The national media and much of America is watching the Colorado wildfire drama in rapt, apocalyptic fascination. For those who are just now recognizing the scope of the disaster, S&R has been writing about this (and predicting it) for some time now. If you’d like to better understand the causes of the explosion of wildfires in the summer of 2012, here’s a quick set of links to get you caught up.
Colorado’s massive High Park fire has jumped the Poudre River and is beginning to menace Fort Collins in earnest. This is very bad news. Some experts fear the blaze won’t be contained before fall and if you live anywhere to the east of it you’re probably quite worried, and for good reason. You might well be concerned if you live south or west, too.
Back in March, Tom Yulsman of the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism warned us that this could happen. Read more
Earlier this morning Chris offered up a post entitled “Why are environmentalists missing a mild-weather opportunity?” It raises a pragmatic point about how the climate “debate” plays out in the public sphere and is well worth a read. Go ahead – I’ll wait.
Predictably – and by “predictably,” I mean that last night I e-mailed our climate guru, Brian Angliss, and said “when Chris’s post lands, here’s what’s going to happen,” and it has played out as though I had scripted it; the denialists have jumped on the post in an attempt to cast Chris and the rest of the S&R staff as “hypocrites.” One prominent anti-science type wants you to believe that the message is “we know weather isn’t climate, but let’s lie to people anyway!”
Like I say, as predicted.
The truth is that Chris’s post is part of a larger context. Read more
I’ve been thinking about how modern society explains various phenomena, everything from simple everyday questions to the grand complexities that vex the lay thinker’s ability to make sense of a confusing world. More and more, it’s become clear that we’re relying on Fuckem’s Razor, the little-known Medieval principle of implausibility. I’d like to take a moment to explain this theory for those who haven’t encountered it before.
Wait, you say – don’t you mean Occam’s Razor?
No, but thanks for raising that. Occam’s Razor, in Newton’s formulation, says that “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” Put more directly, this means that when trying to understand things, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Occam’s Razor is credited to 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. Read more
I suppose, as a general rule, the human animal is built to prefer knowing to not knowing, but I have been struck over the course of the past decade or so at how much worse our society has gotten at tolerating uncertainty. It’s as if having to say “I don’t know” triggers some kind of DNA-level existential crisis that the contemporary mind simply cannot abide.
Perhaps this is to expected in a culture that’s more concerned with “faith” than knowledge, reason, education and science, but even our extremely religious history fails to explain the pathological need for certainty that has come to define too much of American life. Perhaps it’s due to fear. America is currently being slapped about by one hell of a perfect storm, after all: Read more
Ten years ago, at the turn of the millennium, Nostraslammy took a stab at predicting the 21st Century, with a promise to check back every ten years to see how the prognostications were turning out. Odds are good I won’t be able to do a review every ten years until 2100, but I figure I’m probably good through 2030, at least, barring some unforeseen calamity. And if you’re Nostraslammy, what’s this “unforeseen” thing, anyway?
Let’s see how our 22 articles of foresight are holding up, one at a time.
1: Researchers will develop either a vaccine or a cure for AIDS by 2020. However, it will be expensive enough that the disease will plague the poor long after it has become a non-issue for the rich and middle classes (although this is one case where political leaders might fund free treatment programs). The end of AIDS will trigger a sexual revolution that will compare to or exceed that of the 1960s and 1970s (unless another deadly sexually-transmitted disease evolves, which is certainly a possibility). Read more