UW-River Falls Lands Grant To Study ‘Detergent For The Atmosphere’

The increasing level of awareness about enacting proper policies to combat global warming, and educating the citizenry about environmental concerns is producing some good results. We can agree policy moves are not taking place fast enough to meet the changes that are being noted globally, but with more efforts made at informing younger generations, who will be leaders someday, it is hoped that more robust changes can occur.

I was delighted to learn, therefore, that three University of Wisconsin-River Falls students are using their summer months as part of a National Science Foundation grant to study the effect of pinenes, molecules released by conifer trees, and other vegetation into the atmosphere. Why this matters, (and like you, I am learning as I blog), is that pinenes are oxidized by other molecules in the atmosphere and during the process produce an important molecule that acts as a detergent for the atmosphere. 

University of Wisconsin River Falls Chemistry and biotechnology Professor Stacey Stoffregen, left, with research students Lilianna Rolands, Makayla Mobeck, and Trinity Olguin.

There are many reasons to smile about this project and applaud the effort.

First, science matters greatly, and grant writing and securing funding is tough work. So to land the $459,686 three-year grant for the project is truly noteworthy.

Getting fresh young minds involved with research not only looks good for their future resumes, but also matters to the climate change dilemma, that now impacts the entire globe. Who knows what findings or new questions these students might land upon which move and shape another researcher perhaps in some other nation that will then spur on a finding that has far-reaching implications.

That is the beauty of research! That is what excites me about this news.

And of course, the research branches out at UW-River Falls beyond these women as additional students will continue the research project for the next two summers.  Their contributions will supplement the growing understanding of atmospheric processes.

There are many news headlines that make up each of our days, and sadly, too many of them are the kind that can only be labeled as just awful. So it pleases me that there is a truly uplifting and hopeful story, coming from Wisconsin about young people and scientific research.

Climate Change Catastrophes Abound

There is one line of data that simply stuns the mind and almost deflates the spirit.

Six of the largest 10 wildfires in Californian history have happened since 2020. And the 2021 forest fire season is not yet over.

It was surreal when reports from Greenville, a Gold Rush-era town. was completely gone, devastated, and leveled with nothing more standing than a news reporter conveying to the world the horror all about.

We know some of the side effects of wildfires from the Western states or ones raging in Canada. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has issued several air quality advisories over the past weeks for wide swaths of the state due to fine particle pollution at levels found to be unhealthy for residents.

This morning I awoke to the stark images from the Greek island of Evia, where more than 2,000 people were forced to evacuate as raging wildfires continued to spread, wiping out homes, reducing once-picturesque landscapes to ashes, and destroying entire villages.

Photos showed devastated residents standing under amber skies amid searing heat as they waited to be rescued from the island, which is Greece’s largest by area and population after Crete.

The news regarding the heatwave in the past 10 days in Greenland is also alarming. It has led to the region’s biggest melting event so far in the 2021 season, with researchers calculating that enough ice seeped into the ocean to cover all of Florida with two inches of water.

“It’s becoming more and more common to see these large melt events,” Lauren Andrews, a glaciologist with NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office. That’s because we generally have a warmer climate.”

It was reported today humans have already heated the planet by roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the 19th century, largely by burning coal, oil, and gas for energy. But that’s only the beginning, according to a report issued this morning by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of scientists convened by the United Nations. Even if nations started sharply cutting emissions today, total global warming is likely to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades, a hotter future that is now essentially locked in.

The news reports of tragedy and the data compiled in scientific reports seem unable to move the dial when it comes to how the average person reacts. The folks from my parent’s generation might term this careless attitude as whistling past the graveyard.

In this nation that can be explained in large part by one major political party ignoring reality for partisan reasons. There is no running from the facts, however. We can not plead ignorance from data that shows we have over the many decades made more changes to the climate than during the entire prior history of humanity.

We proved to have the ability and ingenuity to industrialize and so we must now ask if we globally have the brains–and the will–to meet the challenge to curb and bend the destruction of the planet from its warming.

Meanwhile, the news of climate change will showcase gripping and powerfully sad images and accounts of our collective failure.

Children At Southern Border Deserve Our Open Arms, And Long-Term Solutions

Javier Alejandro Vindel-Rodriguez holds on to the chain-link fence of the Brownsville Express International Bridge.

Compassion is a trait that I do not consider old-fashioned. It has guided me over the decades, and it will to the end of my days. Even with all the baseless and fact-free rhetoric that is being spread widely about the ‘throngs of COVID-infected children’ at the Southern Border I rely on solid information and my inner compass. Our nation must act likewise and use our ideals as a guide in how to proceed with these young people.

Before I get to the heart of my post a fact needs to be put front and center. President Biden is still implementing a pandemic emergency rule from the past administration that empowers border agents to turn away migrants at the border, with the exception of unaccompanied minors. Those young people should not be considered expendable or able to make it on their own. They may not be our nation’s children. But they are children and we must act like caring adults.

