Sunshine Recorder

"Transmission" by Dan Holdsworth

In Dan Holdsworth’s latest series Transmission: New Remote Earth Views, he appropriates topographical data to document the ideologically and politically loaded spaces of the American West in an entirely new way. In his images of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Mount Shasta, Mount St. Helens, Salt Lake City and Park City, we see stark, uninterrupted terrains where meaning is made through what it is absent, as much as what is seen. What at first appears to be a pure white snow-capped mountain is in fact a digitally rendered laser scan of the earth appropriated from United States Geological Survey data, a ‘terrain model’ used to measure climate and land change – to measure man’s effect on the earth. Belying his empirical methodology is the fact that each of these terrains has a rich and conflicting cultural legacy. Beginning with the idealised aesthetic of the Romantic sublime via the deadpan industrial frames of the New Topographics photographers a century later, each has been subject to the gaze of artistic, political, and sociological categories claiming this territory as their own. Extending ideas of the frontier and seeing anew, Transmission captures the world as if from space, functioning not only as a map of the land but as a mapping of the discourses that these lands have come to represent.

Overview: On the 40th anniversary of the famous ‘Blue Marble’ photograph taken of Earth from space, Planetary Collective presents a short film documenting astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect. The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. ‘Overview’ is a short film that explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the Overview Effect. The film also features insights from commentators and thinkers on the wider implications and importance of this understanding for society, and our relationship to the environment.

Link: Radiolab: The Dark Side of the Earth

200 miles above Earth’s surface, astronaut Dave Wolf—rocketing through the blackness of Earth’s shadow at 5 miles a second—floated out of the Mir Space Station on his very first spacewalk. In this short, he describes the extremes of light and dark in space, relives a heart-pounding close call, and shares one of the most tranquil moments of his life. When we were putting together our live show In the Dark, Jad and Robert called up Dave Wolf to ask him if he had any stories about darkness. And boy, did he. Dave told us two stories that became the finale of our show.

Beautiful aerial photography of a river draining into the ocean from a volcano in Iceland by Andre Ermolaev

(via staceythinx)

“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had some one pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: “Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!”
— Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

(Source: sunrec)


India’s Vanishing Vultures
Indian Vultures were considered the most common large bird of prey in the world in 80s and early 90s and they were found in millions.
At first, no one noticed they were missing.
Vultures—massive and clumsy, their naked faces buried in rotting flesh along the roadside, on the banks of the Ganges, lining the high walls and spires of every temple and tower—were once so ubiquitous in India as to be taken for granted, invisible. And something in us didn’t want to see them. Vultures are cross-culturally uncharismatic—with their featherless gray heads, their pronounced brows that make for permanent scowls, their oversized blunt beaks capable of splintering bones. They vomit when threatened and reek of death. In South Asia, their broad wings can reach up to eight feet tip to tip, casting a great shadow from above as they circle, drawn by the distant smell of carrion. The world over, these voracious scavengers are viewed with disgust and associated with death—and we, instinctually, look away.
But for all of human history, vultures served India faithfully. They scoured the countryside, clearing fields of dead cows and goats. They soared over the cities in search of road kill and picked at the scattered refuse of the region’s ever-expanding populace. For a subcontinent where religious and cultural mores restrict the handling of the dead, human and animal alike—Muslims won’t eat an animal that hasn’t been killed according to halal; Hindus won’t consume cows under any circumstances—vultures were a natural and efficient disposal system. In Mumbai, they covered the Towers of Silence where Parsis, a small but ancient religious group that doesn’t believe in cremation or burial, lay out their dead for the vultures to consume in a ritual known as a “sky burial.” In Delhi, they flocked to the city dumpsites: one photograph in the archives of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), India’s largest and oldest wildlife conservation organization, captures six thousand vultures in a single frame; another shows two hundred vultures on one animal carcass.
But, today, India’s vultures are almost gone. Vibhu Prakash, principal scientist with BNHS, noticed the first nascent signs of a crisis nearly fifteen years ago. He had studied bird populations in Keoladeo National Park outside of Delhi in 1984, documenting 353 nesting pairs of vultures. When he returned in 1996, there were less than half those numbers.
"I saw a lot of empty nests, and when I started looking, there were dead birds everywhere—under the bushes and hanging from the trees, dead in the nests," Prakash told me later. "I was quite worried." By 1999, not one pair remained. BNHS put out an alert, and biologists from all over the country confirmed that the three dominant species of South Asian vultures—slender-billed (Gyps tenuerostris), white-backed (Gyps bengalensis), and long-billed (Gyps indicus)—were dying across the region.
White-backed vultures were once the most common raptor on the Indian subcontinent, so omnipresent that census figures were approximate at best. “There were so many it was hard to count them individually,” Prakash said. “We’d see hundreds flying and count them by the tens or in groups of fifty.” Scientists have estimated that, as recently as the 1980s, thirty million white-backed vultures once coasted on thermals above South Asia. Now there are eleven thousand.
By 2000, the World Conservation Union classified all three species as critically endangered, the highest risk category, and the Indian scientific community called out to their international colleagues to help identify the cause of the crash. Initial speculation centered on an infectious disease or bioaccumulation of pesticides, similar to the devastating effects of DDT on predatory birds a half-century earlier in Europe and North America. Rumor blamed Americans—”so technologically advanced,” the Indians like to quip—for producing some new chemical that was killing the vultures. (After the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, it’s hard to fault Indians for their suspicion.)

