Paul Gilding, author of The Great Disruption, is optimistic about climate change. The coming crisis will be catastrophic, he predicts, but humanity will rise to the challenge:
Historically, looking at World War II as the prime example, we don’t act until the crisis hits [...] We don’t act until the evidence is so overwhelming we have no choice left. But then we do amazing things. [...]
There will be arguments and debates and conflicts between countries. And we will think we won’t make it various times [...] but what I’m saying is from history the evidence is that we will make this and we will work it out. The only thing that has to change is for us to end the denial that it’s happening and get to work on fixing the problem.
Matt Ridley is an even deeper optimist: Based on our very long track record for predicting global catastrophes — and getting it wrong — he thinks it’s quite possible that climate change, while undeniably real, may not wind up being the downfall of human civilization that the current doomsayers are making it out to be. (I suspect Al Gore might consider Ridley to be part of the “climate of denial,” though to be fair Ridley isn’t a denialist — merely trying very hard not to be unnecessarily alarmist about the issue.)
In any case, I continue to find his confidence in progress and human innovation deeply persuasive:
Here’s an excerpt from his talk, “Deep Optimism,” for Fora TV:
I highly recommend watching the whole thing (and get Ridley’s answers to the questions posed in the title, while you’re at it). Ridley’s argument doesn’t fit neatly into “progressive” or “conservative” philosophies; it requires a shift of thought away from pat categories and — perhaps more profoundly — away from the easy and sadly pervasive assumption that it’s all downhill from here. There are plenty of reasons for rational optimism — regardless of how difficult it seems to be to recognize them.
Andrew Sullivan’s readers have been discussing whether or not America is now like late imperial Rome. One points out:
When did we become decadent? When did the fall of our great society begin? The Rome comparison is a beloved cliche to kick around the comments section on liberal and conservative blogs alike. And let’s be honest: people have been kicking that around for over 100 years. And while I’m sure we’d like to believe our 20-30 year window is the perfect encapsulation of a Romanesque collapse, can we at least acknowledge that the “fall” of Rome is generally considered to have occurred over a period of 300 years? We’re not even that old. If this is the fall, then societies down the road will barely recognize we even got off the ground. Me? I’m optimistic.
I think the point when I realized our political system and our entire culture was not like late imperial Rome was when I read all the articles and posts by people declaring that our political system and our entire culture was like late imperial Rome. [...]
[W]hat has become an industry in this country — doom and gloom — threatens everything we are.
This country has endured very difficult and trying times and prevailed. Suddenly, we are in danger of extinction because of the deficit (just the part since Obama was elected) and Medicare and unions. Isn’t anyone acquainted with Hitler, the Great Depression, or the Civil War? The most decadent thing in our culture is our hyperbole and our panic. What happened to fearing nothing but fear itself? [...]
As for me, I believe in this country, and sometimes surprising even to myself, I believe in the ultimate decency of the American people. We can be late imperial Rome, or we can choose not to be. It is that simple. The difficulty lies in what we do after we stop whining.
Nothing is written, and no one will save us but ourselves. We still can.
More reasons for optimism here.
I dove into this video without preamble, without reading preliminary descriptions, and found percussionist and composer Evelyn Glennie simply amazing. Glennie gives an inspiring talk — and spectacular performance — that winds up being not just about how to listen to music with your whole body, but ultimately about how to be truly aware of other people and completely alive to the world.
And she blew me away even before the 10:27 mark in the video, when I found out… well, just watch.
Because people who have English accents aren’t automatically smarter or more sophisticated than people with American accents, thank you very much.
The main significant effect found in this study was that people who’d lived at least three months outside the US rated the English accent significantly lower than people who’d only lived in the US. In fact, Americans who had not lived abroad considered the English-accented person to be much more intelligent than themselves, but the people who had lived abroad rated the standard American accent more intelligent than the standard English one. My preferred way of interpreting this (a bit tongue-in-cheek) is that Americans are happy to rate the English as more intelligent than themselves up until they actually start meeting and talking to the English.
And speaking English with a French accent doesn’t make you sexier or classier than someone who speaks English with, say, Chinese or Southeast Asian inflections. And so on.
(via The Dish)
TED has been giving a lot of love to cellists lately. (You’ll find no complaints here!) Here, Maya Beiser uses technology, voice, and dramatic physical performance to take the cello into exciting new territory:
The pieces, commissioned for Beiser, are Steve Reich’s “Cello Counterpoint” and David Lang’s “World to Come.” There’s lots more on YouTube; her performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” for one. Go explore!
In memory of Clarence Clemons, whose white-hot saxophone lifted many of Bruce Springsteen’s classic songs to transcendent heights. A huge loss for Springsteen, for his fans, and for great-hearted rock and roll.
A 2009 interview with Jon Stewart here.
From Dany Laferrière’s novel I Am a Japanese Writer:
The space police help identify you (Where do you come from?). Born in the Caribbean, I automatically became a Caribbean writer. The bookstore, the library and the university rushed to pin that title on me. Being a writer and a Caribbean doesn’t necessarily make me a Caribbean writer. Why do people always want to mix things up? Actually, I don’t feel any more Caribbean than Proust [...]
As a teenager, I came across one of [Yukio Mishima's] novels at the back of some old cupboard along with a bottle of rum. I began with a long gulp of liquid fire. Then I opened the book (The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea) and a swarm of buzzing vowels and consonants flew into my face. They had been waiting forever for a visit. In a case like that, you don’t start classifying. You don’t look that gift horse in the mouth. Mishima’s book didn’t say to itself, “Well, well, here’s a good old Japanese reader.” And I didn’t look for a kindred spirit, recognizable colors or a shared sensibility. I dove into the universe that was set before me the way I dove into the little river not far from my house. I hardly even noticed his name, and it wasn’t until long afterward that I realized he was Japanese. At the time, I firmly believed that writers formed a lost tribe and spent their lives wandering the world and telling stories in all languages. [...]
I don’t understand all the attention paid to a writer’s origins. Because, for me, Mishima was my neighbor. Very naturally, I repatriated the writers I read at the time. All of them: Flaubert, Goethe, Whitman, Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Cervantes, Kipling, Senghor, Césaire, Roumain, Amado, Diderot — they all lived in my village. Otherwise, what were they doing in my room? Years later, when I became a writer and people asked me, “Are you a Haitian writer, a Caribbean writer or a French-language writer?” I answered without hesitation: I take on my reader’s nationality. Which means that when a Japanese person reads me, I immediately become a Japanese writer.
(Photo via The National Post)
Craig Buthod, 2010 Librarian of the Year, talks to the hosts of The Takeaway about reinventing the Louisville library system for the digital age. An interesting, er, takeaway: the more new technologies the libraries embrace, the more people check out physical books.
(Photo via The Guardian)
I so badly want to see this show.
The nod to “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music is brilliant. But here’s what’s truly funny about it: Everything the character sings about is an actual Mormon belief. What does it say about a religion when you don’t even need to twist or exaggerate its claims to make it look like a parody? And when you think about it, how much better would the claims of other religions fare, under such scrutiny?
Being wrong feels like being right, indeed.