The sudden, hideous explosion of oil in the Gulf of Mexico is the latest reminder of who we really are. By we, I mean:British Petroleum: Broken Pipe? Bigtime Pollution?Our government: The Bush administration's constant deregulation is a factor, but Barack Obama avoids offending the big oil and coal companies. We as in us: Every politician in America notices that Americans scream any time the price of oil begins to rise.
The book Two Billion Cars arrives in stores at the close of a quarter that has seen auto sales plummet 30, 40, even 50 percent, depending on the manufacturer. The Big Three went to Washington to plead for a handout (and Toyota has passed GM as the world’s biggest automaker, even though its sales are also in steep decline).
Hammarby Sjostad used to be an industrial brownfield, toxic and unpopulated. It was slated to become part of the Olympic Village in 2004; the bid failed, but the momentum for a new neighborhood was enormous, and a town was built. It was designed to be an ecological gem, a place where the average person would live half again as lightly as the average Swede, who is already among the most ecologically minded citizens of the developed world.
In the last year or so, the data about climate change has grown steadily darker. The scale and the pace of global warming seem larger and faster than we realized even a few years ago. Perhaps the most powerful proof was the rapid melt of Arctic sea ice last summer.
A decade ago most experts thought of global warming as the largest challenge civilization faced—but one that would happen relatively gradually. That cautious optimism has faded as one study after another has proved that the earth was more finely balanced than we’d understood. The climate crisis is bearing down on us much faster than most people realize. The temperature rise has started melting every frozen thing on earth. In the Arctic Ocean, white ice that reflected the sun’s rays is quickly turning into water that absorbs more of the sun’s heat. And, as the ice melts, there’s the very real chance of a catastrophic rise in sea levels.
If there is one sure curse in this world, it’s mineral wealth. Is there gold or diamonds or oil beneath the surface of your land? Then count on poverty, gross inequality and autocracy above. Of all the possibilities, coal is the worst, dirty in every way. When it’s burned, it fills the air with carbon, powering the global warming now unhinging the planet. But before that silent tragedy can take place, there’s a noisy horror—the kaboom of exploding mountains across the southern Appalachians.
As I write these words, the season’s first named storm—Alberto—is developing in the Caribbean. We’re now in what everyone refers to as hurricane season, which is joining winter, spring, summer, autumn, Christmas and football as a fixture on the calendar. (It probably has a brighter future than winter.)A few years ago, words like these would have been scoffed at by most mainstream Americans, treated as the unlikely emanations of radical greens. (Trust me on that.) But within the past year or so the tide has turned. Katrina had something to do with that. So did Al Gore.
In their book, Off Center, political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson use statistics to prove that the Republicans have defied political gravity. Instead of trimming their sails to the moderate breezes of the American middle, the Republicans have lurched far to the right. “According to the conventional wisdom about American politics, this shouldn’t be possible,” write Hacker and Pierson.
In The End of Poverty, Jeffrey D. Sachs convincingly depicts world poverty as a manageable problem and presents a plausible and nearly painless plan for dealing with it. His optimism may be somewhat misplaced, but his hopeful, simple prescription is powerful.
I live in the north country mountains, where winter begins in late October and gives up, some years, in early May. That means you come to church half the year in boots—heavy boots, in case you get stuck in a snowbank on the way. Which means, in turn, that the carpet on the floor better be some shade of brown.
The Farmer’s Diner in Barre, Vermont, serves the foods you would expect at a diner—ham and eggs, home fries, hamburgers, milkshakes. And it serves them at prices you would expect—the average check is about $7.50.
"People will be inclined to give their children those skills and traits that align with their own temperaments and lifestyles,” writes Gregory Stock, an apostle of human genetic engineering who heads the program on Medicine, Technology and Society at UCLA. “A devout individual may want his child to be even more religious and resistant to temptation.”
The main story in a recent issue of the newspaper that serves my small town was "Nevins Retires After Decades of Parts Service." Nevins sold auto parts for 40 years. At the end of this career, he offers no deep conclusions about life, but he does recall that "years ago, all Chevrolets took the same points, same condenser," and now auto parts have proliferated.
Up until some point in the 1960s, people of a certain class routinely belonged to segregated country clubs without giving it much thought—it was “normal.” And then, in the space of a few years, those memberships became immoral.
Ten years ago I wrote a book called The End of Nature, which was the first book for a general audience about the question of global warming. At the time, climate change was a hypothesis. By burning fossil fuels and thereby emitting great quantities of carbon dioxide, human beings would trap heat near the planet's surface, changing its weather.
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