Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

The Salt Lake Tribune has an interesting op-ed on the "morality" of fossil fuels:

Human suffering related to fossil fuels has not been accurately calculated. Deaths from mining, drilling and processing fuels are among the highest of all industries. Casualties of wars and famines related to oil are staggering. Present and future deaths from fossil fuel-related pollution and climate change loom in nightmarish numbers. Yet, the morality of energy policy is largely ignored.

A moral solution will require major changes, like replacing the internal combustion engine with fusion or something we have not yet imagined. We marshaled our intellectual resources to do impossible tasks like putting a man on the moon and developing an atomic bomb. Another impossible task awaits, unleashing American ingenuity to develop a moral energy system.
"Major changes" is one way of putting it. As Derrida probably wouldn't have said, technology is responsibility, or it is nothing at all. Mere "ingenuity" - American or otherwise - is not enough to create a moral energy system, the antique delusions of utilitarianism notwithstanding. Moral responsiveness is a very difficult thing to impose on an individual, let alone on a society or a world. Hell, it's a very difficult thing to impose on ourselves, especially when doing so is at all inconvenient.

And yet, as Lewis Mumford said, "I'm a pessimist about probabilities; I'm an optimist about possibilities." Which leads us, more or less, to a fairly remarkable pair of statements in favor of gay rights by Republican state representatives from Wyoming. Here's Rep. Pat Childers:
My mother was left-handed but forced to write right-handed by tying her left hand behind her back. People do not do things that way now....

Our definition of marriage has been in place since the late 1800’s and does define it as a civil contract between a man and a woman. It does not make it right with the understanding of human makeup as known today.
And here's Rep. Dan Zwonitzer:
Under a democracy the civil rights struggle continues today, where we have one segment of our society trying to restrict rights and privelges from another segment of our society. My parents raised me to know that this is wrong. It is wrong for one segment of society to restrict rights and freedoms from another segment of society....

I will let history be my judge, and I can go back to my constituents and say I stood up for basic rights. I will tell my children that when this debate went on, I stood up for basic rights for people.
That's the voice of authentic humanity, and we shouldn't allow the fact that it's rarely heard from Republicans to blind us to the fact that it's rarely heard, period. Pam Spaulding makes an essential point:
When I see the foot-dragging and hand-wringing by so many Dems at the thought of being strongly supportive of equality in public (lest they lose a single fundie vote) and compare that to the sincerity of people like Childers and Zwonitzer who put themselves politically on the line, it makes you wonder what the word “ally” really means in this struggle....
And Robert M. Jeffers makes an even more essential point than that:
The stranger who comes to you may be a king disguised as a pauper. Or the stranger may be a pedophile, a rapist, a murderer. Either could repay your hospitality in a coin out of all measure to the hospitality you have shown; but not every anticipated payment is also a desirable one. Just as we imagine the king would repay us generously, we imagine the murderer would repay us by taking something away. Even though the king has as much power of life and death as the murderer, and the murderer as much capacity to be generous as the king. Still we imagine that once we know who the stranger is, we know what the stranger will do. But hospitality functions in that area of “unknowing,” in that point in time where the stranger remains a stranger, and all possibilities are still open. Hospitality functions, then, at the very moment of our greatest vulnerability.
A point at which all possibilities are still open, eh? Makes me wonder what the blogosphere would look like if it didn't so often serve this country's dominant political interests by encouraging us to believe that we know who the stranger is, and who the ally is, and what he or she will do.

If these insomniac ramblings strike you as insufficiently hopeful, you may be pleased to know that the Taiwanese have invented an energy-efficient computer chip:
According to their numbers, their chips use less than a sixth the energy of an Intel Pentium, and less than a quarter the energy an AMD Athlon uses. In addition to efficiency, VIA has started a program called "carbon-free computing", where they offset the carbon that will be produced by the manufacturing and lifetime energy use of their CPU's. They do these offsets by building renewable power generation in developing countries, restoring forest and wetlands, and doing energy conservation.
BLDGBLOG has a fine post on wind batteries, and the mounting of windmills on decommissioned offshore oil platforms:
In the lead-acid batteries most commonly used, the chemicals that store the energy remain inside the battery. The difference with the installation on King Island is that when wind power is plentiful the energy-rich chemicals are pumped out of the battery and into storage tanks, allowing fresh chemicals in to soak up more charge. To regenerate the electricity the flow is simply reversed.
A new device called the Solar Cube provides electricity and clean water in the event of disasters.
Portable and assembled on site, the Solar Cube is powered by sunlight and wind, and can provide up to 3,500 gallons of clean drinking water per day from polluted water or salt water — enough to sustain hundreds of families in an emergency.
An innovative latrine system is being built for Kenyan slum dwellers:
The bio-latrine technology involves anaerobic digestion system to transform human waste into fertilizer or gas that can be used for domestic cooking, heating and lighting....The system has no moving parts and can be constructed using conventional building materials with very minimal maintenance requirements, suitable for populations in small scale settlements and large institutions.
Afrigadget has pictures.