India’s Vanishing Vultures

Indian Vultures were considered the most common large bird of prey in the world in 80s and early 90s and they were found in millions.

At first, no one noticed they were missing.

Vultures—massive and clumsy, their naked faces buried in rotting flesh along the roadside, on the banks of the Ganges, lining the high walls and spires of every temple and tower—were once so ubiquitous in India as to be taken for granted, invisible. And something in us didn’t want to see them. Vultures are cross-culturally uncharismatic—with their featherless gray heads, their pronounced brows that make for permanent scowls, their oversized blunt beaks capable of splintering bones. They vomit when threatened and reek of death. In South Asia, their broad wings can reach up to eight feet tip to tip, casting a great shadow from above as they circle, drawn by the distant smell of carrion. The world over, these voracious scavengers are viewed with disgust and associated with death—and we, instinctually, look away.

But for all of human history, vultures served India faithfully. They scoured the countryside, clearing fields of dead cows and goats. They soared over the cities in search of road kill and picked at the scattered refuse of the region’s ever-expanding populace. For a subcontinent where religious and cultural mores restrict the handling of the dead, human and animal alike—Muslims won’t eat an animal that hasn’t been killed according to halal; Hindus won’t consume cows under any circumstances—vultures were a natural and efficient disposal system. In Mumbai, they covered the Towers of Silence where Parsis, a small but ancient religious group that doesn’t believe in cremation or burial, lay out their dead for the vultures to consume in a ritual known as a “sky burial.” In Delhi, they flocked to the city dumpsites: one photograph in the archives of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), India’s largest and oldest wildlife conservation organization, captures six thousand vultures in a single frame; another shows two hundred vultures on one animal carcass.

But, today, India’s vultures are almost gone. Vibhu Prakash, principal scientist with BNHS, noticed the first nascent signs of a crisis nearly fifteen years ago. He had studied bird populations in Keoladeo National Park outside of Delhi in 1984, documenting 353 nesting pairs of vultures. When he returned in 1996, there were less than half those numbers.

"I saw a lot of empty nests, and when I started looking, there were dead birds everywhere—under the bushes and hanging from the trees, dead in the nests," Prakash told me later. "I was quite worried." By 1999, not one pair remained. BNHS put out an alert, and biologists from all over the country confirmed that the three dominant species of South Asian vultures—slender-billed (Gyps tenuerostris), white-backed (Gyps bengalensis), and long-billed (Gyps indicus)—were dying across the region.

