Saturday, July 01, 2006

Al Gore Interview in Rolling Stone

Al Gore 3.0

Bush is insulated -- his staff smiles a lot and only gives him the news that he wants to hear. Unfortunately, they still have this delusion that they create their own reality. As George Orwell wrote, we human beings are capable of convincing ourselves of something that's not true long after the accumulated evidence would convince any reasonable person that it's wrong. And when leaders persist in that error, sooner or later they have a collision with reality, often on a battlefield. That, in essence, is exactly what happened in Iraq. But we have to keep that from happening with the climate crisis. Because by the time the worst consequences begin to unfold, it would be too late.

On Air-Conditioning

Fascinating pair of articles on air-conditioning in America:

Air-conditioning: Our Cross to Bear

America's Air-Conditioned Nightmare

What they're saying is, "I am God."

You ain't seen nothin'...

In every religion, it seems, you'll find a group loudly proclaiming its allegiance and submission to the dictates of scripture -- the Bible, the Koran, the Pentateuch, Dianetics, it doesn't matter which. Their every action, every aspect of their lives, they say, is shaped and determined by the commands of their holy book.

Such sternly obedient believers face an epistemological dilemma. How can they know, with certainty, precisely what it is that their scripture demands? Most of us believer types, in every religion, tend to interpret our holy books through the lenses of reason, tradition and experience. But for these biblicists, reason, tradition and experience must all also "submit" to the dictates of the scripture. The meaning of scripture, therefore, has to be treated as self-evident and unambiguous -- two things which scripture tends self-evidently and unambiguously not to be.

Suggest any form of scholarship, textual, literary or linguistic criticism and the biblicists tend to get angrily defensive. These are all useful and important tools for determining what it is that scripture says and means and requires of its adherents. But the biblicists aren't interested in refining or clarifying their supposedly self-evident interpretations. They reject all such study as a potential threat to their own preferred interpretation.

And that, right there, tells you all you need to know about their supposed allegiance and obedience to their scripture. The scripture is not their true starting point after all. Their starting point is their own preferred interpretation, their own preference. They, and not their supposed Word of God, are the ultimate arbiters of truth, reality and meaning.

That's why whenever you hear someone say that the Bible is "inerrant" and "infallible," what they're really saying is that "My reading of the Bible is inerrant and infallible." What they're really claiming is, "I am inerrant and infallible."

What they're really claiming is, "I am God."

Friday, June 30, 2006

An Open Letter to Fellow Environmental Activists

On the viewing of An Inconvenient Truth by your friends:

Do not say, "I told you."
Do not say, "I told you over and over."
Do not say, "I've been screaming about this all my life, why did it take you so long to listen?"

Do not say these things.

Welcome your new activist fellows. Do not resent them because a cool documentary may be making environmental political activism fashionable. Welcome them, and encourage them to stay active. Do not bore them with stories about how it was twenty years ago, for you and the rest of the "real environmentalists". Do not assume they are like you. Do not asume they are unlike you.

Do not make them feel out of place because their eyes opened when they did. Their eyes opened. Be grateful. We still have a chance to change the world, if we open enough eyes.

If you care about the future, your own, your children's, your company's, you must care about the environment.

Do not resent the winds of change. Give your new fellows a leg up toward the future. Tolerate.

Why do I write this? Because I must learn this lesson.

I used to dislike eggplant

A Memo from the Puff Pastry Department of Parenthetically Speaking:

Well, I had eggplant once, in a curry, and disliked it. But that was the winter we were starving and literally foraging rather than go to the grocery store. We ate it anyway.

And now? Over the years, my opinion changed and I considered the eggplant "tolerable". Then, with the introduction of The China Moon Cookbook, "downright tasty".

A recent dish has, born from desperation (cf., invention, mother of), raised the taut-skinned purple oblong to new heights in my estimation.

To wit, Eggplant Ratatouille:

slice an eggplant and salt slices to remove excess water. Weird, but do it anyway.

Cube eggplant slices.

In a wok or heavy skillet, cook 1/2-1 onion, chopped, in olive or corn oil, with a couple of cloves of garlic (minced).

Add a couple of tomatoes, quartered;
A bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin;
1-2 zucchini, cubed;
The cubed bits of eggplant;
Or any other vegetables that strike your fancy. It's a casserole. Go nuts.

Top with a few hearty dashes of olive oil, and some chopped fresh or dried herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, cilantro).

Cook on low heat, covered, for 45 minutes, then uncovered until the stuff is the thickness you find appealing. How about the length of time it takes you to cook up a pot of rice? That's probably good.

Scarf down.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"An Inconvenient Truth"

I saw "An Inconvenient Truth" this afternoon.

Let me say the end first: go see it. Those of us who have lived with this data as it's been released over the years (ice cores, and glaciers, ocean currents and species migration), seeing all this at once may be personally overwhelming. It was for me.

That is not sufficient reason to avoid this film.

For those not already in the choir, I expect this film to be revelatory. The truths in it are inescapable: global warming is real, and we must do something about it. If you have family, tell them to see it. And make sure they do -- buy them a copy for Christmas when it's available. Make sure they sit all the way through it until the end, and read aloud the list of things we all can do to make a difference. And then go do them.

Gore clearly, and very plainly, links CO2 and temperature rise, explains how the greenhouse effect works, explains the importance of the polar ice caps to the engine of the Earth, demolishes the faux "debate" business in the modern media about climate change, and works his way methodically through a host of the impacts of human endeavor on this planet. Human beings are a force of nature, Gore calls us, and I think that's entirely accurate.

There is one thing that I thought demonstrated his target audience was more of a college-student level than older adults, and that was the sparse reference to parenting. I think bringing that closer to the fore might make sense. Because what parent wouldn't sacrifice for their child, so that they can have a better life than we do?

So, I'll close with a reference to the Roger Ebert review of "An Inconvenient Truth": "In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to."