“Evidence Suggests” that Bangladesh Can “Cheaply and Safely” Protect Itself Against Global Warming

BeelBhainaBangladeshNewLand2009-06-10.JPG“In Beel Bhaina, a low-lying 600-acre soup bowl of land on the banks of the Hari River, in Bangladesh, land that was once under water is now full of greenery.” Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A6) BEEL BHAINA, Bangladesh — The rivers that course down from the Himalayas and into this crowded delta bring an annual tide of gift and curse. They flood low-lying paddies for several months, sometimes years, at a time. And they ferry mountains of silt and sand from far away upstream.

Most of that sediment washes out into the roiling Bay of Bengal. But an accidental discovery by desperate delta folk here may hold clues to how Bangladesh, one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, could harness some of that dark, rich Himalayan muck to protect itself against sea level rise.
Instead of allowing the silt to settle where it wants, Bangladesh has begun to channel it to where it is needed — to fill in shallow soup bowls of land prone to flooding, or to create new land off its long, exposed coast.
The efforts have been limited to small experimental patches, not uniformly promising, and there is still ample concern that a swelling sea could one day soon swallow parts of Bangladesh. But the emerging evidence suggests that a nation that many see as indefensible to the ravages of human-induced climate change could literally raise itself up and save its people — and do so cheaply and simply, using what the mountains and tides bring.

For the full story, see:
SOMINI SENGUPTA. “In Silt, Bangladesh Sees Potential Shield Against Sea Level Rise.” The New York Times (Fri., March 20, 2009): A6.

BeelBhainaBangladeshMap.jpg

“An influx of silt after a flood made Beel Bhaina higher.” Source of map and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

French People Sleep More Than Those in Other Industrialized Countries

My hypothesis is not that the French are lazier than others, but that their labor policies give them less incentive to work.

(p. A8) PARIS — When he won the presidential election two years ago, Nicolas Sarkozy urged the French to get up early and work more to earn more.

A study released Monday suggests they missed the wake-up call.
France is the industrialized country where people spend the longest periods sleeping, according to a series of surveys on social habits conducted by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development.
The French sleep a daily average of 530 minutes, compared with 518 for Americans and 469 for Koreans — the OECD’s “most awake” nation, according to the study.

For the full story, see:
DAVID GAUTHIER-VILLARS. “France Wrests Title of Sleeping Giant.” Wall Street Journal (Tues., MAY 5, 2009): A8.

“Save a Red, Eat a Gray!”

(p. D1) With literally millions of squirrels rampaging throughout England, Scotland and Wales at any given time, squirrels need to be controlled by culls. This means that hunters, gamekeepers, trappers and the Forestry Commission (the British equivalent of forest rangers) provide a regular supply of the meat to British butchers, restaurants, pâté and pasty makers and so forth.

The situation is more than simply a matter of having too many squirrels. In fact, there is a war raging in Squirreltown: invading interlopers (gray squirrels introduced from North America over the past century or more) are crowding out a British icon, the indigenous red squirrel immortalized by Beatrix Potter and cherished by (p. D5) generations since. The grays take over the reds’ habitat, eat voraciously and harbor a virus named squirrel parapox (harmless to humans) that does not harm grays but can devastate reds. (Reports indicate, though, that the reds are developing resistance.)
“When the grays show up, it puts the reds out of business,” said Rufus Carter, managing director of the Patchwork Traditional Food Company, a company based in Wales that plans to offer squirrel and hazelnut pâté on its British Web site, patchwork-pate.co.uk.
Enter the “Save Our Squirrels” campaign begun in 2006 to rescue Britain’s red squirrels by piquing the nation’s appetite for their marauding North American cousins. With a rallying motto of “Save a red, eat a gray!” the campaign created a market for culled squirrel meat.
British bon vivants suddenly couldn’t get enough squirrel. Television chefs were preparing it, cookbooks were extolling it, farmers’ markets were selling out of it and restaurants in many places were offering it on the menu.

For the full story, see:

MARLENA SPIELER. “Saving a Squirrel by Eating One.” The New York Times (Weds., January 7, 2009): D1 & D5.

SquirrelPlate2009-06-10.jpg“Squirrel is appearing on more menus, as at Fergus Henderson’s restaurant St. John, in London.” Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

“Hard Work is a Prison Sentence Only if it Does Not Have Meaning”

(p. 149) When Borgenicht came home at night to his children, he may have been tired and poor and overwhelmed, but he was alive. He was his own boss. He was responsible for his own decisions and direction. His work was complex: it engaged his mind and imagination. And in his work, there was a relationship between effort and reward: the longer he and Regina stayed up at night sewing aprons, the more money they made the next day on the streets.

Those three things — autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward–are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make (p. 150) that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfills us. If I offered you a choice between being an architect for $75,000 a year and working in a tollbooth every day for the rest of your life for $100,000 a year, which would you take? I’m guessing the former, because there is complexity, autonomy, and a relationship between effort and reward in doing creative work, and that’s worth more to most of us than money.
Work that fulfills those three criteria is meaningful. Being a teacher is meaningful. Being a physician is meaningful. So is being an entrepreneur, and the miracle of the garment industry–as cutthroat and grim as it was–was that it allowed people like the Borgenichts, just off the boat, to find something meaningful to do as well.”” When Louis Borgenicht came home after first seeing that child’s apron, he danced a jig. He hadn’t sold anything yet. He was still penniless and desperate, and he knew that to make something of his idea was going to require years of backbreaking
labor. But he was ecstatic, because the prospect of those endless years of hard labor did not seem like a burden to him. Bill Gates had that same feeling when he first sat down at the keyboard at Lakeside. And the Beatles didn’t recoil in horror when they were told they had to play eight hours a night, seven days a week. They jumped at the chance. Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig.

