Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘sustainability

Asteroid Philosophy

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You, and a quarter of a million other folks, have embarked on a 1000-year voyage aboard a hollowed-out asteroid. What sort of governance and society do you think would be most comfortable, not to mention likely to survive the trip without civil war, famine, and reigns of terror?

How do you design a society for the really long term? Charlie Stross uses a hollowed-out asteroid to jumpstart a thought experiment combining the Veil of Ignorance, the tragedy of the commons, sustainability, stability, and the long now. Watch out, true believers:

One thing I’m pretty certain of is that the protestant work ethic underlying American-style capitalism, with its added dog-eat-dog ethos, would be a recipe for disaster aboard a generation ship — regardless of whether it’s run as a democracy or a dictatorship. American (or British) working hours are a bizarre cultural aberration — and a very local one. More to the point, competitive capitalism tends to reward increases in operational efficiency, but efficiency is most easily optimized by paring away at the margins — a long-term lethal threat to life in this situation. The “tragedy of the commons” has got to be engineered out aboard a generation ship, otherwise the residents will wake up one [virtual] morning to discover someone’s acquired a monopoly on the oxygen supply. And that’s just for starters.

The comments are worth reading through as well; how else would I have found Wikipedia’s list of oldest companies, including Japanese construction company Kongō Gumi, 538 (!) – 2006? That’s Catholic-Church-style longevity. (via)

Unhappy Monday Links

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I have it on good authority that my friend Traxus was totally making fun of someone else in this post on blogging styles. That said, some unhappy Monday links.

* As you’ve probably already heard, Michael Jackson’s death has now been ruled a homicide. Let the feeding frenzy resume.

* Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. named a veteran federal prosecutor on Monday to examine abuse of prisoners held by the Central Intelligence Agency, after the Justice Department released a long-secret report showing interrogators choked a prisoner repeatedly and threatened to kill another detainee’s children. A good day for America (and for the rule of law). Hopefully this is the beginning and not the end.

* NJ-Gov: Christie’s lead has all but disappeared in the face of weeks of bad press. More from TPM.

* Elsewhere in New Jersey news UPDATE: from 1970: Foster parents denied right to adopt because the father is an atheist.

In an extraordinary decision, Judge Camarata denied the Burkes’ right to the child because of their lack of belief in a Supreme Being. Despite the Burkes’ “high moral and ethical standards,” he said, the New Jersey state constitution declares that “no person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience.” Despite Eleanor Katherine’s tender years, he continued, “the child should have the freedom to worship as she sees fit, and not be influenced by prospective parents who do not believe in a Supreme Being.”

People who love to tell New Atheists to sit down and shut up, take note.

* ‘How to Kill a City’: from an episode of Mad Men yesterday to the pages of the New York Times today. Via @mrtalbot.

* The Coin Flip: A Fundamentally Unfair Proposition.

* 12 Greenest Colleges and Universities, at Sustainablog. Vermont once again takes high honors.

* ‘Runaway consumerism explains the Fermi Paradox.’ (Via Ze.) This is actually an important plot point (with some nice twists) in a novel I’ve touted a few times here, Accelerando.

* And Fimoculous has your Curb Your Enthusiasm preview.

Monday Night Travel Catchup

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Catching up from travel back to NC tonight. Here are a few random links.

* Why aren’t universities spending their endowments?

* ‘Sci-Fi Writer Attributes Everything Mysterious To “Quantum Flux.”‘

A reading of Gabriel Fournier’s The Eclipse Of Infinity reveals that the new science-fiction novel makes more than 80 separate references to “quantum flux,” a vaguely defined force the author uses to advance the plot, resolve conflict as needed, and account for dozens of glaring inconsistencies.

* Ten things we don’t understand about humans.

* The world’s oldest map?

* Jared Diamond has lunch with the Financial Times.

With a nod to the feast before us, I say there seems little chance that Chinese or Indians will forgo the opportunity to live a western-style existence. Why should they? It is even more improbable that westerners will give up their resource-hungry lifestyles. Diamond, for example, is not a vegetarian, though he knows a vegetable diet is less hard on the planet. “I’m inconsistent,” he shrugs. But if we can’t supply more or consume less, doesn’t that mean that, like the Easter Islander who chopped down the last tree, thus condemning his civilisation to extinction, we are doomed to drain our oceans of fish and empty our soil of nutrients?

