PHYSICAL SCIENCES

Environmental science


"The threat of environmental crisis will be the international disaster key that will unlock the New World Order"---Mikhail Gorbachev 1996

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE: AN INTRODUCTION

Environmental science is a multidisciplinary academic field that integrates the physical and biological sciences.  These sciences include but are not limited to: ecology, physics, chemistry, biology, soil science, geology, atmospheric science and geography.  The field of study is the environment, and the major issues in the field involve finding solutions to environmental problems. Environmental science provides an integrated, quantitative, and interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental systems.

Related areas of study include: environmental studies & environmental engineering. Environmental studies incorporate more of the social sciences for understanding human relationships, perceptions and policies towards the environment. Environmental engineering focuses on design and technology for improving environmental quality in every aspect. Environmental scientists work on subjects like the understanding of earth processes, evaluating alternative energy systems, pollution control and mitigation, natural resource management, and the effects of global climate change. Environmental issues almost always include an interaction of physical, chemical, and biological processes. Environmental scientists bring a systems approach to the analysis of environmental problems. Key elements of an effective environmental scientist include the ability to relate space, and time relationships as well as quantitative analysis. For more on this general introduction go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_science

THE ENVIRONMENT AND TECHNOLOGY

Borrowing the title from an essay by Michael Callon and his colleagues working at the intersection of science and technology studies and politics, this presentation, “Acting in an Uncertain World”, attempts to think through questions of environment and technology in a time of proliferating ecological crises. These crises, no longer conceived of as ‘natural’ disasters, or ‘human’ problems but deep entanglements, suggest new forms of technologically enabled democracy, where both slowness (slowing down to institutionalize deliberative processes) and speed (especially in communicating to inform an engaged citizenry) may interact in novel ways. 

Michel Callon(1945- ) is a Professor of Sociology at the École des mines de Paris and member of the Centre de sociologie de l'innovation. He is an influential author in the field of Science and Technology Studies and one of the leading proponents of actor–network theory, ANT, with Bruno Latour. S
ince the late 1990s Michel Callon has spearheaded the movement of applying ANT approaches to study economic life, notably economic markets. This body of work interrogates the interrelation between the economy and economics, highlighting the ways in which economics, and economics-inspired disciplines such as marketing, shapes the economy. For more on Callon go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Callon  ...You might also like to watch or download now AT:  http://criticaldigitalstudies.net/

EARTH FROM SPACE

Earth From Space" is a groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth. Viewers witness how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine "waterfall" off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how the Sun's heating up of the southern Atlantic gives birth to a colossally powerful hurricane. From the microscopic world of water molecules vaporizing over the ocean to the magnetic field that is bigger than Earth itself, the show reveals the astonishing beauty and complexity of our dynamic planet.

Earth from Space takes you on an epic quest to discover the invisible forces and processes that sustain life on our planet and, for the first time, see them in action in their natural environment in vivid detail. These truly unique images will explore the deepest mysteries of its existence, raising profound questions and challenging the old assumptions of how Earth's system works. It was written by Darlow Smithson Productions. This film is highly informative but you should know what to expect. From the title one would think this film consist mainly of photography of Earth taken from orbit while the narrator tells us geographical information. Well, it is not like that.

The concept of this documentary is explaining the connections of various meteorological, geological and ecological processes with each other in one big system. Probably most of us are familiar with the powers of hurricanes on the Atlantic, or that there are dust storms in the Sahara or the Amazon River has the largest water flow, but how these things relate to each other on a global scale are not so trivial. This film shows us the big picture of Earth's system. "From space" in our case refers to the source of this information. Most of these big global processes were discovered using satellites. The film includes many satellite imagery showing these models. Go to this link for an introductory video: http://www.space.com/19640-nova-earth-from-space-documentary-stars-our-home-planet-video.html

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE: Jared Diamond

Part 1:

The following is a brief review of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive by Jared Diamond(Allen Lane, 575 pages, 2005). This review is found in the London Review of Books, May 2005. It begins: "Are our dealings with nature sustainable? Can we expect world economic growth to continue for the foreseeable future? Should we be confident that our knowledge and skills will increase in ways that will lessen our reliance on nature despite our growing numbers and rising economic activity?"

Jared Mason Diamond(1937-) is an American scientist and author best known for his popular science books: The Third Chimpanzee (1991), Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997, awarded a Pulitzer Prize), Collapse (2005) and The World Until Yesterday (2012). Originally trained in physiology, Diamond's work is known for drawing from a variety of fields, including: anthropology, ecology, geography, and evolutionary biology. As of 2013, he is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has been described as "America’s best-known geographer". For more on Diamond go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Diamond

Part 2:

The review by Partha Dasgupta continues: "These questions have been debated for decades. If the debate has become increasingly shrill, it is because two opposing ways of looking at the world continue to shape it. If, on the one hand, we look at specific examples of natural assets (fresh water, ocean fisheries, the atmosphere as a carbon ‘sink’: ecosystems generally), there is convincing evidence that at the rate at which we currently exploit them, they are very likely to change character for the worse, with very little warning. On the other hand, if we study historical trends in the price of marketed resources, or improvements in life expectancy, or recorded growth in incomes in regions that are currently rich or on the way to becoming so, the scarcity of resources would appear not yet to have bitten us. If you were to point out that there are acute scarcities in the troubled nations of sub-Saharan Africa, those whose perspective is ecological will tell you that people living in the world’s poorest regions are poor because they face acute scarcities relative to their numbers; while those whose perspective is economic will argue that people experience scarcities precisely because they are poor." For more of this review go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n10/partha-dasgupta/bottlenecks

ENVIRONMENTALISTS

An environmentalist broadly supports the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities". An environmentalist is engaged in or believes in the philosophy of environmentalism. Environmentalists are sometimes referred to using informal or derogatory terms such as "greenie" and "tree-hugger". There are now several dozen noted environmentalists and readers can read short bio-data biographies of each of them at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmentalist

ENVIRONMENTALISM

Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental protection and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements. Environmentalism advocates the preservation, restoration and/or improvement of the natural environment, & may be referred to as a movement to control pollution or protect plant and animal diversity. For this reason, concepts such as a land ethic, environmental ethics, biodiversity,ecology and the biophilia hypothesis figure predominantly. For more details go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmentalism

NATURE SITES


Introducing new summer products, inspired by nature. These two sets of notecards and seeds are designed to remind us of the importance of virtues. Each card displays a short contemplation on a different virtue - be it courage, wisdom, hope or love - and is paired with a seed packet for botanical inspiration. As the plants and flowers bloom, we are reminded of their corresponding virtuous quality, so that we may grow alongside them. Go to this link for more: http://www.theschooloflife.com/shop/all/?retail_collection=452&utm_source=The+School+of+Life+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=bed9fd89e6-Retail_Seeds_of_Virtue7_20_2015&utm_med

ECOLOGY

Part 1:

