This Croatian ‘Sea Organ’ Uses Wind And Waves To Create Enchanting Harmonies

If the sound of waves lapping gently onto the shore puts you in a trance, then it’s time you listen to the Morske Orgulje — or, the Sea Organ.

The crooning structure in the video above is a 230-foot long instrument on the coast of Zadar, Croatia, that plays mesmerizing harmonies using the movements of the sea.

The Sea Organ was conceived in 2005 by architect Nikola Bašić, after a new jetty was built to welcome cruise ships and their tourists to the charming port town.

On its surface, the organ looks like large marble steps leading into the Adriatic Sea. Below, however, lies a series of narrow channels that connect to 35 organ pipes. Each set of steps holds five organ pipes each and is tuned to a different musical chord.

As waves and wind push air through the channels, a song pours through the organ pipes and out onto the steps above. The sounds produced rely completely on the wave energy’s random time and space distribution.

Visitors say the sound is “hauntingly memorable” and “rather rhythmical and even hypnotizing.”

In 2006, the Sea Organ won the European Prize for Urban Public Space because it was a “perfect grandstand for watching the sunset over the sea and the outline of the [neighboring] island of Ugljan, while listening to the musical compositions played by the sea itself.”

Below, listen to the organ wail its harmony on an especially rough day by the sea.

from Green – The Huffington Post

Fossil Fuel Divestment: Some Points of Utility

The Financial Times recently weighed in on the issue of fossil fuel divestment, arguing that divestment is “largely irrelevant to the ultimate objective of minimizing the threat of climate change.” It’s a common argument: that we can be certain that divesting won’t affect anything. It’s a favorite of industry-funded counterattacks and intransigent universities. The problem is that it’s not a good argument. It’s not based on reason, and it’s not based on evidence.

Now, when we talk about the future, we are reduced to possibility and likelihood. That does not mean, however, that we may throw reason and evidence out the window. On the contrary, we need them more than ever when we attempt to read the tea leaves, and especially so when we try to convince others that our reading is a good one. This is one area where financial professionals, scientists and others who rely on demonstrable evidence can agree: The eye of the beholder can provide a vision of the future, but at the end of the day, the best proof is in the pudding.

When it comes to determining the ultimate effects of the act of divestment and the movement that surrounds it, the proof in the pudding will be a matter for history, probably decades hence. Anyone who claims to know with certainty that divestment won’t have any future impact is being dishonest, intentionally or unintentionally. Likewise, the specific knock-on effects of divestment promoted by its supporters cannot be predicted with a high level of exactness. So, we must use reasoned judgment and the evidence available to us so far in determining divestment’s potential utility.

Using reasoned judgment alone, there are at least three reasons why we can expect the act of divestment to be useful, perhaps extremely so, for the ultimate objective of minimizing the threat of climate change.

The first reason we can expect divestment to be useful is institutional. We can expect divestment to generate new and additional incentives, rather than countervailing incentives, for institutions to adopt policies designed to minimize the threat of climate change. These incentives derive from a need to remain consistent with a divestment stance once it is adopted, and we can expect these incentives to operate both within and between institutions. Within institutions, divesting from an industry or activity generates ongoing pressure to dissociate further from that industry or activity within the power of the institution to do so.

For example, the fact that Harvard University is divested from tobacco makes it more difficult, not less difficult, to sell cigarettes on its campus.

Over time, we can expect institutions that divest from fossil fuels to face additional pressure, not less pressure, to reduce their electricity consumption from fossil fuels, to direct their research efforts toward non-fossil energy sources, and so on. Divestment can also generate useful incentives between institutions. For example, if Harvard University were to announce an alignment of its investment policies with the 2-degree Celsius global warming goal, resulting in divestment from coal, oil sands, Arctic oil or other resources that are far out of economic alignment with the 2-degree goal, then it is reasonable to expect that other institutions, including governments, will feel more pressure, not less pressure, to align their investment policies with a 2-degree goal, or to enact other, compensatory policies. Thus, we can expect divestment to generate institutional pressure to align policies with climate goals. This is useful for minimizing the threat of climate change.

