sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Monday, May 1, 2017

Living with Climate Change Denial


Ice cores drilled from a glacier in a cave in Transylvania offer new evidence of how Europe's winter weather and climate patterns fluctuated during the last 10,000 years, known as the Holocene period.

The cores provide insights into how the region's climate has changed over time. The researchers' results, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports, could help reveal how the climate of the North Atlantic region, which includes the U.S., varies on long time scales.
Aurel Perșoiu, Bogdan P. Onac, Jonathan G. Wynn, Maarten Blaauw, Monica Ionita, Margareta Hansson. Holocene winter climate variability in Central and Eastern Europe. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-01397-w
With its towering ice formations and large underground ice deposit, Scărișoara Ice Cave is among the most important scientific sites in Europe.

Over the last 10,000 years, snow and rain dripped into the depths of Scărișoara, where they froze into thin layers of ice containing chemical evidence of past winter temperature changes.
"Most of the paleoclimate records from this region are plant-based, and track only the warm part of the year -- the growing season," says Candace Major, program director in NSF's Directorate for Geosciences, which funded the research. "That misses half the story. The spectacular ice cave at Scărișoara fills a crucial piece of the puzzle of past climate change in recording what happens during winter."
Reconstructions of Earth's climate record have relied largely on summer conditions, charting fluctuations through vegetation-based samples, such as tree ring width, pollen and organisms that thrive in the warmer growing season. Absent, however, were important data from winters, Onac said.

Located in the Apuseni Mountains, the region surrounding the Scărișoara Ice Cave receives precipitation from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and is an ideal location to study shifts in the courses storms follow across East and Central Europe, the scientists say.

Radiocarbon dating of minute leaf and wood fragments preserved in the cave's ice indicates that its glacier is at least 10,500 years old, making it the oldest cave glacier in the world and one of the oldest glaciers on Earth outside the polar regions.

From samples of the ice, the researchers were able to chart the details of winter conditions growing warmer and wetter over time in Eastern and Central Europe. Temperatures reached a maximum during the mid-Holocene some 7,000 to 5,000 years ago and decreased afterward toward the Little Ice Age, 150 years ago.

This is disturbing to the notion that mankind is responsible for temperature increases (global warming) and the fact that the climate changes (weather).

A major shift in atmospheric dynamics occurred during the mid-Holocene, when winter storm tracks switched and produced wetter and colder conditions in northwestern Europe, and the expansion of a Mediterranean-type climate toward southeastern Europe. Warming winter temperatures led to rapid environmental changes that allowed the northward expansion of Neolithic farmers toward mainland Europe, and the rapid population of the continent.


Labor

Today, we ride on the backs of those who fought for rights, for pay, for safe and fair treatment. You all will note that I'm a far piece from being a communist, but the labor movement had its day and it was hard fought at times.

Most of us were not born into sharecropper families in the antebellum South nor were we born into coal country in the late 1800's. I grew up poor. Maybe poorer than any of you who read this blog. Maybe not. It's difficult to measure, isn't it. We were culturally rich - but in a poor part of a poor state, and I was raised by grandparents. However, nothing in the US in our lifetimes compares with what came before. There were coal mines about fifty miles away from the area where I grew up. A lot of the men worked there because it was a union (United Mine Workers) job with union pay and benefits -- but still a coal mine. Hard dirty work.

In the 1800's after the War of Northern Aggression in West Virginia, it wasn't easy to be a coal miner. For starters, mining wasn't just a job, it was a way of life — and a hard way of life. You lived in a company town, bought all your food and supplies at the company store, were paid in company script instead of cash. The coal company sent your kids to the company school, you read the company paper, obeyed the company-employed police, etc.

How would I have reacted if I'd been placed in that situation? How would you, dear readers? It's worth thinking about it on May 1, which is not Labor Day in the US. Still rights were and are hard won, and we all benefit from it.

Usually these events are glossed over or avoided all together in institutions of higher learning, but there were wars. The Battle of Blair Mountain, for example, was — and still is — the most violent labor confrontation in history, in which union-supporting coal miners fought against local government and a coal company-funded militia, eventually involving the U.S. Army.

