Tag Archives: History

Climate Change Scientists Take Nantucket Sleighride

Take Your Own Nantucket Sleighride: How Old Whaling Ships Are Helping in the Fight to Stop Climate Change

In the wake of the recent UN climate change conference in Paris, there’s lots of discussion about the subject. Some argue that the accord that was reached is historic and a huge step in the right direction, while others argue that the accord doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Meanwhile, there are scientists and others who get up every day and fight the battle against climate change as best they can, accord or not.

And so, one on-the-ground tidbit that got very little attention in all the hubbub about the Paris conference was this, as reported by the Associated Press: “Maritime historians, climate scientists and ordinary citizens are coming together on a project to study the logbooks of 19th-century whaling ships to better understand modern-day climate change and Arctic weather patterns.”

This fascinating project called Old Weather: Whaling will comb through approximately 2600 whaling logbooks, dating from 1756 – 1965, because they can yield valuable information about longitude and latitude measurements, weather conditions, the presence of icebergs and the edge of the ice shelf. This can help climate scientists compare weather and ice conditions, then and now, and can also help create advanced computer models that, based on the information from the logs, might be able to predict future conditions.

According to the AP story, Kevin Wood, a climate scientist with NOAA’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Ocean and Atmosphere at the University of Washington and a lead researcher on the project calls this a “virtual time-traveling weather satellite.”

“We can build an enormously detailed reconstruction of the conditions at the time … and we can we can understand how the climate has been changing over a longer period of time,” Wood said.

The Old Weather: Whaling project is led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The New Bedford Whaling Museum (Massachusetts) is, “transcribing and digitizing its own logbooks, as well as original data sources from the Nantucket Historical Association, Martha’s Vineyard Museum, Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, and the New Bedford Free Public Library.”

The digitized logbooks are being placed online and the public is asked to help sift through the thousands and thousands of pages of material. There are already 20 whalers’ logbooks online.

So here’s something you can “do” about climate change. You can actually participate in a project that will advance climate research. Check out Old Weather: Whaling to learn more. Meanwhile, have yourself a good Nantucket sleighride! (While you’re at it, go ahead and listen to Mountain’s “Nantucket Sleighride.”)

Latest Client News: Welcome Save Gansevoort! Landmarks Preservation Commission Hearing on Fate of Gansevoort Street Development Draws Huge Crowd; Community Members, Elected Officials Testify Against Massive Project

Well it’s been a while, but we’ve sure been busy. Not only are we incredibly excited to belatedly welcome Save Gansevoort as a new client to the LCG family (we’ve only been working with them for about 6 weeks), we’re happy to boast that around 150 people showed up for last Tuesday night’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) hearing regarding the contentious Gansevoort Street development that the group is determined to prevent from happening.


Save Gansevoort, which is composed of community members, preservationists, and proponents of appropriately-scaled construction, has circulated a petition calling on LPC to reject the project, saying that the development plan threatens the unique character of Gansevoort Street, its historic streetscape, and low buildings. The block in question is the only remaining intact block of one- and two-story market buildings in the Historic District, a distinctly New York gem that the developers’ plans would obliterate.

In a blistering editorial entitled, “Save Gansevoort St.; Iconic block under threat,” The Villager newspaper called the plan “nothing short of an assault on the city’s Landmarks Law.”

At the hearing, their numbers spilling out of the packed room, its foyer, and into the hallway, a flood of people took to the podium to testify against the plan. The project falls within the landmarked Gansevoort Market Historic District – a designation that LPC made 12 years ago after a long push from the community. The developer aims to build two massive structures that would dwarf the historically low buildings and market-style architecture that characterize this iconic Meatpacking District street. Quite simply, the proposed development would obliterate that character and history, negating the powerful protection of landmarking.

Last month, Community Board 2 held a Landmarks Committee hearing and full CB2 session, which produced a unanimous resolution opposing the plan. Local elected officials from all levels of government stood firmly behind the sentiments of their constituencies when they wrote a collective letter to LPC imploring it to reject the plan. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Landmark West! have strongly opposed the project, and The New York Landmarks Conservancy, one of New York’s foremost city-wide preservation organizations, also joined in on the cause, writing its own letter to the LPC Chair, urging the institution to reject the project.

