Weekend Reading 2/21/14

Whiteness, aging, goats, publicly subsidized climate destruction, and more.
This post is 142 in the series: Weekend Reading

Alan

Do the regulations on subsidized public housing triple the construction costs of apartments? Maybe.

Timothy Harris has a short and blistering piece of memoir about being “white.”

I read Daniel Yergin’s Pullitzer-winning bestseller The Prize soon after it came out in 1991. I loved its sweep and historical grittiness—the way it brought the geopolitical saga of oil to life on page after page (after page after page). I often disagreed with Yergin’s centrist, power-venerating perspective (John D. Rockefeller comes out of the book as more or less the hero), but I admired his research and story telling: a sort of Robert Caro of hydrocarbons. So I was seized by anticipation upon learning in 2011 that Yergin had done a similar book on energy overall called The Quest. At 832 pages, it teased me with the promise of many happy evenings lost in arcane and illuminating details of the industrial age’s planetary surge in energy consumption. The promise, I’m sad to report, was not fulfilled. The Quest is a plodding and uninspired recount of energy history’s greatest hits. It is dressed up less often in crystalizing details that Yergin unearthed in the archives, as he did again and gain in The Prize, than in self-indulgent anecdotes from times and places he happens to have been, presumably in his role as globe-trotting VIP consultant to globe-trotting energy VIPs. I did finish the book, but mostly because it is a fairly reliable articulation of conventional wisdom about energy. If you, like I, want badly to understand how the world looks from the top floors of energy ministries and oil company headquarters, read it. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for storming those battlements. If you want to read a bracingly original book about energy, well, have you read The Prize?

IsBerthaStillStuck.com is now on my list of favorite understated websites. It joins: HowManyPeopleAreInSpaceRightNow.com and HowDoVaccinesCauseAutism.com.

Elwha River dam removal, the movie, coming this spring.

KC Golden is planning to ditch his driver’s license, eventually. Read his inspired call for the freedom of car-less living. My quibble, if there is one, with KC’s point is why focus on the driver’s license rather than the car? And why focus on elders? Why not just shed the things now? I haven’t owned a car in eight years—in fact, eight years this week—and my driving per year is a tiny fraction of that of a typical American of my age and income.

If most people drove cars as infrequently as I do, most of the problems cars cause would disappear. And the alternatives would be unbelievably good: we’d be in car-share/ride-share/bike-share/light rail/heavy rail/streetcar/bus/sidewalk/cycletrack/mixed-use/walkable community heaven. So, to me, the question is how do we make car-lite living so easy, cheap, convenient, joyful, attractive, and even sexy that a large share of households shed their cars, one after another, gradually over years, until they’re occasional car drivers but not car owners. Ownership, at least under the current financial model, dictates car driving, because cars are like all-you-can-eat meal plans.

I don’t usually go for animal squee videos, but I make an exception for goats playing king of the hill.

Eric

In what has to be the most jaw-dropping example of public subsidy for climate destruction, Wyoming lawmakers are actually seeking taxpayer money to fund pro-coal export litigation in the Northwest.

Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, casts a gimlet eye on Tesoro’s deadly Anacortes refinery fire and an oil industry run amok.

Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, explores five myths of American incarceration (e.g., Did you know that prison admission in 2012 was at a two-decade low?).

Inimitable Seattle historian Knute Berger explores the connections between the city’s mammoth tusk, the idled tunnel boring machine, and ancient settlements along the old waterfront.

Serena

Not so much an animal squee video as an animal scream one: what one Sochi Olympian saw strolling through her hotel hallway.

Maybe it’s all these exploding death trains around (oil trains), or maybe I am just an old lady at heart, but this essay on aging was a winner for me this week. 90+-year-old Roger Angell had me at the intro:

Check me out. The top two knuckles of my left hand look as if I’d been worked over by the K.G.B. No, it’s more as if I’d been a catcher for the Hall of Fame pitcher Candy Cummings, the inventor of the curveball, who retired from the game in 1877. To put this another way, if I pointed that hand at you like a pistol and fired at your nose, the bullet would nail you in the left knee. Arthritis.

Anna

Here’s Jay Rosen’s smart viewers’ guide to David Gregory’s Meet the Press segment on climate change—with extreme weather as the hook—where Bill Nye is pitted against (denier) Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. The upshot is that in the name of “advancing the conversation” rather than dwelling on the debate, Meet the Press managed to further muddy the waters by allowing a denier precious air time and continuing the highly effective strategy wherein confusing matters is just as powerful as outright rejection of the science. (H/T CL)

“The wettest January in the UK in 250 years followed by a stormy February have brought misery to many thousands.” The New Scientist asks if the silver lining to all this extreme weather suffering might lead to a shift away from public apathy about climate change.

Research has found a link between being flooded and elevated concern about climate change. In a study published in 2011 (Nature Climate Change, doi.org/dkpspz), people who had been flooded expressed not only higher levels of climate concern but a greater willingness to reduce their carbon footprints. In another more recent survey of Welsh citizens, those living in a recently flooded area were 10 per cent more likely to agree that the impact of climate change is already being felt.

Pew has mapped Twitter conversations. Surprise, surprise! From the 10,000 ft. view, the view is…politically polarized.

Former GOP Congressman Bob Inglis makes the conservative case for a carbon tax.

 

We are a community-supported resource and we can’t do this work without you!

Comments

  1. Frances Dinger says:

    Another great understated website: http://isthebookdead.com/

  2. Elaine Livengood says:

    Thank you, Serena, for Roger Angell’s essay on aging. It is a brilliant piece. He gets my full attention.

    • Serena Larkin says:

      Thank you, Elaine. And thanks, too, for helping me notice my typo in spelling his name!

Leave a Comment

Please keep it civil and constructive. Our editors reserve the right to monitor inappropriate comments and personal attacks.

*

You may add a link with HTML: <a href="URL">text to display</a>