May all your greens come true.
And don’t forget to give peas a chance.
Thu 31 Dec 2009
May all your greens come true.
And don’t forget to give peas a chance.
Tue 29 Dec 2009
10. A bottle of moonshine that shouldn’t have been in the house anyway. (I don’t like moonshine)
9. Building a garage/bike-tool-wood shed, for which we have an awesome plan. (too expensive)
8. A painting of a rainy early evening in France where we once lived. (I almost screwed up the light, which was the whole reason to do it, but salvaged it – kinda. Because it’s in oil, I paint on the front porch; it got too cold.)
7. A book proposal for the Eco Hustle columns. (Mmm… since “I got too busy with a new job” is a Phlegmish excuse, I don’t have a good one.)
6. A treatment for a screenplay out of one my novels. (see above)
5. Homer’s The Iliad (I was at my in-laws and left it – on purpose, I think)
4. A magazine article about a Swedish director who shot someone. (This is one I feel both good and bad about, which is somewhat rare. I agreed to do the piece and put in a non-trivial amount of research/interviewing – enough, in fact, to realize that I would need to do more and probably go to Sweden in order to do him any kind of justice. The magazine wasn’t going to send me there, so I ultimately dropped it – but I didn’t tell them. I’m sure they figured it out. It was the right call.)
3. The other blog (It wasn’t meant to be finished.)
2. A new job (see above).
1. A new story that might be a novel if it holds up. (It might be a novel if it holds up. There are several sub-entries here, but this one gets the hope-y attention.)
S0… some (most) of these weren’t abandoned, just not finished. It’s a hazard of writing. Can’t judge the year on just these, but it’s part of the truth of the 365 about to turn.
Fri 25 Dec 2009
Thu 24 Dec 2009
Not me, this time – malheureusement. But oil refineries. They’re going away. They’re not leaving today. But they’re going away. The article makes for an almost wistful, Christmas Eve nostalgia for how, pretty soon, we’re not going to have them to kick around any more. And boy will we regret that. Except we won’t.
Gasoline demand, which many analysts had long expected to keep rising for decades, is down sharply in the recession. And refiners are increasingly convinced that even after the economy recovers, demand will not grow much in coming years because of the rise of alternative fuel supplies and the advent of tougher efficiency standards for automobiles.
Plagued by boom-and-bust cycles of rapid expansion followed by sharp belt-tightening, refining companies have often struggled to operate at a profit. That is a contrast to the production side of the oil business, long a road to riches.
“Oil production creates wealth, but oil refining has often destroyed it,” said Costanza Jacazio, an analyst at Barclays Capital in New York.
Even so, these are unusually harsh times for oil refiners. The recent drop in gasoline demand could result in more refineries being closed in the coming year.
Talk about shock and… aw. But this has very little to do with eco-anything, really. It’s just an economic situation, itself in transition, and away from where the fossil fuel industry thought they would ever go or be, which is not far from here – or actually about 2007. This is itself a problem with the imagination of your average B-school go-getter, seeing just far enough to be able to carve out their own little piece of the bottom line as it exists as the status quo. Then having the proclivity to channel all remaining energy into protecting that little slice of heaven. Instead of being able to recognize the shortcomings even of a system beneficial to them and foresee workable, if not equitable, adjustments to that system. Imagination fail, like a tractor beam. Like a circle, baby.
And this is transferrable to many issues and realms, including the political and HCR. If you doubt that, check out another op piece today, and witness the depravity that was Phil Gramm circa 1993. Hunted with dogs, indeed.
Wed 23 Dec 2009
this ain’t. Willful ignorance, maybe. What momentum climate denialism ever had might be fading a bit; after much froth, Cap’n Trade (a new breakfast cereal?) might become just another unremarkable regulatory mechanism. Whatever – I’m not trying to be hopeful here, I’m just sayin’: the whole stupid idea that just because some major companies or investors are going to profit from efforts to reduce carbons emissions and therefore dial back trends that indicate global warming does not itself mean that global warming is a hoax. This is not, what do you call it, a valid deductive argument. It’s actually quite asinine – correlation does not indicate cause and effect, even and especially when proffered dishonestly arbitrarily carelessly. Watch.
