Category Archives: Education

Amusing Monday: A new Earth Day anthem from a comedic rapper?

Loving the Earth is the theme of a new music video by comic rapper Lil Dicky, who enlisted the voices of two dozen famous singers to play the roles of animals in the video.

Just released Thursday, the video is one of the hottest-trending items on YouTube, where it reached 25 million views just before I posted this. With its catchy tune, the song is being promoted as a new anthem for Earth Day. Happy Earth Day!, by the way.

It feels almost redundant to share this video, considering all the anticipation and attention surrounding it, but it is a far more fun and amusing than the dull and somewhat ironic Earth Day message posted by Andrew Wheeler, the current administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was clever of Dave Burd, Lil Dicky’s real name, to put the voices of some famous singers into the bodies of animals, including Justin Bieber as a baboon, Ariana Grande as a zebra, Halsey as a lion cub, Zac Brown as a cow, Adam Levine as a vulture, Shawn Mendes as a rhino, Charlie Puth as a giraffe, Miley Cyrus as an elephant, Katy Perry as a pony, Ed Sheeran as a koala, Leonardo DiCaprio as himself, and several others.

Proceeds from the video will go to help out the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which strives to educate the public about the environment and climate change while working on environmental projects.

“Dicky frolics with penguins, analyzes chatty microbes under a microscope, and talks to a marijuana plant voiced by Snoop Dogg (duh),” writes Zoya Teirstein for Grist magazine. “The video might look like a Disney channel special, but isn’t too concerned with being wholesome (Justin Bieber’s line: ‘I’m a baboon. I’m like a man just less advanced and my anus is huge).’

“If you don’t want to watch an animated Lil Dicky sing about the planet in a loincloth g-string for seven minutes, I don’t blame you,” she continues. “But think of it this way: what if this whole video is a critique of the tired and worn-out tropes used by old-school Earth Day advocates? Hmm??”

Ellen DeGeneres was able to preview the video on her show last week, but she didn’t seem to have much time or know what to ask Lil Dicky — or Dave Burd, who turned 31 last month.

Burd, who grew up in a middle-class, Jewish family, launched his career by emphasizing feelings of self-consciousness in his characters. Lil Dicky’s first rap video in 2013 was “Ex Boyfriend,” which contains sexually explicit lyrics about feelings of inadequacy around a hot girlfriend. Ellen said she liked “Freaky Friday,” in which Lil Dicky suddenly finds himself in the body of Chris Brown with all of the implications that brings.

Dave Burd clearly has a knack for rap, and that may be where he continues to grow his comedic fame and fortune, but there is another side to this man who graduated from the University of Richmond in Virginia, and began working in account management for the advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (Bio, Wikipedia).

In a 2014 interview with Michael Trampe of HipHop magazine, Burd said: “I started rapping simply to get attention comedically, so I could write movies, write TV shows and act. I had very little interest in being a rapper. I fell in love with rapping though, so I’m not leaving that game until I’ve proved my point. However, I plan on having two concurrent careers going on at the same time, as a rapper, and as a comedian/actor/writer. I value the non-musical career just as much as the rap career, and can’t wait to begin acting on that.”

Boaters, kayakers, etc.: Please take heed and be safe out on the water

With the weather warming up and opening day of boating season just around the corner, I would like to take a moment to mourn for those who have lost their lives in boating accidents.

A kayak adrift near Vashon Island raised alarms for the Coast Guard on March 31.
Photo: Coast Guard, 13th District

More importantly, I would like to share some information about boating safety, because I keep thinking about Turner Jenkins, the 31-year-old visitor from Bathesda, Md., who lost his life in January when his kayak tipped over at the south end of Bainbridge Island. (See Kitsap Sun and Bathesda Magazine.)

Every year, it seems, one or more people lose their lives in the frigid waters of Puget Sound — often because they failed to account for the temperature of the water; the winds, waves and currents; or their own skills under such conditions. An Internet search reveals a long list of tragedies in our region and throughout the country.

This warning is not to scare people away from the water. I will even tell you how to enjoy Opening Day events at the end of this blog post. I can assure you that my own life would be much poorer if I chose to never be on, near or under the water. But for those who venture forth in boats, you must do so with your eyes wide open to the dangers — especially if your craft is a paddleboard, kayak, canoe or raft.

So let’s go over the “Five Golden Rules of Cold Water Safety,” according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety. Click on each one for details:

  1. Always wear your PFD
  2. Always dress for the water temperature
  3. Field test your gear
  4. Swim test your gear
  5. Imagine the worst that can happen

While gathering information for this blog post, I spoke to Susan Tarbert, who manages West Marine in Bremerton. She told me that it is impossible to predict your body’s reaction to cold water until you are plunged into that bone-chilling situation.

