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June 17, 2009

Daily roundup

June 15, 2009

Climate Change Is Real

Booker-14060_1423198a That's right. The world's climate is changing, always has been -- just, this time, not in the direction predicted by the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner. As reported by the Telegraph, cooler, not warmer weather is causing crop shortages and higher prices around the globe. For instance,

In Canada and northern America summer planting of corn and soybeans has been way behind schedule, with the prospect of reduced yields and lower quality. Grain stocks are predicted to be down 15 per cent next year. US reserves of soya – used in animal feed and in many processed foods – are expected to fall to a 32-year low.

The situation is similar for China, Africa, and Europe.

So what's the culprit? Something that was identified 200 years ago when "the great astronomer William Herschel observed a correlation between wheat prices and sunspots. When the latter were few in number, he noted, the climate turned colder and drier, crop yields fell and wheat prices rose. In the past two years, sunspot activity has dropped to its lowest point for a century."

Hmmm. Looks like the science "was in," the debate over, two centuries ago. Had the Nobel been established back then, the Peace prize might have gone to an astronomer.

It is a sad irony that in our efforts to fix a problem that doesn't exist -- man-made global warming -- the food situation around the globe could very well be exacerbated as "the millions of acres of farmland [are] now being switched from food crops to biofuels" to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

(Image © Reuters)

May 29, 2009

Crichton’s View

Pelosi China As the Speaker of the House is in China drumming up concern about global warming -- and asserting that "Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory ... of how we are taking responsibility" -- this video of Michael Crichton (some profanity in comments) speaking on global warming is a breath of fresh air (hat tip to one of our Pointificators, Mike Snow).

P. S. Anyone else concerned about the possibility of Big Brother coming into our homes to determine if we're "green" enough? Of children being taught in schools to "tattle" on their environmentally wasteful parents?

(Image © Andy Wong for the AP)

May 28, 2009

Worst car review ever

In_Gear_556559a My friend Mike sent me Jeremy Clarkson's review of the new Honda Insight. I understand the article has been making the rounds lately, so you may have already seen it. For those of you who haven't, it's a must read.

Mike's favorite part was "It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more."

Me, I was rather partial to "The Honda’s petrol engine . . . makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner. It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer."

But you have to read the whole thing to get the full (hilarious) effect.

(Image courtesy of the Times Online)

May 13, 2009

Daily roundup

May 06, 2009

Daily roundup

May 01, 2009

Daily roundup

April 29, 2009

Daily roundup

April 28, 2009

Daily roundup

April 24, 2009

’Your future is great’

Although I'm not a parent myself, I think James Lileks has some good thoughts here on messages that we knowingly or unknowingly send to kids -- and how those messages affect them.

As for Earth Day, I don’t mind the planting-trees-and-picking-up-trash part - the kids did that last Saturday, which is good. Labor and sweat on behalf of a cleaner city. I put in eight trees last year, so I’m holding up my end. At least the arboreal part. But I’ll have none of that YOUR FUTURE IS BLEAK stuff; I grew up with that, and it was a dark cloud hanging six inches over my head for most of my childhood. If it wasn’t ecocatastrophe that would leave us all living underground or stuck in a small smelly apartment with Edward G. Robinson pedaling a bike for ten minutes of lights, it was nukes, or that “Late Great Planet Earth” stuff that really depressed me. I suppose some kids thought it would be keen to be around when God called the game on account of sin, but I thought it was a raw deal. Can I just have a life down here first ? What’s the hurry? You have all the time in the world. You invented it.

[My daughter] was excited to tell me that they’ve discovered two new planets, and they could have water. I told her I thought there were many planets out there like ours, and I thought some of them had life. Maybe someday she’d learn they had heard a radio signal from one of them. Your future is great.

April 22, 2009

Daily roundup

April 06, 2009

n Couples + (2 x Kids) = World - z Quality Environment

...where "n" equals current number of couples worldwide and "z" equals an unspecified but somehow measurable "amount" of environmental quality.

From Chuck Colson's BreakPoint on Friday:

In February, Jonathan Porritt, the chairman of the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission, said that couples with more than two children were placing an “‘irresponsible’ burden of the environment.”

...[S]ix weeks later, he upped the ante: he declared that the UK must cut its population from its current 61 million to 30 million “if it is to build a sustainable society.”

Really? It's that simple? Huh, who knew? It sounds so certain and data-based, doesn't it?

Continue reading "n Couples + (2 x Kids) = World - z Quality Environment" »

April 03, 2009

What would Jesus walk on?

