Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day

Truckers burn their vehicles in fuel strike in Europe.

You see what power is -- holding someone else's fear in your hand and showing it to them!

---Amy Tan

Over the old wooden bridge
no traveler

---Henry David Thoreau

In studying the Way, realizing it is hard;
once you have realized it, preserving it is hard.
When you can preserve it, putting it into practice is hard.

---Zen saying

On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and in 1916 Woodrow Wilson proclaimed we should do it every year...and so that's the story of that. Today it follows Friday the 13th...and have you read the news today, oh boy! Where to begin?

I think I'd like to mention my concern for my sister-in-law Kirsten, who has lived for many years with her family near Iowa City. I did not hear yesterday whether or not there had been phone contact with them, but if not it wouldn't be the first time they've hefted a sandbag or 2---or perhaps they were among the university folk carrying the library's special book collection to higher ground upstairs. While the Cedar River is beginning to recede, the Iowa River won't crest until Tuesday. They're calling this a Five Hundred Year Flood in Iowa City, but I heard an Iowan on the radio yesterday say, "We getting a new Hundred Year Flood every year here now." People are dead in Cedar Rapids, and thousands have fled their homes, many of which have washed away. A railroad bridge across the Cedar River collapsed from the flood, and bridges throughout the state are closed. This is not the first bridge in this country's infrastructure to go down because there's no money for upgrades. Iowa's governor declared 83 of their 99 counties disaster areas. Governor Culver said yesterday the estimate of damage to Iowa's agriculture economy so far this summer is over a billion dollars. Combine this with the flood damage in Illinois and Indiana, and how is your garden coming along?

Is this weather ----and come to think of it, this still officially is Springtime in the US---actually the climate? People still don't talk about the Warming or the Change much here. We were near Toronto a couple years ago when a tornado blew through their downtown. The next day the Canadian version of the Weather Channel began giving hourly seminars on global warming, what it's about, and how it works. Down here at that time the Weather Channel never had mentioned the phrase. I'm still shocked to pick up something like The New York Times this morning and read through the headlines in boredom. But go to the UK and what do you see? Read the Guardian on Thursday, and get hit with this~~~
"Climate chaos is inevitable. We can only avert oblivion
At best we will limit the extent of global warming, but Kyoto barely helps. Does humanity have the foresight to save itself?
Mark Lynas
The Guardian,
Thursday June 12 2008
Sometimes we need to think the unthinkable, particularly when dealing with a problem as dangerous as climate change - there is no room for dogma when considering the future habitability of our planet. It was in this spirit that I and a panel of other specialists in climate, economics and policy-making met under the aegis of the Stockholm Network thinktank to map out future scenarios for how international policy might evolve - and what the eventual impact might be on the earth's climate. We came up with three alternative visions of the future, and asked experts at the Met Office Hadley Centre to run them through its climate models to give each a projected temperature rise. The results were both surprising, and profoundly disturbing."
· Mark Lynas is the author of Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
Or how about this item in yesterday's Guardian? Can anyone imagine something like this happening in West Virginia coal country?
"Climate change campaigners have hijacked a train carrying coal to Britain's biggest power station, swarming on to the roof of its 20 huge trucks.
The 40 protesters stopped the regular delivery service to Drax in Yorkshire disguised as railway workers in yellow warning jackets and waving red flags, having read up on standard railway safety rules.
The ambush took place at an iron girder bridge over the river Aire between the villages of Gowdall and Hirst Courteney at 8am BST. One group then used the bridge girders and climbing equipment to scale the 12ft high trucks.
They hoisted a huge banner reading 'Leave it in the ground' – referring to the coal destined for the power station's furnaces. The protesters carried food, water and even a portable lavatory with the intention of being able to remain on board for several days."
Move over to the UK's Independent Thursday, and we have Michael Savage's on-the-derrick account of the End of the Age of Oil. Wait a minute, this is not the ugly Yankee shock jock who loves to yuck it up about gays, other races, and Edward Kennedy's cancer. This is a young guy who still was a student in 2006, and joined The Independent's staff last year. Here he goes, out into the North Sea for the story~~~
"Fade to black: Is this the end of oil?
For generations, we've taken it for granted. But as prices soar and reserves dwindle, the time is fast approaching when mankind will have to live without oil. Are we ready to confront some really inconvenient truths? Michael Savage reports from the North Sea
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Aberdeen heliport is heaving. Dozens of rig men are waiting to board helicopters and begin a two-week stint in the middle of the North Sea. It appears that business out on the rigs, known simply as 'the job' in these parts, is booming. Eventually, it's our turn to board a cramped chopper, shoulder to shoulder with the solidly built workers who sit silently, psyching themselves up for a fortnight surrounded by cold, crashing waves.
Two hours later, we land at a rusting rig named Alwyn, 440 kilometres off the coast of Aberdeen. Ollie Bradshaw, the rig's burly production supervisor, meets the new arrivals."
Fortunately not everything in the American media mainstream is business as usual. Paul Krugman yesterday shook up the NY Times with a column that even mentioned the forbidden and dreaded word "socialism!"
"Bad Cow Disease
Published: June 13, 2008
'Mary had a little lamb / And when she saw it sicken / She shipped it off to Packingtown / And now it’s labeled chicken.'
That little ditty famously summarized the message of 'The Jungle,' Upton Sinclair’s 1906 exposé of conditions in America’s meat-packing industry. Sinclair’s muckraking helped Theodore Roosevelt pass the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act — and for most of the next century, Americans trusted government inspectors to keep their food safe.
Lately, however, there always seems to be at least one food-safety crisis in the headlines — tainted spinach, poisonous peanut butter and, currently, the attack of the killer tomatoes. The declining credibility of U.S. food regulation has even led to a foreign-policy crisis: there have been mass demonstrations in South Korea protesting the pro-American prime minister’s decision to allow imports of U.S. beef, banned after mad cow disease was detected in 2003.
How did America find itself back in The Jungle?
It started with ideology. Hard-core American conservatives have long idealized the Gilded Age, regarding everything that followed — not just the New Deal, but even the Progressive Era — as a great diversion from the true path of capitalism."
So how's the Kucinich impeachment legislation moving along? Did the press even cover it? Here's a guy at who decided to call up John Conyers and not only ask him why nothing ever seems to come out of that Judiciary Committee---but to accuse him actually of having blood on his hands too! Obviously Representative Conyers was shocked at this, but the rest of the phone call may interest you.


