Cars News and Reviews Wake Up: Garbage Trucks Ready to Dump on Your Lawn- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

It's a fine, sunny morning in the fall, with just that nip in the air that says summer is really over. You take a deep breath, savour the freshness of the air. At breakfast, you open the paper. The front page headline says that garbage trucks are poised to dump their load onto every lawn in your town.

You figure such a thing couldn't really happen in a nice, well-to-do town like yours. You move on to the Lifestyle section and read, with interest, about Kanye West's latest caper with the paparazzi. Now there's a juicy story.

But suddenly, you become aware of a deep rumble. You realise it's the sound of hundreds of garbage trucks, deployed all around your neighbourhood. You forget your breakfast and run outside. At the end of the street is a line of garbage trucks. One has your address pasted on its windscreen, like the destination on a public bus.

Then you remember: Your town has a long-standing garbage problem. It doesn't have a landfill, and tipping into other landfills is prohibitively expensive. Meanwhile, households are generating an increasing amount of garbage from stuff they've bought, convenience meals, and all the other contraptions of modern life. So a long time ago it was agreed at a town meeting that everyone could tip their garbage into a truck, for free. But when the trucks were full, they would dump their contents onto the town's lawns.

What do you do?

(A) Go back inside, calmly eat your breakfast and finish reading the article on Kanye West, while waiting for the truck to dump its load onto your lawn;

(B) Call your neighbours and form a human chain across your street so none of the trucks can come in;

(C) Call your township office and tell them to call off the garbage trucks while you and your fellow townsmen re-negotiate the contract. Even if that means committing your family to generating a lot less garbage from now on.

What am I really talking about?



Image Greendiary.com

This weekend, your paper's front-page headline announced the warning for our village, that is our planet, in the shape of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

(If it didn't, your paper isn't doing its job of informing you of the crucially important issues. Perhaps you want to consider switching to another paper. On the day after the IPCC report came out, I searched "IPCC" at news.google.com; it returned 1,148 news articles. A search for "Kanye West paparazzi" resulted in 586 articles. Should I conclude that the media deem the fate of our planet as merely twice as interesting as Kanye West's tiff with some paparazzi?)

The IPCC report says that climate scientists are now as certain that global warming is real, as they are that cigarettes cause cancer. And that humans are causing it.

The report also describes the physical changes to our planet that result from the global warming - sea level rise, extreme weather events, etc. - for various scenarios: for the case that (A) we keep going as we have; or (B) we only change a little bit, and for the rest mitigate the effects of climate change; or (C) we decide to wake up right now and start fighting global warming vigorously, before we get to the tipping point where feedback effects cause a runaway process of global warming.

I don't have to regurgitate those details here, you can read about it in any self-respecting news outlet. I just point out that this IPCC report talks only about the physical changes that will be inflicted on the planet by climate change. It makes no statements about the human and societal implications, which will be vast.

You can already hear those garbage trucks start up.

Time to wake up.

This is our planet. Let's get ourselves informed,

remembering that every news outlet has its own perspective, and will put its own spin on the news. In this case, the spin can take the tenor of the news far from that intended by the report. Or you could get the scoop straight from the source, and read the Report's Summary for Policymakers.

Beware misinformation,

and there seems to be a lot of it, including attacks on the integrity of the IPCC itself. Here is a flippant list of the seven most common misleading statements, and here is an in-depth list, with rebuttals ranging from one-liners to links to the original peer-reviewed journal articles, if you care to look them up.

Let's talk to our children about climate change,

for the same reasons that we would talk with them about sex: so they get the right information (without getting scared out of their minds). Here's how to tell them the truth, without depriving them of hope. It's the least we can do, since most of the cleanup will fall to them.

Let me correct myself: it's really our children's planet.

 

Cross-posted at BlogHer

NOTE added 29SEP2013: So far, the mainstream media coverage has been tepid not intrepid: on the whole one vast understatement. If you want to know the real story, try reading What you REALLY need to know about climate change (but all the mainstream journalists are afraid to say)

 

 

You may also like:

1. How to Talk with our Children About Global Warming

2. Teach Your Parents Well: Children's Views on Climate Change

 

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Cars News and Reviews Teach Your Parents Well: Children's Views on Climate Change- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

“My parents talk about the beautiful country that we live in. Now I only see small pieces of it, which is enough to make me happy, but because the climate is changing I won’t have anything to show my children.”

    —Mohammed, age 15, Maldives



The children we love so much are the ones who have to, or will have to, deal with the consequences of the actions of adults over the past 150 years. And they know it. Indeed, many children are already experiencing the consequences of global warming in their daily lives. Strangely, we adults have forgotten to think of them, and to ask their opinion on the planet they will inherit from us.

