Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A dark-chocolate shave and my breakfast this morning

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The Chiseled Face synthetic in the photo, like the Phoenix Artisan Valentine’s Day Dark Chocolate shaving soap and aftershave, is a one-off, though all are delightful.

The lather loaded the brush with brown soap, but as I worked the lather into the stubble it became white—and very fragrant, for those who like dark chocolate. (I in fact have a wonderful dark-chocolate rye whiskey.)

Three passes with the Rockwell 6S R3 plate was easy, comfortable, and effective, and a splash of the dark-chocolate aftershave finished the job.

Then I enjoyed a good breakfast. I put my small (8″) T-Fal pan over relatively high heat (7-8 on my 10-point dial on electric range), since the non-stick coating is insulating (which it is difficult to sear meat in a non-stick pan). When the pan is well-heated, add:

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
good pinch of salt
several grindings of black pepper

Sauté for a few minutes until the onion is soft and translucent, then add:

3/4 cup chopped oyster mushrooms (emphasis is on the caps, not the stems)
5 bay scallops
[1 chopped Serrano pepper, if I had had it]

When the mushrooms start to release their water, add:

4 cherry tomatoes, sliced (the ones I have are long, like little Roma tomatoes)

When tomatoes have cooked through, add:

2 jumbo eggs, beaten in a bowl

Use spatula to stir and turn, then slide it into a bowl. Very tasty and only 3 WW points (from the olive oil—everything else is zero points).

Also: two mugs of tea (in a 1-pint mug).

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 9:37 am

Posted in Food, Recipes, Shaving

Repeat of Pork, Apple, Red Cabbage and Black Rice GOPM

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I remade this GOPM, altering the recipe to accommodate lessons learned. Here’s what I did this time:

As usual, I list the layers in the order in which they were put into the pot (from the bottom up, in effect).

Rub 2.25 qt Staub cast-iron round cocotte (or other ≈2 qt cast-iron dutch oven) with olive oil, then add the following, all of which are 0 WW points except as indicated:

Layers
1/3 cup black rice (aka “Forbidden Rice”) (7 WW points)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbsp = 1 WW point)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
6 oz boneless pork sirloin, cut into chunks (3 WW points)
1 Honeycrisp apple (or other apple), cored and cut into chunks (don’t peel)
light sprinkling of ground cinnamon
6 oz boneless pork sirloin, cut into chunks (3 WW points)
3/4 cup chopped or shredded red cabbage

Pour-over
1.5 Tbsp olive oil (6 WW points)
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (1 WW point)
2 tsp tamari sauce

Put the lid on, put into pre-heated 450ºF oven for 45 minutes, remove, let sit 15 minutes and enjoy.

Total the way I made it is 20 WW points, and for us this is 4 servings, thus 5 WW points per serving.

Result

The rice was more nearly cooked, but still a little al dente. Next time I make it I’ll try it with pot (Scotch) barley. Regular white rice would probably work well.

I found in the earlier recipe that the pork as it cooked welded itself together into a solid chunk, so this time I split it into two batches, and with each I spaced out the pork pieces somewhat, with the apple layer between the two pork layers. This worked out very well and the pork remained in small chunks.

I didn’t use ginger, but that was fine. There was still more liquid than I expected. I might skip the tamari next time.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 6:42 pm

Posted in Food, GOPM, Recipes

In Rural Tennessee, a Big ICE Raid Makes Some Conservative Voters Rethink Trump’s Immigration Agenda

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Jonathan Bltizer writes in the New Yorker:

April 5th began in the usual way at the Southeastern Provision meat-processing plant, in Bean Station, Tennessee—some workers were breaking down carcasses on the production line, while others cleaned the floors—until, around 9 a.m., a helicopter began circling above the plant. Moments later, a fleet of cars pulled up outside. Agents from the I.R.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice), and the Tennessee Highway Patrol emerged, and proceeded to arrest ninety-seven people, most of them originally from Mexico or Guatemala, for working without legal papers. It was the largest workplace roundup of immigrants in a decade.