Ecology is the scientific analysis and study of interactions among organisms and their environment. It is an interdisciplinary field that includes biology andEarth science. Ecology includes the study of interactions organisms have with each other, other organisms, and with abiotic components of theirenvironment. Topics of interest to ecologists include the diversity, distribution, amount (biomass), and number (population) of particular organisms; as well as cooperation and competition between organisms, both within and among ecosystems. Ecosystems are composed of dynamically interacting parts includingorganisms, the communities they make up, and the non-living components of their environment. Ecosystem processes, such as primary production,pedogenesis, nutrient cycling, and various niche construction activities, regulate the flux of energy and matter through an environment. These processes are sustained by organisms with specific life history traits, and the variety of organisms is called biodiversity.Biodiversity, which refers to the varieties of species,genes, and ecosystems, enhances certain ecosystem services. For more of this overview go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Ecology

Part 2:

Ecology has emerged as one of the most important sites of political struggle today. The M/C Journal of Media and Culture(V.15, N. 3, 2012) had a special issue which engaged with “ecology” not as a siloised field of scientific enquiry, but rather as a way of contemporary thinking and a conceptual mode that emphasizes connectivity, conviviality, and inter-dependence. Proposing a radical revision of anthropocentrism in When Species Meet, Donna Haraway emphasises the dynamism of ecology as an entangled mesh, observing that, “the world is a knot in motion.” The “infolding” of human bodies with what we call “the environment” has never been clearer than the present moment—a time where humans may have undermined the viability of their own and other organism’s life on Earth.

This impending ecological crisis has forced awareness of humanity’s dependence on the nonhuman lives that surround and envelop us. Gregory Bateson reminds us of the gravity of this mutuality with his assertion that the unit of survival is the organism-and-its-environment in a relationship, and that an organism which destroys its environment commits suicide. Our unstable ecological future has prompted the emergence of an array of inter-disciplines, and new political, intellectual and cultural alignments including; ecomedia, eco-Marxism, ecological humanities, political ecology and animal studies.  These thriving areas of scholarship often attempt to situate, “humans in ecological terms and non-humans in ethical terms,” while highlighting, as Val Plumwood has in her landmark Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason, how, “anthropocentric perspectives and culture make us insensitive to our ecological place in the world’. For an excellent series of articles in relation to ecology go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/view/ecology


ANTHONY GIDDENS

Part 1:

Anthony Giddens(1938-) is a British sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies. He is considered to be one of the most prominent modern sociologists, the author of at least 34 books, published in at least 29 languages, issuing on average more than one book every year. In 2007, Giddens was listed as the fifth most-referenced author of books in the humanities. Giddens has vigorously pursued the theme of globalization in recent years. He sees the growing interdependence of world society as driven not only by the increasing integration of the world economy, but above all by massive advances in communications.  As he has noted, when he delivered the BBC Reith Lectures, just before the turn of the century, the Internet was in its infancy. Now it has expanded in a wholly unprecedented way linking people and organizations across the world on an everyday level, but also intruding deeply into everyday life.

Billions of people have access to it and the numbers are growing every day.  An increasingly interconnected and wired-up world offers many advantages and benefits. Yet it carries new risks too, some themselves of global proportions. In the 21st century work opportunity and risk combine as never before. Giddens refers to the emergence on a global level of a ‘high opportunity, high risk society’.  Both on the level of opportunity and risk we are in terrain human beings have never explored before. We don’t know in advance what the balance is likely to be, because many of the opportunities and risks are quite new – we can’t draw on past history to assess them.

Part 2:

Climate change is one of those new risks. No other civilization before the advent of modern industrialism was able to intervene into nature to even a fraction of the extent to which we do on an everyday basis. Climate change was referred to in several of Giddens’s books from the mid-1990s onwards, but was not discussed at length until the publication of his work The Politics of Climate Change in 2009. Climate change, Giddens says, constitutes a fundamental threat to the future of industrial civilisation as it spreads across the globe. Given that is the case, he asks, why are countries around the world doing so little to counter its advance? Many reasons are involved, but the prime one is the historical novelty of humanly induced climate change itself.

No previous civilisation intervened into nature on a level remotely similar to that which we do on an everyday level today. We have no previous experience of dealing with such an issue and especially one of such global scope, or of the dangers it poses. Those dangers hence appear as abstract, and located at some indefinite point in the future. ‘Giddens’s paradox’ consists of the following theorem. We are likely to put off responding adequately to climate change until major catastrophes unequivocally connected to it occur; but by then by definition it will be too late. For we have no way of reversing the build-up of greenhouses gases that is driving the transformation of the world’s climate. Some such gases will be in the atmosphere for centuries.

Part 3:

In his latest work, Giddens has returned to the subject of the European Union, discussed in 2007 in his book Europe in the Global Age and in a diversity of articles. In Turbulent and Mighty Continent: What Future for Europe? he discusses the likely future of the EU in the wake of the world financial crisis. Giddens writes as a committed pro-European, but accepts that fundamental reforms must be made if the EU is to avoid stagnation or worse. The coming of the euro introduced economic federalism among the eurozone countries and therefore to the EU as a whole. Some version of political federalism must follow, even if limited in nature. Reforms must confer qualities absent from much of the EU’s history but now required for its future – flexible and quick-acting leadership, coupled to the greater democratic involvement of citizens. In December 2014 Turbulent and Mighty Continent was awarded the European Book Prize, awarded by a selection jury featuring members from many different countries. For more on Giddens go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Giddens,_Baron_Giddens 

Part 4:

Climate change brings new significance to traditional philosophical questions around reason, agency, responsibility, community and our place in nature. The focus is shifting away from promoting the good life (with business as usual the default position), towards the survival of the species. A leading environmental philosopher David Wood tackles the Anthropocene in the Thinking Out Loud lectures for 2015, drawing on Nietzsche and Foucault among other thinkers, as well as the science of climate change. Wood is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at the Vanderbilt University. He is also the author of many books including Time after Time (2007); The Step Back: Ethics & Politics After Deconstruction (2005); Thinking After Heidegger (2002); The Deconstruction of Time (2001), and Philosophy at the Limit (1990).  "Thinking Out Loud: The Sydney Lectures in Philosophy & Society" aims to bring leading international thinkers to Australia to examine major issues of our time through a philosophical lens. The Lectures are a collaboration between UWS, Fordham University Press, State Library of NSW, and RN. It’s a popular annual event which attracts people all ages interested in analytical thinking and problem solving in our complex modern world. Go to this link for the entire lecture series: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/competitions/6347282

JAMES LOVELOCK

James Ephraim Lovelock(1919-) is an independent scientist,environmentalist and futurist who lives in Dorset, England. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the biosphere is a self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep our planet healthy by controlling the interconnections of the chemical and physical environment.  As the inventor of Gaia theory, James Lovelock is used to thinking big. Ever since he came up with the idea that the planet and its inhabitants form one vast, self-regulating system, initially scoffed at, but now taken seriously across a variety of disciplines, his focus has been wider than that of his more hidebound colleagues. In his latest book A Rough Ride to the Future, Lovelock outlines a new theory. He argues that since 1712, the year in which the Newcomen steam engine was created, we have moved into a new age, the Anthropocene, in which humanity’s ability to liberate energy and information from the Earth has rapidly outpaced both Darwinian evolution and the planet’s ability to cope. For Robert Colvile's review in The Telegraph(3/4/'14) go to: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10739402/A-Rough-Ride-to-the-Future-by-James-Lovelock-review.html For more on Lovelock go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock

ENVIRONMENTAL ALARMISM

Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story is a 1996 book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers. The book chronicles the development of the endocrine disruptor hypothesis by Colborn. Though written for the popular press in narrative form, the book contains a substantial amount of scientific evidence. A foreword from then Vice President Al Gore increased the book's visibility. Endocrine disrupting chemicals alter development of the fetus in the womb by interfering with the natural hormonal signals directing fetal growth. Their impacts, sometimes not detectable until years or decades after exposure, include reduced disease resistance, diminished fertility and compromised intelligence and behavior. Our Stolen Future tells the story of how endocrine disruption was discovered, how it works what it means, and how families can protect themselves and their communities, all in clear, simple language intended for a general audience.

