It was the massive surge of cold air that spewed into Colorado last week. The same surge that caused the massive winds in CA / OR / WA to churn up small fires.
Those birds left CO for the South - probably don't normally get that in the middle of summer.
There's very little smoke in NM. Some but not enough to kill the birds or cause them to fly a billion miles. That was the summer cold snap that did it.
This is a classic case of not enough Ornithological Meteorologists or Meteorological Ornithologists. Or maybe because the Ornithological convention and Meteorological convention (which are normally hosted in the same hotel in September) were both cancelled this year due to Covid-19. (this last paragraph was a failed attempt at humor)
The problem with climate change is precisely this.
In order to convince everyone we need evidence. However evidence, strictly and scientifically speaking, can only be produced once a phenomenon is fully observed, understood, and reproducible.
In the case of climate change that means waiting for the changes to fully happen, which would be too late if climate change is indeed real.
So you are left with a choice: trust the partial data we have and conclude that climate change is happening, or deny it and hope it never materializes. The third option would be to consciously prefer to wait for climate change to fully materialize and only then take action, but this to me sounds a bit suicidal.
The third option seems less detrimental than the second in a way. Even if one would be opposed to action to curb humankind's contribution to global warming (due to being unconvinced for any reason), at least the third option, while the proposed non-action seems to me that it would be the same as the second, would at least keep one's mind open to information rather than make a conclusion without conclusive evidence to do so. And while there seems to exist a gradient of possible perspectives/stances between the first and third, from my limited understanding, strong action is required in order to really do anything at all to slow the damage, making less drastic action somewhat moot and thus seems to somewhat polarize the situation -- necessarily so, I think.
The first sentence of this article describes the die-off as "inexplicable", but the sub-title gives a couple explanations including the massive fires and resulting smoke which is covering the western US. Watching the animals outside my house, I wonder how this smoke must be effecting them, but evolution must have led them out of wildfire conditions in the past.
I commented somewhere else here with a link to a researcher posting about findings. The link is to a twitter thread, and several posts down they say, "The birds seem to be in relatively good condition, except that they are extremely emaciated. They have no fat reserves and barely any muscle mass. Almost as if they have been flying until they just couldn’t fly anymore."
It's migration season. Smoke inhalation reduces breathing efficiency. Flying above the smoke is less efficient with reduced thermal lift activity. Poor visibility makes supplemental calories and overnight roost locations harder to find. More calories burned all around, and fewer calories are accessible, for thousands of miles of migration route.
I'd be happy to read any reputable paper, article, or discussion thread you can find about it. Seems like something that would be falsifiable and has been researched already, so not worth debating about in the hypothetical.
Multiple passages in it are relevant to this issue. Birds do try to fly away from fire. We have evidence that smoke inhalation is worse for birds than mammals (which would mean that birds would need to flee smoke, and not just the flames). And the possibility of birds dying of exhaustion from trying to fly away was already a concern to wildlife conservationists.
None of which is proof. But it is all suggestive that I'm making a reasonable guess as to why they are dying.
Wouldn't the fires of the past (ie, the fires that these birds would have evolved to survive) have been larger? I've always assumed that, while fires of the past would have been more rare, they would have bigger if allowed to grow without any resistance.
I mean, all our firefighting efforts do some good, right?
That is not true. These are, broadly speaking, in unmanaged areas without fire suppression programs. It is extraordinarily hot and dry in the areas with fires, and that's why these are bigger than in modern human history.
edit: fair point on sources. There are a lot, and they're easily found. This was an interesting read https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/19535_FSPLT3_3990... (pdf) though I'd warn anyone not to just look for supporting information for this pet theory. Fire suppression builds up fuel and causes worse fires. But there are worse fires in areas without fire suppression programs. There are even worse fires (vs historically) in areas with prescribed burn programs. Your propublica article is also linked to by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_California_wildfires#Caus.... Adjacent to the "Fire Policy" section there is a robustly sourced "Climate Change" section. I don't have time to comment further here, so I'll leave it at that.
Everything that I've read on the subject says otherwise. I know of no unmanaged areas without fire suppression programs anywhere in the West. And as articles like https://www.propublica.org/article/they-know-how-to-prevent-... points out, scientists have been clear for decades that the disastrous fires we are now dealing with are the direct result of past human attempts to put out fires.
West coast wildfires are different for a lot of reasons. Brush fires under the redwood canopy rarely happen now, because almost all of the redwood canopy is gone. PNW fires look like upscaled christmas tree safety demonstrations, because the forests have been replaced by douglas fir farms. The fires are more intense and explosive now that water tables have fallen and soil retention has been compromised by continuous logging and terraforming.
Most of the modern west coast forest fires are a lumber farming problem of our own construction. Fires won't change that, as long as logging companies will be subsidized to harvest and sell the singed trunks for lumber and replant the same extremely flammable crop. The forests of the past are gone.
in the smog affected areas there is also probably not that much insects - bird food - giving how insects are breathing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiracle_(arthropods)), i.e. beside the fire itself, the resulting air pollution may probably clog the insects breathing pores. Even when not dying, some insects stop breathing and fall into kind of hibernation, thus no flying around to be consumed by birds.
Evolution can handle some of the species dying, just not all. I was in flaming Gorge Utah this week, found 3 dead birds on the trail of a short hike. I've read enough of the old testament to know a bad omen when I see one though. Very concerning.
Is the smoke 'clean', meaning is it just plantation that is being consumed by fire or there is also a large percentage of toxic smoke into the air?
