Caveat Emptor

The ad hominem argument is often derided as a logical fallacy, and it is assuredly true that one’s failure to live one’s values is not necessarily a refutation of the validity of the values themselves. Nevertheless, there’s much to be said in favor of the proposition ‘if you talk the talk, then walk the walk.’

A new and apparently very popular book by “best-selling author” Daniel Goleman, Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything is discussed in an interview with the author in How to Live With Ecological Intelligence in Scientific American.

I can’t express an opinion about the book, not having read it — but before you do, you may want to read this interview, with special attention to Goleman’s response to the final question “how are you practicing ‘ecological intelligence’ in your own life?”

Goleman answers “I’m starting to do small things. When I started this exploration I was completely clueless. I’m still relatively clueless.” He then offers precisely three ways in which he’s “started practicing green” in his own life: His wife has bought some stainless steel water bottles so they no longer buy bottled water. They threw out some plastic food storage containers that “seem to leach BPA.” And he asked his lecture agent to stop scheduling him for worldwide trips, and to send videos instead. “I’ve done this in half a dozen venues and it works well. It cuts down enormously on my carbon footprint.”

Yeah. Quite the ecomaniac, huh?

Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Library Ghosts

The Encyclopaedia Britannica, justly renowned for its serious and sustained attempts to attain definitive status, occasionally ventures into the more imaginary realms of the surreal or serendipitous. Consider, for example, their blog’s offering from the American Library Association’s George Eberhart: Ghosts in the Library!

A selection from Library Ghosts – Midwestern US:

“Hutchinson Public Library. The ghost of Ida Day Holzapfel, head librarian from 1915 to 1925 and 1947 to 1954, has been seen and heard since her death in California in 1954, according to the October 31, 1975, Hutchinson News. Library staffer Rose Hale said she saw a lady standing below the stairs one day. She did not know the woman’s name, but when she described the woman to another library employee, Hale was told she had just described Ida Day. Other employees claim to have heard footsteps in the basement, and it became a shared joke that whenever anything was misplaced or missing, Ida Day took it. The stacks area in the southwest corner of the basement is notorious for cold spots, disembodied voices, and hazy apparitions.”

Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Ice Have It

Maximum and minimum ice cover surrounding Antarctica, 2008-2009

Maximum and minimum ice cover surrounding Antarctica, 2008-2009

Minimum and maximum ice cover over the Arctic Ocean, 2008-2009

Minimum and maximum ice cover over the Arctic Ocean, 2008-2009

The extraordinary complexity of predicting with great confidence and precision the exact effects of climate warming are emphasized in two new studies of the earth’s polar regions. New Insight into Decline of Arctic Sea Ice Cover explains in just what way we have previously underestimated the propensity of the Arctic Ocean ice to deform, fracture, disperse and melt, leading to a significant underestimate of the pace of and degree to which the icecap over the north pole has melted. Contemporaneously, it appears we have made the opposite error in assuming the effect of melting in the south polar regions — overestimating sea level rise consequent to even total melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Want to learn more? NASA’s Earth Observatory has an excellent overview article on Sea Ice, complete with a number of interesting charts and photos.

Polar Bear on Sea Ice

Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Politics of Self-Promotion

The Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based public policy institute, has released a 23-page study by Shawnna L.M. Bolick indicating that “between 2006 and 2008, elected officeholders in Arizona spent at least $4.2 million in public funds on name and photo placements in various official publications.” The publication, Shameless Self-Promotion: How Politicians Use Your Money to get Re-elected, is focused upon the state of Arizona, but certainly describes a phenomenon which applies almost universally in American politics from the local to state and national levels. The author suggests that “the use of public funds for what essentially constitutes campaigning is ethically and constitutionally suspect. Moreover, this practice puts others who attempt to run for office at a serious disadvantage. An incumbent who gets so much ‘free press’ is a difficult opponent indeed. And for most elected officials, the lure of using public funds to self-promote is simply too great to resist.” The document abounds with examples which will bring to your mind almost numberless similar cases from your own city, county and state.

For the quickest possible overview, see the initial press release and executive summary of the report.

Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment