The NY Times has an OpEd on how we need to enlist the suburbs in the fight against climate change: How Green Was My Lawn (not very). The author notes that the environmentalist movement of the 1970s arose largely from within the ranks of the suburbanites, and that the modern climate movement does itself no favors, politically, by consistently pointing its many fingers at the sprawling, car and oil dependent developments in which many to most Americans live today. No doubt. Unfortunately, the persistence and proliferation of suburbia precludes so many cheap and effective means of reducing emissions that it’s insane to take it as a given. It’s not just oil for the cars. It’s the need to go far, and go fast, in a large private vehicle, regardless of what it runs on. It’s the expense of making suburban homes a factor of 10 more energy efficient compared to doing the same with row-houses that share walls. It’s the inability to share almost anything in a suburban context — the per-capita need for stuff is enormous when you have to own it all instead of accessing it as a service. It’s the unnecessarily vast amounts of concrete, steel, asphalt and copper in all the infrastructure required to support those dispersed dwellings.
And all for what? To support a transient cultural expectation. A particular ephemeral vision of affluence, which is itself largely born of government subsidies of and mandates for the creation of sprawl over the last 60 years. A century from now, if we successfully meet the climate challenge, we’ll look back at how we made a fetish of the single family home with the three car garage, and lump it in with the widespread use of DDT that inspired Rachel Carson, or the cancer-causing X-ray machines we used to have in shoe stores, or the way Victorian women would wear corsets so tight they couldn’t breathe, even sometimes having a couple of ribs removed to enhance their narrow waists. Suburbia is a fad, a phase, a peculiar addiction with very serious side effects that we can no longer ignore. It may be politically inconvenient, but the imperatives of the suburbs are almost entirely at odds with the imperatives of addressing climate change, and you cannot argue with the sky.
A great little thought from Nils Gilman on the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union for the Western welfare state. Broken and horrible though it was, the Soviet Union served western socialism by framing the discussion. Losing the “hard-left” peg for our Overton Window on social programs has led the entire discussion to slide quite a bit to the right.
A vast signals intelligence industry exists, and will sell its wares (including satellite data interception and undersea fiber-optic cable tapping) to any and all comers. Ironically, they were infiltrated by agents from Privacy International, a London-based NGO. Apparently the industry isn’t yet using its own technology to defend against critics. One has to wonder how long that situation will last.
An hour long interview based documentary by some Dutch filmmakers about the changing social and economic realities of southern California, in the wake of the financial crisis, and America’s general malaise.
It’s dangerous to cling to an identity which is no longer compatible with reality. Remember the Norse and their Greenlandic colonies. In the long run I think adaptability is the greatest kind of power you can wield. Evolutionary power.
We need, in so many ways, to move beyond thinking of ourselves as consumers, instead of citizens. Consumers, instead of producers and creators. Society and culture are almost infinitely flexible, if you’ve got the right mindset and a reason to change.
High-Tech Flirting Turns Explicit. Virtually all the damage resulting from “sexting” is done by the law, not the digital nudity. Eighth graders get naked. With each other. Theyve been doing this for a long time actually. And unlike getting pregnant at 14, having some nude pictures floating around is only serious if we choose to make it serious. It wasn’t so long ago that that was the age when people started getting married, after all. Instead of destroying their lives by registering them as sex offenders and trying to scare the other teens, why not accept it and change our norms surrounding nudity?
Another thing that cities do is make revolution possible. Which is interesting to think about, given that more than half the humans now live in cities, many of them in relatively poor, relatively un-free conditions.
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Continue reading Links for the week of November 19th, 2010