Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Revkin’

Pursuing progress

May 29, 2012

For the record: our freshly unveiled low-rent pool was a big Memorial Day hit. The little blue float’s gonna be my new summer hammock. Felt like Benjamin Braddock, happily adrift and pondering the future of plastics. Who needs the beach when you’ve got the Redneck Riviera!


But, back to what passes for work here in the sunny season of my greatest content. I love it out here in the warming world, always have. Get out of the stuffy hothouse and embrace the real heat, I told my brother-in-law at the birthday party. He doesn’t get why anyone would ever walk away from air conditioned comfort if they didn’t have to.

Of course my infatuation with summertime needs to be rethunk, in the sobering sweltering light of catastrophic climate change. Anthropogenic natural heat is something I’d never seriously considered. Had any of us, really? But if the planet’s crossed a line and is soon to become uninhabitable at this latitude, I intend to be among the last to enjoy it anyway.

So, to work: I’m juggling two new projects & seeking to integrate them: Philosophy Walks, a rumination on all the ways philosophy and philosophers get around in space, time, imagination, and possibility. This includes the literal forms of motion dearest to me, perambulation mainly, but increasingly also cycling. Philosophy rolls, too. And climbs. And floats. Maybe Philosophy Moves is a better working title.

And the second project needs a working title. It’s a fact-based fiction starring William James, ambling towards a heart-taxing climax on Mt. Marcy.

WJ is practically my alter ego already. I relay his tweets, for instance. The environmental writer Andrew Revkin spotted this recent one…

To be happy most of us need some austerity and wintry negativity, some roughness, danger, stringency, and effort, some “no! No!”

And said in response

I’m likning the evidently posthumous tweets from the philosopher/psychologist @WillmJames

Thanks, Andy. He’d be liking your work “pursuing progress on a finite planet” too. That pursuit was in fact his philosophical quest also, and the best reason I can think of to pursue my 2d summer project.

And there, I think, is my working title: Progress.

Extended sympathies

May 28, 2012

A Memorial Day dream, or pure fantasy? Depends on how many of us share and spread the cooperation meme. Andrew Revkin imagines a time when humans will war no more. Darwin did too:

“As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.” Descent of Man

A Memorial Day for War’s Fallen, Perhaps Someday for War Itself? –

Nukes aren’t good just because coal’s bad.

April 18, 2011

It’s time again for report presentations in NW. Kayla, Harrison, & Josh C. will kick us off, followed by Colin, Meghan, Josh H., Paul, Jason U., Elizabeth, Jason C., Willie, & Garrett. We’ll be watching the clock this time, so let’s practice our TED-timing skills.

Meanwhile, as we continue plowing through Whole Earth Discipline, Stewart Brand insists that the population bomb is not about to explode and the nuclear power industry will recover. In these debates he has been unwavering.

He’s still pro-nuke, in a new post-Fukushima interview:

What hasn’t changed is climate vulnerability and growing economic needs, especially in the developing world for clean, base-load electricity. And we’re learning some important new stuff on levels of safety under exceptional duress, which is what happened in Japan… Billions of people are getting out of poverty in the developing world. For that to go forward, one of the needs and demands they all have is for more electricity. So on those grounds alone I think there is a reason to proceed with nuclear.

Plus, nuclear energy could be put to much scarier uses again. Instead

we’re using the material in the warheads for nuclear fuel. Half of our nuclear electricity comes from recycled warheads. It’s kind of cool.

Cool? Sure, ok. But the fact that coal is really, really bad is hardly sufficient reason to believe that non-weapons grade nuclear energy is really good. I find Andrew Revkin’s recent  Dot Earth reflections on our nuclear ambivalence (Wall-E, Humanity as Assailant, Nukes Too Brittle?) more candid.

We are a young species with a short memory and only slowly-dawning awareness of three vital pieces of the challenge of meshing our aspirations with life on Earth: the planet’s dynamics, our capacity to jog the system and — perhaps most importantly — the distorting mix of rational, emotional and instinctual processes in our brains that shape our perceptions and actions.

So far, as I’ve written before, we’ve been in a full-tilt teen-style binge. But now we face the tough question: What do we want to be when we grow up?

As he asked earlier,”what policies and systems make the most sense as humanity’s growth spurt crests?” Maybe nuclear is the answer, but until we have a firmer sense of what’s happening in Japan [Fukushima update from the IAEA… robots venture inside…Guardian updates… nyt updates] it just seems ostrich-like to be as cockily confident as Brand has been in the nuclear solution. His glib endorsement of Roger Revelle’s glib statement that we ought to be more like the Japanese, who “haven’t got any phobias about [nukes],” may be in line for an update.

Brand did warn us, though, back at the beginning of this book: “my opinions are strongly stated and loosely held.” Unbending convictions are not constructive, beliefs finally are just tools. If he’s really the pragmatist he claims to be, he’ll honor that Conservation Pledge and “faithfully defend the natural resources of my country” against all enemies, nukes included, if that’s the way the wind blows.

Maybe the most interesting point to emerge from today’s text is the positive notice Brand takes of  “the ‘seven generations’ approach to future responsibility long credited to the Iroquois League.” Turns out 175 years may be a more responsible time-frame, at least for “planning” purposes, than 10,000 years. “We should not prejudge the needs and capabilities of the future.” No, but we’d sure better think about them.

So, welcome to Wall-E World. It’s not just elder-care those cute & clever bots are delivering.