Bean Station is a sleepy lakeside town of three thousand people in eastern Tennessee. The Southeastern Provision plant—located just off the main roadway, past cattle farms and clapboard churches—is made up of a string of dilapidated barn buildings, but it is the third-largest business in Grainger County. Two hundred and fifty head of cattle pass through the plant each day, which translates to roughly thirty million dollars of business every year. After the raid, the I.R.S. said in a court filing that many workers there typically make less than minimum wage, and that the agency believes the owners of the plant, headed by a man named James Brantley, owe the government millions of dollars in back taxes. But neither Brantley nor any of the other owners of the business were arrested on April 5th. (Lawyers for the plant owners could not be reached for comment.) Of the ninety-seven people taken into custody, ten are facing federal criminal charges relating to past immigration violations, and one is facing state criminal charges. The remaining eighty-six people were placed in deportation proceedings. Thirty-two of these people were released on the day of the raid—allowed to return to their families and sleep at home as their cases work through the system—but fifty-four were kept in detention, and many were soon moved to facilities out of state.

Most of the people who were arrested lived not in Bean Station but in a town called Morristown, part of Hamblen County, about ten miles to the south. In Morristown, a larger town of thirty thousand people, the raid was catastrophic news. Families’ worst fear had come true: husbands, fathers, wives, mothers—gone. The following day, more than five hundred students were reported absent from area schools, kept home out of a combination of fear, anxiety, and confusion. The raid also set off a whirl of activity, as relatives of those arrested gathered each day at a church in the center of town to meet with advocacy groups and discuss their legal options.

This past weekend, I travelled to Morristown to talk to the families affected by the raid and also to observe how the wider community was responding. While Hamblen County is home to a sizable immigrant community from Central America—11.5 per cent of its population is Hispanic, more than twice the state average—it’s also a deeply conservative place. In 2016, seventy-seven per cent of the county voted for Donald Trump. Yet in the two weeks since the raid, Morristown residents have helped raise sixty thousand dollars to help families with relatives in detention. A vigil was held in support of the families of those arrested, and volunteers from local schools, churches, and businesses had been distributing food and coördinating other forms of assistance. For many people in town, the raid exposed the human costs of the political fight over immigration policy.

“Immigration is kind of a hot-button topic here,” Hank Smith, a fifty-year-old salesman from Morristown, told me. “Some people feel like immigrants are taking our jobs, that they’re not paying their taxes. But others are more sympathetic.” Smith counts himself among the latter group. “I’m a Christian; God loves everybody equally. And I never had a problem with anyone being here,” he said. Nevertheless, in 2016, Smith voted for Trump. He had been mostly indifferent to Trump’s anti-immigrant invective on the campaign trail; the rhetoric didn’t resonate with him personally, but it didn’t alienate him, either. “My kids were getting to an age where they’d be going to work, so the economy was the major issue for my family,” he told me. “It’s the things that affect us the most that we vote on. And immigration didn’t really affect me before. But then this raid happened.”

After Trump took office, ice announced that it planned to quadruple the number of workplace inspections it conducts. In January, the agency launched stings at ninety-eight 7-Eleven franchises in seventeen states. Smith hadn’t noticed those. But when the arrests happened closer to home, he was immediately struck by the fact that many of the people who’d been picked up had lived in the area for more than a decade. He knew people like them, he told me—“they work hard and they do the jobs that no one else wants to do.” He also felt strong sympathy for their kids. Smith said, “I felt I understood the legal side of it. But this is the first time I really started looking at the human side. Families are being divided.”

