Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Valuing and Conserving Time

We all know that environmentalists want to force us back into the Stone Age. The fact has been pointed out so many times, with such vehemence, that it’s almost lost its power to shock us.

That’s why we need gifted and inexhaustible writers like Donald J. Boudreaux to inspire us, like Poe’s Raven, to Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance.

When debunking environmentalism, one must always start by provisionally granting a theoretical validity to whatever facts can't be denied outright:

It might well be that humans' "footprint" on the Earth is larger than ever; it might even be true that this larger footprint creates some health risks for us modern humans that our pre-industrial ancestors never encountered.
Who can say? I suppose you could look at the change in world population between 1400 and today, and consider the health risks posed by modern technologies like oil refining, air travel, and synthetic pesticides…but that way lies madness. There are some things humanity was never meant to know.

In their lust to return to the days of cave-dwelling and trepanation, environmentalists have failed to recognize that modern life has certain advantages:
Our bodies are cleaner and more free of disease. Our homes are sanitary. We have indoor plumbing and anti-bacterial soap; our ancestors had outhouses. Our clothes are cleaner and, despite recent hysteria, our food supply is safer.
Cheers for anti-bacterial soap (despite its role in antibiotic resistance), and jeers for hysteria about multiple episodes of mass poisoning!

So far, this is garden-variety sophistry. But Boudreaux has far more deadly arrows in his quiver:
[T]oo many environmentalists condemn people who don't share their creed. For example, I don't recycle my trash because my time is too precious for me to spend it sorting such items into different containers.
If Boudreaux spent half an hour recycling conservatarian gibberish for this column, he spent roughly 27 more minutes than I spend sorting my recyclables in the average month. But who am I to judge how he spends his time?
In environmentalists' eyes, those who unquestioningly disregard the value of one resource (time) in order to spend it on the conservation of other resources (wood, plastic and glass) are righteous while those of us who value and conserve time are sinners.
Personally, I don’t think Boudreaux is a sinner so much as an insufferable asshole. But to the extent that the word “sinner” applies, it applies because conserving Boudreaux’s time benefits Boudreaux, while conserving wood, plastic, and glass benefits the society in which he lives and presumably thrives.

And as Adam Smith wisely observed, “when we prefer ourselves so shamefully and so blindly to others, we become the proper objects of resentment, abhorrence, and execration.”

(Illustration: "Vanitas Still Life: Sins of the Flesh" by Chris Peters, 2004.)

(Originally posted on 6/14/07)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Friday Hope Blogging

Inhabitat announces that for a measly $25, you can donate a Lifestraw to a needy household in Mumbai:

Project H will deliver 100 systems this summer as the first step in a bigger examination of local water sanitation issues. With more than a billion people lacking access to safe drinking water and five million people dying of water-related disease every year, here’s an opportunity to make a small but very real difference.
For more details, click here.

When you're done with that, you can help prevent malaria by supplying poor families with mosquito nets, either by donating at the previous link or by playing this online game. (Or both.)

Speaking of malaria, there seems to be some hope of an improved malaria vaccine for children:
Florida State University biologists have discovered an autoimmune-like response in blood drawn from malaria-infected African children that helps to explain why existing DNA-based anti-malaria vaccines have repeatedly failed to protect them.

The groundbreaking study is expected to speed and better inform the development of new treatments and vaccines that effectively target the unique medical needs of malaria’s smallest, most vulnerable victims.
Russia has shut down a weapons-grade nuclear reactor:
Russia said on Monday it had closed a weapons-grade plutonium reactor as part of a deal with the United States to reduce the risk of proliferation from Cold War-era nuclear bomb plants.

The reactor, at a secret Siberian plant founded by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, was turned off on Sunday, 45 years after it was started up to create plutonium for the Soviet weapons programme.
A Chinese ship full of weapons that was headed for Zimbabwe has turned back:
China’s decision to turn the ship around was welcomed by the dock workers, trade unionists, religious leaders, Western diplomats and human rights workers who have been campaigning since last week to block delivery of the weapons to Zimbabwe.

They had said the weaponry could be used to carry out an even more violent crackdown on Zimbabwe’s political opposition, which is allied with the country’s unionized workers.

“This is a great victory for the trade union movement in particular and civil society in general in putting its foot down and saying we will not allow weapons that could be used to kill and maim our fellow workers and Zimbabweans to be transported across South Africa,” said Patrick Craven, spokesman for the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which represents 1.9 million South African workers.
(Hat tip: Karin.)

Brussels Airlines hopes to reduce its fuel costs by flying a little more slowly:
The airline said slowing its planes by about 10km/h would cut its annual fuel bill by 1m euros ($1.6m; £800,000) and add a minute or two to flight times.

The measures will also reduce the airline's emissions of global warming greenhouse gases, a spokesman said.
Clearly, they've been taken over by radicals who won't be satisfied until we're all painting ourselves with woad and gnawing at roots and twigs.

A study finds that transgenic soy crops have a lower yield than coventional crops.
The Independent points to a recent University of Kansas study showing that Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans (designed to withstand copious lashings of Monsanto's own weed killer, Roundup) deliver yields 10 percent lower than conventional beans. The U. of Kansas verdict comes on the heels of a similar one from researchers at the University of Nebraska.
Which means that any day now, we can expect to hear CS Prakash and Roy Innis accuse Monsanto of willfully perpetuating Third World poverty and hunger.

New research suggests that massive die-offs in the Gulf of Mexico could be alleviated by changing agricultural practices:
The assessment team found that the most significant opportunities for nitrogen and phosphorus reduction in the Mississippi Basin are promotion of the production of environmentally sustainable biofuel and other perennial crops, improved infield management of nutrients, construction and restoration of wetlands, tighter nitrogen and phosphorus limits on municipal and industrial sources and improved targeting of riparian buffers.
The House has passed legislation that would help to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes:
Perhaps most importantly to the Great Lakes states, the legislation will force ocean-going vessels coming into the Great Lakes to flush their hulls of ballast water 200 miles outside of the U.S. And beginning in 2012, vessels will be required to have treatment systems to purify ballast water from invasive species.
The Nature Conservancy has taken on the ambitious (to say the least) project of planting one billion trees in Brazil:
The plan proposes to populate 2.5 million acres with a billion trees, which—as stated on the program's website—will become a carbon sink for ten million tons of carbon. The program is focusing on specific areas of the degraded forest, especially ten watersheds.
A federal court has blocked a plan to kill sea lions in order to protect salmon, on the grounds that the harm it would cause is as irreparable as the harm it's intended to prevent:
"The stunning wildlife of the Pacific Northwest deserves protection, but choosing between salmon and sea lions is not the answer," [The Humane Society of the United States] says on its Web site. "A thriving river needs a greater variety of creatures sharing its waters, not less."
Cameroon has established a unique sanctuary for the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla:
The Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary — created by Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni's decree — covers 19.5 sq km in a mountainous region of Cameroon. WCS estimates the area is home to 20 of the world's remaining 300 Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli).

The Bronx Zoo-based group says that the gorillas of Kagwene have been protected from the poaching that otherwise affects apes in the region by the local belief that gorillas are people. The consumption of gorilla meat is therefore taboo.