The second reason we can expect divestment to be useful is social. For climate policies to be sustained for decades into the future, they must have popular support, especially in democracies like the U.S. This means that people must believe that addressing climate change is both urgent and a moral imperative. We can’t expect self-interested material cost-benefit analyses to provide the motivation needed, because investments to reduce emissions cost real money today, but they will not have discernible effects on the climate for decades to come. This means that policies of principle that set social norms, like divestment, are important. When an institution divests, it is saying that yes, we could obtain short-term returns from these activities, but that would be wrong, so we won’t do it. This is exactly what politicians are being asked to do today and what voters will be required to do for decades to come in order to minimize the threat of climate change.

To enact and sustain policies on climate change, we need these actions of principle to be normalized and to be a part of common values. We can expect divestment, which is a clear and principled action on climate change, to help do that. This effect might be difficult to predict, but it should not be underestimated.

The third reason we can expect divestment to be useful is political. Prolonged and widespread divestment by mainstream institutions can cause the target industry to become politically isolated, which can increase the ease with which governments can enact policies that would disadvantage that industry. Indeed, past successful divestment movements have typically resulted in policy actions made possible by such political isolation. The fossil fuel industry is particularly vulnerable to political isolation, because it operates in an infrastructural market rather than a popular consumer market, so that it is subject to political and policy pressures much more than to direct consumer pressure.

Indeed, the need for policy to lead the market when it comes to fossil fuels — for example, by reducing subsidies to fossil fuel companies or by pricing carbon emissions — has long been recognized. However, fossil fuel companies have a clear and recognizable interest in preventing a transition away from fossil fuels. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that the less political influence the fossil fuel industry has, the easier it will be for governments to take effective policy actions on climate change. This means that proponents of carbon pricing and other policy actions should support divestment, because divestment makes such policy actions more likely to succeed. If divestment erodes the political influence of the fossil fuel industry, even to some degree, then it will have been useful for the ultimate objective of minimizing the threat of climate change.

Of course, universities have resisted calls to divest precisely because it generates political isolation of the target, so that divestment is argued to be “political.” In practical terms, what is meant by “political” is that those who divest early (and thus push divestment further into the mainstream) might make some enemies in the process. Thus, divestment becomes an issue of priorities: Is it worth it for a university to take some flak in order to increase the effectiveness of policy action on climate?

The answer depends on where one’s priorities lie, though shying away from actions that would benefit the common good out of a fear of making enemies seems a cowardly, morally vacuous position to hold (and if this is the logic of our universities, then they probably deserve to take flak). Regardless of one’s position, though, it is hard to deny that we can expect divestment to contribute to the political isolation of fossil fuel companies, and thus to the effectiveness of government policy actions on climate change.

Thus, there are at least three reasons why we can expect divestment to be useful: institutional, social and political. Additional points of utility for divestment may also exist. For example, we can expect the coal industry, in particular, to show direct financial vulnerability to mass divestment, because coal stocks are relatively illiquid, and thus mass divestment could materially reduce the stock prices and thus the market capitalizations of coal companies.

In line with this expectation, last year’s SEC filing from Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, noted that divestment efforts, along with other related factors such as unfavorable lending policies and increased regulation, was a risk factor that could significantly affect demand for its products or securities (here, on page 29). So multiple clear lines of reasoning exist that indicate that divestment is useful.

Furthermore, the demonstrable evidence available so far also indicates that divestment is useful. For example, NRG recently announced its intention to decarbonize its operations in alignment with the 2-degree C global warming goal, and the company cited the growth of the divestment movement as a contributing factor in its decision. Another example is the time and money that the fossil fuel industry is now spending in attempts to impede the divestment movement, which indicates that the industry considers the divestment movement to be a threat to its interests. Thus, the argument that divesting won’t have any affect is contradicted not just by multiple lines of reasoning, but by a growing body of demonstrable evidence.

Now, let’s go back to the Financial Times’ argument:

A genuine solution to the threat of climate change will require a price on greenhouse gas emissions, greater investment in energy innovation, switching from coal to gas to power generation, cost-effective means of storing carbon dioxide, and a global framework that encourages all the countries of the world to participate.