Smith and I had met through his pastor, David Williams, who leads the Hillcrest Baptist Church—a large, pale-brick building on the eastern edge of downtown Morristown, across the street from the elementary school where the vigil was held. Most of Hillcrest’s congregants are white—the town’s immigrant community tends to gravitate to St. Patrick, the Catholic church a few miles down the road—but Williams has been among the most vocal members of the local clergy in calling for solidarity with the families affected by the raid. “I look at this from a humanitarian perspective,” he told me. “You cannot be a true Christian if you ignore your neighbor in need.” Some of his parishioners dislike his outspokenness, but not all of them. “The people in the middle have had their hearts soften because of the raid,” he said.

Morristown is close-knit, politically conservative, and religious—and in recent years, it’s been growing more diverse. The town has become a regional manufacturing hub, home to plants belonging to Japanese, German, and Belgian companies. Immigrants from Central America began to trickle in during the nineteen-eighties as seasonal workers at tomato farms, and the influx increased as they began staying in the area year-round to work at chicken-processing plants nearby.

One morning, I met with Morristown’s Mayor, Gary Chesney, a self-described “lifelong Republican of the Reagan variety,” in his office at a commercial insurance company. (Being mayor in Morristown is a part-time job.) Chesney had heard that an undercover I.R.S. agent had been working at Southeastern Provision to scope out the conditions before the raid, and that the agent had asked some of the undocumented workers at the plant why they’d taken jobs in Bean Station if they lived in Morristown. “They said, ‘We’re here because we can’t get jobs in Morristown,’ ” Chesney said. “I was proud of that. We’ve been following the rules and guidelines here. But the innocent victims were the kids whose parents were picked up. I was also proud that our locals took care of the innocent folks.” Chesney didn’t see a contradiction in these two sources of pride; he stressed the town’s capacity both for conservatism and for reasonableness. National politics had further intensified the local conversation about immigration, he said—everyone knew that there were many Morristown residents who were anti-immigrant, and whose views remained the same after the raid—but he believed some of the acrimony stemmed from misinformation about how the undocumented were “gaming the system” or committing crimes. Chesney said, “We all get a little bit smarter as the issue gets more personal.”

My first night in Morristown, I had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. A family—a couple with two young kids—was sitting in the booth next to mine, and before the parents paid their check, they flagged down their waitress with a question. “We’re trying to figure out who’s right,” the husband—who was white, bearded, and looked to be about forty—told her. “Is it ‘estoy cansado’ or ‘soy cansado?’ ” Laughing, the waitress replied in accented English, and a conversation ensued about the grammatical differences between the two Spanish forms of the verb “to be.” As the family left, I approached the man and asked him for his thoughts on the recent raid. “Terrible stuff,” he said. He felt for the families. But he did have one reservation about the community’s response. “It’s great that everyone’s pulling together to help. But what about the citizens here who need help? Are they getting it, too?”

On Sunday afternoon, thirty people gathered in the chapel of St. Patrick church for an information session that had been advertised with flyers that read,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 4:05 pm

A Short History of Threats Received by Donald Trump’s Opponents: The pattern goes beyond Stormy Daniels.

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Decca Muldowney reports in ProPublica:

When Stormy Daniels spoke to “60 Minutes” last month, the porn actress described a threat she received years ago after speaking to a journalist about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. A stranger approached her in a parking lot in Las Vegas. Daniels was there with her baby daughter. “Leave Trump alone,” Daniels recalled the man warning her. “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”

Daniels did not report the threat to the police. On Wednesday, Donald Trump tweeted that Daniels’ account of events was “a total con job” about a “non-existent man.”

As it happens, other people in disputes with Trump have also found themselves the targets of threats — and sometimes they’ve reported it to authorities.

We asked both the Trump Organization and White House about each of the incidents. They did not respond.

Thirty-six years ago, a New York City housing commissioner in a dispute with Trump says he received a death threat.

In 1982, New York City Housing Commissioner Anthony Gliedman received what he described as an “abusive and profane” call from someone angry that Gliedman had opposed Trump’s request for a $20 million tax abatement. Gliedman reported the call to the FBI, saying the caller was “threatening his life.” The documents, obtained by BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold through a Freedom of Information Act request, show the FBI decided not to pursue the case.