White-backed vultures were once the most common raptor on the Indian subcontinent, so omnipresent that census figures were approximate at best. “There were so many it was hard to count them individually,” Prakash said. “We’d see hundreds flying and count them by the tens or in groups of fifty.” Scientists have estimated that, as recently as the 1980s, thirty million white-backed vultures once coasted on thermals above South Asia. Now there are eleven thousand.

By 2000, the World Conservation Union classified all three species as critically endangered, the highest risk category, and the Indian scientific community called out to their international colleagues to help identify the cause of the crash. Initial speculation centered on an infectious disease or bioaccumulation of pesticides, similar to the devastating effects of DDT on predatory birds a half-century earlier in Europe and North America. Rumor blamed Americans—”so technologically advanced,” the Indians like to quip—for producing some new chemical that was killing the vultures. (After the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, it’s hard to fault Indians for their suspicion.)

Link: George Monbiot: After Rio, we know. Governments have given up on the planet.

The post-summit pledge was an admission of defeat against consumer capitalism. But we can still salvage the natural world.

It is, perhaps, the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those who did attend the Earth summit in Rio last week solemnly agreed to keep stoking the destructive fires: sixteen times in their text they pledged to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses.

The efforts of governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it. Whenever consumer capitalism becomes snarled up by its own contradictions, governments scramble to mend the machine, to ensure – though it consumes the conditions that sustain our lives – that it runs faster than ever before.

The thought that it might be the wrong machine, pursuing the wrong task, cannot even be voiced in mainstream politics. The machine greatly enriches the economic elite, while insulating the political elite from the mass movements it might otherwise confront. We have our bread; now we are wandering, in spellbound reverie, among the circuses.

We have used our unprecedented freedoms – secured at such cost by our forebears – not to agitate for justice, for redistribution, for the defence of our common interests, but to pursue the dopamine hits triggered by the purchase of products we do not need. The world’s most inventive minds are deployed not to improve the lot of humankind but to devise ever more effective means of stimulation, to counteract the diminishing satisfactions of consumption. The mutual dependencies of consumer capitalism ensure that we all unwittingly conspire in the trashing of what may be the only living planet. The failure at Rio de Janeiro belongs to us all.

Images of Earth from Above: Yesterday was Earth Day, a time set aside to increase awareness of the natural environment and the impact of our collective actions. In honor of Earth Day, gathered here is a collection of scenes of our home planet from above, from vantage points we don’t see in everyday life. These scenes help show the Earth as a larger system and demonstrate the extent to which human activity has affected it. [39 photos]

The First Images and Video Footage from Outer Space, 1946-1959

In October 1946, American scientists, working in White Sands, New Mexico, shot a V-2 missile 65 miles into the air. The missile (originally designed by the Nazis during World War II) carried a 35-millimeter camera aloft that snapped an image every second and a half. When the missile returned to Earth, the camera itself was demolished by the impact. But the film, protected by a steel casing, remained unscathed, according to Air & Space Magazine. And when the scientists recovered the film, they witnessed something never seen by humans before — the first images of our planet taken from outer space. As one scientist put it, we got to see (above) “how our Earth would look to visitors from another planet coming in on a space ship.”

In October 1946, American scientists, working in White Sands, New Mexico, shot a V-2 missile 65 miles into the air. The missile (originally designed by the Nazis during World War II) carried a 35-millimeter camera aloft that snapped an image every second and a half. When the missile returned to Earth, the camera itself was demolished by the impact. But the film, protected by a steel casing, remained unscathed, according to Air & Space Magazine. And when the scientists recovered the film, they witnessed something never seen by humans before — the first images of our planet taken from outer space. As one scientist put it, we got to see (above) “how our Earth would look to visitors from another planet coming in on a space ship.”

