Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The end of "Freak Out!" (1966) sounds like Mario going down a pipe

The last minute of "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" on Freak Out!, the 1966 album by The Mothers Of Invention, sounds like the 1983 soundtrack to the original Super Mario Bros., specifically when Mario goes down a pipe.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Climate solution: Mangroves and salt marshes

Water covers most of the planet. The ocean regulates the air we breathe and affects the weather. Yet sea levels are "predicted to increase more in the next thirty years than they have in the previous century," the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change notes.

In a May 10, 2022 blog post, they quote Loreley Picourt, secretary general of the Ocean & Climate Platform and the co-focal point for Ocean and Coastal Zones for the Marrakech Partnership-Global Climate Action Agenda at UN Climate Change, as saying that "the speed of this [irreversible sea level rise] and its associated risks (such as erosion and submersion, loss of coastal habitats and ecosystems, salinization of land and groundwater) will be considerably slowed down [if] warming levels are kept below 1.5°C.”

This is important: sea level rise is happening, and once it happens it is generally irreversible, but it can be slowed.

The article goes on to say:

"There are solutions available today, including Nature-based Solutions (NbS), such as planting mangroves and salt marshes, which not only contribute to carbon sequestration but have huge biodiversity benefits."

It adds:

"The Sea’ties Declaration was launched during the One Ocean Summit earlier this year, and has so far been signed by 40 mayors, governors and city networks across the world. It calls for an acceleration in the transformation of cities and their territories, highlighting four priorities: the mobilisation of science and observation systems; the integration of societal issues within adaptation plans; the fostering of adaptive and hybrid solutions; and the increase of public funding and private investments for adaptation to sea level rise."

Those four priorities, in other words:

  • scientists keeping track of changes in the physical environment, as that is the problem that needs to be fixed
  • addressing social issues that people care about, or else they won't get on board with adaptation plans that affect them in ways they care about
  • actually coming up with climate solutions
  • adapting to all the changes we can't stop, which will require money

See also: "Re-envisioning Environment". It's an 8-minute read on Medium. Medium lets you read a certain number of stories for free every month. You may also consider a paid membership on the platform.

open ocean, a photo angle close to sea level
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Thoughts on the SCOTUS draft opinion on Roe

Last night, POLITICO reported on a draft SCOTUS opinion written in February that someone leaked. SCOTUS confirmed that it is a real draft, although they say they did not mean for it to be leaked and that they do not know who did it. SCOTUS may have already revised this draft since then or may plan to revise it, but if it were to be issued as-is, the opinion would essentially overturn Roe v. Wade.

In the discussion on Twitter, you can see people making points like this (as I paraphrase and expand upon them):

  • Justice Alito knows perfectly well that the other rights are also moral issues. (Otherwise, why mention them?) In 2020, he (along with Justice Thomas) wrote that Obergefell (the 2015 decision that guarantees the right to same-sex marriage in every state) "will continue to have ruinous consequences for religious liberty" until the court reverses its decision, as "the court has created a problem that only it can fix." Here, in the 2022 draft opinion that would overturn Roe, when he says he doesn't believe it's a moral issue at all, obviously he's dissimulating. He's giving a heads-up to everyone who will celebrate the loss of those rights and taunting everyone else who will be hurt by it.
  • U.S. Constitutional "originalism," overall, is nonsense. First, there is no reason — not a coherent one, and not a livable one — to privilege history from a couple hundred years ago as being the right and true answer to all legal questions and thereby to ignore all history that has happened since. Lots of legal ideas from our collective history were extremely terrible both in principle and in implementation. Second, for the Supreme Court to be willing to ignore all its own precedents is itself weird. It'd have to consider and decide all cases de novo, from scratch. It's making a heck of a lot more work for itself. It is not actually going to do that work. The court will claim either "originalism" or "court precedent" when it is advantageous and convenient for it to do so.
  • They have to resort to originalism because they have no proof that guaranteeing rights to traditionally minoritized/marginalized/oppressed people causes any social harm. Since they can't claim that people living their lives is demonstrably bad (because it demonstrably is not), they have to resort to the claim that the Founders wouldn't have liked it or recognized it. This is ethical deontology rather than consequentialism, and this slides conceptually into a matter of religious belief. Religiously, he believes that a human embryo must be respected as a full human person beginning at conception, perhaps even sometimes taking precedent over the life or health of the person in whose uterus it is growing. He appeals to the Founders as quasi-religious authorities who, he thinks, would have agreed with him or who at least would not have said otherwise.
  • This is connected to current attempts by conservatives to control the content in history, science, and social studies textbooks. They have certain predetermined ideas of what the answers are, and those are the answers that would have been given in the 1700s, at least as they imagine the answers would have been given then, or at least for whichever questions they choose to prioritize.
  • Conservatives have no claim to support "limited government." If they truly cared about limiting the scope of government reach and intrusion, they wouldn't be forever trying to regulate gender, sexuality, and reproduction, so let's dispense with that bogus idea.


