Climate Change, Immigration & Peter Pan

Peter Pan, yes, the story of someone who did not want to grow up. Having reached that magical age of awareness, he/she was now perfectly content to freeze that reality forever.

"Rene" the Bar in Budoia
“Rene” the Bar in Budoia.  The only changes in 40+ years are the owners.

These days, as I walk around my small little village of Budoia, population 2500, it is as it was when I first moved here to Italy 40 years ago, so I am reminded how things change and how they remain the same.

Nowadays, even in the smallest villages, it is not uncommon to see Africans and Chinese, here and there going about their daily business.  The Chinese are running many of the bars, where Italians get their coffee, newspapers, aperitif, etc. during the day, from dawn till late into the night.  Probably why the Chinese prosper, as the long hours no longer seem to appeal to the younger European generation. There are also Romanians and others from the Balkans, but Africans and Chinese stand out for obvious reasons.

With all the angst of the refugee crisis and immigration in general, I realize that for the 40 years I have been coming to Italy, I have always seen Africans here, even in small towns like Budoia. Chinese are a more recent phenomenon, first appearing in the outdoor markets 20 years ago and now in significant numbers in the bar business.  I have heard no complaints about the quality of their coffee and at least here, there is an acceptance that speaks to human migration.

Now, let’s rewind a bit.

From reading this blog, many of you know that Dauntless was docked right next to the Viking Tower in Waterford.

Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city and was founded by the Vikings (actually Danes) in the 9th century. It was taken over by the Anglo-Norman invaders in the 12th century and was one of the most important ports in Ireland until just recently due to its deep water port.

Waterford is the only town in Ireland that kept it’s Viking name.  A few hundred years after its founding, The Anglo-Normans came to Waterford to kick the Vikings out, who in turn had dislodged the few Celts who lived there.

Who were these Anglo-Normans?  The Anglos were made up of Saxons, originally from Saxony in Northern Germany and Engels (from whence we get the name “English” and the language), who came from the area of northern Germany, Denmark (from where the Vikings came from) and a bit of Friesland Northern islands north of Germany and Holland). The Normans of course were from Normandy, the NW corner of France.

So, these groups of people from northern France and Germany, after a stopover in England, decided to kick the Danes/Viking’s out of Ireland or at least Waterford, since it was a good place to be.

Now the Vikings who had settled Waterford, really liked Waterford.  It was much warmer and nicer than where they came from.  So when the English/Normans pushed them out, they didn’t move far, just up the road about 3 miles north of town, to a neighborhood called Ballybeg.  Now, what is interesting about Ballybeg nowadays, is the number of times I was warned about the “that neighborhood”.  I’m guessing that people in Waterford have been talking about “those” people in Ballybeg for the last 900 years. The fact that Waterford kept it’s Viking name, which means large port and the Celts also called it, “Lairge Port” speaks to the fact that even after the Anglo-Normans arrived, the Vikings were more assimilated than replaced.

In fact, a recent issue of the BBC History Magazine talks about how the Vikings may have assimilated as much as raped and pillages over the years, throughout the northern world.  Who knew?

So to look at it as dispassionately as possible, as we go back in time, when did migration/immigration start? Yesterday? Last year? 10 years ago? 100? 1000? 10,000? With Columbus? With …? Get the picture?

Immigrants are so labeled by those who migrated before them. Humans have been moving to find better climates, better food, better jobs, better lives, for at least 200,000 years.

Now related to all those humans, is that this week 190 countries have “struck a deal over that weekend that ushers in a broad, new international effort to wind down the fossil fuel era to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

Being an Atmospheric Scientist myself, I marvel at the thought that mankind thinks we are so powerful.  Much like Prometheus bringing fire to humans. But with that fire, we also got evils.

Clearly, the planet is warming.  Mankind’s activities have clearly warmed the planet over the last 10,000 years.  We are presently about 2 degrees above the Ice Age temperatures.  And that’s my big rub, had humans not existed, what would the temperature be now?  Probably close to Ice Age temperatures, probably colder, as the inter-glacial period would have been ending, thus ushering in a new, 5th Ice Age.

Now, everyone of course, knows that 56 million years ago, the planet was 5 degrees warmer than today and there were no ice caps, with forests extending from the farthest north to Antarctica.

My point being that the planet has been far warmer and far colder.

Humans are a part of the environment, just as the whales or birds in the sky. With the rise of agriculture and industrialization, the planet has warmed and will continue to do so; without it, we could not have supported the population the world now has.

We also may have averted the 5th Ice Age.

No matter.

