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Sat Feb 21, 2015 at 12:07 PM PST

The Silent War on Trees

by witsendnj

I am old enough to remember learning about plate tectonics in college, when students were still cautioned that it was a controversial proposition.  I was incredulous that something so brilliantly, obviously true could still be considered unproven.  However, there have been many theories that were treated as heretical when first unveiled - gravity, evolution, the origin of ulcers, and the dangers of tobacco smoking all come to mind.  It is my hope that someday soon, the notion - that spewing poisons known to be toxic to vegetation into the atmosphere at ever increasing rates must and has achieved a threshold that is intolerable to trees - will become crystal clear as well.  It is in that spirit that I made the film.

Watch the 10 minute movie


Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 06:34 AM PST

The Real Reason the Power Went Out

by witsendnj

I live in New Jersey and it looks like the ecopocalypse has arrived...still!

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Yikes!  Somehow yesterday, I got caught up in the passion of the moment at Occupy Wall Street, and volunteered - for what, I wasn't exactly sure.  A small merry band followed our recruiter from Liberty Plaza, and gathered in an empty office suite where about a dozen organizers were waiting with plans for the direct action.  They were prepared with everything from low-tech torn cardboard and markers, to hightech a/v equipment for documentation and interviews, plus electronic gadgets for on-the-go communication.  While a large contingent marched from Zuccotti to gather in front of the Federal building, the six of us who had agreed to participate in civil disobedience spent some time getting to know each other, while we reviewed the strategy, what to expect, and the inevitable legal consequences.

We entrusted all loose possessions other than identification to the jail support group.  Next, we each made our individual signs with whatever message we personally wished to convey, to be later repeated in a mike check during the action.  Of course, mine said "Industrial Civilization = Eco-pocalypse". When the word came to mobilize, a little cat and mouse up and down subway stairs ensued, as we wended our surreptitious way, trying to conceal our folded signs inconspicuously, through passageways beneath the distant thunderings of drums at the rally.  Abruptly we emerged in position, directly opposite the Stock Exchange.  Do I look nervous? Oh indeed, I was! But so was everybody else.  Oddly, we were four suburban women around my age - I called us the Matron Brigade - and two more experienced 20-somethings.

Read the rest with pictures and videos at Wit's End


Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 08:58 AM PDT

Pillage, Plunder & Pollute, LLC

by witsendnj

I would guess very few people on this earth are aware that the background level (not the urban peaks) of tropospheric ozone is inexorably rising, everywhere around the globe.  And why would they be?  It's invisible, and corporations have waged an even more effective campaign to hide this dangerous acceleration in pollution than their effort to deny the scientific consensus on climate change from CO2...for the very simple reason that ozone is a genuinely existential threat to all forms of life on Earth.

Recent research has demonstrated this conclusively.  The increase in concentrations could be due to the escape of nitrogen fertilizers; the precursors originating from the astonishing growth in Asia; biofuel emissions; and/or the rising levels of methane from fracking and permafrost melt.  In any event, although localized extreme peaks have been reduced, the constant, persistent background which has been rising since preindustrial times has now reached the most remote locations and is definitely increasing at a quickening pace.  The "policy-relevant background" is so high it is approaching the air quality standards already set by the EPA.  That is the reason the Obama administration would not allow Lisa Jackson to tighten the standard last year.  Too many rural areas places would be out of compliance due to imported pollution with very little recourse to alleviate peak concentrations.

Even people who may be aware that ozone causes cancer and other epidemic diseases, often don't know that it is actually far more toxic to plants than humans, in a host of ways.  Trees that are absorb ozone through their leaves and needles are exposed to cumulative damage year after year.  It is rotting their roots and interiors.  Most farmers don't realize that their crop yield and quality are significantly reduced because of pollution - anywhere from 10 to 60% now, and getting worse every year.  Included in that problem is that many weeds are more resistent to ozone than the desirable crops, which they outcompete.  The absolutely worst effect is that vegetation injured by ozone is then prey to insects, disease and fungus with which they once co-existed in harmony.  Now, those attacks are finishing off perennial shrubs and trees at a rapidly accelerating rate.

The disastrous consequences of this for wildlife, ruminates, humans, and climate should be apparent.  We have to collectively as one family decide to reduce our numbers AND our consumption levels drastically or famine is the obvious result.  Unfortunately although this is well-documented from decades of studies, it represents a far more inconvenient truth than climate change which is why it has been and continues to be even more ruthlessly suppressed by industries that produce and profit from toxic emissions.  It would be better if people understand that the current amount of pollution we produce is unsustainable, that we must come together as one family to preserve a habitable climate, prevent ecosystem collapse, and reduce our numbers dramatically by having much smaller families.

