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January 2016

The Professional Nerd’s Guide to Climate Change

What is Climate Change?

It’s the thing that everyone is talking about. It’s a thing that some politicians don’t “believe in”. It’s something about Noah Wyle and polar bears, about SUVs and Priuses, Republicans and Democrats. So what is it, really?

First, it’s important to understand the difference between climate and weather. According to Dictionary.com, weather is defined as “the state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc.” Weather is what it’s like out now. Climate, on the other hand, is long term weather. It is the average moisture and temperature of a region averaged out over many years. When we talk about Climate Change, we are not talking about that 60-degree Christmas we just had, or that really, really, cold day a few weeks ago where you had to wear long underwear under your jeans.

The temperature has increased 0.8oC (1.6oF) since 1880 (NASA). The climate is changing, faster in the last 50 years than in recorded history, and scientists expect another couple of degree rise in average global temperatures in the next 100 years (NRDC).

You may be asking, Is this the same thing as Global Warming? Yes. Well, kind of. Global Warming is a more simplified term that refers to this average temperature increase, but doesn’t take into account the fact that a few very small areas have gotten a little bit colder, and that there are also significant effects on precipitation. This picture from NASA shows how most of the Earth has gotten warmer, except for a few isolated areas.

ClimateChange1.png

What causes Climate Change?

According to the Columbia University webpage, carbon dioxide is the big player in Climate Change (but also has other vital roles in the environment, including allowing plants to create food for us to eat and oxygen for us to breathe).

All day, every day, and all night, the sun is radiating waves of all types, including visible light and ultraviolet light, to the Earth. Fortunately for us and for our skin, the atmosphere protects us from the majority of ultraviolet and other dangerous waves.

Most of the sun’s waves are absorbed by the Earth, and then radiated back out as slightly weaker waves. These slightly weaker waves, in the form of heat energy, are not powerful enough to escape through the atmosphere, and thus are trapped by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide inside the atmosphere. This has the effect of heating up the Earth, much like a greenhouse or a car becomes hotter than the outside air on a cool day.

Why should we care?

It will get a little bit warmer. There will be more heat waves, so heat-related illness will increase. Diseases that are spread by warm-weather species, like mosquitos, will spread faster and more easily.

According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, there will be more major weather disasters. Not only will there be more wildfires, but there will also be more floods and droughts. Disastrous (and expensive) hurricanes and snowstorms will occur more frequently (and already have, in the last decade).

National Geographic has a great article showing before and after pictures, including the picture below of the 4th largest lake in the world, which many people rely on for drinking water, shrinking in the last 14 years.

ClimateChange2.png

Lastly, we’ve all heard that glaciers are melting. At this rate, all glaciers in Glacier National Park will have melted by 2070. This is hugely problematic if you are a polar bear or other arctic species, but also if you live at or near sea level where all of this melted water will end up flooding.

Wait, we’re not responsible for this, are we?

Actually, yeah. We are. 97% of climate scientists agree that human activities are contributing to Climate Change. Any time gasoline, natural gas, oil, or coal is burned, carbon dioxide is released. Whenever plastic is made, carbon dioxide is released. When a cow burps, methane is released and also contributes to the problem.

ClimateChange3.png

The graph below shows how the average temperature has changed in the last 130 years, and how the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased comparatively.

ClimateChange4.png

But, if you think back to everything you learned on Earth Day in 4th grade, you can actually help prevent further damage. Carpool more, drive a Prius, and turn off the lights when you leave the room. That will help, a little. What we really need is to significantly limit the use of petroleum products, which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We need significant improvements in cleaner energy sources, such as nuclear, solar, and wind power, to make these technologies efficient and cheap enough to be practical alternatives to petroleum. We need more research, more innovation.

What are you going to do to help?

Who have I cited and why?

I feel strongly that any statement masquerading as fact should have a source that is a peer-reviewed journal or a government or non-profit organization that provides link to peer-reviewed journals. As for why, that requires a longer lesson on controlled experiments and sample sizes. We’ll save that for next time.


RobinRobin has been a professional nerd since 2011; that is, she is a 7th grade science teacher. She loves reading and watching science fiction and is working on creating her own young adult fantasy series. She prefers Star Trek to Star Wars because she enjoys the plot-driven social commentary, rather than fast-paced action sequences. She enjoys video games, but only those with graphic technology prior to 2003 because anything newer makes her dizzy.