When nearly 10,000 miners finally went on strike, their protests were largely nonviolent. That changed when mine operators called in the notorious Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to break up the strike. Over 300 hard, armed men descended on the area on behalf of Baldwin-Felts. Beatings were common. Sniper attacks and sabotage were also used. Miners were forcefully taken from their homes and tossed into the street to live in tents.  The tent colonies were soon subject to a new tactic from the company goons — a heavily armored train that the miners called the “Death Special" was sent through the tent colony, firing machine guns and high-powered rifles at tents.

A US Senate committee investigation followed. Mrs. Annie Hill, who limped into the committee room, told how she shielded her three little children from the bullets by hiding them in the chimney corner of her little home at Holly Grove when the armored train made it appearance. She said she had been shot through the limbs and the bullet had gone through the Bible and hymnbook on her parlor table.

Martial law was declared. Mary Harris “Mother" Jones (a feisty union activist already in her 70s who had come to the area to help the miners) was arrested and imprisoned.

Six years later, unionized miners in other parts of the country were seeing huge victories — like a 27% pay increase. This inspired the miners around Matewan, West Virginia, to join the United Mine Workers of America in record numbers. By the spring of 1920, 3,000 Matewan miners had joined, but the Stone Mountain Coal Company retaliated by calling in in the Baldwin-Felts (or the “Baldwin Thugs," as the miners knew them).

The two forces came together on the steps of the Chambers Hardware Store (now and then-right).

When the dust settled, the mayor was shot, seven Baldwin-Felts detectives were killed, and two miners were dead.

Sheriff Hatfield — who claimed credit for the deaths of two Baldwin Thugs — became a hero. This was the first time the seemingly invincible "Baldwin Thugs" had been defeated, which gave the miners hope.

In the spring of 1921, charges against Hatfield and his men were either dismissed or they were found not guilty. The enraged Baldwin-Felts crew swore vengeance, and just a few months later, they killed Sheriff Hatfield and his deputy on the steps of the county courthouse.

Baldwin-Felts Detectives
Nearly 2,000 people marched in their funeral procession. It wound its way through the town of Matewan and to the cemetery in Kentucky. As the rage built among the miners, it headed toward a final confrontation —the Battle of Blair Mountain.

Matewan was "a symbolic moment in a larger, broader and continuing historical struggle — in the words of Mingo county miner J.B. Wiggins, the 'struggle for freedom and liberty.'" 

It was just after the Matewan Massacre, and thousands of miners began pouring out of the mountains to take up arms against the villains who had attacked their families, assassinated their hero, and mistreated them for decades. The miners wore red bandanas around their necks to distinguish themselves from the company men wearing white patches and to avoid getting shot by their own troops. (referred to as 'red necks')

The sheriff of Little Coal River sent in law enforcement to keep the miners at bay, but the miners captured the troopers, disarmed them, and sent them running. The West Virginia governor also lost his chance for a peaceful resolution when, after meeting with some of the miner's leaders, he chose to reject their demands.

The miners were 13,000 strong as they headed toward the non-union territory of Logan and Mingo counties. They faced Sheriff Chafin — who was financially supported by the coal companies — and his 2,000 men who acted as security, police, and militia. Chafin stationed many of his troops in the hills around Blair Mountain, West Virginia. From there, Chafin dropped tear gas and pipe bombs on the miners.

"FIGHTING CONTINUES IN MOUNTAINS AS FEDERAL TROOPS REACH MINGO; PLANES REPORTED BOMBING MINERS," reported a New York Times headline shortly after Aug. 25, 1921, when the battle escalated to a new point in U.S. history — with tactics that have not been seen before or since.

The miners never made it through Chafin's lines — and it's hard to say what would've happened if they had. After 1 million rounds were fired (between a division of US Army infantry and the miners), the miners retreated. It was time to go home and fight another day.

Over 100 people had been killed — about 30 on Chafin's side and 50-100 on the union miners' side. Almost 1,000 of the miners were indicted for murder and treason, and many more lost their jobs.

(left) Federal troops standing with arms collected from the striking miners after surrender.

In the short-term, the defeat of the striking miners was devastating to the UMWA. Membership plummeted from 50,000 to 10,000 over the next several years. It took until 1935 — post-Great Depression and FDR's New Deal — for the rest of the mines in southern West Virginia to become unionized.