Saturday Links for the Week – April 21, 2007

vietnam landWhat it all means this week:

Imaginative Thinking to Address Complex Problems: A fascinating TED talk by 19-year-old biochemist Eva Vertes hypothesizes that cancer is not a disease but an attempt by the body to fight disease and injury. The implications if she’s right are staggering. When Einstein said we cannot solve intractable problems with the same thinking that led to them, this is what he was talking about. Thanks to reader Ed for the link.

Why This is Our Final Century: If you’ve read Flannery and Monbiot, you know that we need to reduce greenhouse gases quickly and dramatically to save our planet from climatic disaster. If you read this blog, you know why I, and others like John Gray, believe such drastic action will never occur. This week, we heard a new report from EU scientists saying that we will have to reduce emissions in affluent nations by 95% in the next forty years. And we heard the Canadian conservative government, ideologically in lockstep with the US Bush conservatives, declare that even the feeble and inadequate Kyoto targets would wreck the Canadian economy and as such are “unthinkable”. At a time when a leap far beyond Kyoto is desperately needed, it looks likely that Canada’s conservatives will choose to fight an election (and according to recent polls, do so successfully) on the grounds of reneging on Canada’s Kyoto commitments, propagandizing against both climate change dangers and the economic benefits of addressing them, and putting the immediate economic interests of the conservatives’ corporatist friends ahead of the survival of our civilization. Shameful, terrifying, and completely expected.

Jeffrey Sachs Hopes Against Hope: The BBC has the broadcast and transcripts of the 2007 Reith Lectures featuring anti-poverty activist Jeffrey Sachs. What’s fascinating to me is the audience reaction to Sachs’ arguments: The majority, hearing the facts of the state of our world laid out starkly, see free-market-skeptic Sachs as a pessimist and ask whether his self-proclaimed optimism is misguided. But the most informed minority, like Sir Christopher Meyer, see Sachs’ almost religious belief in “mass political awareness and social mobilization” as absurdly naive and unsupportable. Thanks to Jutta Ried for the link.

Ways to Go Green: Although it’s a bit bizarre to find on a website that promotes credit cards, Frugalist’s list of 57 ways to live more environmentally responsibly is a good one.

The Need for Debate: Dave Snowden, an accomplished debater, argues that learning and creativity are aided more by informed and articulate debate than by consensus-seeking. I see his point, but in my experience, most debates are neither well-informed nor articulate, and debaters too often have their minds already made up and are poor listeners. But, being Canadian (we are consensus-seekers to a fault) I lack the self-confidence and sense of urgency to debate Dave on the matter.

The Dark Side of India’s Economic ‘Prosperity”: Arundhati Roy, who has tried to explain to the world the horrific life (and suicide rate) of India’s destitute farmers (now mirrored in Australia), explains what’s really happening in India, events that we here almost nothing about in affluent nations. Thanks to Jon Husband for the link.

China Building a New Coal-Fired Power Plant Every Four Days: The cost of China raising even a small minority of its desperate underclass out of poverty is the destitution of the world.

“Ocean Desalination Does Not Work”: There is no simple techno-fix for looming global fresh water shortages.

Thought for the Week, from Brian Eno (thanks to Andrew Campbell for the citation):

“One of the things I’ve formulated recently, as a little rule of thumb for myself, is to say, a computer program should always allow you to continue working in the physical world that that activity suggests anyway. So if you’re working with a music program, you don’t have to keep going back to typing and using your mouse. People think that’s being kind of picky, and rather stupid, but I’ve always had this theory that the body is the large brain; it’s not like, this bit of you doesn’t matter and this bit does. The whole physical experience is what you make things with. Anyone who works with any tactile art form knows this. And with any tactile instrument. They know that a lot of your intelligence about what you’re doing is not happening, here [the head], it’s happening all over other parts of your body. It’s how your body feels about this sort of thing. Well, unfortunately, computer interfaces are so crude they’ve completely ignored that possibility. So, if I want drawing programs that automatically work with a pad or a pen or whatever – I have one in fact! – then I want music programs and I want synthesizers that give me that same kind of physical relationship, that physical musical relationship.”
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11 Responses to Saturday Links for the Week – April 21, 2007

  1. Dick says:

    Great links all. Thanks for them, Dave, even the bleaker ones!