Has there been significant number of homes/cars/factories (I am thinking things that upon being burnt would release a chemical/toxic cloud)(thinking the difference of burning 100kg of wood Vs burning 100kg of laptops and how different the smoke would be in damaging health)
True, but our definition of toxic has changed. Humans have been living with wood smoke for millennia, it may not be great for you but it isn't very new in terms of evolutionary presence. Smoke from burning industrial chemicals is a newer thing, and certainly some of these industrial toxins can kill or injure you far more quickly than wood smoke. So a warehouse full of laptops burning (and probably painted with lead) is something I'd want to take extra precautions to avoid vs wildfire smoke.
My post above got downvoted (and I don't care) but it's all about the point I was trying to make and it was clearly misunderstood.
Btw my father is a retired fireman and the nomenclature ("chemical", "toxic") is his. Every time there is a fire in the news we talk about it and he gives me his input on the impact. And he has dealt with many types of fires (forests, offices, chemical factories, living blocks, etc.)
The destruction in nature is unfortunate and nobody wants it. But the impact from the smoke (and wait until all that crap in the air goes over you city, and then wait for it to rain all that toxic crap will end up on your parks and streets and schools).. and then you will start driving your car and part of the "dust" that will get back into your breathable air will be.. you guessed it.. what has been burning for so many days.
Thus the difference between burnt trees Vs burnt homes/factories/chemicals (100kg wood vs 100kg laptops as an extreme example). Wood - you cough, laptops you get lung cancer.
The crap that is in the smoke, sooner or later, here or there, will make come back down, and THAT matters.
How serendipitous. I was just chatting with my partner and we heard birds chirping outside our house.
I realized that I had not heard them for a couple weeks now and guessed it had to do with the awful smoke conditions here in Portland. The smoke is still bad but it is noticeably less apocalyptic this morning.
I thought birds would flee bad smoke like this but maybe they were just holed up in their nests waiting for things to improve, same as us?
From the initial posting, it seems these birds avoided the smoke. Miners used to use canaries in coal mines to detect gas. Birds are exquisitely sensitive to combustion fumes. Their instinct is to get far away. It appears they fled to an insect free desert area and kept pushing on until they literally exhausted their fat reserves.
The only way I can think to help them is to scatter some meal worms on the ground in the hopes that you will save a few. It will have to done on a wide area = probably not practical.
The only long term solution is to change forest management to allow the understory of brush/grass/small trees to burn every 2-3 years via intentional fires. In addition substantial clear zones around all homes in addition to stripes of clear zones every 1/2 mile as fire breaks.
These highly packed stand of trees with thick understories burn to the ground, kill all trees and sterilize the soil of seeds so nothing grows for a while until wind scatters in new seeds.
California has done this to itself, with the help of The Sierra Club (who lobbied against preventive burns because the home owners loved the trees and bushes where they lived)
You reap what you sow. Changes MUST come ASAP
Where have you heard that? This field research looking at the problem, with pictures of the dead birds in question, does not indicate that's the problem https://twitter.com/salasphorus/status/1304973085833981952, and that the problem is starvation. It may be starvation driven by fleeing smoke/climate, but that would just be uninformed speculation.
We live in the bowl of Pasadena a few miles (~6) from the Bobcat fire. Current AQI is 343.
We have a lot of hummingbirds in our yard usually. We do a lot of planter boxing farming and gardening. For the past three days we’ve seen most of the hummingbirds on the ground in clover instead of in our trees where they normally are.
We’ve been wondering if they are flying low to avoid smoke or if they are being impeded by smoke inhalation. :(
I moved from SF to Boulder over the last weekend. At the end of my first day driving in Wendover UT, the smoke was still so thick we could look at the sun directly with no eye protection. It was just dull red. In Boulder, there is STILL a haze, though there are local fires that are also adding to it.
I was walking the trash bins down our long drive to the road yesterday in a soup of wildfire smoke and fog when it occurred to me — we sure have a compartmentalized way of looking at the issues plaguing the world right now.
Part of that is the sheer complexity of our contemporary world. There are few polymaths — most are specialists. It feels like we’re sorely lacking people who see across many fields to synthesize everything that’s happening.
But it feels pretty clear that the system is on the fritz, has been for a while, and we’re incredibly stupid to not take bold action to fix it. Instead, we’re still having arguments about whether people are the cause. Of. Course. We. Are.
We would have to shut down 90% of the pollutants world wide to do anything. Will make the Covid shutdowns look like a long weekend. And even then it might not make a difference if climate change is out of our control. You willing to do that?
"We would have to shut down 90% of the pollutants world wide to do anything."
This is vastly overestimated and straight up poorly informed statistics. There are dozens of solutions for pollution that involve energy efficiency, which doesn't require a single shut down and merely uses what we're already consuming more efficiently (think gasoline standards, heating, A/C, LEDs, insulation, weatherization, etc).
Alongside these simple and job-intensive efficiency gains, we can encourage the already massive growth in wind, solar, batteries, EVs, and other clean industries, which will vastly reduce the number of pollutants without shutdowns needed.
If we apply smart stimulus for Corona to encourage the many green tech jobs, we will see huge benefits on air pollution alone, never mind long-term climate impacts. Even if you think climate is a hoax, pollution certainly isn't and it's killing poor people by the hundreds of thousands every year. We have the solutions above, let's implement them, not throw up our hands in despair.
I agree that ‘better’ is worth doing and we could wait forever for ‘perfect’ to come along while the world burns.
However even doing these things won’t return the biosphere to it’s previous condition, we’ve extracted extreme quantities of energy from underground and dumped them into the atmosphere, and our ‘locked in’ climate change will not decrease with those measures alone. We need to restore balance and I can’t see a way of doing it short of significant carbon sequestration - vastly beyond what can be achieved by reforestation.