People profit from scams.
People will profit from global warming.
(Therefore) global warming is a scam.
See? No work-y. One of the premises is true only under certain conditions. Something’s missing. Something that brings to mind… colorful language, let’s say.
People: for practice, take some contradictory ideas and hold them in your head. No, you don’t have to hold your breath. Just wait. Did anything happen? No! You’ve just become slightly more intellectually dynamic. Don’t worry, your friends shouldn’t immediately notice.
Seriously though, why are so many people so pisspants about reducing carbon emissions? You live within an alphabet soup of corporate logos and events, products and services, and now you’re worried about someone controlling what you can do? This is a much more interesting question. But wondering why companies are going to profit from whatever we do about anything (erectile disfunction, anyone?), much less attaching conspiracy theories to it, less so. Companies, especially big ones with a lots of influence, are always going to profit. That’s how everything is set up. So the idea that this very arrangement invalidates the reality that some seriously grave effects are following our path into the present age is itself an arbitrary take on things. Which we might, again, refer to as the Sinclair effect.
Mon 21 Dec 2009
The weekend before President Clinton’s State of the Union Address, the Wall Street Journal assembled a focus group of middle-class white males to plumb the depth of their proverbial anger. These guys are mad as hell. They’re mad at welfare, they’re mad at special-interest lobbyists. “But perhaps the subject that produces the most agreement among the group,” the Journal reports, is the view that Washington should stop sending money abroad and instead zero in on the domestic front.
“a poll released last week[1995, ed.] by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland which stated that 75% of Americans believes that the US spends “too much” on foreign aid, and 64% want foreign aid spending cut. Apparently a cavalier 11% of Americans think it’s fine to spend “too much” on foreign aid. Respondents were also asked, though, how big a share of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. The median answer was 15%; the average answer was 18% the correct answer is less than 1%. A question about how much would be “too little” produced a median answer of 3%–more than three times the current level of foreign aid spending.
Wisely transferring money from rich people or countries to poorer people or countries is one of the keystones to good public policy. To the extent we care about it, it’s one of the ways we construct an equitable society and definitely one of the ways we do things like secure the peace (Marshall Plan), bribe the enemy (Iraq) and otherwise incentivize behavior on the part of our strategic partners (examples too numerous to list). This goes doubly for trying to effect lower CO2 emissions around the globe. But we only need to look to the above to see how far the rock will fly.
And while we also spend money in a multitude of horrific ways around the globe, the idea of climate debt was a subject of some contention at COP15. Grist hits a good tee shot on the subject.
The climate pollution already in the atmosphere has “locked in” a certain degree of climate change. Since rich nations produced the bulk of historical pollution, they bear the bulk of the responsibility for the damages that result. Those damages will fall disproportionately on the world’s poorest countries, which bear the least responsibility. Given the situation, rich countries are obliged to help poor countries pay to adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects.
How we get on the green from there, well… it’s an open question as to whether the debt model is the right one. But how ever we come to frame climate justice – and it’s going to be Orwellian orchid sex if there’s ever been any – it must result in the further collapse of the detachment and separation model featuring the highly useful us/them split, of which climate change is the biggest harbinger of all time. It’s why we hate it – odorless, borderless and raceless.
Fri 18 Dec 2009
Now it’s a wonder how much we separate crazy weather occurrences from the possible effects of global warming; instead of superstitious, we might be becoming super-suspicious that these things are or are not related, depending on your exposure to that venerable Upton Sinclair aphorism.
THE chair, with the old lady beaming in it, was wheeled away
towards the doors at the further end of the salon, while our
party hastened to crowd around her, and to offer her their
congratulations. In fact, eccentric as was her conduct, it was
also overshadowed by her triumph; with the result that the
General no longer feared to be publicly compromised by being
seen with such a strange woman, but, smiling in a condescending,
cheerfully familiar way, as though he were soothing a child, he
offered his greetings to the old lady. At the same time, both he
and the rest of the spectators were visibly impressed.
