The Green Blues Show – Edition 34


In this edition of the Green Blues Show: In the wake of the worst wildfires in California history, thoughts from an expert on fire dynamics. And, forest and atmosphere. Two tightly coupled systems, both in high peril.


Sad to say, progressive vision, courage and decisiveness are not traits associated with world leaders, today. Angela Merkel may be unique in this category. If Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were gifted in this way, he would immediately nationalize the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario.

GM announced last week that it would be shuttering its Oshawa operations, in favour of electric and autonomous vehicles – very much products of the future – down in the US and Mexico. With that, over 2500 jobs plunged down the drain; more, when allied support industries are tallied. These are folks who’ve been working in the automotive industry for generations, with enormous energy, enthusiasm and skills base.

Trudeau should make GM an offer it can’t refuse: to buy the Oshawa plant at a sharply discounted rate (given Canada’s historic, generous investments), in partnership with autoworkers, then proceed to do so. Or seize the plant, if GM chooses that path. The government would then negotiate with autoworkers and other industry sectors — with the public — to conceptualize, plan, finance, and implement the venture.

If the Trudeau government can buy a pipeline on the oil industry’s behalf (a highly dubious economic proposition, given the absolute urgency to stop the flow of oil, and start decarbonizing, immediately, or else), then it can set itself up to build zero emission vehicles of the future. A retooled GM plant in Oshawa – jointly owned by the Canadian government, workers and the Canadian public – could act as a hub for a revamped, zero-carbon automotive industry; a magnet for vehicle design and engineering experts around the world. An engine of innovation and prosperity for all Canadians, across the nation’s economy, in the critical half century to come.

Just a dream? What would you rather wake up to, though: a shiny new oil pipeline, in this frightening age of climate warming and biological extinction, or a shiny, non-polluting, completely made-in-Canada car? Let’s hope Trudeau wakes up and smells the coffee.


California’s latest season of wildfires is waning. Some 8000 distinct blazes ravaged thirteen million acres of California forest this past summer and early fall. Ninety perished, most of them in the horrific Camp wildfire in November.

As if all the death and destruction weren’t enough, California wildfires blasted some 6 million metric tons of carbon into Earth’s atmosphere. And it traveled far. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a satellite image of the smoke, wafting across the US to the eastern seaboard.

At the height of the Fort McMurray fire in the summer of 2017, ground level ozone levels spiked in Connecticut, on the northeastern US seaboard. Ozone is highly toxic to plants and humans. Robert Field studies the chemistry of wildfire emissions. Field is an associate research scientist at Columbia University and the Nasa-Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York City. Listen to our conversation in today’s podcast edition.


It’s a compelling idea: Earth’s forests modulate the atmosphere. Recent research shows how tightly forests and atmosphere are coupled, and how dramatically deforestation affects weather and climate across regions, continents, and around the planet.

I spoke about this with Dr. Abigail Swann, an atmospheric scientist and ecologist at the University of Washington, in Seattle. Her ecoclimate lab studies how plants influence climate. Click on the podcast link above.

In this edition of the Green Blues Show, songs from Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf.

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