It ultimately influenced government policy through congressional hearings and helped foster the development of a research and regulation initiative within the EPA. Thousands of scientific articles have since been published on endocrine disruption, demonstrating the availability of grant money for research on the hypothesis raised by Our Stolen Future. For example, a symposium at the 2007 AAAS meeting explored the contribution of endocrine disruption to obesity and metabolic disorder. As is often the case, there is strong animal evidence but few epidemiological tests of predictions based on the animal experiments. Some of the most important papers that support the opinions of the book's authors can be found via this link: http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/aboutosf.htm

THE WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Try this video, FYI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPR3o6Hnf2g&feature=em-subs_digest

THE FIRST LAW

Gregory Bateson(1904-1980) was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. In the 1940s he helped extend systems theory and cybernetics to the social and behavioral sciences. He spent the last decade of his life developing a "meta-science" of epistemology to bring together the various early forms of systems theory developing in various fields of science. Some of his most noted writings are to be found in his books: Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972) and Mind and Nature (1979). Angels Fear was published posthumously in 1987, and was co-authored by his daughter Mary Catherine Bateson. For more on Bateson go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Bateson

Gregory Bateson in his Steps Toward An Ecology of Mind argues that the ecological system as a whole is more important than the individual organisms that comprise it. The unit of survival is not the organism or the species but the entire environment. "Mind," to Bateson, "is a vast and integrated network." This statement seems to be eminently sensible, and has become part of what one might call the new orthodoxy of environmental sciences. It is also clearly a view that is consistent with Baha'i philosophy and a Baha'i approach to ecology.--Ron Price with thanks to Gregory Bateson, quoted in Christopher Lasch, The Minimal Self, WW Norton, NY, 1984, p.258.

The poetic imagination
and selfhood itself
lies in an awareness
of my divided nature
and the immense gulf
between aspiration and limitation.

Such is the critical polarity
at the base of my life
and the foundation
of the Baha'i community,
producing, as it does,
the perpetual balancing act
of unstable and inner forces
we must reconcile or be torn apart.

Such is the first law of human psychic life1
as we accept that the whole is definitely
more than the sum of its parts.

1 Charles Fair, The New Nonsense: The End of the Rational Consensus, p.45.

Ron Price
13/5/'01 to 7/9/'13. 

WATER: IS IT RUNNING OUT?

'Why the Water is Running Out' is the title of a review in 
The New York Review of Books(22/10/'15) by Norman Gall. Gall reviews two books: (i) The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination by Matthew Gandy(MIT Press, 350 pages); and (ii) Water 4.0: The Past, Present, and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource by David Sedlak(Yale University Press, 350 pages). Gall begins: "Greater São Paulo, a city of 21 million people, is experiencing its worst drought since the 1870s; the city’s water supply is in danger. Sewage, pesticide, and trash pollute São Paulo’s rivers and reservoirs. Rain falling on the vast paved surface of the metropolis drains quickly into its polluted rivers. Brazil’s ample natural resources include 13 percent of the global supply of freshwater for only 3 percent of the world’s population. Yet as of August 25 South America’s largest city had only enough water in its reservoirs to supply its residents for ninety-three days." Gall continues:

"Many of the world’s other thirty-six megacities, each with more than 10 million inhabitants, also struggle with limited local water supplies. As recently as 1950, New York was the only city of this size. Half of today’s giant cities face mounting difficulties in securing and managing water resources for their growing populations. As in ancient times, water supply is emerging as a challenge to civilizations both rich and poor." For more go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/oct/22/why-water-running-out/

  







THE SHADOW OF THE BOMB
68 Years Down the Track
 
LIMITS TO GROWTH
41 Years Down the Track
 
Part 1:

Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III, The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind, New York, University Books, 1972.
 
The  Club of Rome published a book
entitled The Limits to Growth, just(1)
as I was settling into a new continent
& a new country in a dry dog-biscuit
of a city in northern South Australia.
 
Apocalyptic scenarios had been out
and about all of my adolescent-adult
life growing-up with a bomb always(2)
shadowing since its inception in that
first year of my childhood……1945.(3)
 
This book, one of the progenitors of
today’s environmentalist movement,
argued for what was, at the time, the
following radical thesis……...‘if the
present growth trends in the world...
population, industrialization….food
production, pollution…and resource
depletion continue unchanged…the
limits to growth on this planet will  
be reached within the next century.
 
This, of course, meant that economic
growth had to be curbed for the sake
of the future health of Earth, and for
humanity itself...Forty years later, in
2011 the methods, and the historical
reception of The Limits to Growth were
analysed with the conclusion that "The
warnings that we received in 1972 were
becoming more and more worrisome as
reality seemed to be following closely the
curves that the scenario had generated."

Part 2:

(1) The most recent updated version was published on 1 June 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Earthscan under the name Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. Donella Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows have updated and expanded the original version. They had previously published Beyond the Limits in 1993 as a 20 year update on the original material.

(2) Many books about humanity’s uncertain future have appeared regularly over the years. Precursors to Limits to Growth included Harrison Brown’s The Challenge of Man’s Future (1956), Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) and Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968). Many of the books in the literature of the Baha’i Faith which I have been associated with now for 60 years, also contain apocalyptic scenarios. The most notable books to be published after 1972 and up to the end of the millennium included: (i) the 'State of the World Reports' issued by the Worldwatch Institute and produced annually since 1984; (ii) the influential Our Common Future, published by the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development (1987); (iii) Earth in the Balance, written by then-US senator Al Gore (1992); and (iv) Earth Odyssey by journalist Mark Hertsgaard (1999), which "reported on eight years of travel all over the globe to observe the demise of Nature and the degradation of the World".

(3) I was born on 23 July 1944, and the atomic bomb was first exploded at 5:29:45, Mountain War Time, on 16 July 1945, in a white blaze that stretched from the basin of the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico to the still-dark skies. "The Gadget" ushered in the Atomic Age. The light of the explosion then turned orange as the atomic fireball began shooting upwards at 360 feet per second, reddening and pulsing as it cooled. The characteristic mushroom cloud of radioactive vapour materialized at 30,000 feet. Beneath the cloud, all that remained of the soil at the blast site were fragments of jade green radioactive glass created by the heat of the reaction.