Kayakers near Port Gamble
Photo: Kitsap Sun

“There are all kinds of things that you think you will do, but you just don’t know,” Susan told me.

She said she was out on Puget Sound in a boat with her husband when she leaned up against a gate on the boat’s rail. It was a gate that was always locked — until this time, she said. She splashed down into the water, wearing a heavy coat and boots.

“As my husband pulled me up, he said, ‘Don’t you know the first thing you do is take off your boots?’ Yes, I know,” Susan responded. “But when it happens, you are so cold that you just want out. Falling in the water is not what you think it will be.”

Since then, Susan has been spreading the word about being aware of the risks while having fun on the water.

Because everyone reacts to cold water differently, one of the suggestions mentioned in the “rules” above is to swim-test your gear before going out in a small watercraft. That means putting on whatever clothing you plan to wear on the water and jump right into the shallows, or tip over your boat under controlled conditions. The more you can do to prepare, the better off you will be if something goes wrong. For additional info, read Ocean Kayak’s “Basic Safety Tips.”

Because of the dangers of cold water, the Coast Guard automatically launches a search for a missing person whenever someone reports an unoccupied boat of any size floating on the water. That includes surfboards and paddleboards. KIRO-TV reporter Deedee Sun describes the problem in the video below, which can be viewed full-screen.

Coast Guard alarms went off on Sunday, March 31, when a Washington State Ferries captain reported a kayak adrift between Vashon Island and West Seattle. A Coast Guard crew began a search, which could have gone on for awhile except that a group of campers called in a report. It turned out that the kayak was one of five that had drifted away from the shore of Blake Island, where six kayakers had been camping. Check out the news release from the Coast Guard’s 13th District.

Even in Hawaii, drifting surfboards and kayaks frequently lead to the dispatching of boats, helicopters and shoreline search teams, based on the outside chance that someone may be in danger — even when there are no reports of missing persons. See the Honolulu Star Advertiser from April 2 and The Maui News from March 27.

Every year before boating season, the Coast Guard sends out news releases to encourage people to label their watercraft with names and phone numbers at a minimum.

“Every unmanned-adrift vessel is treated as a potential distress situation, which takes up valuable time, resources and manpower,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brook Serbu, command center chief for the Coast Guard’s 13th District in Seattle. “When the craft is properly labeled, the situation can often be quickly resolved with a phone call to the vessel owner, which minimizes personnel fatigue and negative impacts on crew readiness.”

The Coast Guard usually takes possession of drifting vessels. If the owner can’t be found in a reasonable amount of time, a vessel may be destroyed or turned over to the state for disposal, according to the latest news release.

The Coast Guard promotes the use of special identification stickers made available through the Coast Guard Auxiliary. I have had trouble the past few years getting hold of anyone in the Auxiliary who can provide the stickers, and my pleas for the Coast Guard to provide a simple email address or phone number have gone unheeded.

Auxiliary officials generally provide the Coast Guard’s orange “If found … “ stickers to outdoor recreation stores, but there seems to be a backlog of requests to get them at the moment, according to Susan Tarbert of West Marine. She still has a supply, however, of the Coast Guard’s silver “Paddle Responsibly” checklist, which has a place for a name and phone number. Both stickers contain adhesive on the back to attach to the inside of a kayak.

Susan also recommends sticking reflective circles on your paddles to help power boaters spot paddlers in low-light conditions. The movement of the paddles sends out a noticeable signal, she said. All the stickers, as well as informative brochures, are provided free, and officials with the local Coast Guard Auxiliary visit the stores to restock the materials.

Doug Luthi, manager of West Marine in Gig Harbor, says he has both stickers on hand. Drew Pennington, who manages the Olympic Outdoor Center store in Poulsbo, said he expects his supply to be restocked soon.

As for the fun part of boating, anyone can enjoy Opening Day, whether or not you have a boat or even know someone with a boat. Seattle Yacht Club leads the tradition that dates back to the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in 2013. Besides the boats that pass through the Ballard Locks and join the Parade of Boats in the ship canal, visitors can watch crew races, a sailboat race and other festivities.

Visit the Seattle Yacht Club’s “Opening Day” website for a complete schedule of events, which officially begin Wednesday, April 1.

