Posts Tagged ‘environmentalism’

A Word of Advice to Environmental Advocates: Stop Saying “Game Over”

It’s not helping…

The phrase “Game Over” has recurred several times over the last few months when scientists talk about the environment: Most famously, James Hansen of NASA said it about the potential impact of the Keystone pipeline; recently, Jane C.S. Long told The New Yorker that it would be “game over” if Arctic permafrost started to melt; the phrase has appeared in headlines and op-eds about seemingly every environmental issue.

I’m not sure if one scientist said it first, and everyone else thought it sounded cool, or if some liberal Frank Luntz-type sent some memo about the phrase to environmental advocates everywhere, or if it’s just a coincidence. Either why, though, they should really stop, for at least six reasons:

 

1) Saying “Game Over” makes you sound like you are talking about a video game Continue reading

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Monday Medley

What we read while looking into possible Richmond recruiting violations…

Freedom, Franzen, and the Modern Middle Class

As you probably guessed, Freedom is not free

What if, long after the time when you could reasonably consider yourself young, you came to discover that you had lived the wrong kind of life? That you had married the wrong person, worked at the wrong job, or raised your kids the wrong way? It’s probably fair to say that this realization would constitute a kind of living nightmare.

And yet, if freedom exists and we are all ultimately responsible for the choices we make, there is a very realistic chance that such a nightmare could become real. After all, we can’t expect every free person to make all the right decisions all of the time. What happens when free individuals make the wrong choices?

This is the question Jonathan Franzen explores in his new novel, Freedom, his long-awaited follow-up to The Corrections. Like that novel, this one is about a Midwestern family that’s trying to flee the Midwest. When we are introduced to the Berglunds—Walter and Patty—they are a Rockwellesque family living in suburban St. Paul. They are early pioneers in the gentrification process, and a quiet mix of acceptable liberalism (Walter’s an environmentalist who works for the Nature Conservancy) and old-fashioned family values (rather than working, Patty stays home and bakes cookies for the neighborhood).

But, like all Rockwellian veneers, there are many things beneath the surface, and they grow to undermine the family’s suburban splendor. Joey, one of the Berglunds’ perfect children, begins to terrorize his parents with placid rebellion, and this rebellion gradually pulls at the seams of their marriage. Patty, a former college athlete, viewed her family and her house and her life as primarily an extension of the competition she always thrived on while growing up. Meanwhile, Walter’s devotion to Patty is tinged with the worry that he was always his wife’s second choice; he is also concerned that his suburban life represents a betrayal of his political and environmental ideals. Inevitably, these anxieties over whether they’ve chosen the right kind of life manifest themselves in Walter and Patty’s marriage. At the end of the novel’s opening chapter, one of the Berglunds’ neighbors speculates: “I don’t think they’ve figured out yet how to live.” Continue reading

Fresh Mediocrity: A Review of Pret A Manger

Pret A Manger (“Pret”) is a London-based sandwich retail chain that has been expanding in the US. There are now 24 outlets in New York and one in Washington, DC. Despite encountering many Pret outlets in England, it was the latter outlet that gave me my first experience eating one of their celebrated fresh sandwiches.

“Pret A Manger” is French for ready-to-eat. You need not have an understanding of French, though, to know that their sandwiches are made fresh. They are all lined up in paperboard containers (used instead of plastic to emphasize the freshness!) on refrigerated shelves. You should be wary about not having a sandwich decision in mind before approaching the shelf, because if you stand dormant in front of a shelf for more than two or three seconds, a Pret employee will almost certainly cut in front of you to load on some more of the fresh sandwiches. They are, of course, loaded in the front rather than the back so every customer gets the freshest sandwich available.*

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Oscarpalooza: Avatar: Different Planet, Same Story

In honor of Oscar weekend, NPI is rerunning its reviews of the Best Picture nominees. Here, John S doesn’t buy into the Avatar hype:

The first 20-30 minutes of Avatar are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. The entire movie takes place on a planet, Pandora, that James Cameron essentially built from scratch and special effects. The closest analog I can come up with for this type of visual creation is the island part of King Kong, but Merian C. Cooper was working with slightly less technology. And even in Peter Jackson’s recent remake, with its gripping use of CGI, we were still dealing with large gorillas and dinosaurs… you know, things that are real.

Pandora’s not like that. Everything is made up, from the plant life to the small animals to the large predators to the indigenous population of humanoids, called the Na’vi. This also doesn’t include the human technologies portrayed in the film, which run from typical “this-is-taking-place-in-the-future” signifiers like extensive use of holograms and things that hover, to more extreme modifications of aircrafts and weaponry. In short, Cameron has done an excellent job creating an entire world. The visual elements of this world, thanks both to their natural richness and the 3-D enhancements, are stunning, and the first act’s introduction of Pandora and its inhabitants is engrossing.

After that, though, you might as well walk out, because there isn’t much story to speak of. Cameron, in his first film since the overwhelmingly successful Titanic, showcases his juvenile sense of dialogue, character, and story over and over again. Continue reading

Avatar: Different Planet, Same Story

The first 20-30 minutes of Avatar are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. The entire movie takes place on a planet, Pandora, that James Cameron essentially built from scratch and special effects. The closest analog I can come up with for this type of visual creation is the island part of King Kong, but Merian C. Cooper was working with slightly less technology. And even in Peter Jackson’s recent remake, with its gripping use of CGI, we were still dealing with large gorillas and dinosaurs… you know, things that are real.

Pandora’s not like that. Everything is made up, from the plant life to the small animals to the large predators to the indigenous population of humanoids, called the Na’vi. This also doesn’t include the human technologies portrayed in the film, which run from typical “this-is-taking-place-in-the-future” signifiers like extensive use of holograms and things that hover, to more extreme modifications of aircrafts and weaponry. In short, Cameron has done an excellent job creating an entire world. The visual elements of this world, thanks both to their natural richness and the 3-D enhancements, are stunning, and the first act’s introduction of Pandora and its inhabitants is engrossing.

After that, though, you might as well walk out, because there isn’t much story to speak of. Cameron, in his first film since the overwhelmingly successful Titanic, showcases his juvenile sense of dialogue, character, and story over and over again. Continue reading

What Common Human Behavior Will be Viewed as Mistaken in 100 Years?

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I’ve heard a variant of this question posed many a time, most recently by John S. If you look back at any slice of history, there were certain human behaviors, beliefs, and institutions that are now viewed as obviously wrong. Slavery, racism, and geocentrism are a few examples.* What is next?

*These examples are generally thought of as examples where we have made progress. Realizing that slavery and racism are immoral and that geocentrism is false represented a movement towards truth and rightness. I don’t endorse Condorcet’s view that history is always moving in the right direction: It is possible that we can move in a wrong or neutral direction (the stronghold that religion still has is one example that certainly would have disappointed Condorcet). Hence, my prediction is purely predictive/descriptive and I’m not making a moral judgment.
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