The Least, First

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The environmental inverted pyramid in public perception

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Here’s an interesting “least, first”-related observation by Nate Silver at the excellent FiveThirtyEight.

We (Americans generally) believe the environment is in danger from global warming. But we don’t particularly believe that danger threatens us:

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The survey (.pdf), conducted by George Mason University‘s Center for Climate Change Communication, reveals that Americans are concerned about global warming in the abstract — but perhaps only in the abstract. Just 32 percent of Americans think global warming will harm them “a great deal” or a “a moderate amount” personally […]

These beliefs are not necessarily irrational. Climate change probably will have more impact on the developing world than the developed one, and it almost certainly will have more impact on our children than it does on ourselves. […]

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Without taking the time to question whether the perception of invincibility is correct, let’s observe that it raises the perennial least-first question: Will we have the courage and grace to act on behalf of others?

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Crocs for dinner. Whole ones.

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From Colombia, a snake story to remember:
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Artist's interpretation of how Titanoboa might have looked.Morning Edition, February 5, 2009 · The largest known snake that ever lived grew as long as a school bus, was 3 feet thick, weighed over a ton and ate crocodiles — presumably whole and al dente.

Not to worry: Titanoboa cerrejonensis lived 60 million years ago and is extinct. But for some 20 million years after the dinosaurs disappeared, this 42-foot serpent ruled the land.

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Titanoboa vertebra dwarfs an anaconda vertebra.A vertabra from the Titanoboa dwarfs that of an adult Green anaconda.

Cold-blooded animals such as snakes require warm climates to grow large. The Titanoboa’s size suggests that the average temperature once was considerably higher than it is now.

Python crawling over Titanoboa vertebra.Enlarge A live python crawls over the enormous vertebra of Titanoboa.

Head points out that a cold-blooded animal that big would have had to live in a very hot place to survive […] several degrees warmer than the [current] tropical average and […] warmer than scientists believed the tropics ever got […] even during ancient periods of greenhouse warming […]

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See the whole story at the NPR link.

Stands to reason, I suppose, that if global warming is happening anything like majority scientists believe it to be, reptiles in some parts of the world will grow larger again.

And then there’ll be snake stories to tell. Let’s see: what reptiles do you think would become huge first?

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February 5, 2009 at 11:42 am

Despite Many Challenges World Faces Brighter Future

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There’s remarkable achievement happening against the world’s ailments! Click the link for the full story from Yahoo Singapore.

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UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – – Despite daunting challenges posed by global warming, water, energy, unemployment and terrorism, the world faces a brighter future with fewer wars, higher life expectancy and improved literacy, according to a report released Monday.

“Although great human tragedies like Iraq and Darfur dominate the news, the vast majority of the world is living in peace, conflicts actually decreased over the past decade,” says the 2007 State of the Future report.
“At this rate world poverty will be cut by more than half between 2000 and 2015, meeting the UN Millenium Development Goal for poverty reduction except in sub-Saharan Africa”, it added.
On the negative side, it pointed to hikes in CO2 emissions, terrorism, corruption, global warming and unemployment and a decrease in percentage of voting populations.
The income of the richest 225 people in the world equals that of the poorest 2.7 billion or 40 percent of the global population, the report said.

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And by the way, you’re welcome to enjoy my other newsclips at I got this one courtesy of Debbyski, a clipper who digs up something intriguing every day. Clipmarks offers just the high points (<1000 characters) from stories around the world. Find clippers whose interests match your own, and you’ll learn a lot in a hurry! Start your own Clipmarks file, and you’ll have a place to save and sort all you find on the web.

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Written by Monte

September 12, 2007 at 10:32 am

“Evangelicals … deserting the religious right in droves”

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An intriguing article from the Baltimore Sun by Thomas Schaller details a sea change in American politics. Do you think this could represent a renewal of emphasis on developing character and passions like those of Jesus (previously eclipsed by 20th century zeal for doctrinal and political orthodoxy)?

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“Evangelicals – especially the new generation of pastors and young people – are deserting the religious right in droves,” wrote Jim Wallis, author of God’s Politics, in a February commentary in Time. “The evangelical social agenda is now much broader and deeper, engaging issues like poverty and economic justice, global warming, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, genocide in Darfur and the ethics of the war in Iraq.”
For example, somebody should alert the Republican presidential aspirants to the declaration issued this spring by a coalition of top evangelicals that renounces “torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees” and calls for the United States to embrace the Geneva Conventions. During last month’s South Carolina debate, with the notable exception of Arizona Sen. John McCain, the GOP candidates tried to out-macho each other on the treatment of detainees…. Mitt Romney boasted that he’d like to “double Guantanamo,”

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Written by Monte

June 23, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Just nuts?

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Now here’s something to think about from Grist (click for the whole story).

Suppose a government was largely funded by big business. And then suppose a situation arose that was dangerous, but possibly very expensive for big business. Is it possible that business might use its influence to make the situation seem less of a threat than it was?

Nah. Surely no serious challenge could be mounted that would obscure obvious data. Ah – but isn’t that just what the tobacco industry did for so long? Remember all those guys in white coats keeping a straight face while telling us tobacco was nothing to get worked up about?

In that light, ponder the case made here regarding global warming: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

November 14, 2006 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Environment