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Sunday, September 7, 2008

THE TIPPING POINT (Part 12)

There is a book called The Tipping Point, with a sub-heading: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. The author, Malcolm Gladwell, was a reporter for The Washington Post for a decade, and during the past ten years has been a staff writer for The New Yorker. The tipping point is that threshold when all hell breaks loose, as when water is heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and liquid boils into vapor. Gladwell writes that the FAX machine is a good example, which was first introduced by Sharp in 1984, selling 80,000 of them. The growth was slow, but in 1989, sales suddenly jumped to over a million. Cellular phones are another example. At first, only the rich techie had it, then, suddenly, in 1998, everyone had one. Well, in my case, I finally got a Samsung in 2006, but that was more to keep my schedule.

There are three characteristics that cause something to tip:

o contagiousness,
o the fact that little causes can have big effects, and
o that change happens not slowly, but dramatically.

That dramatic moment is the Tipping Point. The book goes on to say that you need connectors (people who know a lot of people), mavens (accumulators of information) and salesmen (those with a special winning personality) to orchestrate the activity, but what is the product or social epidemic in global climate change?

The fact of the matter, actually, is that most just don’t care that much. Many are willing to shell out a hundred dollars to attend a professional football match, sometimes in freezing weather, half the time to be disappointed. But saving Planet Earth? The problem is that global change, with hurricanes and hot summers being random exceptions, occurs very slowly. You can’t see the sea rise. A five degree Fahrenheit rise in 50 years is one-tenth of a degree each year.

There are connectors, mavens and salesmen like Al Gore and James Hanson, but the epidemic is not directly killing anyone. The cherry blossoms might bloom in Japan two weeks early, but that’s fine.

The Guardian in 2005 reported, “Warming hits tipping point.”The trigger was said to be the Siberian frozen peat bog, about the size of France and Germany combined, which was thawing, releasing methane gas, said to be 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. But nothing much came of this news blurb.

Perhaps there is something I can do. Why don’t I write a best selling book to trigger a societal tipping point? Let me call it, oh, The Venus Syndrome. Then, too, a subsequent boffo movie would help.
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Tropical Storm Hanna has left the USA and will skirt Canada, still at around 50 MPH. Hanna killed more than 500 in Haiti, but just caused some sport event cancellations and flooding in this country.
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Hurricane Ike, though, is a Category 4 monster at 135 MPH and seems destined to hit the Gulf Coast along the path of Gustave. This time, models predict Ike weakening over Cuba, but re-gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico and head towards Galveston, although Ike could easily turn slightly north and hit New Orleans. Cuba will bear the brunt, but could well serve to help spare the U.S. Ike should seriously impede domestic oil production. Thankfully, #10 Josephine dissipated.
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In the Pacific, #12 Lowell formed off Mexico at 52 MPH, could strengthen to 60 MPH over the next couple of days, but should then turn towards Baha/Mexico and weaken. The Western Pacific remains quiet. However, there have been 12 named storms in this region, with the most recent one being Nuri (Karen) last month, making a total of 24 for the Pacific this year.
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