Selected Reading (03/08/09)

August 3, 2009 at 6:22 am | Posted in Misc. | 4 Comments

Been a while since I did one of these…

Matthew Engel calls for an end to the war on drugs.

  • Albor Ruiz on the constitution-trampling excesses of the Honduran military.
  • In Afghanistan, human rights workers call for more aid, not more troops.
  • Jess McCabe finds an interesting study into the differences between feminist & non-feminist women’s views of men; discovers proof that feminists don’t actually hate men.
  • Are we starting to see some sanity from this government over the number of women it imprisons? Only took ’em 11 years..
  • Juan Cole looks at the similarities between Sarah Palin & Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (no, really).
  • Since the Foreign Affairs Select Committee wants Britain to stop trying to fight a war on drugs in Afghanistan whilst also fighting a war on the Taliban, I thought I’d link to an older post by Joshua Foust on how our governments’ opium obsession is making things worse.
  • And in today’s End of Civilisation Watch: Afghan youngsters are listening to Shakira.
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  1. Pisses me off no end to see right-whingers doing a man of the people act, one of the few things that really boils my blood.

    The angry outsider act, the insistence that they represent the “real America” which pointy-headed liberal elisists can’t understand, with their pesky intellectualism & evidence-based policies rather than reliance on mythical beings, the… really brings out the worst in me, I’d better stop :)

    Of interest is this from the ever-reliable Paul Kingsnorth.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/jul/31/wind-farm-technology-green-environmentalists

    I think he’s completely right, a lot of people who talk about “the environment” give the impression of never having simply appreciated going for a walk or a cycle & appreciated nature in that regard.

    It surely has more to do with preserving open spaces, clean water & air, & wildlife for our descendents to enjoy than what sort of car we drive. Kingsnorth is quite right to berate the third runway, Severn Barrage, & this utter shite.

    Also I appreciate his books.

  2. Evening,

    The angry outsider act, the insistence that they represent the “real America” which pointy-headed liberal elisists can’t understand, with their pesky intellectualism & evidence-based policies rather than reliance on mythical beings, the… really brings out the worst in me, I’d better stop :)

    Indeed, and all LibCon contributors live in Islington. Doubt I could even find the bloody place on the tube, like, but there we go. Also, not one of us could be described as liberal on any topic ever, but let’s not go down that particular road…

    I’m conflicted about that Kingsnorth piece. There’s much I can sympathise with in the general sentiment about losing places of natural beauty to sustain lifestyles which seem to consume beyond what the planet is willing to give, and I can share your suspicion of urban environmentalists who are impassioned about seeing acres of windfarms in the Shetlands but don’t seem to have considered what would be lost to build them or sought to at least empathise with where nimbys are coming from.

    (This lack of empathy is a problem I should admit to, by the way – the family home is about 2 miles away from half a dozen wind turbines, and having grown up captivated by the sight of them spinning & filled with wonder at the thought that something as common as wind (of which there’s plenty on the edge of the Pennines) could power my old Playstation, I’ve never been that good at understanding where the protesters were coming from. So I’ve got a blind spot there, which probably isn’t too helpful).

    That said, I feel Kingsnorth’s position is one which, for all we might agree with the sentiment, isn’t particularly good politics – either in the specialist field of renewable energy or the more general sense of electoral politics.

    He’s entirely correct to note that the current policy direction is mostly driven by a desire to build as large a renewable infrastructure as quickly as we can, and whilst asking for as little sacrifice from the taxpayer as possible. But it’s not really clear to me that there’s any other way of doing it.

    The implications of Kingsnorth’s alternative – which seems to prioritise the reduction of consumption and changing living/working patterns – requires a social change, one which would take a great deal longer to realise and which would probably cause the downfall of whichever government sought to bring it about.

    It just seems to me that if we’re really serious about a low carbon future, the current method might just be the best way of achieving it, even if it’s not necessarily the best or nicest solution.

  3. Yes, doubtless Paul Kingsnorth is not to everyone’s liking & he actually draws out quite radical views on his own blogs which I think most people would shy away from. But even if you’re not going to set up a shrine to him, he is a valuable corrective to those who can think solely in terms of what sells, what will get CO2 numbers down & don’t think about just why it is that we consider the environment valuable & worthwhile in the first place.

    I was brought up on a really shite estate in Stoke. We were obviously badly off, or we wouldn’t have lived there, but because I had 2 parents both of whom worked I was considered “wealthy”. (It wasn’t until I was about 13, my parents having exercised their right to buy & moved out, that I realised my true place in the social hierarchy).

    We were amongst a minority in having a car, & most of those who could have gone to the countryside (some beautiful examples of which are very nearby) didn’t bother. I notice amongst all people who really “get it” that they were exposed to the country at a very young age, as I was, & weirdly enough so was David Cameron, who is hardly dug up out of the soil but who did enjoy life on a country estate & outdoor pursuits.

    I advocate that youngsters from deprived backgrounds should be encouraged into outdoor activities, camping, etc. as it will be good for them & a good side-effect will be to encourage respect for the environment amongst people who often view it as irrelevant to their lives.

    Yes, there is a place for solar panels, recycling, etc. etc. but let us always bear in mind our real business. Also, further engagement in farmers’ markets & that sort of shite is called for. But you’re raising an interesting point, which is that given as we probably won’t be reducing consumption for some time to come, are we going to somehow be made to do so or are we going to run up against a natural barrier? You’ve got the potential for this to go badly wrong.

    This is in fact why I have for some time been concerned about overpopulation, real or potential. Now, I think this will eventually sort itself out because wealthy, educated people have smaller families. We will have to adapt to an ageing & slightly falling population, but this although having problems of its own is easier than a Ponzi scheme of piling on more & more kids forever.

    Not making myself any friends amongst my cohorts on the left… this is why I advocate some form of immigration controls, because I dread to imagine the population of this country hitting 70 million or so. Perhaps we could, in some dream world, plan for this eventuality without their being any environmental cost but it’s rather unlikely that any foreseeable government will do so given how inefficient they have been at large-scale planned operations of this sort.

    We are already, as you’ve hinted, living beyond our means & in debt to the planet & I wouldn’t advocate making this any worse. On about lifestyle changes, we might be made to do so in this recession & return to a more frugal & savings & investment oriented culture, with people doing shite like growing their own vegetables & that, but I’ve started to worry now that this won’t be a significant change & Britain in 2017 will look far too much like Britain in 2007 for comfort.

    Aye- bit late for anything of any worth to be said! But you’re right to be sceptical about what I said, yet I still think it was a necessary corrective to the assumptions of fuckwits.

    Funny, you always get me thinking & moving- you seem to have some quality that makes me embarrased to just say any old shite, so I spend about 10 years writing business :)

  4. On about cars.

    http://fabulousblueporcupine.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/why-cars-are-banned-from-the-peoples-republic/

    Still have pretty much the same view I expressed 6 months ago.


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