Source:
Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Co., 2008.
(Note: italics in original.)

Ukrainian Memorial to the Millions Starved by Stalin’s Communism

FamineMemorialKievUkraine.jpg “A memorial to the famine, right, opposite a revered cathedral, was dedicated last November in Kiev. A museum is planned there.” Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A6) KIEV, Ukraine — A quarter century ago, a Ukrainian historian named Stanislav Kulchytsky was told by his Soviet overlords to concoct an insidious cover-up. His orders: to depict the famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the early 1930s as unavoidable, like a natural disaster. Absolve the Communist Party of blame. Uphold the legacy of Stalin.
Professor Kulchytsky, though, would not go along.
The other day, as he stood before a new memorial to the victims of the famine, he recalled his decision as one turning point in a movement lasting decades to unearth the truth about that period. And the memorial itself, shaped like a towering candle with a golden eternal flame, seemed to him in some sense a culmination of this effort.
“It is a sign of our respect for the past,” Professor Kulchytsky said. “Because everyone was silent about the famine for many years. And when it became possible to talk about it, nothing was said. Three generations on.”
. . .
The pro-Western government in Kiev, which came to power after the Orange Revolution of 2004, calls the famine a genocide that Stalin ordered because he wanted to decimate the Ukrainian citizenry and snuff out aspirations for independence from Moscow.
The archives make plain that no other conclusion is possible, said Professor Kulchytsky, who is deputy director of the Institute of Ukrainian History in Kiev.
Professor Kulchytsky is 72, though he looks younger, as if he has somehow withstood the draining effect of so much research into the horrors of that time.
“It is difficult to bear,” he acknowledged. “The documents about cannibalism are especially difficult to read.”
Professor Kulchytsky said it was undeniable that people all over the Soviet Union died from hunger in 1932 and 1933 as the Communists waged war on the peasantry to create farming collectives. But he contended that in Ukraine the authorities went much further, essentially quarantining and starving many villages.
“If in other regions, people were hungry and died from famine, then here people were killed by hunger,” Professor Kulchytsky said. “That is the absolute difference.”

For the full story, see:
CLIFFORD J. LEVY. “Kiev Journal – A New View of a Famine That Killed Millions.” The New York Times (Mon., March 16, 2009): A6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

To Get Things Done “Doesn’t Leave Any Time for Golf or Cocktails”

I am grateful to Matthew Pianetta for calling my attention to this wonderful quotation from the entrepreneurial Admiral Hyman G. Rickover:

(p. 239) “Efficiency isn’t the objective, Dunford, effectiveness is. Don’t confuse effectiveness with efficiency. I’m convinced that the only way to be effective, to make a difference in the real world, is to put ten times as much effort into everything as anyone else thinks is reasonable. It doesn’t leave any time for golf or cocktails, but it gets things done.”

Source:
Rickover as quoted in Rockwell, Theodore. The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2002.
(Note: paging of quote seems same in both 1992 and 2002 editions.)

Cooking with Cow Shit Adds to Global Warming (and Would Be Ended by Economic Growth)

SootFromCookingIndia.jpg“Cooking in Kohlua, India. Soot from tens of thousands of villages in developing countries is responsible for 18 percent of the planet’s warming, studies say.” Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

Economic growth is sometimes seen as increasing pollution. But the article quoted below shows that primitive cooking methods, which occur in the absence of economic growth, cause one of the most damaging forms of pollution: black carbon.

(p. A1) KOHLUA, India — “It’s hard to believe that this is what’s melting the glaciers,” said Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, as he weaved through a warren of mud brick huts, each containing a mud cookstove pouring soot into the atmosphere.
As women in ragged saris of a thousand hues bake bread and stew lentils in the early evening over fires fueled by twigs and dung, children cough from the dense smoke that fills their homes. Black grime coats the undersides of thatched roofs. At dawn, a brown cloud stretches over the landscape like a diaphanous dirty blanket.
In Kohlua, in central India, with no cars and little electricity, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, are near zero. But soot — also known as black carbon — from tens of thousands of villages like this one in developing countries is emerging as a major and previously unappreciated source of global climate change.
While carbon dioxide may be the No. 1 contributor to rising global temperatures, scientists say, black carbon has emerged as an important No. 2, with recent studies estimating that it is responsible for 18 percent of the (p. A12) planet’s warming, compared with 40 percent for carbon dioxide. Decreasing black carbon emissions would be a relatively cheap way to significantly rein in global warming — especially in the short term, climate experts say. Replacing primitive cooking stoves with modern versions that emit far less soot could provide a much-needed stopgap, while nations struggle with the more difficult task of enacting programs and developing technologies to curb carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.
. . .
Better still, decreasing soot could have a rapid effect. Unlike carbon dioxide, which lingers in the atmosphere for years, soot stays there for a few weeks. Converting to low-soot cookstoves would remove the warming effects of black carbon quickly, while shutting a coal plant takes years to substantially reduce global CO2 concentrations.
. . .
Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of environmental engineering at Stanford, said that the fact that black carbon was not included in international climate efforts was “bizarre,” but “partly reflects how new the idea is.”

For the full story, see:
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. “By Degrees; Black Carbon; Soot From Third-World Stoves Is New Target in Climate Fight.” The New York Times (Thurs., April 16, 2009): A1, A12.
(Note: ellipses added; the title of the online version is “By Degrees – Third-World Stove Soot Is Target in Climate Fight.” )

BlackCarbonMap.jpg

Source of maps: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.