Ron Price
30 April 2013
 

PAUL EHRLICH AND APOCALYPTICISM

"Ehrlich’s rhetoric was unusually extreme, as were his solutions," Paul Sabin informs us in his new book The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future.  "Virtually anything that could slow, stop, or reverse human-population growth," continued Sabin, "received his blessing." In The Population Bomb and other works, Ehrlich had argued that government should adopt policies to achieve the optimum sustainable population size, which he approximated at about 17 percent to 40 percent of the earth’s population circa 1970. In other words, much of humanity needed to be eliminated. More babies were a threat to peace, so the right to breed was intolerable. More gently, he urged changes in the tax code to reward childless couples and promoted placing taxes on children & diapers. One of his favored panaceas was sterilization. When asked if vegetarianism were the answer, he replied, “only if eating salads makes men impotent.” All this good news was delivered with an arrogant, acid tongue that denounced his opponents as “morons,” “idiots,” and “criminals.” 

Despite Ehrlich's dire predictions of famine, disease, and a return to subsistence, global population continued to grow, as did life expectancies, and standards of living. The World Bank estimated global life expectancy at fifty-nine years in 1970, just before I left Canada in my mid-twenties. In 1990 as I entered the last decade of my employment life, life expectancy climbed to sixty-six. And although author Paul Sabin rightly concludes that “human history over the past forty years has not conformed to Paul Ehrlich’s predictions” (p. 219). For a review of The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future by Paul Sabin, a 300 page book published in 2013 & reviewed in the Summer 2014 issue of The Independent Review. For a review of the false apocalypticism of Ehrlich go to:http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?a=1008

WASTE

Part 1:

Waste and wastes are unwanted or unusable materials. Waste is any substance which is discarded after primary use, or it is worthless, defective and of no use. The term is often subjective because waste to one person is not necessarily waste to another. The term is sometimes objectively inaccurate; for example, to send scrap metals to a landfill is to inaccurately classify them as waste, because they are recyclable. Examples include municipal solid waste (household trash/refuse), hazardous waste, wastewater (such assewage, which contains bodily wastes (feces and urine) and surface runoff), radioactive waste, and others. For more on this subject go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste

Part 2:

Taking our cue from one of the original theorists of waste, Walter Benjamin, and his exhortation to read “the rags, the refuse” of culture, the following issue of the M/C Journal of Media and Culture(Vol. 13, No. 4, 2010) aims to reconsider what we throw away, what we leave behind, what we do not value. The ubiquity of waste in contemporary cultural, social and environmental landscapes demonstrates unequivocally that there is value in waste.  Donna Lee Brien’s uses the history of Vegemite, which is made from waste product, to explore the reuse of food waste as a means of sustainable production of food commodities, and concludes that consumer resistance, even in times of environmental crisis, to such re-incorporation can only be changed along with our acculturated attitudes to waste.

Brien argues for an ethical engagement with the waste of consumption, yet two other papers consider the possibilities for profligate waste—specifically, the squandering of resources valued by those in power—as an act of resistance to hegemonic governmentalities. For Ira Wagman, waste is recontextualised by the New Economy. ‘Knowledge-work’ comes to have its corollary in what might be thought of as ‘knowledge-waste’: expenditure of time and brain power in diversionary activities online. Cornelia Sears and Jessica Johnson examine another diversionary tactic, equally revealing of the expectations that underpin contemporary conceptions of social productivity, namely, getting stoned. In their analysis of the classic stoner film Up in Smoke, the pair argue that stars Cheech and Chong are not just permanently wasted, but are in an ongoing state of wasting the normative advantages of whiteness that the film parodically invokes. For more on this subject go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/view/waste

THE COMMODIFICATION OF THE SUBLIME

"Buying the Wilderness Experience: The Commodification of The Sublime" is the title of an article in Perspectives: International Postgraduate Journal of Philosophy(Vol. IV, 2012). The article is by: Richmond m. Eustis jr. of Nicholls State University. The author begins: "The concept of wilderness drags with it a bundle of sometimes contradictory connotations. It is at once a realm of chaos and danger, a blank slate ripe for development, a proving ground, a purifying realm. It is the place of the vision quest, the place the locals warn outsiders away from unless, of course, it's part of their tourism package. It's the place surveyors scrutinize for development. In Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment, it is the place where we might encounter intuitions that delight us with their beauty or stun us with their sublimity. Much of Kant’s third critique examines the subject’s encounter with nature. Especially in his discussion of the sublime, Kant explores themes with important implications for the way in which many people experience the outdoors today. What once was an individual or communal experience increasingly is commodified as a service. As cities sprawl and undeveloped land dwindles, the demand for access to remaining rugged territory has increased. Much of the demand comes from those who have not developed sufficient outdoor skill to attempt backcountry ventures wisely on their own, so they require trained guides. For more on this subject go to: http://www.ucd.ie/philosophy/perspectives/resources/issue4/Perspectives

THE ARCTIC

Part 1:

Like deserts, frozen places offer timelessness.  I felt this when I was living on the  largest island in Canada, and the fifth largest island in the world, Baffin Island, back in the late 1960s.  Baffin Island (Inuktitut: Qikiqtaaluk, French: Île de Baffin, Old Norse: Helluland), is now part of the Canadian territory of Nunavut,   Its area is 507,451 km2 (195,928 sq mi) and its population was about 11,000 in 2007. Named after English explorer William Baffin, it is likely that the island was known to Pre-Columbian Norse explorers from Greenland and Iceland and may be the location of Helluland, spoken of in the Icelandic sagas, the Grœnlendinga saga and the Saga of Erik the Red. I felt this even though I spent my days in a classroom with about 15 Inuit children aged 7 to 9.

While teaching ancient history in the early 1990s in Western Australia to students hoping to get into university the following year,  I learned that core samples of ice from Greenland’s glaciers, the source of many icebergs, provide scientists with data on global climates and atmospheres going back more than a hundred thousand years. Bubbles in glacial ice from two millennia ago contain lead residues from the forges of ancient Greece and Rome. I taught the history of ancient Greece from 479 BC to 404 BC, and the history of ancient Rome from 133 BC to 31 BC.  This did not help me understand the complexities of ancient history, but it contributed to that sense of timelessness that has grown on me more and more since I was in my twenties.

Part 2:

The Arctic takes you back to old-time basics, like Vulcan’s anvil and the foundation blocks of the world. In the town, of what was then called Frobisher Bay, I climbed a hill looking over Baffin Bay, and met a view of rock, sea, and sky that was, for all practical purposes, eternal. For the first time ever I had a sense of what it was to stand on a planet. That the Arctic environment is so basic and its timeline so long suggests the direness of the possibilities as the climate warms.  Bill McKibben, in a recent essay, writes about the mess we’re making of the earth which may last until “deep in geological time".

Among the wonders to appear in the changing Arctic in recent years is the India-born photographer and activist Subhankar Banerjee. Coming from Kolkata (Calcutta), where the average mean temperature is 80.4 degrees Fahrenheit, Banerjee has dedicated himself to recording and working for the preservation of Arctic places. It is safe to say that he has been colder than most people from his native country have occasion to be. In Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point, an anthology of writings by thirty-seven authors that he has compiled and linked with his commentary, pieces of autobiography sometimes jump out: for example, that he started traveling in Alaska only about a decade ago, and that he became a US citizen after his Arctic photographs raised so much controversy in Senate debates in 2003 that he feared he might be deported.