The next day, Trump called the FBI, saying he had also received a call with threats to both himself and Gliedman. According to the FBI notes, Trump explained he was “merely passing on this information not only for his own safety but for the safety of Commissioner GLIEDMAN.”

A former police officer says he “deterred” Trump’s opponents in Atlantic City.

Former NYPD detective turned private investigator Bo Dietl, (who appeared in Martin Scorsese’s mob film, “Goodfellas,”) told the Daily Beastin 2016 that Trump used him to “deter” opponents. He says he once confronted an unnamed Atlantic City attorney who was making trouble for Trump. “He hired me to get the guy,” Dietl said, “So I went to visit the guy who was trying to fuck with Trump, and I says, you know, I think you better think about this.” Eventually the attorney “just mysteriously went away,” Dietl told the Daily Beast.

In emails to ProPublica, Dietl denied making these statements: “I NEVER said I was hired by Trump. I said I knew Trump and know the Lawyer. I helped settle a deal. No threats.”

Nine years ago, a lawyer representing Trump Atlantic City casino creditors says he got threatening phone calls. The FBI traced one of them to a payphone outside the “Late Show With David Letterman,” where Trump was appearing.

“My name is Carmine,” the caller told the lawyer, Kristopher Hansen, in 2009. “I don’t know why you’re fucking with Mr. Trump but if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids.” BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold (again) first reported the incident.

In 2015, a reporter covering Ivana Trump’s claim that Trump raped her says he was threatened by Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.

“I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting,” the Daily Beast’s Tim Mak, recalled Cohen telling him. “You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up … for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet.”

Cohen did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.

Stormy Daniels also recalled that a man, she believes Cohen, said her life would be “hell” if she refused to sign a statement denying her affair with Trump.

In Stormy Daniels’ recent interview with Anderson Cooper, she said that after the Wall Street Journal revealed the pay-off she received from Cohen, she was coerced into signing the statement denying her affair with Donald Trump. Here is the full exchange. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 3:12 pm

What the Rape and Murder of a Child Reveals About Modi’s India

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Mitali Saan writes in the NY Times:

India is sliding toward a collapse of humanity and ethics in political and civic life, as the recent reports of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl from a seminomadic Muslim community in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir reveal. Politicians from India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party defended the men accused of the crime and ignited a furious debate about the fundamental character of the country.

The child was abducted in January and imprisoned for a week in a temple, where she was drugged, starved and raped repeatedly before being murdered. Her body was thrown into the forest. At the time the crime passed without much comment beyond the local press.

Outrage finally exploded last week, after a front-page report in the Indian Express newspaper revealed terrifying details from the police charge sheet, including the fact that one of the accused, a police officer, had asked his co-conspirators to hold off killing the child so that he could rape her once more.

The charge sheet and other reports strongly suggested that this was not a random crime but one deliberately in line with the ugly sectarian politics playing out across India. Intimidation of religious minorities and violence against them has increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to power in 2014. India’s traditional secularism is now locked in battle with the new majoritarian, Hindu chauvinist politics he represents.

The 8-year-old girl belonged to the Muslim Bakarwal people, who move with their sheep and horses between high mountain pastures in the summer and the plains of the Hindu-dominated Jammu region in winter. There is tension with local Hindus over the right to graze animals on the land. According to the police, the motive of the premeditated crime was to terrorize the Bakarwals and dislodge them from the area. The bereaved parents were not even allowed to bury the child in the village. They have since fled the area.

A newly formed group called Hindu Ekta Manch, or Hindu Unity Forum, organized a protest march in defense of the accused, who include a retired government official and two police officers. Thousands joined in, many waving the Indian national flag. Vijay Sharma, a co-founder of the group and an organizer of the march, was also a high-ranking leader of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the region.

