Tag Archives: environmentalism

You Must Read—The Wizard and the Prophet

517K8QxDd0L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_It has been a while since I suggested a book on this blog owing to my having read a lot of turds and a lot of fiction.  However, I have recently finished a book that I think would give anyone with an environmental bit grist for the thinking mill: Charles C. Mann’s The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World. 

The book is a narrative using Norman Borlaug, the “wizard,” and William Vogt, “the prophet,” as the central characters in a century long development of visions for how we must develop in the face of social, economic, and environmental challenges both natural and manmade.

Norman Borlaug is probably the more well-known of the two having won a Nobel Prize for his work advancing the basic components of what would come to be known as the “green revolution.”  In Iowa Borlaug is a state hero.  Heck, he is memorialized in the National Statuary Hall Collection with a bronze statue.  It oh so immodestly states on the statue’s base, “THE MAN WHO SAVED A BILLION LIVES.”  Humble indeed.  I guess when you have a Nobel Prize, Congressional Gold Medal, and Presidential Medal of Freedom you can say these kinds of things.

William Vogt, although lesser known, is equally influential in that his ideas and many of the people he influenced have come to define what we consider to be modern environmentalism.  Vogt’s thinking about the intrinsic value of nature, as opposed to those like Gifford Pinchot who viewed nature as something to extract value from, get a the core of the attempts at conservation in the Twenty First Century.

More important than the biographies of the two men is the concept that each represents a pole in a battle for the vision of how we are to live on this planet.  As it states in the title these are presented as a wizard camp and a prophet camp.  Each camp’s vision for how we interact and thrive on this planet is based on a foundational philosophy.  The wizards put their faith in our ability to invent or innovate our way to a more prosperous and sustainable future.  The prophets put their faith in the inherent superiority of nature and seek to have humans adapt to fit.

Think about this as a continuum with each camp on the opposite ends.  At the extreme ends of the continuum exist the viewpoint that their particular world view is correct and the other is fundamentally wrong.  Now, in reality no one is entirely on one end or the other save for people we would label as cranks, eccentrics, or worse.  People exist on some spot along this continuum and understanding their placement goes a long way to understanding their views on the environment.

This is a particularly interesting construct to utilize in a world where we are facing the impacts of human caused climate change.  Some people will advocate that modern science is the only way to adapt.  Other people will pontificate that a major change in lifestyle is the only solution to humanity’s predicament.  Real change will come from some blending of the two, but in a polarize world that might not be so easy.

The other interesting idea that pops up in the book as an anecdote is that organisms have an instinctual or biologically deterministic drive to expand or grow until collapse.  Perhaps whatever camp we fall into is merely window dressing prior to a general calamity brought about by deep seated biological signals.  Interesting.

Friday Linkage 6/2/2017

It’s June and we are dealing with the “covfefe.”

At what point do we get to wake up from this nightmare, look at the clock, and realize that it was all just some bad pizza we had the night before?

On to the links…

What Darrell Issa was Doing on the Roof—2018 is a long way away and a lot can happen before the midterm elections, but can we finally get rid of this no talent ass clown?  He is literally looking down on his constituents after refusing to meet with them because he does not care as long as he stays rich and Koch money keeps him in office.

Frugality is Environmentalism—I wish that this point got driven home more and more.  We cannot buy our way out of our environmental problems.  We can save our way a lot closer.

Renewable Energy Generation in the US Dramatically Exceeds 2012 Predictions—This is one of the times I am glad when the experts were wrong.

India Cancels Nearly 14 Gigawatts Of Proposed Coal Plants—Have fun trying to bring back coal as a fuel for the future when most customers across the world are trying to move away from the fuel.

There’s Way Less Coal Than We Thought—Depending upon who you ask and who you trust it might be true that our estimates of economically recoverable coal were way too high.  What does this mean?  Basically, it is even more difficult for coal power to be cost competitive if the fuel is going to cost more to mine.

EPA Halts Obama-era Methane Emissions Rule for Oil and Gas Industry—What the oil and gas industry wants Scott Pruitt will deliver.

