A number of years ago, I spent some time in Africa with members of the Kenyan Wildlife Service whose mission was to protect endangered and protected wildlife from poachers. The job was hazardous; poachers were generally armed and willing to shoot. And the penalties, if the poachers were caught, were severe. But, the KWS rangers said, it wasn't a clear case of good guys versus the bad guys. Yes, the poaching was terrible. And the big money it offered didn't even go, in most cases, to the hunters themselves. They might make $200 for elephant tusks that their "employers" would turn around and sell on the global market for many, many times that amount. "But it's hard to make the case that we need to preserve the elephants," one of the rangers explained to me, "to a Masai tribesman who is so poor that $200 could make the difference between his 6-year-old son living or dying. He's not going to sacrifice his son to save some wild animal."
No, of course not. No parent would. Part of the challenge, then, was to try to convince the tribesmen that the tourism the elephants would bring to the area would provide as much or more income, at far less risk, than poaching.
It's a point that was highlighted earlier this week during Secretary of State HIllary Rodham Clinton's visit to India, when her upbeat comments about being partners with India in fighting global warming were countered, almost immediately, by Jairam Ramesh, India's environment and forests minister. The Indian minister said that India was not in a position to take on legally binding emission standards, and already had one of the lowest carbon emissions rates per capita, in the world.
Roughly translated, Ramesh was saying, pointedly, that the U.S. could well talk about reducing emissions, because it already had a developed and basically well-fed society ... a position it had attained because it didn't have to worry about carbon emissions as it developed. India, with a population of over 1 billion, a poverty rate (living on less than $1.25 a day) of somewhere around 40%, doesn't have that luxury. The rich folk can worry about saving the elephants; the poor have more urgent problems at hand. When most Indians can afford clean transportation, are well fed and safely above poverty levels, come talk to them about reducing emissions.
It's a point echoed in "Mr. Gore, Your Solution to Global Warming is Wrong," a feature in the current issue of Esquire magazine. Written by Bjorn Lomborg, the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a professor at the Copenhagen Business School, the article offers an interesting perspective on the global warming debate. Or, rather, the global warming solution debate. Professor Lomborg does not believe that reducing carbon emissions will solve the problem, and argues that our focus on emission reduction is misplaced. In part because of the minor difference that approach is projected to have, over time, but also because of the punitive consequences of that approach for a large percentage of the world's population.
Global warming may harm your grandchildren's chances of survival in sub-Saharan Africa 50 years from now, but if you don't use that poorly maintained, diesel-guzzling truck you somehow got lucky enough to have access to, your children may die next week. And rather than investing billions in reducing carbon emissions, you'd much prefer the powers that be invested in mosquito nets.
When and how does that change? One way, according to Lomborg, is for the poor to become, well ... less poor. "Once a country achieves a certain standard of living, with their kids healthy and educated, citizens invariably begin to shift their focus toward the environment, and pollution starts to fall," he notes -- a dynamic known as the "Kuznets curve."
Consequently, Lomborg advocates a number of nutrition and economic initiatives that may not seem directly related to global warming, but could aid the effort by increasing the number of people with enough margin, or luxury, to care. Lomborg also argues that significant change needs to come from developing alternate fuel sources and eliminating the need for fossil fuel; an approach he believes would have a greater impact over time, and would also eliminate the punitive carbon-reduction-without-other-substitutes problem for the poor, or developing countries.
While eliminating poverty in the world is a noble goal, it might rate even higher on the challenge Richter scale than stopping global warming itself. Not that we shouldn't invest in mosquito nets, micro-finance and micro-nutrient initiatives. And not that we shouldn't, as a country that has more margin to play with, do all we can to reduce our carbon emissions. Just because the rest of the world isn't perfect doesn't excuse us from our own responsibility to be responsible.
