Dec 172018

Temperature values for global warming are reported in degrees above pre-industrial levels, with average values dominating. However, it seems far more sensible to report values for regions where global warming is having the most impact, namely the Arctic and Antarctic. On average, we are about 1 degree Celsius over pre-industrial levels, and this frankly does not seem to disturb most people, particularly if defensively downplaying the impacts of global warming. Considering that the Arctic and Antarctic regions are now about 2-4 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, and 3-4 degrees is when runaway negative feedback cycles occur, I suggest that these regions need to be the focus. In researching global warming (see, At The Tipping Point: How To Save Us From Self-Destruction, and understanding how natural entities are highly interconnected, I came to appreciate that it is these negative feedback cycles that will be most telling. They include occurrences such as:

  • Open water absorbing more heat, driving more melting of sea ice, more heat absorption.
  • Carbon soot on ice absorbing light, melting ice raising temperatures with greater light absorption from open water.
  • Melting water from glaciers creating a lubricating surface causing the glacier to slide into the sea, where it melts, leaving less cooling ice.
  • Melting permafrost releasing methane, that ramps up temperatures, resulting in more permafrost melting.


Perhaps it is time that we move away from the focus on average temperature increases and emphasis temperature increases in the Arctic and Antarctic where it really counts. Those who spin things to not see an impact of these regions on the overall world and themselves personally, really need to appreciate that all things in nature are connected!

Jan 302023

Acts of gun violence are a regular occurrence in the United States, prompting repeated calls for gun control of various forms. Unfortunately, these calls for legal reform fail, an occurrence as consistent as the gun violence that prompted the calls for reform. Perhaps it is time that the entire scenario be questioned, as there might be a better way to address this entrenched problem.

That better way is narratives! At an individual level we all have stories about our own life, some more central and others more minor. For instance, a person might view their athletic ability as a central self-narrative. In a similar fashion, nations have narratives that help to define them. In the United States arguably the most powerful narrative is, THE GUN. The west was won by the gun, and the cowboy-gun narrative is potent. Freedom and democracy represent another prominent narrative, although, maybe less robust than THE GUN, because democracy and freedom were largely won by the gun, as in World War II.

Of crucial significance, narratives are fiction and not reality, although they are treated like the real thing. For example, a cowboy and his gun—what could be more accurate? As it turns out, cowboys in the past and the few remaining in the present, can live just fine without a gun, but need a rope. For the true cowboy a rope is more important, but the storyline, “The west was won by the rope” does not really resonate well, even though it is more accurate. Given the power of prominent fictional narratives like THE GUN, trying to advance gun control is likely as effective as bringing a pellet gun to a tank battle. Might the power of narratives provide a way to make a real change in gun violence?

The key strategy that needs to be employed is to first change the prominent narrative to create fertile ground for legal changes. Take England where a prominent narrative is the monarchy and its role over centuries. If for some reason the monarchy was dangerous, trying to legislate its removal would be impossible given the power of the Royal Family narrative. Instead, this narrative would have to be diluted and weakened, such as by showing that the monarchy was not so important to England and maybe even detrimental. Then with the power of the Royal Family national narrative greatly diminished, legislating the abolition of it might be feasible. Likewise, if media, documentary and other filmmakers, writers, and leading figures, strongly questioned THE GUN narrative in the United States to dilute and weaken the power, then and only then, might legislative changes favoring gun control have a chance!

Mar 282022

A month into the disgusting attack by Putin and the Russian military against Ukraine, I write this post not in response to Putin, but in reaction to leaders of the west, NATO, and the United Nations. The bravery and resolve of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the people of that country, in fighting a force ten times larger in terms of troops and weaponry is highly inspirational. Russian forces have been halted in some instances, stalled in most, and even pushed back, despite Ukraine forces being sadly deficient in weapons of offense. They need these weapons to survive and win, and without them are being pummeled by missile strikes, with citizens bearing much of the suffering. In stark contrast to the very inspirational performance of President Zelenskyy and Ukraine forces, is that of western leaders, NATO, and the United Nations, characterized by cowardice, self-interest, and stupidity, not necessarily in that order. They appear terrified of Putin, and what he might do despite the Russian leader being very calculating, and hence, extremely unlikely to apply long-range nuclear missiles, assuming Russia itself is not attacked. Self-interest is demonstrated by several European leaders wanting to ensure that the flow of Russian oil and natural gas continues, and how turning off the taps might impair their re-election hopes; they appear to be assuming that their citizens are as self-interested as they are, when support for Ukraine is extremely high in almost every country.