Mr. Modi’s party shares power with a regional political party in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Two B.J.P. ministers in the state government joined the protest in defense of the accused. “So what if a girl died?” one of them remarked. “Many girls die every day.”

They demanded that the investigation be transferred from the state police — the investigators included Muslim officers — to the federal Central Bureau of Investigation, a largely delegitimized institution that serves as a de facto arm of the ruling party. Lawyers at a court in the city of Jammu tried to physically prevent officials from filing charges against the accused and have threatened the lawyer who is representing the girl’s family.

Over the past week, horrified Indians have protested vigorously on social media and in some cities. The disgust and the fury at the complicity of politicians, and the federal government’s silence, grew into a thunderous chorus demanding that the prime minister speak up and fire the ministers backing the Hindu Ekta Manch.

Belatedly reacting to popular outrage, Mr. Modi finally said: “Incidents being discussed since past two days cannot be part of a civilized society. As a country, as a society, we all are ashamed of it.” He promised justice. His vague statement delicately alluded to another case in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where a lawmaker from Mr. Modi’s party is accused of rape. Mr. Modi stayed away from his party’s involvement in both cases.

Yet instead of uniting India in horror, the incident has deepened religious, political and ethical divides. It has also made clear that there is no automatic political cost to crime or falsehood if it furthers the hegemonic political narrative. The politicians involved were sacked only after a huge public outcry. Government ministers, officials, right-leaning media and right-wing supporters have been perfectly sanguine about using the dead child to polarize society with whataboutery, fake news and wild conspiracy theories.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Modi’s party . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 3:09 pm

Living among humans favours fearless problem-solvers interested in new things. That’s how city birds get smarter

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Menno Schilthuizen, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden in the Netherlands, holds a chair in evolution at Leiden University. His latest book is Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution (2018). He writes in Aeon:

A crumbling concrete wall, a ramp and a vast expanse of asphalt on which identical silvery-grey sedans are slowly circling and zigzagging between traffic cones. It does not seem like much but, to urban biologists, the Kadan driving school in the Japanese city of Sendai is hallowed ground. The four of us (the biology students Minoru Chiba and Yawara Takeda, the biologist Iva Njunjić, and I) have been sitting on that crumbling wall for several hours now, hoping to observe what this place is famous for.

It was here that, in 1975, the local carrion crows (Corvus corone) discovered how to use cars as nutcrackers. The crows have a predilection for the Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia) that grows abundantly in the city. The pretty nuts (a bit smaller than commercial walnuts, and with a handsome heart-shaped interior) are too tough for the crows to crack with their beaks, so for time immemorial they have been dropping them from the air onto rocks to open them. Everywhere in the city, you find parking lots strewn with the empty nutshells: the crows either drop them in flight or carry them to the tops of adjoining buildings and then throw them over the edge onto the asphalt below.

But all this flying up and down is tiring, and sometimes the nuts need to be dropped repeatedly before they split. So, at some point, these crows came up with a better idea. They would drop nuts among the wheels of slow-driving cars, and pick up the flesh after the car had passed. The behaviour started at the Kadan driving school, where there are plenty of slow-moving cars, was copied by other crows, and so spread to other places in the city where slow-moving giant nutcrackers were common, such as near sharp bends in the road, and at intersections. At such places, rather than dropping the nuts from above, the crows would station themselves by the roadside and place them more accurately on the road. Since then, the fad has also turned up in other cities in Japan.

In 1995, the zoologist Yoshiaki Nihei then at Tohoku University in Sendai made a detailed study of the behaviour. He observed how the crows would wait near a traffic light, wait for it to turn red, then step in front of the cars, place their nuts, and hop back to the curb to wait for the light to change. When the traffic had passed, they would return to the road to retrieve their quarry. His work revealed the crows’ finesse in handling their ‘tool’. For example, the birds would sometimes move a walnut a few centimetres if it took too long for it to be hit by a wheel. In one case, he even saw how a crow would walk into the path of an oncoming car, forcing it to brake, and then quickly toss a nut in front of its wheels.

