“We have the brains to slow down climate change.” So what, I Ask.

The first part of the title comes from an op-ed piece in the NYTimes, by Jon Gertner, the author of the forthcoming book The Ice at the End of the World. The whole title of the piece is “Maybe We’re Not Doomed After All: We have the brains to slow down climate change. Do we have the will?” His book is about the massive Greenland ice sheet and its internal historical record of atmospheric conditions, created as the ice accumulated over the years. Ice cores produce evidence of changes in the atmosphere, for example: Amid the trace chemicals that turn up in the old ice, there is an unmistakable fingerprint… Read More

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Caring for Nature is Natural

I came across this quote from Oliver Sacks recently. It appeared posthumously in an opinion column in the New York Times. Sacks died in 2015. Clearly, nature calls to something very deep in us. Biophilia, the love of nature and living things, is an essential part of the human condition. Hortophilia, the desire to interact with, manage, and tend nature, is also deeply instilled in us. The role that nature plays in health and healing becomes even more critical for people working long days in windowless offices, for those living in city neighborhoods without access to green spaces, for children in city schools, or for those in institutional settings such… Read More

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Truth or Consequences (Not a Quiz Show)

My wife, Ruth, took a course about pragmatism this last semester at HILR, the life-long learning program we both attend. The last person they discussed was the philosopher and neo-pragmatist, Richard Rorty. I have admired Rorty and have often cited his work. His claim that solidarity with all human beings is the fundamental underpinning of a liberal society resonates with my arguments that care is the essential relationship to enact. It is also consistent with the mastery of the right brain. In the course of our conversations, she pointed me to an article about him in the Los Angeles Review of Books. In his article, Rorty and Post-post-truth, Eduardo Mendieta… Read More

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Change Is Needed, But What and How?

I subscribe to a lot of stuff, but two list-serves stand out: SCORAI and GTI. The first is an acronym for Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative. SCORAI, founded in 2008, is an international knowledge network of researchers and practitioners committed to advancing sustainability by focusing on societal patterns of consumption. SCORAI recognizes that technological innovation alone is insufficient to achieve sustainability; changes are required in societal institutions, cultures, and economic systems. SCORAI’s mission is to facilitate a transition to a more sustainable society by generating knowledge that impacts discourse and supports change agents. The second, The Great Transition Initiative, is an online forum of ideas and an international network… Read More

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More Politics and the Brain

I was reading the latest issue of the New York Review of Books today, fixated on an article by Adam Tooze on four recent books, all about the precarious state of western democracy. I haven’t read any of them, but had seen references to them. I found Tooze’s critique very thoughtful and even-handed. But that’s not what I want to write about. The following quote jumped out at me. Trump exposes starkly what the civility of Obama and his administration obscured—the subordination of American democracy to capitalism, patriarchy, and the iniquitous racial order descended from slavery. Tooze was arguing that Trump was not just not anomaly, but was a sign… Read More

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Birthday Thoughts

Another birthday for me, today. A beautiful spring day after several weeks of gloomy weather. Nature is celebrating my birthday. Earlier this week I sent back my book manuscript with corrections to the queries from the copyeditor. Surprisingly few. This is the last step before it gets type set and I get one more look before it goes to the printer. It has been so long in getting to this point that I have forgotten some of the details. But not too bad for an octogenarian. The Boston Globe’s main oped piece today was a critique of happiness as the primary driver of living. The author, Amy Cuddy, started by… Read More

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Should I Run?

I never thought much about running for President. For most of my life, the White House was out of reach, given my being Jewish. I did have one brush with such a calling when one of my first wife’s many cousins suggested that I should become President of their cousin’s club. I did not throw my hat, maybe it was a yarmulke, into the ring. But now, some 60 years later, the thought crosses my mind. After all, since 2016, the American dream of anyone, however unqualified, becoming President has been realized. I have looked carefully at the rapidly growing field of Democrats that have announced or are pretty sure… Read More

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Virtues Are Never Momentary

I started this post about 4 years ago, and, for whatever reason I had back then, I ran out of steam and left it to languish. But it still seems a relevant topic so am going to finish it. The source is the “The Stone,” the New York Times periodic column about philosophy by philosophers. The Times column, titled, “The Dangers of Happiness,” raises a number of important questions about the relentless “pursuit of happiness” that characterizes life in the US today (and for the past 300 years). The author, Carl Cederstrom, starts with a short, but informative, history of the concept of happiness, starting with Aristotle. He starts with… Read More

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Tabula Rasa

Having now read McGilchrist and his model of the divided brain, I keep finding other sources that both confirm and broaden his basic model. I wrote about Leonard Shlain’s Leonardo’s Brain in a recent post. Now I have another source to add. I have just finished Brain and Culture, by Bruce Wexler. (The MIT Press, 2006) While not specially about the divided brain, Wexler adds more dimensions to the divided brain model. He describes the way the brain develops that supports McGilchrist’s work, which is largely about the fully developed adult brain. Wexler is particularly interested in how the external world shapes the brain during its development. One key piece… Read More

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A Green New Deal (But Not Enough)

Brought back to life by Democrats in both the US Senate (Ed Markey) and House of Representatives (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), the Green New Deal (GND) resurrects a platform proposed by the Green Party in 2006. The proposal, in the form of a Resolution, aims at both the threat of global warming and economic inequality. The key elements are: Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States. Providing all people of the United States with – (i) high-quality health care; (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) access to clean water, clean… Read More

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