Few would dispute those goals. The argument goes on to claim, “Divestment helps with none of those.”

On the contrary: We can expect divestment to help with all of those, based on multiple lines of reasoning and the growing body of evidence we see before us. This means that divestment is highly relevant to the ultimate objective of minimizing the threat of climate change.

The conclusion? Those who are serious about climate change should base their analyses on reason and evidence, not on rhetoric. And both reason and evidence say that we need to be serious about divestment.

from Green – The Huffington Post

Poll Finds Strong Majority Of Americans Support An International Climate Agreement

WASHINGTON — A new poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans support an international agreement to cut planet-warming emissions.

The poll found 72 percent of likely 2016 voters said they support the United States signing on to an international agreement on climate change.

The Benenson Strategy Group conducted the polling for the environmental organizations Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists, and surveyed 1,000 expected voters.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they thought the United States “should take the lead and make meaningful reductions in its carbon emissions and other gases that may cause global warming.” Even a majority of Republican respondents — 52 percent –- expressed support for the U.S. joining an international agreement on climate change. A much stronger percentage of Democrats, at 88 percent, supported it, as did 73 percent of independents.

John Coequyt, director of Sierra Club’s federal and international climate campaign, argues that the findings support the Obama administration’s pursuit of an international agreement at the United Nations meeting in Paris at the end of this year.

“What this poll shows is that the American people actually want an agreement. They support an agreement, and they want their government to be part of one,” said Coequyt. “They expect the administration to lead, and to lead by example.”

Women were more inclined to support an international agreement, at 79 percent, compared to 63 percent of men. Younger people were also more inclined to support it, with 86 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 endorsing an agreement, as were African American and Hispanic respondents, at 85 percent and 79 percent, respectively.

The poll found that 13 percent of respondents said the U.S. should cut emissions “only if other countries do as well,” while 17 percent said the U.S. “does not need to make significant reductions” — no matter what other countries do or don’t do.

A strong majority of respondents, at 73 percent, said it is important for the U.S. to lead by example and to demonstrate that the country is willing to work with other countries.

Sixty-five percent agreed with the sentiment, “No country is immune from climate change and no country can meet the challenge alone.” The pollsters juxtaposed that with a statement that suggested that “China and India are the real problem when it comes to climate change” and that the U.S. would be left with the “short end of the stick” in an international deal. Twenty-six percent of respondents agreed with that statement.

Coequyt argued that this could pose a problem for Republican politicians, many of whom have argued against the U.S. joining an international climate agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has opposed the agreement between the U.S. and China to reduce emissions, as have other Republican leaders in Congress.

“I think what this shows is that that messaging we’re getting from Republicans is not driven by their constituents, it’s driven by the fundraising they have to do to stay in office,” said Coequyt. “This sets up a real challenge for candidates who don’t want to be for an agreement. They’re going to have to basically take unpopular positions.”

Parties to the United Nations climate negotiations are due to submit their individual pledges under the agreement this week. Mexico, Norway and the European Union nations had already submitted theirs as of last week. The U.S. is expected to submit its pledges by the March 31 deadline.

from Green – The Huffington Post

Good Human! These Pups Trained Their Obedient Owners To Scratch, Pet, Rub On Command

Humans. What are they good for? Belly-rubs and petting!

Watch the patient dogs in the above video compilation train their obtuse humans to become serviceable canine masseurs.

Sure, the pups are a little demanding in their requests for human affection. But at least, unlike their feline counterparts, they let you know when they’re done with your services with a gentle hand lick, rather than turning your arm into a scratching post.

If the above video makes you want to find your own dog, the ASPCA adoption page is a good place to start the search.

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from Green – The Huffington Post

Marine ecosystems take thousands of years to recover from climate-related upheavals

A new study reports that marine ecosystems can take thousands, rather than hundreds, of years to recover from climate-related upheavals. The study’s authors analyzed thousands of invertebrate fossils to show that ecosystem recovery from climate change and seawater deoxygenation might take place on a millennial scale.

from Top Environment News — ScienceDaily

The Senator from Searchlight

Harry Reid’s announcement that he will not stand for-relection to the Senate from Nevada in 2016 is a major loss to the climate movement – and yet another signal that the US Senate is being transformed by today’s bifurcated, parliamentary politics into an institution almost unrecognizably different from its traditions.