Ecopalm_247 The green movement has hit the second greenest Christian celebration, Palm Sunday, when fronds of green palm branches are waved by children and adults in church services only a few months after all the Christmas (or Chrismon) trees were taken down. This year, in a move that might make the Sleeths happy, a number of churches have gone free-trade with their palm fronds. Spending a few more dollars, they are buying palm fronds through a university project that promises sustainable farming and fair wages.

Gina's post on the Sleeths' book has generated a lot of discussion about the green movement and how (or if) it should intersect with our faith. What do you all think? Is the idea of free trade palms one you'd like to see in your church?

(Image courtesy of UMCOR/Lutheran World Relief)

April 01, 2009

Going green for God

Go Green Yesterday I spoke on the phone with Nancy Sleeth, author of the new book Go Green, Save Green. Sleeth and her husband, Matthew, are the founders of Blessed Earth, "an educational nonprofit that inspires and equips faith communities to become better stewards of the earth." Her husband and daughter have also written books on the subject. (We don't yet have the books here, but review copies have been shipped to our office, so you'll be hearing more about them in the future.)

Matthew Sleeth was an emergency room physician who was becoming concerned about what he saw as an increased incidence of environmentally caused diseases (in one week on the job, he saw three women in their thirties with breast cancer), as well as what he heard scientists saying about the decreasing of living material on the earth. He left his job and the Sleeths became what Nancy calls the "poster family for the downwardly mobile." Once they had made drastic reductions in their own energy usage, they set out to help others do the same.

At the same time, the Sleeths were starting a new "faith journey." Nancy had been raised Jewish and Matthew Protestant, but aside from celebrating holidays, the family had little interest in religion. Nancy quips that in their house "the Fiddler on the Roof slipped down the chimney and laid Easter eggs." But her husband had discovered a Gideon Bible one day in the hospital during a slow day, and "he picked it up and read the Gospel of Matthew and his life changed." Nancy and the children soon followed suit. Thus, Nancy says, "Our stewardship journey and our faith journey were parallel."

The Sleeths believe that helping save the creation is a way to honor the Creator, and that the Bible makes a solid case for taking care of the environment. "It's old theology; it's nothing new," Nancy explains. "We're just reminding people." The response they're getting from churches around the country has been "amazing," especially now that Christians, like the larger population, are trying to save money as well as natural resources. That's fine with Nancy: "I don't care if it's motivated by economics, it's doing the right thing." 

Continue reading "Going green for God" »

March 31, 2009

Daily roundup

Creation Cries Out: March BreakPoint WorldView Magazine

Creation Cries Out I love the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. He writes of "God’s Grandeur," saying, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,/It will flame out like shining from shook foil …”.  Sometimes that charge is electric, as in the roar of a waterfall or the magnificence of a canyon in the fading light of the sun. Other times God’s grandeur is experienced in a way more like the whisper in Elijah’s ear.

In this month’s BreakPoint WorldView magazine, T.M. Moore examines how the Celtic Christians experienced God’s grandeur in nature. Crag and forest, fawn and fern, all spoke of wonders and ways to praise the Creator. How can Irish spirituality inform our own? The answer, T.M. writes, is that Celtic Christians show us “the creation is a vast book of revelation – the very speech of the Father (Ps. 19:1-1) ….”

But the Christian can find reflections of God and his moral order in more than just the fields and the flowers, but also in the works of men and women who bear his image. Gina Dalfonzo shows us, for example, religious elements in a very unexpected place—in the films of Alfred Hitchcock. From the shadow of the cross in the film Notorious to the curve toward justice in films like Rope, Gina explores what we can learn about how Hitchcock’s Catholic upbringing informed the worldview of his art.

Reverend Robert Lynn moves our thoughts to examine our own role in creation and preservation. He begins with the premise that Christians today are known more by what we oppose than by what we support. He urges us to consider what God calls us to be for in the world and how we can be a part of more than simply critiquing culture or copying culture. In the words of Andy Crouch, Rev. Lynn calls us to be a part of creating culture.

If you haven't signed up to receive BreakPoint WorldView magazine, I hope you will today. And as you explore the articles in this month's edition, I hope that it will open your eyes to how creation and created work speak of God, and how we too can participate in the task of creating culture.

March 27, 2009

Eve of Destruction: Coronal Mass Ejection

Solarfilament One of the things that I want to see before I die is the Aurora Borealis (or its Antarctic equivalent, the Aurora Australis). But if the folks at NASA and the New Scientist are correct, seeing them may be the last thing I do, at least before my and everyone else's world falls apart.