Anonymous said...

I found Roger Ebert's review of "The Happening" very indicative of a deepening of the current environmental angst.

M. Night Shyamaian's direction (the photography, the minimalism, the pace of his movies) goes mostly beyond the jaded taste of superficial reviewers such as Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter who thought that "the central menace" in "The Happening" lacked "cinematic intrigue and nail-biting tension" and did not pan out as "any kind of Friday night entertainment."

Those of us who, unlike M. Honeycutt, have retained some affinity for movies that go beyond the label of "Friday night entertainment" (whatever that means), were able to appreciate, of course, that, just like in "Signs," the spin of the movie is on the HUMAN PSYCHE rather than the said "central menace," which could stand here as a *blank* for any number of devastating environmental threats or virtually anything susceptible to turn upside down the current order.

Roger Ebert totally got it on this one:

"Too uneventful for you? Not enough action? For me, Shyamalan's approach is more effective than smash-and-grab plot-mongering. His use of the landscape is disturbingly effective."
"What I admire about 'The Happening' is that its pace and substance allowed me to examine such thoughts, and to ask how I might respond to a wake-up call from nature. Shyamalan allows his characters space and time as they look within themselves. Those they meet on the way are such as they might indeed plausibly meet."
"I suspect I'll be in the minority in praising this film. It will be described as empty, uneventful, meandering. But for some, it will weave a spell. It is a parable, yes, but it is also simply the story of these people and how their lives and existence have suddenly become problematic. We depend on such a superstructure to maintain us that one or two alterations could leave us stranded and wandering through a field, if we are that lucky."

jazzolog said...

