Contemplations – 12

I'm incurably curious about many aspects of this journey of ours. Here are a few noteworthy items I've stumbled across that I'm making a note of so I can revisit them from time to time.

Quick links to this page's content ∨ 

My heart is with the people of Ukraine ∨ 

Appetizer:

"You don't choose the times you live in, but you do choose who you want to be, and you do choose how you want to think." – Grace Lee Boggs

2023

An increasing sense of both anger and apprehension

Image of the letter Handwritten by Professor Will Steffan to Joe Duggan. The complete text is in the following post.

In 2014, Joe Duggan wrote to a variety of climate scientists to ask them how he felt about climate change. Five years later, he asked them again. This is the answer he received in 2020 from Australian Emiratus Professor Will Steffen, one of the world's most preeminent climate scientists, who passed away late January 2023:

As the climate system continues to spiral towards a potentially uncontrollable state, I am struck with an increasing sense of both anger and apprehension. I'm angry because the lack of effective action on climate change, despite the wealth not of only scientific information but also of solutions to reduce emissions, has now created a climate emergency. The students are right. Their future is now being threatening by the greed of the wealthy fossil fuel elite, the lies of the Murdoch press, and the weakness of our political leaders. These people have no right to destroy my daughter's future and that of her generation.

I'm apprehensive because the more we learn about climate change, the riskier it looks. Even at a 1 degree C rise in global temperature, extreme weather events are becoming more violent and dangerous than models have predicted. Over the last 5 years, our knowledge of tipping points in the Earth System has advanced rapidly, with many already showing signs of instability. Worse yet, they can interact like a row of dominoes to set off a tipping cascade, driving the Earth to hotter and more unstable conditions. That is my worst fear—that we may reach a 'point of no return' where we commit our children to a future of hell on Earth.

Will Steffen
16 February 2020

ITHYF5⩘ , posted by Joe Duggan, Is This How You Feel?, 2020.
See also: Will Steffen, 'courageous' climate scientist, dies in Canberra aged 75⩘  by Graham Readfearn, The Guardian, Jan 30, 2023.

Some good news about renewables

Multiple long arrays of solar panels on a green hillside with pine trees beyond and a blue sky with just a few clouds above.
Black and Silver Solar Panels; photo by Pixabay from Pexels⩘ 

Hopefully, we'll see a big acceleration away from coal and towards renewables.

It is cheaper to build solar panels or cluster of wind turbines and connect them to the grid than to keep operating coal plants.

The plummeting cost of renewable energy, which has been supercharged by last year's Inflation Reduction Act, means that it is cheaper to build an array of solar panels or a cluster of new wind turbines and connect them to the grid than it is to keep operating all of the 210 coal plants in the contiguous US, bar one, according to the study.

US renewable energy farms outstrip 99% of coal plants economically⩘  by Oliver Milman, The Guardian, Jan 30, 2023.

Teach the Truth

Dr. Marvin Dunn, dressed in a Teach the Truth t-shirt, standing between two tombstones in Rosewood, Florida
Photo by Zack Wittman for The Washington Post

Excellent and powerful article about Dr. Marvin Dunn, 82, a professor emeritus at Florida International University, who is defying Florida governor DeSantis' law restricting lessons on race.

Nationwide, education has emerged as a political battleground between Republican lawmakers and other conservatives who equate many lessons on race, gender and identity with liberal indoctrination and Democratic leaders, teachers and others who contend omitting them is tantamount to whitewashing history and hiding difficult truths from students.

I definitely agree with whitewashing history opinion. How can we learn from previous mistakes and heinous acts in order to move forward if we hide ourselves from that history?

"I can't tell the story of the Newberry Six without expressing my disgust for the lynching of a pregnant woman," said Dunn…. "As a teacher who has spent 30 years going from place to place in Florida where the most atrocious things have happened, I don't know how to do that. And I don't want the state telling me that I must."

Dunn's statewide "Teach the Truth" tours are taking high school students to the sites of some of the worst racial violence in Florida history. His first tour in January took more than two dozen high school students from Miami and their family members to a museum that marks where married Black civil rights activists Harry T. Moore and Harriette V.S. Moore were killed on Christmas Day 1951 when a bomb planted under their home exploded.