To date, over 2,000 people have signed the petition!

The LPC meeting did not yield a decision on the matter; the group will hold another meeting during which the LPC will question the applicant and discuss the plan further. That meeting, which has not yet been scheduled, will be open to the public but will not allow for more testimony.

The youngest person to testify, a girl of about 12 years old, made a brief but eloquent statement where she firmly underlined that, “Owning a building or even a whole street does not mean you have a right to that street’s history; history belongs to all New Yorkers.”

Some of the press coverage: The New York Times, DNAinfo (here, here, live tweeting of the LPC meeting, The Villager (here, here, and here), New York YIMBY, and NY1.

Is Consumerism Gobbling Up Thanksgiving?

It’s that time of year again, when folks try to figure out where they’ll go for Thanksgiving, who’ll make the turkey, and what football games will be watched.

No matter what you think about Thanksgiving or its origins (and, by the way, there are lots of “myths” about how Thanksgiving began, and Martin Kelly who writes for the American History section of About.com, does a good job of running down the history of the holiday), it’s a holiday to gather with family and friends, at least try to be thankful, eat lots of food and get a day off from work.

This year, however, our consumer culture seems to have gotten way out of hand with the announcement by many retailers that they will open on Thanksgiving Day with the promise of “super holiday sales,” and “just giving consumers what they want” with employees who are “excited” about working on Thanksgiving.  Really? Forget Black Friday;  we now have Black Thursday.

Not only does opening on Thanksgiving potentially change the meaning of the day from one of camaraderie and celebration to pure consumerism, but it also means that many people will have to work on one of the few days of the year when commerce – at least retail – comes to a blessed halt.

Of course, the true reason why some retailers want to open on Thanksgiving can be found in the numbers – the financial numbers, that is.

According to Rick Newman who writes for Yahoo’s financial blog, the Exchange, the numbers don’t lie:

In staying open over the Thanksgiving holiday, retailers are just giving customers what they want.

Yeah, right.

As the inevitable holiday shopping creep spreads to Thanksgiving Day, stores that plan to open on the holiday, including Kmart (SHLD), Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT) and Best Buy (BBY), say they’re merely responding to consumers who would be shopping online if they didn’t have the option to hit the stores. That’s part of it, no doubt, but an examination of retailers’ financial numbers reveals another reason: Many of them are underperforming, and desperate for every dollar of sales. And virtually all those stores will be open on Thanksgiving.

Newman shows us this chart that breaks down revenue growth and sales from some of the major retailers.  Pay special attention to the last column:

 

Retailers in green have seen profit and earnings grow; those in yellow have stayed level, and the ones in orange have seen a decrease.

But, as you can imagine, this particular manifestation of consumerism, at least for a large portion of Americans, has broken the proverbial camel’s back and they are, literally, not buying it.

The folks at the ThinkProgress, a political blog that is an outgrowth of the progressive think tank the Center for American Progress, has this to say:

Many companies that are opening on Thanksgiving have explained that employees are “excited” to work holiday shifts and to earn some extra pay. However, that’s rarely the full story. At Kmart, managers are reportedly denying requests for time off for Thanksgiving shifts that being at 6 a.m., even though the company claims this isn’t company policy.

 Meanwhile, part-time retail workers struggle with too few shifts on wages that pay well below a living wage, forcing them to work the holiday because they are already underpaid.

Even if they did have a choice, one in four workers do not receive any paid vacation time because the U.S. is alone in not mandating paid sick days, vacation, or holidays.

Here’s the rest of that story.

And Americans are, in fact, pushing back and pressuring retailers to close. One example, reported on Thursday by Think Progress:

 This year, hundreds of malls will open for holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Day, the new norm in American retail. The owner of those malls, Simon Property Group, is facing consumer backlash for encouraging stores to deny workers their holidays and feeding a 26-hour shopping frenzy.

 Employees at Simon malls across the country are fighting the holiday encroachment, too. Eight petitions on Change.org ask Simon stores to change their hours on Thanksgiving Day. Amber Baumgart, a worker at a Wisconsin Simon mall, began the largest one. Now signed by more than 21,000 people, Baumgart’s petition argues the six employees at her small store have no choice but to work 12 hour shifts that day.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be signing Amber Baumgart’s petition.  Enough is enough.