In a short time he has amassed impressive authority on his subject. With an Inupiat companion he stayed in a tent in a blizzard that lasted almost a month at a wind chill of 110 degrees below zero on the coast of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and a photo he took of a polar bear in that vicinity has become, he writes, “one of the most published photographs in the history of the medium of photography.” In Arctic Voices, long-term issues of global importance—the exploitation of wild places for fossil fuels, and whether we’re determined to ride out our energy binge to the grim end—are made immediate and vivid by the enthusiasm of this unexpected man. I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to go to this link if you want to read more:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/mar/07/beautiful-threatened-north/

AN EXOTIC GROUP OF ORGANISMS

The box jellies and Irukandjis are merely the most exotic of a group of organisms that have existed for as long as complex life itself. In Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean, biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin argues that after half a billion years of quiescence, they’re on the move. She writes: "
If I offered evidence that jellyfish are displacing penguins in Antarctica—not someday, but now, today—what would you think? If I suggested that jellyfish could crash the world’s fisheries, outcompete the tuna and swordfish, and starve the whales to extinction, would you believe me?"

Tim Flannery writes in The New York Review of Books in 26 September 2013 in his article "They’re Taking Over!" "
Jellyfish are among the oldest animal fossils ever found. Prior to around 550 million years ago, when a great diversity of marine life sprang into existence, jellyfish may have had the open oceans pretty much to themselves. Today they must share the briny deep with myriad creatures, and with machines. It’s not just the wildlife they’re worrying. In November 2009 a net full of gigantic jellyfish, the largest of which weighed over 450 pounds, capsized a Japanese trawler, throwing the three-man crew into the ocean. But even mightier vessels have been vanquished by jellyfish." For more go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/sep/26/jellyfish-theyre-taking-over/

THE REMAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD

Daniel Yergin’s 804-page The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World raises large questions like: (i) Can today’s $65 trillion world economy be sure it will have the energy it needs to be a $130 trillion economy in two decades?, (ii) To what degree can such an economy, which depends on carbon fuels for 80 percent of its energy, move to other diverse energy sources? and (iii) Will energy sources that rely less on carbon become available fast enough, at costs low enough, to avoid the disastrous consequences of climate change, to lift billions of people from poverty, and to enhance the prosperity of rich countries?

Yergin provides a highly readable history that explains how these questions arose in recent history and why they are so important and, at the same time, so difficult to deal with at the international level.  But the book does little to answer the issues raised.  Indeed, for Yergin, “the answers are far from obvious.” The Quest combines four books. The first, more than half the total, provides a global history of oil, natural gas, and nuclear power from 1991 to 2011. Yergin argues that commercial competition for oil sources and markets is not now, and need not become, a contest of nations, for example, between the United States and China; rather it is a competition between powerful multinational corporations that often try to bend nations to serve their interests. The Quest picks up at the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, where Yergin’s Pulitzer Prize–winning eight-hundred-page history of global oil, The Prize, left off. His new book is more ambitious. Whereas The Prize focused on the oil industry, the first half of The Quest ends with the broader question of what fuels to choose. For more go to:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/apr/26/what-will-it-take-save-earth/

THE BEAUTIFUL ENVIRONMENT

This is a short video on the beautfiul world we live in: http://www.shtyle.fm/vpost.do?id=354067263&_auth2_=14055958-8FEBBD89A31463D0A27829815B8F4183&_emltg_=34

HOW EARTH MADE US

Part 1:

Iain Stewart(b. 1964-) is a Scottish geologist, television and radio presenter, as well as a professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth. I have just finished watching Stewart's epic 5 part series How Earth Made Us.(1)  I am twenty years older than Stewart, am a retired teacher and lecturer, now poet and publisher, editor and online journalist/blogger. I am currently the secretary of the Baha’i Group of George Town Tasmania, the oldest town in Australia, the oldest continent.

Professor Stewart’s line of thought reminded me of Ellsworth Huntington’s intellectual mission “to determine step by step the process by which geological structure, topographic form and the present and past nature of climate have shaped man’s progress, moulded his history, and thus played an incalculable part in the development of a system of thought which could scarcely have arisen under any other physical circumstances.”(2) Stewart presents a focus on how the environment has shaped history.  Stewart is also a member of the Scientific Board of UNESCO's International Geoscience Programme.  He is often described as geology's "rock star", Stewart is best known to the public as the presenter of a number of science programmes for the BBC, including the BAFTA nominated Earth: The Power of the Planet. For more on Stewart go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iain_Stewart_(geologist)#Selected_broadcasts

While this series was presented on Australian television the Plains Humanities Alliance held a public panel presentation entitled “Changing Places: The Geographic Turn in the Digital Humanities.”(3) Sometimes called humanities computing this field has focused on the digitization and analysis of materials relating to the traditional humanities disciplines. Digital Humanities currently incorporates digitized materials from the traditional arts and humanities disciplines, such as: history, philosophy, linguistics, literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies. It then combines the methodologies of these disciplines with tools provided by computing such as: data visualisation, data retrieval, computational analysis, digital publishing, and the electronic publication fields.

Part 2:

Also relevant to this discussion is geographic information system or geospatial information system(GIS). This is a system that captures, stores, analyses, manages and presents data with reference to geographic location data. It is a critical tool in facilitating a new wave of spatial analysis. In the simplest terms, GIS is the merging of cartography, statistical analysis and database technology. GIS may be used in archaeology, geography, cartography, remote sensing, land surveying, public utility management, natural resource management, precision agriculture, photogrammetry, urban planning, emergency management, landscape architecture, navigation, aerial video and localized search engines.

GIS allows users to create multiple layers of information that can be aligned on the same map or spatial field. Historical maps can be scanned and geo-referenced, that is, stretched to fit the current map, thus allowing users to combine and overlay various forms of information in order to understand how they relate to one another. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC1 TV, 8 March 2011 to 5 April 2011, 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., (2)Ellsworth Huntington, Wikipedia; Aaron Hofer, Geographic Determinism Through the Ages, and “Why Did Human History Unfold Differently On Different Continents For The Last 13,000 Years?” Jared Diamond, as well as (3) The Office of University Communications University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Tooling Up for Digital Humanities.

I think it quite logical, Ellsworth,
that there is a step-by-step process
by which geologic structure, forms
topographic, & the present and past
climate have shaped progress, moulded
our history, thus playing an incalculable
part in the development of systems of
thought which could scarcely have arisen
under any other physical circumstances.1

I think it quite logical, Samuel,2 that the primary
source of conflict in our post-Cold War world is
and will be the cultural and religious identities as
you formulated in your 1992 lecture at the AEI:
American Enterprise Institute.2 And so Professor
Stewart, I can agree with your thesis, in part, and
I did enjoy your series on TV in this Australian
autumn: delightful, Ian, absolutely delightful!!*

1 Ellsworth Huntington(1876-1947) was professor of geology at Yale and known for his studies on climatic determinism.
2 Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, 1996.