Denver is trying out an interesting approach to helping the homeless:
The city of Denver has recycled old parking meters to help in the fight against homelessness.

The old parking meters have been placed at various locations in downtown, including Skyline Park, reports CBS station KCNC-TV....The money will be used by several organizations to provide meals, job training, substance abuse counseling and housing to the homeless.
The use of hydrophones may protect endangered whales from being killed by ships:
Clark says the advantage of audio surveillance is that it works day and night and in all weather. Spotting right whales from the air requires daylight and clear skies.
BirdLife International has announced sightings of the large-billed reed-warbler, which has been lost for 139 years. Here's a photo:

Ornithologists have also discovered a large population of the endangered sociable lapwing:
Previous estimates placed the global population of this Critically Endangered species at between 400 and 1500 individuals. However the expedition team reported seeing over 1200 birds in one day and over 1500 in total during the trip, all within a few grassland sites in Northern Syria. The finding gives tremendous encouragement to conservationists working to save the bird across Central Asia (where it is a summer resident) and the Middle East (where the bird winters).
In other bird news, the Tejon Ranch Company in California's Tehachapi Mountains is banning the use of lead hunting ammunition, which routinely kills condors that feed on carcasses.
"Kudos from Audubon to the Tejon Ranch for not only making the right decision, but for its leadership role in ending the use of lead ammunition on the ranch,” said Glenn Olson, Vice President and Executive Director for Audubon California. “As California's largest private landowner, Tejon Ranch and its decision today highlights the role private landowners can play in conservation."
Scientists have discovered a number of previously unknown species in the waters off Panama:
"It's hard to imagine, while snorkeling around a tropical island that's only a three-hour flight from the United States, that half the animals you see are unknown to science," said Rachel Collin, coordinator of the trip and a researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).
There's an interesting story about ecotourism in Ecuador:
The Paz brothers once planned to clear their plot of cloud forest for agriculture but then discovered that the antpitta birds they hunted with slingshots loved disemboweled earthworms. They began to wonder whether these elusive birds could attract tourists to their land so they set up an ecotourist operation.

Pearson says that the brothers, charging $10 a tourist while permitting no more than 15 visitors a day by appointment only, now earn $5000 to $7000 a year, much more than they would have earned with their original plan to cut down the forest and grow fruit trees and bushes.
The Minutemen are having some problems, what with founder Jim Gilchrist suing the group after they fired him for allegedly embezzling $400,000. Amusingly enough, they've also turned him in to the IRS for tax fraud. Pass the popcorn!

Inhabitat reports on the launch of the Open Architecture Network, " a completely open-source website with a simple mission: 'to generate design opportunities that will improve living standards for all.'
[T]he Network is now up and running (debuted at the 2007 TED Conference yesterday), providing a platform in which anyone, anywhere in the world, can view, post, adapt, and comment on humanitarian, sustainable, replicable, and scalable design solutions.
Speaking of architecture, you may want to have a look at Architectonic Fixations, which compiles early photographs of world architecture from the collection of Russell Sturgis. But you'd be better off proceeding directly to this history of the Fairmount Water Works.

The Tulane Carnival Collection features early Mardi Gras float designs, such as this watercolor from 1882:

You can also view a selection of costume designs and invitations, and - if you're inclined - fit them into Diderot and d'Alembert's Map of the System of Human Knowledge.

Coudal recommends Peter Gedei's cave photographs. Which reminds me that I've been meaning to link to this 360-degree panorama of the Krizna Jama Carst Cave in Slovenia. And the Gas Tank Museum.

Last but not least, BibliOdyssey has amazing features on dictionary iconography and the infinitesimal.

(The photo at top is by Jhodie Duncan. It shows Purkinje cells, which are "neurons of the cerebellum that communicate electrical impulses through structures known as dendritic trees.")


ellroon said...

Thank you for doing this. It must take hours of compliation, but it is a delight to read.


Anonymous said...