Making them sufficiently efficient to solve the problem WILL NECCESSARILY involve a tear down and rebuild with the efficient replacement. There are millions of small cook fires that aggregate to a large part of the problem.
House insulation, electrify cooking, heating, transportation of all kinds will take 50-100 years to fully implement - We have to do all these things ASAP.
This statement is hyperbolic and unhelpful at best. The citizens of countries all over the world have indicated, en masse, they are willing to make drastic changes. Their governments are either slow to react or beholden to the financial interests of the worst offenders.
Are you being serious? The cause is a key part of choosing the most efficient response. Responses can potentially involve both reactionary measures to climate forcing and reductionary measures trying to reduce forcing. If the cause was, say, the sun getting brighter by 15% for some reason, well we can't just turn down the sun, so while yes we'd having just a much motivation to respond our range of actions would be purely on the reaction side, reducing incoming solar insolation maybe. And that'd further just be bringing things back into the comfortable range we and everything else have been living in.
But since instead the cause is human driven fossil carbon emissions, both different reaction measures and reducing the cause in the first place are possible and important. To take the above example, solar shading would be a bad idea because while yes it'd lower thermal input, it'd also reduce critical wavelengths used by primary producers below normal levels as well. That's a major side effect that's different from if the cause was different. And while we can mess with the sun, we certainly can treat net atmospheric carbon increases as the externality it is.
But if you don't accept greenhouse gas emissions are an externality, why would you support internalizing those costs? If they weren't the cause after all it'd be uneconomic and pointless to go after them.
I mean, I'm genuinely astonished to even be writing this on HN. Like if my "computer broke", well if the cause is a dead SSD that's quite different then a dead mobo or fried PSU or "5 year old knocked a potted plant onto it then 7 year old poured seltzer water on it to clean it off". Would you be saying "what does it matter what the cause was" there?
We have a problem and need to find the best way to fix it. Understanding the cause in order to find one possible fix is an obvious thing to do. So is looking for any other possible solutions. It is an unnecessary constraint that we need to solve the problem only by reversing its cause.
If the cause of the problem was a brighter sun but we could save the planet by internalizing the cost of our emissions, it seems like it would be wise to do that regardless of whether an earth umbrella might address the root cause more directly.
There is a large chunk of the US voter population that thinks that even if climate change is real it isn't human driven and therefor totally natural or by God's design.
So of course nothing should be done about it because either it isn't real or it isn't human caused.
This is also the group that often votes single issue or directly against their best interest much like What's the matter with Kansas. Surprisingly, Kansas itself hasn't read that book and seems to repeat history every time the GOP wants less taxes.
>This is also the group that often votes single issue or directly against their best interest much like What's the matter with Kansas. Surprisingly, Kansas itself hasn't read that book and seems to repeat history every time the GOP wants less taxes.
Oh please. Inner city minorities have been voting for gun control (good luck getting the cops to show up let alone promptly in some places) since long before climate change was a thing. The bases of both parties are rife with cognitive dissonance. You could probably count on one hand the number of people in the other country who agree with everything in an official party platform if you present each policy goal in isolation instead of as a platform.
Proclaiming that people are voting against their interest is just calling them stupid or saying you know what's good for them better than they do with some obfuscation thrown in to make it fit in better in "polite" conversation.
==Proclaiming that people are voting against their interest is just calling them stupid or saying you know what's good for them better than they do with some obfuscation thrown in to make it fit in better in "polite" conversation. ==
Kind of like you do in this sentence: "Inner city minorities have been voting for gun control (good luck getting the cops to show up let alone promptly in some places) since long before climate change was a thing."
Are you calling them stupid or just saying you know what's good for them better than they do?
The implication that I thought was obvious was that in light of their voting patterns they're either stupid or there's something other than "what will benefit me personally the most" that's driving their voting and I know which one I'm betting on.
Inner cities often see escalated violent crime compared to rural and suburban areas. However I can't find a source suggesting inner city minorities are single issue voter for gun control.
I did find several where minorities refused to vote GOP due to racism and related issues but I'd consider that decency not single issue.
Meanwhile I can list my Grandma's entire church as mostly single issue related to abortion rights, or at least that's what the current leadership preaches.
By voting against their interest, I'm considering that the GOP has had platform planks, policy options, or new laws/rules related to reducing farm subsides, setting up tariffs that bring counter actions that destroy entire US farming groups, refuse to acknowledge climate change is real let alone human driven, curtailing regulations around safe pesticides or environmental efforts in general, and reducing rural outreach like cuts to USPS, voting access, and more.
It seems odd that a group of often rural and farm related folks would vote for a party that has succeeded in reducing their subsidies, axing their crop values internationally via revenge tariffs, refusing to acknowledge why droughts are sweeping the nation and doing nothing to counter them, and reducing their access to mail and levers of democracy would be against their core interests.
But hey, the rich have lower taxes and the poor can't get healthcare, jobs, retirement, home ownership, and the chances of preventing massive droughts and climate change related issues are nil so all is right for the GOP.
What's the Matter with Kansas is a deeper look into the Kansas aspects of this. It's an interesting read and very relevant as just back in 2016 they tried to ax taxes across the state and schools closed, hospitals started to shut down, roads fell apart, and more until the state supreme court ordered the legislature to fund basic services and the GOP dominated state legislature had to override the governors veto to pass higher taxes. At this point, cutting taxes seems to be the biggest right wing driver apart from protecting Trump.
Of course, if the GOP gets into office then floods you with more subsidies because their actions would otherwise destroy your entire national industry, perhaps its more about selfish people being selfish than voting against their interests. If US farmers didn't have tariffs shredding their markets and driving demand to Brazil and other nations, maybe they wouldn't need more bailout money than the US auto sector in 2009. So far I think they are up to about 2x the auto bailout but that was a year ago.
