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November 22, 2009
Bad Weather (Part I)By Greyhawk
Back in early 2005 I was finishing my first tour in Iraq, had handed off duties to my replacement, and was awaiting transportation out. So I had time to spend on off-topic posts like this one, inspired by a visit to a now-defunct (and sorely missed) blog from an unknown State Dept author. That blog is no longer online, but those interested will find an archive here.
That post reminded me of my own witness to the early spread of the global warming industry to the United States of America, as detailed below.
Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Ride Out the Storm
Yesterday I sent you to read Diplomad's account of the incubation of global warming at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and indicated I would continue the story by telling you of it's viral spread through the United States. Here you say "What the heck are you, Greyhawk, a GI in Iraq, going to tell us about Global Warming?" Glad you asked.
Even though it often seems like it, I wasn't always in Iraq. In fact, through most of the middle 1990's I was fortunate to be stationed at a military installation on the coast of Florida - Eglin Air Force Base, to be specific, certainly one of the finest military posts in the world. But being on the coast there was a little problem with hurricanes. Yours truly was a member of the hurricane rideout team, a small group of individuals who would shelter on base during any hurricane while saner folks sought higher ground - the theory being that we might survive and begin immediate recovery procedures once the winds died down to something that wouldn't create damage resembling nuclear devastation. Recall that Hurricane Andrew had destroyed Homestead Air Force Base and much of Miami in the early part of the decade and you'll appreciate just how seriously we viewed the task.
In that capacity I found myself at the 16th Annual National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans, LA in 1994. This conference draws city managers, disaster preparedness folks, first-responder types, power company reps, insurance agency people, legal eagles, meteorologists, university and government researchers, the military, and of course a legion of vendors offering products that will improve your chances of surviving a hurricane or recovering from same.
Military folks showing up at such conventions are often seen as some alien life form, this in spite of the fact that a large majority of attendees are in some form of government service. Many of these folks are veterans, of course, so the distancing is not universal, but it is noticeable. This has absolutely nothing to do with my story, but it puts you into my frame of mind at such events: ghostly observer floating around taking mental notes of the goings-on. Likewise much of the real purpose of these things is for reps to meet vendors and lay the groundwork for possible mutually beneficial deals and as I wasn't attending as any sort of purchasing agent or contracting official I couldn't play that game either. I had a wonderful time wandering about the exhibits and popping in and out of sessions, not to mention after hours wandering in the French Quarter, which was perhaps surprisingly empty given that a fairly large convention was ongoing. Or perhaps not surprising - maybe it was the quaint smell of vomit and filth, maybe the 4-dollar beer in tiny cups (1994 dollars, of course, which was even more considering my 1994 pay) - but I digress.
The whole thing was capped off by THE SPEECH from Dr William Gray. Dr Gray is a fine man and a highly respected Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University. When you hear about the forecast of the number of Atlantic hurricanes expected in the upcoming year you are hearing the result of the work of Dr Gray, and each National Hurricane Conference ends with THE SPEECH from Dr Gray (disclaimer: I'm not sure whether this tradition continues but it was certainly the case 'back in the day') wherein he announces his latest prediction.
I was familiar with Dr Gray's work before attending the conference, I respect his efforts tremendously and likewise value his forecast. But I was caught off guard (warning: confession of my own naiveté follows) as he approached the end of his speech and noted the disparity in funding for hurricane research and earthquake research, with a definite call for increase in monies for hurricane studies. Looking around the room at the various media types gathered - Dr Gray's prediction is worth a day's headlines in America's hurricane coast - the light bulb came on over my head. Funding, baby - it's all about the funding. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that; next time a hurricane strikes a country without a modern meteorological service and a basic communications infrastructure note the death toll.
But here's the essence of the light bulb that flashed over my head at that moment. You see, much university level research (and thus much research done in the US) must be funded. And if it's something like meteorology, for which advancements in pure science don't translate well into huge corporate profits when compared to many other fields, then it's up to Uncle Sam to keep a steady cash flow going your way. And if you want that cash flow maximized, it might help to try convincing someone that if you aren't fully funded then people will die! (Here - give it a try.)
Now this "people will die" aspect is true when it comes to hurricane research, but hearing it in the context I did was a real eye-opener. Here's coverage of essentially the same speech delivered a couple years later:
The 1995 hurricane season - the busiest in 60 years - should not be considered a fluke, the nation's leading hurricane forecaster said Friday. Instead, William Gray warned, it may be a blueprint for the future.
It's completely practical and absolutely essential; given the platform and the spotlight Dr Gray would be almost criminally negligent not to make the pitch for additional funding for hurricane research. And I came away from that conference thinking this: "You know the problem with meteorologists is that other than hurricanes and tornadoes they just don't have enough big sexy stuff that could be considered life-or-death important and really rake in the big research bucks."
Of course, I hadn't heard much about Global Warming yet.
And that concludes part one of our story, which continues here.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 22, 2009 10:53 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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