But while Reid may be the last Senate traditionalist to serve as Majority Leader, he was first and foremost the product of his own history, as a miner’s son who put himself through Georgetown Law School by working as a Capital Police Officer. Searchlight was a hard scrabble town – Reid had to hitch hike to high school and his house had no indoor plumbing, even in prosperous post-war America. And Reid’s political future was forged in the boxing ring, where his high school coach was future Nevada Governor (the mentor who pulled Reid into the Lt. Governor’s race, Mike O’Callaghan). His opponents and competitors often mistook Reid’s laconic, soft-spoken demeanor for weakness. They never saw his counter-punch coming.

But if you understood his values and his approach, there was no better partner in the political arena. Unlike most politicians Reid knew how to be silent, and cut to the chase. He respected political players who stood their ground firmly – the harshest thing I ever heard him say about a fellow Senator was “He’s a nice, smart man, but he has no backbone whatsoever.” But he worked effectively with that Senator for decades.

Early in his Senate career I made an egregiously unfair attack on the Senator for his strong defense of the mining industry against environmental reformers like myself. He made it clear that he didn’t mind the disagreement, but that I had besmirched his motivation, and forgotten that he was a miner’s son from Searchlight. I apologized, corrected the record, and promised I would judge him in the future on his actions, not my assumptions.

When his Democratic Nevada Senate colleague Richard Bryan resigned in 2001, Reid took up Bryan’s long crusade to protect Nevada from becoming the US nuclear industry’s dumping ground, standing often almost alone in the Senate against efforts to force the licensing of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in spite of ample evidence that its choice was based not on the merits but on Nevada’s small population and political clout, and that the site was geologically incapable of reliably storing waste for the lifetime of the risk. Since Yucca had been the major glue in the Sierra Club’s partnership with Bryan, I came into close working contact with Reid, and reliably, every two or three years there would be a threat in Congress to overturn science and jam Yucca down Nevada’s throat. Las Vegas became a regular part of my political forays and a partnership was borne.

As Reid watched the unfolding urgency of climate science after he became Majority Leader in 2005, one of his earliest policy initiatives was to state simply that he was opposed to coal fired power plants in Nevada, and that he was convinced the state would better be served by a clean energy future. He was as good as his word. Thanks in large part to his tireless efforts Nevada utilities abandoned their 2004 plants to construct five huge new coal plants in the state, shifted their focus to renewables, and by 2015 all of the state’s legacy coal plants had either shut down or been given shuttering dates.

Reid didn’t just help get Nevada off coal – he poured his energy into building the state into a renewable energy powerhouse, one which generates more clean energy per capita than any other. He began holding a series of Clean Energy Summits in Las Vegas which brought renewable energy advocates together to strategize and build their sector, and when he announced his retirement, clean energy was one of the top priorities Nevadans expected him to pursue during his last two years.

But his environmental record was not confined to energy. During the second George Bush Administration Reid was often the environmental movement’s stopper on issues ranging from clean air to water and public lands. He created Nevada’s first National Park – Great Basin – fought for the protection of Lake Tahoe, made the restoration of Nevada’s two desert lakes, Pyramid and Walker, a personal passion, and added hundreds of thousands of acres to Nevada’s share of the national Wilderness System.

Reid was a Senate traditionalist. Ironically he was sadly forced to leave as legacy the first significant changes in the powers of a Senate majority since the 1960’s. Beginning with Senator Bob Dole’s response to Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory, Senate Republicans converted the filibuster from an occasional Senate show stopper into a regular, debilitating and unprecedented minority freeze of virtually all legislative action. This was a revolutionary change – but it didn’t require changing the rules – just Minority leader behavior. When Mitch McConnell took this practice to unprecedented levels after the election of Barack Obama, paralyzing the federal government, Reid first tried to reach a gentleman’s agreement with McConnell, against the arguments of younger Senators who through that the Senate’s traditions had to yield to political reality. Finally, in November 2013 Reid led his Democratic majority to eliminate the filibuster for most Presidential nominees – and did so using a parliamentary procedure that means that any future Majority Leader who chooses could eliminate the filibuster altogether.