At least one environmentalist in Iowa agrees that rampant development, agricultural and otherwise, without regard to flood plains and all that, certainly has contributed to ongoing disaster~~~

Iowa flooding could be man’s fault, experts say
Where some blame days of rain, others point to an altered landscape
By Joel Achenbach
updated 12:44 a.m. ET, Thurs., June. 19, 2008

As the Cedar River rose higher and higher, and as he stacked sandbags along the levee protecting downtown Cedar Falls, Kamyar Enshayan, a college professor and City Council member, kept asking himself the same question: "What is going on?"

The river would eventually rise six feet higher than any flood on record. Farther downstream, in Cedar Rapids, the river would break the record by more than 11 feet.

Enshayan, director of an environmental center at the University of Northern Iowa, suspects that this natural disaster wasn't really all that natural. He points out that the heavy rains fell on a landscape radically reengineered by humans. Plowed fields have replaced tallgrass prairies. Fields have been meticulously drained with underground pipes. Streams and creeks have been straightened. Most of the wetlands are gone. Flood plains have been filled and developed.

"We've done numerous things to the landscape that took away these water-absorbing functions," he said. "Agriculture must respect the limits of nature."

Officials are still trying to understand all the factors that contributed to Iowa's flooding, and not everyone has the same suspicions as Enshayan. For them, the cause was obvious: It rained buckets and buckets for days on end. They say the changes in land use were lesser factors in what was really just a case of meteorological bad luck.

Drastic changes to landscape

But some Iowans who study the environment suspect that changes in the land, both recently and over the past century or so, have made Iowa's terrain not only highly profitable but also highly vulnerable to flooding. They know it's a hard case to prove, but they hope to get Iowans thinking about how to reduce the chances of a repeat calamity.

"I sense that the flooding is not the result of a 500-year event," said Jerry DeWitt, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. "We're farming closer to creeks, farming closer to rivers. Without adequate buffer strips, the water moves rapidly from the field directly to the surface water."

Corn alone will cover more than a third of the state's land surface this year. The ethanol boom that began two years ago encouraged still more cultivation.

Between 2007 and 2008, farmers took 106,000 acres of Iowa land out of the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to keep farmland uncultivated, according to Lyle Asell, a special assistant for agriculture and environment with the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR). That land, if left untouched, probably would have been covered with perennial grasses with deep roots that help absorb water.

The basic hydrology of Iowa has been changed since the coming of the plow. By the early 20th century, farmers had installed drainage pipes under the surface to lower the water table and keep water from pooling in what otherwise could be valuable farmland. More of this drainage "tiling" has been added in recent years. The direct effect is that water moves quickly from the farmland to the streams and rivers.

"We've lost 90 percent of our wetlands," said Mary Skopec, who monitors water quality for the Iowa DNR.

Land ill-suited for deluge

Crop rotation may also play a subtle role in the flooding. Farmers who may have once grown a number of crops are now likely to stick to just corn and soybeans -- annual plants that don't put down deep roots.

Another potential factor: sediment. "We're actually seeing rivers filling up with sediment, so the capacity of the rivers has changed," Asell said. He said that in the 1980s and 1990s, Iowa led the nation in flood damage year after year.

This landscape wasn't ready for the kind of deluge that hit Iowa in May and early June. Central and eastern portions of the state received 15 inches of rain. That came on top of previous rains that had left the soil saturated. Worse, the rain came at the tail end of an unusually cool spring. Farmers had delayed planting their crops. The deluge struck a nearly naked landscape of small plants and black dirt.

"With that volume of rain, you're going to have flooding. There's just no way around it," said Donna Dubberke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities. "This is not just because someone put in a parking lot."

The rising Mississippi River is expected to peak this week, threatening towns and farmland north of St. Louis as floodwaters continue to move down the river. So far, flooding and severe weather have killed at least 24 people in three states and injured 106, forced the evacuations of about 40,000, and driven corn prices to record highs.

500-year flood every 15 years?

Two levees burst just north of Quincy, Ill., yesterday morning, forcing the evacuation of the small town of Meyer. Yesterday afternoon, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) visited the town after viewing the nearby Sny Island Levee, about 12 miles downstream from Quincy and, at 54 miles long, the second-biggest levee on the Mississippi.