By the 1950s, the U.S. Air Force started working with a new line of missile, the Thor missile. And it made history in May, 1959. Launched from Cape Canaveral, the Thor Missile Number 187 carried a General Electric-manufactured “data capsule” and 16-millimeter camera in its nose cone. The flight lasted 15 minutes, covered 1500 miles, and ended in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the GE Film Catalog, when the data capsule was recovered:

General Electric scientists began the careful processing of the capsule’s contents. They were not long in finding the results they had hoped for—in the subdued light of a photographic dark room, on a still-dripping strip of developed motion picture film, the eyes of man beheld for the first time the image of the earth as it appears from beyond the atmosphere.

You can watch the historic video immediately above.

The Moon’s Evolution in 2.5 Minutes: Over time, our Moon has been changed from a glowing ball of magma, to being pummeled and pounded by impacts, to evolving to the current constant companion we see in the sky each night. With the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we’re getting a better understanding of just what has taken place on the Moon over its history. Thanks to the folks at Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio, this video provides a look at 4.5 billion years of the Moon in just two and a half minutes.

Link: Our Understanding of Life

For thousands of years, humanity conceived the Earth to be a flat surface. This view, held by most pre-modern cultures was also combined with a Ptolemaic view, which held that the Earth itself was the centre of our Universe. These views shaped the very notions of our place in the universe, our relative importance within it, and even our understanding of science and religion. The Catholic Church, for example, found that accepting the idea of heliocentricism (the Earth and planets revolving around a fixed Sun) was in conflict with many of their teachings. If, they argued, Earth was God’s creation, should it not hold that man is at the centre of the universe?. As explorers, academics and philosophers set about answering questions on the edges of the world, the nature of the universe, and the origins of Earth, they found that the answers destroyed the questions they were asking. Classic views changed irrevocably and fundamentally; and with those changes came a profound adjustment in the view of our place (and relative importance) in the universe.

Regardless of individual and social beliefs, science has dramatically changed human culture. We are now beginning to understand and appreciate the true diversity and variety of life within our own biosphere, and even within our own species. Advances in psychology, genetics, computing and other fields have also given us understanding into the shared experience of life. We now know there is up to ninety eight percent similarity between related genes in humans and apes, almost ninety percent between humans and mice, and almost sixty percent between humans and bananas. The more we understand, the more humbled we become in own image, and the more we are forced to change our relationship with the Earth. From climate change to forestry, agriculture and ocean-health, every new discovery leads us to act more as part of a system, rather than an observer to it.

One of the last frontiers of human arrogance remains our view on intelligence and life, that we only assume it to have value and legitimacy should it follow a very “human" form. Researchers around the world are now beginning to break down this wall too which, more than many recent discoveries, could alter our relationship with the Earth and the universe.

In this exclusive interview, we talk to Professor Stefano Mancuso, co-founder of the Laboratorio Internazionale di Neurobiologia Vegetale (LINV, the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology). We discuss the very fundamental questions of life itself and profound discoveries he and his team have made about the nature of intelligence in the ecosystem.

A prolific speaker and commentator, his TED profile reads, “From his laboratory near Florence, Mancuso and his team explore how plants communicate, or “signal,” with each other, using a complex internal analysis system to find nutrients, spread their species and even defend themselves against predators. Their research continues to transform our view of plants from simple organisms to complex ecological structures and communities that can gather, process and — most incredibly — share important information.


