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denial

It seems to me that all of us are in denial. We know climate change is almost certainly coming, and it’s going to be bad. Yet we continue to fly around in airplanes and can’t even conceive of a future in which air travel is prohibitively expensive and unethical. Some of us try to be as green as possible, but all that means in practice is turning off a light now and then. People say they recycle, they’ve changed their lightbulbs, but this sort of action is completely trivial in the face of what is needed if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. I’m not sure why people even think doing such tiny things is an achievement, why isn’t it just the norm?

I think there’s an interesting parallel between illegal file sharing and climate change. We know file sharing is wrong, and probably harmful to the creators of the movies, TV shows and music we enjoy. Yet we keep on doing it with abandon. We know it’s wrong, but continue to do nothing to change our behaviour. It’s just too hard.

My generation and young people generally, have the most to lose from a continuation of the status quo – yet we continue to act like nothing is wrong. In our lifetimes, the world will get warmer, the seas will rise, millions of people will be displaced, the poor will be forced further into poverty. I realise that there are a number of extremely concerned, energetic and active youth activists who are working tirelessly to raise awareness about climate change, but why don’t the rest of us really care? Why aren’t we doing anything about it? Continue reading “denial”

omniscience

I don’t believe in god, but I sometimes like to think of some all-knowing omniscient thing in the sky that knows the answer to all the questions everyone has ever asked.

In a sense, the idea of ‘progress’ is the act of moving towards the knowledge this thing has. Every time a scientist thought up some new scientific theory this thing would look at it and shake its head patiently. But it would never get involved.

Every time someone sat a test, this thing would know all the answers. Every decision that anyone makes, this thing would know the inevitable outcomes. Every time people got married it would know whether they were going to get divorced.

It would see everything in the past and everything in the future. It might be watching us all slowly tracking towards our own self destruction, or towards a future where we’re all happy and all our problems have been solved. It would see unrequited love and impossible love and happy love. It would see each little happiness and triumph, and each moment of anguish, amid a huge sea of human experience. But it wouldn’t be cynical, or angry, or ashamed; it would be eternally patient and understanding.

I guess I just like to think that something, somewhere, is keeping the score on the rough and tumble of everyday existence.

Edited October 2013

The veil of ignorance

I’m doing this pretty cool course on moral and political philosophy at the moment and we discussed John Rawls‘ theory of justice. We did a thought experiment at the end of one lecture, which was pretty interesting so I’m going to share it with ya! It’s slightly difficult to explain, but stick with me.

Imagine you’re the ruler of a country and you must decide on a random distribution of money to give to each third of society. Continue reading “The veil of ignorance”

lessons to be learnt

350-kiwi
A climate change demonstration in Wellington, New Zealand. Picture copyright Fritz2.

“…an important thing to understand about any institution or social system, whether it is a nation or a city, a corporation or a federal agency: it doesn’t move unless you give it a solid push. Not a mild push – a solid jolt. If the push is not administered by vigorous and purposeful leaders, it will be administered eventually by an aroused citizenry or by a crisis. Systematic inertia is characteristic of every human institution, but overwhelmingly true of this nation as a whole. Our system of checks and balances dilutes the thrust of positive action. The competition of interests inherent in our pluralism acts as a break on concerted action. The system grinds to a halt between crises…”

John W. Gardner speaking to the National Press Club, December 9 1969.

I’ve been doing a history project recently on the environmental movement, and the lead up to the first Earth Day in the U.S. on April 22nd, 1970.  I thought this was a really interesting quote about institutional inertia in dealing with serious problems. He’s talking in the context of the environmental crisis back then, but his words could just as easily apply to environmental problems and the failure of politicians and leaders to tackle them today.

Today the American political system is seemingly incapable of combating climate change, despite the best efforts of the Obama administration. Back in the late sixties I think activists and ordinary people felt the same kind of frustration at the elite in Washington, unwilling or unable to do something about the pollution of the environment that those that care about climate change and a whole host of other issues feel today.

