Saturday, August 24, 2002
"Cadbury's has apologised for an advert comparing a chocolate bar to Kashmir because it's too good to share.
The state is disputed by India and Pakistan, and since 1989 more than 60,000 people have been killed as the countries claim the region in its entirety.
Cadbury India launched the Temptation chocolate bar with the advert showing a map with Kashmir on it.
The Daily Telegraph says the slogan read: "I'm good. I'm tempting. I'm too good to share. What am I? Cadbury's Temptations or Kashmir?""
Update: and here's the ad
Thursday, August 22, 2002
If you poke around the web for long enough, you come across stories of how we'd need 6 Earths to support everyone in the style to which they'd like to become accustomed. Sometimes, you'll even discover surveys of how many worlds you need for people to live like you. For example, my footprint comes out at about 21 acres. Apparently my "fair share" amount is 5.5 acres. There are other tests out there that also put me on multiple Earth ratios.
But then you look at some of the requirements, and you start to question the whole methodology. For example, the site I linked to has questions about:
1) what you eat
2) how much energy you consume
3) whether you conserve water
4) whether you recycle
But the moment you step back and look at those categories, you suddenly realise that the questions are making some pretty big assumptions. And the largest assumption is that everything will stay the same. In other words, the technological assumptions underlying their "footprints" will remain the same.
The big "unbreakable" constraints are the productive capacity of the land, and the supply of raw materials. But (ignoring oil for simplicity), we live in a time of plenty in terms of the "primary resources" underlying our society.
It's possible that the productive land of the world couldn't support everyone in American diets using American agriculture. But the gluts of the West suggest otherwise. Of course, our green friends may disagree about the long-term prospects of this kind of agriculture, or suggest that the side-effects in terms of run-off pollution are unacceptable, but if you want to feed the world, and feed them well, it's not the quantity of land available that's the problem. Similarly, though strip mining may not be attractive, it seems that there's a reasonable future for pretty much everything we need.
The big limitor is energy. And here a double bait-and-switch is played. Firstly, they draw a line back from an assumption about the greenhouse effect to a level of energy consumption we're allowed (but the degree of variability in forecasts makes this a farce). Then they (appear to) assume that our energy will come in the current fashion, at the current efficiencies.
There are great practical problems in increasing the overall efficiency of our energy chains by large amounts. But improvements are possible. And improvements in the "greenness" of the energy sources involved essentially remove the energy from our "footprint" alltogether.
And, while water is a big issue for the future, the technical ability to bring forth water from the seas isn't lacking. The major obstacles are, as far as I know, cost-based: the Gulf may have to do that, but no-one else wants to. Water availability, a big practical problem, is, ultimately, one that can be made to go away through much of the world if there was enough money and a good reason to spend it.
So, a conclusion: the main factor involved is really energy use. We can't give that up and continue living in anything like the way we live now. On the other hand, we can change where our energy comes from, and how efficiently we use it. And we can develop a better idea of what would happen if we didn't. The ecological footprints seem to target a world untouched by human hand, but it seems likely a world rich enough to afford this will have huge "gardens" for humanity to enjoy. We're part of nature, and will impact it regardless. The question in each case is "what will that impact be, and should we ammelliorate it?", not "how can we avoid having any impact at all?".
Of course, with the arguments in opposition, neither can carry the day. And there's a good deal of truth to the "you never know what you'll need" argument for biodiversity. But there's also a great deal to be said for advancing human wealth and happiness directly when you can. This doesn't touch on non-utilitarian arguments for biodiversity, but it does show that the Utilitarian Calculus must weigh up all relevant costs and benefits. Nice thinking, Mr Volokh.
*strictly Eugene Volokh, but let's spread the credit...
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
When sipping wine at a Catholic eucharist, swallow quickly, before the wine undergoes the miracle of transubstantiation and you get the unpleasant taste of a mouthful of human blood.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
"Blaming is especially difficult in terrorist situations because someone is at fault."
Yup. Something being someone's fault is normally the main obstacle to finding someone to blame....
Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass