Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scolt Head Island

On 21 March I waded across Norton creek. An hour through marsh, sand and thick mud. This view, eastwards from the south side of the high dunes on the western part of the island, is towards towards Smuggler's Gap in the distance with Hut Marsh on the right:

And this is the view westward from the northern side the same dunes:

The view from those high dunes eastward and toward the sea:

Looking back to the high dunes from just above the beach on the northern side:

English Nature describes Scolt Head as "the prime example of an offshore barrier island in the UK...situated on a very dynamic coastline and...steadily growing westward."

Here is medieval glass showing the Man in the Moon at St Mary in Burnham Deepdale. A prayer on a pillar in the church begins: "O Thou who dwellest not in temples made with hands..." Scolt Head Island is right in front of you if you look north from the Saxon round tower of the church.

Snowdrops, still just about in flower in a spinney above Walsingham:

Later I wrote this.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tell'em Paul

If we are going to be part of a third industrial revolution we are going to have to have a frank discussion about power.

All the power has been centred on finance and the financial model and, funnily enough, we have just hocked our entire economy to save that broken system.
-- Paul Mason

War games

By attacking without Washington's advance knowledge, Israel had the benefits of surprise and momentum - not only over the Iranians, but over its American allies - and for the first day or two, ran circles around White House crisis managers.
-- from Imagining an Israeli attack on Iran.

Roger Cohen notes a shift in thinking in the U.S.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Worse than a crime

Marc Thiessen's Courting Disaster embraces horrible, foolish crimes. In letting these go, Jane Meyer reminds us, the Obama administration has made a grave mistake:
By holding no one accountable for past abuse, and by convening no commission on what did and didn’t protect the country, President Obama has left the telling of this dark chapter in American history to those who most want to whitewash it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

That's not entropy, man

John Gray finds fault with Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathic Civilization (review). Some of his points may be well taken. But he says something rather odd:
How could human empathy possibly defeat the force of entropy, an irreversible physical process?
It seems Gray equates behaviour by human groups, nations and civilisations as a whole, and the outcomes of those behaviours, with the second law of thermodynamics. Eh? A defining characteristic of humanity and indeed life in general is that it/they exist despite the second law by using energy from outside the immediate system of which they are part (i.e. from the sun and to a lesser extent radioactivity from inside the earth).

It is not hard to find grounds for pessimism regarding progressive action on climate change and much else. But entropy is not the issue. If there is to be progress it is likely to be grounded on a whole lot of rational self interest, including the possibility that there is more money and power to be derived from generating and using energy in smarter ways. And there may, even, be a role for empathy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Where the grickle grass grows...

Approaching the derelict shell of downtown Detroit, we see full-grown trees sprouting from the tops of deserted skyscrapers. In their shadows, the glazed eyes of the street zombies slide into view, stumbling in front of the car. Our excitement at driving into what feels like a man-made hurricane Katrina is matched only by sheer disbelief that what was once the fourth-largest city in the US could actually be in the process of disappearing from the face of the earth. The statistics are staggering – 40sq miles of the 139sq mile inner city have already been reclaimed by nature.
-- Julien Temple

Monday, March 08, 2010

" 'Reality' is dispensable"

The message of what is now James Cameron's most popular movie thus far, and the biggest-grossing movie in history—like the message of so much else in mass culture just now—is...that "reality" is dispensable altogether; or, at the very least, whatever you care to make of it, provided you have the right gadgets. In this fantasy of a lusciously colorful trip over the rainbow, you don't have to wake up. There's no need for home. Whatever its futuristic setting, and whatever its debt to the past, Avatar is very much a movie for our time.
-- from The Wizard by Daniel Mendelsohn.

Cameron see things differently. When Andy Revkin asks, why build a fantasy world? he replies:
People connect to that world, to the Na’vi and Na’vi philosophy, but it really is about reconnecting with our own world here. That’s how I see science fiction, functioning as a kind of a mirror. It’s often talked of as prophetic. But it’s generally been pretty lousy at predicting the actual future. To me, it allows us to step outside our own parochial interests and lets us look back at ourselves, at human nature, at the way we do things, without all the normal guilt-inducing buttons.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

'A very good election to loose'

In the general gloom I have only one piece of potentially good news, and even that might be wishful thinking. The bank bonuses this year are so grotesque that there are only two explanations for them. One is that investment banking culture truly is psychotic, in the strict sense of being out of touch with reality. That’s possible. The other explanation is that, as a French economist said to me when the crunch kicked in, ‘It’s over.’ He meant the whole obscene-bonus culture, the model in which the banks’ shareholders let the bankers pay themselves half what the bank ‘earns’, in the context of a regulatory and political framework in which the banks are allowed to do whatever they like. The proposals now being touted do not guarantee systemic safety, but taken together they will, for sure, make the system much less profitable. Maybe, just maybe, the bankers are pigging out this year because they suspect this is the last of the good times. If we’re looking for a glint of silver lining, does that count?
from The Great British Economy Disaster by John Lanchester

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


I do not think that Yucca Mountain is a solution or a problem. I think that what I believe is that the mountain is where we are, it's what we now have come to -- a place that we have studied more thoroughly at this point than any other parcel of land in the world -- and still it remains unknown, revealing only the fragility of our capacity to know.
-- from About a Mountain by John D'Agata. Reviews: LA Times, NY Times

Monday, March 01, 2010


I've written a short note for ourKingdom here.

P.S. 2 March: a view from Greenpeace