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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Minot's Flood: A Climate Wake-Up Call

   *I wrote this a month after Minot's crippling flood, submitted it to several climate change blogs, and didn't get it picked up... so here it is.

     Earlier this Summer, more than 10,000 people in my hometown of Minot, North Dakota were given 48 hours notice to evacuate from the impending flooding of the Souris River. When the river swelled over the levies, thousands of homes and businesses were swamped with record-breaking flood waters. Families were left homeless and jobs vanished as houses and businesses disappeared underwater. Now, with the water finally receded, people return to scenes of devastation and attempt to return to life in a city that now looks like a war zone, packed with ruined buildings and heaps of debris. It will be many months before all the damage is repaired.
    I’ve worked for years on passing legislation to prevent climate change by cutting pollution and moving toward a clean energy economy; the threat of natural disasters like flooding, forest fires, and droughts resulting from a warming planet had always motivated me to work on the issue. Seeing the incredible damage visited on the city that I was born and raised in has been a shocking reminder for me about the suffering and loss that results from these kinds of disasters. The type of horror visited on my home town will continue to rock communities across the world, in the form of climate-induced disasters. Just this Summer, we’ve seen a rash of tornadoes, wildfires, and heat waves. As the planet warms, frequency and severity of natural disasters will continue to rise.
    The National Wildlife Federation’s 2009 report Increased Flooding Risk: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for Riverfront Communities describes how flooding results from warmer temperatures. Heavy rainfall, rain-on-snow weather, shifts in snowpack and snowfall, earlier Springs, and ice jams all result from climate change and increase the risk of flooding. Warmer temperatures in the winter can result in moist air from the South drifting North, where cold temperatures freeze the water vapor into massive snowfalls; these snows turn into spring floods. The report specifically mentions how ice jams contributed to the 2009 flooding of the Red River, which runs through Fargo and Grand Forks. I don’t claim to directly attribute Minot's flood to climate change because I don't have enough data, but it appears that factors like a fast thaw and heavy snowpack contributed to the flood. Regardless of how big a role climate change played in this specific disaster, whats clear is that climate change will continue to cause catastrophes.
    Though many have been left homeless, jobless, and penniless, the strength of Minot’s community efforts in the face of adversity is inspiring. From the initial volunteering to build levees that saved some neighborhoods to the offering up of beds to sleep in during the evacuation to the help rebuilding and restoring of areas ravaged by flood waters, Minotians worked together throughout the entire excruciating process. Currently, Minot is leading Coca-Cola’s Think Positive vote-off for a grant to restore Oak Park (an impressive feat in a city where many are in temporary housing and without internet).
These friends and neighbors who came together to face the challenge of a flood give me hope that we can come together as a country, a world, a people, to prevent the global threat of climate change. We can harness the power of the wind and the sun to create clean energy. We can upgrade our homes, businesses, and infrastructure to use less energy. Government, industry, individuals, we can all work together to reduce the pollution that leads to disasters.
    My hope is that this incident and others like it will serve as a catalyst to motivate you to take action. With perserverance and hard work, we can come up with solutions to prevent disasters and save society from the untold devastation that climate change will continue to cause.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Enlightenment or Sensation?

What would you choose, enlightenment or sensation?

 a. Enlightenment- for the rest of your life, any time you have a question, the answer will magically come to you. You can't answer other peoples' questions, just things that YOU genuinely wish to know.

b. Sensation- for the rest of your life, you can feel any way you want at any time. Any emotion, any sensation you can think of you can feel.

My Spirit Animal: The Mammoth

A spirit or power animal is an animal that represents one’s personality, physical traits, and lifestyle. On a mystical level, they act as guardians, sharing wisdom and providing guidance. The practice of having spirit animals is found in shamanic cultures, though similar practices can be found in Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and other religions. Many people today have a spirit animal that they feel represents them, and interest in spirit animals ranges from a serious spiritual belief to a fun way to define yourself with a particularly cool animal.
            For years I was frustrated that I had never been able to decide on a spirit animal. Was I a cobra, full of coiled power, potency, and precision? A shark, the relentless and capable king of his realm? A gorilla, strong and responsible while gentle and loving toward family and community?
            The answer dawned on me earlier this month; my spirit animal is the mammoth.
            On my recent trip to South Africa, I had the amazing opportunity to observe elephants in the wild. Their physical appearance, demeanor, and behavior were striking.
After returning home I thought back to a dream that I had several years ago. It was a lucid dream where I had unlimited power to create. A wave of my hand lit up the night sky with fireworks spelling my name. I made a city of people, characters of all kinds who would inhabit the realm. A mammoth appeared beneath me, a mighty, enormous mount covered in shaggy brown fur with huge tusks. At breakneck speeds we rode as one through this shining city of my design, triumphant heroes to the thousands of people I had created. . A mammoth makes a perfect animal spirit companion, a faithful steed, a chariot, a vahana, and a stalwart sidekick. In the dream I drew on the mammoth’s power, and we became greater than the sum of our parts.
My experience in Africa and the memory of my dream sparked a realization that I shared many characteristics with mammoths. Mammoths shared many qualities with their elephant relatives. I find parallels between these characteristics and my own personality and life. Elephants have complex social structures: my interest in politics and the systems that society operates within. Elephants exhibit cooperation and altruism: my political values are rooted in collective action for solving problems, and concern for all people and nature. Elephants are intelligent and known for memory: I pride myself on mental capabilities and prioritize learning and discussions to improve my mind. Elephants engage in complex communication that utilizes all five senses: communication is one of my strong points and relates to my professional work and goals as an advocate and conveyer of information to the people. Elephants are peaceful herbivores but have the ability to fiercely defend themselves: I am also peaceful but value strength, courage, and the ability to defend myself and those I love, physically but also in the context of an advocate for progressive social issues.
            Although I am elephant-like in the previously discussed ways, my spirit animal is specifically the mammoth. Mammoths were hardy creatures that lived in cold windy plains regions; I’ve lived most of my life in North Dakota and Minnesota. Mammoths are even awesome and huger than elephants, so of course I’d choose mammoth the mammoth any day.
But perhaps most importantly, the extinction of the mammoth contains a lesson about climate change and sustainability, two issues I’m deeply concerned with. Mammoths are believed to have gone extinct because of two factors: an increase in global temperatures and overhunting by humans. Mammoths were pushed to the brink by massive climate-related losses of habitat and food; current climate change threatens up to a third of all animal species with extinction while putting strain on food systems through lower crop yields, less fresh water, and more pests. Excessive hunting by humans was the final straw; current unsustainable methods of production like over-fishing of our oceans threaten animal species and the food that they provide. Thus, the tale of the mammoth’s extinction reminds us that our world is at risk of collapse if we don’t work to protect it.
            In my dream, I was able to do great things when in touch with my mammoth spirit animal. In life, the idea of the mammoth inspires me to do great things and embrace the qualities that make these ancient beasts so inspiring. As I live my life, I’ll draw on the mammoth’s complexity and power, while remembering their tragic end and working to prevent a repetition of history.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I find dreams to be fascinating sources of amusement and knowledge.

Dreams can be joyful and empowering dreams (flying care-free over a fantastic landscape).
Dreams can be terrifying nightmares (fears from deep within us awoken and given form).
Dreams can be enlightening and even spiritual (finding insight from what you experience).
Dreams can be mundane... or comical, hehe.
Or completely NoN--sENsIcAL!

I write down my dreams as soon as I wake up and don't edit them. Enjoy the following dreams.


Someone, somewhere was talking about BattleStar Galactica. And dinosaurs (T-Rex). It was a comedy routine. It was as if I was floating in darkness listening to the comedian. Then I was driving a mini-van. I had to catch up with some people. Somehow I was driving it through a strange living room that was covered in snow. The mini-van crashed/got stuck on a couch. I couldn’t back it out.


This was an extremely action-packed dream. It was unique in the fact that it was a cartoon and based around Futurama. It started out on Earth fighting the Greek god Zeus, and I’m pretty sure I had a bunch of smash bros. characters on my team, I can remember Donkey Kong and Samus with us. We were fighting him (looked more like an armored/robot Zeus) and somehow somebody sent us to a space station in orbit that housed thousands of humanoid aliens. Zeus was somewhere in the middle of the space station destroying it, and I was on the top part. There I met up with Leela from Futurama and the pilots were ignoring us about stopping Zeus. They dumped us into a big track that people were rocking back and forth on to generate power for the ship (like the top of the space needle but actually in space). The space station started to fail and the track started spinning rapidly with people being thrown about and sucked to the walls like the gravitron ride at the fair. There were robots coming around with laser-wire things because they announced over the intercom that cellular mutation was occurring in the aliens due to system malfunctions (supposedly from Zeus destroying the station). Leela and I escaped from this in an elevator and got on the broadcast com to earth to warn them of our peril and request help. Then the station started to crash to earth. We were joined by Bender the robot from Futurama and we were outside on the station as it fell to Earth. There were chains flying by that we had to duck under limbo style and I grabbed Leela’s hand to save her. She eventually got knocked off, as did I, but as I did I was rescued by a beautiful girl on a hover-bike who wrapped her arms around me. We were falling to Earth on the hover bike until finally she figured out how to turn it on, saving us. Her name was princess.