Some items from the news as I fly to a science fiction convention in Minneapolis:
One swallow does not a summer make, nor does a harsh winter in the United States mean that global warming is over.
Despite the blizzards and record low temperatures in much of the U.S., planet Earth was actually unusually warm during the December through February period, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Even New England and the Pacific Northwest experienced a warmer than normal winter, NOAA reports.
Globally, this past winter season was the fifth-warmest on record. As the meteorologists say, climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. Earth’s climate is warming, despite locally cold weather.
Incidentally, the Minneapolis region saw no snow at all during the month of March, for the first time on record. And ice on the famous lakes of Minnesota melted away earlier than this spring than any year within memory.
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Although investors may still be jittery and the economy has yet to fully recover from last year’s meltdown, the stock market is actually running higher than it was on the eve of the millennium, Dec. 31, 2000.
On that date the Dow Jones average was a little over 10,700. As of this writing, it’s just topped 10,900. Folks were generally optimistic about the economy in December 2000, so why aren’t they so happy about it today?
Maybe those looming budget deficits and continued high unemployment rates are keeping people wary about the economy. But it’s instructive to look back a bit and see where we’ve been.
Gosh, I can remember the celebrations on Wall Street when the Dow hit 1,000!
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This coming Thursday is Earth Day, and millions of people around the world will participate in events aimed at making everyone more aware that human actions can have a real effect on the global environment — for better or for worse.
There will be speeches, marches, sing-alongs and lots of other activities. But will it make any difference? After all, we’ve been observing Earth Day for 40 years now, and the global environment is far from being clean and green. In many ways, it’s gotten worse: forests are still being chopped down, more and more plant and animal species are being driven into extinction, fisheries around the world are on the verge of collapse.
It seems to me that all the good intentions of the Earth Day participants are shattered against the rock of one unavoidable fact: the human population of this planet is still growing. Soon it will hit 7 billion, with no end in sight.
Global population growth is slowing, but not stopping. And the biggest growth is among the poorest people, of course.
Family planning is anathema in many religions, and therein lies the real problem. Religions are steeped in tradition; devout religious believers accept dogma and attitudes that were originally laid down thousands of years ago. Because the faithful believe their traditions are handed down from their god, they go on practicing ways of life that were once important for survival, but are now dangerous to the health of our world and the future of our human species.
How to change ingrained religious beliefs? That is the question that lies deep in the heart of our problems of population growth and environmental degradation. That is what the Earth Day celebrants should be addressing. All the needed changes in our attitudes and actions stem from antiquated dogma.
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You can custom-order high resolution photographs of the surface of Mars.
Under a program called HiWish, ordinary citizens can ask for photos of the areas of the red planet they want to see. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter uses its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera to snap detailed pictures of Mars’ surface. Since the HiWish program started in January, more than 1,000 suggestions have come in.
“What we hope is that people become more interested in science and appreciate this opportunity to explore another world,” said Alfred McEwan, principle investigator for the camera system.
To learn more, contact Daniel Stolte of the University of Arizona at email@example.com. Arizona U.’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory operates the HiRISE camera.
Bova, a Naples resident, is the author of nearly 125 books, including “The Hittite,” his first historical novel. Bova’s Web site address is www.benbova.com