The Rise and Fall of the Eco-Radical Underground 
Rolling Stone’s 2006 feature on what the government called the “the number-one domestic terrorism threat.”
It’s long been assumed that those who counted themselves members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) — less a group than an ideology, with no central office or leader, and its only mission the destruction of property with no harm to human life — were angry suburban boys in their late teens or early twenties who worked in small cells, performing one or two misdeeds and then disbanding. In fact, nearly every member of the Family was an adult committed to environmental activism, whether traveling below the radar, like Avalon, or as “top-landers,” like Jonathan Paul, a longtime anti-whaling advocate and the brother of a Baywatch star, who famously posed as a fur farmer in the early Nineties to secretly videotape mink-ranching techniques. (Paul, accused in only one of the Family’s arsons, has asserted his innocence.)
"Most of these people had two lives," says Mike Roselle, co-founder of Earth First! and the Ruckus Society, two of the country’s leading environmental and civil-disobedience groups. "In their day lives, they were important activists. In their night lives, they were secret. I’m surprised at what I didn’t know. I never knew I was hanging out with members of the ELF."
Although the elves always focused on destroying property and avoiding the loss of human life, the Bush administration now treats the ELF as the homegrown equivalent of Al Qaeda. Last year, FBI deputy assistant director John Lewis called the group — along with the ALF and an aggressive animal-liberation outfit called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty — the nation’s “number-one domestic terrorism threat.” In the past three years, the administration has doubled the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces, multi-agency units that add state and local police and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents to each FBI field office, and many seem intent on busting arsonists like Avalon rather than catching killers like Osama bin Laden. In 2003, when activists including CalTech graduate students fire-bombed several SUV dealerships in Los Angeles, FBI director Robert Mueller responded by assigning the entire terrorism task force in L.A. to the case and personally briefed President Bush about it. In a post-9/11 world where every FBI agent wants to catch a terrorist, an “eco-terrorist” is better than nothing.
Branding activists as terrorists not only makes for good headlines, it also results in longer prison sentences. In 2001, forest advocate Jeffrey “Free” Luers, perhaps today’s most passionately embraced eco-martyr, was sentenced to nearly twenty-three years for setting fire to three Chevy SUVs. The Family faces far more prison time. Under a 2003 order by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, any arson set with a timer must be prosecuted under a post-Oklahoma City statute that defense lawyers call “the hammer.” Under standard arson charges, the maximum sentence is five years for each building or car that is set ablaze. Under the hammer, the mandatory sentence for a single act of arson is a minimum of thirty years in prison. For two, the minimum is life — with no possibility of parole. The government wants to sentence some members of the Family to life plus 1,015 years.
Given the current environmental crisis facing the planet, even some of those responsible for putting the Family behind bars find themselves sympathizing with the group’s motives. “My heart’s with these people,” says Kirk Engdall, the lead prosecutor in the case. “We’ve got to save the planet for our children and grandchildren. Where they went wrong is when they resorted to violence. They were desperate, because they felt that their cause wasn’t being addressed appropriately.”
Supporters in the environmental movement agree. “This is such a waste of good people,” says Roselle. “I’ll bet I trained some of these people in nonviolent civil disobedience, and we taught them that history shows that radical movements that are violent make people paranoid, isolated and easy for the feds to pick off.” He starts to choke up. “When I think about them, it brings me to tears.”
To those who have studied radical movements, the unprecedented  prosecution of environmental activists represents the end of an era.  Four states have already passed legislation — drafted by a right-wing  lobbying group that represents 300 major corporations — that classifies  any act of property destruction motivated by environmental beliefs as  “ecological terrorism.” In Pennsylvania, misdemeanors and nonviolent  protests like tree-sitting are now punishable as terrorist acts. Even  Coronado, considered the “leader” of the movement for years by the feds,  has vowed to quiet down after too many years of harassment by the  government — as the father of a young child, the risks are now too high  for him. “I suspect that on a practical level, these arrests, especially  followed by lengthy sentences, will fuel a transformation in local  anarchist politics,” says Michael Dreiling, a University of Oregon  sociology professor who studies social movements in the Northwest. “If I  were to make a guess, I’d say that it will lead to deeper fissures over  tactics and strategy in years ahead. I don’t think we will see many  more ELF actions. We live in a society that can practically monitor your  body from a satellite in outer space. An underground political-protest  movement like the ELF is going to be very difficult in the future.”