The EU is contemplating a tax on trucks:
EU countries would be allowed to charge heavy road users for the costs they incur on society, including congestion, air pollution and noise — something prohibited by EU law up till now — according to an early draft of a Commission proposal to revise its 'Eurovignette Directive'.
A Dutch study finds that children raised by lesbian couples are just as well adjusted as children raised by heterosexual couples. As for the parents, they seemed to be happier than their straight counterparts:
The results showed that lesbian biological mothers were more satisfied with their partners as a co-parent than heterosexual mothers were. It was also shown that lesbian mothers were more committed to the task of parenting than straight fathers.
In related news, the host of a popular Christian TV show has come out of the closet:
"I know this will end my career in Christian television, but I must now live my life openly and honestly with everyone," [Azariah] Southworth said in the article...."We all know there are so many other gay people in the Christian industry; they're all just scared," he said. "I was scared, but now I'm no longer afraid."
Iowa Governor Chet Culver has signed a bill that forces insurance companies to cover the cost of HPV vaccine:
Des Moines obstetrician-gynecologist, Linda Railsback, says the new law will make it easier for women to fight off H-P-V. Railsback says "In the future, the burden of the H-P-V disease, which includes genital warts and cervical cancer, and some cancers of the vagina and vulva, will be decreased -- markedly decreased-- by 70 to 80-percent, and in some women, absent.
The Senate has passed legislation that forbids discrimination on the basis of genetic data:
It would allow only patients and their doctors to access data obtained through genetic testing.

Employers, unions and health insurance companies would be forbidden from discrimination via genetic information.
The Ohio legislature has passed a fairly impressive renewable energy bill:
the Ohio Legislature passed a renewable energy standard requiring utilities to provide 12.5 percent of Ohio's electricity from clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2025. This bill has a solar-specific requirement that will result in about 594 MW of solar in the Buckeye State. Not too shabby! Kudos to Environment Ohio and the thousands of other activists that worked hard to make it happen.
An interesting survey claims that Canadians are increasingly likely to blame their own consumerism for environmental problems:
A new survey of environmental attitudes, one of the most extensive undertaken in the country, has revealed a profound shift in public opinion on the causes of environmental problems: People now suggest harm to the planet is being driven by their own demand for consumer goods and wasteful activities, rather than by causes such as company-produced pollution.
Here's hoping this attitude is contagious.

According to Miles Grant, "a study found that while young people could identify a thousand corporate logos, they couldn't identify even a handful of plants and animals in their backyards. Will future generations care about protecting the planet if they can't even pick a starling out of a lineup?" No Child Left Inside aims to do something about the problem:
The Coalition’s focus is passage of the federal No Child Left Inside Act. This legislation would authorize major new funding for states to provide high-quality, environmental instruction. Funds would support outdoor learning activities both at school and in non-formal environmental education centers, teacher training and the creation of state environmental literacy plans.
Against all odds, PZ Myers has reason to be pleased with Texas:
[T]he Institute for Creation Research's application to offer an online master's degree program in creationist bullshit has been rejected. Bravo!
Also via PZ, Yoko Ono is suing the makers of Expelled for using "Imagine" without permission. That's two commandments they've broken so far, by my count.

A few quick links, strictly for entertainment purposes. First off, Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu, which pretty much speaks for itself.

You'll want to pay careful attention to Archaeology of a 1945 Prison Escape Tunnel, Part 1 and Part 2; there'll be a test later. Recommended soundtrack: Roland Olbeter's Electro-Pneumatic Instruments.

The Wrong House, a exhibition on the architecture in Hitchcock's films (via Coudal). A collection of online movies at Who's Who in Victorian Cinema. A heart-gladdening collection of Portraits of Dancers at Luminous Lint, which now has a blog.

Not only that: Unfinished hotels along the Sinai Peninsula at BLDGBLOG, and Will Eisner's artwork for The Preventative Maintenance Monthly at BibliOdyssey.

On a personal note, I'll be moving for the third time in 18 months this weekend, which'll be the final stage of a process I started almost two years ago, and never really expected to live through. Virtually every post I've written in the last six months was slapped together under extreme duress, and I have to apologize again for being even more scattered and abstruse than usual. I'm grateful to everyone who's stuck with me, and I'd like to think that things will improve from here on out. If nothing else, being reunited with my books after 18 long months is bound to put me in a better mood!

Having gotten that bit of administrative trivia out of the way, I'll leave you with the lilting strains of the Howson Phono-Fiddle.

(Illustration at top: "Dreaming Story at Warlugulong" by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, 1976.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

An Edifice of Cynicism

Today, Phi Beta Cons demonstrates the dazzling range and flexibility of conservatarian thought. First, Fred Schwarz indulges in a bit of harebrained Manichaeism (the kind men like):

When conservatives look at the American flag, they see hope and inspiration; when liberals look at it, they see "an edifice of cynicism."
So conservatives feel and liberals think? I'd always heard it was the other way around.

If Schwarz claims that the pleasure conservatives feel when they see the flag comes from inspiration and hope, rather than a thrill of anger at the hippie fags who refuse to bow down before it, who am I to doubt him?

This begs the question of what they hope for, though, and I think it's fair to say that if idolatry is the best thing they can be accused of, cynicism is not quite the worst. It sounds as though Schwarz would like us to drop everything and start drooling the moment a flag is waved; you don't have to be Ward Churchill to suspect that this Pavlovian patriotism benefits Schwarz and his co-religionists much more than it does the good ol' US of A.

Next, Candace de Russy (the fearless, the undaunted) displays a taste for microphilosophical nuance that puts that arch-quibbler John Kerry to shame:
Journalist Thomas Friedman, hardly a champion of free-market capitalism, got a pie in his face this week while speaking at Brown University.
No one can accuse de Russy of having lax standards for what constitutes championing free-market capitalism. Here's one of Friedman's typically ambivalent remarks on the subject, which Tim Russert managed to beat out of him with a length of galvanized rebar:
I was speaking out in Minnesota -- my hometown, in fact -- and guy stood up in the audience, said, 'Mr. Friedman, is there any free trade agreement you'd oppose?' I said, 'No, absolutely not.' I said, 'You know what, sir? I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn't even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.
You'd think that'd be enthusiastic enough for anyone. But de Russy apparently feels that Friedman's chipmunk-on-meth cheerleading amounts to damning the Invisible Hand with faint praise (despite her own discomfort with "the apparently boundless public appetite for debased and scabrous material," the market's response to which is "of course thoroughly designed for profit").

I fear that the rest of us have little hope of winning her favor, which is particularly sad for me as I'd hoped she'd accompany me to this year's China Sex Culture Festival, where "modeling is very rich and refined, and for the first time pushed the ancient palace bed, pillow, ancient Hohuan chairs precious exhibits way reflects scientific Old to the evolution of modern sexuality and how the past serve the present."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Food Deserts and Fortifications

A paper in The International Journal of Health Geographics discusses the use of GIS to track the evolution of urban "food deserts":

The findings indicate that residents of inner-city neighbourhoods of low socioeconomic status have the poorest access to supermarkets. Furthermore, spatial inequalities in access to supermarkets have increased over time, particularly in the inner-city neighbourhoods of Central and East London, where distinct urban food deserts now exist.
The problem of spatial inequalities isn't confined to southern Ontario, needless to say. Cervantes goes so far as to suggest that the current food shortage deserves some of the attention that's currently being given to lapel pins and bowling scores:
This is not a temporary problem. It's a long-term, secular (as the economists say) trend. The planet is running out of stuff -- water, land, topsoil, petroleum, atmosphere.
In America, at least, higher food prices may have some connection with the crackdown on immigrant workers, as well as hard-right hysteria over the AgJOBS Act. Still, this is the sort of situation that can trigger mass migration and civil unrest, making border security -- regional, national and local -- more important than ever.