Then we come to stupidity, a nasty word but one that I strongly believe applies. It has been said that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history, and to not learn the key lessons of World War II is frankly stupid, and certainly when applied to world leaders! When Hitler began his campaign of aggression the reaction of the west was generally appeasement, allowing Hitler to grow in confidence and capacity. An early aggressive intervention by the west would likely have ended his ambitions and prevented WWII in Europe. Much like Hitler, dictators like Putin undoubtedly interpret the stance of western leaders as weakness, and they are accurate in that perspective. Putin has expressed how Ukraine is an impediment to his ambitions for Eastern Europe. If Putin and the Russian forces succeed in taking Ukraine, incursions into eastern European countries are inevitable, at least once the Russian army has a chance to rebuild and learn from their mistakes. Then we will have WWIII in all likelihood! It is stupid not to learn from the lessons of history. The rhetoric of “not an inch of NATO soil is to be taken by Russia” is hollow, as if they failed to help Ukraine with weapons of offense, let alone do the ultimate right thing and send troops in to push the Russians into the Crimean Sea, then it is unlikely that they will not try and appease Putin when these incursions start. Giving up on the fight for freedom and democracy against control and autocracy once, means it will likely repeat. Perhaps these western leaders should consider the bravery of Franklin D. Roosevelt during WWII, who despite warnings from his advisors that England was expected to collapse in 6 months, and how Hitler will be upset about the United States delivering weapons, he ignored them and sent all the weapons available. The actions of Winston Churchill, and how his words and behavior guided and inspired the nation, likewise need to be pondered. Following in their footsteps, with his own flair, is Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has acted as a true leader, standing strong and rallying his people and forces to fight the Russian aggressors. If I was a politician, I would want to be remembered as being like one of these three inspirational leaders, and not my performance being characterized by cowardice, self-interested, and stupidity!

Nov 142019

Social and environmental justice, or more to the point, injustice, are often treated separately, but they are very interconnected. This intersection of social and environmental injustice might well be what eventually triggers widespread revolution, given that it is typically less affluent people who suffer the burden of the cost. In tropical countries, the poor often live right by the coast, while the wealthy reside in more exclusive hillside communities protected from flooding, for instance. Revolution was touched off in Syria by the intersection of social and environmental injustice, given that water scarcity linked to global warming created great suffering for poor farmers, while wealthier farmers could bribe officials to secure scarce water. This provides a country level example of what could happen on a global scale! Hence, it might be wise to consider the intersection of social and environmental justice when considering either.

Feb 102017

Warming of the planet from carbon dioxide (CO2) and other so-called greenhouse gases is a problem in contrast to what some still believe, and a problem that will not go away. Much like alcoholism it persists despite denials of its existence. The problem arises from our burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas. Generally speaking, there are three ways of dealing with the problem: First, prepare as best we can for a globally warmed world, second, switch to greener sources of energy, and third, sequester carbon from the atmosphere. In, At The Tipping Point: How to Save Us From Self-Destruction, I cover each of these options in detail. Even ten years ago few spoke openly about relying on the first option, but more and more I hear politicians stating this very option. However, it is very sad when it comes down to just allowing a fully globally warmed world to occur with all the associated costs. Given our technical capabilities, which largely created this problem in the first place, we should be able to solve the problem. Of course, part of the solution involves checking our endless growth economic model with the associated hyper-consumerism, something few seem open to. The second option, switching to greener sources of energy frequently falter because they often run counter to the endless growth economic model. In addition, our energy needs are so great that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to supply all that we need from green energy.


