World Affairs


Power plant in FinlandRecently I’ve been writing a series of columns on climate change over at ThomasNet Green & Clean. Although I do talk about the scientific arguments around human-caused global warming, I’m also interested in this issue as a social controversy, that is, what is it that drives people to one side or the other of the question? (Photo: Power plant, Finland. Credit:eutrophication&hypoxiaCC BY 2.0)

Here are links to each of the articles up to now:

Does the Public Really Believe Humans Are Causing Climate Change?

All This Wrangling Over Climate Change – What’s Up With That?

The Climate Change Controversy – What’s It Really About?

So, Have They Figured Out That Global Warming Is Real?

ARB — 19 Dec. 2011

Here’s a possible classification of extremists:

1. True Believers — People whose extremism arises from a sincere belief in the extreme ideology being promoted.

2. Needle-Pushers — Cynical practicers of realpolitik who adopt the extreme position hoping to counteract extremists on the opposing side and “move the needle” toward their own position, getting partisans in power or policies enacted that are more desirable from their point of view.

3. Knee-Jerkers — Followers who are led to back an extremist position because that position’s arguments speak to their own prejudices or harmonizes with their cultural background.

AB — 2 December 2011

I came across this useful infographic from MBAProgramInfo.com, which analyzes the effect of outsourcing on the U.S. jobs picture (this image is reduced in size — click on the image to link through to the original and examine it in full size):

Infographic showing U.S. jobs picture

AB — 30 August 2011

My article at ThomasNet last week generated some controversy — see “All This Wrangling Over Climate Change – What’s Up With That?” Commenters on multiple ideological sides of the debate chimed in with comments — passionate but civil, for the most part.

Some readers were frustrated with me because I took a more or less neutral stance. Not that I have no opinions about climate change. It’s just that my purpose in this case is to try to shed some light on the controversy as a controversy. Here is a key excerpt:

Grappling on the global-warming battlefield are two parties in a high-stakes political conflict: On the extreme ends of the global warming controversy, believers accuse skeptics of pushing “free-market fundamentalism”; skeptics accuse believers of pushing “eco-socialism.”

According to one narrative, market fundamentalists and corporate interests are funding an intentionally-deceptive propaganda campaign against the concept of human-caused global warming to keep business free from regulatory interference…

According to the opposing narrative, communism has reformulated itself as a leftist environmental movement bent on establishing a world government and destroying free-market capitalism.

This is my second article in a series on climate change. The previous one examined research into public perceptions of the issue — see “Does the Public Really Believe Humans Are Causing Climate Change?

AB — 9 August 2011

Umair Haque today does a pretty good job of terrifying anybody who pays attention to the economy — see “Market Correction? Try Perma-Crisis.” According to Haque, if those in charge don’t do something to restructure their dysfunctional institutions, we could be “on the Express Train to the Federation of Banana Republics.” In such case, he thinks “today’s market turmoil is probably just the pregame for the main event.”

Haque says that about the current economic crisis:

[I]t’s fundamentally grounded in the institutions we use to (mis)manage the economy. They’re deeply broken, and throwing money at broken institutions doesn’t fix them — it does the very opposite: it entrenches them, shores them up, fortifies them against the future.

He outlines six lessons on crisis that help explain why the situation is self-perpetuating, including:

When people who are prisoners of the paradigm that caused the crisis are in charge of fixing it, bet on … more crisis.

AB — 5 August 2011

Future Vancouver street sceneOver at ThomasNet Green & Clean, I wrote earlier this week about Vancouver, B.C.’s bid to become the world’s “greenest city” — see “Friendly Competition – Vancouver’s Bid to Become the World’s Greenest City.” In an interview, Vancouver City Councillor David Cadman gave me an inside view of the effort. Although the city definitely wants to become the greenest on the planet, there’s a friendly side to the competition:

Cadman tells me that “simply being a green city in one place like Vancouver isn’t enough. We have to take this plan and challenge a whole lot of cities to beat us, to move this challenge out beyond Vancouver to the rest of the world.”

He thinks cities are in a good position to incubate environmental innovation:

Cadman believes cities are well-suited to serve as sources of environmental innovation. Whereas “national governments don’t seem to be able to get their act together” to move forward on green initiatives, he tells me, “local governments are transforming the world around them.”

AB — 29 July 2011

Over at ThomasNet Green & Clean this week, I wrote about efforts by El Hierro, the most remote of the Canary Islands, to become completely self-sufficient and wholly reliant on renewable energy — see “El Hierro — How an Island Can Serve as a Model for Renewable Energy.”

Some of the most interesting commentary I found on the El Hierro project has to do with the value of the island’s remoteness. One researcher writes that, when it comes to connecting with any outside electric grid, “[The island] is totally isolated, as the significant sea depths make any interconnection impossible.” Yet the island has a population of 11,000 and a significant economy.

The R&D director for the Canary Institute of Technology says that,

Islands can play a very important role as pioneers of the energy revolution… The island as a whole can serve as an experiment not only for this particular energy combination, but also for other types of energy-related issues like mobility, like efficient transport solutions… Examples like El Hierro will prove technologically that this is possible.

AB — 20 July 2011

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