The $20 million prototype for the virtual fence near Tucson may've been scrapped -- along with the law it was supposed to protect and represent -- but the outlook for solid walls and barriers is very promising indeed, especially when it comes to protecting microborders. Whether you're planning "a gated community or an insurgent holding pen," or some convenient amalgam of the two, blast walls are de rigeur in the modern City of Refuge (which will ideally protect us not only from being punished for unintentional killing, but also from being accused of it).

Unfortunately, simply building walls isn't enough to protect yourself from the tired, and the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. You also have to make sure that no one gets around, under, or over them. In that regard, knowledge is power, especially when it confirms what you already believe.
The Drug Enforcement Agency wants to find a small business with a Top Secret security clearance that can snoop on Spanish language conversations transmitted over foreign communications systems and "instantaneously" translate those conversations from Spanish into English....

The translation company would be expected to create online records of "complex foreign voice radio transmissions containing technical terminology, advanced grammar and syntax, and colloquial conversational forms"....
The problem is, when people know they're being overheard, they can use codes, or intentionally spread misinformation, or simply agree to meet up in person. That's why DARPA's Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (HI-MEMS) is so exciting:
These half-bug, half-chip creations — DARPA calls them "insect cyborgs" — would be ideal for surveillance missions, the agency says in a brief description on its website.

Scientist Amit Lal and his team insert mechanical components into baby bugs during "the caterpillar and the pupae stages," which would then allow the adult bugs to be deployed to do the Pentagon's bidding.
The article ends with a joke that has considerably more than a grain of truth to it:
Presumably, enemy arsenals will soon be well-stocked with Raid.
It's easy to imagine pesticides being the first line of defense against these cyber insects, regardless of any collateral damage to "useful" species; one thing DARPA will probably want to do is create hybrids that are immune to common pesticides (particularly in Latin America, where a much wider range of chemicals is used).

At that point, I suppose evildoers would have to clear their confidential meeting places with flamethrowers, or perhaps jamming signals. There's also the possibility that natural predators -- for lack of a better term -- will eat some of these semi-mechanical bugs; they should probably be equipped to deliver an electric shock, or a squirt of some noxious liquid, that'll discourage hungry birds and bats.

Surely none of these problems is insurmountable, given what's at stake in a world that's low on resources (or finds it impractical to distribute them equitably, which amounts to the pretty much the same thing).

In completely unrelated news, Bruce Schneier asks a serious question, and provides a serious answer:
[G]iven a security patch, can you automatically reverse-engineer the security vulnerability that is being patched and create exploit code to exploit it?

Turns out you can.
Frightening, isn't it? There oughta be a law.

(Illustration from The War Illustrated, April 3 1915.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

History Comes Alive

A while back, Victor Davis Hanson wrote a column in the voice of an imaginary 1940s newspaper editorialist who took FDR to task for botching World War II. This proved through some form of sympathetic magic that Bush hasn't been treated fairly by the Free Press. While the column was somewhat marred by Hanson's decision to date it several months after FDR's death, it was undoubtedly illustrative of something, and there was every reason to expect that his method would be taken up by other, and better, historicological discoverists.

Today, Paul Greenberg has improved on Hanson by rewriting the presidential candidates' questioning of General Petraeus so that it's all about fighting teh Nazis. The results will be illuminating to anyone with a brain the size of a pea:

General Eisenhower (Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force): "There has been significant but uneven security progress in the Ardennes. As of the end of December 1944, our casualties have been reduced substantially....The situation in certain areas is still unsatisfactory, and innumerable challenges remain. Moreover, as events in the past two weeks have reminded us, and as I have repeatedly cautioned, the progress made since last spring is fragile and reversible."

Senator John McCain, (R-Ariz.): "We're no longer staring into the abyss of defeat and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success...I do not want to keep our troops in France a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal, my goal, is a France that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine."
For those of you who are keeping score, France was invaded and occupied by Germany, while Iraq was invaded and occupied by the United States. And France, once liberated, was not occupied by the Allies. But other than that, and a few other little details, spot on!

Next, let's see how Senator Hitlery KKKlintoon (C-Sodom) does at beating off the Nazis:
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): "For the past four years, we have continually heard from the administration that things are getting better, that we're about to turn a corner, that there is finally a resolution in sight. Yet each time, our allies fail to deliver. I think it's time to begin an orderly process of withdrawing our troops, start rebuilding our military, and focusing on the challenges posed in the Pacific."
By December of 1944, Soviet troops had wiped out the German army at Stalingrad, and seized Romania and Slovakia. Canadian and British troops, meanwhile, had participated in D-Day, among other many other hard-won battles. The expense and loss of life involved in these victories was staggering; it's unclear, to say the least, which country Greenburg sees as making a remotely analogous sacrifice in Iraq, even if we pretend for the sake of argument that this is a war rather than a kleptocratic occupation.
Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.): "Nobody's asking for a precipitous withdrawal, but I do think that it has to be a measured but increased pressure, and a diplomatic surge that includes Germany. Because if France can tolerate as normal neighbor-to-neighbor relations with Germany, then we should be talking to them as well. I do not believe we're going to be able to stabilize the situation without them."
See how desperate matters are? We are now in December of 1944, just a few short months from the official end of the war, and Barack Hussein Obama wants to make diplomatic overtures to Germany, instead of withdrawing precipitously from...where, exactly?

Beats me, but it's clear enough that a vote for Obama is a vote for the Thousand-Year Reich. Facts don't lie.

Note that this ethereal silliness is the prime export of the people who take the war seriously...as opposed to the dirty fucking hippies who are still wondering what the definition of "victory in Iraq" might be, because they don't understand that minor details like these will be taken care of in due time by Our Steely Resolve.

It does take resolve to prevail in an epic clash of civilizations, granted, but it also takes resolve to nail your dick to a tree. Telling yourself that you're nailing it to the Tree of Liberty with the Hammer of Freedom is a logical way to proceed, but that may not be enough, in itself, to protect you from the equally logical consequences.

That said, I truly do admire Greenburg's method, so I'll leave you with this excerpt from the recent Democratic debate, retooled for clarity and ease of use:
GIBSON: And, Comrade Obama, I want to do one more question, which goes to the basic issue of your commitment to the practical revolutionary-creative struggle for world communism. And it is a question raised by a noble worker in the village of Verbka in the Khmelnitsky region of Ukraine, a woman by the name of Svetlana Petrenko. Take a look.


S. PETRENKO, WORKER: Comrade Obama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in the Communist cause. I am not questioning your patriotism, but all our tractor drivers, harvesters and textile workers wear a Stalin pin. I want to know why you don't.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Hail The New Puritan!

If you want a vision of the future, imagine hemp lingerie irritating your crotch -- forever.

Melanie Reid explains:

[I]f society proceeds down the true path of eco-purity, we may well save the planet; but will simultaneously discover that life is too dull to be worth living on it any more. Women in particular, I fear, will find themselves returned to the Dark Ages.