Per this thread by A.H. (please follow her, too, on Twitter!), these U.S. precedents are threatened:

  • Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) — protects your right to teach your kids languages other than English
  • Skinner v Oklahoma (1942) — says no one can forcibly sterilize you
  • Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) — protects married couples' right to buy contraceptives
  • Loving v. Virginia (1968) — lets you marry a person of another race
  • Stanley v. Georgia (1969) — allows you to watch porn
  • Roe v. Wade (1973) — allows you to have an abortion without excessive restriction
  • Lawrence v. Texas (2003) — struck down sodomy laws
  • Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) — lets you marry a person of the same sex/gender

Bostock v. Clayton County (2020) too? I am tossing up an idea. Right now, I don't know exactly how they'll get rid of that one, but of course they will.

Relatedly, as someone pointed out, Buck v. Bell (1927) is still around. It allows states to sterilize people who are in public institutions.

Also, the potential (and likely) SCOTUS overturning of Roe is not the sole threat, because:

And the horror is also in the future, because (prediction):

Also, FYI:

Amounts to:

Also, check out today's article by Jude Ellison Doyle, "We Have Entered the 'Anti-Gender' Endgame":

"There is no cavalry coming over the hill, no Hail Mary play, no impending wave of pro-choice activism that’s going to save us. There simply are not enough pro-choice justices on SCOTUS to save abortion. ... For there to be a massive feminist uprising in defense of Roe, there would need to be a functional feminist movement in the United States. There isn’t one. Since approximately 2016, a misogynist backlash has almost completely dismantled it. ... Gay marriage, gay sex, youth transition, any transition, interracial marriage, domestic partnership without marriage, abortion. contraception, or simply not being forcibly sterilized and/or detransitioned by the state — none of this is safe. None of this is “traditional.” All of it is on the line."

See this October 2021 article from the Guttmacher Institute: "26 States Are Certain or Likely to Ban Abortion Without Roe: Here’s Which Ones and Why"

See also: "This Novel Imagines Fascism in the 1930s USA". It's a 4-minute read on Medium. Medium lets you read a certain number of stories for free every month. You may also consider a paid membership on the platform.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Asking for activists in the climate emergency

Margaret Klein Salamon, executive director of the Climate Emergency Fund and author of Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself With Climate Truth, wrote "If You’re Anxious About the Climate, Try This" (New York Times, May 1, 2022). In that essay, she says:

I resolved to use my psychological expertise to help Americans wake up from the delusion of normalcy, and treat climate like an emergency...In these “climate emotions conversations,” participants often speak of their grief, terror, rage, shock, betrayal, guilt and alienation.

Recognizing and expressing feelings is just the beginning. Once someone awakens to problems and feels motivated, they take action. 2019, after weeks of protests that shut down parts of London led by the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, Britain declared a climate emergency and became the first major economy to legally commit to reaching “net zero” emissions by 2050.

Climate Emergency Fund supports...

...Scientist Rebellion, a group of over 1,000 scientists around the world. They are angry and fearful of climate change, and have engaged in various forms of civil disobedience including chaining themselves to the White House fence, and covering the Spanish Parliament building with paint the color of blood.

To stop human-caused climate change, the planet needs activists.

For more information, read Margaret Klein Salamon's book:

See also: "‘This Is The Team’: Collective Change on Climate". It's a 7-minute read on Medium. Medium lets you read a certain number of stories for free every month. You may also consider a paid membership on the platform.

walrus on ice

Why do people tell religious stories they don't believe in?

