Thursday, December 11, 2014

Climate Science on "The Newsroom"

This is how the possibility of catastrophic climate change makes its way into public consciousness these days. Through fictional TV shows like Newsroom!

See this 5-minute clip -

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What the people of the Amazon know that you don't

A TED talk by Mark Plotkin on why uncontacted tribes are important to the rest of us.

Plotkin is an ethnobotanist worth listening to. According to Wikipedia, "Ethnobotany simply means [...] investigating plants used by primitive societies in various parts of the world."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Imperial San Francisco

I'm currently reading "Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin" by Gray Brechin who writes a very saucy version of the history of the city.

It's unlike most other urban histories that tend to sing praise of the elites who rule them. Brechin lays bare the inner workings of the wealthy families which dominated the economy of the city by the bay and its "contado" (the area that a city extracts resources from to grow itself and its material wealth). San Francisco's contado extended as far as the Philippines and it was some of the very same wealthy families which promoted war with Spain to take Philippines away.

Interesting fact: at the turn of the century, over a hundred years ago, the Union Iron Works on Potrero Hill made the finest warships in the world!

I highly recommend this book if you're interested in the history of the de Youngs, Hearsts, Spreckelses, and other families that shaped San Francisco through out the latter half of the 19th century and through the 20th.

From a higher perspective, one would also be able to see how cities grow, the forces behind such growth, the politics behind the projects that draw (steal) resources from the surroundings, and how the culture of the city is shaped by the wealthy elites that rule it. Every city has its rulers. San Francisco is no exception.

Here's the 2006 introduction to this book, originally published in 1999 -