How can it be otherwise? No skiing, no cars, no travel, no exotic foods, no extravagance, no Hollywood, no wasteful labour-saving devices, no clothes made of anything but recycled plastics and hemp. No more Luxx magazine filled with beautifully engineered, sleek, accessory porn.
There's the summum bonum for you in a nutshell: consumption, and plenty of it. Love, parenthood, friendship, knowledge, the comforts and terrors of art and religion and nature...none of it means anything at all, unless your mailbox is filled to bursting with catalogues advertising high-end lingerie, heated towel racks and electric nose-hair trimmers. Here we have endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful, none of which could ever grow stale or flat.

And what does "eco-purity" offer in return for the loss of this bounty? Chafed labia and cheap grace!
What is becoming so fascinating about the new puritanism is not just that we are all being brainwashed to accept the inevitability of hair shirts, but also their unquestioned moral worth. That somehow or other, this life of sackcloth and bicycles is going to benefit our souls and make us all better people.
Certain painful acts of renunciation deserve our respect, like saving oneself for marriage, or going without healthcare, or spending Sunday mornings at church instead of a truck-stop glory hole. But saving energy is just so...so...tawdry. And meanspirited, too; it's like saying we don't deserve endless growth and boundless consumption. Where's the pleasure in that?

Now, I happen to think that the "green design revolution" is occasionally too optimistic, or at least too wedded to the basic assumptions of hyperconsumerist chatterboxes like Melanie Reid. The last thing we need is a "green" version of this culture, with 100% recycled junk mail, and 100% sustainable sprawl, and solar nose-hair trimmers made by the tens of thousands in the Marianas. Design is responsibility, or it is nothing at all.

But the debate ultimately hinges on whether climate change is as serious as most scientists say. If it is, then with all due respect to Ms. Reid, the comfort of her nethers would be feather-light on the scale of things.

Which is probably why she dives immediately into denialism, via praise for David Bellamy, who has bravely challenged the prevailing orthodoxy by pointing out that it snowed a lot this winter.
David Bellamy...declared recently that the extended spring ski season in Scotland - deep, extensive snow cover, the best in a decade - could be proof that global warming does not exist quite as painted. He pointed out that the global high-temperature record has not been broken for a decade, and temperatures are now flat or falling.

Indeed, the impartial observer might see the harder weather - together with the recent bitterly cold winter in China and the Arctic - as a joyful thing: a sign that maybe things aren't that bad after all.

But oh no. This kind of heresy must be crushed.
I'll say. For helpful hints on crushing this kind of heresy, we could do worse than consult the burlap-clad neopuritan worrywarts at the The World Meteorological Congress:
The long-term upward trend of global warming, mostly driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is continuing. Global temperatures in 2008 are expected to be above the long-term average. The decade from 1998 to 2007 has been the warmest on record, and the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74C since the beginning of the 20th Century.

The current La Niña event, characterized by a cooling of the sea surface in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific, is a “climate anomaly” part of natural climate variability.
The opinion of the WMO probably means little to Reid, who objects to being lectured on climatology by "climate-change academics," particularly when "they announce, in as menacing a tone as Abu Izzadeen, that we ignore what is happening 'at our peril.'"

You can see her point. Who wants to be dragged down by all this talk of "peril," when there's vitally important shopping to be done, and the cool caress of silken underthings to enjoy? Besides, climatologists only say these things because it pays their bills, just as aspirin manufacturers only make aspirin because people get headaches. It's all so obvious when you think about it.

It's not the lies that bother Reid, though. It's not even the absurdity of trying to meaure the "hypothetical waste" emitted by cars ("how is it possible?" she asks, her eyes wide as saucers). It's that goddamn hemp lingerie:
My real problem with the eco-alarmists is the pleasure they take in austerity; their evident desire to strip away pleasure....They dislike colour, excess and fun. They really do want to see us imprisoned in a narrow, grey, scratchy world of recycled car tyres and hemp lingerie (and no, I didn't make that up).
At last we've reached the center of this labyrinth. Climate denialism is a feminist issue, and here's why:
Who will be the victims of the eco-smug; of this pious gospel of make-do-and-mend? Why, women - who will have to forgo their washing machines and their dish washers, carry supermarket shopping on the bus, and return to the horror of reuseable nappies.
In other words, women will suffer because they'll have to continue doing "women's work," which apparently becomes unjust and onerous only when it involves reuseable diapers. You can't get much more radical than that, even if thy name be Dworkin.

I suppose you could argue that men ought to be helping out with these chores, where applicable, whether we're headed for a grey eco-socialist dystopia or not. But I suspect that'd only provide further evidence that the "climate hoax" is part of a massive social-engineering experiment that'll simultaneously force women back into traditional roles (that they haven't actually left), and emasculate men by forcing them to change diapers instead of working in steel mills and fighting the Hun.

I'd love to discuss this at greater length, but right now I have to put on my hemp underwear and lick the dishes clean.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Familiar steps on the twilight stairs, the sight of Bornella anguilla,
An open window at which sweet hope stayed behind --
All this is inexpressible, O God, we fall to our knees,

(Photo by Jun Imamoto.)

Friday Hope Blogging

The Center for Biological Diversity has managed to shut down ORV races at Oceano Dunes in California:

“The motorized circus at Oceano Dunes is a real disgrace. Continuing the onslaught of racing events would be a disaster for this fragile ecosystem. That’s no way to treat a natural treasure,” said Andrew Orahoske, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Under the settlement, the department agreed to withdraw its multi-year approval for the event, and conduct a full analysis of environmental impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act prior to approving future race proposals.
Legislative efforts are being made to protect the National Landscape Conservation System:
The House did a favor for natural quiet the other day through a big, bipartisan majority vote to pass legislation giving legal permanence to the National Landscape Conservation System, or NLCS.

Never heard of the NLCS? No worries, not many people have. The conservation system includes 26 million acres of national monuments, wilderness and conservation areas, wild rivers, and historic trails on Western lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Malaysia has decided against building a coal-fired power plant near a protected rainforest in Borneo:
"After weighing the pros and cons, the cabinet has decided to do away with this proposal because we do not want to risk the welfare of the community in the area including their health and any adverse impact on the environment," Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said in a statement last week. "We need to look for more environmentally friendly sources of energy."
In response to public outcry, Vladimir Putin has agreed to divert a planned oil pipeline away from Lake Baikal:
Mr. Putin...ordered that the route hew more closely to one that had previously been recommended by the Academy of Sciences and rejected by a regulatory agency. He said a new route should be charted at least 40 kilometers, or roughly 25 miles, from Lake Baikal. That would push it outside of Baikal's watershed, according to environmental organizations.

Mr. Shuvalov called it "a victory of common sense."

Marina Rikhvanova, the activist who spearheaded these protests, has been awarded the 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize.

Iran has freed a prominent women's rights activist:
Moghaddam has been described as a pioneer in environmental protection in Iran, working for better waste management and protesting against deforestation.

She has also been involved with the "one million signatures" campaign -- an attempt to change Iranian laws that discriminate against women by collecting signatures online and in person.
And in Afghanistan, a young journalist who was sentenced to death for criticizing Islamic views on women's rights will be allowed to appeal:
The writer, Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, 23, was transferred on March 28 from prison in the remote province of Balkh, in northern Afghanistan, to the capital, Kabul, according to Jean MacKenzie, program director in Afghanistan for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting. The London-based Institute is an international advocate for press freedom.

