Century Marks

Century Marks

Climate-change conversion

Michael Stafford, a conservative and former Republican Party officer, has had a Damascus Road experience on the issue of anthropogenic (human-made) global warming (AGW). He said he could no longer ignore the facts. There is virtually no debate in the scientific community about the Earth warming and a near consensus that human activity is responsible for it. As a Catholic, he says that the leading role played by his church and the pope on this issue has convinced him it is a moral imperative to address AGW. Opinion in the U.S. seems to be moving in the opposite direction due to the tactics of the climate denial industry and the increasing radicalization of the political right and the rise of an extreme form of libertarianism within it (caglecartoons.com, August 11).

Let’s sing

Since World War I, Minneapolis has had a tradition of community singing festivals cosponsored by the Park Board and the Minneapolis Tribune. That tradition was revived last year by Betty Tisel, a local singer and activist. A recent singing festival included songs like "This Little Light of Mine" and "Tenting Tonight," an antiwar song sung by both sides in the Civil War. Tisel points out that if we're going to work together to build a just and sustainable world, we need local cultures that are joyful and participatory. She says that people feel energized and connected by these local songfests and ask, "When can we do this again?" (MinnPost.com, April 7 in Utne, August 17).

Birds of a feather

In his 2008 book The Big Sort Bill Bishop documented how transient Americans are increasingly choosing to live in politically like-minded neighborhoods. While not shocking, the consequence of this is that people are less inclined to encounter others with opposing points of view, and when they do they seem very alien and even threatening. This movement toward homogenous neighborhoods is making it easier for parties to gerrymander congressional districts, which merely exacerbates the problem. Primaries become the real battleground in many districts, and independent voters end up being the losers ("The Cook Report," NationalJournal, August 5).

Things done and undone

In a representative sample of Americans, researchers discovered that regrets over inaction were more severe and lasted longer than regrets about actions. Regrets more often than not had to do with situations which couldn't be fixed. Loves lost and unfulfilling relationships were the most common regrets, followed by family matters. Women had more regrets related to romance than men, while men had more regrets about work than women. People with higher levels of education tended to have more career-related regrets (Mike Morrison and Neal Roese, Social Psychological and Personality Science, March 14).

Hating Abe

In the history of Abraham Lincoln haters, Pink Parker of Troy, Alabama, must be near the top. When he returned from serving in the Confederate army, he discovered his house burned, his slaves freed and his livestock gone. Each year on the anniversary of Lincoln's death he would march around town in his Sunday clothes, wearing a badge celebrating the "death of Old Abe Lincoln." He offered the town a large granite monument with the inscription, "Erected by Pink Parker in honor of John Wilkes Booth for killing old Abe Lincoln." The town declined, so Parker put it in his own front yard, where it became a tourist attraction (David W. Blight in The Global Lincoln, edited by Richard Carwardine and Jay Sexton, Oxford University Press).