In Iowa, the National Weather Service has reported record flooding at 12 locations on four rivers, including the Cedar, the Iowa, the Wapsipinicon and the Mississippi. The U.S. Geological Survey has preliminary data showing 500-year floods on the Cedar, the Shell Rock, the Upper Iowa and the Nodaway.

The Great Flood of 2008 has, for many inhabitants of sandbagged Iowa, come awfully soon after the Great Flood of 1993. Or, as Elwynn Taylor, a meteorologist at Iowa State University, put it: "Why should we have two 500-year floods within 15 years?"

Taylor attributes the flooding in recent years to cyclical climate change: The entire Midwest, he says, has been in a wet cycle for the past 30 years.

There has also been speculation that global warming could be a factor.

"Something in the system has changed," said Pete Kollasch, a remote-sensing analyst with the Iowa DNR. "The only thing I can point my finger at is global warming, but there's no proof of that."

Jeri Neal, a program leader for ecological systems and research at Iowa State's Leopold Center, said all these things have a cumulative effect on the landscape: "It doesn't have the resilience built into it that you need to withstand disturbances in the system."

The idea of a 500-year flood can be confusing. Hydrologists use the term to indicate a flooding event that they believe has a 0.2 percent chance -- 1 in 500 -- of happening in any given year in a specific location. A 100-year flood has a 1 in 100 chance of happening, and so on. Such estimates are based on many years of data collection, in some cases going back a century or more.

‘An act of City Council’

But the database can be spotty. Robert Holmes, national flood coordinator with the U.S. Geological Survey, said a lack of funding since 1999 has forced his agency to discontinue hundreds of stream gauges across the country. "It's not sexy to fund stream flow gauges," he said.

What's certain is that a lot of water had nowhere to go when the sky opened over Iowa this spring. Some rivers did things they'd never done before. The flood stage at Cedar Rapids, for example, is 12 feet. The previous record flood happened in 1929, when the Cedar hit 20 feet. This year the Cedar hit 20 feet and kept rising. Experts predicted it would crest at 22 feet, and then upped the estimate to 24 feet. The river had other ideas. At mid-morning last Friday, it finally crested at 31.3 feet.

The entire downtown was flooded and a railroad bridge collapsed, dumping rail cars filled with rock into the river.

"Cities routinely build in the flood plain," Enshayan said. "That's not an act of God; that's an act of City Council."

Staff writer Kari Lydersen contributed to this report from Quincy, Ill.

Here in Athens, Ohio, we know all about building for big bucks along the flood plain. Wal-Mart probably moved Heaven and certainly a lot of earth to stick its superbox right along the Hocking River. The City Council certainly was moved. Also in Ohio, our farmers are rubbing their hands with glee knowing our corn crop is doing fine. They should get a fine price at market later this summer---and I've given up all hope of ever again eating a half dozen ears soaked in butter and salt. As far as the ethanol "boom" goes, apparently humans will do anything to prevent having to change lifestyle! If you missed Jeff Goodell's Rolling Stone article last fall about the Ethanol Scam, it's not too late to catch up~~~

The comments generated from this article began furiously immediately---and the latest in the debate were contributed today!

Anonymous said...

But, but, but...The Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Hudson Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Reason Foundation, the American Freedom Coalition and the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (among others) have been spending considerable time and energy explaining that all is well with the world and that things could get even better if we would only come to our senses and get government off the backs of corporations. Hasn't Joel Achenbach been paying any attention?

Government is harmful and corporations and corporate libertarianism are a boundless good. I mean, ask DuPont, Chevron, Mobil, Monsanto, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, General Electric, General Dynamics, Philip Morris, Chemical Bank, Texaco, Westinghouse, the Western Coal Council and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

jazzolog said...

Two things continue to amaze me about Al Gore. The first is that every time he makes a speech or announcement about global warming, the Internet and media explode with reaction about him personally. Inevitably the blogs and message boards fill with the old hatred about how he looks, how he sounds, and how much electricity his house uses. There's also the comparison between the Gore full-time residence and one of the Bush summer homes, intimating proof the President is greener than Gore. Google it and you'll see page after page. People didn't seem to mind the guy until he announced for the presidency 8 years ago, whereupon the scream machine went after him---beginning with accusations he claimed to create the Internet---and hasn't stopped since. The latest rightwing presentation of the Gore electric bill shows it's gone up at least 10% in the last 2 years. (Whose hasn't?)