The move, Mackenzie said in a telephone interview, was accompanied by promises from officials in the government of President Hamid Karzai that Kambakhsh would be freed.
An extremely rare giant turtle has been spotted in Vietnam:
The discovery represents hope for the species, said Doug Hendrie, the Vietnam-based coordinator of the zoo program.

Turtle expert Peter Pritchard, president of the Chelonian Research Institute, confirmed the find based on a photo Hendrie showed him.

"It looked like pretty solid evidence. The animal has a pretty distinctive head," Pritchard said.
Two plants thought to have been extinct since the 1800s have been found in Queensland:
State Climate Change Minister Andrew McNamara says the two plants were found on Cape York, between Cooktown and Lockhart River, and they have now been re-classified as vulnerable species.

"The Rhaphidospora cavernarum, which is a large herb that stands about one and a half metres high, has reappeared," he said. "It hasn't been seen in Queensland since 1873.

"Similarly, the Teucrium ajugaceum, which is a herb that has also been missing in action since 1891 [has reappeared], so there certainly are some good news stories."
Corals at the Bikini Atoll seem to have recovered from US nuclear tests:
After diving into the crater, Zoe Richards of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University says, “I didn’t know what to expect – some kind of moonscape perhaps. But it was incredible, huge matrices of branching Porites coral (up to 8 meters high) had established, creating thriving coral reef habitat. Throughout other parts of the lagoon it was awesome to see coral cover as high as 80 per cent and large tree-like branching coral formations with trunks 30cm thick. It was fascinating – I’ve never seen corals growing like trees outside of the Marshall Islands.

“The healthy condition of the coral at Bikini atoll today is proof of their resilience and ability to bounce back from massive disturbances, that is, if the reef is left undisturbed and there are healthy nearby reefs to source the recovery.”
Lest this be hailed as evidence that nuclear tests are beneficial, it should be noted that "the research has also revealed a disturbingly high level of loss of coral species from the atoll...[T]the team established that 42 species were missing compared to the early 1950s."

The Sietch Blog reports on a program that provides renewable energy jobs for women in Bangladesh:
Initially, it was assembling of DC lamps and providing services through battery charging station. Now the SME has moved to assembling CFL and LED lamps, controllers and inverters of solar home system (SHS) and mobile phone chargers. It has provided SHS to almost 30,000 households, small enterprises and markets in coastal areas, where grid electrification is not a feasible option.
Inhabitat discusses the rollout of the Hippo Roller:
Currently on the scene in South Africa right now, Project H has successfully delivered 75 ‘Hippo Rollers’ - an ingenious yet simple rolling barrel device that facilitates a more efficient and safer transport of daily water supply needs. The roller holds 3-4 days worth of water for a family of 7, about 5 times the amount of water that can be moved using traditional methods. It’s an amazing product and an amazing story of good design enabling communities.
A Kenyan prison is planning an innovative sewer system:
The initiative, involving the development of a wetland to purify sewage, is expected to cost a fraction of the price of high-tech treatments while also triggering scores of environmental, economic and social benefits.

Apart from wastewater management, the project is to assess using the wetland- filtered water for irrigation and fish farming giving prisoners a new source of protein or sold to local markets, alternative livelihoods. Part of the so-called 'black wastewater' with high concentrations of human waste will also be used for the production of biogas.
Also in Kenya, women are working to provide clean and affordable water to their neighbors:
The Kenya Water for Health Organization, with the help of its many community coordinators and volunteers, is attempting to challenge the vendors by creating a water delivery system built on the strength, knowledge and experience of Kibera's women....

One of their most successful sanitation programs teaches women in the community solar water disinfection, commonly called SODIS. The technique is remarkably simple. Users fill ordinary clear plastic bottles with contaminated water and place them in direct sunlight for six hours, usually on the corrugated metal roofs of their homes. There the water is sanitized by ultraviolet rays.
A solar-powered trash compactor offers many benefits:
“The unit takes up as much space as the 'footprint’ of an ordinary receptacle -- but its capacity is five times greater. Increased capacity reduces collection trips and can cut fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. BigBelly also provides cost efficiencies from labor savings, fuel cost and maintenance savings, as well as environmental benefits from reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.”
Solar windows sound like a pretty good idea, too:
The Queensland University of Technology recently announced that it has been working with Dyesol to develop an innovative solar cell technology that re-envisions windows as clear, clean energy providers. Professor John Bell has said that these dye-infused solar cells would significantly reduce building energy costs, and could even generate surplus energy to be stored or sold. The development has been touted as the most promising advance in solar cell technology since the invention of the silicon cell.
Agronomy Journal has an interesting article on self-seeding crops:
“The significance of this research, in addition to lowering the cost and risk of establishing cover crops, is to extend the ecological functions that cover crops perform beyond the normal cover crop termination dates between mid-April and early May,” says Dr. Jeremy Singer of the National Soil Tilth Lab. “Furthermore, producers using organic crop production techniques could adopt these systems because of the potential for enhanced weed suppression without soil disturbance.”
Home Depot is giving $30 million to Habitat for Humanity:
The program, which aims to make at least 5,000 Habitat homes more energy efficient, will provide energy-efficient and sustainable building resources and funding for 17 percent of all single- and multi-family homes that Habitat builds in the next five years.
Scientists have created a groundbreaking library of avian flu antibodies:
These antibody libraries hold the promise for developing a therapy that could stop a pandemic in its tracks and provide treatment to those infected, as well as potentially pointing the way towards the development of a universal flu vaccine. The expanded treatment and containment options offered by Sea Lane’s antibody libraries could help provide healthcare officials, researchers, and governments with unprecedented resources to combat this serious global health threat.
In related news, Australian scientists report progress in understanding the mechanisms of acute respiratory distress syndrome, and American researchers have tracked the seasonal migration of the flu virus, which could help to improve vaccines.

Speaking of viruses, this is really fascinating:
A common, naturally occurring virus that attacks cancer cells but appears to be harmless to normal cells is being studied as a possible treatment for malignant, highly aggressive and deadly brain tumors called gliomas.
Having watched a family member die of a glioma, I hope very much that something comes of this.

A British church is refusing to perform heterosexual marriages:
North London's Newington Green Unitarian Church is taking a stand for gay and lesbian couples by refusing to conduct any heterosexual marriages until Britain's Civil Partnership Act is changed to allow religious content in civil partnership registrations. The church will conduct only blessing ceremonies for both gay and straight couples who have legally wed in a civil ceremony, according to BBC News.
Meanwhile, a Methodist church in Oregon has voted to accept LGBT members.

A new study contradicts a conservatarian article of faith:
Researchers led by Y. Tony Yang of George Mason University and Michelle Mello of the Harvard School of Public Health investigated the effects of malpractice risk, as measured by insurance premiums and various tort reforms, on the number of OB/GYNs in the United States between 1992 and 2002....The study found that the supply of OB/GYNs had no statistically significant association with premiums or tort reforms. Most OB/GYNs did not respond to liability risk by relocating out of state or discontinuing their practice. Tort reforms, such as caps on noneconomic damages, did not help states attract and retain OB/GYNs.
Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon has asked the FBI to investigate Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's anti-immigrant raids:
Last week, the Arizona Ecumenical Council and American Jewish Committee issued a joint letter saying the raids had "evoked a 'police state' atmosphere" and led to "detainment on the basis of a racial profile and dehumanization of innocent people."

