Your summer in extreme weather
Thank you, Captain Picard. Speaking over the weekend at an event he hosted for Breakthrough’s Ring the Bell anti-violence campaign, the actor issued a challenge — and sounded an important call for 1 million men to make 1 million “concrete, actionable promises” to end abuse against women, the “single greatest human rights violation of our generation.”
Stewart’s remarks were a well-timed and much-needed statement about the nature of violence against women, the environments in which it blooms and the ways we must recalibrate our expectations to change things. In his speech, Stewart spoke movingly of growing up with a father who was “an angry and unhappy man who was not able to control his emotions — or his hands” and he made a plea for action — “not an action that will make things better in six months’ time or a year’s time but action that might save someone’s life and someone’s future this afternoon, tonight, tomorrow morning.” That’s a strategy that’s tough for a lot of people to get their heads around. We live in a quick-fix world. Change the culture by just making a promise? By speaking out? Come on, can’t everybody just get a gun instead?
Depressingly, we are living right in a country in which telling women to carry concealed weapons seems like an easier fix against violence than encouraging people to just not be violent. Last week, Zerlina Maxwell caught all manner of pushback hell for saying, during an appearance on “Hannity,” that “We should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there.” Never mind that she wasn’t telling women not to protect or defend themselves. All Maxwell did was broach the subject of involving men, actively and consistently, in the conversation about sexual violence, because “a lot of times it’s someone you know and trust,” and the response was so vitriolic she couldn’t even look at her own Facebook page afterward.
We need to rewrite the script — and we need to get way over the idea that men don’t need to be part of it, because nice guys already know how to behave and bad guys won’t listen. That kind of thinking assumes that the world is black and white, and that there isn’t a spectrum of behaviors and attitudes. It conveniently ignores the peer element in cases like Steubenville and Cleveland and Delhi. Violence against women isn’t always the act of a lone sociopath. Sometimes it’s a bunch of guys, egging each other on. It isn’t always a monster in the shadows either. Sometimes it’s a man who doesn’t even understand how what he’s doing to a woman is rape or abuse — a man who might have acted in a very different way if he’d ever just learned how. That’s not a crazy idea. It’s an important one.
And here’s something else. The fringier, angrier element will tell you that involving men in violence prevention will somehow foster an environment in which men and boys are raised to believe they’re all potential abusers. That’s not it at all. It’s about understanding that behaviors and attitudes are learned and reinforced, and that we have the power to teach and reinforce in a more positive direction. It’s about acknowledging that putting all the onus of preventing rape and violence upon women — and our eternally questioned behavior — burdens us as the sole gatekeepers of aggression. And worse – it already teaches boys and girls, men and women, that just men can’t control themselves. Whatever, gals, it’s on you to figure it all out. How is that helpful? How is that respectful to either sex?
At the Ring the Bell event, former NFL quarterback Don McPherson spoke of why we need to rethink how we talk to our sons and our husbands and our co-workers and our friends. “We don’t raise boys to be men,” he said. “We raise them not to be women, or gay men. White people confronted white people to fight racism. Men need to confront men.” Ding! Ding ding ding ding!
Rape and abuse aren’t lady problems that we need to fix with our lady solutions. Men and women need to work together on these issues, creating programs in schools, talking openly about solutions. The guy who’s going to go on to commit violence against women isn’t a nameless ogre. He’s somebody’s brother. Somebody’s son. He’s somebody you know, right now. So why wouldn’t you want to talk to him now, before it’s too late?
Great Plains tornadoes
From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.
"It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."
But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."
On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.
Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."
An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.
Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.
Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.
Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."
Florida red tide
A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.
The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.