Monthly Archives: August 2012

Mark Lynas – The God Species

Mark Lynas – The God Species – Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans (2011)

An attempt to reinvent the Green movement as more pro-human and pro-science. Humanity should aim to live within certain planetary boundaries, (such as 350 ppm CO2, and max 0.001% yearly extinction rates). With the help of planning, science, and glorious futuretech, we can achieve this without compromising living standards or growth.

Read: Half.

Recommended: Weakly. If you’re a traditionalist Green, you may find his support of genetic modification, nuclear power, and economic growth usefully provocative. Environmentalists will certainly become more effective if they listen to him. The rest of us don’t need to be told that solving environmental problems with the use of authoritarianism and population reduction is .. wrong. And, at times, Lynas tips over into a kind of technocratic mysticism that sounds like the Green version of the Singularity. He dreams of a new age, the age of the God Species, where humanity will manage its own ecosystem, like a Gaia made manifest. Humility would be a better approach. Even if these planetary boundaries are as important as he says, (and he doesn’t really make that case convincingly), respecting them does not mean we must or should become planet-scale gardeners.

1950s movies marathon – part 97

A Face in the Crowd (1957, USA, Kazan)

A drunkard hobo turned free-talking radio talk show host sells out to the corporate elite and becomes a bullshitter on national TV, a man who understands his mass audience so well that he despises them all. Watched it all. The Elvis era is barely a year old, and TV only a decade, and already the message movie folks believe they can see where it’s all headed: Individualism, sex, and consumerism, in a hot, steamy embrace. And they were right, it was. That’s what we got. And that’s not such a bad thing, considering the alternatives. But nobody can accuse the result of being honest.

The Night America Trembled (1957, USA)

This TV documentary tells the story of how Orson Welles’ 1938 War of the Worlds radiocast fooled thousands of gullible people into thinking they were being invaded by Martians – which itself is a myth that has fooled hundreds of millions of gullible people, and you’re probably one of them. Aren’t facts fun? Watched: 6 minutes.

My Gun is Quick (1957, USA)

Well, something is changing in Hollywood. They barely even pretend any more that the women who hang around in cheap bars in hard-boiled detective stories aren’t prostitutes. And the hard-boiled private investigators are getting harder-boiled. Watched it all. It’s up there with the good noirs, and not in a phony retro way either. Robert  Bray punches like he believes it.

James Delingpole – Watermelons – How Environmentalists are Killing the Planet, Destroying the Economy and Stealing Your Children’s Future

James Delingpole – Watermelons – How Environmentalists are Killing the Planet, Destroying the Economy and Stealing Your Children’s Future (2011)

Another candidate for most idiotic book of climate skepticism, this is a book-length version of that type of blog post where you repeat some things you’ve read on the internet in a hyperbolic and folksy way. 300 pages of it.

Read: Half, at which point, after ranting for 136 pages without touching on any specifics of climate theory, Delingpole declares that that should be sufficient evidence to settle the matter, so now let’s just talk about how much we despise those environmentalists. Future readers who find my copy in a second-hand book store will find an angry exclamation written in the margin at this point. I was waiting for him to start the part of his book where he actually makes some arguments. But no, that was it.

Recommended: No. Delingpole’s climate skepticism is so content-free that I wonder if he’s paid by Greenpeace to discredit the rest of them, (and I’m not the first to suspect this). Delingpole believes the Hockey Stick is the central pillar of global warming, (which will be news to climate scientists). He believes the “warmists” lost the debate and should have admitted defeat back in 1998, because that’s when the earth stopped warming, (a statement so stupid, even skeptics who use the “warming has stopped” argument will blush in embarrassment). And that’s actually about as deep as his views go.  The rest is rhetoric. Enjoyably written, though. He should start a blog. Oh.

Minireviews: David Archer – The Global Carbon Cycle, Helge Ryggvik – Til siste dråpe

David Archer – The Global Garbon Cycle (2010)

Carbon cycles the earth at different time scales. Over hundreds of thousands of years, rock dissolution and degassing from volcanoes and the deep sea use CO2 to keep temperatures within a livable range. Over thousands of years, changes in CO2 and temperature amplify each other for some unknown reason, starting and ending ice ages. On a human time scale, carbon sinks in the ocean and on land help halve the impact of human CO2 emissions. Nobody knows how long it will continue to do this, and it is possible that at some point we’ll trigger the positive feedback system. This would be bad.

Recommended: Yes.

Helge Ryggvik – Til siste dråpe (2009)

The forgotten economic concept of land rent makes it morally questionable to profit from oil, and is the reason why the oil economy has such a destructive effect on everything it touches.

Read: Half.

Recommended: No. The moral dilemma of oil profits would have been relevant 40, or at most 20, years ago. Today, the only relevant oil dilemma is whether it is right to pump it up at all. And even if you do find this relevant, Ryggvik wanders about without focus, and doesn’t even explain what we should have done differently, (dump the oil at cost + “fair” profit? And then what?) There are two potentially interesting, much shorter books hiding in here: A socialist analysis of the economic dilemmas of oil, and a critical history of the Norwegian oil industry. But this book is neither of them.