They were joined on Friday by the Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, which echoed calls for a Justice Department investigation.
Last, but certainly not least, Alberto Gonzales is having a tough time finding a job:
The greatest impediment to Mr. Gonzales’s being offered the kind of high-salary job being snagged these days by lesser Justice Department officials, many lawyers agree, is his performance during his last few months in office.
In light of which, Patricia Lee Sharpe at WhirledView offers him some not-so-friendly advice.

Now that all that's out of the way, we can give Images of Arctic Polar Science Stations 1881-1884 (via Plep) the attention it deserves.

Which reminds me: It's high time you familiarized yourself with the most common killer whale dialects. When you're finished, you can examine the phonographic ephemera at Nipperhead. And take a tour of Kudzu-Covered Houses (via Neatorama).

The lilting music of pinecones splitting open in the heat provides the perfect soundtrack for these photos. You'll find other exciting soundscapes here.

Furthermore: A gallery of Chinese cigarette cards. A timeline of Black Flag Hair: 1976 - 1986. Examples of immersive video, courtesy of The Bioscope. The Specimen Showcase of The Fluorescent Mineral Society.

Cinderella Stamps. An amazing collection of x-ray movies. Inconceivably beautiful microphotographs by Dennis Kunkel.

And now, I'll leave you to puzzle over "Dream of Toyland" by Arthur Melborne-Cooper (1907).

(Illustration at top: "Landscape" by Sidney Nolan, ca. 1965. Nolan's one of my favorite painters; I believe this work is for sale, if anyone feels like picking it up for me.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Abolishing Human Development

I'm embarrassed to report that the editors of the Las Vegas Review-Journal have got the goods on me and mine:

[W]hat can one conclude from environmentalists' insistence that coal be removed from the country's energy portfolio? That their focus has moved from reducing pollution to abolishing human development and prosperity.
This is one of my favorite denialist fairy tales: Once upon a time, environmentalists were reasonable people who simply sought to make this country a happier, healthier place. But now, sad to say, they've all turned into dirty fucking hippies who hate prosperity.

Naturally, this drastic change comes as quite a shock to the RJ, despite the fact that it's been a conservatarian article of faith for years. I can't recall when I first saw this tactic used; it must've been at least two decades ago. Since then, I've been alerted hundreds of times to the overnight transformation of the environmental movement from a well-meaning group of seal fanciers to a force for anarchy, poverty, and chaos that won't rest until we're all shivering in the darkness.

Despite hating prosperity and all its good works, environmentalists are also well-connected moneygrubbers, with a staff of "well-paid lawyers" who delight in terrorizing the defenseless fossil-fuel industry. Who can doubt that when America falls, these opportunists will land on their feet? Once the collapse comes, and we're reduced to living in caves and trees, we're sure to find that the Sierra Club has cornered the market in clay and wattles; unless you want your rosy-haired, golden-cheeked children to run around as naked as jaybirds, you'll have to pay your Green Overlords as many cowrie shells as they ask.

The editors aren't provincials by any means; they're worried about all of us. Still and all, there's no harm in using plucky little Nevada as an example of the deadly peril we face:
Nevada's demand for electricity has grown 230 percent faster than the rest of the country, and is expected to double in less than a decade.
You can see the bind they're in, sitting out there in the sun-scorched desert, with the hard-earned money of hapless gamblers piling up in their coffers. Do you have any idea how much coal it takes to power a single hotel like the Rio? If you did, you'd stop worrying about Appalachian mountaintop removal, and start worrying about how much air conditioning it takes to keep Penn Jillette from cooking down into six cubic yards of reeking fat.

Not that it matters or anything, but the Review Journal is owned by The Stephens Group, which has made extensive investments in fossil fuels, and has been accused of far worse things than that.

Main Street Cred

Molly Ivors has scathingly addressed most of the problems with Maureen Dowd's latest manifesto on political authenticity, but a couple of further points jump out at me.

I was amused by Dowd's reference to "white, blue-collar voters in 'Deer Hunter' and 'Rocky' country." While beating up on Obama for taking an anthropological interest in "colorful locals," she sees fit to represent those same locals to us via Oscar-winning Hollywood movies (one of which was a textbook example of antiwar defeatism!). How's that for out of touch?

Although she proposes to speak up for blue-collar values - which she explicitly identifies with guns, naive religion, racism, and the worship of bowling trophies - she has no ability to make them coherent, let alone meaningful. The mere attempt leads her to write gibberish like this:

Members of my clan sometimes were overly cloistered. But they weren’t bitter; they were bonding. They went to church every Sunday because it was part of their identity, not because they needed a security blanket.
Identity is a security blanket, of course, and Dowd clings tooth and nail to the one she's borrowed from her totally non-faggy father and brothers, even though (or because) she herself is an elitist and a hussy and a snob according to most of the traditional standards she hopes to uphold.

"Uphold" is the wrong word, I suppose. Dowd doesn't want to live by those standards; she just wants to use them to beat up on men who don't meet her hopelessly conflicted, pre-critical standards for masculinity. The entire column is dedicated to the proposition that Obama is yet another goddamn faggot fairy nancy boy like Gore and Kerry, who, if he becomes president, is liable to think before he does stuff, instead of wielding authority for the sweet sake of it, by divine right, like Dear Old Dad would've.

Hillary's appalling in her own way, of course. She's ferocious, which is unbecoming in any other woman than Maureen Dowd, and "she fights like a cornered raccoon," which is a simile revealing enough to make Freud himself blush.

But ultimately, Obama's failure to be a proper man is far more offensive than Hitlery's ferocity. He has "the detached egghead quality" that voters equate with "wimpiness, wordiness and a lack of action," as you can plainly see from his unprecedented success in the primaries. He talks about arugula (to farmers who grow it for a living, granted...but still, doesn't arugula sound gay?).

He treats cheese and salami "as intriguing ethnic artifacts," as evidenced by the fact that...well, by the fact that he looked at them, I suppose. And he's also a know-nothing know-it-all, who surrounds himself with "academic experts" as though the God-given gift of a penis weren't enough to make him an instant expert on any topic worth understanding.

The implication of all this, as far as I can tell, is that it'd be better to have your access to healthcare or education taken away by a real man, than to have it expanded by a sissy.

Dowd knows how far to go too far, so she understands that resenting other people's money is as déclassé as making hostile generalizations about women is hip and edgy. It's not that Obama is wealthy or educated that's the problem, ultimately; it's that he can't "feign Main Street cred."

Given that imposture is a given here, along with the condescension it implies, how do we know when a politician is successful at it? By the reaction of objective commentators like Dowd, natch, who can easily spot the difference between "sampling" a beer and drinking it, and between "examining" cheese and looking at it.

You can't curse the darkies darkness without lighting a candle - everyone on Main Street knows that - so Dowd offers some friendly advice:
In the screwball movie genre that started during the last Depression, there was a great tradition of the millionaire who was cool enough to relate to the common man — like Cary Grant’s C.K. Dexter Haven in “The Philadelphia Story.”
Once again, Hollywood - that cesspit of depravity - has all the answers. Oddly, although Dowd points out that Adlai Stevenson was so Obama-esque that his detractors, with rare invention, called him "Adelaide," she seems to be unaware that Cary Grant was reviled, in the same era and by a similar type of person, as a fag and a commie.