As Shanika Marshall, one of the parents who took her teenage son on the Teach the Truth tour with Dr. Dunn says:

"These are things that nobody knew, it's like it was swept under the rug. I feel very strongly that this history needs to be told. There's no shame, it just is what it is, but it needs to be put at the forefront so we can all try to get past it."

The book cover of A History of Florida: Through Black Eyes by Marvin Dunn showing a map of Florida superimposed over the face of a black man looking outward. Next to the man's face is a hazy old photograph of a lynching victim.From the back cover of Dr. Marvin Dunn's book, A History of Florida: Through Black Eyes, 2016:

I know Florida. I was born in Florida during the reign of Jim Crow and have lived to see black astronauts blasted into the heavens from Cape Canaveral. For three quarters of a century I have lived mostly in Florida and I have seen her flowers and her warts. This book is about both. People of African descent have been in Florida since the arrival of Ponce de Leon in 1513, yet our presence in the state is virtually hidden. A casual glance at most Florida history books depicts African Americans primarily as laborers who are shown as backdrops to white history. The history of blacks in Florida has been deliberately distorted, omitted and marginalized. We have been denied our heroes and heroines. Our stories have mainly been left untold. This book lifts the veil from some of these stories and places African Americans in the very marrow of Florida history.

A Black professor defies DeSantis law restricting lessons on race⩘  by Lori Rozsa, The Washington Post, Jan 21, 2023.

Related: Critical Race Theory painting by Jonathan Raymond Harris, 2021⩘ :
Critical Race Theory painting by Jonathan Raymond Harris, 2021: Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, and other Black people standing in a field with a dark blue sky beyond. A white man with blonde hair wearing a red short-sleeved shirt with white stars on the shoulder and a blue cuff at the end of the sleeve is whitewashing the painting with a paint roller.

See also: My review of Critical Race Theory: An Introduction by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic⩘ 

Disconnecting … and reconnecting to value

Solar panels and battery on a rooftop patio; photo by Joshua Spodek
Photo by Joshua Spodek

Inspiring experiment by Josua Spodek: disconnecting from the electric grid for eight months … in Manhattan! It was especially interesting to read about the other ways his life benefitted beyond the baseline of reducing his power consumption.

I learned to cook from scratch, which led to more of what I valued in food: flavor, variety, convenience, nutrition, and socializing, while lowering costs and pollution.

In addition to regaining lost time, I live with more intention, less hope to be passively entertained—and frankly, less addiction.

I disconnected from the electric grid for 8 months—in Manhattan⩘  by Joshua Spodek, Ars Technica, Jan 13, 2023.

We've been greenwashed out of our senses

How is it that a teenager speaks with more clarity and wisdom than all of the world's politicians combined?

For us to have even a small chance of avoiding setting off irreversible chain reactions far beyond human control, we need drastic, immediate, far-reaching emission cuts at the source. When your bathtub is about to overflow, you don't go looking for buckets or start covering the floor with towels—you start by turning off the tap, as soon as you possibly can. Leaving the water running means ignoring or denying the problem, delaying doing anything to resolve it and downplaying its consequences.

Our so-called leaders still think they can bargain with physics and negotiate with the laws of nature. They speak to flowers and forests in the language of US dollars and short-term economics. They hold up their quarterly income reports to impress the wild animals. They read stock-market analysis to the waves of the ocean, like fools.

I'm really looking forward to her book coming out on February 14, 2023: The Climate Book: The Facts and the Solutions by Greta Thunberg⩘ .

We've been greenwashed out of our senses. It's time to stand our ground⩘  by Greta Thunberg, The Guardian, Oct 8, 2022.

The Quiet Profundity of Everyday Awe

A closeup of a pollen cone at the very tip of a cluster of Ponderosa pine tree needles. The green needles, only partially visible, radiate outwards. The pollen cone is a series of perhpas 20 little fat oblong spheres, also radiating outward, pale yellow with patterned rows of burnt orange dots. In the very center is a cluster of the new year's needles just beginning to emerge, little pale yellow spears.