The best option we have is to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, with one possibility consisting of machines that can do this. Unfortunately, when the carbon costs of producing all the associated piping to transfer the carbon underground are considered, this option loses its lustre. However, there is a way that actually has numerous spin-off benefits and will help return the planet to a more natural state: Converting our major annual seed crops to perennials. Annual plants only last a year with their roots dying off, whereas perennials last more than a year, the roots remaining alive. Annual seed crops include wheat, corn, rice, soybean, sunflower, oat, barley, chickpea, common bean, peanut, pearl millet, rape, and sorghum. Perennial fruits include apple, apricot, avocado, banana, blackcurrant, grape, kiwi, pear, pineapple, plum, strawberry, and raspberries. Perennial vegetables include eggplant, broccoli, asparagus, leek, potato, rhubarb, spinach, taro, sweet potato, and watercress. Perennial herbs consist of alfalfa, basil, dill, garlic, ginger, horseradish, lavender, mint, onions, oregano, sage, and thyme. We are then very familiar with perennial crops, and of course there are trees that are perennial.


When it comes to annual plants there are several problems. First, because the plant dies off each year they are net releasers of carbon to the atmosphere. Second, given their limited root structure they are very poor at retaining water, and with dwindling fresh water supplies this is a major issue. Third, due to how weak they are we have to add nutrients such as nitrogen that commonly run off with fresh water polluting waterways. Global data for corn, rice, and wheat annual crops indicate that only 18-49% of nitrogen applied as fertilizer is taken up by crops while the rest is lost. Herbicides and pesticides also have to be liberally applied with health costs.


Perennials, on the other hand, with their extensive root system are great absorbers of carbon from the atmosphere. The soil carbon sink is the fastest carbon sink, and the only one that can really help get global warming under control quickly. The oceans absorb a great deal of carbon but it is a slow process that is currently destroying coral reefs due to acidification. Rocks can absorb a massive amount of carbon but this process occurs over thousands of years. In addition to the carbon sequestration value of perennials there is water retention: The roots of perennials hold water and release it when needed, thereby minimizing irrigation needs. In addition, perennials retain nutrients eliminating or greatly reducing fertilizer use. Via artificial selection, hybridization, and utilization of genome knowledge, all of our major annual crops can be converted to perennials. Ten of our thirteen most common annual seed crops, such as wheat and rice, have natural perennial relatives, an occurrence that will greatly assist in the conversion. The United Kingdom’s Biotechnology and Biological Services Council has calculated that if we replaced only 2% of annual crops with perennials, we could remove enough carbon from the atmosphere to halt the increase in atmospheric CO2! If we were to replace all farmland with perennials we would sequester about 118 parts per million of CO2, enough to return the world to preindustrial levels! Another option is to replace our agricultural lands and cities with trees, but I doubt that this option will be accepted.


So why is replacing our major annual seed crops with perennials, an incredible option, rarely discussed, and why is funding so limited for it? Very good questions. Part of the answer might have to do with the annual seed agriculture industry. Annual seeds have to be planted each year, then there is all that fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, not to mention expensive irrigation equipment. Perennial agriculture might well seem like a threat to profits, and in our endless economic growth system it’s mostly about products and profits. Instead of making the conversion, which scientists estimate could occur in even twenty years, let’s just prepare as best we can. Really?


For more information about converting our major annual seed crops to perennials read the free pdf of the Too Hot to Handle: Global Warming chapter, from my book, At The Tipping Point: How To Save Us From Self-Destruction, available on this blog site.

Nov 192016

tipping_thumbBook page

Collectively we are engaging in self-destructive behavior, compromising our present and jeopardizing our future. Rampant greed, irregular regulation, unrestrained urban and resource development, out of control global warming, biased pharmaceutical and biotechnology research, and lethal levels of obesity, are all severely damaging us. Dr. Bowins drills down exposing these forms of self-destruction, and shows why we might be setting ourselves up for widespread revolution and devastation. Also revealed is how our psychological defenses ironically perpetuate major forms of self-destructive behavior. We have reached the tipping point, but the solutions proposed can save us from self-destruction, if we each take action.

pdf-icon1 Too Hot To Handle: Global Warming sample-chapter