So much for person responsibility and fiscally conscious conservatives. The deficit hasn't mattered since Obama left office apparently.
Is forest management, among other things, really that complicated in terms of what one has to do?
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), cites shrubs and live and dead vegetation as <the most important factor> in forest fires, 'being an easily ignitable fuel source that helps spread the flames quickly over vast distances.'
It's worth noting that NASA reports that global fires are down by 25% between 2003 and 2019. In other words, there has been a global decrease in the total number of square kilometers burned each year. Africa 'dominates in terms of the sheer number of fires'.
I've noticed that every issue ends with this exact post. Despite the actual complexity or circumstance of the issue, at the end is always a guy on a soapbox talking about exactly one thing. It's only ever one thing and it never has anything to do with the complexity of the situation. It is always, always always about anthropogenic climate change due to carbon.
It's like getting pamphlets at the airport. You do not read them but you know what they're about.
It's normal for the west cost to burn. But we don't want that, so we stop it for as long as we can.
But at some point the condition are just perfect: hot, dry, windy and then it burn like never before.
All I feel these days is despair. It's hard enough to get people to just wear masks, or not throw parties with active covid infection. I think and feel that we are doomed. I wonder if the polymaths have just given up.
Anyone who uses public transport can get a good idea of the percentage of noncompliance in their area. Here in Berlin, I see an average of four people not wearing masks or wearing them wrong on an average half-full train carriage or bus.
The point isn't masks per se. Masks do in fact slow transmission, but there are multiple strategies which can work if everyone abides by them. But that's the issue — people won't agree to even the simple rules, no matter how inoffensive, because the breakdown in social trust is so profound, and so the whole system suffers.
Are we the cause of Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn being on the fritz as well? They are experience major magnetic field changes as is Earth. Are we responsible for the changes on the other planets as well?
They have started an iNaturalist project. If you find any dead bird in the affected areas you can submit the pictures of it to the project database. It will help in identification and understanding the scale of impact.
Seems to be one of those things just weird enough to get used in fiction regularly as shorthand for "something is really wrong" - it was part of the trailers for Jericho  and a plot point over the course of FlashForward .
I have been told on this forum that the men and women working in wildlife conservation are in it for vanity or for self gratification. Relatedly, I have been told on this forum that there is nothing that regular folks can do about climate change.
But then events like this happen, and no one reflects on how fatally pessimistic this community can be. Are we ourselves not capable of forecasting the effect of a burning state on migration patterns? Are we as a society not blessed with enough resources to intervene? If we could all agree to do something—no matter how trivial—to minimize the destruction, instead of doing nothing and attacking the ideas of those who do anything, maybe the aggregate effect would be that events like this are avoided.
If you’re in this fight, please let me know how else I can help. I’m going to check on my bird feeders in the meantime.
The single most effective thing you can do for climate change, by far, is vote. The climate is one of those tragedy-of-the-commons problems that can only be solved when everybody consents to work on it together. It takes only a relatively small proportion to prevent any progress from being made.
We certainly to have enough resources to intervene, but doing "something -- no matter how trivial" fails to minimize the destruction. Trivial solutions produce trivial results. Or worse, since they often suffer from unexpected interactions from uncoordinated interventions, and delay actual progress.
We have to work together. Voting is the means by which we decide what action we will take collectively. If you live in the US, you're presented with a fairly straightforward choice on the environment. If that is your top priority, then vote that way, and encourage others to do so as well. If you're setting other priorities ahead of the environment, then that's your right, but the environment will be one of the (many) consequences.
I agree that voting (for the party that accepts climate change) is a helpful step that US citizens can take. But why prove my point by seeking to tear my idea apart? We need more action, not less. Isn't voting and picking up trash in a park better than just voting? Isn't voting, picking up trash in a park, and reducing meat consumption even better?
Voting is great, but it’s not enough to punch a ballot every few years. We need to be exerting a sustained pressure on our local and national representatives to support and pass legislation. We need to put public pressure on corporations to make changes. Look at how the BLM movement has gotten companies to commit to making changes. We need citizen leaders to provide vision and hope.
I don't know where you live, but on my ballot, "the environment" isn't listed.
Instead of goals or policies, what's listed are politicians.
An honest question: The west coast is represented by Democrats. Who am I supposed to vote for? We've known about climate change, and we've voted. We've had both Republican and Democratic regimes over the past half century, but what has changed for the better? Just recently, House Democrats voted to give 850,000 acres of a Nevada wildlife refuge to the airforce for bombing .
This makes me think you cannot vote your way out of climate disasters. Telling people to vote doesn't really solve the problem. What are concrete steps that can be done?
If voting is the only thing we can do, then I think we're in big trouble.
We are in big trouble. I'll be blunt that even the best conceivable case is very bad.
As you say, we've had both "regimes", but never for very long, especially given that it takes an overwhelming effort to accomplish anything legislatively. A party in favor of the status quo can stop all change if it runs either house of the legislative or the executive branch -- and it needs only a 41 vote minority in the Senate.
The only way for change to happen is to vote for it over and over, consistently. The party that comes closer to your view on the environment has won two elections in a row exactly once in my lifetime. Even after they get into power they have to actually govern a large, fractious country, including genuine differences of opinion within themselves.
So you can make a perfectly consistent case for giving the fuck up as impossible. Even if your party wins in November, I can practically guarantee that they'll lose two years from now. I stresssed voting in the gp post because you need to do it every goddamned time if you want anything to change. I do think it is the only thing we can do, and yeah, we're in big trouble.
