Well, the old browser tab count is up well past thirty, and that makes it awfully slow to restart even if it’s Chrome. So, let’s see if I can transplant some of these tabs into your browser.
The Strongest Girls in the World · This is the title of an essay about European politics and culture which I somehow missed when it was published in January 2011. It has as much clear-eyed concentrated thought on the relationship between individuals, families, and the state as I’ve read, well, maybe ever. It considers, among other things, the Swedish Theory of Love and Pippi Longstocking.
Art and Ethics · While we’re on the subject of pop music, and in the wake of the SOPA battle, the question arises: Do artists have a moral right to be paid for their work? This is taken up over on one of The Economist blogs in Gonna do it anyway, even if it doesn't pay.
This is a challenging piece of writing; let me quote: “We're living in a social moment where, more than usually, money has come unglued from value.” And you really want to watch the Gillian Welch video from which the title comes.
The Web is Dead, as Usual · Being eaten by Facebook or Google or whoever it is you don’t like. I don’t think so. Neither does Dave Winer. FB & G are unimaginably huge; but actually they’re tiny compared to the wealth of the Web, and after all they’re just companies. Most companies’ lifespans are measured in decades at most, and I’m pretty sure my grandchildren will be using whatever the Web has become.
That .ca Domain is Looking Better and Better · I’m serious. The US government can shut down any old .com, .net, or .org any time they want. Eek. Yep, I have secured tbray.ca.
Nuclear Energy · Given the global-warming backdrop, nuclear power ought to be looking better and better. The amount of actual harm to humans due to radiation leakage has been very moderate given the global size of the industry, and is anyhow dwarfed by what’s coming at us given a single-digit number of degrees uptick in global average temperature.
I’ve been convinced since I was in college that the biggest problem with nuclear power is purely economic. These things are built at a scale that makes them all one-offs, and we’re just not good at those. If we could figure out how to build small nuclear plants, we could start to get economies of scale and techniques for safety and management that could be replicated widely. Which is the right way to run an industry.
It’s still a long shot; but I’m delighted to see the US Department of Energy throwing some money at small-reactor research.
Tar Sands Energy · I’ve stuck my stake in the ground on this one. I question not only whether it’s a good idea to build pipelines, but whether we ought to be tearing the shit out of Northern Alberta at all.
I got interested in the dueling claims: “This will cause a devastating release in carbon emissions” vs. “Hardly any difference at all”. So I did a bunch of reading and assembled links.
A good place to start is with the SDEIS study, from the US Department of State in 2010. Also in 2010 is GHG Emission Factors for High Carbon Intensity Crude Oils from the Natural Resources Defense Council. These studies all raise sharp concerns about the environmental cost of the tar sands and the pipeline.
In opposition, there’s The Role of the Canadian Oil Sands in the US Market, a special report from IHS Cera, which argues that the environmental impact is dramatically less than feared. Nowhere can I find any information on who funded the production of this report; but at least there’s some rational-sounding discussion of methodology.
If you care about this stuff, there’s probably no excuse for not reading some of this upstream research. But if you’d rather outsource some of that work, you can visit the Climate Progress blog and read Tar sands: Still dirty after all these years.
It’s pretty partisan, so if you want some dialogue, start with the New York Times’ Joe Nocera, who wrote Poisoned Politics of Keystone XL; Climate Progress’ Joe Romm pushed back in Joe Nocera Joins the Climate Ignorati, and Nocera rebuts in The Politics of Keystone, Take 2.
This is a multifaceted issue; I also recommend Garbage blamed as 145 bears shot in Alberta's north. And if you want a thoughtful look at how this plays out at the level of policy and the US elections, there’s The emerging energy consensus.
The Middle East · What a mix of hope (Arab Spring) and horror (let’s bomb Iran) the news has been for those of us who are fascinated by this part of the world. I no more have a solution than does anyone else, but I can offer a couple of links that are arguing positions that I’m not really hearing anywhere else. The title of We Can Live with a Nuclear Iran speaks for itself, Nir and Far Away offers an unconventional insider’s view from Syria.