Summer Reading: July

During the month of July, self read seven books.

The seventh is The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, which she began yesterday (Enjoying it hugely. Has Bridget Jones Diary feelz, at least the opening pages do, but darker)

She read two self-help psychology books, two histories (Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, by Keith Lowe, and The Reason Why, by Cecil Woodham-Smith, about the mistakes that led to the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava), a murder mystery (The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman, which she hugely enjoyed), and her second Elizabeth Kolbert: Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future.

Onward!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Sentence of the Day: Elizabeth Kolbert

Self keeps wanting to spell the author’s name as “Colbert” because she loves Stephen Colbert.

Anyhoo, this author is FUNNY. Considering she’s writing about how we are all DOOMED because of our own stupidity, that’s quite a feat.

Essay # 1 of Under a White Sky did not slay self (Loved The Sixth Extinction, so Kolbert had big shoes to fill), but then Kolbert began discussing carp. Yes, you read that right: carp as in everyone’s Favorite Aquarium Fish. Apparently they have eyes affixed to the bottom of their skulls, meaning they are grazers like cows are grazers, only instead of grazing for grass the carp are grazing for algae or snails. After that, self became completely hooked. Anyhoo, someone had the genius idea of introducing carp to the Chicago River and they are destroying shellfish. Basically, the Chicago River is turning into one giant aquarium, there are probably more carp there than there are in China. They breed like crazy and it’s no use trying to make carp a popular food because they are so bony.

Essay # 2 is where self found the sentence of the day:

  • I was anxious, too, though only a little, since the Mississipi we were looking at was about five inches wide.

The author sets up all these challenges for herself, such as trying to reach the Gulf by WALKING from New Orleans and running into a little problem of wet socks. A paragraph later, she introduces us to an engineer who is keeping a close eye on a simulation of the Mississippi Delta while sitting in a folding chair in the Center for River Studies at Louisiana State. This model simulation must be really ACE because the engineer, Kolbert noticed, also “had wet socks.” The model was so accurate that it kept flooding, and the engineer couldn’t move from the folding chair because it was his job to document everything. At least, I think, Kolbert got her wet socks while actually WALKING.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

July #TreeSquares Challenge #11: Last Year, During the Fires of September

Self was looking over the pictures in her archives. She was shocked to come upon the pictures of the backyard in September 2020. There were wildfires raging up and down the state. The Lightning Complex Fires in Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, and San Mataeo County began in August and raged through the first half of September. The air quality was so bad, and there were days she could distinctly smell smoke.

For today’s #TreeSquares Challenge, she’s posting these pictures as a reminder. She heard on the news that the fires raging now in California (there are quite a few) have burned four times as much acreage as the fires this time last year. Can you imagine if we get to September with worse air quality than what’s in these pictures. The heat so far this summer is so intense. Cross your fingers and pray.

Sentence of the Day: You Know the Source

The ruins of reefs from the Triassic, for example, can now be found towering thousands of feet above sea level in the Austrian Alps.

— Chapter VII, The Sixth Extinction

CO2 in the Anthropocene

Roughly one-third of the CO2 that humans have so far pumped into the air has been absorbed by the oceans. This comes to a stunning 150 million metric tons. As with most aspects of the Anthropocene, though, it’s not only the scale of the transfer but also the speed that’s significant. A useful (though admittedly imperfect comparison can be made to alcohol. Just as it makes a big difference to your blood chemistry whether you take a month to go through a six-pack or an hour, it makes a big difference to marine chemistry whether carbon dioxide is added over the course of a million years or a hundred. To the oceans, as to the human liver, rate matters.

— Chapter Six: The Sea Around Us, The Sixth Extinction

3rd Monday in June 2020: Still Reading The Uninhabitable Earth

Self is reading fast as none of the arguments are new.

  • “We think of climate change as slow, but it is unnervingly fast.” — p. 198

There is a big, big elephant in the room, which is the impact of Greta Thunberg, who is never mentioned. (She shows up, finally, on p. 257)

  • “Any number of dead is a tragedy, but more than 10,000 die each day, globally, from the small–particulate pollution produced by burning carbon.” — p. 203

Never in a million years, at the time this book was published (2019) could anyone have imagined that a pandemic and the need to find a vaccine would soon eclipse climate change in urgency.


Back from picking up prescriptions (which always require a doctor’s visit: $162). She catches a Gavin Newsom presser. He’s addressing the ongoing need for masks. This morning, self asked the doctor if he had a test. He did, but it cost $150. He reassured her that all of the patients he’d tested had tested negative.

“Do they all live in the area?” she asked.

“Some of them,” he said.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH: LIFE AFTER WARMING, by David Wallace-Wells

p. 12

. . . if we take action on emissions soon, instituting immediately all of the commitments made in the Paris accords but nowhere yet actually implemented, we are likely to get about 3.2 degrees of warming, or about three times as much warming as the planet has seen since the beginning of industrialization — bringing the unthinkable collapse of the planet’s ice sheets not just into the realm of the real but into the present. That would eventually flood not just Miami and Dhaka but Shanghai and Hong Kong and a hundred other cities around the world. The tipping point for that collapse is two degrees . . .


p. 16

The upper end of the probability curve put forward by the U.N. to estimate the end-of-the-century, high-emissions scenario — the worst-case outcome of a worst-case path — puts us at eight degrees. At that temperature, humans at the equator and in the tropics would not be able to move around outside without dying.

From a Friend in New South Wales

Thank you for thinking of us. Most days we wake up with smoke haze, some days worse than most. There are a few bad days where visibility is less than 100 m.

My brother-in-law lives seven minutes away. He lives close to the bush. He received a text to be ready to evacuate. He asked if he could stay in our house, just in case. There were spot fires near him.

It is sad that people have lost their houses and homes, right after Christmas.

I sometimes wonder if this is the “new normal”? It is not sustainable. Definitive proof of climate change.

Her 2019 Reading Year

Top reading year, this is turning out to be.

Her Favorites, by Month:

  • February: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and November Road by Lou Berney.
  • March: Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few.
  • April: Milkman by Anna Burns; Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday; and Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush.
  • May: Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges by Antony Beevor and Northanger Abbey.
  • June: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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