Ron Price
19 April 2011

For an excellent book by scientist and writer, professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles,
Jared Diamond go to this link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collapse:_How_Societies_Choose_to_Fail_or_Succeed  For an excellent overview of What Makes Countries Rich or Poor? by Jared Diamond in The New York Review of Books go to this link: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jun/07/what-makes-countries-rich-or-poor/ 

Rethinking Prosperity: Forging Alternatives to a Culture of Consumerism....Bahá'í International Community’s Contribution to the 18th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development

Against the backdrop of climate change, environmental degradation, and the crippling extremes of wealth and poverty, the transformation from a culture of unfettered consumerism to a culture of sustainability has gained momentum in large part through the efforts of civil society organizations and governmental agencies worldwide. Beyond informed policies and ‘greener technologies’ it is a transformation that will require an earnest examination of our understanding of human nature and of the cultural frameworks driving institutions of government, business, education, and media around the world. Questions of what is natural and just will need to be critically re-examined. The issue of sustainable consumption and production, under consideration by this Commission, will need to be considered in the broader context of an ailing social order—one characterized by competition, violence, conflict and insecurity—of which it is a part.

In its contribution to the Commissions’ review of the 10-Year Framework for Programmes[i] on sustainable consumption and production, the Bahá’í International Community would like, first, to note the strengths of this evolving Framework and, second—in line with the vision outlined above—to identify issues which require further elaboration. In terms of its strengths: the Framework considers the economic, social and environmental aspects of the transition to sustainable consumption and production, thereby breaking down the long-standing compartmentalization of these domains[ii]; it recognizes the inter-linkages between the themes of the Framework (e.g. education, institutional capacity building, participation of women, application of indigenous knowledge, etc.)[iii]; it has sought to involve stakeholders from around the world through regional consultations; and it calls on actors from all levels of society to achieve the goals articulated therein.


For the rest of this contribution of the International Baha'i Community to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development go to the following link: http://www.bic.org/ For more information on the Baha'i Faith and the United Nations go to: http://info.bahai.org/article-1-6-0-6.html

WORLD HERITAGE

The year 2012 marked the fortieth anniversary of UNESCO’s 1972 'Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage'.  This Convention remains the major international instrument for safeguarding the world’s heritage. The Convention’s most significant feature is its integration of the concepts of nature conservation and preservation of cultural properties in a single treaty. Recognizing the increasing threats to natural and cultural sites, coupled with traditional conservation challenges, it was established as a new provision for the collective protection of heritage with outstanding universal value.

The following paper identifies three critical challenges that the World Heritage Convention faces today. Each of these has implications for how the international community chooses to identify, reify, protect, and promote something called “World Heritage” as a privileged category. These are the mounting challenges to expert opinions and decision making, the increasing and overt politicization of the World Heritage Committee, and UNESCO’s fiscal crisis exacerbated by the recent US financial withdrawal. For the whole article entitled: "UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention at 40: Challenging the Economic and Political Order of International Heritage Conservation" by Lynn Meskell who is Professor and Director of the Stanford Archaeology Center at Stanford University, go to: http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/671136

GEOGRAPHY

Part 1:


Geography is a field of science dedicated to the study of the lands, the features, the inhabitants, and the phenomena of the Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes (276–194 BC). Four historical traditions in geographical research are spatial analysis of the natural and the human phenomena (geography as the study of distribution), area studies (places and regions), study of the man-land relationship, and research in the Earth sciences. Nonetheless, modern geography is an all-encompassing discipline that foremost seeks to understand the Earth and all of its human and natural complexities - not merely where objects are, but how they have changed and come to be. Geography has been called "the world discipline" and "the bridge between the human and the physical science". Geography is divided into two main branches: human geography and physical geography. For more go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography

Part 2:

Maps have long been part of the cultural landscape for centuries. Plotting military advances and territorial expansion; regulating and demarcating land through surveys, thereby inextricably merging land and property, maps have shaped our sensibility of the landscape at the same time as they have guided our movement through it. The mapped identity of any country is the visualized outline of some part of the planet.  It is a naturalized phenomenon both in the sense that it is taken for granted, and in the sense that the natural boundaries have been set by nature and by the cicumstancers of history. The shape of a country is established cartographically. It is unproblematically re-presented in road maps, railroad maps, atlases, school texts, advertisements, and news. It becomes iconographic. Inscribed onto the popular imagination, it has "entered the national collective image bank: the shape of a country is so ingrained in the minds of those who live there … that it stands for the nation as a symbol.

Part 2.1:

Nature operates metonymically with culture, and the cartographic presentation belies an ideological and historical shaping of the country that is anything but natural. In fact, the sleight of hand by which the "irrefutable" materiality of the ground that is presented and the scientific cartographic processes by which the in-itself-material map is produced transform the ideological possession of that land into its own reality. This obscures alternative, often highly contested, mappings, and effaces the processes of coercion and consensus building which involve the interwoven strands of politics, economics, ideology, social change, power, and domination that have resulted in a singular narrative of national identity, visualized in the map of nation. For more go to:http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~caforum/volume9/vol9_article1.html

Part 3:

Climate is, presently, a heatedly discussed topic. Concerns about the environmental, economic, political and social consequences of climate change are of central interest in academic and popular debates. As such, climate change is a ‘hot’ cultural discourse and media issue. Moreover, there has recently been a ‘cultural turn’ in climate change science and politics, with some scholars arguing that climate change research and action has been hindered because it has not fully accommodated cultural values that give everyday meaning to climate, and consequently urging for greater attention to the cultural dimensions of climate change. Registers of climate can be read in memory, behaviour, text and identity as much as they can be measured through meteorology” and, thus, the idea of climate can only be understood when its physical dimensions are allowed to be interpreted by their cultural meanings”. Climate change is both a “physical transformation and cultural object” and requires new examination which “needs to start with contributions from the interpretative humanities and social sciences”. Advancing these debates, the issue of M/C Journal of Media and Culture(Vol. 12, No. 4, 2009) adds to the critical interface of climate and culture, particularly in the context of climate change. For a series of papers on the subject go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/view/climate

Part 3.1:

A country is a region that is identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated peoples with distinct political characteristics.  Regardless of the physical geography, in the modern internationally accepted legal definition as defined by the League of Nations in 1937, and reaffirmed by the United Nations in 1945, a resident of a country is subject to the independent exercise of legal jurisdiction. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country

‘Country’ is a word that is made to do much discursive work. In one common configuration, country is synonymous with ‘rural’, also evinced through terms like countryside and country-minded. Yet, at the same time, country is synonymous with ‘nation’. This usage is more emotive and identificatory than administrative, as in ‘my country’, ‘my land’, ‘my homeland’. Augmenting a sense of national allegiance, this use of country evokes something of the connection between people, landscape, belonging, identity and subjectivity. Moreover, country-as-rural(ity) and country-as-nation(ality) have significant overlaps. The rural landscape – the countryside – is often imagined as the ‘heartland’ of the modern Western nation-state – a source of national identity and a storehouse for values ‘lost’ through the experience of progress, modernity and industrialisation. Here, the countryside, supposedly, is a traditional material and discursive site for family, community and well-being. From yet another angle, country is a genre or style, as in country music, country and western film, country living, country comfort and country cooking. In this way, country becomes a commercial selling point and a commodified imaginary – although this is not at all mutually exclusive with the evocation of belonging, identity and national cultural values through the countryside. This commodification is seen in the recent revaluing of country getaways, sea-change, and tree-change, which in turn invokes the notion of country as a store of traditional values, moral restoration and physical revitalisation. For more go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/102