The Rise and Fall of the Eco-Radical Underground

Rolling Stone’s 2006 feature on what the government called the “the number-one domestic terrorism threat.”

It’s long been assumed that those who counted themselves members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) — less a group than an ideology, with no central office or leader, and its only mission the destruction of property with no harm to human life — were angry suburban boys in their late teens or early twenties who worked in small cells, performing one or two misdeeds and then disbanding. In fact, nearly every member of the Family was an adult committed to environmental activism, whether traveling below the radar, like Avalon, or as “top-landers,” like Jonathan Paul, a longtime anti-whaling advocate and the brother of a Baywatch star, who famously posed as a fur farmer in the early Nineties to secretly videotape mink-ranching techniques. (Paul, accused in only one of the Family’s arsons, has asserted his innocence.)

"Most of these people had two lives," says Mike Roselle, co-founder of Earth First! and the Ruckus Society, two of the country’s leading environmental and civil-disobedience groups. "In their day lives, they were important activists. In their night lives, they were secret. I’m surprised at what I didn’t know. I never knew I was hanging out with members of the ELF."

Although the elves always focused on destroying property and avoiding the loss of human life, the Bush administration now treats the ELF as the homegrown equivalent of Al Qaeda. Last year, FBI deputy assistant director John Lewis called the group — along with the ALF and an aggressive animal-liberation outfit called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty — the nation’s “number-one domestic terrorism threat.” In the past three years, the administration has doubled the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces, multi-agency units that add state and local police and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents to each FBI field office, and many seem intent on busting arsonists like Avalon rather than catching killers like Osama bin Laden. In 2003, when activists including CalTech graduate students fire-bombed several SUV dealerships in Los Angeles, FBI director Robert Mueller responded by assigning the entire terrorism task force in L.A. to the case and personally briefed President Bush about it. In a post-9/11 world where every FBI agent wants to catch a terrorist, an “eco-terrorist” is better than nothing.

Branding activists as terrorists not only makes for good headlines, it also results in longer prison sentences. In 2001, forest advocate Jeffrey “Free” Luers, perhaps today’s most passionately embraced eco-martyr, was sentenced to nearly twenty-three years for setting fire to three Chevy SUVs. The Family faces far more prison time. Under a 2003 order by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, any arson set with a timer must be prosecuted under a post-Oklahoma City statute that defense lawyers call “the hammer.” Under standard arson charges, the maximum sentence is five years for each building or car that is set ablaze. Under the hammer, the mandatory sentence for a single act of arson is a minimum of thirty years in prison. For two, the minimum is life — with no possibility of parole. The government wants to sentence some members of the Family to life plus 1,015 years.

Given the current environmental crisis facing the planet, even some of those responsible for putting the Family behind bars find themselves sympathizing with the group’s motives. “My heart’s with these people,” says Kirk Engdall, the lead prosecutor in the case. “We’ve got to save the planet for our children and grandchildren. Where they went wrong is when they resorted to violence. They were desperate, because they felt that their cause wasn’t being addressed appropriately.”

Supporters in the environmental movement agree. “This is such a waste of good people,” says Roselle. “I’ll bet I trained some of these people in nonviolent civil disobedience, and we taught them that history shows that radical movements that are violent make people paranoid, isolated and easy for the feds to pick off.” He starts to choke up. “When I think about them, it brings me to tears.”

To those who have studied radical movements, the unprecedented prosecution of environmental activists represents the end of an era. Four states have already passed legislation — drafted by a right-wing lobbying group that represents 300 major corporations — that classifies any act of property destruction motivated by environmental beliefs as “ecological terrorism.” In Pennsylvania, misdemeanors and nonviolent protests like tree-sitting are now punishable as terrorist acts. Even Coronado, considered the “leader” of the movement for years by the feds, has vowed to quiet down after too many years of harassment by the government — as the father of a young child, the risks are now too high for him. “I suspect that on a practical level, these arrests, especially followed by lengthy sentences, will fuel a transformation in local anarchist politics,” says Michael Dreiling, a University of Oregon sociology professor who studies social movements in the Northwest. “If I were to make a guess, I’d say that it will lead to deeper fissures over tactics and strategy in years ahead. I don’t think we will see many more ELF actions. We live in a society that can practically monitor your body from a satellite in outer space. An underground political-protest movement like the ELF is going to be very difficult in the future.”