 

 

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The Power of Fans: the Harry Potter Alliance and All the Cool Sh!t They Do

Graphic above attributed to Karen Kavett.

With the first book that was more than mildly interesting to a large group of people came the fans, and then, more recently, the fandoms. Fandoms are groups of people who all follow the intricacies of a show, book (singular or series), or a podcast.

Basically, fans are people who care a lot about something. ‘A lot’ being a relative term that can sometimes be a gross understatement.

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These fans, for instance, are DEDICATED!

The question is, what do they do with that enthusiasm and excitement? I’m sure you could ask anyone who writes for this website, but personally, I have loud and hurried conversations about everything that I love, and I rewatch, reread, and try to connect with people who like the same things. And that’s it. All that enthusiasm is an untapped resource, but according to organizations like the Harry Potter Alliance, we should be using that enthusiasm in efforts towards social change.

The Harry Potter Alliance was founded in 2005, and since then has worked to accomplish many things, like helping Warner Brothers change how their Harry Potter chocolate is sourced, so it can be 100% UTZ or fair trade.

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Check out the story here!

From donating books to raising money for critically needed supplies to Haiti, the HPA seeks to use the “renewable resource of enthusiasm for social change”. If you look on their website, the Harry Potter Alliance believes in magic, love as a weapon for change, and the concept of unironic enthusiasm as a renewable resource.

Look no further than one their key values to understand what kind of organization they are:

Knowing that fantasy is not only an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it

They also endeavor to celebrate both online and in real life (IRL) communities.

I think that these two values separate the HPA from just any ol’ fan club. They acknowledge that although the world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts is great, there are real problems beyond the pages of our favorite book series that can be fixed with enough work and determination.

The power of a community like HPA is something I hope to be a part of with the same level of enthusiasm for the rest of my life. I am drawn to their values for two reasons:

  1. They acknowledge that there are different types of communities, and it legitimizes online communities that often are seen as worthless or not real.
  2. They call into the mind an image of a bunch of nerdy people fighting, and winning. Our power is in representation and tabling and campaigning, and it is powerful, because it changes lives and the world.

The HPA is currently working on a bunch of campaigns such as Fan Works are Fair Use, focusing the awesomeness of fan made creations, Positive Fandom, which is working to create guidelines for a “more positive fandom”, Fandom Forward which are toolkits that help fans think about current issues, and lastly Accio Books, which basically a magical book drive.

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More on this here!

The Harry Potter Alliance’s work doesn’t stop there, they are planning events such as  The Granger Leadership Academy, and others.

If you’re wondering what to do with your unironic enthusiasm check the Harry Potter Alliance out, join a chapter, and continue to be awesome!


MirandaMiranda is a college student studying Adventure Education and Sustainable Agriculture. Don’t let all that outdoorsy-ness fool you, when the Deathly Hallows came out Miranda was at the release party. Other nerdy credits include having deep discussions about various book series on reddit, tumblr, and twitter. She loves Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, the Delirium series, basically anything dystopian and the community of Nerdfighteria. You can find her on twitter @genderisweird, check her out on her blog and tumblr.

23 Nerd Babble – Some Nerd Girl Original Webcomic

I have seen ‘the glaze’ more times than I care to admit when I break out the nerd analogies. Too bad – there could be a lot of short-hand conversation elements out there. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!

Check out all the SNGCs here and join us every Monday for a new original SNG Webcomic!


AlexAlex is our resident Webcomic creator. He grew up in Puerto Rico, but didn’t reach true Nerdom until he came state side when he was in middle school. He’s been drawing since he was five, but has only started posting Webcomics in the past year. You can check out his amazing and original work at tapastic.com/gomezalexj.

For the Love of Gaming – Skill vs Will

I grew up on video games. My brother is six years older than I am, so by the time I was born he was playing video games and I was watching him. When I was in elementary school he got a second controller for his Xbox and taught me to play Halo with him. Although a seedless watermelon would’ve made a better co-op partner than me, my brother and I always had a great time playing together. He was a patient teacher who found my terrible aim intensely amusing and I was a clumsy, starry-eyed child playing her first shooter. Over the years we’ve improved as gamers, but our relative skill levels have stayed the same. Basically, my brother is a good gamer and I am not.