GEOLOGY

Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change. Geology can also refer generally to the study of the solid features of any celestial body such as the geology of the Moon or Mars. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth by providing the primary evidence for plate tectonics, theevolutionary history of life, and past climates. In modern times, geology is commercially important for mineral and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation as well as for evaluating water resources. It is publicly important for the prediction and understanding of natural hazards, the remediation of environmental problems, and for providing insights into past climate change. Geology also plays a role in geotechnical engineering and is a major academic discipline. For more go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology

NATURAL DISASTER


As we stare down the aftermath of another natural disaster, Paul Virilio's words, unfortunately, ring as true as ever. Paul Virilio(1932- ) is a cultural theorist and urbanist. He is best known for his writings about technology as it has developed in relation to speed and power, with diverse references to architecture, the arts, the city and the military. Within a world that is in a headlong rush into synchronized global emotion, we can begin to understand his concept of the integral accident. Yesterday, the accident happened somewhere, it was relegated to one geo-location. Today, the accident is integral, it runs the show. It happens here and there. Paul Virilio has been dismissed by some as a negative thinker who does not have the capacity to think past the destruction of World War II, where, as an 11 year-old child, "war became his university".

Today, this university resonates with us to such an extent that we must begin to ask fundamental questions concerning the political economy of speed. According to Virilio, before the contemporary period one had time to prepare for war because strategists could foresee events. Today, within the dromosphere (the sphere of speed which produces the accident), the accident happens before we know it has happened. With any new invention, there is a loss. With the invention of the train, there was the train wreck. And so today, within a globalized culture, struggling to find novel ways of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and living within the aftermath of such fossil fuel disasters as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we must also have the courage to witness another "successful failure". For more on this theme go to
Drew Burk's article in the online electronic journal ethoery.net. Burk is a doctoral candidate at the European Graduate School. He has translated the work of philosophers such as Paul Virilio, Jean Baudrillard, and Jacques Derrida. Burk is the translator of Paul Virilio's, Grey Ecology(Atropos Press, NY, 2010):http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=681

PANDEMICS and CLIMATE CHANGE

Part 1:

The following article was by Jeffrey Shaman and Marc Lipsitch of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, and the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, MA, The title of the article was: El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)–pandemic Influenza connection: Coincident or causal?

We find that the four most recent human influenza pandemics (1918, 1957, 1968, and 2009), all of which were first identified in boreal spring or summer, were preceded by La Niña conditions in the equatorial Pacific. Changes in the phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation have been shown to alter the migration, stopover time, fitness, and interspecies mixing of migratory birds, and consequently, likely affect their mixing with domestic animals. We hypothesize that La Niña conditions bring divergent influenza subtypes together in some parts of the world and favor the reassortment of influenza through simultaneous multiple infection of individual hosts and the generation of novel pandemic strains. We propose approaches to test this hypothesis using influenza population genetics, virus prevalence in various host species, and avian migration patterns. For more go to:http://www.mailman.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/shamanlipsitch2012PNAS.pdf

Part 2:

This article entitled "El Niño Weather and Climate Change Threaten Survival of Baby Leatherback Sea Turtles" appeared in the online magazine Science Daily on 23 May 2012

When leatherback turtle hatchlings dig out of their nests buried in the sandy Playa Grande beach in northwest Costa Rica, they enter a world filled with dangers. This critically endangered species faces threats that include egg poaching and human fishing practices. Now, Drexel University researchers have found that the climate conditions at the nesting beach affect the early survival of turtle eggs and hatchlings. They predict, based on projections from multiple models, that egg and hatchling survival will drop by half in the next 100 years as a result of global climate change. For more go to:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524092928.htm

LEAD PAINT, THE ENVIRONMENT and HEALTH

One of the 100s of new books published in 2013 is entitled Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children by Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner. It came into book shops in April 2013. If readers are interested in the issue of millions of children having their growth and intelligence stunted by lead-contaminated consumer products, then this is the book for you. There are some five million preschool children are still at risk today. One expert even estimated that America’s failure to address the lead paint problem early on may well have cost the American population, on average, five IQ points—enough to double the number of retarded children and halve the number of gifted children in the country. Not only would the USA have been more intelligent had its leaders banned lead paint early on, it might have been safer too, since lead is known to cause impulsivity and aggression. Blood lead levels in adolescent criminals tend to be several times higher than those of noncriminal adolescents, and there is a strong geographical correlation between crime rates and lead exposure in US cities. For more on this topic go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/mar/21/lead-poisoning-ignored-scandal/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=March+5+2013&utm_content=March+5+2013+CID_fa71c8cea1e7d401bc1235b6afca5706&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=Lead%20Poisoning%20The%20Ignored%20Scandal

INVISIBLE REALITY

The only method to knowledge is the method of the artist, for there is no absolute knowledge. All knowledge is stamped with our imperfection, or its, or both. For the world is not a fixed, solid array of objects. It shifts under our gaze and must be interpreted by us, by an act of judgement. The entire experience of life is more delicate, more fragile, more fugitive and startling than we can ever catch in the butterfly net of our senses. -Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, Science Horizons Inc., 1973, pp.353-364.

While this wondrous Administration, the precursor
of a new Order, has been taking form this century,
our very notion of space and time was being redefined
by Albert Einstein. The world we are all in, we can not
experience with our senses; invisible to our eyes,
beyond our touch: protons, neutrons, leptons,
DNA, RNA, not just meaningless dancing atoms.

Even matter itself we created for the first time in
these days when this Administration was first
taking form. So many immortal creations in this
century: mapping the universe, the mind. We’ve seen
the universe in a grain of sand and made our heaven
of a flower; infinity and eternity we now hold in our hand
and we can trace all of existence in less than an hour.

Ron Price
23 March 1996

WHOSE MASTERPIECE?

I first came across Leonard Cohen in the early months of 1968 when I was living on Baffin Island. Leonard Cohen had come to the music industry relatively late, having already established himself as a published novelist and poet. He turned his hand to music when his song Suzanne became a hit for Judy Collins. In 1967 he went into the studio to cut his debut album for Columbia.

Gerard Fannon, in his “Album Review: Songs of Leonard Cohen Columbia 1967” on 8 January 2009,(1) wrote that: “The ten songs on the album are beautifully constructed. Few lyricists have since been able to wrestle with the ideas of love, loss and longing quite so intelligently, articulately and ambiguously as Leonard Cohen. He depicts a world entirely at the mercy of the chaos that arises from love and lust, mastery and submission, the supplicant and the worshipped. Though his words may seem lofty or pretentious, they convey a deep-rooted sense of humanity.”

“Many artists work their whole career, Fannon continues, “to create a work of such singular artistic vision as Songs of Leonard Cohen, and it is even more remarkable that Cohen achieved this the first time he set foot in a studio. Songs of Leonard Cohen remains an astonishing and enduring debut. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)the internet site: Suite101.com

I heard you again when they gave you
a tribute at the Sydney Opera House in
2005, Leonard, and I noted some of what
you had to say about writing: you wanted
to respond to the beauty in the world; you
do not command your work--it commands
you; you’ll never untangle life’s mysteries;
you do not dwell on the past or the future.