1 in 8 Chance of Catastrophic Solar Megastorm by 2020
The Earth has a roughly 12 percent chance of experiencing an enormous  megaflare erupting from the sun in the next decade. This event could  potentially cause trillions of dollars’ worth of damage and take up to a  decade to recover from.
Such an extreme event is considered to be relatively rare. The last  gigantic solar storm, known as the Carrington Event, occurred more than  150 years ago and was the most powerful such event in recorded history.
That a rival to this event might have a greater than 10 percent  chance of happening in the next 10 years was surprising to space  physicist Pete Riley, senior scientist at Predictive Science in San Diego, California, who published the estimate in Space Weather on Feb. 23.
The potential collateral damage in the U.S. of a Carrington-type  solar storm might be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion in the first  year alone, with full recovery taking an estimated four to 10 years,  according to a 2008 report from the National Research Council.
“A longer-term outage would likely include, for example, disruption  of the transportation, communication, banking, and finance systems, and  government services; the breakdown of the distribution of potable water  owing to pump failure; and the loss of perishable foods and medications  because of lack of refrigeration,” the NRC report said.
“It’s like being able to see a cyclone coming but not knowing the  wind speed until it hits your boat 50 miles off the coast,” Rutledge  said.

1 in 8 Chance of Catastrophic Solar Megastorm by 2020

The Earth has a roughly 12 percent chance of experiencing an enormous megaflare erupting from the sun in the next decade. This event could potentially cause trillions of dollars’ worth of damage and take up to a decade to recover from.

Such an extreme event is considered to be relatively rare. The last gigantic solar storm, known as the Carrington Event, occurred more than 150 years ago and was the most powerful such event in recorded history.

That a rival to this event might have a greater than 10 percent chance of happening in the next 10 years was surprising to space physicist Pete Riley, senior scientist at Predictive Science in San Diego, California, who published the estimate in Space Weather on Feb. 23.

The potential collateral damage in the U.S. of a Carrington-type solar storm might be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion in the first year alone, with full recovery taking an estimated four to 10 years, according to a 2008 report from the National Research Council.

“A longer-term outage would likely include, for example, disruption of the transportation, communication, banking, and finance systems, and government services; the breakdown of the distribution of potable water owing to pump failure; and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of lack of refrigeration,” the NRC report said.

“It’s like being able to see a cyclone coming but not knowing the wind speed until it hits your boat 50 miles off the coast,” Rutledge said.

Link: Protecting the Rights of Planet Earth

All human beings”, according to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “…are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." This one statement forms the rationale by which the United Nations deemed it necessary to define the structure of rights which all participants in society are owed by the international community.

At the core of our understanding of human rights is the assumption that these rights are framed in the context of “human flourishing”. This extends human rights from the basic provisions of personhood (insofar as one has a right to life, security of person, free expression, participation and worship) but towards the principle that human beings should live in a way which allows them to maximise their potential, “To flourish”, says Barbara Fredrickson of the University of Michigan, “…means to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience." This ‘optimal range’ is a grey area, and in practice, we see the interpretation is usually based on ethical frameworks (a mixture of beliefs, preferences, sentiments, and so on). As James Griffin points out, in his seminal text “On Human Rights”, “Many ethical beliefs are shaped by a person’s understanding, often misunderstanding, of the empirical world: of the consequences of our acts, of what the objects of our desires really are like, and so on.." Griffin continues by giving the example of how, in some societies, theft is regarded as a serious crime, and in others, the concept of private property does not even exist. The fact remains that human flourishing comes at an immense cost. Capitalism (borne out of the rational desire to improve quality of life) comes at the cost of over two billion people in the world living in poverty, and over a billion left hungry, from the ‘externality’ of capital creating an immense inequality of wealth and resource distribution. Through aid and legislation, however, the international community tries to recognise and remove these externalities; hopefully providing a fairer deal for all.