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Uhh… that’s the bad guy, isn’t it..?

The other day I fired up the notoriously difficult Dark Souls 2 for the first time in months. I’d put it down because I’d gotten stuck on my first practice mini-boss and I was getting tired of dying. I had hoped that with a level-head, free of frustration I’d be able to tackle the boss, advance in the game, and reinstate my worth as a gamer. Then as soon as the game loaded I launched myself off a cliff into deadly waters. All I’d done was test out the controls.

That’s just one example of my failures as a gamer. The real proof is in the stats. I finished Transistor in ten hours when the average completion time was six. It took me sixteen hours to complete the main campaign in South Park: The Stick of Truth when it took most people eleven, and even a short indie game named Fingerbones took me fifty minutes to finish when it was meant to be done in fifteen.

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Like… this is my life.

There are several traits about my playstyle that don’t lend themselves well to efficient gaming. First off I am a very impatient person, and that usually means looking for shortcuts that are liable to get me killed. I have the bad habit of wasting time looking for ways to cut corners, and it hardly ever works out in my favor. Also I am not a very perceptive person when it comes to my environment, which is a character flaw in real life that transfers to games. My abysmal sense of direction gets me lost in large, open environments, and my lack of awareness leads to me missing important items as I play. For example, I play a hide-and-seek type game called Dead Realm, and whenever I’m the seeker I can never find a single player. Then we have what is arguably my biggest flaw as a gamer.

I am a terrible shot. I can’t aim worth a dime, and I don’t know why. Maybe my reflexes aren’t sharp enough, maybe my hands are unsteady, or maybe I’m too easily startled. Whatever the reason, I can’t shoot, which puts me at a great disadvantage while playing most games. My shooting style basically consists of me sprinting past enemies with my gun out while screaming “I’m being shot at!” and it isn’t pretty.

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I am basically a real-life Stormtrooper

So yeah, I’m not a very gifted gamer, and I really can’t see that changing anytime soon. I just don’t have any natural talent for it. What I do have going for me is a lot of love for videogames. I remember the first game I ever played without my brother, a game that I played just for me. It was Soul Calibur 2, and I played as Cassandra and button mashed my way through every fight. I was six years old and no one would have ever said I was a skilled player, but I adored the game and cheered my little head off every time Cassandra landed a kick on her opponent. Thirteen years later and Cassandra is still my fighter of choice. You won’t see me in any tournaments, but if I were going to stop loving a game just because I never got good at it I’d hate every game I’ve played.

Cassandra.png
Marvel at the amazing graphics!

And that’s the thing, as bad as I am at videogames, I love playing them. I might have to play games on easy mode, but I could never give up on gaming altogether. I keep playing games because I have fun playing them even after the fiftieth time I’ve died. Some people might turn their nose up at me, but at least my friends still let me join in on their games. And really, I’m not a good co-op partner. I played Left for Dead 2 and accidentally shot a teammate more times than I could count. On Halloween, my friends and I played Eternal Darkness and when the controller was passed to me, I was killed by a weak enemy. I’d forgotten to save, and my friend had to take the controller back and redo a whole level’s worth of progress. Later my boyfriend watched as I used his PC to turn Just Cause 3 into Face-Planting Simulator. I swear I had a more flattering point to make somewhere around here.

Oh right, why I still play even though I’m terrible. Games are, at their core, not just meant to be played but also meant to be enjoyed. I might suck at games, but boy do I enjoy them. As long as I am enjoying a game, it shouldn’t matter how badly I play it. When I shot my teammate, she told me it was no big deal. My boyfriend actually enjoyed watching me drive into flower beds to frolic, and he supported my decision to jump off of cliffs like a flying squirrel instead of following the main storyline. Yeah, I’m bad at most of the games I play, and yeah I’ll probably never be a “good” gamer, but I really don’t mind. I might not have the skills, but there is something I do have.

I have fun. And that’s what really matters.


 

Rebecca2Rebecca is the daughter of two Mexican immigrants who lovingly support her nerdier hobbies. She is a cosplayer, con-goer, anime lover and lifelong writer who’s had several short pieces of fiction and poetry published under her very long name. She has also recently finished writing her first novel, a young adult adventure book with LGBT characters. She is a new college student and is currently majoring in biomedical engineering.

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