These fascinating observations languished in relatively obscure Japanese scientific papers until 1997. That year, the BBC came to Sendai to film the crows for David Attenborough’s series The Life of Birds. His voice-over made them an instant hit: ‘They station themselves at pedestrian crossings … Wait for the lights to stop the traffic. Then, collect your cracked nut in safety!’

So, finding ourselves in this city with its famous urban crows, our merry band devote the day to viewing them for ourselves. Minoru and Yawara tell us that the crows’ trick is well-known in town. In fact, it is a favourite pastime to throw the crows nuts and watch them perform. So, with a bag of walnuts brought all the way from the Netherlands, we try our luck. But the crows are not cooperating. We have already spent the whole morning at traffic lights at intersections, stupidly waiting on canvas folding chairs at the mercy of the surprised stares of endless motorists but, so far, in vain. And we have now ended up at the reputed epicentre, the Kadan driving school. It is getting hot, and we’re hungry and tired. With glazed-over eyes, we stare at the heaps of nuts we have laid out at various positions on the school’s test range. The school’s students carefully avoid them, and the crows fly over without even looking down. This is what urban fieldwork is like.

Perhaps, Minoru and Yawara finally admit, it is too early in the year. The nuts are not ripe yet, the young birds have just fledged, and groups of crows are marauding the city to feast on other things, such as the ripe mulberries that are in abundance everywhere. I sigh and stare a bit more. Then, I hear a cracking noise behind me. I turn around to see that Iva has begun eating our stock of walnuts. She looks at me defiantly: ‘What? They’re not going to come anyway!’

Carrion crows do not occur only in Japan. They also exist in western Europe, where you can similarly find plenty of cars, pedestrian crossings and walnuts. And yet carrion crows in Europe somehow never learnt to exploit human automobile traffic in the Rube-Goldbergian way that they do in Japan.

That is not to say that humans in Europe are safe from having their behaviour manipulated by birds, as demonstrated to us for nearly a century by the famous (and annoying) milk bottletop-opening skills of tits – lively songbirds with a handsome pattern of yellow, black and blue (the blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus), and olive-green (the great tit, Parus major).

Tits – in fact, all birds – cannot digest milk. Unlike mammals, they lack the enzymes needed to break down the lactose. But the layer of cream that collects at the top of old-fashioned, unhomogenised milk contains very little lactose, and a hungry bird in winter could do worse than supplement its fat intake with a bit of rich cream snatched from the neck of a milk bottle. And that is exactly what tits had been doing for a while in the late-19th and early 20th century in England and elsewhere in Europe, when milkmen were still in the habit of leaving open bottles of milk on people’s doorsteps in the morning. Before the resident mammal would have time to open the door and bring the bottles into safety, a tit would swoop in, land on the neck of a bottle, and dip its beak in the cream inside, consuming up to an inch of the coveted food.

Unfortunately, the very first stages of the ensuing game of attrition between human and bird are lost in the mists of time. Presumably, it was a matter of racing to the front door as soon as the milkman’s cart was spotted, not to give the tits a chance to steal any cream. Tits, not to be outdone, would be hanging out near people’s doorsteps at milk-delivery time to try to get there first. In any case,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 3:04 pm

The ecological cost of humanity: Since 2016, Half of All Coral in the Great Barrier Reef Has Died

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Robinson Meyer writes in the Atlantic:

Once upon a time, there was a city so dazzling and kaleidoscopic, so braided and water-rimmed, that it was often compared to a single living body. It clustered around a glimmering emerald spine, which astronauts could glimpse from orbit. It hid warm nooks and crannies, each a nursery for new life. It opened into radiant, iris-colored avenues, which tourists crossed oceans to see. The city was, the experts declared, the planet’s largest living structure.

