Saturday Links for the Week – July 15, 2006

If you do nothing else during this visit to How to Save the World, please look at the first two videos, and watch them one after the other — they’ll put a smile on your face.

Greening the South Bronx: From the 2006 TED Conference, Majora Carter talks about how the South Bronx community said ‘enough is enough’ to the trashing of their community for the convenience of more affluent and influential New York communities, and is building parks, dismantling expressways and rejecting polluting enterprises and waste dumps to take back their ravaged and impoverished community. Majora’s shy, halting, unassuming explanation of what her people have accomplished and are doing is mesmerizing, and drew a standing ovation from the crowd. To the black woman poet who said “The people of the hood can’t care about the planting of trees when they have to deal with the violence, the poverty, the drugs and the endless struggle of living here”, here is your answer. Thanks to patent/technology guru David Maurus for the link.

Greening the Jordan Desert: Australian permaculturalist Geoff Lawton accepted the challenge to try to create viable permaculture in a corner of Jordan horrifically desertified and awash with salt from the Dead Sea. This video describes the astonishing results. Again, this was a community-driven achievement — Geoff just supplied the know-how. One of the gardens is illustrated above. Put this accomplishment with what Majora’s community has done in the South Bronx, and you have to believe that with the right people invited and engaged, the right tools and knowledge, and trust in the community, bottom-up initiatives can accomplish anything. Thanks to Craig De Ruisseau for the link. [Addendum July 21: Slawek Rogulski actually pointed this link out to me back on July 2, and I lost track of it]

Keep Looking Up: Patricia Digh offers some inspiring advice for young people, but leaves us with the troubling thought that many of them are incapable of listening to it.

Three Ways to Persuade: Jeremy Heigh describes three ways to persuade people to do something: Pitching (carefully crafting the ‘elevator pitch’ that will, if they’re ready, blow them away when they hear it); Flipping (finding the ‘tipping point’ where the person who you are trying to persuade is most open and vulnerable to your argument, and focusing on that; and Pinging (bouncing ideas and information and opportunities for communication off the person you want to persuade, and then listening and paying close attention to the responses until you know so much about that person and their wants and needs that you don’t need to persuade them, you just respond to what they’ve already told you they’ll ‘buy’.

An Improvement on TinyURL: The short URLs that TinyURL and similar redirection services give you to replace those huge, impossible-to-remember-and-type URLs are really useful, but they’re so cryptic that you need to be very careful not to misspell them. Now, 310URL lets you pick your own short suffix to its prefix.

A Satiric Take on Higher Education: Also from the TED series, Sir Ken Robinson explains, in hilarious fashion, what’s wrong with the Western education system and how it could be made better.

Thought for the week, on a somewhat more sombre note, from WaPo journalist Robert Samuelson, entitled “Global Warming’s Real Inconvenient Truth” (thanks to Dale Asberry for the link):

[A new report from the International Energy Association indicates that, when it comes to global warming] we’re now powerless. We can’t end annual greenhouse emissions, and once in the atmosphere, the gases linger for decades. So concentration levels rise. They’re already about 36 percent higher than in 1800. Even with its [ambitious and optimistic assumptions] the IEA says another 45 percent rise may be unavoidable. How much warming this might create is uncertain; so are the consequences.

No government will adopt the draconian restrictions on economic growth and personal freedom (limits on electricity usage, driving and travel) that might curb global warming. Still, politicians want to show they’re “doing something.” The result is grandstanding. [Kyoto] allowed countries that joined to castigate those that didn’t but it hasn’t reduced carbon dioxide emissions (up about 25 percent since 1990), and by some estimates, Europe may overshoot targets by 15 percent and Japan by 25 percent.

Ambitious U.S. politicians also practice this self-serving hypocrisy. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a global warming program. Gore counts 221 cities that have “ratified” Kyoto. Some pledge to curb their greenhouse emissions. None of these programs will reduce global warming. They’re public relations exercises. (Note: on national security grounds, I favor taxing oil, but the global warming effect would be trivial.) The practical conclusion is that if global warming is a potential calamity, the only salvation is new technology.

The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral [and political] crusade when it’s really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don’t [or can’t] solve the engineering problem, we’re helpless [fucked].

Not that this is any excuse for not ratifying Kyoto and trying, as some countries are doing, to achieve or exceed emission-reduction targets. But the point is valid. Politicians and idealistic citizens who don’t understand the impossibility of massive consensus intervention in complex systems need to wake up to the fact that it is not in our nature, and not in the capability of our political, social and economic systems, to change quickly and radically enough to address or even reduce global warming. There is no precedent for such utter change occurring anywhere near this quickly in human history. It ain’t gonna happen.

Of course I also think it’s naive to believe, as Samuelson does (and as Bush does) in the god of technology as deus ex machina for the ‘problem’ of global warming. No technology has ever ‘solved’ a problem without raising or contributing to another intractable problem, usually more difficult than the one that was solved. To believe that some brilliant invention or combination of inventions will so reduce emissions (even in the face of political and economic indifference, intransigence, incompetence, and corruption that always mitigates against rapid introduction of all new technologies) that it will halt and reverse the accelerating effects of everything 6.5 billion of us are doing to add to greenhouse gases, is the technophile’s equivalent of The Rapture. And its believers must share with believers in The Rapture a fanatical refusal to acknowledge the lessons of history. Not to mention the laws of thermodynamics.

The answer, like the answer to the reclaiming of the devastated land of the South Bronx and Jordan, is not political or technological, though both may play a small part (or may make the situation worse). The only approach that might work, the only approach that ever has, is bottom-up, one person and one community at a time, with a hundred million networked small self-selected groups of engaged people, self-equipped with the tools and knowledge and the know-how to make effective use of them, trustingin themselves and in each other, and in the outcome — a better, healthier, saner and less destructive way to live.

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2 Responses to Saturday Links for the Week – July 15, 2006

  1. I enjoyed these links, especially the Ted videos. I wish you found more stuff like this share.

  2. ben 10 oyun says:

    thanks for all admin very good

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