  2. Kevin says:

    I have just finished reading Survival of the Sickest by Dr. Sharon Moalem. It covers some ideas about how what we currently consider to be a sickness is actually the side-effects of genes that helped our ancestors survive the plague or in cold climates.The author strays from the topic a bit, opting to cover a lot of other fascinating genetics related discoveries, but all in all its quite interesting.

  3. Dave Snowden says:

    Love it Dave, you challenge a position, but then do not want to debate it …… :-)I don’t think there is any issue in holding a position and arguing it for as long as possible. Provided you are then prepared to change your position afterwards. That is after all what happens in formal debate in which you support positions you do not necessariliy belief in, in order to explore the subject. Concensus on the other hand, if attempted too early means that a subject is not explored and we risk blandness, and failure to see opportunities.

  4. etbnc says:

    Are debate and consensus the only two options available to us?Are there ways we might expand that menu?Cheers

  5. etbnc says:

    Well, I’m pleased to see a mention of dialogue, or dialog, as we spell it south of the border. I have found some value in trying to practice dialog, and I see some value in the comparison table in the linked article about leadership.In debate and dialog, and other communication styles, it seems to me we encounter the most difficulty in the _behaviors_ we demonstrate while we debate and dialog and converse. We often describe our communication styles in terms of noble ideals. Unfortunately sometimes our behaviors undermine our ideals.It occurs to me that both debate and dialog work best when the participants have similar bodies of knowledge and experience from which they draw. Even dialog, which I think of as a kind of exploration, even dialog can be frustrating for me when I’ve already explored a topic. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to be patient while I wait for a conversation participant to discover a dead end road that I’ve already seen a few times.That’s why I’m kind of puzzled about the relationship of the second article, and its derision of McKibben and going local, to the first article about the value of dialog. I’ve explored the underlying assumptions of globalization enough to find that second article rather annoying. I’ve been down that road a few times. So has Dave. So have many of Dave’s readers. It’s tempting to short-cut the exploration process by declaring the essay a load of … something, but I’ll try to be patient and merely suggest that folks who have not yet explored the assumptions that underlie economic globalization would be well-served to explore those assumptions thoroughly.Cheers

  6. baaa says:

    good points etbnc. “frustrating for me when I’ve already explored a topic” – then use relationship, trust, influence, authority, politics, exploitation etc to teach, prove, enlighten, convince, force or just deem the exercise not a priority (such Pollard did with Snowden)why the second article???

  7. baaa says:

    further to “then use relationship, trust, influence, authority, politics, exploitation etc to teach, prove, enlighten, convince, force or just deem the exercise not a priority (such Pollard did with Snowden)” from above, you can also “delegate” the discussion . . .

  8. Cory says:

    Formal debate in school is a way to train kids to research and articulate positions on important issues, and to listen and respond to argument. These are good skills. The students of course are motivated to win and focus on winning only. True debate that will lead to the enlightenment of citizens and solving critical problems of society needs to focus on getting to the truth of the matter. Once the truth is sussed out, the critical and creative minds need to collaborate to reduce barriers to solutions. Consensus is important for buy in to enacting the solution. And to get to consensus, we need to find ways to debate vigorously without belittling those who don’t agree with us.I watched Faith Without Fear, about Irshad Manji, the Canandian muslim woman who is speaking out against injustices she sees in her faith. I was very impressed by her courage to challenge and debate leaders in her religion worldwide: would like to learn some that that chutzpa to debate the climate change issue with “global warming non believers”.

  9. Dave Pollard says:

    Interesting debate on debate, here. I was being ironic in my comments about Dave Snowden, who I admire immensely. I think it is necessary to strike a balance between closing yourself off to contrary points of view too early (which I think we are by nature predisposed to do) and getting so ‘rapt up’ in the debate that it becomes an end in itself and an excuse for permanently deferring action. I also think many debaters, and listeners to debates, are dishonest — the debaters too often are really seeking to reassure themselves, and the listeners too often selective in their listening to only hear what agrees with their preconceptions. And to me a dishonest debate is a waste of time and worse than no debate at all. And finally, debate can only put what we think we know and believe intellectually up to scrutiny — much of what we know and believe is emotional or sensory or intuitive, and our languages are just inadequate to debate these, and so debates tend to belittle non-intellectual knowledge, which biases us against this important knowledge and renders much debate merely academic.

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