The issue of immigration has been one that decades of policymakers and elected officials have argued about and, as of this posting, failed to address with comprehensive and meaningful legislation. The corrosive nature of our politics has even denied the Dreamers access to the security that would allow for their lives to have stability.

We should not allow for the mean-spirited nature of some politicians to gain traction on this issue for it is they who have in large part caused this humanitarian situation. How many times has a measure been pushed in congress where more immigration judges have been requested, a far superior process outlined for asylum requests, and even a registration system for unaccompanied minors? And how many times have conservatives in the congress rejected the content of those bills?

The fact is there will be much stress and upheavals in Mexico and Central American countries in the years to come. Some of it will be created by climate change and while there are those who will pretend that is not a ‘real concern’, it is in fact, already contributing to immigration. Reports from places such as the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) underscores weather changes are happening as drought becomes prevalent. As such, challenges with farming means people are leaving.

Add in drugs and the misery they bring with additional crime, natural disasters, and failed governmental leadership and it is no wonder people flee in an attempt for something better. You and I would do the same thing if in that situation. Therefore it is proper to state we need to place ourselves into the shoes of a young person standing at our southern border.

I utterly and completely reject those inhumane voices who would simply turn vulnerable kids back to whatever propelled them into their northern journey. I suspect many of those conservatives who would reject these young people today were championing pro-life sentiments in the last election cycle. We must, as a nation, do far better than listen to the ones who lambast the ones who have come to our land in recent weeks.

First, there must be a faster and more seamless way to process the young migrants and transfer them to shelters managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. At that point, we know there are ample sponsors who will assist with these children.

Second, there must be a concerted bipartisan effort to pass and implement an idea that was talked about in the campaign. There is now an authorization request of $4 billion in funding (as part of the Engagement in Central America initiative) to get programming developed to combat the core issues that concern people so much they wish to immigrate to our nation. Fighting violence, corruption, drugs, gangs, and extreme poverty in the places they occur will be the best use of our funds and advance the type of long-term answers that are needed.

There are also ideas percolating within the Biden administration, in conjunction with the United Nations, to create shelters in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. By helping those seeking refuge from violence and extreme poverty in their home countries we can aid in a humanitarian way and not create immigration concerns.

We can be smart and creative in solving this problem. But we can not, MUST NOT, discard children because they come from another country and have brown skin. That runs counter to the very idea of America.

And so it goes.

A Political First After 175 Years

More and more people, institutions, organizations, and ordinary Americans are grasping the enormity of the moment this nation is confronting. The upcoming presidential election is not just another balloting-box experience that history will write about for generations to come. This is the election that will not only determine what type of a people we are, what character the citizenry is made of, but frankly, this election will determine if there will be a republic for those future readers to still live in.

That gravitas to this election is why so many otherwise non-political people are speaking up, and doing so clearly and factually.

Scientific American on Tuesday endorsed Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in the magazine’s 175-year history.

Its editors said they felt “compelled” to do so because President Trump’s well-documented rejection of science, from climate change to the coronavirus, has cost tens of thousands of American lives.

“The pandemic would strain any nation and system,” the editors wrote, “but Trump’s rejection of evidence and public health measures have been catastrophic in the U.S. He was warned many times in January and February about the onrushing disease, yet he did not develop a national strategy to provide protective equipment, coronavirus testing or clear health guidelines.

“Trump claimed, falsely, that ‘anybody that wants a test can get a test,’” they continued. “That was untrue in March and remained untrue through the summer. Trump opposed $25 billion for increased testing and tracing that was in a pandemic relief bill as late as July. These lapses accelerated the spread of disease through the country — particularly in highly vulnerable communities that include people of color, where deaths climbed disproportionately to those in the rest of the population.”

The monthly magazine, with a circulation of 3.5 million, is owned by Springer Nature, an international academic and scientific publishing company.

California Fires Showcased With Stark Front Pages Of Morning Newspapers

The front pages of the newspapers today in California look as if a movie set has gone angry and grown across large swaths of the state.

All COVID Newscasts Underserving America


If one only receives their news via the evening broadcasts from the three main networks it is most likely there is no awareness about a long list of international events that are shaping regions of the world.  I am clearly aware of the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the many tentacles it has on all parts of the nation.  I am also aware of the need to report and juggle events within the roughly 22 minutes allotted for the nightly broadcasts.  But it also goes without saying that news programming needs to adapt during this time of pandemic so the events from Poland to Hong Kong also get covered.

If everyone read a morning newspaper there would be less reason to find concern about the absence from ABC, CBS, or NBC about events that not only impact large swaths of the world but also impact international policy decisions our nation is then required to make.  A well-informed citizenry aids in shaping our national discussion on the issues which our leaders will then be offering a response.

I wrote about the actions nations like China, North Korea, and Iran have been undertaking over the past months, as they hoped a pandemic and the lack of ability from our president would allow them to get away with their long-held desires.  In April I summed up a post entry with these two paragraphs.