From an essay by Scott Hershovitz, "How to Pray to a God You Don’t Believe In," New York Times, May 2, 2022:

"'I think that for real God is pretend and for pretend God is real,' Rex announced.

I was stunned. That’s a big thought for a 4-year-old. It’s a big thought for a 40-year-old. I asked Rex to explain what he meant.

'God isn’t real,' he said. 'But when we pretend, he is.'

Philosophers have a name for this sort of view. They call it 'fictionalism.'

* * *

Some philosophers are fictionalists about morality; they think rights aren’t real except in stories that we tell. Others are fictionalists about numbers; they think that math is made up. I think both views are mistaken; I believe in morality and math.

But I think Rex was right...I am a fictionalist about God.

* * *

I just don’t believe the stories that we tell. And hearing them in English forces me to confront that, over and over again.

Still, I pretend. And I don’t plan to stop. Because pretending makes the world a better place. I learned that from my kids too — Rex and his younger brother, Hank.

Pretending blurs the boundaries between this world and the ones we imagine. It breathes life into stories, letting them shape the world we live in. Just think of the delight kids take in Santa Claus, even those who know, deep down, that he’s not real. Or the way they lose themselves in play. Pretending makes the world more magical and meaningful."

How does it do so? The pretend stories can remind us "that people persevere, survive and even thrive" although "the world has been falling apart from the start" in part because "there’s beauty in trying to put it back together."

If you want more, Scott Hershovitz has written this book on philosophy and children:

See also my article: "What Can Jews Do When They Don’t Believe in God?". It's a 5-minute read on Medium. Medium lets you read a certain number of stories for free every month. You may also consider a paid membership on the platform.

a building that looks like a cathedral with a rainbow ceiling

Saturday, April 30, 2022

A 'sentinel species' provides an early indicator when an ecosystem is failing

Emperor penguins need exactly the right amount of ice. As read in Ashley Strickland's CNN article, April 29, 2022:

"Emperor penguins live in a delicate balance with their environment, there is a sea ice 'Goldilocks' zone," said study author Stephanie Jenouvrier, seabird ecologist and associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in a statement. "If there is too little sea ice, chicks can drown when sea ice breaks up early; if there is too much sea ice, foraging trips become too long and more arduous, and the chicks may starve."

The chicks must shed their down before growing the waterproof feathers they use to swim — but if they are still covered in down when the ice breaks, they'll sink.

As top predators, emperor penguins serve as sentinel species, meaning they are ideal species to study in a fluctuating ecosystem because they can reveal if something is wrong. By studying these birds, Zitterbart and his team can learn about the impacts of the climate crisis in Antarctica.

emperor penguins
Emperor Penguins by Terri Stalons from Pixabay

See also: "Re-envisioning Environment". It's an 8-minute read on Medium. Medium lets you read a certain number of stories for free every month. You may also consider a paid membership on the platform.

What will be the next environmental disaster to punctuate our equilibrium?

From today's reading. Andrew J. Hoffman explained in 2015: change is not always linear; there are often periods when change happens in leaps...Social scientists call this pattern of stasis interrupted by rapid social change ‘punctuated equilibrium.’

American physicist and historian Thomas Kuhn first described this process in science as a series of transitions from normal science to revolutionary science. A phase of normal science begins when a theory emerges as dominant to other existing theories and becomes the ‘paradigm.’ But established theories become challenged and ultimately change when anomalous events emerge which cannot be explained or solved by the existing order. Conflict over the nature, meaning, and response to these events ensues, and the period of revolutionary science ends when a new theory is successful in providing a socially adequate response to the anomaly and becomes the basis of a new paradigm.

We can view the shifting beliefs around environmentalism as having been prodded along by such moments of punctuation: Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962, the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, and the Cuyahoga River fire in 1969 challenged pre-existing beliefs about pollution and ushered in the modern environmental movement of the 1970s. The Bhopal disaster of 1984, the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole in 1985, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1990 elevated pollution concerns to a new level and brought environmental issues into the mainstream of business in the 1990s.

This is from the book:
Andrew J. Hoffman. How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2015. p. 49.

See also: "Talking to Climate Skeptics". It's a 10-minute read on Medium. Medium lets you read a certain number of stories for free every month. You may also consider a paid membership on the platform.

Book cover: How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate

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