Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, November 7, 2015

MVNews this week:  Page 14



 Mountain Views News Saturday, November 7, 2015 


Every two to seven years, an unusually warm pool 
of water—sometimes 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit 
higher than normal—develops across the eastern 
tropical Pacific Ocean to create a natural short-
term climate change event. This warm condition, 
known as El Niño, affects the local aquatic 
environment, but also spurs extreme weather 
patterns around the world, from flooding in 
California to droughts in Australia. This winter, 
the 2015-16 El Niño event will be better observed 
from space than any previous El Niño.

 This year’s El Niño is already strong and 
appears likely to equal the event of 1997-98, 
the strongest El Niño on record, according to 
the World Meteorological Organization. All 
19 of NASA’s current orbiting Earth-observing 
missions were launched after 1997. In the past two 
decades, NASA has made tremendous progress in 
gathering and analyzing data that help researchers 
understand more about the mechanics and global 
impacts of El Niño.

 “El Niño is a fascinating phenomenon because 
it has such far-reaching and diverse impacts. 
The fact that fires in Indonesia are linked with 
circulation patterns that influence rainfall 
over the United States shows how complex and 
interconnected the Earth system is,” said Lesley 
Ott, research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard 
Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

 Using NASA satellite observations in tandem 
with supercomputer processing power for 
modeling systems, scientists have a comprehensive 
suite of tools to analyze El Niño events and their 
global impacts as never before. Throughout this 
winter, NASA will share the latest scientific 
insights and imagery updates related to El Niño.

 For instance, scientists are learning how El 
Niño affects the year-to-year variability for fire 
seasons in the western United States, Amazon 
and Indonesia. El Niño may also affect the yearly 
variability of the ground-level pollutant ozone 
that severely affects human health. Researchers 
will be keenly focused on how the current El Niño 
will affect the drought in California.

 “We still have a lot to learn about these 
connections, and NASA’s suite of satellites will 
help us understand these processes in a new and 
deeper way,” said Ott.

 Many NASA satellites observe environmental 
factors that are associated with El Niño evolution 
and its impacts, including sea surface temperature, 
sea surface height, surface currents, atmospheric 
winds and ocean color. The joint NASA/NOAA/
CNES/EUMETSAT Jason-2 satellite measures 
sea surface height, which is especially useful in 
quantifying the heat stored and released by the 
oceans during El Niño years.

 NASA satellites also help scientists see the 
global impact of El Niño. The warmer than 
normal eastern Pacific Ocean has far-reaching 
effects worldwide. These events spur disasters, 
such as fires and floods. They change storm 
tracks, cloud cover and other weather patterns, 
and they have devastating effects on fisheries and 
other industries.

 NASA’s Earth-observing satellites help 
monitor those and other impacts by measuring 
land and ocean conditions that both influence 
and are affected by El Niño. For instance, NASA’s 
Global Precipitation Measurement mission 
provides worldwide precipitation measurements 
every three hours. NASA’s Soil Moisture Active 
Passive mission measures soil moisture in the top 
layer of land. Both of these satellites are useful for 
monitoring drought, improving flood warnings 
and watching crop and fishing industries.

 To follow NASA’s El Niño Watch page, visit:


 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@



How we seek and find the meaning to life

[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Foraging California,” and 
other books. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.] 

 In March, I was asked by professor Nicole Deweese to guest-teach her 
sociology class one Tuesday night when she had to be away in Arizona. I asked 
her what she wanted me to talk about. “The class is called ‘Urban Contemporary 
Youth’” she responded. I thought about it. “So what do you want me to say about urban contemporary 
youth?” I asked. “Should I discuss the causes of their problems, how to avoid the problems, or what?” 

 Nicole explained that they already spent time talking about the causes of problems and that I should 
not try to reinvent the wheel of her class. “Just talk about what you do, your classes, how you teach 
youth how to live off the land. I think everyone will find that interesting.” 

 I agreed to do the class, but still felt a bit worried about whether or not I could fill three long hours 
while adult students stared at me, wondering whether or not they should have stayed home when only 
a guest teacher was filling in. 

 I spent many hours over the next few days in trying to come up with something useful for the class. 
Yes, I would talk about my teaching youth groups how to identify plants, and how to build shelters, and 
all the skills that I teach. Somehow, just talking about that didn’t seem sufficient for this class. 

 I tried to put myself into the mind of an “urban contemporary youth” and attempted to see what I 
would see when I wear that hat. 

 I wasn’t concerned with trying to determine “the meaning of life.” After all, what young person 
thinks about that? They think about “what is the meaning of MY life.” Right? So I was simply trying to 
think back to my earliest years, and how I thought about the world, and how an intelligent adult could 
have, and should have, led my thinking and activities. 

 So, first, what are the questions that I used to ask myself? 

 Who am I? First, who am I as a being in a body, either masculine or feminine. This is a critical 
question that everyone asks themselves. 

 Who am I? This question has to do with the idea of being, of consciousness, not so much male or 
female, but simply as a living sentient being in a world that we are born into, where everyone is racing 
around furiously, doing something, as if they know what they are doing and why. This is, obviously, a 
major category of thought. 

 Of course, all these are inter-related and interwoven. We ask ourselves “Who am I?” in the context of 
the culture we are born into: rural, urban, modern, country, rich, poor, etc. etc. What is my relationship 
to my environment? Furthermore, despite what everyone around me seems to be doing, what should be 
the ideal way in which I interact with my world around me, including the people I interact with? 

 As I considered what to present to Nicole’s class, I considered a fourth area of major concern and 
question, one which seems to largely ignored at least as it pertain to educating youth. What is this thing 
called “money” and why does it seem to govern and control nearly everything about everyone’s life. In 
fact, the avoidance of dealing with the money issue seems to be a major factor in the ignorance in the 
way in which we deal with our environment. We have been taught by others that as long as you need 
money, and a job, you can do nearly anything you want, including ruining your environment! 

 I realized intuitively that these four areas are the four inter-related categories in which youth seek 
their answers. Of course, most of us grow out of youth while never finding satisfactory answers to any 
of the above four categories, and we bumble along in life, and pass our ignorance along to our children, 
who learn from our example. 


The four paths seemed to comprise the areas of overwhelmingly greatest import to any thoughtful 
person growing up and seeking meaning. Yes, there are almost certainly other and different areas of 
internal investigation, possibly even as tangents of the basic four. 

 No one of these is a discrete category unto itself. Each overlaps and relates to one or more of the other 

 As I prepared my notes for Nicole’s class, I focused on the category of “environment,” since Nicole 
had specifically asked that I talk about how I teach about the environment and dealing with ecological 
issues. That part was somewhat easy, and I added notes from my “Extreme Simplicity” book. 

My personal interest was how we allow money to control nearly every aspect of our lives, so I decided 
that I would give extra attention to the issue of money. As I wrote my notes, I realized that I have learned 
a lot in the last few decades simply by working through my many ignorances, and that I actually might 
have something useful to share with others, assuming they followed the advice. 

 I finally gave the class lecture, and I began by sharing the concept of the Four Paths. I mostly addressed 
the environment and money categories, and managed to cover about a half of what I’d prepared. 

 As I continued to get feedback from Nicole and others, I realized that I should compile my various 
notes of the Four Paths into a book. Looking at life from the view of a very young person, born into 
this confused world, seemed (to me) to be a good perspective. I don’t know if I actually will write a 
whole book about, but even the outline would be very useful for teachers dealing with youth. 

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