The lesson we can learn from the 1960s and 70s is that activism works. Continue reading “lessons to be learnt”

this is real life

I wrote recently about the Notorious XX album by wait what, which has supposedly “garnered critical acclaim” (you can never trust press releases though!) and received one million downloads. The 24 year old New Yorker just released a new full length album a few hours ago called this is real life and it sounds pretty awesome. It’s a pay-what-you-want release with all proceeds going to promote youth writing for 6-18 year olds. The thing I love about mashups is that they bring together different artists, who I’ve quite often never heard, into something interesting and new. Not only are they great pieces of music in themselves, but they introduce you to a whole heap of choice bands. And the Notorious XX has already shown me that Wait What is a master of the mashup album.

I love that this can be released literally six hours ago and I can already be listening to it and sharing it with you! The wonder of the internet! Give it a listen and tell me what you think

Sorry for posting so much music recently!

The Desktop Wallpaper Project

I read this awesome design blog called Kitsune Noir The Fox is Black , and every week they have a different artist/designer contribute a spiffy wallpaper. The result is the Desktop Wallpaper Project – an endless supply of beautiful wallpapers. I like starting up my computer and being greeted with fantastic art, and I bet you do too, so go and check it out. Pictured is my favourite wallpaper so far by Cody Hoyt – delicious.

Edited October 2013 to update links

The Gospel of Consumerism

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I was reading this interesting article called ‘The Gospel of Consumption‘ by Jeffrey Kaplan and it raised a number of interesting points. In developed countries over the twentieth century, productivity and real wages have grown a huge amount. People’s work creates more value per hour, and hence they are usually paid more. Kaplan writes that in the United States, 2005 per capita household income was twelve times what it had been in 1929. If we were to go back to the standard of living that people in 1948 enjoyed, we would only have to work 2.7 hours per day.

The article raises the interesting question of whether we wouldn’t all be better off if we didn’t work so hard and enjoyed more leisure time. Instead of chasing after the next generation of TV or a fancier car or a new cellphone one could relax and read a book or spend some time with your family or something. Kaplan talks about an interesting and hugely popular pilot scheme that Kellogg (the cereal guy) ran in his factories where all his workers shifted to six hour days (30 hour weeks). It meant less pay for workers, but substituted the “mental income” of more leisure time instead. There was also the added bonus of more employment to go around. The workers loved it – it meant more time to spend with their family or gardening or playing ping pong.

Imagine if as a society we decided to work less – we would certainly have to endure a drop in income, but would we be any less happy? I know for a lot of people who are struggling in poverty cutting back on hours is impractical, but for the majority of rich westerners it’s an interesting question.

Most of us equate happiness with the number of material possessions we have – we’ve got into this cycle of consumerism where we can never have enough. After a certain point, we just need to recognise that we’ve got enough material stuff, work less hours, enjoy more leisure time and ultimately be happier.

Image credit: mark sebastian (Creative Commons BY-SA)

The Notorious XX

This album by wait what is really really good. It’s a mashup between The XX and the Notorious B.I.G. Yeah anyway just listen to it and hopefully you’ll be impressed/addicted as well.

I love that people do this stuff, it’s just a bit of a bummer the copyright holders don’t recognise the value in having their works remixed and issue take down notices..

The apocalypse

PBF Comics

So I was reading this almost certainly bogus article on how the BP gulf disaster may have disturbed this giant methane bubble under the sea bed and it will burst out and the apocalypse will be upon us.

It got me thinking (in an entirely unoriginal manner) about the end of civilisation. Think of all the people trying to phone each other and say “I love you! I’m sorry I’ve been such a douche and forgive me etc etc” a la disaster movies. All the people with crushes/silently in love would be trying to get the message through before everyone dies in a giant fireball. All the angst and all the scientific discoveries and all the wonders of the world and all that ‘progress’ would just disappear. The human experiment would come to an end, eventually the Earth would recover and some new crappy creature would emerge out of the slime. Is it inevitable that each new creature screws itself over with it’s inventions or in the pursuit of it’s short-term self interest? It’s not looking too good for humans I have to say – our fossil-fueled spaceship is heading towards the reset button of climate change at an alarming speed.