Amusing Monday: Eco-comedy videos have gotten edgier than ever

Amateur video producers seem to have grown darker and more intense in dealing with the topic of climate change — even when their task is to create a humorous video. At least that seems to be a trend in this year’s Eco-Comedy Video Competition, a trend I mentioned last week in Water Ways with respect to stand-up comedy.

Winners were recently announced in the annual Eco-Comedy competition, a contest that challenged people to create a two-or three-minute video about climate change while using humor to engage their audience. Sponsors were the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University in Washington, D.C., and The Nature Conservancy.

The competition was open to anyone, with four categories available for entries: kindergarten-eighth grade, high school, college, and nonstudent. More than 250 entries were submitted for this year’s contest.

Judges included Bethany Hall, comedian-in-residence at AU’s Center for Media and Social Impact, and Keith Haskal, producer for Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”.

“Office Fish,” shown in the first video, is a provocative piece about the migration of species brought about by shifting ecosystems as a result of climate change. The short film, which was the winner in the college category, was directed by Benjamin Vornehm of the University of Television and Film in Munich, Germany, with photography under the direction of Alexander Dirninger.

“Climate Change is Real” shows a rapper getting in the faces of young students. The film, second on this page, was produced and directed by Jake Rasmussen and was written and performed by Tom McGovern. Rasmussen is an independent filmmaker who has worked for VICE Media.

Links to all of this year’s winners, along with grand prize winners from previous years, can be found on the Eco-Comedy website.

Amusing Monday: Climate-change comedy grows more intense

The growing urgency of climate change is altering the nature of comedy among those who tell jokes for a living. I’ve noticed a greater intensity in the satire, as warnings from scientists become more specific about the imposing reality of climate change.

Rachel Parris of the BBC’s “Mash Report” discusses this dire topic in a most cheerful way, as you can see in the first video.

“Some of you have been asking, ‘Rachel, all this feels kind of inevitable,’” Rachel says in the video. “’Would it be better if we just give up and let the world burn? Who really needs birds and trees? I’d rather just be taking pictures of my own face.’”

Maybe the damage would be less, Rachel continues, if we all went limp and “floppy” like a drunk person falling out of a window.

Climate-change comedy used to be mostly jabs about higher temperatures and rising oceans. When he hosted “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno would toss out one-liners about what would happen if the Earth continued to warm beyond 2015: “Hillary Clinton might actually thaw out.”

Reader’s Digest once suggested new names for cities when the polar ice caps melt, names such as “Atlantis City, New Jersey.”

Mary Pols, a reporter for the Press Herald in Portland, Maine, uncovered the Leno and Reader’s Digest jokes and others while touching on the history of climate-change comedy. Her story focused mostly on a local man, Jason Wentworth, who gave up his green laundry business to launch a career in comedy, focusing on climate change. He has even set up a Go-Fund-Me account to get started, as seen in the last video on this page.

Jason’s routine often targets his own audience with jokes about the failure of people to address climate change on an individual level. I would think this would leave audience members feeling at least a bit uncomfortable. Here’s one of Jason’s jokes cited by Mary Pols:

“So many people say, ‘I would ride public transit more, but it is so inconvenient.’ My response is, ‘Have you tried it?’ I want to talk about how inconvenient it is to row Grandma in a canoe to a Red Cross center after a hurricane and then return to your house to rip out wet sheetrock. Or if you live in Paradise, California, it is super inconvenient.”

“Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” sharpened its approach after dire warnings came out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as you can see in the second video.

“We don’t really worry about climate change, because it is too overwhelming, and we’re already in too deep,” says co-host Colin Jost. “It’s like if you owe your bookie a thousand dollars, you’re like, “Oh yeah, I gotta pay this dude back.’ But if you owe your bookie a million dollars, you’re like, ‘I guess I’m just gonna die!’”

It seems some of the late-night hosts are becoming less humorous about climate change and more direct in their sarcasm. I featured video clips from Stephen Colbert’s show in Water Ways in February. The third video on this page is a clip from “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” who has always found the right sarcastic voice for his news-based commentaries.

Climate Sense: I have a question about this blog, plus Senate debate video

I would like to ask a question about this blog before pivoting to the debate over the Green New Deal.

Item 1: The future of this “Climate Sense” feature

It’s the end of March and the end of the first quarter of 2019. I thought this would be a good time to assess the success or failure of my weekly list of stories related to climate change.

The intent of “Climate Sense,” as I mentioned at the start of the year, is simply to share some of the important research, political developments, fascinating viewpoints or inspiring opinions that I come across during my reading.

So is anybody reading these blog posts? And, more to the point, is anybody getting any value from them?

