Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

Adventus has posted a remarkable interview with Michael Berg, father of slain journalist Nicholas Berg:

O'BRIEN: But at some point, one would think, is there a moment when you say, 'I'm glad he's dead, the man who killed my son'?

BERG: No. How can a human being be glad that another human being is dead?
If a voice as sane and courageous as Michael Berg’s doesn’t inspire hope, nothing can, or should.

As pretty much everyone knows, a vaccine for cervical cancer has been approved for sale. That’s good news, of course. But it also raises questions, as Echidne notes:
Unless some form of financial subsidy is provided, most women will not have access to the vaccine.

Then there is the sex roadblock. A virus that is transmitted by sex! What will people say if we vaccinate our unmarried daughters?
She’s right (she’s always right), and yet I’m cautiously optimistic about what will happen if a vaccine against cancer is impeded by regressive ideologies. I think this is one case where humanism will win out (especially as regards financial subsidies). And it’ll certainly bring the basic problems of poverty and misogyny into very sharp relief.

In other news, China is mass-producing solar water heaters:
At least 30 million Chinese households now have one and last year the country accounted for around 80 percent of the world market, said Eric Martinot, visiting scholar at Beijing's Tsinghua University. "We are at 15 to 20 percent annual growth and I don't see that slowing down."
Bank of America is offering a $3,000 reimbursement to full- and part-time employees who buy hybrid cars. Interesting...but not as interesting as Wal-Mart's decision to hire the Rocky Mountain Institute as a consultant on transportation and redesign. I remain mistrustful of partnerships like these, but I agree with Triple Pundit that this seems like a very positive development.

I’m very pleased to see that many American cities are banning or restricting suburban cul-de-sacs:
The most common complaint: traffic. Because most of the roads in a neighborhood of cul-de-sacs are dead ends, some traffic experts say the only way to navigate around the neighborhood is to take peripheral roads that are already cluttered with traffic. And because most cul-de-sacs aren't connected by sidewalks, the only way for people who live there to run errands is to get in their cars and join the traffic….[I]n Rock Hill, S.C., which changed its rules in March, developers who build cul-de-sacs are required to cut pedestrian paths through their bulb-like tips to connect them to other sidewalks and allow people to walk through neighborhoods unimpeded.
American researchers have found a fungus that eats phenolic resins (which means we’re one step closer to a fungus that eats suburbs!):
A fungus that normally eats wood can also chew up some of the long-lasting plastic resins that clog landfill sites, researchers in the United States have found. This potentially offers an environmentally friendly way to recycle the waste.
Meanwhile, Japanese researchers claim to have found an energy-efficient way of detoxifying asbestos:
Researchers in Gunma Prefecture have developed an energy-saving device to decompose and detoxify asbestos that uses about 80 percent less energy than the conventional method.
A 750-legged millipede that hasn’t been seen for 80 years was rediscovered in California:
The species seems to be restricted to a single ravine in San Benito county, part of the California Floristic Province, a biodiversity hotspot.
To paraphrase Emma Goldman, "If I can't dance to the stridulation of fire ants, I don't want to be in your revolution.” Apropos of which, the sound library of the USDA’s Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit offers a guided tour of the aural unconscious:
The sounds of crickets courting and flies flying familiar to many of us, but have you heard a rice weevil larva eating inside a wheat kernel, a termite cutting a piece of wood, or a grub chewing on a root?
Not exciting enough for you? Click here to hear Plodia interpunctella larvae in dry dog food.

Note, though, that our recordings of these insects are much less impressive than the lyrebird’s recordings of us. Click here to watch the lyrebird imitate chainsaws, camera shutters, and car alarms. (I’m reminded, for some reason, of Philip K. Dick’s story “The Preserving Machine,” in which musical scores are changed into animals, with unexpected results.)

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