We can all sit back and marvel at the hubris of people today.  For having warmed Earth, the two degrees necessary for life to be successful; we now want to stop the planet warming and further interfere with the climatic processes that have been going on for over 4 billion years.

That’s hubris.

We want industrialization with only its benefits and not the disadvantages.  A warmer planet with more CO2 in the air will grow more food crops, but for those who are not hungry, that’s not a consideration.

Why do we differentiate between a political and economic refugee?  Evidently, we as a society have already decided that starving to death is a better outcome than being thrown in jail for one’s beliefs?

Migration was OK until it wasn’t. We can’t allow further migration because we, who have already migrated, are happy with the status quo.

The climate has always been changing, but now we must stop it. Why, because we like it just so.

I wish our society were debating these issues.

We can’t see the forest for the trees. So let’s cut them down.

But then, now, having re-read this countless times before posting; I see a third option:

We tackle those subjects we have no control over because it diverts attention from the true everyday tragedies that we do control and cause. Like Bread & Circuses. 

If we concentrate on changing the temperature 100 years from now, nobody pays attention to the hundreds dying every day from being denied basic human rights!

WOW. That’s too cynical for even I. So let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt.

We have chosen this moment to freeze in time.  Just like Peter Pan.

 

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A Higher Call by Adam Makos – A Book that Lives Up to the Hype

Book Cover
Book Cover

I was skeptical at first, the hype being a bit over the top, but the book looked interesting, so I gave it a try.

What I liked immediately was that seldom do you get to read about World War II from opposite perspectives.  I’ve read a number of books by Germans and Americans, but this was really the first that juxtaposed the two adversaries over the shared incident.

Having lived in Germany for 4 years, and still having some dear friends there, I was interested in seeing it from the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) perspective.  Interestingly enough, this is one aspect that Hollywood depicted rather well in the Great Escape, which highlights the conflict between the Luftwaffe and the SS and Gestapo.  I think Stalag 17, did also, but I frankly don’t remember it as well.

Speaking of movies, two other must see WWII bomber films are Twelve O’clock High and Command Decision, both great movies that deal with both the aircrews and the commanders who must keep them going no matter what. If you have not seen those three movies, shame on you.  Since you (and I) did not live through it, it helps put our lives and our freedom in perspective.  Nothing valuable comes cheaply. I wonder if President Obama has seen them??

Moving on.

I liked the detail and it was clear that the writer, Adam Makos, did a massive amount of research for this book.  He has managed to write an engrossing story that is hard to put down.  You felt the fear and terror the aircrews went through.

In one gripping scene, our American pilot, only 20 years old and the Aircraft Commander, Charlie Brown, is taxiing his B-17 on a very foggy, dark morning, there are still two B-17’s in front of him, taking off at intervals of 30 seconds. As he gets close to the runway, they can hear the first bomber speeding down the runway, when all of a sudden they see this large yellow glow at the end of the runway and then hear the explosion.  Realizing that the plane just crashed and exploded on takeoff, they wait in stunned silence for instructions.  Within seconds, the word comes over the radio to continue takeoffs.  As they continue to taxi they see the yellow glow again of an explosion, this time higher in the sky, a midair collision.  One of the planes that just took off collided with another plane in the dense fog.  Within 2 minutes, three bombers and 30 aircrew are gone, just like that.

You’ll have to read the book for the rest of the story, but suffice it to say, you will not be bored and maybe you too will come away inspired and thankful.

 

Rantings and Ravings

Another Sunrise on the Miami River April 1, 2014
Another Sunrise on the Miami River April 1, 2014

Yes, I am sitting here, still, on the Miami River, watching the sun rise and feeling miserable.  Why? You ask yourself, he is in this almost idyllic setting, yet feels miserable? Because he tells you, he is an impatient, spoiled American, whose patience was never very much in the first place.  And he adds, there is one of those noisy birds, I think of the magpie family, who sounds like a whole flock, but is just one plain noisy, and probably horny, bird.  Every few minutes, my idyllic setting and even noisy bird, is interrupted as a plane takes off from Miami International Airport.  Not good noise.  Unpurposeful.

I used to have a T-shirt which proclaimed, Jet Noise, the Sound of Freedom.  It was, but we were referring to a pair of F-4’s flying over your head at 300 feet. In the 80’s in Europe, it was, and the little left wing meteorologist that arrived in Italy in 1976 and had just voted for Jimmy Carter, saw that world as it really was, and it was not as depicted in the American press.  Europeans liked, loved the sound of freedom.  I learned to appreciate the goodness of the US, (though still annoyed at our bumbling sometimes) and have not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since!