These are questions that I would like every reader to answer, especially if you believe these weekly blog posts are worthwhile. You can comment in the comment section below or send me a private email at ChrisBDunagan@gmail.com. I’m always open to suggestions — even more in this moment, as I ponder the future of this series.

Your comments will determine whether I keep this going as is, change it in some way or drop it entirely. So please take a moment, if only to say “Keep it” or “Drop it.” Thank you.

Here are the “Climate Sense” blog entries to date:

Item 2: Green New Deal on the Senate floor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, apparently thought he would embarrass Democrats by forcing a vote on the Green New Deal, which calls for massive changes to reduce greenhouse gases. Most Democrats voted “present,” but the floor debate became a rare chance to discuss climate change in the Senate — and now many Republicans are acknowledging that something needs to be done. Will this make a difference?

Reporter Marianne Lavelle offers a pretty good summary of what happened for Inside Climate News
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25032019/green-new-deal-senate-vote-mcconnell-climate-change-policy

Here is what our two Democratic senators and Alaskan Republican Lisa Murkowski had to say on the Senate floor:

Celebrate Earth Hour tonight by taking time to discuss the future

Earth Hour, which celebrates the connections among people throughout the world, happens tonight between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. local time, when participants turn off their lights for an hour.

What each of us does with that hour is a personal decision, but it is a great time for families to get together and have some fun, with at least a passing discussion of the environmental issues that concern us.

People in more than 180 countries are participating this year in Earth Hour, according to the website of the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund), which started the event in 2007.

“Earth Hour 2019 is a powerful opportunity to start an unstoppable movement … to help secure an international commitment to stop and reverse the loss of nature,” Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said in a news release.

For many, turning off the lights is a symbolic commitment, a first step on the road to mass change. People in some countries have gotten together to set specific goals. People in Ecuador, for example, are pushing for a legal ban on certain plastics; Finland is encouraging a move toward healthier, sustainable foods; Morocco is educating people about saving water; and Indonesia is encouraging its youth to adopt greener lifestyles, according to organizers.

As I post this, Earth Hour is underway in India and already over in Australia and most of Asia.

Getting kids involved is part of the fun and education of the event. I thought the magazine “Chicago Parent” had some good ideas for involving young children with answers to a series of questions they might ask. Here’s a couple of them:

Why are the lights out?
“There are millions of people around the city and the world who want to make sure that we take care of planet Earth because it’s our home. Turning off the lights for an hour is called Earth Hour. It’s a celebration of our planet and a time for us to think about what we can all do to help protect it. Turning off the lights saves electricity and water, and saving resources like that is good for the planet.”

Should we turn off the lights every night then?
“Nope, not necessarily. This is what’s called “symbolic gesture.” We need to use electricity to get things done at night, and during the day, too. But if we are mindful about using electricity, water and other resources only when we need to and not using them or turning them off when we do not need them, that helps. We can be better about turning out the lights for a few minutes at a time, and eventually, that will add up.”

The Space Needle is one of Seattle’s landmarks scheduled to go dark tonight.
Photo: Doug Irvine, ©WWF Aus

Since the beginning, Earth Hour has been celebrated by those who control some of the world’s most-famous landmarks, from the Space Needle in Seattle to the Empire State Building in New York, Tower Bridge in London and Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

Other landmarks in Seattle that have gone dark in the past (I’m not sure about this year) include Key Arena, the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly Experience Music Project), Pacific Science Center, Showbox at the Market (downtown Seattle), Showbox SoDo. 1201 Third Avenue (formerly Washington Mutual tower) and University of Washington Tower, according to a story by KIRO-TV news.

Earth Hour is a partnership between WWF and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Check out the Connect2Earth platform.

Amusing Monday: Citizen scientists lend their eyes and ears

Just about anyone interested in becoming a citizen scientist can participate in real-life research projects by connecting with Zooniverse, a website that has been expanding and refining its projects since I first wrote about it in Water Ways in 2017.

Zooniverse enlists the power of many people to analyze raw data of various kinds. As a participant, you sit down at your computer and follow instructions to make observations about nature, history, art, language or other fields of your choosing.

“The major challenge of 21st century research is dealing with the flood of information we can now collect about the world around us,” says the description on the Zooniverse webpage. “Computers can help, but in many fields the human ability for pattern recognition — and our ability to be surprised — makes us superior.”

The accumulation of human observations from a Zooniverse project can be used to actually train computers to make the observations, which ultimately speeds up the process of data analysis even more.