So much this. The events from the past years have already been difficult to digest. But every time I come and read comments, I'm even more depressed, anxious. "no matter if you don't drive, or stop meat; it won't be enough". "nice that you're stopping commuting, but that won't suffice". "offsetting by planting trees is not good enough compared to net zero". Or worse, dismissive like "it only helps with your own self-guilt".
This usually leaves me so depressed.
Yes, I realize all those actions won't suffice, even if we all agree to apply them starting tomorrow. And yes, we need both local and global impact for things to move forward. But I also believe that if everyone starts doing their part : buying less, reducing meat, whatever, it will get discussed more and more and become a concrete part of society much faster.
Guessing OP and I will get downvoted though, which is fine. HN has a fair share of the brightest minds in Tech and related, sometimes I miss a bunch of less pragmatic positivity.
I took an elective wildlife conservation class while earning my Master's. I had no right to be there, because I was surrounded by the brightest, most pragmatic minds I had ever met. The work that my classmates had done to stop destruction, or to sustain populations through novel solutions, was awe inspiring. We don't see it here, and there's an obvious reason for why that might be, but there are amazing people out there who are making the world a better place than it would otherwise be. The least I can do is not just give up. Thank you for doing your part. I really appreciate it.
I oftentimes see that parroted and I believe it is more slacktivism and politically motivated than anything- "Only my guy can fix everything! All I can do is like his political ads and keep on doing what I do"
For instance, how many times have you observed articles that call out cruise ships as "super polluters". Wouldn't not going on cruises be much more impactful than any sort of negotiated regulation? I believe the individual can absolutely do their part
A dedicated individual can do quite a lot. Look at John Muir for example - should he have just voted and not do anything else with his life for the environment?
Just from the most immediate problems I could see a lot of profitable work in modeling wildfires, maybe using satellite pictures to identify the most vulnerable spots to light up etc. Also optimizing power usage over networks and things like that are exactly in the ballpark of tech. Is that whole problem space really just best left to the government to slowly add incremental improvements every 10 years? Yes vote but also maybe think about spending more than 1h every few years to think about the problem.
Most definitely agree about this. It's number 1 on my list. When I moved to the Netherlands I learnt that they actually have separate elections for the water management. Almost like a separate body of the government.
I wish something like this for environment was implemented, simply because people tend to vote for things that are much closer to them, unemployment, security, ...
Given recent events, it seems clear we need to rethink the role of the executive branch, probably to strengthen gov't services (e.g. cabinet-level agencies) and make them more independent of political agendas and misdirection. A more independent EPA, NOAA, FDA, law enforcement, military, etc that are governed by strict codes of conduct and missions that proscribe their misuse by either a careless/malignant POTUS or legislature could save many lives, make US policy more stable and sustainable, and upgrade the standard of living for more than just Americans.
You're absolutely right: voting is a necessary, albeit insufficient, step towards fixing many of the challenges we face.
However, the vast majority of people who happen to read my comment on here will, at best, only vote. I don't want anyone to skip out on the very important and relatively easy step they can take just because voting isn't a silver bullet.
individual-scale action is not a substitute for collective action. You can plant trees and sort your recycling every day for the rest of your life and it won't make the tiniest fraction of the difference that raising fuel economy standards or implementing a carbon tax or whatever would do.
individual action is often presented as a sop precisely because industry wants to divert discussion from the forms of collective action that actually make a difference.
Though it does not stop us from acting at local level.
Let us all stop replacing our phones every year, and there will be a shift in consumption models. We collectively, as a sum of locals, have the power to make things change.
Not saying don't do those things, but we need society-level action to really make an impact. To plagiarize the saying about the internet and censorship, capitalism is a self-correcting system designed to route around any "errors" like individual ethics/behavior that produce non-optimal profits according to "the rules" of the system. If you reduce the demand for coal because everyone chooses to pay the extra for solar energy, someone is going to scoop up that cheap coal and find a way to use it. You have to "change the rules of the game" to make any impact, and that's society/collective level action.
There's always something you can do. There are market opportunities in addressing climate change. Find them, implement them, continually push for more economically and ecologically sustainable results. The more money there is in finding solutions, the more likely we are to fix the underlying problems.
Sounds like a bunch of science deniers. Weird to have those on a tech forum but I guess it takes all types.
There have been many pans proposed, such as the Green New deal, to combat climate change, create stable jobs, and in many other ways improve the nation. But when 1/3 of the voters don't want change and would rather descend back into the racism and xenophobia of the 50's (except for the taxes) then not much can be done.
It's not actually the instability as such (I think), but the scale of the power and decision-making. The US in particular has centralized a ton of power and decision-making in Washington, where the original vision (at least among the early Federalists) would be that the federal government would remain weak and the power would be largely left in the hands of the states.
If government were better-federated, to push the power and decision-making to smaller and smaller units, then citizen buy-in would be a lot easier because the answer would always be "get involved in your local legislature", not "cast your vote into an ocean of millions of votes and hope for the best".
Americans sometimes look at Iceland as an example of Scandinavian Utopia, but I think the single best thing Iceland has done that's the cause to a lot of the effects has been to stay small. It's easy to know someone in government personally even if you're an outsider. Sure, there's still corruption and centralization of power and wealth, but the scale is so much smaller that it's a lot easier to just kind of shrug it off than when the fate of the world's data is at stake.
If our ecology really is collapsing, this is going to get worse. As resources become more and more scarce, powerful first-world countries are not going to want to regress in their standards of living, which I speculate is going to lead to increased global conflict.
our inability to deal with the climate collapse is only a second-order effect, we are completely unable to deal with anything right now. If it wasn't the climate crisis, and if it wasn't the pandemic, it would be something else. Our political system is far too polarized and far too plagued by anti-intellectualism, it simply can't respond to anything.