Then, all at once, a kind of invisible wildfire overran the city. It consumed its avenues and neighborhoods, swallowed its canyons and branches. It expelled an uncountable number of dwellers from their homes. It was merciless: Even those who escaped the initial ravishment perished in the famine that followed.

Many people had loved the city, but none of them could protect it. No firefighters, no chemicals, no intervention of any kind could stop the destruction. As the heat plundered the city of its wealth, the experts could only respond with careful, mournful observation.

All of this recently happened, more or less, off the east coast of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef—which, at 1,400 miles long, is the longest and largest coral reef in the world—was blanketed by dangerously hot water in the summer of 2016. This heat strangled and starved the corals, causing what has been called “an unprecedented bleaching event.”

Though that bleaching event was reported at the time, scientists are just starting to understand how catastrophically transformative it was. A new paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, serves as a kind of autopsy report for the debacle.

After inspecting every one of its reefs, and surveying them on an almost species-by-species basis, the paper reports that vast swaths of the Great Barrier Reef were permanently transformed in the summer of 2016. The reef’s northern third, previously its most pristine section, lost more than half of its corals. Two of its most recognizable creatures—the amber-colored staghorn corals, and the flat, fanlike tabular corals—suffered the worst casualties.

But damage was widespread out across the entire ecosystem.

“On average, across the Great Barrier Reef, one in three corals died in nine months,” said Terry Hughes, an author of the paper and the director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the Australian government’s federal research program devoted to corals.

“You could say [the ecosystem] has collapsed. You could say it has degraded. I wouldn’t say that’s wrong,” Hughes said. “A more neutral way of putting it is that it has transformed into a completely new system that looks differently, and behaves differently, and functions differently, than how it was three years ago.”

“It’s a confirmation of our worst fears,” said John Bruno, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina who was not involved in the study.

Yet it was not the end of troubles for the Great Barrier Reef. In the summer months of 2017, warm waters again struck the reef and triggered another bleaching event. This time, the heat hit the reef’s middle third. Hughes and his team have not published a peer-reviewed paper on that event, but he shared early survey results with me.

Combined, he said, the back-to-back bleaching events killed one in every two corals in the Great Barrier Reef. It is a fact almost beyond comprehension: In the summer of 2015, more than 2 billion corals lived in the Great Barrier Reef. Half of them are now dead.

What caused the devastation? Hughes was clear: human-caused global warming. The accumulation of heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere has raised the world’s average temperature, making the oceans hotter and less hospitable to fragile tropical corals.

“People often ask me, ‘Will we have a Great Barrier Reef in 50 years, or 100 years?’ And my answer is, yes, I certainly hope so—but it’s completely contingent on the near-future trajectory of greenhouse-gas emissions,” Hughes said.

The Paris Agreement on climate change aims to prevent the world’s average temperature from rising by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). “One degree of that warming has already occurred since industrialization,” Hughes said. “That 1 degree has obviously made things uncomfortable for reefs—most reefs have bleached three or four times since 1998.”

“But the global-average target includes both land and sea, the poles and the tropics,” he continued. “The sea is warming at a slower rate than the land, and the tropics are warming more slowly than higher latitudes near the poles. So far, we’ve seen less than 1 degree of warming in the ocean—about 0.7 degrees Celsius. If we go to 2 degrees, we’ll see another 0.55 degrees on average in the tropics. I think that’s possibly doable in terms of still having functional coral reefs, but as we’ve already seen, the mix of species will be very different than it was just two years ago.”

It is about as hopeful a note as you can get out of him. And there’s one glaring problem: The world is currently not on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals. And the United States announced it would leave the treaty last year.


The new paper also advances its own idea of what the future of the Great Barrier Reef will look like. In short, it is highly unlikely that the Great Barrier Reef—the northern reef, especially—will resemble its old self in the lifetime of any living person. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 2:28 pm

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