By the way, those too young to know or too old that you already forgot, should read Robert Gate’s book, From the Shadows, a fascinating account of the White House politics and the world from the Nixon years thru George Bush one.  And surprise, surprise (actually I was) that the Russians, yes, the same peace loving, respectful people they are today, actually did promote and fund all of the anti-American protests of the 70’s and 80’s in Europe. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006L9B616/ref=kinw_myk_ro_title

OK, I’m really not miserable, slight (gross) exaggeration.  Just a bit bored and impatient, as the paravanes stabilizer project proceeds at a glacial pace.  I’ve actually been assured it will be finished in three days, but Felix, the guy I’m renting the dock from, thinks three weeks is more like it.  Also my back hurts, since the painting project almost three weeks ago and it’s hard to think of witty things to write when in pain.

Then, eerily, for just a few seconds, I hear one of those birds that is on the soundtrack of every Hollywood movie scene in a jungle.  Distinctive, loud, but quite short.

Did I mention the dolphins?  Yes, dolphins swim by.  Julie and I went kayaking Saturday morning and they swam right next to us.  Same one, (Who knows?) came by this morning.  I threw him a piece of salmon from my breakfast, but I don’t think they like it cooked (smoked, processed whatever). A less picky sea gull soon took care of that piece of offal.

What you think, kayaks?  Yes, as we wanted a way to get to shore, without having to use the humongous dingy (I’m also dealing with that issue).

Lastly, yesterday evening, I rode by bike to the cutest Dairy Queen, I’ve seen in a long time. Old time, with only ice cream.  Getting into a conversation with another patron, he told me he was coming here to this same DQ 50 years ago.

Dairy Queen - a Glimpse of the Past
Dairy Queen – a Glimpse of the Past

OK. John, the Rigger and Red, the Fabricator, should be by any day now, so I better get dressed.

 

John the Rigger
John the Rigger
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Dauntless Awaits
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New Deck Lights

Scotland 2011

Malo 42
Helle 3
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Oban
Caledonian MacBrayne
Caledonian MacBrayne
Anderton Boat Lift
Anderton Boat Lift
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Narrow Boat in Canal

So just weeks after our foray into Tennessee, Julie and I were flying to Manchester, England to visit two sets of friends, my childhood friend, Eve (who was/is like a sister to me), her husband Nigel and our Dutch friends, Jan and Carin on their 42 foot sailboat Helle 3, in Oban, Scotland.

Highlights of our trip included:

  • Visiting the Anderton Boat Lift
  • Seeing numerous English canals and narrow canal boats
  • Driving the interesting roads of northern England and Scotland on the left side of the road
  • Eating haggis as an appetizer
  • Sailing to St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides
  • Being on the open ocean for the first time in our lives on a small boat and loving it
  • Being on heel and not loving it
  • Riding on a little bus with everyone speaking Gaelic
  • Traveling on the Caledonian MacBrayne
  • Staying our last night in York, England and realizing that this is the York in New York.

Besides the pictures here, follow the link for pictures of our entire trip.  Sorry they are not yet all labeled, that will continue to be a work in progress.

Pictures of Northern England, Scotland & Outer Hebrides Trip 2011

Trawler School – February 2010

 

Since the boat chase had clearly become almost an obsession (don’t all good things start that way? Yeah, and some really bad ones too!), I figured it was time to get Julie involved.  This needed to be something we were both in tune with.

As teachers, it’s clear that a picture saves a thousand words, and actually doing it, saves a thousand pictures.  So, during our winter break (a week off in the middle of February), we found ourselves in Ft. Lauderdale at Capt. Bob’s Trawler school.  Captain Bob was the epitome of a salty dog, a bit gruff and old fashioned, with a nebulous past.  But he was also a fantastic teacher.  He managed to differentiate the instruction so that Julie, who knew practically nothing about boats or boating, was not overwhelmed, and I was not bored.  He also had the right mix of classroom and on water cruising.  All in all, a great choice, at a very good price.

Some observations and lessons learned:

  • We really enjoyed our 4 days on the water.
  • We confirmed that we didn’t like the layout of “galley down”
  • Slow trawlers are still interesting, even at 7 knots.
  • We still didn’t like manual pump toilets.
  • Capt. Bob also turned out to be a fantastic cook and salad maker.
  • Julie took the longest solo drive of her life, 1000 miles, as she had the task of bringing the car down from NY, as I was once again calendar challenged.  She had a great time and found the best fried chicken ever.
  • Given the opportunity to swim with the dolphins, as one showed up while Julie was swimming at our anchorage, even as we yelled our encouragement, she took a second look at the 7 foot dolphins as it slid just past her for the second time, and she was out of the water in about 0.3 seconds.