Everywhere people kept pointing to the Grandmother, and talking
about her. Many people even walked beside her chair, in order to
view her the better while, at a little distance, Astley was
carrying on a conversation on the subject with two English
acquaintances of his. De Griers was simply overflowing with
smiles and compliments, and a number of fine ladies were staring
at the Grandmother as though she had been something curious.
“Quelle victoire!” exclaimed De Griers.
“Mais, Madame, c’etait du feu!” added Mlle. Blanche with an
“Yes, I have won twelve thousand florins,” replied the old
lady. “And then there is all this gold. With it the total ought
to come to nearly thirteen thousand. How much is that in Russian
money? Six thousand roubles, I think?”
However, I calculated that the sum would exceed seven thousand
roubles–or, at the present rate of exchange, even eight
“Eight thousand roubles! What a splendid thing! And to think of
you simpletons sitting there and doing nothing! Potapitch!
Martha! See what I have won!”
“How DID you do it, Madame?” Martha exclaimed ecstatically.
“Eight thousand roubles!”
“And I am going to give you fifty gulden apiece. There they
Potapitch and Martha rushed towards her to kiss her hand.
“And to each bearer also I will give a ten-gulden piece. Let
them have it out of the gold, Alexis Ivanovitch. But why is this
footman bowing to me, and that other man as well? Are they
congratulating me? Well, let them have ten gulden apiece.”
“Madame la princesse–Un pauvre expatrie–Malheur continuel–Les
princes russes sont si genereux!” said a man who for some time
past had been hanging around the old lady’s chair–a personage
who, dressed in a shabby frockcoat and coloured waistcoat, kept
taking off his cap, and smiling pathetically.
The rest at the link.
Special holiday bonus, because I’m learning to love all over again: Roy on Why This Decade Sucked.
Thu 17 Dec 2009
Each year, the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine rank 60 “failing states,” countries which on some level fail to provide personal security or basic services, such as education, health care, food, and physical infrastructure, to their people. The countries are evaluated using the Failed States Index, a ten-point scale for each of twelve political, social, economic, and military indicators (i.e., a state that is failing completely receives a score of 120).
Failing states have much in common. Seventeen of the top twenty have high population growth rates (several close to 3 percent per year or twenty-fold per century); these countries have seen enough development to reduce mortality but not fertility. In fact, birth rates in five of these seventeen states exceed six children per woman. Soaring population growth puts strain on educational facilities, as well as food and water supplies. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that almost half of the top twenty failing states depend on food from the U.N. World Food Programme or that in fourteen of them, at least 40 percent of the population is under fifteen.
As breeding grounds for conflict, terrorism, drugs, and infectious disease, failing states represent a threat to global order and stability. In 2004, only seven countries had scores of 100 or greater. In just four years, the number of states in this category doubled.
Another concern addressed in Plan B 4.0 is how the growing consumption of the earth’s resources is clearly unsustainable. Examining commodity consumption in merely two countries, the United States and China, makes this point.
China now consumes more grain than the United States. It consumes almost twice as much meat, roughly three times as much coal, and nearly four times as much steel. But what would happen if China’s 1.3 billion people were to consume commodities at the same rate as the United States’ 300 million?
For this exercise, we look at how an 8 percent annual economic growth rate in China (a conservative projection) would put per capita income in China at U.S. levels by 2024.
At that point, if each person in China were to consume paper at the current American rate, China would need more paper than is produced worldwide today (there go the world’s forests). China would require over half of the current world grain supply. China would also need 90 million barrels of oil per day; however, the world currently produces less than 86 million and is unlikely to produce much more than that in the future.