Russia and conservative media (murdoch media, etc) seeding regressive/anti-intellectual movements has been massively successful, western society is just completely unprepared to deal with freedom of speech being leveraged to spew an unending firehose of bullshit, it's a "copyleft" style trojan approach of using our own democratic values against us.
The firehose of bullshit has led to the rise of anti-intellectual movements, an anti-intellectual president, and a party that just votes absolutely lockstep with him no matter what he does. They don't give a shit about absolutely anything, not fires or hurricanes or plagues, and just let all these problems fester. It has a lot of other negative effects too of course, but we have reached the point where we simply can't respond even to acute crises anymore, our system has long-since lost its higher functioning in terms of setting goals and being able to execute them (what you'd call "self-actualization" in maslow's hierachy) and now is struggling even to maintain basic homeostasis (the "physical needs" tier of the maslow hierarchy).
(I include Brexit, Bolsanaro, Duarte, etc in this as well - western democracy is in deep fucking shit worldwide and if we don’t get our shit together and deal with the firehose of falsehoods we will be supplanted by more authoritarian forms of government that don’t suffer this vulnerability because they don’t tolerate free speech and dissent.)
It is also super depressing to know that even with everything that's gone on, less than 5% of america has even changed its mind. Even with the plague, even with the fires, even with civil unrest and mass arrests, even as the post office is dismantled and we lose the ability even to get a fucking package on time, 40% of america will go in the booth and pull the lever for more of this. It goes beyond just "doesn't affect me, who cares", or "that's 20 years from now me's problem", this has all affected everyone, now, today, and people still want more as long as they get to own the libs. It's maddening.
I agree with your observations except the anti-intellectual movements. Those are grassroot, obviously allows us to believe anyone to be the boogeyman. I really struggle with the perspective of 'The Russians are out to get us and enslave the world(forever that is their goal) so buy our guns and install our defense systems. Economy machine go brrrrr'.
Are you familiar with Jem Bendell's "Deep Adaptation"? Its premise is that near-term (climate-induced) ecological-societal collapse is inevitable and unavoidable, and the way forward is to adapt to this, as there is no longer a way to mitigate it.
Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar, especially not on classic flamewar topics. Regardless of how wrong other people are, doing this only makes things worse (as indeed it made things worse below).
I'm really not sure if this is meant as an insult or not, but I'll take it as respectful.
Wearing my high-bypass N95 mask, or a sloppy ill-fitting "surgical" mask or an un-rated cloth mask around a vulnerable person with multiple comorbidities is a dangerous show of virtue-signalling: it does essentially nothing to protect that individual.
Encouraging vulnerable people to wear a powered HEPA ventilator on their hip, connected to a full face mask would be useful. Not perfect, but statistically 100x-1000x better outcome, should they be unfortunately exposed to a cloud of SARS-CoV-2 bearing particulates. Isn't a hundred bucks a worthwhile investment to actually protect a vulnerable person?
Forcing people to do worthless things (wear masks, when they have no comorbidities, which do nothing to protect the vulnerable) is ridiculous, and is rightly held in contempt by many caring people.
Its very strange, to me, that even on a platform like HN, we get many (most?) accounts involved in denigrating entire groups by name-calling them "deniers" -- without actually materially addressing any of the concerns of the individuals within the "group"...
I can never be certain whether someone is arguing in bad faith on purpose, or as a consequence of letting the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good.
Do you think refusing to visit grandma because you don't think your face mask will protect her is a self-actualization need? Sounds like a group safety need to me. Your choice of examples reads more like equivocation (conflating two things with similar features) which is generally a no-no in public debate circles.
The evidence still supports the idea that prophylaxis at the point source is an order more effective than prophylaxis at the sink, and they are not mutually exclusive. The Precautionary Principle means you do cheap things that may not work or even be necessary, but the cost of being wrong is so high that it doesn't matter how low the probability is. It's not a waste of resources. It's hedging.
If I had to be in a room with her and there was only one mask, I'd wear it instead of giving it to grandma. But why the hell am I in this situation to begin with?
> virtue-signalling [...] Forcing people to do worthless things (wear masks,
Hello! Would you take your right-wing cant elsewhere, please?
Decent people are thoroughly sick of the likes of you right now, I'm sorry to say.
Two hundred thousand are dead, thanks to people spreading unscientific lies like your unsourced claims above, and the rest of us, who haven't gone mad and decided all of science and medicine are wrong, wish you could go back to your death cult and stop screaming at the rest of us.
You can't attack another user like this regardless of how wrong they are or how strongly you disagree. We ban accounts that do this, so please don't do it again. Please also stop using HN for ideological battle, as it makes the threads predictable and nasty. That's in the site guidelines.
You've unfortunately been breaking the site guidelines repeatedly. However, you've also posted some good comments, so I'm not going to ban you—but if you wouldn't mind reviewing https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and taking the spirit of this site more to heart, we'd be grateful.
In this case, the most obvious explanation is the fact that they've been breathing in poisonous air (smoke) for weeks on end. Anecdotally, I've heard very little bird chirping in the past few weeks while the smoke was at its heaviest, whereas normally the birds are active all day.
I think about that comment from Carlin ALL THE TIME in relationship to global warming and natural disaster. Our perspective on saving the planet is very ego and species centric. As said in Jurassic Park "Life finds a way". However that life might not include humans.
It is important to remember this framing, though. So that we remember what we want, and can take the right actions to get there. We want a healthy, happy life for these X humans and to accommodate that we need Y, Z.
I don't think everyone understands this, and I also think it is a key to reaching more people with the message - of why we need to make changes to the status quo.
On that note, I always knew we were the problem, but this reminds me of something I heard that changed the way I thought about it...
