Foundation? Do we even need or want them or money at all? How might the funding of our network by a central bank issued currency, or a private foundation, or a public university, bias the very architecture we are trying to build? Who gets the ability to govern or limit what may spread over our network, if anyone? Should there be ways for us to transact?

To make the sorts of choices that might actually yield our next and truly decentralized network, we must take a good look at the highly centralized real world in which we live – as well as how it got that way. Only by understanding its principles, reckoning with the forces at play, and accepting the battles we have already lost, might we begin to forge ahead to create new forms that exist beyond any authority's ability to grant them protection.

Image (creative-common) from: Wikipedia

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Goodbye 2010 – Welcome 2011

image Duvet-Dayz fireworks 2010 midA happy and prosperous 2011 from the Duvet-Dayz.com team

All the best for next year !

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