“No. It is our choice,” he replies, perhaps subconsciously answering his critics again. “If we continue to operate non-sustainably, then in 50 or 60 years, the US and Japan and Europe will be in bad shape. But my friends in the highlands of New Guinea will be fine. Some of my friends made stone tools when they were children and they could just go back to what their ancestors were doing for 46,000 years. New Guinea highlanders are not doomed,” he says, draining his pomegranate juice. “The first world lifestyle will be doomed if we don’t learn to operate sustainably.”

* And the line between fake news and real news continues to blur.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 11, 2009 at 1:35 am

Friday Night!

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Friday night in Albuquerque.

* Today in tasers: 72-year-old grandmother Tasered for refusing to sign a speeding ticket. New York judge allows Tasering to force compliance with DNA test. The system is working as intended; obviously these are both cases where lethal force would have been necessary in the absence of a Taser. (Via MeFi.)

* The Memory Card covers iconic moments from classic video games. Also via MeFi.

* Remembering Tiananmen.

* ‘Graveyard Civiizations’: The idea here is that we can explain the Fermi paradox (’Where are they?’) by assuming that exponential growth is not a sustainable development pattern for intelligent civilizations.

* Blue Eyes: The Hardest Logic Puzzle in the World.

* Empire Magazine has your spot-the-reference movie poster. Via Denise.

* Conan v. Super Mario. (Last two via Neil.)

* 40 Fantastic Sand Sculptures. Via my dad.

Written by gerrycanavan

June 6, 2009 at 1:21 am

Must Be Tuesday

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A little busy today, but here are a few links I’ve saved up.

* Watchmen link of the day: The Fate of Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis. Via the comments at the Candleblog review.

* Grant Morrison on the superhero genre.

I’m not even sure if there is a superhero genre or if the idea of the superhero is a special chilli pepper-like ingredient designed to energize other genres. The costumed superhero has survived since 1938, constantly shifting in tone from decade to decade to reflect the fears and the needs of the audience. The current mainstream popularity of the superhero has, I think, a lot to do with the fact that the Terror-stricken, environmentally-handicapped, overpopulated, paedophile-haunted world that’s being peddled by our news media is crying out for utopian role models and for any hopeful images of humankind’s future potential!

* Don’t Look Back—a flash game based on the Orpheus myth.

* Top 10 myths about sustainability.

* Bad news for solipsists: the universe exists independently of our observation. Via Kottke.

* Also from Kottke: famous directors take on famous comedy bits. A little amateurish, but it made me smile.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 10, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Seven Steps Toward a Sustainable Society

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Seven steps toward a sustainable society from Anne and Paul Ehrlich, recently submitted for President-elect Obama’s consideration via change.gov, via Dot Earth.

#1: Put births on a par with deaths.
#2: Put conserving on a par with consuming.
#3: Transform the consumption of education.
#4: Judge technologies not just on what they do for people but also to people and their life-support systems.
#5: Rapidly expand our empathy.
#6: Decide what kind of world we all want.
#7: Determine the institutions and arrangements best suited to govern a planetary society with a maximum of freedom within the constraints of sustainability.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 10, 2008 at 5:47 pm

Eco-Monday!

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Eco-Monday.

* “It’s not as safe, it’s bad for our planet and it’s clearly more expensive”: Why can’t we just stop drinking bottled water?

* Climate change ‘faster and more extreme’ than feared.

* A specter is haunting American environmentalism – the specter of failure. All of us who have been part of the environmental movement in the United States must now face up to a deeply troubling paradox: Our environmental organizations have grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to go downhill, to the point that the prospect of a ruined planet is now very real. How could this have happened?

* And according to Peter Salonius, a Canadian soil biologist, “humanity has probably been in overshoot of the Earth’s carrying capacity since it abandoned hunter gathering in favor of crop cultivation (~ 8,000 BCE).”

* This week’s icon is eco-tastic too—it’s a Greenpeace poster labeled “Stop the catastrophe” I found at grinding.be. The rejoinder in the tag is borrowed from Tim Morton: The catastrophe has already happened.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 20, 2008 at 2:55 pm