Here's the scenario:

It is midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation's infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.

To understand how and why millions of us are going to die, first a primer: however peaceful and happy the Sun looks from 93 miles away, it is, as your science teachers told you, a giant ball of burning gas that ejects billions of tons of electrically charged particles every few hours, a.k.a. the solar wind.

The best-case scenario: every day about 1000 tons of these particles reach Earth, where most of them are deflected by our blessed magnetic field (magnetosphere) and "dragged through the atmosphere towards the poles." There, the particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen to produce the green and red lights of the aurora.

(Note, I said "most," not all. Some of the particles do get through. There's no end of speculation about their effects: everything from dropped cell phone calls to cancer to the genetic mutations that drive evolution has been linked by someone to these particles.)

Continue reading "Eve of Destruction: Coronal Mass Ejection" »

March 24, 2009

The Roosevelts are back in the White House

Eleanor Speaking of gardens -- first Barack was FDR, now Michelle is Eleanor.

As a man sows

Garden With the economy forcing people to, well, economize, Americans are rolling up their sleeves and rediscovering vegetable gardens. According to the AP, we're supposed to call them "recession gardens," although the 1940s name of "victory gardens" sounds a whole lot cheerier. 

Those gardens, modeled after a White House patch planted by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1943, were intended to inspire self-sufficiency, and at their peak supplied 40 percent of the nation's fresh produce, said Roger Doiron, founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International.

Wow--can you imagine if 40 percent of our fresh produce came from our backyards? What would that look like? Maybe we could stop popping so many vitamin pills and get the healthy glow that comes from fresh vegetables and sunshine. Maybe the Global Food Crisis would disappear as American farmers were able to meet international need. Maybe people in our own communities wouldn't go hungry if we were each able to plant one extra row for a local food bank. Maybe we would one day hear Jesus say, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat." Sounds like victory to me.

(Image © AP)

March 20, 2009

Daily roundup

Global Warming, a New Kind of Morality

Earth3 Thanks to Pointificator Michael Snow for alerting us to an important video hosted by scientists refuting the global warming myth.  

The Discovery Channel (among others) is making a bunch of money running global warming stories, so I suggest that it is important for all of us to become educated on this worldview issue (Humans vs. Earth). Michael Snow is correct about who will suffer the most from bad policy decisions based on error-ridden science: the poor. 

Myths are hard to break. For instance, malaria was well on its way to being wiped out before Greeners decided that DDT was bad for the environment. (See Dr. Robert Cihak's article DDT vs. Death by Malaria.)

It always amazes me that we throw out perfectly good ethical and moral priniciples and replace them with nonsense. I guess St. Augustine was right: "our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." If we don't find rest in God, we'll try to find rest in something else--like Earth worship and bad science.

(Image © The Discovery Channel)

March 17, 2009

Daily roundup

March 12, 2009

Climate Change: Is a CO2 Prohibition Law Right around the Corner?

Physicist William Happer has warned Senate members about jumping onto the Global Warming Crusade against CO2. He compares the current movement to the temperance movement of the early 1900s.    

Movements like these are not victimless. The temperance movement spawned organized crime, and Happer says that this current movement to reduce CO2 will most likely cause some other great injury. 

Happer also hits upon one of my main concerns about this movement: misusing words and ideas to gain power. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) report is, at times, downright dishonest. 

Happer writes of the report,

I could hardly believe my eyes. Both the little ice age and the Medieval Warm Period were gone, and the newly revised temperature of the world since the year 1000 had suddenly become absolutely flat until the last hundred years when it shot up like the blade on a hockey stick. This was far from an obscure detail, and the hockey stick was trumpeted around the world as evidence that the end was near. We now know that the hockey stick has nothing to do with reality but was the result of incorrect handling of proxy temperature records and incorrect statistical analysis. There really was a little ice age and there really was a medieval warm period that was as warm or warmer than today. I bring up the hockey stick as a particularly clear example that the IPCC summaries for policy makers are not dispassionate statements of the facts of climate change. . . . The whole hockey-stick episode reminds me of the motto of Orwell's Ministry of Information in the novel 1984: "He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future." The IPCC has made no serious attempt to model the natural variations of the earth's temperature in the past. Whatever caused these large past variations, it was not due to people burning coal and oil. If you can't model the past, where you know the answer pretty well, how can you model the future?