An essay on this topic which includes the latest published research is linked to on my blog Wit's End: please visit!


Sat Jul 09, 2011 at 10:49 AM PDT

The Great Convulsion

by witsendnj

"Before the Deluge" was of course written by Jackson Browne, but I like this Joan Baez version.  The lyrics are copied at the end, following some thoughts about denialism.  I'm not referring to those despicable advocates of unregulated pollution that has been altering the atmosphere with invisible gases for over a century - or contaminating the earth and water and medical patients with untested chemicals - or unfettered destruction of habitat through deforestation, mountaintop removal, deep water drilling, the tar sands, and fracking.  Nothing will change their minds as long as there is money to be made from peddling ruinous activities, no matter how unsustainable.  What alarms me is the denialism that leads some of the most knowledgeable among us to close their eyes to trends nothing short of disastrous that are clearly discernable, even in the models that don't include amplifying feedbacks like methane and the albedo effect.

Ocean acidification is often referred to as the "evil twin" of climate change, but I am starting to think it is  surreptitiously treated more like the "bastard child" by many climate scientists better versed in physics - because the existential threat it poses is generally as unacknowledged as it is inevitable.  Which is too bad, because it scares the hell out of the industry deniers, precisely because it is an indisputably and inevitably existential threat for any number of reasons, chief among them the loss of a major protein source for a large portion of humans (leading to famine, refugees and war), and loss of a primary source of oxygen, to breathe.  It's proven virtually impossible to get climate experts to give even a passing thought to the equally inevitable loss of forests, our other source of oxygen - not off in the future from temperature changes but very soon, within the lifetime of anyone reading this, from tropospheric ozone.

Almost as soon as I learnt about the imminent disasters of climate change and ecosystem collapse to be unleashed upon a largely unsuspecting and hoodwinked public, I was puzzled to notice a long-standing and fundamental rift dividing environmental activists, environmental poseurs, and scientists.  It's anecdotal to say so but lately it seems to me,  that rift is widening.  As news from the frontiers of climate chaos - of floods, and desertification, of tornados and food shortages - worsens for those who are paying attention, and it becomes ever more apparent that technological advances to fix the problem will be far too little and implemented far too late, arguments are erupting in comments on various self-designated Important and Serious websites between those who believe the future is so dangerous for survival that it is (past) time for action, and those who should know better but continue to caution against merely sounding "overly alarmist".

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"to be a model of environmental stewardship in the 21st century"

Dear Dr. Henry, Dr. Shaffer, Dr. Bowman, and Dr. Donnelly,

You may recall that I wrote the Board of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation last February regarding the impact of climate change on trees at the property of Doris Duke's home in Somerville, New Jersey.  This was forwarded to and then answered by Gene Huntington, Director, Natural Resources.  Our exchange is pasted below.

Mr. Huntington was kind enough to respond with a lengthy discussion of various threats to trees, but more or less ignored my concerns about climate change, preferring to focus instead on disease, age, deer and invasive species.  This no longer surprises me because virtually all of the professional foresters and conservationists to whom I have broached this subject react with similar dismissiveness.  It was Upton Sinclair of course who observed, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

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Sun Aug 02, 2009 at 10:59 AM PDT

The Mystery Solved

by witsendnj

Many questions remain, but the big picture is clear:  ozone is decimating vegetation at a rapidly accelerating pace.  Empirical evidence abounds.  All you need to do is go outside and look at the leaves of plants and trees to see for yourself the injured tissue.  This decline is irreversible and if we don't reverse course, famine will be the inevitable result.

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Finally I was able to see the new foal, and on the way, record the collapse of an iconic oak.

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Sat Jul 18, 2009 at 02:05 PM PDT

Manifestations of Climate Change

by witsendnj

This diary is to introduce my blog, which is about the effects of climate change on the ecosystem of the Eastern Seaboard of the US.  I welcome comments and feedback from others who are concerned about the condition of trees in particular, which I have observed to be in decline on a massive scale.  I'm going to copy a summary of my observations in the body of this diary post.  For photographs and further discussion, please visit

So often I notice that even people who believe climate change is a threat operate under the comforting illusion that the worst consequences will happen far in the future, to somebody else, on the other side of the world.

I think it's important to examine evidence that climate change is devastating the landscape, right now, and that will shortly be accompanied by unimaginably terrible ramifications.

I hope by exposing the impacts on our parks, forests, and backyards, I can help motivate people to work together to stop this tragedy before it is out of our control.

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