Adapting to Climate Change

A good article from a few years back, looking at how some US farmers are adapting to climate change while still being deniers that it’s happening in the first place.

It’s an interesting read, but this passage towards the end stands out…

For the next two hours or so, Ethan and I talked. It wasn’t an interview anymore. It was a conversation between two old men who, while we may come from different ideological camps, have each managed in our lives to cheat catastrophe long enough to learn to listen to each other.

And at the end of the conversation, I rolled a final cigarette, and Ethan took a deep breath when I lit it. “You know what, Ethan?” I said. “We’ve just sat here for the better part of four and half hours, a good old-fashioned rock-ribbed conservative like you and a good old-fashioned dyed-in-the-wool liberal like me, and we’ve touched on most of the major hot-button issues in the culture wars — abortion, same-sex marriage, guns, even climate. On about 85 percent of those issues, you and I could find enough common ground to find a shared purpose. On another 10 percent or so, we could at least reach an understanding. There was maybe about 5 percent where the differences were just too great. But we could set those aside, at least for now.”

He agreed.

“So why is it,” I asked, “that when I hear people talking about you, and you hear people talking about me, the only thing they ever talk about is that 5 percent?”

Unfortunately we’re still only talking about the 5 percent.

Malaysia

After Singapore we continued on to Malaysia, with the rest of the family meeting us in Batu Ferringhi for our usual visit to the Golden Sands. Anna & Michael were on the way back from Italy, Mark, Jess and Emily were on the way back from a visit to Jess’s folks in London, Nikki flew in from Sydney and Richard & Esther came down from Kanga.

I’ve been here a few times now and it’s always nice to kick back and relax with the family for a few days. Days are bookended by the breakfast buffet at the hotel and evening meal at the local hawker centre, with lounging by the pool taking up a fair proportion of the rest of the day. What’s not to like?

A trip into Penang is always worthwhile too, especially since the old streets obtained World Heritage listing in 2008, coincidentally also the year of my first visit. It’s quite interesting to see how the city is changing, developing a bit of a hipster culture in places while keeping the hawker aspects alive and well. The amount of street graffiti continues to grow too.

Singapore

We flew to Singapore a few weeks ago, for a few days before continuing on to Malaysia to visit Jacqui’s Dad. It was my first time visiting Singapore, only having stopped at Changi on the way to Europe previously, so it was nice to wander around and get a feel for the city state.

On the surface it’s a little antiseptic, everything spotless in the touristy section, not much traffic on the roads, same shops etc. as everywhere else in the world, epitomised by the Marina Bay Sands’ “The Shoppes” - complete with fake Olde Worlde name - where you won’t find a store that isn’t a designer brand. Yet you often round a corner to where the real people live and work and it’s busy, vibrant and full of hawker stalls selling cheap, tasty food. I’m not sure if it was Anthony Bourdain who said that all good food comes from street food, or maybe it’s a truism amongst chefs, but it’s certainly true in Asia and particularly in Singapore as it has always been such a melting pot of cultures.

It’s also a surveillance state - I’ve never seen so many CCTV cameras keeping an eye on everyone - and I wonder how much is being done with the footage. Is it merely temporarily recorded in case of crime, or are they heading the way of the Chinese and applying facial recognition on a large scale? Cars are also stupidly expensive (circa $95k for a Hyundai i30 which costs about $22k in Aus), which explains the lack of traffic, though the public transport system is excellent, so that’s an overall win in my book.

Single-party Government is always a bit suspect, though the country scores highly on lack of corruption etc. and elections are technically free, though there’s no effective opposition. The ‘benevolent dictator’ model seems to have helped them transition very effectively from Colonial rule, certainly much better than Malaysia has, though the large income from trade coupled with only a small land mass to manage has undoubtedly made things easier.

Anyway, some superficial thoughts from a superficial visit. We had a great time exploring by foot over a couple of days. Highlights were the various hawker stalls, Tiong Bahru, walking through Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Gardens by the Bay and seeing the Supertrees light show.

Here’s a few snaps.

Confused Elites

Observations from an unnamed conference, probably something like Davos, where the elites are left wondering where it all went wrong.

The industrial elites have lost their way. In every major profession and institution, they once commanded vast, widely-admired projects that filled their lives with meaning and endowed the entire class with an unconquerable confidence. But the twentieth century couldn’t be preserved forever, like a bug in amber. The elites now face a radically transformed environment – and they are maladapted and demoralized. An inability to listen, an impulse to spew jargon in broadcast mode, a demand for social distance as the reward for professional success: such habits, which in the past placed them above and beyond the mob’s reach, now drag them down to contempt and mockery in the information sphere. Among the public, trust has curdled into loathing. The elites are horribly aware of their fall from grace – hence the conference – but being deaf to the public’s voice, they are clueless about how to respond.

Hoist by their own petard perhaps? Business leaders, politicians and the like have made an art form of speaking in coherent sentences which impart no information and imply no commitments. When confronted with facts they don’t like, they go to great lengths to manufacture alternatives or attack the messenger, so is anyone surprised when people no longer trust them?

Personal Nuclear Reactor

An oldie, reprinted from a 1998 issue of Harper’s, recounting how a boy attempted to build his own nuclear breeder reactor, including the great quote “I don’t believe I took more than five years off of my life.” 😆

David was awarded his Atomic Energy merit badge on May 10, 1991, five months shy of his fifteenth birthday. To earn it he made a drawing showing how nuclear fission occurs, visited a hospital radiology unit to learn about the medical uses of radioisotopes and built a model reactor using a juice can, coat hangers, soda straws, kitchen matches, and rubber bands. By now, though, David had far grander ambitions. As Auito’s wife and troop treasurer, Barbara, recalls: “The typical kid [working on the merit badge] would have gone to a doctor’s office and asked about the X-ray machine. Dave had to go out and try to build a reactor.”