A beautiful article, reminding us that glimpses of extraordinary beauty can be found all around us. We just need to open our senses and let them in.

That feeling—of being in the presence of something vast—is good for us. And, counterintuitively, it can often be found in completely unremarkable circumstances.

The Quiet Profundity of Everyday Awe⩘  by Dacher Keltner, The Atlantic, Jan 3, 2023.

Does free will violate the laws of physics?

A still shot from the video looking up from a forest floor through ferns and a surrounding of thin tall trees through which sunlight is filtering down.

In this interesting video, Professor Sean Carroll discusses free will versus determinism, the idea that since the universe is governed by the laws of physics, everything that happens is determined by antecedent conditions. He ends up arguing in favor of compatibilism, the idea that free will and determinism are compatible ideas.

Given the choices I make, what is the future I'm going to help bring about. So like it or not, the world that we really know and live in is one where our choices matter. That's where meaning comes from, from recognizing that in the real world of the knowledge that we have and our computational boundedness, we have some responsibility for bringing about what is going to happen next.

Dr. Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist and philosopher who specializes in quantum mechanics, gravity, and cosmology. Currently, he is Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy—in effect, a joint appointment between physics and philosophy—at Johns Hopkins University.

Does free will violate the laws of physics?⩘  by Sean Carroll, Big Think, Nov 2022.

My heart is with the people of Ukraine

The flag of Ukraine (top half blue, bottom half yellow-gold)
Wikipedia: Ukraine⩘ 

Mastodon: #StandWithUkraine⩘ 
@saint_rebel_ukraine_@mastodon.world⩘ 

Note: This continues a running post⩘  that began Mar 10, 2022.

"We will be defending our country, because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this."
– Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky

As I read and view the news about Russia's brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine⩘  each day, my heart breaks over and over: cataclysmic destruction⩘ ; frightened civilians running for their lives; a destroyed maternity hospital; dazed and bloody civilians; long trenches being filled with corpses; destroyed residential neighborhoods; a lifeless hand sticking out from the rubble of a bombed civilian building; cold, hungry civilians trapped by indiscriminate, seemingly intentional shelling of evacuation corridors; and the callous face of Vladimir Putin as he spews his vile lies⩘ .

In a Letters from an American post on Mar 10, 2022⩘ , Professor Heather Cox Richardson provides valuable context, talking about Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 29th Fireside Chat, which he gave on June 5, 1944, the day before D-Day. In it, he talked about the fall of Mussolini's Rome and how "the ideology of fascism, which maintained that a few men should rule over the majority of the population, was hollow."

She then talks about what the invasion is revealing about Putin's autocracy:

   The last few weeks have demonstrated the same advantage of democracy over authoritarianism that FDR saw in the fall of Rome. Russia's invasion of Ukraine was supposed to demonstrate the efficient juggernaut of authoritarianism. But Putin's lightning attack on a neighboring state did not go as planned. Ukrainians have insisted on their right to self-determination, demonstrating the power of democracy with their lives.
   At the same time, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shown the weakness of modern authoritarianism. Putin expected to overrun a democratic neighbor quickly, but his failure to do so has revealed that his army's perceived power was FDR's "tinsel at the top": lots of bells and whistles but outdated food, a lack of support vehicles, conscripted and confused soldiers, and compromised communications. The corruption inherent in a one-party state of loyalists, unafflicted by oversight, has hollowed out the Russian military, making it unable to feed or supply its troops.

Letters from an American⩘  by Professor Heather Cox Richardson, Mar 10, 2022.

Whatever the outcome, Putin has been exposed for the immoral thug he is, and his military has been exposed for its corrupt, incompetent, and uncivilized behavior. That countries like China⩘  and India⩘  have so far failed to clearly condemn Putin's behavior says more about them than him.

My heart is with the Ukrainian people.

Updates:

Note: This continues a running list⩘  I've been compiling since March 2022.

Courageous Russian civilians

In addition to the thousands of courageous Russian civilians who have taken to the streets in order to protest against Putin's war despite knowing they likely will be arrested and imprisoned, some courageous Russian civilians are also speaking out against the war through the media, despite knowing they may be imprisoned for up to 15 years, or worse:

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