Fame and wealth came so early to you
with your first book of poetry and novel
before you were thirty. My writing took
decades longer; I really only got going in
my fifties and had to unload my career as
a teacher and all that community work so
that I could free my spirit to respond to the
beauty around me and engage symbiotically
with my real-life master-piece....if it is that...

.....which became my epic, my opus, my oeuvre
by sensible and insensible degrees due to these
mysterious dispensations of Providence which,
as you say, Leonard, one never really untangles
and the leaven which leavens the world of being
and furnishes the power by which the wonders of
the world--the sciences and the arts--are manifest.

16 February 2009

NOVELS, INFORMATION AND RICHARD SENNETT

Part 1:

The sprawling novels of David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie and the like are books which remain inextricably tied to the information society they depict. So while they contain massive quantities of obscure scientific knowledge, geographical and biographical trivia, lists and details, they fail the test of art: namely, to realize something different from this information.

If such critics are at all persuasive in their claim that neither the subjects nor the reader can usefully do anything with all this information, then these novels are indeed symptomatic of the culture Richard Sennett(1) describes, a culture where ceaseless consumption of either goods or information mitigates against possession. Sennett's suggestions as to how we might alter this situation through the provision of basic incomes, job sharing, and counter-institutions to provide stable work---are designed to reconnect the thread of experience together, and to enable a self to become more grounded in time, but they are perhaps too modest in the face of the spiritual, economic and environmental situations that stem from the new capitalism.

Still, Richard Sennett's book, The Culture of the New Capitalism,
(2) eloquently depicts the devastating irony that results when the iron cage of modern capitalism opens, only to imprison us within more intangible forms of unfreedom. And might the transience, risk and fragility that frame the world of market speculation come to infect the way the rest of us work and live? Richard Sennett thinks so. His new book argues that we need to rethink Marx's dictum 'all that is solid melts into air'. The once praised 'creative destruction' of capitalism now merely destroys. For Sennett, this 'new capitalism' requires us to rethink our assumptions about openness and freedom.

Part 2:

One of the ways, the contexts, I have had to rethink my assumptions, especially for a person like myself who has lived in nearly 40 houses in his autobiographical life and had more jobs than he can shake a stick at, has been in the management of short and long term relationships while migrating from job to job and place to place.  If institutions no longer provided a long term framework, I have had to improvise my life-narrative. I also had to do without a sustained sense of self from time to time, at crisis periods; I had to find some basis, a new basis, for such a self.  We all need a sustained sense of self, a sustaining life-narrative, to value our experiences, to be good at something specific.

The major continuity in my life through these four epochs, the years 1944 to 2021, has been the religion I came to be associated with through my mother some fifty-eight years ago at the age of nine. It has been the primary glue, so to speak, although medications for my bipolar I disorder have been quintessential as well.  All other continuities, and there have been several, have provided a hypothetical glue. Truths which are perennial but not archaic have been at the core of my life and sustained it—or so it seems to me as I gaze back to my first memory in 1947/8, sixty years ago.

In some ways this ideological continunity is like the continuity of place as I have experienced it since WW2.  My understanding and appreciation of both the intellectual underpinnings of my religion and the sense of meaning I derive from place is much like my experience as I walk down many a city street. On many city blocks and village streets in Canada and Australia where I have spent all my life, it was possible to find groups of buildings that spanned one or two hundred years of construction methods and styles.  They visually supported and enhanced each other, and in addition they provided examples of some regional culture and development. These human habitations and centres were often as young as thirty or forty years, or even less. This was the case in most of George Town, Zeehan, Katherine, South Hedland and Frobisher Bay among other towns where I lived. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)
Richard Sennett the Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, the Bemis Adjunct Professor of Sociology at MIT and Professor of the Humanities at New York University, and (2) The Culture of the New Capitalism, Yale, 2006,

THE LONG CLIMB

The very concept of history has yet to be constructed.
-Louis Althusser in The Althussserian Legacy, E. Ann Kaplan and Michael Sprinker, editors, Verso, London, 1993, p.97.

The old narratives are proving
distasteful, inadequate, vulnerable,
repudiated, like some change of fashion,
requiring epochal shift due to
the intrusion of new forms,
questions and conceptual frameworks,
incommensurable philosophic and
theoretic perspectives and tapestries.

The resulting factionalism and fragmentation
calls out for a healing connectedness,
bringing the parts together in dialogue
out of which may come
the disciplines, the social sciences
of the twenty-first century
to help us all in the long climb
to the perfection of the human community.

5 October 1996


THE WEIGHT

Only by reading R.F. Price's poetry, on one level, as a prolonged and fragmented autobiography, conceived, for the most part, after bearing the weight of a new Faith as one of its pioneers for some thirty years and after striving to carry its message to his contemporaries in some of the remotest regions of Canada and Australia, can the elusive unity of its vast bulk be glimpsed.(1) It is an autobiography that attempts not to confine its wisdom and virtue within the small circle of his experiences, his friends and his religion, in short, everything already intimately related to him. He tries to counter the tendency to overvalue these natural and personal enthusiasms and interests. He widens his field, his scope, his frame of influence to take in the richest and most varied "cultural attainments of the mind,"(2) attainments within the range of the social sciences and humanities and largely acquired by reading. -Ron Price, with thanks to (1)Justin Wintle, Furious Interiors: Wales, R.S. Thomas and God, Flamingo, London, 1996, p.xviii; and (2) 'Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970, p.35.

I do not humbly shun epiphanies
if they come my way like the diamond,
produced from many years of weight,
sometimes quite insufferable, wet with
tears from those Eskimo kids, & in the
corridors and toilets of the psychiatric
places and again and again and again
until finally released on that lithium &
soothing chemistry, before getting
abused in the hot north and then......
wrung completely dry in a miasmal
ooze from which I tried to inch my
consequential necessary way.(1)

I came to see it all as vapour in the desert.
I had dreamed, hoped, for fresh water but
knew it to be mirage, illusion. It was no mere
nothing, no quintessential nothingness; these
were but my first steps to the taste of the fruits
of holiness and that tree of wondrous glory.(2)

(1) Roger White, The Language of There, p.34.
(2) Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, No.68.

2 December 2001


FOULEST WEED

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds. Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. -Shakespeare, Sonnets, Sonnet 94.

Just as bodily diseases are contagious, likewise the spiritual diseases are also infectious. We quarantine an individual & we do not associate with Covenant-Breakers. -The Power of the Covenant: Part Two, NSA of the Baha’is of Canada, 1976, pp. 34-5.

This refuge against schism,
disruption, anarchy and betrayal,
this hall-mark of my Faith, found
some lilies growing there, where
great honours had been bestowed,
and they did fester, smell: Remy,
White, Sohrab, Avarih, Zimmer--
sweet things turned sour by their
deeds. For however the flowers be
when infected with this virus of
violation, even the basest weeds
surpass their beauty, colour, charm.
Personal conscience is not ultimate
authority, this home of foulest weed.

6 October 1997