The second thing that amazes me is that he doesn't seem to answer these charges. I don't think it would be that hard for him to do. Yet, like John Kerry who followed, he continues to ignore the questions that are real, though rather adolescent, problems for other people in changing their own ecological behavior. Occasionally you'll find progressives trying to defend Gore's electric bill and airplane use with various explanations and theories...and I'm often tempted to do that too. His Contact-Al-Gore sites are filled with a couple years of friendly questions to him about this. But he doesn't reply. I think what many people find refreshing about Barack Obama is that he fights back...and he's good at it. This is a period of social dialogue when it's inappropriate to make it look as though the questions of the common man are beneath you to recognize.

PS I do not mean to intimate for one second that my good friend Jennifer Simon is asking her question in the tone I describe above. I think she's requesting information rather than challenging Mr. Gore.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jennifer Simon
Sent: Saturday, July 19, 2008 4:41 PM
Subject: RE: [athensgrow] [Fwd: Finally!]

Has Al Gore gone completely off the grid yet?

-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of Michelle Ajamian
Sent: Saturday, July 19, 2008 4:40 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: [athensgrow] [Fwd: Finally!]

al gore challenges the US to get all our electric from renewable resources in ten years... who attended the city council meeting about energy independence? please share what happened there for those of us who could not attend.



-------- Original Message -------- Subject: Finally!
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2008 09:22:49 -0700
From: Noah T. Winer, Political Action
To: michelle ajamian

Dear MoveOn member,

When John F. Kennedy challenged America to put a man on the moon in 10 years, many called it impossible.

Now, Al Gore has given a major speech with another visionary call:

"Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years."

This is huge. For someone with as much stature and credibility as Vice President Gore to embrace a goal this big and ambitious could be game-changing. But first, you've got to see it for yourself. Click here to watch the video:

Can't you just imagine the media ignoring Al Gore's message? If we pass this along to our friends and family, we'll make sure people hear about this, so our next president will accept the challenge.

We all know high gas prices and our economic downturn is related to climate change and the war in Iraq, but no one is connecting the dots. Until now.

Here's a key bit from Gore's speech:

Like a lot of people, it seems to me that all these problems are bigger than any of the solutions that have thus far been proposed for them, and that's been worrying me...

Yet when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges—the economic, environmental and national security crises.

We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change...

But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we're holding the answer to all of them right in our hand.

The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

Can we really get all our electricity from sources like solar and wind in 10 short years?

Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses.
And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand.

And of course, all this means more good jobs to re-power our economy:

When we send money to foreign countries to buy nearly 70 percent of the oil we use every day, they build new skyscrapers and we lose jobs. When we spend that money building solar arrays and windmills, we build competitive industries and gain jobs here at home.

With all the political posturing on high gas prices and drilling, it's amazing to hear someone being so honest:

It is only a truly dysfunctional system that would buy into the perverse logic that the short-term answer to high gasoline prices is drilling for more oil ten years from now.

Am I the only one who finds it strange that our government so often adopts a so-called solution that has absolutely nothing to do with the problem it is supposed to address? When people rightly complain about higher gasoline prices, we propose to give more money to the oil companies and pretend that they're going to bring gasoline prices down. It will do nothing of the sort, and everyone knows it...

However, there actually is one extremely effective way to bring the costs of driving a car way down within a few short years. The way to bring gas prices down is to end our dependence on oil and use the renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline.

It's truly a remarkable speech. Be sure to see it for yourself:

There's lots to do to make sure our elected leaders and candidates at all levels accept Gore's challenge, but the first step is making sure your friends and family hear about it. Forward this email to 5 friends today.

Thanks for all you do.

–Noah, Karin, Wes, Justin and the rest of the team

P.S. If you want to join Al Gore's campaign, We Can Solve it, click here:

jazzolog said...