Our environment itself suffers immensely through our relentless pursuit of ‘flourishing’. If we ponder the enormous age and complexity of our biosphere (including the earth, oceans, forests, plant and animal life, and our atmosphere) we cannot help but respond with wonder and awe- two emotions which command a commensurate amount of respect. Our actions, however, do not reflect this. Society runs ethical mathematics, perceiving the benefits (for example, reliable access to energy) of actions (such as mining, drilling, farming) to be greater than the intrinsic value of the environments they affect (oceans, forests, etc). this reveals a uniquely one sided view where we, as a species (and often as economic groups) act out of self-interest, largely outside any consideration for the wider space in which we exist. At a macro-level, though, it is clear, that our want of ‘flourishing’ comes at a cost we simply cannot accept (crippling poverty, and the destruction of the very environment that sustains us). With the exception of some (openly) biased pieces of legislation, there is little coherent consideration given to ‘who’ protects the earth’s interests, and rights to flourish.

In this exclusive interview we talk to Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace (an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace- acting as a voice for the earth). We discuss, in detail, the profound issues affecting our earth, including energy and climate change, food security, oceans, forests, international trade, economics, the structure of society, technology and more.


Golden Eye
The launch of the James Webb will require technological cunning unequaled in the post-Apollo era. The base of the telescope, a six-layer sunshade, is roughly as long and wide as a tennis court. It will sit well beyond the moon, in a special pocket of gravity one million miles from Earth. Rather than orbit the Earth and whirl daily into the hot face of the sun, the Webb will use the combined gravity of the two to hide in a fixed position within the Earth’s shadow. Its 18 hexagonal mirrors, made of beryllium and coated in 24-carat gold, will operate at temperatures near absolute zero — the point at which all motion ceases — in order to remain sensitive to the faint infrared emanations of deep space. In this way movement in the heavens may be likened to sound, of which Emerson wrote, “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” Upon arriving in space, the Webb will attempt an unprecedented feat of reverse origami: It will emerge bundled from the tip of an Ariane rocket and slowly unfurl its shade, mirrors, and instruments, becoming in the process the world’s largest space observatory, its seeing power 100 times that of the Hubble. The stakes for this metamorphosis are high, for even with tomorrow’s technology, repair at such a remove from Earth will be impossible. If for any reason the Webb should fail after launch, it will be left to idle in space, out of reach, a stillborn in the void.

Golden Eye

The launch of the James Webb will require technological cunning unequaled in the post-Apollo era. The base of the telescope, a six-layer sunshade, is roughly as long and wide as a tennis court. It will sit well beyond the moon, in a special pocket of gravity one million miles from Earth. Rather than orbit the Earth and whirl daily into the hot face of the sun, the Webb will use the combined gravity of the two to hide in a fixed position within the Earth’s shadow. Its 18 hexagonal mirrors, made of beryllium and coated in 24-carat gold, will operate at temperatures near absolute zero — the point at which all motion ceases — in order to remain sensitive to the faint infrared emanations of deep space. In this way movement in the heavens may be likened to sound, of which Emerson wrote, “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” Upon arriving in space, the Webb will attempt an unprecedented feat of reverse origami: It will emerge bundled from the tip of an Ariane rocket and slowly unfurl its shade, mirrors, and instruments, becoming in the process the world’s largest space observatory, its seeing power 100 times that of the Hubble. The stakes for this metamorphosis are high, for even with tomorrow’s technology, repair at such a remove from Earth will be impossible. If for any reason the Webb should fail after launch, it will be left to idle in space, out of reach, a stillborn in the void.