There is  no doubt that international players are watching the United States very closely as this pandemic takes hold of the country.  They are most conscious about the lack of leadership exhibited from this White House.  It is troubling to see so many rogue players and confrontational nations seeming to wish to take moves that run counter to international norms.

While there is a lack of credible leadership in the White House there will be those who take advantage of the existing circumstances. At the fringes that is what we are seeing play out on the world stage. It is not something we can dismiss, and it is not something that the television news media in this nation should fail to report.  We need to be aware of international events, even during a pandemic.

A most draconian national security law imposed by Beijing has left Hong Kong in a most perilous position.  Those living in the city can now be jailed for life for vaguely defined laws.  What China deems “subversive” can mean not only a citizen of the city can be forced to the mainland for trial but jailed for decades over the most bizarre of reasons.

A truly important election is taking place this weekend in Poland, where the outcome could signal the beginning of the end of right-wing and illiberal democratic governments in Eastern Europe. (Illiberal democracy is a topic of importance on CP)  Those who follow the trend lines over the past years can attest to the dangerous outcomes for democracy when the press is vilified, courts turn out rulings dictated by oppressive rulers, and human rights are tossed aside like old bread.  Warsaw Mayor Trzaskowski is seeking to remove the right-wing incumbent President Duda.   The outcome is vital to the international tide of democracy that needs restoration.

If a news story on a major network started out with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, when completed, being nearly twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and as wide as the Brooklyn Bridge is long or that the reservoir behind it is roughly the size of London, viewers would pay attention. Once operating the dam will be the largest hydro-electric project in Africa.  It will produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity, but a massive dispute with Egypt and Ethiopia and Sudan has prompted threats of war and concerns about a future conflict over water resources under pressure because of climate change.

The world is filled with these types of news stories that we need to know about and with newspapers and newsmagazines, many people are better informed.  But there is a huge swath of the public who rely upon television network news for their source of information.  And that demographic is not prone to tune in to PBS’ NewsHour.  So it is incumbent that the three main networks find a better use of the time allotted to them in the evening.

Increasing the length of their national newscast is not an option due to the importance of local advertisers to affiliates around the nation.  Going without advertisers on the national broadcast would add about 8 minutes of content.  If there would be just a cold opening without a playlist of upcoming stories, and also jettisoning the ‘feel good’ story at the end of each broadcast would add at least 3 minutes of airtime for actual news content.

There must be a better way to inform those who tune in to the evening broadcasts and rely on it for most of their knowledge about the world. The recent past underscores why there needs to be a better-informed citizenry, which then allows for a better performing electorate.

And so it goes.

After 12 Covers Of The Pandemic The Economist “Is Free”

I enjoy watching HOW stories are reported as much as WHAT is reported. For instance, I like to see what the first story on the three main networks is each evening. What aspect of COVID-19, for example over the past 8 weeks, led the news. With that in mind it was interesting to see what topic broke the series of front cover images about the pandemic in The Economist this week.

From a newsletter this weekend from the magazine.

The cover this week deserves a drumroll. After 12 consecutive issues when the pandemic or its direct consequences have muscled themselves onto the front, we have broken free. We are calling for a global effort to tackle climate change. Covid-19 has created a unique chance to steer the economy away from carbon. The world should seize the moment.

When you face something as all-encompassing as a pandemic, it is hard to change the subject. The risk is of seeming tasteless or beside the point—like talking about politics when there has been a death in the family. The task for the cover was to make our shift feel natural.

That phrase, “Seize the moment”, which we lit upon before our cover designer put pencil to paper, was a big help. It pivots on the pandemic at the same time as being a call to action. It was the inspiration for the sketches we pored over during our Monday-afternoon cover hangout.


Hey, Melania, There Is Bullying Taking Place In Your Own Home!

The low moments in the Donald Trump term of office just keep coming.  The one today is simply beyond embarrassing.

Donald Trump mocked teen climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter following her being named as Time magazine’s Person of the Year. 

He labeled her international placement on the cover as “ridiculous” and suggested she take anger management classes.  “So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

A most sickening display from someone who continues to degrade the nation and himself.  Attacking a teenage girl is never a good idea.  And attacking someone with Asperger’s syndrome is doubly wrong.  She was asked to speak on climate change in front of several high-profile entities, such as the United Nations and Congress.  And Trump can only seek to smear and defame her talents.

This is just too rich given that last week the White House was speaking out about a congressional witness who brought up Trump’s son, Barron.  The Press Secretary called that matter a “classless move” and Melania stated the person “should be ashamed”.

Today crickets are heard from the Third Wife.

Time magazine chose Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, known for holding world leaders accountable for their role in the climate crisis, as the youngest individual to receive this recognition.  Simply wonderful news as it aids in spreading the message about climate change. 

Melaina, who from time to time weighs into the public debate, wishes to be known for speaking out against bullying.  She seems not able to handle the issue in her own home so opining about it in public forums is nothing more than a joke.  It seems that she only cares about adults bullying children when it’s her own children.

And so it goes.