Thomas Friedman has been traveling a bit for The New York Times I think, and now we know where he's been. His column yesterday relates a boat trip around melting Greenland~~~

The New York Times
August 6, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Learning to Speak Climate
Ilulissat, Greenland

Sometimes you just wish you were a photographer. I simply do not have the words to describe the awesome majesty of Greenland’s Kangia Glacier, shedding massive icebergs the size of skyscrapers and slowly pushing them down the Ilulissat Fjord until they crash into the ocean off the west coast of Greenland. There, these natural ice sculptures float and bob around the glassy waters near here. You can sail between them in a fishing boat, listening to these white ice monsters crackle and break, heave and sigh, as if they were noisily protesting their fate.

You are entirely alone here amid the giant icebergs, save for the solitary halibut fisherman who floats by. Our Greenlandic boat skipper sidles up to the tiny fishing craft, where my hosts buy a few halibut right out of his nets, slice open the tender cheeks and cut me the freshest halibut sushi I’ve ever tasted. “Greenland fast food,” quips Kim Kielsen, Greenland’s minister of the environment.

We wash it down with Scotch whiskey cooled by a 5,000-year-old ice cube chipped off one of the floating glacier bits. Some countries have vintage whiskey. Some have vintage wine. Greenland has vintage ice.

Alas, though, I do not work for National Geographic. This is the opinion page. And my trip with Denmark’s minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, to see the effects of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet leaves me with a very strong opinion: Our kids are going to be so angry with us one day.

We’ve charged their future on our Visa cards. We’ve added so many greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, for our generation’s growth, that our kids are likely going to spend a good part of their adulthood, maybe all of it, just dealing with the climate implications of our profligacy. And now our leaders are telling them the way out is “offshore drilling” for more climate-changing fossil fuels.

Madness. Sheer madness.

Most people assume that the effects of climate change are going to be felt through another big disaster, like Katrina. Not necessarily, says Minik Thorleif Rosing, a top geologist at Denmark’s National History Museum and one of my traveling companions. “Most people will actually feel climate change delivered to them by the postman,” he explains. It will come in the form of higher water bills, because of increased droughts in some areas; higher energy bills, because the use of fossil fuels becomes prohibitive; and higher insurance and mortgage rates, because of much more violently unpredictable weather.

Remember: climate change means “global weirding,” not just global warming.

Greenland is one of the best places to observe the effects of climate change. Because the world’s biggest island has just 55,000 people and no industry, the condition of its huge ice sheet — as well as its temperature, precipitation and winds — is influenced by the global atmospheric and ocean currents that converge here. Whatever happens in China or Brazil gets felt here. And because Greenlanders live close to nature, they are walking barometers of climate change.

That’s how I learned a new language here: “Climate-Speak.”

It’s easy to learn. There are only three phrases. The first is: “Just a few years ago ...” Just a few years ago you could dogsled in winter from Greenland, across a 40-mile ice bank, to Disko Island. But for the past few years, the rising winter temperatures in Greenland have melted that link. Now Disko is cut off. Put away the dogsled.

There has been a 30 percent increase in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet between 1979 and 2007, and in 2007, the melt was 10 percent bigger than in any previous year, said Konrad Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, which monitors the ice. Greenland is now losing 200 cubic kilometers of ice per year — from melt and ice sliding into the ocean from outlet glaciers along its edges — which far exceeds the volume of all the ice in the European Alps, he added. “Everything is happening faster than anticipated.”

The second phrase is: “I’ve never seen that before...” It rained in December and January in Ilulissat. This is well above the Arctic Circle! It’s not supposed to rain here in winter. Said Steffen: “Twenty years ago, if I had told the people of Ilulissat that it would rain at Christmas 2007, they would have just laughed at me. Today it is a reality.”

The third phrase is: “Well usually ...but now I don’t know anymore.” Traditional climate patterns that Greenland elders have known their whole lives have changed so quickly in some places that “the accumulated experience of older people is not as valuable as before,” said Rosing. The river that was always there is now dry. The glacier that always covered that hill has disappeared. The reindeer that were always there when the hunting season opened on Aug. 1 didn’t show up.

No wonder everyone here speaks climate now — your kids will, too, and sooner than they think.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company