FOR THOSE PAYING attention, this has been a fairly terrifying winter and spring. And I don’t just mean the presidential election. I mean that the signals we’re getting from the natural world indicate we’re crossing thresholds much more quickly than expected.
February, for instance, was the most anomalously hot month ever recorded on the planet, crushing all records. The world had pledged in Paris in December to try to hold global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius—well, February was just about at that level already.
The elevated temperatures were especially noticeable in the Arctic—for long stretches of the winter the region as a whole was as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit above average. (Christmas Eve was almost 50 degrees warmer than normal at the North Pole). Not surprisingly, this meant the lowest levels of Arctic sea ice ever recorded by late March.
Meanwhile in the Antarctic, new data showed that sea level may be set to rise far faster than expected, as the great ice sheets start to slide into the ocean—the water could go up by meters in the course of this century, which would make the defense of most of the world’s great cities a nightmare.
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To understand American politics, follow the money. But to understand American goodness and resolve, follow the storms.
Watch towns rally to save children and to provide emergency shelter. Watch people share water and food with strangers. Watch people share chain saws and rowboats. Watch religious communities collect offerings of money and supplies.
Watch people stop work in order to pile sandbags along cresting rivers. Watch hard-hit towns discover their core oneness. All those fears of the dreaded "other" that politicians try to whip up seem to evaporate when storms hit.
When our host led prayers for the victims of the tornadoes, no one asked if they were "our kind of people." They were victims, and that's all we needed to know. While politicians raged across the landscape shouting invectives, rekindling old grudges, stirring pots of fear and distrust, and seeking votes in hardship, actual victims of hardship were joining hands to serve the least of these.
President Obama helps an eighth-grader shoot a "Marshmallow Air Cannon" at the White House Science Fair. Watch art come to life with a little fire. Banksy art spotted on the streets of New Orleans. Jack White releases first cut from debut solo record. The Moth explores religion in American life. The World's Largest Doge Ball Game. And more!
Two Muslim Americans resopnd in different ways to TLC's All-American Muslim; authors honored at 2011 National Books Awards; solar organizations introduce Occupy Rooftops; how cloud seeding effects water shortages and weather systems; Google's new music store; and much more.