But that's beside the point. The larger problem is that it's psychosexual trainwrecks like Maureen Dowd and Chris Matthews who get to decide who's "cool enough to relate to the common man," while downplaying the extent to which this "relation" is one of ruler and ruled.

(Illustration: 2007 Canadian Club ad, via Accordion Guy.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Pestle of Assimilation

Bob Johnson of BET explains what's wrong with the candidacy of that boy Obama:

“[I]f you take a freshman senator from Illinois called ‘Jerry Smith’ [i.e., a white man] and he says I’m going to run for president, would he start off with 90 percent of the black vote?” Johnson said. “And the answer is, probably not.”
Not without being called a commie, a racist, a terrorist, an elitist, an opportunist, a class warrior, an empty suit, a demagogue, and a hypocrite, that's for sure.

It'd be terrible if blacks voted for Obama simply because he's "one of them," instead of looking at more important factors...like whether or not they'd like to have a beer with him, or how well he bowls, or whether he prefers orange juice to coffee, or how many times he mentioned Jesus in a speech. Doing so would confirm their adherence to "identity politics," which can be broadly defined as the belief that the United States comprises a variety of people who have vastly different experiences of what it's like to be American, and whose problems won't necessarily be solved by another round of corporate tax cuts, or some splendid new war.

People who believe in this fairy tale have forgotten the ideal of equality on which this country was founded; in doing so, they've revealed themselves as the second-class citizens we always suspected they were.

Summoning the better angels of our nature is supposed to be effortless for Americans, like hating fags or snubbing panhandlers. And yet, I can't quite bring myself to respect Johnston, despite his status as a poster child for Black Capitalism and his earnest efforts to repeal the Death Tax. There's something especially ugly about accusing black voters of a shallow approach to politics, at a time when powerful media personalities are worrying themselves sick over Obama's bowling skillz and diner etiquette.

Conventional wisdom says the black population is susceptible to identity politics largely because of ancient grudges that it refuses to give up. Presidential candidates are accordingly supposed to repudiate this dour outlook, and lead black voters towards a more "mature" political understanding (c.f., Obama's claim that America can atone for past crimes by clinging to the dreamy exceptionalism that made them possible).

White America has its own forms of identity politics and its own grudges, God knows, but candidates are generally supposed to treat those as common sense, or badges of authenticity, or worse yet, as "values." To put it another way, blacks are flattered for what they may become, if they submit to the Mortar of Assimilation, while whites are flattered for what they are (i.e., the hand that wields the pestle).

This is a longstanding and important tradition, so it's no surprise that Obama's occasional attempts to turn it on its head have landed him in hot water. You're not supposed to pity "regular" voters, or psychoanalyze them, or accuse them of being somehow unaware of where their own best interests lie. Those approaches are strictly for teh darkies, queers, and bitches, all of whom have a boundless need for constructive criticism from the likes of Georgie Anne Geyer and Maggie Gallagher.

The way to show respect for regular folks is to portray them, per Atrios, "as part of some community of simpletons whose comfort zone is so narrow that they all freak out if someone dares to drink a different brand of beer," while interpreting their legitimate resentments and insecurities as tacit approval for offshoring, deregulation, and the destruction of the social contract.

Anything else would be elitist, you see.

(Illustration: "The Mortar of Assimilation – and the One Element That Won't Mix." From Puck, 1889.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Music Blogging

Dedicated to Echidne.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

The other world is pressed
Against the glass.

A kind of heaven, a known nothing.

Call out to Mexichromis macropus
To colors never seen before
But most familiar.

(Photo via Umiushi Zukan.)

Friday Hope Blogging

A new law in Wisconsin allows victims of domestic violence to get out of rental agreements without being penalized:

The law makes leases void if landlords punish tenants for calling police or emergency services. It also prohibits municipalities from enforcing ordinances that charge fees to property owners when tenants call police for help in domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking situations.
A bid to end affirmative action in Oklahoma has failed miserably:
The motion to withdraw the measure says backers do not believe that the number of signatures required to get on the ballot has been obtained. To get on the ballot, the petition would need 138,970 valid signatures.
There's more trouble brewing for Fred Phelps:
A federal court has ordered liens against the staunchly fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church, which recently lost a civil suit, The [Baltimore] Sun reported Monday.

Judge Richard D. Bennett of the U.S. district court of Maryland ordered church founder Fred Phelps and his two daughters to post cash bonds of $125,000 and $100,000 within the next 30 days. The judge also placed a lien on an office building owned by the elder Phelps that is worth $232,900. No money may be borrowed against the equity in the buildings, and no new mortgages can be issued on the property.
A federal judge has blocked a uranium mining operation near the Grand Canyon:
After a day-long hearing, a federal judge Friday evening issued an injunction against VANE Minerals and the Kaibab National Forest, halting uranium exploration on public lands within a few miles of Grand Canyon National Park.

“This order stops uranium exploration on the banks of a national treasure,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Forest Service had allowed drilling to begin while the case was pending, so the order comes as a major relief. We’re elated.”
Archaeologists from the United States, Israel, and Palestine are collaborating on historic preservation:
For the first time, the would-be peacemakers publicly revealed the fruits of their negotiations, and underlying research, to some 200 Israeli archaeologists during a four-hour presentation on Tuesday evening at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. The plan involves the return of artifacts and agreement on the protection of designated archaeological sites....

Boytner and Dodd share a long-standing interest in the connection between politics and archeology and, in the first two years of a five-year process beginning in 2002, they put together an electronic database of more than 1,500 sites and tens of thousands of artifacts that would fall into a legal limbo if and when the final boundaries are drawn between Israel and a Palestinian state.
Speaking of historic preservation, "Richard Moe, president of National Trust for Historic Preservation, argues that historic preservation has long been a tool with which to fight global warming":
This emphasis on new construction is completely wrong-headed. We can’t solve the problem by constructing more and more new buildings while ignoring the ones we already have. All green technology used in a new building represents a new impact on the environment. The greenest building is one that already exists.

The United States Energy Information Administration data suggest that buildings constructed before 1920 are actually more energy-efficient than buildings built at any time afterwards – except for those built after 2000. Furthermore, in 1999, the General Services Administration found that utility costs for historic buildings were 27 percent less than for more modern ones.
Things alerts me to Low-tech Magazine, which has won my antiquarian heart with an article recommending that you "turn off your flat screen television and get lost in 17th, 18th and 19th century optical entertainment." The revolution will not be televised; it'll be praxinoscopic!

A new water heater reportedly reduces energy consumption by means of a heat pump. That's interesting, but I was even more intrigued by this plea for help:
[W]hy doesn't my fridge connect to the outside world? In wintertime, there's plenty of cold air for free, just outside my window. In summertime, the hot air from the fridge's air pump gets recirculated into my already-overheated house. Seems like a problem looking for a solution. Any takers?
Seems like a good question to me....