If aliens were flying past our planet and saw all of our concrete and deforestation from space, they'd assume we're an unstoppable virus that will destroy the ecosystem if a cure is not found. That perspective hit me in a way, at a scale, that I have never thought about before. We see many of our actions as "development" which tends to have a positive meaning, but from space that same "development" looks like a disease that is overrunning the planet.
A little further out there, but if other intelligent life exists and they saw us as a virus, they might try to cure the planet by eradicating us.
If aliens flew by on a space ship then how the hell do you think they manufactured the materials for the space ship? Maybe they've got entire planets devoted to manufacturing. It's rather absurd to think about. This is an incredibly toxic point of view.
> how the hell do you think they manufactured the materials for the space ship?
I'm not saying we shouldn't develop anything, or that aliens can't develop one spaceship sustainably. The point is that we've done a lot of harm and very few people are trying to turn it around. I'm part of the problem too. I need to be better, and we can amplify each other's efforts if we all work together and build the tools and resources that make it easier for everyone to do better.
> This is an incredibly toxic point of view.
I disagree. The most toxic view point is literally the one that ignores how unsustainable we have become and how toxic that is for the planet, and our future on it.
We have reason to judge the health of human civilization above other factors, but what grounds do they have with an outside perspective? What's right and wrong for this planet, or for us, from their alien perspective? Why would they sympathize with, say, the dolphins instead of us (they might - for random reasons?)
> Why would they sympathize with, say, the dolphins instead of us (they might - for random reasons?)
It wouldn't necessarily be random, it could just be math. If any being looked at any ecosystem objectively, and they see 1 species making that ecosystem worse for 8.7 million other species, then it might seem obvious to side with the 8.7 million other species.
Is it ethical to eradicate 1 species to save 8.7 million others? Well, now we've got a classic trolley problem on our hands. They could keep on flying and do nothing, or they could intervene. Not everyone will agree on the ethical choice.
Regarding development: I've had a growing belief lately that capitalism (local) isn't the worst thing about global economy. Rather, the global economy itself is what's bad. We shouldn't be comparing countries based on GDP, and money shouldn't be used as a proxy for success. Rather, we should find some way to measure the success of regions and people independently (ie, how successful they think they are) without using the success or failure or status of others as an input. Maybe we shouldn't even be comparing countries at all.
I wouldn't take that as assumed or understood by most people talking about it. People have vague ideas about human impacts on the rest of the world attach a whole lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and that's the end of it. It isn't a matter of being wrong, but a lacking of overall understanding. People don't generally have a solid grasp of the goals and priorities attached to their environmentalist views. (you can sub environment out for pretty much any -ism these days)
This is literally a conversation about a non-human species: birds. There’s habitability for humans, but we’re not separate from the ecosystem, we’re a part of it.
In some broad, abstract way of looking at things people can say, “well it’s all just star dust and will burn out in a billion years.” But we’re not just destroying our own habitat — we’re destroying countless other species. An entire web of life.
If Earth winds up a giant ocean of jellyfish, then, well - great for the jellyfish. Still a tragedy as far as I’m concerned.
I find it astonishing that so many people can be cavalier about the deaths of millions of people when it comes to environmental destruction in a way that would be totally socially unacceptable if you were talking about targeted killings or genocide.
> about the deaths of millions of people when it comes to environmental destruction
You're not getting it. With global environmental catastrophe the concern is not about the deaths of millions of people. It is about the deaths of all people everywhere. A symptom of the problem of environmental catastrophe is those that are cavalier about the deaths of entire species of wildlife. The planet will be fine, the plant and wildlife will recover... though it may not be the same plant or wildlife. But once humans are gone, there is very little change we are coming back. So, to be clear, though humans have and are making he planet uninhabitable for myriad of species, reducing the available variety of species, which we, in fact, depend on... it is a web... but we are also making the planet uninhabitable for people.
Serious and monumental efforts in conservation of plant and wildlife and habitat is a damn good place to start. The more natural habitat there is, the more plant and wildlife there is, the better it will be for us. First thing is first... the oil industry and the chemical industry needs to go away within the next 10 years. Government, which people control, needs to make all that crap unprofitable. All pollution must cease, and we need to figure out how to clean up what has been done. Let's not bitch about energy, nor evangelize nuclear power. Let's just bite the bullet for a few generations and force everything and everyone to generate their own energy, and require that it be clean.
No, I think I am. Your comment actually misses my entire point and instead just explains climate change?
My point is that a common sentiment I see articulated in response to someone saying that the biosphere soon might not be able to support humanity is "Good, humanity is a cancer on this planet and we've shown we don't deserve it."
I think that statements like that should get a comparable amount of social ire to someone blithely stating that the Holocaust was good population control. It is unacceptable to view the death of millions or billions (after a long period of extremely impoverished living) as a good thing to me.
Fair enough. May I suggest that it is the depreciation of the family unit that may be causing this. Generally, in my experience, jerks had crummy parents. I don't know the solution, but maybe instead of treating young pregnant couples as sacred, we should make having children a privilege, not a right, and make them work for it. But I wouldn't know how to do that.
> in a way that would be totally socially unacceptable if you were talking about targeted killings or genocide
It is neither "cavalier" nor incompassionate to refer to the age of the planet and the history of life (e.g. humans). It's a scientific fact that we haven't existed for very long in geological time and that we could become extinct by our own doing... or by a suitably large cosmic impactor (among other causes, cosmic or terrestrial).
Real cavalier talk might be about the tobacco industry, the war industry, or the tens of thousands of people who die in motor-vehicle accidents every year in the US alone.
> Our society is so odd.
Indeed. Squeamish about the truth, comfortable in delusion.