These projections serve not to blame China for its consumption but rather to illustrate that the western economic model—with meat-rich diets, fossil-fuel powered utilities, and automobile-dependent transportation—will not work on a global scale because there are simply not enough resources. Plan B puts us on a path toward a new kind of global economy, one that is powered largely by renewable sources of energy, that has a much more diversified transport system, and that reuses and recycles everything.
Now you know.
Tue 15 Dec 2009
Knowing how much energy you use on an hour/daily/weekly basis would be one thing. As it is, we’re greatly ignorant of even this, and the idea that if we began unpacking what exactly is a kWh and what it takes to produce one, maybe, just maybe we could re-construct that perception – who knows, maybe even based on how fast a little whirl-y-gig on top your house would have to spin just wash your clothes or grind your coffee beans. Maybe we would decide a little whirl-y-gig just wouldn’t do the trick and other measures would be more effective, in tandem with using less or developing ways to use sunlight or building different kinds of houses or… you get the idea. While it may be hard to retro-fit our world – we should consider trying to retro-fit our habits based on everything required to support them. That would actually be much more difficult, though probably only at first.
Trying to understand how much energy you use on an hourly/daily/weekly basis in terms of how much people elsewhere in the world use at all, per the photo above, is a route to a wholly different transformation. Really, it has little to do with the first. We would have a hard enough time justifying our energy use in the first instance; there is very little chance we could do so at in the second. Alas this is the issue, and this is one of the reasons why there are climate change denialists.
So should we (the haves) pay more for our energy than those who haveless? This anecdote from Copenhagen paints a nice picture of our unwillingness:
That was the only talk about poverty for the night. But that’s not the discouraging part. This is: One of the moderators, CNBC anchor Louisa Bojeson, asked the crowd to raise their hands if they were willing to pay 10 percent more for their home’s electricity if it came from a carbon-free source. Two thirds of them, give or take, raised a hand. Would they pay 20 percent more? Fewer than half kept a hand raised. Would they pay 50 percent more? All but a minority, perhaps ten percent, dropped their hands.
These are the royalty of our age—well-compensated, well-heeled corporate leaders, the owners of at least some of the private jets that landed in Copenhagen last week. Home electricity bills, even for mansions, constitute a minuscule portion of their salaries. If they’re not willing to voluntarily pay more for the common good…
There are a number of conclusions you might draw. Maybe the business leaders were defending the right of consumers to choose the lowest price in a free market. Maybe they don’t like raising their hands. Maybe this shows clean-energy choices must be economically appealing—green has to be cheaper than brown if it’s going to catch on. Maybe it means leadership must come from politicians, or social movements. It wasn’t an encouraging moment.
Though perhaps a revealing one.
photo from Revkin’s blog.
Fri 11 Dec 2009
I was reading a damning indictment of the ‘art market’ by Robert Hughes the other night, about how financial speculation in art has been more important and had more impact than any other ‘ism’, movement or development in art over the last forty-plus years. He was talking about it in the context of L’Affair Rothko – the court case for fraud against Rothko’s gallerists immediately following his suicide in 1970. We’re like frogs in slowly boiling water in that this is so difficult to bring attention to or even notice anymore. Or we would be, except that it’s more like man bites frog in slowly boiling water submerged in 100 gallons of formaldehyde, shown for the first time pre-sold for $8.1 million, of course. And we don’t notice anything amiss about it.
But that essay didn’t seem to be anywhere in the Comcastiverse intertubes and since I have no time to type it out, here’s another Hughes article from Time magazine, The Sacred Mission, from 1997.
The first thing the colonists in the New World saw, the stuff they had to define themselves against, was nature. A sense of the wilderness, promising or oppressive, was one of the chief shared signs of American identity, and it became a prime subject of the country’s art. “In the beginning,” wrote John Locke in the 17th century, “all the world was America.” It was not necessarily a reassuring thought, for America seemed very strange to its first European settlers, particularly the Puritans in New England. To them, its rocky coast and tangled woods were–in the expressive phrase used by one of them–”the Lord’s waste,” an unowned biblical desert full of strange beasts and savage half-men. However, although America produced no significant landscape painting or religious art during the 17th or 18th century, by the mid-19th century, landscape was the national religious symbol.
