It's Time for Funders to Bankroll Climate Movement Building

The response to Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement was swift and encouraging. Hundreds of mayors, at least 10 states, and scores of businesses and universities issued statements or signed pledges to continue progress on climate change, with or without the federal government.

On the philanthropic front, Mike Bloomberg (who also serves as U.N. special envoy for cities and climate change) took a lead role in committing many of these parties to maintaining U.S. climate leadership. Bloomberg Philanthropies also pledged up to $15 million to the U.N. body that oversees implementation of the agreement to cover a portion of the operations costs the U.S. would have paid. Foundations like MacArthur, Hewlett, Rockefeller, McKnight, and Goldman foundations all made statements with varying degrees of disappointment, regret and condemnation.

We should celebrate their actions and draw hope from the fact that so many are willing to defy such a reckless decision by the president and the GOP. But Trump’s decision, and the political landscape that allowed it, reveal a larger problem—the American public is just not all that concerned about climate change. For example, a recent Gallup poll on the "Most Important Problems" facing the country found that environmental issues ranked 15th among non-economic concerns. Other polling has found the same thing, even as Americans report supporting the Paris Agreement. If the mass public doesn't care urgently about climate change, why should we expect our political leaders to care?

Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.

The Troubling Oil Money Behind Dartmouth’s New Energy Institute

To create a new institute focused on society’s pressing energy problems, Dartmouth has accepted $80 million from a powerful oil family surrounded by controversy. Such a gift seriously undermines the credibility of such an institute. When a really good school like Dartmouth College decides to take on the future of energy as a priority for its faculty and students, you would want it to be rigorous and independent—a beacon guiding the way as we grapple with climate change, sustainable development and environmental justice.

And you know what? Dartmouth’s new Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society may very well turn out to do some great work.

But that $80 million, half of the institute’s funding, comes from Irving Oil and the powerful family behind it, which is surrounded by controversies environmental and otherwise. This casts serious doubt over the initiative’s credibility before it has even started.

Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.

The Prosthetic Eyeball Is a Work of Art

Originally published at TheAtlantic.com. Making a realistic eye takes more than technical skill: an Object Lesson.

The eye is about the size of a quarter, resting gently in Kurt Jahrling’s hand as he adds faint washes of yellow and blue to the white surface. The ocularist has already laid tiny, reddish-pink threads of silk over the surface to mimic the curves of blood vessels, tiny rivers winding from either corner toward the iris. A hazel centerpiece surrounds a black dot meant to mimic the pupil; as the finishing touch, he adds the arcus, a grey ring that hugs the outer edge of some aging irises.

The result is an astoundingly close approximation of the missing right eye of a 63-year-old Bostonian named Kevin. Kevin had his eye surgically removed eight months prior. Today, he’ll wear this tiny piece of acrylic home: an illusion, a practical placeholder, and a little piece of art.

Read the full article at The Atlantic.

Image: Victor Ruiz Garcia / Reuters

Blue Line 15: Pep Pep

Mix of mostly instrumental, electronic, ambient music, and other sounds. An homage to the free-roaming chihuahuas of southern Arizona.

  1. The Sun Roars Into View by Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld

  2. Have Love Will Travel by The Thing

  3. Recovery by Sonne

  4. Arpeggiated Love by The Field

  5. Empire Systems by Rafael Anton Irisarri

  6. Birds Fly By Flapping Their Wings by Biosphere

  7. No Eyes by Donny McCaslin

 

Harnessing the Knowledge of Plants, Online

Originally published in American Forests Magazine Winter/Spring 2016 issue

Botanical gardens are building the first online catalog of every known plant species in the world. It could be a game-changing tool for conservation.

For more than 400 years, humans have been collecting bits of leaf and twig, pressing them flat and dry for safe-keeping and writing about them in journals and books, all to better understand the world’s plants and, more recently, to protect them.

Our knowledge has become exponentially more sophisticated over those years, but the information we’ve accumulated remains scattered all over the world and is often difficult to access. As biologists race to protect biodiversity, there’s an effort underway to change that, a global partnership to build World Flora Online — the first online catalog of the estimated 400,000 vascular plant species of the world.

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What Exactly is Christmas Tree Flocking?

Originally published at Mental Floss on Christmas morning 2015. Of the many curious holiday traditions (figgy pudding? wassailing?), one of the oddest has to be spraying down small trees with a mixture of adhesive and cellulose fibers to satisfy our longing for a white Christmas.

That’s what’s happening when you adorn a tree with artificial snow, otherwise known as flocking. And yet, when decorated and lit up, there’s something beautiful and warmly nostalgic about a well-flocked Christmas tree. Here’s how professionals manufacture this Christmas miracle.

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