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

Sentence of the Day, Which Fortunately Is From the Book Self Is Still Reading

Balanus perforatus is a grayish barnacle that resembles a tiny volcano.

— Chapter VI, The Sixth Extinction

Sentence of the Day: Do You Even Need to Ask

. . . a hundred million years from now, all that we consider to be the great works of man — the sculptures and the libraries, the monuments and the museums, the cities and the factories — will be compressed into a layer of sediment not much thicker than a cigarette paper.

— Chapter V, The Sixth Extinction

The Six-Mile Wide Asteroid

It “arrived from the southeast, traveling at a low angle relative to the earth, so that it came in not so much from above as from the side, like a plane losing altitude. When it slammed into the Yucatan Peninsula, it was moving at something like forty-five thousand miles per hour and, due to its trajectory, North America was particularly hard-hit . . . “Basically, if you were a triceratops in Alberta, you had about two minutes before you got vaporized,” is how one geologist put it to me.

— p. 86, The Sixth Extinction

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species

Darwin “observes that animals inevitably become rare before they become extinct.”

The Sixth Extinction, Chapter III: The Original Penguin, Pinguinus impennis

Chapter III charts the extinction of a sea bird, the great auk, that once numbered in the millions. Where have you been all self’s life, Elizabeth Kolbert.

Finished Chapter I, The Sixth Extinction

Elizabeth Kolbert writes like a dream.

Last paragraph, Chapter I (Atelopus zetecki), The Sixth Extinction:

  • The frogs and the salamander were placed in plastic bags with some leaves to keep them moist. It occurred to me that the frogs and their progeny, if they had any, would never again touch the floor of the rainforest but would live out their days in disinfected glass tanks. That night it poured, and in my coffin-like hammock I had vivid, troubled dreams, the only scene from which I could later recall was of a bright yellow frog smoking a cigarette through a holder.

Sentence of the Day: David Raup

  • “The history of life consists of long periods of boredom interrupted occasionally by panic.” — paleontologist David Raup, quoted by Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction, Chapter I

Elizabeth Kolbert on the Golden Frogs of Panama

Golden frogs have a distinctive, ambling gait that makes them look a bit like drunks trying to walk a straight line. They have long, skinny limbs, pointy yellow snouts, and very dark eyes, through which they seem to be regarding the world warily. At the risk of sounding weak-minded, I will say that they look intelligent.

— p. 8, The Sixth Extinction

Three So Far 2021

Finished reading Oak Flat: The Fight for Sacred Land in the American West, by Lauren Redniss, early this morning. Wow. Blown away by the polyphonic voices. And by the simple yet so-moving illustrations (by the author herself).

It joins two other books as self’s five-star reads of the 2021 reading year:

  • Ice Walker: A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Frozen Arctic, by James Raffan (nonfiction)
  • The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal (science fiction)

Mary Robinette Kowal is one of the authors participating in this year’s SiliCon, which will be happening this August at the San Jose Convention Center. Self rushed out and got her tickets. She can’t waaaaait for August.

Have a great summer, dear blog readers.

The Dakota Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux

In 2016, protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline attracted worldwide attention. The oil pipeline was designed to run from North to South Dakota, across Iowa, and into Illinois. The Standing Rock Sioux objected to the pipeline’s path on the grounds that it violated treaty rights and threatened the tribe’s water supply, grave sites and sacred land. Thousands camped out at Standing Rock to try and stop the project . . . In December 2016, the Obama administration blocked construction of the pipeline’s most contested section.

A month later, newly inaugurated president Donald Trump reversed the decision. By June 2017, oil was flowing. In the tumultuous first year of the Trump administration, the media moved on. In September 2017, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman David Archambault II, a hero while the spotlight was trained on the controversy, was voted out of office.

— Chapter 10, Oak Flat: the Fight for Sacred Land in the American West

This is a fascinating book, as self keeps saying. She hopes she can finish it tonight and return it to the library tomorrow, because it’s way overdue and someone’s put a hold on it.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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