Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Miscellany

1) Bill Maher has a short interview transcript posted at the Sierra Club's newsletter, "Planet." Maher's precious perspectives and anti-rural bias often find him championing anti-management stances and making fun of "country boys," neither of which ingratiate him to someone like me. In this interview, though, we are on common ground. He boils down the lack of American environmental responsibility to the following observation, "People are just going to have to wake up."

2) In another interview transcript, Grist Magazine sits down with Edward Norton to talk about environmental activism. I respect Norton a great deal, both for some of his more impressive acting turns and for his intelligence. Unfortunately, he sometimes comes across as an arrogant prick - listen to the "Fight Club" commentary if you want to realize just how very much this guy loves waxing poetic about his own abilities - but some of his arrogance confidence is warranted.

3) James Howard Kunstler forecasts extremely dire futures for the First World, particularly our own country (and parts of neighboring Canada), but this recent adaptation of the introduction to his new book, The Long Emergency, is a very important read. It can be married to the excellent Stephen M. Meyer article (about extinction and wildlife conservation) to make you feel really good about the 21st century. I try to remain as optimistic as I can, but I find myself agreeing with Kunstler when he writes,
"It has been very hard for Americans - lost in dark raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational shopping and compulsive motoring - to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in our technological society. [...] Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."
Kunstler predicts, as the Pentagon did in their 2003 forecast, a complete economic collapse of the United States by 2050. The result will be a country in which train travel is the only economically feasible option and the southern 1/2 is torn apart by drought, disease, and racism. He thinks the northern half of the United States will fare better, but he neglects to address the "white flight" that would surely follow such a "long emergency."
Read it here.

6 comments:

Devo said...

I saw a Norton-hosted National Geographic special about global warming, and it was astoundingly iformative (I hope, rather than being sensasionalist and alarmist, as it may have been... but it seemed legit enough). I agree, he's jaw-droppingly arrogant, but hey, so am I... so I guess i kinda feel a touch of cameraderie with him.

On a tangent, if you want a good laugh (or a healthy self-inflicted head punching, depending on your take), check out the movie Sahara, with McConnaghey (SP?).... it starts out ever so well, and then devolves into a spectacle of ridiculousness rivalling watching a dog chase his own tail. Entertaining, but you wonder how the hell he keeps from throwing up in his own mouth from being so dizzy and stupid.

I love dogs.

Hungry Hyaena said...

The series you speak/write of, "Strange Days on Planet Earth," was pretty good. There were four episodes, each one dealing with a different contemporary problem. Invasive species, climate change, predator extinction, and, finally, water contamination/run-off. I would definitely show it to high school (even college) students were I teaching biology. Some of the editing was a little much for me, but all the information they provided was "fair and balanced." Of course, the makers of atrazine and the climate change nay-sayers would disagree.

OGeorge said...

I find it very interesting that a person who's living is pretending to be someone else can be arrogant. Confidence is warranted; arrogance never is. While Norton is a fine actor, he's replacable, as we all are.

"Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world." What a great quote! And right on target. Wish I had said it.

Devo said...

You know, I got the same message from the movie "American Beauty" as from the quote you mention, ogeorge... only American Beauty's message was perhaps more existential and less ecological, I suppose. Either way, suburbia is choking the life out of us. BUT... I love it. It's easy. And easy is hard to change. I've lived in suburbia/exurbia my whole life, and its problems and triumphs (are there any?) are in my bones. I think that suburbia's problems, as pressing as they are, can potentially be transformed into resources. Take sprawl, for example. If solar panels or something similar were to become massively affordable and widely available, it would be entirely plausible to transform suburbia at large into a huge solar power plant. Far fetched, sure, but I'm just saying that enormous problems give opportunities for enormous solutions. Creativity is the order of the day, coupled ideally with big research dollars and a healthy dose of ethical guidance (probalby the most scarce and valuable resource in the equation).

As for the Nat Geo specials, I'd love to see the Invasive Species episode... do you know if they will rerun it? Or if it's available on DVD?

Hungry Hyaena said...

Devo:

"Strange Days on Planet Earth" will definitely be replayed on PBS and it is also available on DVD from PBS.org.

As for suburbia being "transformed" into a net positive, my skepticism tells me this is impossible. While there is certainly much we can do to help quell the "evils" of suburbia and sprawl (your example, however extreme, is one of many options), no matter how energy efficient suburbia becomes (a lofty and unlikely goal), the misused, savaged land will remain populated.

Also, suburbia doesn't seem that "easy" to me. Of course, much of this has to do with the migraine headaches I get when I spend time in a suburban area, but there are other, more universal, difficulties presented by suburban life.

The automobile and white flight gave birth to the suburb and anything born of a union between thoughtless consumption and racism ain't good in my book, even if we can one day make it a little less destructive and offensive.

Should we ever get serious about conserving biodiversity and lessening our anthropogenic influence, the two poles of city and country life are the only reasonable options. Even country life, though, must be carefully considered. Unless you are a farmer, living in a farmhouse away from the towns will only compoind one's adverse impact. As much as I've always wanted to head for the hills and live far, far away, I imagine I'll end up in a medium-sized town, but one in which I don't have to drive often, the houses are small and the agriculture local. This may seem as "pie in the sky" as a suburb running on solar power, but whereas ignorance and industry resistance will keep the latter fantasy at bay, many small towns throughout New England, Michigan, Minnesota and the Pacific Northwest are slready making the transition.

The truth is, given our habits, no matter where we live we're having too much of an impact, but we can each do what we can to minimize it.

Devo said...

Yeesh, you're good at the eco-guilt trip my man. That's a good thing though. It reminds me that I'm still capable of feeling responsibility toward something greater than my own wallet or car or carpet... I completely agree that suburbia is among the more dangerous bastions of racism in the US. Even in an "enlightened" Northeastern swath of land like Central Jersey (and yes, with the influence of towns like Princeton and Cranbury, it IS a surprisingly un-Jerseylike place, pretty and complete with pockets of farmland protected by l;and preservation laws and whatnot) racism is rampant and dangerously covert. At least in the South they admit their blatant racism (coming from every color mouth and being directed at every color skin)... up here, we pretend it doesn't exist anymore, but as soon as no one's looking it's like a freakin' David Duke revival...

Anyway, as for a city's ecological superiority over any other locale, I can see where that conclusion may be logical. However, cities tend to be bastions of other dangers such as governmental corruption... I dunno, I guess if you tend toward the apocalyptic view, then the entire world takes on this tint of urgency... I don't think that's ever gonna change, especially if we make it through the "Long Emergency"... But it IS rather humorous to think that similar thoughts were being thunk and similar hands were wringing at the prospect of the crossbow destroying covilization as we know it...