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David Dudley's Posts


‘Chasing Ice’ lets you watch the Arctic glaciers disappear before your eyes. Feel better?

Chasing Ice

In 100 years or so, when Google’s autonomous robo-historians write the book on their fleshy predecessors, they will no doubt try to explain why we blew it on climate change. Why, despite decades of ever-more-definitive evidence, did the human species not take even the most basic of measures to avoid a catastrophe?

They will find plenty of blame to pass around. Our political systems, they will observe, just weren’t up to the diplomatic challenges of mustering a multinational effort -- we couldn’t agree on whose fault it was, who should pay to fix it, even whether we should bother trying. Our brains proved ill-equipped to process the gravity of a long-range threat until it was too late. And our news media, the storytellers to whom this message was entrusted, were too easily distracted by more lurid dramas.

We didn’t see it coming, even though, on every other level, we knew it was.

This, as nature photographer James Balog tells us in the documentary Chasing Ice, is essentially a failure of imagination. Unless you have a glacier in your backyard, the earliest effects of a warming planet have so far appeared to most of us only intermittently, a signal lost in the noise of the daily weather.

Read more: Climate & Energy


You’ll never eat crabs again: Barry Levinson’s eco-freakout ‘The Bay’

In the summer of 1997, fish in the Chesapeake Bay started turning up dazed, dying, and covered with bleeding lesions. The culprit was a toxic microbe called Pfiesteria piscicida, which was flourishing in the warm, polluted waterways. The one-celled organism, discovered less than a decade earlier, had already killed millions of fish in North Carolina. Now it had spread north -- and it was infecting humans, too. More than a dozen watermen exposed to the microbe-laden water fell ill with sores, intestinal woes, and neurocognitive impairments such as confusion and memory loss.

By September, with a national media panic in full gallop, three Maryland rivers were closed to all commercial and recreational use. Seafood sales plummeted, as buyers swore off Maryland crabs and other bay delicacies. An investigative commission blamed the outbreak on high levels of phosphorus, a byproduct of the region’s vast chicken industry.

Take that kernel of reality, add steroids, CGI, and the herky-jerk verisimilitude of the found-footage horror genre, and you have The Bay, director Barry Levinson’s spookily plausible exercise in old-school cautionary eco-freakout.

Read more: Food


Where the sun don’t shine: Solar Decathlon beams amid scandal and rain

See related slideshow. Last Friday was a tough day for fans of sun-sourced electrical power. On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers were beating up on two executives from Solyndra, the defunct California solar panel manufacturer whose bankruptcy is proving to be such a headache for the Obama administration. Meanwhile, a mile or so away, the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon, a biennial eco-jamboree for renewable energy technology, opened to the public under murky skies and clammy sheets of rain. Where's your sun now? This is the fifth Solar Decathlon, a 10-day event featuring 20 teams of college students who have designed …