Archives for March 2012

Is Space or Nature the Great Modern Religion?

For many of today’s greenies, protecting nature is a religion in itself. The high priests are the climate scientists. Reducing your carbon footprint has replaced fasting. The three Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle – is the commandment everyone must obey. But there are a lot of people who think of space exploration in a similar way. In The Saints Go Blasting Off, Ross Andersen describes the religious aspects of the space movement in The Atlantic Monthly:

Think about how you feel when you see the Earth from space or the Apollo astronauts walking on the moon. These images are achievements of science, sure, but they also have a religious feel to them; they tug at something deeper than engineering, something sublime. When viewed as a whole, space exploration has a lot in common with religion. It offers us a salvation narrative, for instance, whereby we put our faith in technology in order to be delivered to new worlds. Its priests, figures like Neil deGrasse Tyson, extoll its virtues in what sound like sermons. In its iconography, astronauts are like saints that ascend into heaven and extraterrestrials are like gods—benevolent, kind, wise, capable of manipulating space and time.

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Do Young People Still Care About the Environment?

With all of the green euphoria back in 2006 and 2007 it was easy to think that the Millennials – today’s teenagers and twenty somethings – would be the most eco-minded generation yet. Unfortunately, that may not be the case, at least by traditional measures. I think the catch is that this generation has gone through a lot. Their world view has surely been influenced by the financial crisis. It has also taken a steady beating from Republicans who diminish the potential for government to have a positive role in social and political affairs. Reagan liked to joke that one of the scariest things he had ever heard was , “I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” When the same joke gets repeated again and again by Republican party members over the years, it will have an effect. Have a listen to the Gipper himself here.

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The Whole Earth Effect

Stewart Brand has had a remarkable green life. First he was a member of the Merry Pranksters with Ken Kesey. Then he famously went on to found the Whole Earth Catalog, which continues to have influence today. At Plenty we did our own look at what was the lasting effect of  The Whole Earth Catalogue. But now an 8th grader named  Miro Furtado has done a ten minute documentary on the life of Stewart Brand, which is nothing short of fabulous. I really hope he got an A.
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If We Knew The World Was Ending Would We Do Anything?

In the movies, when we find out that a meteor is hurtling toward the earth, we always send Bruce Willis (or some other equally capable Hollywood hero) to save us from extinction. The way the world banded together to reduce the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances through the Montreal Protocol in 1987 was an inspiring moment for international cooperation. 196 parties signed the treaty. It would have made Woodrow Wilson proud. And perhaps it gave Hollywood license to makes films like Armageddon.

Unfortunately, F. Sherwood Rowland, one of the leading scientific researchers into the causes of atmospheric ozone layer destruction died recently. The MIT Technology described Sherwood’s contribution thusly:

Rowland is best known for figuring out, along with his then post-doc Mario Molina, in the early 1970s how chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs), industrial chemicals widely used in, among things, air conditioners and aerosol sprays, were destroying the protective atmospheric ozone layer. (Rowland, Molina and Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute, shared the 1995 Nobel prize in chemistry for the work.) Rowland also did pioneering work in other areas involving the monitoring and chemistry of trace gases, including research on the rise of methane in the atmosphere. But perhaps his greatest achievement was his demonstration that seemingly simple chemical reactions could play out over a massive scale and have planet-wide effects.

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The High Line Gets Even Better

In 2009 an old, abandoned above ground rail line reopened as a public park in New York City. It’s know as the High Line. As far as creative uses for public spaces go, it’s pretty much a ten out of ten. But who knew it was about to get more fabulous. Co.Design gave us a look at what we have in store:

Initial details of the third and final leg of the High Line were released at a community meeting yesterday evening. Slated to open in 2014, the estimated $90 million extension of Manhattan’s madly popular railroad-turned-elevated park includes easy access to public transportation, breathtaking views of the Hudson River, and a climbing structure designed explicitly for kids.

Initially built in the 1930s, the High Line had not seen a train pass over it since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community based non-profit group that was formed in 1999, saved it from demolition. [Read more…]