Doom and gloom alone aren’t enough to help us deal with climate change, or any of the other problems we face. Fear sustained turns to despair, and to inaction – because why bother?

We have to celebrate successes to keep hope alive so we can keep going.

We do need to know what we’re up against. We need to understand how serious the stakes are. But we also have to believe that what we do will – or at least can – make a difference.

I keep thinking of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The first time through was grueling, watching the relentless assault of the First Order as it tried to snuff out every last bit of hope. The scenes with Rey and Luke were a relief because he was “only” depressed, not doomed.

But Luke eventually regains enough hope to take action. And enough of the Resistance is able to survive, keeping the spark of hope alive. And their legend survives, passed from Rose and Finn to a stable boy on Canto Bight, who’s already fanning that spark.

The whole movie is about hope: whether you’ve lost it or someone is actively trying to stomp it out, as long as it exists, you can hold onto it. That hope that, to quote another trilogy, “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Protecting the environment isn’t just about saving the planet. It’s about saving ourselves. It’s about being responsible custodians of nature not just for its own sake (though that’s important too), but so we can keep relying on it…instead of sucking the life out of everything we can like there’s no tomorrow, leaving a world that’s too inhospitable for us to live on in any sort of comfortable civilization.

Tens of thousands of years on, the planet will recover from just about anything we throw at it, as long as we stop messing things up at some point (like, say, dying back to subsistence level as famines and wars over the remaining resources kill us off). It may take longer for biodiversity to recover, but it will happen eventually, as it has after each great extinction event — though always taking new paths to replace the possibilities that didn’t make it.

But I don’t have 10,000, 100,000, or a million years to wait for things to recover, and neither do you.

I miss the optimism of the 1990s, when the message I got was “Things are messed up, but we can fix them.” Remember when we were more worried about running out of oil than about the effects of burning it? Now the message I keep seeing is, “Too late! We’re all screwed!” Especially with large entrenched interests trying to not just fight the gains we’ve made since the 1970s, but actively roll them back.

Maybe we can’t solve the problem completely anymore. But at least we can try to mitigate it a little.

Indignant geese.

A few interesting links that I’ve been meaning to post for a while now.

Geography and History

Using and Building the Internet

  • Warren Ellis has given up on Facebook and Google+ because it’s just so hard to reliably reach or listen to people. Think of how many posts in your news feed you miss each day just by not being online at the right time, never mind the pre-filtering Facebook does to the firehose.
  • Page Weight Matters – an engineer at Google led an effort to cut Youtube’s bandwidth requirements by a factor of ten. Strangely enough, when they started a live test, average page load time went up. It turned out that people on low-speed connections had found out about it and started using it even though it took two minutes to load where they were…because even that was still better than the 20 minutes they’d been stuck with before. (Via Raymond Camden)
  • If you run an email newsletter, keep in mind that many of your readers will try to read it on a phone. Keep that in mind when designing your format. Giant images with no text aren’t going to be too helpful.
  • How to keep electronics going when you lose power for days: Generators, batteries, car chargers, solar or kinetic chargers, etc.


  • Some of the earliest UNIX daemon art was drawn by none other than Phil Foglio of Girl Genius fame.
  • Saturday Morning in Front of La Salle De Justice is a painting by Rey Taira in DC Comics’ gallery show, inspired by Seurat’s famous painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (the painting at the center of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George), but recast with the Justice League and other DC Comics heroes. It’s making the rounds again now, but I first saw it on Firestorm Fan a few months back.

With luck the people complaining about the “unseasonable” morning cloud cover have all realized we get the same thing every year. Although I don’t think it usually lasts this far into July. We were standing at the America Plaza transfer station on Thursday morning, watching the fog roll in past the buildings at the south end, but by the time we hit the Gaslamp district for lunch, it was all cleared away.

We noticed an interesting coastal climate zone, though. On the trip down Wednesday afternoon, the clouds came in somewhere around Mission Viejo or San Juan Capistrano and stayed locked in all the way through La Jolla. It finally started clearing up just as we were reaching San Diego. Then on the trip back, a bit later in the afternoon on Sunday, the clouds rolled in as we reached La Jolla and didn’t break up until we reached Mission Viejo. We stopped in San Clemente for coffee (it was a long weekend with lots of walking and not much sleep), and the barista asked us if we’d been to Oceanfest, adding that it wasn’t really a good day for it. We explained we were on our way back from San Diego, he asked whether it was better down there, and we told him that it was warm and clear—but only south of La Jolla.

An intense deluge woke us up briefly around 5:00 this morning. I think I was awake enough to say “Damn!” and fall back asleep. It reminded me of something that’s been bugging me.

I looked through the first few pages of Otherworld #2 in the comic store yesterday. As at the end of the first issue, one character made a big deal about how it never rains in L.A.

Admittedly, people drive as if it were true. It starts drizzling, and people freak out. Three days of rain is billed as Stormwatch 2005 on the TV news. Some years we don’t get much rain at all.

But every 7 or 8 years, we get drenched.

I’ve heard people cite this year’s near-record rainfall as an example of the extreme weather that climate models predict for global warming. While I do think there are plenty of valid examples, this isn’t one of them. We got just as much rain in 1997—eight years ago—when the UCI campus flooded, stairs turned into waterfalls, streets and underpasses became rivers, and one student infamously bodysurfed naked down the hill next to the Student Center. (A yearbook(?) ad later remarked, “Who says nothing happens in Irvine?”) We got nearly as much rain two years before that. I knew someone from Vermont who brought friends out to visit during the heaviest period of rain. They got their preconceptions handed to them.

Every once in a while the cycle skips. Those skips coincide suspiciously with droughts. I remember tons of rain and the occasional hailstorm in the early 1980s, then it was all dry until 1995.

The thing is, while a very wet winter is uncommon for Southern California, it’s not unusual. In fact, it’s very regular. I recommend looking up El NiƱo as a starting point.