Due to bad science and a quest for power, I can pretty much say that our energy crisis and dependence upon enemies of our great nation will only get worse. 

March 11, 2009

Daily roundup

March 05, 2009

Daily roundup

February 25, 2009


Temp_gavin In these days of officials committing ethical violations left and right, you gotta love a headline that reads, "[San Francisco's] Mayor Caught with Bottled Water!"

Lileks handles the non-story nicely:

This sums up with exquisite precision the people we elect to guide our institutions: 

Fix on something small and symbolic, and demonize it;

Propose a response that does little to address the fundamental problem;

Forbid the thing to others;

Reserve its use for yourself;

Adopt a penitent tone when caught which underscores the hypocrisy and makes you look like a dweeb for apologizing for something which, while petty, you have infused with moral failings. 

(Image © Newsom for California)

February 24, 2009

Daily roundup

This explains a lot


(Image © Scott Adams, Inc.)

February 20, 2009

Daily roundup

February 19, 2009

Daily roundup

February 16, 2009

Bad Medicine

Pills We ignore national security at our peril. According to a New York Times/International Herald Tribune article, we have "outsourced"--to the nth degree--manufacturing of crucial drugs to other nations, especially China and India. 

Part of the reason the manufacturing has been sent to other nations is because of all the taxes and unnecessary environmental regulations we've placed upon producers here.  

Seems to me that we'd go a long way toward securing our nation and generating jobs in America if we jettisoned some of the punishing taxes our big government places on manufacturer and eliminate all the nonsensical and costly reregulations. (Heck, getting rid of bad law will generate a few extra jobs too.)

February 11, 2009

A Lament for a Sunburnt Country

Sunburnt country

I love a sunburnt country, 
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains;
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror--
The wide brown land for me!

--“My Country,” Dorothea Mackellar

Above my mantle hangs a replica of a South Australian pastoral scene. Like cows, kangaroos graze beneath arching white trees. Muted green, the land rests peacefully in its arid beauty, beckoning me home.

I am an Australian, though I don't fully understand what that means. Born 26 years ago in a New South Wales hospital to two American parents, I have dual citizenship in a country I don’t really know, except for seven years of childish impressions. I know a bit of its temperate climate, its brogue-ish tongue, and its endearing people, but I have not lived with it through sorrow.

But when I read the headline “Australia fires toll passes 100,” something within me lurched forward in mournful identity with my second country—with the man who had to plow over burning gum trees as he watched two people incinerate in a car behind him … with another man who stifled his tears as he surveyed the rubble that stood in the place of his farm … with a woman who wailed as she recounted how her house of 25 years crumbled to the ground under its fiery weight.

I have often nourished my memory with the Southern Hemisphere’s sweet heart, its wide-swept plains, aspiring arches, crystalline beaches, and koala-perched eucalyptus trees. I had forgotten that even here evil minds plot their ways, and the land wails for her tarnished beauty.

May she find respite for her scorched lands and justice to preserve her dignity.

(Image © AP)

February 09, 2009

Daily roundup

Simply Beautiful!

There's a new form of eco-tourism, traveling to places in the world where lights are limited so you can see the real night sky. Check out this photo of one such place in New Zealand. Thankfully, I grew up in the country at a time when such sights were common. I miss them, and am just about ready to sign up for one of these tours. 

February 03, 2009

Daily roundup

February 02, 2009

Daily roundup

January 30, 2009

Daily roundup

January 26, 2009

Wired for Sentiment

I’m busting a gut over Clive Thompson’s Wired column-o'-gripe.  In the piece, ostensibly about the quite likely reality that our Web-empowered culture is gaining in information but declining in knowledge, Thompson complains that there are too many rubes who ask the following ignorant questions about “incontrovertibly” “settled facts”:

Is global warming caused by humans? Is Barack Obama a Christian? Is evolution a well-supported theory?

Thompson rails that too many Republicans doubt anthropogenic global warming, too many Texans believe that Obama is Muslim, and too many Americans do not subscribe to evolution.

Thompson blames this horror on a “disinformation revolution” that “attempts to foster ignorance," of which the result is that “reality dies screaming."

But if there exists a more ironic (put together, “more” and “ironic” form … well, you can figure it out) published complaint, it’s a glorious, secret deprivation and I demand to be informed immediately.  Thompson’s piece is unintended hilarity of the most delicious sort.

Continue reading "Wired for Sentiment" »

January 21, 2009

Daily roundup

Posting may be sporadic tomorrow, as I'll be attending Blogs4Life downtown. (I believe you can watch the webcast at that link.)