The artist who began this process was Thomas Cole (1801-48), a transplanted Englishman from the “dark Satanic mills” of the industrial Midlands. Cole’s clients were mainly from the rich Federalist “aristocracy,” whose members, offended by Jacksonian populism, wanted pastoral images of a pure American scene unsullied by the marks of getting and spending. Skeptical of progress, Cole painted the landscape as Arcadia, which served to spiritualize the past in a land without antique monuments. He loved the freshness of primal mountains and valleys–unpainted, unstereotyped, the traces of God’s hand in forming the world. America’s columns were trees, its forums were groves, and its invasive barbarian was the wrong sort of American, the developer, the Man with the Ax.
When Cole left on a trip to Italy, his friend William Cullen Bryant, nature poet and editor, urged him in a sonnet not to be seduced by the humanized, picturesque Europe–to “keep that earlier, wilder image bright.” After Cole’s early death, that image was to get wilder and brighter still in the work of his only pupil, Frederick Edwin Church (1826-1900). Descended from six generations of Yankee ministers and merchants, patriotic and deeply religious, Church inherited Cole’s belief in a style of landscape suffused with “a language strong, moral and imaginative.” His paintings–mostly of the Hudson Valley and vistas of South American grandeur–were greeted as both religious icons and triumphs of observation, fusing piety and science in one matrix. Church hit a peculiarly American vein of feeling: Romanticism without its European component of alienation and dread, a view of the universe in which God was in heaven and all was basically right with the world.
But for all the grandeur of its pictorial rhetoric, Church’s work didn’t fully express the hot idea of westward expansion within North America–the belief in Manifest Destiny. To convey the image of the Western landscape as glorious and triumphal, the Cinerama devices first used by Church were taken up by other painters, notably Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) and Thomas Moran (1837-1926).
The German-born Bierstadt made a hugely successful career on the insight that the landscapes beyond the Missouri made America unique among nations. His style was superdetailed, bombastic and almost obnoxiously grand, intended to knock your socks off with spectacle. In Emigrants Crossing the Plains, 1867, his most extravagant anthem to Manifest Destiny, the covered wagons roll forward into a sunset of such splendor that it’s obvious God is beckoning them on, flooding their enterprise with metaphorical gold. Moran, the son of poor immigrant handweavers, was virtually self-trained as an artist but was a devotee of the great English landscapist J.M.W. Turner. He created the all-time Big American Painting, the climactic panorama of America’s years of Western expansion, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1893-1901.
There was another strand in American landscape painting, much less extroverted, equally meaningful. Later, it would be called Luminism, because it suppressed the physical exuberance of painting (texture, big strokes, dramatic contrast) in favor of calm, almost anonymous radiance. The Luminists–Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-65) and John Frederick Kensett (1816-72)–looked east, not west: toward the eternal frontier of the Atlantic, not the receding one of the wilderness. The mood of their work fitted perfectly with Emerson’s description of his own ecstatic merging with nature, when “all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”
After the turn of the century the Western superview, the spectacular landscape, migrated into movies: Thomas Moran lurks behind every stagecoach chase through Monument Valley. It was the more contemplative Luminist tradition that kept going, in altered forms, into 20th century painting, from Georgia O’Keeffe to Mark Rothko. The most compelling new lease on life that the sublime West got in the late 20th century was from earth art, done in the desert spaces themselves and thus, being hard to reach, known to its aficionados mainly through reproduction. One hundred ten miles southwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, is Walter de Maria’s peculiar masterpiece The Lightning Field, 1977: 400 glittering stainless-steel spikes in an empty valley, their tops forming a level rectangle like a fakir’s bed of nails one mile by one kilometer. The metal poles invite lightning strikes, which rarely happen; but this use of art to invoke the presence of Jehovah in the landscape is very much in the 19th century tradition.