Let me say that I have thought about your position.
It is not a "solution" for humanity to exterminate itself through its own idiocy. But you can see that it is a hard problem that might well "solve itself", as the thread-OP said. As a humanist, I prefer to make an effort.
Although extinction through our own idiocy would be horrible, it would be of a piece with the other plagues that I mentioned. Albeit on a different scale.
Extinction because of a major catastrophic event not of our causing would be tragic because there isn't much intelligent life in the neighbourhood, much less under our "own roof".
It's not cavalier as much as it is factual. Of course I would lament the loss of our entire species, but the _planet_ will go on just fine without us. We (humans) are hardly the worst thing to happen to life on the planet. If we're incapable of being good stewards of it, really we're only hastening our own demise.
Except human population levels are at all time highs. There is no evidence of human population suffering on account of technology. The exact opposite is true: people are living longer, have access to more food and more material goods than any time in history. Stop reading fear porn, it's bad for your mental health.
Our only outlet to fix this problem in our society hinges on mutual knowledge of the causes reaching unquestionable levels. Until then, it's like watching half our population play out like an "Always Sunny" episode.
china is in the middle of a genocide right now and nobody cares
and really, even in cases that don't involve a superpower like china, I think if there was a random genocide in some random developing country, the world wouldn't do anything about it at this moment in time, the west is just too busy with its own internal problems at the moment.
Crop yields are up over 100% from 50 years ago and we produce about 10x more wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and sugar beets per acre than we did in pre-industrial times:
Stop reading sensational journalism and start digging into the actual data, and you'll find there's plenty to be optimistic about.
Mount St. Helens (in Washington state) had a massive eruption in 1980, causing huge ecological and economic damage that lasted for years.
But, the region recovered. Similar such natural events, such as Typhoon Maria, have caused massive casualties and damage. Yet, the Earth and humanity have persisted.
I wouldn't worry about anything happening to our planet and our ecosphere, short of a mass extinction event like a huge asteroid striking the Earth. The last one 65 million years ago did some pretty nasty damage, but we now have the technology to detect and divert such objects so hopefully it will not be an issue.
Until the next year or two when they come back again bigger from a unseasonably warm summer and unseasonably wet winter which grows even more fuel. And then again and then again and then again, growing worse each time until the forest doesn't grow back again at some point.
So far food scarcity looks like the most plausible explanation. Someone needs to get a massive campaign together in flyover zones to get people to scatter food for them. Assuming appropriate feed for these species is even widely available in those areas.
Probably too little too late in this case though... I guess we just update the wildfire documents to include care for migratory species and hope there's a next time
I want to point out the issues of 1) commenting on areas where one doesn't have expertise 2) not recognizing that and find credible sources of information.
No offense, but even though you projected confidence I doubted you had any ornithology background. Since I didn't either, I recognized my lack of expertise and did some good faith basic research, informally speaking, to see if I could find out what the most likely explanation was.
It turns out it is food scarcity, but among insectivorous passerines (perching birds). Numerous amateur birdwatching sites that are easy to find note how hard it is to get them to your feeders since they do not eat seeds.
Scattering food would probably be ineffective.
It also suggests that there is a problem in a lower trophic level. We've read a lot about insect die offs. Now we seem to have a die off in migratory insectivores. Maybe it's because of fires triggering an early migration that is not timed with insect population cycles. Maybe it's not, I don't know. It seems like an area to be greatly concerned about.
Please don't cross into personal attack on HN. HN is only an internet forum. If you have better information to contribute, that's wonderful, but there's no requirement for other commenters to be specialists, or to quote specialists. Human conversation is far broader than that, and needs to be.
I know tone is hard online, but I never intended it a personal attack for a moment. Looking at it, I can see how it can be interpreted as condescending, though. I meant what I said: I am not a specialist, either. However, this was the top comment on this submission when I replied, and it was factually incorrect. I did not spend a long time searching for the links I cited. Dang, you understand running an online community better than I ever will, likely. What is the right call on civility vs correctness? How could I have done better here?
Obviously posting like this is a bannable offense on HN. I'm not going to ban you for this because your previous comments look fine. But please don't do it again, regardless of how provoked you are or feel.
“Climate crisis” is starting to become the laziest explanation for why anything unusual happens in this country. Are you telling me these birds never did their migration above forest fires? Tell us why it’s different.
It isn't necessarily different. Mass die-offs with birds happen periodically, and it is always jarring and always causes some form of investigation or introspection. Sometimes the introspection rules out any human involvement, other times it doesn't.
This article is about noting its happening and looking at what's visibly different right now, while the actual investigation goes on.
The way humans drive species to extinction is we push them right up to the very edge of it, removing 99% of their habitat and forage, and then we wait for a normal adverse event to finish the job. That these events happen from time to time does not absolve us.
Sometimes, if you find something like this to be unbelievable, you have to step back and ask yourself: What would things look like if the "climate crisis" answer was true? Take the premise that you disagree with, assume that it's true, and try to follow logically from there.
In this case, a real climate crisis would have incredibly broad effects. It could very plausibly be pointed to as the cause for the many things people are pointing to as being related to a "climate crisis."
So the idea that climate change as at least a significant factor in many unusual happenings in the country (and the world) is a "lazy" explanation doesn't follow logically. Either significant climate change is happening, in which case it is affecting basically everything, or it isn't, in which case it's not "lazy", it's just wrong, but based on a premise that makes it reasonable. (And also, we would need a whole bunch of new explanations for why all these previously-extremely-unusual events were happening, which, honestly, isn't that actually even scarier than the idea that it's climate change? We can see all these crazy things happening; if we don't even have a clue what's causing them, how is that not much scarier than what we already know?)