Random, Post-Inaugural Thoughts

Bushes Obamas Some random musings on the day after....

That sea of humanity that crowded the national Mall yesterday left behind a sea of garbage. They want Obama to change the world, but they won't help by picking up their own trash?

Rahm Emmanuel was caught on camera blowing raspberries and making a "nah, nah, nah" gesture at someone yesterday. Gosh, I'm so glad to know a mature, dignified man like him is our new president's closest adviser. 

Supporters of Bush Derangement Syndrome were out in droves yesterday as they booed Bush, Cheney, and even their wives. (Profanity in comments at link.) Someone evidently forgot to teach them that we are supposed to respect the office even if we don't respect the person holding that office. As much as I disliked Clinton, I can't imagine being that rude. It was just more evidence that we're becoming a nation of crass, tasteless boors. 

I don't usually pay much attention to fashion, but I really liked Michelle Obama's dresses: the yellow one she wore for the Inauguration, and especially the white one she wore to the balls. She, the president, and their daughters are a beautiful family. 

I loved the black woman interviewed by one reporter yesterday who said, "My son will not have to be a basketball player or a rap singer.... Now, he can be president."   

What random musings have you been having?

(Image © Saul Loeb for the AP)

January 13, 2009

Daily roundup

January 09, 2009

Daily roundup

January 06, 2009

Daily roundup

Numbers game

The "recovering evangelical" speaking in this video interview strikes me as looking at religion and politics with an oddly utilitarian slant. Since when are Christians supposed to play the numbers with human lives -- and where does this fascination with the number of references to a topic in the Bible come from, anyway? (Yes, that's a rhetorical question; I know very well where at least some of it is coming from.)

If a "non-recovering evangelical" insisted, for instance, that we should pay more attention to following Old Testament dietary laws than preserving the environment because of the respective number of biblical references to each topic, he or she would be laughed off the national stage, and rightly so. And the same would happen if he or she tried to prove that the two goals were mutually exclusive. (Also, I'm not entirely sure why someone who thinks evangelicalism is something that you recover from is speaking for evangelicals.)

No one has yet explained to me, in any way that makes sense, the liberal Christian philosophy that you save more lives by taking away the right to life. As long as "recovering evangelicals" keep trying to apply the term Christian to a belief that actually harks back to paganism, I don't expect that anyone will.

January 05, 2009

Daily roundup

December 18, 2008

Daily roundup

And They Thought Wrong...

Thinking they'd caught a fiendish tree logging scheme in progress, one group of campaigners called police in to investigate the crime scene. The crime fighters in Subkowy, Poland found the culprits, but haven't charged them. Find out why at Uncommon Descent

December 17, 2008

Where the Sidewalk Ends: Apocalyptic Edition

Apocalypse Offline, we've just been discussing the impending end of the earth.

The latest news is that the earth may have a hole--not in the ozone layer, but in its magnetic field. We're not kidding -- read here. And we thought the asteroid was bad news. Our good friend Roberto keeps us informed of these things, spreading the holiday cheer we all so desperately need.

It seems we're not alone in bracing for either a) the Apocalypse or b) as Roberto likes to say, not the start of The End Days, but a whole bunch of really crappy ones in a row. (Roberto, it seems, has been reading The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly. He highly recommends it.) Hollywood is pretty sure it's about to happen also. Between the new movies 2012 and Knowing, we're actually a little late around here in getting on the apocalyptic band wagon.

So in hopes that you'll be well prepared and also prepare your children well for what may be everyone's last Christmas, I've worked up a little recommended reading list, BreakPoint style. Here are a few titles to put under the tree or use at bedtime:

  • Goodnight Moon, and Other Stories of Impending Nuclear Holocaust
  • Who Moved My Planet?
  • The Monster at the End of This Book (includes your own envelope of anthrax powder)
  • Chicka-chicka-atomic-boom-boom
  • Horton Hears a Hypercane
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? (I See Pestilence in 2023)

While you're at it, you might want to go ahead and order a set of rapture preparedness cards for your church or home. They're really a must-have.

(Image courtesy of Evermotion.org)

December 16, 2008

Daily roundup

December 10, 2008

A One-World Government?

Global_govt According to this article by Gideon Rachman, we're moving ever closer to a one-world government. Do you think you'll see it happen in your lifetime? If so, do you view such a change positively or negatively? Why?

(Image © James Ferguson for the Financial Times)