But although Lomborg didn't explicitly make this point, it occurred to me that if the key to success is, in essence, to convince the Masai that they will economically benefit more by saving the elephant than killing it, there might be another benefit in his alternative fuels and technology approach. Investing in alternative fuels, versus focusing on carbon emission reduction, might reduce the punitive pressure on developing countries. But if there were somehow money to be made by alternative technology that could be developed, built, or somehow used to the profit and benefit of those people and countries, they might be more willing to work on keeping the elephant alive.
It's a complex issue, with more problems than answers. But looking at what would make the rest of the world want to get on board is certainly an angle worth considering in the debate.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
President-elect Donald Trump has committed a sharp breach of protocol—one that underscores just how weird some important protocols are.
Updated on December 2 at 7:49 p.m.
It’s hardly remembered now, having been overshadowed a few months later on September 11, but the George W. Bush administration’s first foreign-policy crisis came in the South China Sea. On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy surveillance plane collided with a Chinese jet near Hainan Island. The pilot of the Chinese jet was killed, and the American plane was forced to land and its crew was held hostage for 11 days, until a diplomatic agreement was worked out. Sino-American relations remained tense for some time.
Unlike Bush, Donald Trump didn’t need to wait to be inaugurated to set off a crisis in the relationship. He managed that on Friday, with a phone call to the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. It’s a sharp breach with protocol, but it’s also just the sort that underscores how weird and incomprehensible some important protocols are.
A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing its origin story—a real-life Da Vinci Code, involving a Harvard professor, a onetime Florida pornographer, and an escape from East Germany—requires a big leap of faith.
On a humid afternoon this past November, I pulled off Interstate 75 into a stretch of Florida pine forest tangled with runaway vines. My GPS was homing in on the house of a man I thought might hold the master key to one of the strangest scholarly mysteries in recent decades: a 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus that bore the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.” The fragment, written in the ancient language of Coptic, had set off shock waves when an eminent Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome.
Never before had an ancient manuscript alluded to Jesus’s being married. The papyrus’s lines were incomplete, but they seemed to describe a dialogue between Jesus and the apostles over whether his “wife”—possibly Mary Magdalene—was “worthy” of discipleship. Its main point, King argued, was that “women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.” She thought the passage likely figured into ancient debates over whether “marriage or celibacy [was] the ideal mode of Christian life” and, ultimately, whether a person could be both sexual and holy.
The Daily Show host was measured, respectful, and challenging in his 26-minute conversation with TheBlaze pundit Tomi Lahren.
Tomi Lahren, the 24-year-old host of Tomi on the conservative cable network TheBlaze, feels like a pundit created by a computer algorithm, someone who primarily exists to say something provocative enough to jump to the top of a Facebook feed. She’s called the Black Lives Matter movement “the new KKK,” partly blamed the 2015 Chattanooga shootings on President Obama’s “Muslim sensitivity,” and declared Colin Kaepernick a “whiny, indulgent, attention-seeking cry-baby.” At a time when such charged political rhetoric feels increasingly like the norm, Lahren stands at one end of a widening gulf—which made her appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Wednesday night all the more fascinating.
In his first year at The Daily Show, Noah has struggled to distinguish himself in an outrage-driven late-night universe. He has sometimes seemed too flip about the failures of the country’s news media, something his predecessor Jon Stewart made a perennial target. Noah’s 26-minute conversation with Lahren, though, posted in its entirety online, set the kind of tone that Stewart frequently called for throughout his tenure. The segment never turned into a screaming match, but it also avoided platitudes and small-talk. Lahren was unapologetic about her online bombast and leaned into arguments that drew gasps and boos from Noah’s audience, but the host remained steadfastly evenhanded throughout. If Noah was looking for a specific episodethat would help him break out in his crowded field, he may have finally found it.
How much do you really need to say to put a sentence together?
Just as fish presumably don’t know they’re wet, many English speakers don’t know that the way their language works is just one of endless ways it could have come out. It’s easy to think that what one’s native language puts words to, and how, reflects the fundamentals of reality.
But languages are strikingly different in the level of detail they require a speaker to provide in order to put a sentence together. In English, for example, here’s a simple sentence that comes to my mind for rather specific reasons related to having small children: “The father said ‘Come here!’” This statement specifies that there is a father, that he conducted the action of speaking in the past, and that he indicated the child should approach him at the location “here.” What else would a language need to do?
A single dose of magic mushrooms can make people with severe anxiety and depression better for months, according to a landmark pair of new studies.
The doom hung like an anvil over her head. In 2012, a few years after Carol Vincent was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, she was waiting to see whether her cancer would progress enough to require chemotherapy or radiation. The disease had already done a number on her, inflating lymph nodes on her chin, collar bones, and groin. She battled her symptoms while running her own marketing business. To top it all off, she was going through menopause.
“Life is just pointless stress, and then you die,” she thought. “All I’m doing is sitting here waiting for all this shit to happen.”
When one day at an intersection she mulled whether it would be so bad to get hit by a car, she realized her mental health was almost as depleted as her physical state.
“A typical person is more than five times as likely to die in an extinction event as in a car crash,” says a new report.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story presented an economic modeling assumption—the .01 chance of human extinction per year—as a vetted scholarly estimate. Following a correction from the Global Priorities Project, the text below has been updated.
Nuclear war. Climate change. Pandemics that kill tens of millions.
These are the most viable threats to globally organized civilization. They’re the stuff of nightmares and blockbusters—but unlike sea monsters or zombie viruses, they’re real, part of the calculus that political leaders consider everyday. A new report from the U.K.-based Global Challenges Foundation urges us to take them seriously.
The nonprofit began its annual report on “global catastrophic risk” with a startling provocation: If figures often used to compute human extinction risk are correct, the average American is more than five times likelier to die during a human-extinction event than in a car crash.
There are more restrictions to professional freedom in the United States, and the educators find the school day overly rigid.
“I have been very tired—more tired and confused than I have ever been in my life,” Kristiina Chartouni, a veteran Finnish educator who began teaching American high-school students this autumn, said in an email. “I am supposedly doing what I love, but I don't recognize this profession as the one that I fell in love with in Finland.”
Chartouni, who is a Canadian citizen through marriage, moved from Finland to Florida with her family in 2014, due in part to her husband’s employment situation. After struggling to maintain an income and ultimately dropping out of an ESL teacher-training program, a school in Tennessee contacted her this past spring about a job opening. Shortly thereafter, Chartouni had the equivalent of a full-time teaching load as a foreign-language teacher at two public high schools in the Volunteer State, and her Finnish-Canadian family moved again. (Chartouni holds a master’s degree in foreign-language teaching from Finland’s University of Jyväskylä.)
Multispectral scanning reveals ancient text on the fabled Antikythera Mechanism, and suggests the machine was a mechanical textbook.
It was, as they say, a dark and stormy night. The passengers on the enormous ship probably didn’t realize they were in danger until the moment their vessel slammed into the cliffs of Antikythera, Greece.
As the ship sank and broke apart, its remnants drifted downward to a seismic terrace some 160 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea. More than 2,000 years would pass before fishermen collecting sponges, in the year 1900, discovered the wreckage by accident. Divers then spent a year at the site, where they recovered hundreds of works of art, jewels, and life-sized marble and bronze statues. But they also discovered something they couldn’t explain: A bizarre clockwork-like piece of technology, in the form of a disintegrating lump of corroded bronze, unlike anything known in the ancient world. It come to be known as the Antikythera Mechanism, and it remains one of the most intriguing objects in the history of technology.
A few weeks ago, I was trying to call Cuba. I got an error message—which, okay, international telephone codes are long and my fingers are clumsy—but the phone oddly started dialing again before I could hang up. A voice answered. It had a British accent and it was reading: “...the moon was shining brightly. The Martians had taken away the excavating-machine…”
Apparently, I had somehow called into an audiobook of The War of the Worlds. Suspicious of my clumsy fingers, I double-checked the number. It was correct (weird), but I tried the number again, figuring that at worst, I’d learn what happened after the Martians took away the excavating machine. This time, I got the initial error message and the call disconnected. No Martians.