Another day, another alleged breakthrough in solar panel design:
By using a popcorn-ball design -- tiny kernels clumped into much larger porous spheres -- researchers at the University of Washington are able to manipulate light and more than double the efficiency of converting solar energy to electricity.
Inhabitat discusses solar balloons:
These solar balloons are as low-impact as power plants get, since their infrastructure is composed entirely of a control panel, a helium supply cable, and a power cable. Residential possibilities abound, as Cory and Gurfil estimate that one or two balloons would fulfill the electrical needs for one home, and they have suggested that multiple balloons can be linked together to power apartments and communities.

The design is also ideal for a multitude of off-the-grid applications, with the potential to bring power to deserts, isolated islands, ocean-bound freighters, and heavily forested landscapes. Additionally, the balloons’ eminently deployable nature makes them perfect for disaster and emergency situations, since the balloons are quick to set up and can be delivered via air.

The Sietch Blog reports that big business is clamoring for "an eight-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit."
“We believe solar projects will become cost effective in the future without the federal tax credits,” said Edward Levin, vice president of global structure products at Morgan Stanley, “But the current federal tax incentives are still vital for industry growth and continued investor confidence. The tax incentives need to be extended to avoid a market interruption that could significantly set back U.S. solar development.”
No word yet on whether Levin reeks of patchouli or plays hackeysack. But it's looking as though his wish may be granted.

New York governor David Paterson says he will not allow an LNG terminal in Long Island Sound:
Gov. David Paterson said Thursday that New York won't approve plans for a $700 million liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound, a project supporters say would reduce utility bills but that critics say would be an environmental hazard and a possible terrorist target...."The fact is, Broadwater is behind us," Paterson said at a news conference at a state park along Long Island's north shore. A crowd of about 200 politicians, environmentalists and Long Island residents applauded.
The movement against animal confinement at factory farms is expanding:
Growing public awareness of the environmental, public health, and animal welfare challenges associated with animal confinement has lead several major grocery stores, fast food chains, and meat producers to phase out some of these practices. U.S. companies that have responded to consumer concern in recent years include Safeway, North America's third largest grocery retailer; leading pork producer Smithfield Foods; and hamburger giant Burger King.

Mounting legislation is forcing companies to curtail confinement as well. The E.U. voted to ban veal cages, breeding pig crates, and windowless "battery cages" for hens, and the laws first went into effect last year. A campaign is now under way in the largest U.S. agricultural state, California, to hold an animal welfare referendum during the November election. A handful of other U.S. states have passed bans on veal and pregnant sow crates, but the California initiative would make it the first to outlaw all three confinement practices.
There's talk in the UK of requiring magazines to inform readers when photos of models have been airbrushed:
Following the British Fashion Council's Model Health Inquiry last December, which questioned the part airbrushed images play in perpetuating an "unachievable aesthetic," digitally enhanced images — in other words, airbrushing — are set for some closer inspection. The U.K.'s Periodical Publishers Association said Tuesday it will set up a working group with the BFC and London magazine editors to discuss the use of digital enhancements in fashion photography.
AIDG Blog tells you everything you ever wanted to know about dry toilets. AfriGadget explains the benefits of the Universal Nut Sheller. And a centuries-old Amazonian farming technique may turn out to be very timely:
Fifteen hundred years ago, tribes people from the central Amazon basin mixed their soil with charcoal derived from animal bone and tree bark. Today, at the site of this charcoal deposit, scientists have found some of the richest, most fertile soil in the world. Now this ancient, remarkably simple farming technique seems far ahead of the curve, holding promise as a carbon-negative strategy to rein in world hunger as well as greenhouse gases....

They also suggest that this so-called “biochar” profoundly enhances the natural carbon seizing ability of soil. Dubbed “black gold agriculture,” scientists say this “revolutionary” farming technique can provide a cheap, straight-forward strategy to reduce greenhouse gases by trapping them in charcoal-laced soil.
The Memphis Zoo has successfully bred the critically endangered Mississippi gopher frog:
Using in-vitro fertilization techniques learned while breeding Wyoming toads in 2004, the zoo has produced 93 Mississippi gopher tadpoles, a number nearly matching the 100 frogs still living in the wild.

Scientists are setting up a global system of hydrophones to monitor ocean noises, and protect whales and other marine mammals.
“The ocean is a noisy place,” said Sofie Van Parijs, marine mammal acoustician at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and a project scientist. “It’s full of natural sounds and those from human activities, and there is substantial evidence that the level of man-made noise is rising. Marine mammals and many fishes are highly dependent on sound for communication, navigation, foraging and predator avoidance. We need to understand how these animals, especially endangered and protected species, are impacted by sounds from many sources to be able to better manage and protect these living resources.”
A massive new survey of Madagascar wildlife is expected to aid conservation efforts:
The study is unprecedented in terms of not only the number of species examined (some 2,315 species in six groups), but also because of the project’s scale and resolution. The biodiversity, climate and habitat of the entire 226,657 square-mile island, which is nearly a third larger than the state of California, were examined....

“While some of the key areas of biodiversity are under protection, many are not. This study will help direct conservation plans to help protect the most species possible, with special consideration given to those animals and plants that are most endangered,” said the study’s lead co-author Dr. Claire Kremen, an associate conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and UC Berkeley assistant professor.
Four Legs Good informs me that short-snouted seahorses are living in the Thames estuary, which is a sign that clean-up efforts have been successful:
The seahorses were discovered during surveys over the past 18 months, but this was kept secret until yesterday, as the seahorses were not fully protected until then.

Short-snouted and long-snouted seahorses now have full legal protection from being killed, caught or disturbed.

Canada is creating a new national park comprising 1.9 million acres:
Naats'ihch'oh, which means "stands like a porcupine" in the language of the local Dene aboriginal people, is an important habitat for grizzly bear, Dall's sheep and woodland caribou.
Ask for it by name.

CKR was kind enough to send me an interesting article on the insecticide DEET:
[B]y pinpointing DEET's molecular target in insects, researchers at Rockefeller University have definitively shown that the widely used bug repellent acts like a chemical cloak, masking human odors that blood-feeding insects find attractive.

The research, which will be published in the March 13 issue of Science Express, now makes it possible not only to systematically improve upon the repellent properties of DEET but also to make it a safer chemical.
CKR also brings us some truly shocking news: a new study suggests that spending money to help other people is more rewarding than spending it on oneself:
Losing both the pleasure of sharing with others and the warmth of identifying with our nation could be part of the uneasiness people express in agreeing with the pollsters’ “the nation is on the wrong track.” We have been told for so long now that keeping as much of our money as possible is the best of all possible worlds, that it’s likely that these losses would be unarticulated. But the Science article points to a need to help others that is deeply embedded in our nature.
Wine may protect against dementia, so drink up (and pour one for me while you're at it...this is thirsty work!).

The photo at the top is from a Flickr set by Susan Bein. Her other sets are stunning too...especially Ghost Towns of Eastern Oregon (via Lens Culture).

Furthermore: A survey of Russian nuclear research facilities. Documentary films on American folk traditions at Folkstreams.net, featuring footage of Othar Turner and Peg Leg Sam Jackson. Vintage cartoon sounds at Retronomatopeya (via Coudal, if memory serves).

A talking scarecrow from 1931. The sounds of cotton machinery. Gorgeous maps of the Martian canals at BibliOdyssey. The exciting world of date nails. And an amazing collection of Movie Title Screens (this link is definitely via Coudal).

Last, a solar eclipse, filmed in 1925 from a dirigible.