Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Don't know much about history...

Doing a lot of reading, books about slow cookers (I just got one), weaving, climate change and history. While I sit in my comfy chair waiting for this cold to go away and not come back...

Climate change: this one is kind of interesting but you might not agree with it. Cool It by Bjorn Lomborg (the Sceptical Environmentalist). He feels that climate change has been vastly overrated, in the sense that people have become downright hysterical about it. Not that he denies its existence or even that it is at least in part human-caused. But. His point is that rather than worry about future generations who may or may not be affected to a greater or lesser degree, it would be far better to worry about and spend our money on people alive today who are at risk due to lack of clean water, AIDS, malaria, social issues, malnutrition, etc etc etc.

Lomborg says that for a fraction of what it might cost to lower our carbon emissions to whatever level they are currently saying is acceptable, we could eliminate malaria, treat all HIV-infected people, provide clean water to everyone on the planet and a host of other lifesaving projects. And further, that the potential threat of climate change (flooding, drought, species extinctions, etc etc) might be better addressed directly rather than indirectly via reduced carbon emissions. For example, better to build better levees and dykes and protect crucial wetlands to protect vulnerable river and seaside areas than to impose exorbidant carbon taxes. And it would be far more doable politically than trying to convince every government and corporate polluter to change their ways. In fact, if we were successful in reducing carbon emissions around the world the effect would actually be devastating for poor people everywhere. The economic effect would be severe and mostly borne by those who can least afford it.

Lomborg provides evidence to support his position which I won't get into here. I am not expert enough to refute his arguments or supporting evidence, but perhaps you are; in which case I urge you to read the book. I thought that what he had to say made a lot of sense to me.

History: I just read Debt: the First 5,000 Years by David Graeber (one of the first "organizers" of the Occupy Wall Street event in NYC last summer and fall) and am about halfway through The Origins of Political Order by Francis Fukuyama. They are both sweeping surveys of about the last 5,000 years, give or take. Fukuyama ends his book with the French Revolution, promising a sequel to follow addressing developments since that time. Graeber's book is shorter and ploughs on through to the financial crisis of 2008.

Fukuyama is or was famous for his previous book called The End of History and the Last Man. It all sounded kind of presumptuous and beyond me anyway so I did not read that book, but now I think I might go back and try it, I am curious as to how he came to that conclusion at the time. He is very readable although he does use some technical language I've never heard of ("enfeoffed"?) to describe particular historical situations.

Graeber is a little tougher, probably because of his subject matter. But the major difference I notice is that Graeber definitely has an opinion---an axe to grind---while Fukuyama is decidedly more objective and emotionally removed from his subject. So they tend to cover the same periods and events in very different ways. Not that they are necessarily opposed or that one is better than the other, just different. With both writers I feel like I am learning a lot and learning from perspectives I never would have dreamed of. Graeber definitely makes you think. And Fukuyama presents theories that sound very plausible, very explanatory and leave you thinking, "oh, so that's why...!"

I guess the big caution I would have is that Fukuyama makes it very clear when he is theorizing and Graeber doesn't. So with Graeber you're not quite sure how much of it is his opinion and how much is just accepted fact. However his footnotes and references take up a quarter of the book so if you are diligent you can check it all for yourself.

Slow cookers: Well, I borrowed a whole bunch of slow cooker cookbooks from the library in hopes of finding one that I liked and could buy (cookbook that is). So far I have been able to rule out a few pretty quickly, but I am down to three that I can't decide between and I still have a couple of holds pending for more cookbooks. So I don't know what I will end up doing.

I recently bought a book about the Middle Ages by Henri Pirenne; haven't read it yet but I had read on the internet somewhere that he is a recognized authority on that time period. And the book was cheap: $0.01 plus shipping. As soon as I get through the library books... I really must slow down with putting holds on stuff...


Tamara said...

Sounds like interesting reading. As far as slow cooker cookbooks, the latest Canadian Living one and it is pretty good. I also have 'Fresh from the Vegetarian', and it also has intercoms recipes, although they tend to be a bit bland/non-spicy.

Annie said...

Thanks Tamara, I will look at those. Canadian Living seems pretty reliable for good recipes, I've checked their website quite a few times.