Sylvia G. Rice, Assistant Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Rice University. In 1938, a British engineer and amateur meteorologist made a discovery that set off a fierce debate about climate change. Scientists had known for decades that carbon dioxide could trap heat and warm the planet. But Guy Callendar was the first to connect human activities to global warming. He showed that land temperatures had increased over the previous half-century, and he theorised that people were unwittingly raising Earth’s temperature by burning fossil fuels in furnaces, factories and even his beloved motorcycles. When Callendar published his findings, it set off a firestorm. The scientific establishment saw him as an outsider and a bit of a meddling gentleman scientist. But, he was right. His theory became widely known as “the Callendar Effect.” Today, it’s known as global warming. Callendar defended his theory until his death in 1964, increasingly bewildered that the science met such resistance from those who did not understand it. Building on over a century of climate science A theoretical basis for climate change had been developed over the 114 years leading up to Callendar’s research. Scientists including Joseph Fourier, Eunice Foote, John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius had developed an understanding of how water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere trapped heat, noted that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also absorbed large quantities of heat and speculated about how increasing fossil fuel use could raise Earth’s temperature and change the climate. However, these scientists spoke only of future possibilities. Callendar showed global warming was already happening. An engineer runs his own climate experiments Callendar received a certificate in mechanics and mathematics from City and Guilds College, London, in 1922 and went to work for his father, a well-known British physicist. The two shared interests in physics, motorcycles, racing and meteorology. Callendar would later join the U.K. Ministry of Supply in armament […]
-Gal Beckerman From intimate conversations grow world-shaking movements, argues this probing intellectual history. New York Times Book Review editor Gal Beckerman (When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone) surveys small circles that incubated subversive thinking, including 17th-century French polymath Nicolas Peiresc’s scientific letter-writing network; Britain’s 1839 Chartist campaign for universal suffrage, which galvanised working-class politics; Soviet dissident Natalya Gorbanevskaya’s samizdat journal, the Chronicle, which landed her in a psychiatric hospital; and the 1990s feminist punk scene sparked by the zine Riot Grrrl. He also investigates the internet’s role in modern-day movements: the Facebook page that publicised Egypt’s Tahrir Square demonstration; the Discord chat rooms where alt-right activists organised the 2017 Unite-the-Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.; and the Red Dawn email group of health experts who brainstormed Covid-19 interventions. Drawing on communications theory, Beckerman analyses these intellectual channels for their ability to foster accessible but private conversations that shape innovative ideas, though he’s skeptical of social media as an organising tool because it’s too public, volatile, emotional, and virtual to nurture serious thinking and politics. Beckerman unearths fascinating lore about these ideological hothouses, from the Futurists’ love triangles in early 20th-century Italy to the alt-right’s public-messaging strategies. The result is a timely and stimulating take on how the fringe infiltrates the mainstream.
By Brian Klaas “Does power corrupt, or are corrupt people drawn to power?” So asks Klaas, a professor of global politics at University College London, at the outset of this absorbing survey. The answer is yes. The author delivers a provocative argument to support that claim, whether discussing the case of an African strongman who cannibalized his political enemies or the martinet president of a homeowners association. Two memorable examples come early: One is a “psychopathic pharmacist” who organised the survivors of a 1629 shipwreck on an Australian island to commit more than 100 murders at his whim. The second is a similar marooning, four centuries later, in which a group of young Tongan men lived for more than a year in a flatly organised shared-power-and-responsibility system. That all survived may have been a fluke given that we tend to create hierarchies in which “upstarts who would’ve previously faced ostracism, humiliation, or death now had a real prospect of becoming genuinely powerful.” Because power thrives on conflict, the rate of violence increases; because people fear violence, powerful people who offer security thrive. Hierarchy itself isn’t bad, writes Klaas; it’s just that it attracts corrupt people who flourish in competition. Today, “much of the world is dominated by systems that attract and promote corruptible people.” Some make no effort to disguise their corruption (Putin, Trump, etc.); others are more sophisticated. Is it nature or nurture? “We don’t know,” writes Klaas. The implications are far-reaching. For example, since police work attracts former soldiers who enjoy exercising power, real police reform will involve not hiring such people. To keep people from abusing power, those with power within a hierarchy must be rotated and kept an eye on, given that “watched people are nice people.
When Covid-19 forced the brakes on the global economy, millions of people decided to step off the treadmill to refuel their aspirations. As many as 40-75% of the workforce is reported to be considering quitting their current job. This movement has precipitated a talent crisis, fuelling debate on whether this is the Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffle. While each analysis is insightful, we are looking at something completely different; we are at the tipping point of the Great Relearning Revolution. The workforce is eager to learn While attrition numbers have been widely reported, the number of people choosing to learn has not. Enrollment on popular MOOC (massive open online course) platforms has skyrocketed. At Coursera, it was 640% higher from mid-March to mid-April 2020 than during the same period in 2019, growing from 1.6 to 10.3 million. At Udemy, enrolment was up over 400% between February and March 2020. The e-learning market, growing at a compound annual rate of 20%, is on course to reach a trillion dollars by 2027. Among the courses in high demand are data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning. For those struggling to find talent in these areas, that’s promising news. This hunger to relearn within the workforce also reflected some interesting dimensions in other recent surveys. A Gallup-Amazon study revealed that 48% of workers in the US are willing to switch to a new job if offered skills training opportunities and 65% of them believe employer-provided upskilling is very important when evaluating a potential new job. A MetLife survey highlighted an even more interesting insight: two in three (63%) women who left the workforce during the pandemic said they are ready to return – and eight in 10 of those are considering careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We seem to be witnessing a redefining of literacy, akin to Alvin Toffler’s prophecy, […]
by Peter S Goodman From the New York Times’s Global Economics Correspondent, a masterwork of explanatory journalism that exposes how billionaires’ systematic plundering of the world—brazenly accelerated during the pandemic—has transformed 21st-century life and dangerously destabilised democracy. The history of the last half century in America, Europe, and other major economies is in large part the story of wealth flowing upward. The most affluent people emerged from capitalism’s triumph in the Cold War to loot the peace, depriving governments of the resources needed to serve their people, and leaving them tragically unprepared for the worst pandemic in a century. Drawing on decades of experience covering the global economy, award-winning journalist Peter S. Goodman profiles five representative “Davos Men”–members of the billionaire class–chronicling how their shocking exploitation of the global pandemic has hastened a fifty-year trend of wealth centralisation. Alongside this reporting, Goodman delivers textured portraits of those caught in Davos Man’s wake, including a former steelworker in the American Midwest, a Bangladeshi migrant in Qatar, a Seattle doctor on the front lines of the fight against COVID, blue-collar workers in the tenements of Buenos Aires, an African immigrant in Sweden, a textile manufacturer in Italy, an Amazon warehouse employee in New York City, and more. Goodman’s rollicking and revelatory exposé of the global billionaire class reveals their hidden impact on nearly every aspect of modern society: widening wealth inequality, the rise of anti-democratic nationalism, the shrinking opportunity to earn a livable wage, the vulnerabilities of our health-care systems, access to affordable housing, unequal taxation, and even the quality of the shirt on your back. Meticulously reported yet compulsively readable, Davos Man is an essential read for anyone concerned about economic justice, the capacity of societies to grapple with their greatest challenges, and the sanctity of representative government.