“With our wide-ranging and ever-expanding suite of projects, covering many disciplines and topics across the sciences and humanities, there’s a place for anyone and everyone to explore, learn and have fun in the Zooniverse,” states the description. “To volunteer with us, just go to the Projects page, choose one you like the look of, and get started.”

“These projects produce science,” declares Chris Lintott, professor of astrophysics and the citizen science lead at Oxford University, (at 7:14 into the first video on this page.) “But that’s not the interesting thing about it…. What’s interesting are the people who are participating — a half-million people or so who are registered with the Zooniverse…

“These aren’t people who are already science fans…, nor are they science-phobic. They’re the kind of people who, if they are reading the Metro and there’s a science story, would read it. But they wouldn’t buy “New Scientist.”

While the people participating in Zooniverse contribute to real science projects, they are also learning about cutting-edge science, Lintott says, going on to describe what he knows about the participants.

Here are a few projects that caught my attention:

Floating forests

Giant kelp, a fast-growing seaweed considered critical habitat for many marine species, changes its growth patterns from year to year. Citizen scientists are needed to interpret satellite images, because so far computers are unable to determine the edges of kelp beds from Landsat photos.

“These satellites photograph the entire surface of the earth every 16 days and have been doing so since 1984,” states the description of the project. “When one of our project scientists first began working with these images, he had hoped he could just throw the hundreds of thousands of images into some image classification software, and have the software tell him where kelp was located.

“There’s just one problem: Landsat was not designed to be able to see kelp. Kelp’s reflectance signature (the color of light that it reflects) is just at the edge of the camera’s detection abilities. Because of this, kelp and something as simple as the glint of sun off of a wave look the same to a computer.

“But to a person, the shapes and patterns of kelp forests are fairly obvious. That’s where you come in. By tracing patches of kelp, you can do a far more accurate job than a computer, helping to process this mountain of data!”

Penguin Watch

As described by Chris Lintott in the first video, Penguin Watch asks observers to identify adult and baby penguins from images taken with remote, unmanned cameras that automatically take pictures of penguin colonies over time.

“Currently, there are numerous serious threats to marine predators in the Southern Ocean: namely climate change, fisheries and direct human disturbance,” states a description of the project. “However, despite over a hundred years of study in the region, we have little baseline information against which to measure change…

“Camera technology affords us the ability to deploy terminator-style biologists (they don’t sleep, they don’t eat) in hard-to-reach areas, or in places where human presence might disturb wildlife and therefore disrupt their behavior. By establishing a camera network in the Southern Ocean … we hope to capture novel behaviors and study penguin populations that have never before been observed owing to their remote locations.”

Other projects you might find interesting:

Seabird Watch, a project that classifies seabirds in remote locations

Cedar Creek Eyes on the Wild, a project that identifies animals and their interactions at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve north of Minneapolis, Minn.

Manatee Chat, a project that classifies the sounds that manatees make in an effort to identify calls related to communications.

Climate Sense: Sea ice, economics, legal issues and the orca task force

The shift to “clean fuels,” such as solar and wind power, is tied up in economics, and it appears that change is coming — with or without a push from government. This week, I read three different and somewhat contradictory reports about this dynamic competition between fossil fuels and renewable energy.

I also took a look at the hard data surrounding Arctic sea ice and reviewed videos of the governor’s orca task force meeting on Monday.

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Climate Sense: Sharing a little optimism about climate change

One of the most optimistic stories I’ve read — and listened to — about climate change comes from Dan Charles, National Public Radio’s food and agriculture reporter. In a three part-series, Dan takes us on a trip to the year 2050, imagining a time when the world has solved the climate change problem.

Also in my readings this week, I’ve stumbled on some stories about scare tactics in Congress and how to turn back the clock on climate emissions.

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A new federal law recognizes Washington’s maritime heritage

The Maritime Washington National Heritage Area — which now encompasses about 3,000 miles of saltwater shoreline in Western Washington — was created yesterday within a wide-ranging lands bill signed into law by President Trump.

Maritime Washington National Heritage Area encompasses most of the saltwater shoreline throughout Western Washington.
Map: Maritime Washington NHA feasibility study

Created to celebrate the maritime history and culture of Puget Sound and Coastal Washington, the Maritime Washington NHA is the first designated area of its kind in the United States to focus entirely on maritime matters.

The designation is expected to provide funding to promote and coordinate maritime museums, historic ships, boatbuilding, and education, including discussions of early marine transportation and commerce in Washington state.

“We are thrilled about this,” said Chris Moore, executive director of the nonprofit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. “The stories we want to convey are important to so many people.

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