The [Versitile] Snowball and the Professor: C02 and the polity of kinetic solutions

By Russ Imrie – updated September 3

…apocalyptic visions are a form of escapism, not a moral summons, and still less a plan of action. Where we stumble is in conjuring up grim futures in a way that helps to avert them.” (New Yorker: Schultz, Katherine July 20 The Really Big One.)

The “apocalyptic visions” Schultz refers to are earthquakes and tsunamis, concerns of the planet’s inhabitants living near (or atop) vulnerable zones. But snowballs? Grim futures? Let’s look at the other important point in the quote: “…and still less a plan of action.”— now we can cue the snowball, an unlikely ally in the project to cut human-enhanced global warming, a hot issue indeed.

The snowball’s darker (below #1) dynamics as a force of nature emerged at the National Press Club on 14th Street in Washington DC early June as Dr. Andy Jorgensen Ph. D. (University of Toledo, Ohio) used it to characterize phenomena illustrative  of the planet’s seriously warming environment and paradoxically, a way it can disrupt inertia and mobilize energy to mitigate our contributions to it.

The vicious circle, or cycle, is the familiar negative vector we visualize with the snowball effect: here it’s about the degrading Arctic icecap. As [highly reflective] ice melts, more [dark] ocean waters are exposed to sunlight and warmed and so melting more ice—thus snowballing the situation. Then there are the more or less frozen boreal forest lands covering much of Alaska, Canada and Siberia. These regions have sequestered biomass in a suspended state of decomposition. Basically eons of fallen timber, moss, and vegetation is frozen in bogs and permafrost zones. Well; was frozen, and is now decomposing and releasing large amounts of CO2 and  methane, a greenhouse gas with 84 times the atmospheric warming effect of Carbon Dioxide.

Dr. Andy Jorgensen Ph.D. - photo:Russ Imrie

Dr. Andy Jorgensen Ph.D. – photo: Russ Imrie

Since reliable observations baseline in late 19th century, global temperatures have risen relentlessly as CO2 has. Chart by Jorgensen. - photo: Russ Imrie

It’s a clear trend: global temperatures are climbing sharply as energy usage and industrialization grows. Chart by Jorgensen. – photo: Russ Imrie

Jorgensen’s presentation was about work researching ways to kick the discourse on climate warming up a notch by combining clear information and an immediate audience anonymous poll that was compiled, evaluated, and displayed within a few moments. Audience members immediately saw where their responses stood on questions about climate warming and humanity’s impact on it compared to thousands of results from earlier polls and the stats from among the group.  It was clear everyone in the audience reacted to the results as they came up. In the group setting, a deeper impression was more clearly made, among colleagues (no matter how temporary) than a personal opinion, made alone and perhaps anonymously, without immediate feedback.

Per capita CO2 waste production to atmosphere. - phoyo:Russ Imrie

Per capita CO2 waste production in tons to atmosphere, some major industrialized economies. Chart by Jorgensen. – photo: Russ Imrie

US consumers emit the highest per capita levels of CO2 on the planet

Motivating the most polluting consumers on the planet to politically energize law and leaders against levels of CO2 emissions inherent in its lifestyle is an epic undertaking  (below #3). So making it easier and way more interactive to exercise political energies is tool whose time has come. Even GOP candidate Carly Fiorina is floating the idea of this kind of “crowd sourcing” political opinion for a an effective solution to government inertia and gridlock on some issues. “it’s not rocket science” she says. Maybe it’s only clicker science and that’s here, now.

One of these tools, one we experienced at Jorgensen’s presentation, is the Turing Response Card (#4 below). It sends the user’s response to the presenter’s receiver and instantly outputs to the screen cumulative graphic results of audience responses, past and present. It’s disruptive potential lies in the “community” instantly delivered by a shared experience. So, it’s time to get the snowball moving in a good way.

The real Climate Change Disrupter - Turning Technology's Response Card #4 below - photo: Russ Imrie

The real Climate Change disruptor – Turning Technology’s Response Card [4] – photo: Russ Imrie

More cool snowball/political stuff:

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R.-OK) drags the well-worn snowball into Congress and proves once and for all climate warming is a hoax.

Sen Inhofe ( Liberal Arts BA, bankrupted a company)  goes after pope Francis (Masters in chemistry) for raising climate change. “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.” (Huffington Post: Kerr, Jacob June 12, updated June 16 Jim Inhofe Says The Pope Shouldn’t Talk About Climate Change.)

An actually sensitive report on Oklahoma climate change deniers (CNN: Sutter, John D.  August 6 Woodward County, Oklahoma:Why do so many here doubt climate change?.)


#1 The “snowball effect” happens when a small, insignificant snowball gently rolls downhill and accumulates mass as more snow sticks to it, sometimes reaching terrifying size and velocity . So the metaphor works for anything  that grows larger as it proceeds in a cycle as it spins, out of control, driven by a gravity, growing in mass, and thus intensifying.

#2 Jorgensen partners with the National Council on Science and the Environment and the Encyclopedia of the Earth. At The University of Toledo he directs the introductory chemistry program and works on innovative  educational techniques for the classroom, such as personal response devices, and web applications for online instruction. He previously served as an assistant vice president for academic affairs at the university.

#3 The survey, conducted in 40 countries across the globe, shows that the majority of the populations of 19 countries believe that climate change is the top global threat. More than 70% of respondents in Uganda, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Peru, Brazil, the Philippines, and India say they are more concerned about climate change than economic instability, ISIS and Iran’s nuclear program, among other issues.” Only 42% of people surveyed in the U.S. say they are very concerned about climate change. (Time Magazine: Worland, Justin July 14, 2015 Here’s Where People Are Most Concerned About Climate Change.)

[4] Turning Technologies hardware/software/local/cloud solutions and a disposable version of the device.

distant US Capitol dome

U.S. Capitol SOTU eve, 2011 – photo Russ Imrie

Russell Imrie is a  Networking and Content Specialist, craft beer enthusiast, webmaster and an American Indian blogger living in the Washington DC area. For a decade Imrie built and lived totally off the grid in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California near Silicon Valley. More opinion pieces are at China Daily Mail (under nom de blog supTweet)

Copyright Russell Imrie 2015

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