UK Breaks Solar Record; Generates 24 Percent of Power from Solar—This is not Saudi Arabia or sunny Spain.  It’s the freaking United Kingdom known for dreary weather and queuing.  With each new record for solar power we have to ask ourselves what is the true limit?

Pretty Soon Electric Cars Will Cost Less Than Gasoline—Define pretty soon.  Okay, it might not be as cheap as that Kia Soul I keep hearing ads for on the radio but the future is fairly bright.  Bright enough for shades?

15 Ways to Use Bar Soap—I am bar soap partisan.  I use bar soap in the shower and I use shampoo that comes in a bar form as well.

Cannabidiol Slashes Seizures in Kids with Rare Epilepsy—I realize it is derived from marijuana, but given the growing body of evidence—both anecdotal and scientific—why isn’t the government all over studying this?  Oh right, people like Jeff Sessions are making drug policy in the United States.

Hemp in Food for Horses and Chickens? Maybe.—Did you have a guy in the dorms in college who told everyone that hemp was a miracle plant?  It could be used for fuel, food, medicine, and so on.  Maybe that guy was on to something.

How Adults are Ruining Sports for Kids—Can we just change the title to how adults are ruining kids?

Hunting Down the Lost Apples of the Pacific Northwest—What have we lost in our efforts to always have perfect Snow White-esque apples on every shelf?  Taste for one considering how bad most supermarket apples actually taste.  Yes, I am looking at you red delicious.

Could We Run Modern Society on Human Power Alone?—I do not know if that is the right question.  Maybe we need to ask ourselves when human power should be the preferred energy source.

An Anthropocene wildness grows in Rome—Is this the future?  What will the world look like as the climate warms, humans retreat, and nature takes back the spaces?

Thoughts on the Lorax

I have not seen the new movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.  My children have not seen it.  We do, however, own the book and read it at least once a week.  My four-year-old daughter knows that the Lorax speaks for the trees because the trees have no tongues.  She also knows that if you cut down all the trees—insert little girl making karate chop motion with her hand—that the animals will suffer.  Therefore, I consider myself versed enough on the topic to speak.

The book The Lorax was originally published in 1971.  For those of you counting at home, that would be over forty years ago.  Sorry, for you right wing reactionaries that was over 40 years ago.

Suddenly, a book that has never been covert about its pro-conservation message is the vanguard in a mass indoctrination of children.  At least according to Lou Dobbs.  Granted, Dobbs is a petty reactionary trying in vain to gain some level of traction in the media in order to continue peddling his tired 1980s trope.  Sort of sounds like Pat Buchanan without the veneer of 1960s racism.

Dobbs, however, was not alone in his vitriol directed at The Lorax.  Hosts and commentators on many other shows—many on Fox News—have said that this and other recent children’s fare are tools of a liberal agenda.  Really?  The Secret World of Arietty, which is about Borrowers drawn from the 1953 novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton, has also drawn criticism for some reason although I am failing to see what is dangerous about fairy type people living in the floorboards.  Oh wait, I said fairies.  Rick Santorum is crying somewhere right now.

Apparently, even the Muppets are a tool of the liberal agenda.  Really?  Liberals chose a franchise whose salad days were well behind it and appealed more to nostalgic adults as the vehicle by which to brainwash children.  Man, that is some diabolical scheming.

Liberals or environmentalists or hippies are relying on a forty year old Lorax, another animated movie based on a British novel from the 1950s, and the Muppets.  If this were the evil agenda I were concerned with I might just shut my mouth and watch it unfold because that is a losing strategy.

Then again, the right is concerned that college will indoctrinate your youth away from the tenants of the single institution that does more indoctrination than anyone else—church.  Never mind the rote adherence to dogma or the unchallenged authority of an elite class that does not represent the membership.  Nope, indoctrination by the church is instilling values while teaching your child that destroying the planet in pursuit of manna is bad.

One question for the zealots of the right wing: How many times did Jesus preach about the evils of gays, gay marriage, contraception, liberal media bias, and so on?  None.  Okay, how many times did Jesus preach about the evils of money?  Just saying.