David Roberts

David Roberts

Energy, politics, and more

David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist. You can follow his Twitter feed at twitter.com/drgrist.

An environmental dilemma

regarding the dispensation of pork

Republicans control all three branches of government. Thus, pork goes disproportionately to Republican congressional districts. Republican congressional districts tend to be either rural or exurban. Rural pork is composed primarily of agricultural subsidies and exurban pork is generally car-friendly. Agricultural subsidies and car-friendly infrastructure development are environmentally destructive. Whatever to do? Update [2005-8-12 14:25:26 by Dave Roberts]: Oops. In reference to the above, I meant to point to this Nathan Newman post.

Alan AtKisson on Sweden

Delightful. Update [2005-8-12 10:25:6 by Dave Roberts]: Iceland sounds pretty cool too!

Peak oil and heuristics

Being ‘right’ about peak oil is only the first step

All right, I've been meaning to write a post on this forever, but a comment from The Oil Drum's Prof. Goose finally lit a fire under my butt: It seems to me that one of the keys to the puzzle of why people don't understand peak oil and other sustainability issues is innumeracy and a lack of understanding spatial functions. Ah, so that's it! But wait, it gets better: However, getting 100*ln 2(~=70, btw)/rate per annum=doubling time in years through your head ain't that hard...is it? Oh, well heck no! But let's get to the point: One of the main points of Dr. Bartlett's lecture is that "we cannot let other people do our thinking for us." So, so true. Um, no. So, so false. In fact, we let other people do our thinking for us constantly. If we couldn't outsource some -- nay, most -- of our thinking, we would be screwed indeed. People think about their families, kids, boy/girlfriends, health, school, job, finances, parents, weight ... now they have to learn calculus? I'm not trying to be cute. People are busy. Average folk can hope to have in-depth knowledge in one area, maybe two. For many it is sports, clothes, TV shows, hobbies of myriad sorts. Even those who devote their lives to what we may consider good causes -- learning all there is to know about, oh, poverty, or ocean health -- do we hold them responsible for not knowing all there is to know about peak oil? Do we hold Prof. Goose responsible for not knowing the basic facts on, say, the tropical lapse rate quandary? No. Most people rely, for most of their information, most of the time, on other people. They let other people do the thinking for them. It could not be otherwise.


I have long had a pet theory. It goes like this: Many if not most of the world's troubles can be traced to men -- specifically, men overcompensating in response to perceived threats to their masculinity. (There are addendums; for instance: many men have absent or emotionally distant fathers, and thus either receive a warped picture of what masculinity is or have to forge one of their own, or get it from their peers.) Traditionally -- and, arguably, in nature -- masculinity means strength, assertiveness, bravado, willingness to take risks and adventure and defend home and hearth and blah blah and so on. In the kind of hunter/gatherer societies where humankind evolved for millions of years, this worked out OK. But in a highly complex, densely populated, interdependent world, it doesn't always go so great. Evidence for my pet theory just emerged in the form of a new study: "I found that if you made men more insecure about their masculinity, they displayed more homophobic attitudes, tended to support the Iraq War more and would be more willing to purchase an SUV over another type of vehicle," said Robb Willer, a sociology doctoral candidate at Cornell. ... Willer administered a gender identity survey to a sample of male and female Cornell undergraduates in the fall of 2004. Participants were randomly assigned to receive feedback that their responses indicated either a masculine or a feminine identity. While women's responses were unchanged regardless of the feedback they received, men's reactions "were strongly affected by this feedback," Willer said. " Masculinity-threatened men also reported feeling more ashamed, guilty, upset and hostile than did masculinity-confirmed men," states Willer's report, "Overdoing Gender: Testing the Masculine Overcompensation Thesis." Peace. Cooperation. Compromise. Voluntarily buying a smaller car. Burning less fossil fuel. Listening to treehuggers. These things are for chicks. Masculinity-threatened participants also showed more interest in buying an SUV. "There were no increases for other types of cars," Willer said. What? No hybrids?

Discuss the ‘Soul of Environmentalism’

In May we reprinted "The Soul of Environmentalism" on Grist. It didn't get quite the response "Death of Environmentalism" got, but it was an important contribution to the discussion. Tomorrow, Moving Ideas is hosting an online discussion with the authors. Head on over and ask them a question.

The Onion


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