Reid’s climate, environmental and political legacy is thus an unexpected one – hardly predictable from his origins as a hard-rock miner’s son, or his instincts as a cautious Senate traditionalist. It’s hard to identify his most important victory: That George Bush’s environmental legacy was less damaging than his wars? That Yucca Mountain spared the US the economic and safety black swans that come with a nuclear revival? The shift in America’s energy future from Dick Cheney’s coalageddon to a clean energy revolution? Or the beginning of a democratic, majoritarian US Senate – even against Reid’s preferences?

Harry Reid fought the battles of his time, chose wars of necessity not choice, and fought them for the values he cherished. The Senate will be a lesser place once he is gone.

from Green – The Huffington Post

The Lights Go Off At St. Peter’s Basilica For Earth Hour

St. Peter’s Basilica joined more than 1,400 of the world’s iconic landmarks on Saturday to take a stand for stronger climate action.

The Vatican’s central square plunged into darkness on March 28 for Earth Hour, a global campaign held between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm local time in 172 countries and territories. Rome’s Great Synagogue and Great Mosque also took part in the initiative this year, along with other iconic religious sites, like St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.

Like his two predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis has taken a serious interest in promoting action on environmental issues. He’s currently drafting an encyclical about man’s relationship with nature, reportedly with the hopes of influencing the United Nation’s upcoming climate change conference.

In the past, Francis has called the exploitation of nature a grave sin.

“This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation,” he said while addressing students at a university in southern Italy last year.

“When I look at America, also my own homeland (South America), so many forests, all cut, that have become land … that can longer give life. This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to her give us what she has within her.”

from Green – The Huffington Post

North Dakota Takes Bold Step Forward On Commercial Hemp Industry, Tells Feds To Stay Out

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) signed a bill into law on Friday that lays the groundwork for a commercial hemp industry and explicitly cuts the federal government out of the state’s licensing process.

House Bill 1436 establishes guidelines for the state’s industrial hemp program and allows people to apply to grow the plant for either research or commercial purposes. With its provision for commercial hemp, the law goes beyond the federal Farm Bill, passed by Congress last year, which allowed some states to cultivate the plant, but only for research purposes and in more restricted pilot programs.

The new measure builds on previous legislation that had legalized industrial hemp farming in North Dakota, but had gone largely unimplemented. Harsh federal restrictions on hemp have left some growers open to prosecution, making many states wary of pushing forward with cultivation. In addition to North Dakota, twelve other states have passed legislation to establish commercial industrial hemp programs, and a handful more have approved hemp production for agricultural uses or academic research. However, a number of those states have not actually moved ahead with officially establishing commercial hemp operations.

North Dakota will join the five states — Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont — that actually implement the hemp laws they have on the books. The Hemp Industries Association, a nonprofit trade group consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, recently reported that those states collectively planted approximately 125 acres of hemp crops last year.

In an update to North Dakota’s earlier hemp legislation, HB 1436 takes a bold stance against federal authorities, holding that a “license required by this section is not conditioned on or subject to review or approval by the United States drug enforcement agency.” Instead, the North Dakota Agriculture Department will oversee the process for issuing licenses and monitoring and testing the hemp grown in the state.

Federal drug policy doesn’t differentiate between hemp and other strains of marijuana that contain much higher concentrations of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Since the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, all forms of marijuana have been considered Schedule I substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Drugs in this category are deemed to be among the most dangerous, with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse and severe psychological or physical dependence. (Other Schedule I drugs include heroin and synthetic stimulants once known as “bath salts.”)

According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.

Hemp has a variety of uses, from textiles and paper to oils, cosmetics and food products. The HIA estimated the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2014 to be at least $620 million. Due to federal restrictions, the overwhelming majority of the hemp used in these products currently comes from imported sources.

Earlier this year, bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both the House and Senate introduced versions of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would end the federal ban on hemp production.

The legislation would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana and would allow American farmers in all states to grow the crop. Neither version of the bill has received a vote.

from Green – The Huffington Post

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