5 Best Thursday Columns

On learning Spanish, mining coal, and fostering a teenage Europe

This article is from the archive of our partner .
  • George F. Will on China's Energy Future, Coal  "The future looks to greens as black as coal," writes the Washington Post columnist. In that way, it "looks a lot like the past." Riffing on James Fallow's Atlantic cover story "Dirty Coal, Clean Future," Will notes that the source of energy has been the world's "fastest growing" source of fuel over the last eight years. And, since China has begun to recognize its need for "a Buick" in every garage (to quote P. J. Rourke), the nation has developed a "ravenous appetite" for the energy source, "one reason coal's price has doubled in five years." American environmentalists are looking skeptically at the rise of coal and coal exportation ("exporting global warming" is the term they used). But American and Australian companies are still ramping up coal production. Will concludes: "If the future belongs to electric cars, those in China may run on energy currently stored beneath Wyoming and Montana."
  • Nicholas Kristof on Why Parents Should Hold Off on Chinese Lessons  The New York Times columnist sees a new trend among parents--Chinese lessons for their children. While Kristof agrees that Chinese is valuable, noting that he and his wife teach their children the language, he suggests that Spanish should be the imperative second language for everyone growing up in the U.S. right now. He points out that "as the United States increasingly integrates economically with Latin America, Spanish will become more crucial in our lives. More Americans will take vacations in Latin America, do business in Spanish, and eventually move south to retire in countries where the cost of living is far cheaper." Kristof urges parents to make sure their kids learn Spanish, a language they can grasp by the end of high school, before they embark on the "career" that is learning Chinese.
  • Geraldine Bedell on Life's Second Half  Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Bedell points out that even as life expectancy is on the rise, with a projected total of "more than 200,000 centenarians alive by 2045" in England, our society seems to value the elderly less and less. "The over-50s exist in a kind of identity void," Bedell writes. "Ignored by advertisers, they become of less interest to the media. They are on a downward spiral of invisibility. Once they leave employment, they find it hard to get work." Bedell can't figure out why we treat an entire segment of the population this way, especially when so many of them are "active, energetic, experienced individuals who want to carry on working and, given their life expectancy, need to go on being paid." She calls for a revolution in the way we think about aging: "We need to start emphasising the pleasure and activity and articulacy and success and sexiness of older people. Otherwise we are in for a pretty miserable time. Which is going to last rather a long while."
  • Gene Lyons on the War Against Health Care  The Salon columnist uses a story about his dying horse, for whom he could not afford life-saving surgery, to illustrate what he predicts will become of the U.S. health care system if those opposed to Obamacare have their way. He reminds readers of the frenzy created by Sarah Palin and other Republicans who spread the rumor of death panels, and then notes Arizona governor Jan Brewer's claim that the state cannot afford to provide heart, lung, and liver transplants to Medicaid patients. "Precisely BECAUSE hospitals can't turn patients away, it's impossible to make private insurance companies cover preexisting conditions (i.e. sick people) without encouraging deadbeats to game the system by not buying insurance until they need it. This defeats the whole purpose of a risk pool," he explains. "Somebody's got to pay, and absent an insurance mandate, that somebody's you--one reason the U.S. has long had the most expensive, least efficient health care system in the known world."
  • Philippe Peroche on Europe's Self-Perception Struggle  The Guardian contributor dusts off the "troubled adolescent" analogy that's been used to describe the United States, and instead applies it to the European Union. "Europe has a problem, and it is mainly a problem of self-perception. Every day, the media reports on the ongoing psychodrama of a Europe that is struggling to emerge from adolescence," Peroche begins. As a collection of states, the writer argues, Europe "has trouble liking itself. It did not really take a decision to grow, but was forced to change by history and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, it is convinced that it is too big and awkward." It's a "pity" that Europe sees its "rapid enlargement" as a union as "ugly." There are many other places in the world where intellectuals admire the still "awkward" European model, the writer figures. Perhaps what Europeans need is a "major project" to bind them together: it could be in peaceful international relations, sustainable development, or a knowledge economy. "But if we are to make a realistic effort to achieve any of these objectives, we will first have to come to terms with growing up," Peroche concludes.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.