But that doesn't mean they have no opinion. UNICEF has gathered views on climate change from children all over the world, and included some of their responses in a 2007 report, "Climate Change and Children", and in a 2013 report from UNICEF UK, "Climate Change: Children's Challenge". This post is a compilation of selected quotes from those reports.

Children are smart. They have their eyes wide open. And they have no pre-conceived notions of the world the way adults do. Their observations are direct, their conclusions straightforward. For instance, how both drought and flood can lead to hunger:



“My community was affected by drought which caused our crops to die and there is no more food. People died, our cattle died and the land became a desert.”

    — Kamdoun Nouayou, age 11, Cameroon



“Because of the high rainfall, the fertility for the corn is not good, and it means that the plants get unhealthy to the point where they die. If the corn dies, it also means that the people will have a difficult economic situation.”

    —Jeri, age 14, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia



“Farmers plant their crops but ... when the rain is expected to come, it does not. This causes hunger to most families, especially those that depend on farming. My friends and classmates ... will be eating less food day by day. They can’t afford new clothes and have to wear small clothes.”

    —Naomi, age 13, Kericho, Kenya





Children are also threatened by disease brought on by climate change:

“This drowning nation now faces a further disaster: The floods are threatening to decimate Pakistan’s youth. One of the biggest threats is the outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea.”

    —Sayed, age 16, Pakistan



“Water is also scarce because of lack of rain. Those living far from the lakes walk so far in search of water. The water is dirty and contaminated and people get bilharzia.”

    —Justus, 14, Kenya



There is the real possibility of a sudden and catastrophic change in children's lives when a natural disaster strikes their homes:

“DRR [disaster risk reduction] education should be taught in schools especially in the Philippines, where I come from, since it is situated in a location prone to natural calamities and disasters. We are most vulnerable to disasters like tropical cyclones, flash floods, tidal waves, drought, volcanic eruptions that strike – and then classes have to be suspended, some children end up starving, some are left homeless and some even die.”

    —Trisha, 14, Philippines



And then there are the untold cases where a child's potential is severely curtailed because of conditions brought on by global warming:

“Recently the harvest has reduced ... I know some children who have dropped out of school. They say they cannot concentrate in class because they are hungry. We have just one or two meals per day because food is expensive. A kilo of maize flour increased from 35 to 70 shillings, and my mother said it will get worse”

    —Justus, age 14, Budalangi, Kenya



“Climate change is affecting us and, in the future if we are not involved, we will live in a desert. The rivers have dried up and sand mining has increased, this has caused many children to drop out of school to work loading vehicles for mines.”

    —Samuel, age 14, Kenya



But even children who are not directly affected are concerned by climate change, for their own futures and the plight of others. In recent (2013) UNICEF UK/Ipsos MORI polling, children across Britain highlighted their concerns about climate change, and desire for action:

  • 89%

    of British children know about climate change.

  • 74%

    are worried about how climate change will affect the future of the planet and believe the world will have changed as a result of climate change by the time they are adults.

  • 73%

    want the Government to do more to tackle climate change.

  • 64%

    are worried about how climate change will affect children and families in developing countries.


It appears that children have something valuable to teach adults.

Children are worried - very worried. But they are willing to do their bit. They are realistic about the constraints imposed by life, but refuse to believe that we cannot help each other. And they want adults to hear them, to think of them, to safeguard their future. Our future.

“Unless we take action, I fear that by the time I reach thirty, the problems we are faced with now will seem minute in comparison to those we will be facing.”

    —Eshita 14, UK



“It’s an eye-opening experience to realize that there are so many things I can do for the earth and our future. I’ll do my best to save energy and water and to recycle as much as I can. It would be great to help many children in the world by energy saving and wise consumption.”

    — Yerin Kim, age 12, Republic of Korea



“Yes, I do agree that trees shouldn’t be cut down unnecessarily, but we should think about those people who have to cut down trees so that they may survive. The major cause of excess tree abuse is the cutting of trees for fuel. People around the world lack basic necessities such as fuel and need to chop down trees if they want heat and warmth. Every government needs to make an effort in providing alternative resources for our mission to succeed.”

    — Amre, age 18, Somalia



“I think the best way young people can contribute is by trying to generate an environmental conscience in older people... Man’s use of resources has been rather careless, and it was not so many years ago that we began to face the consequences. I think it is a responsibility for the youth to generate an environmental conscience.”

    — Marielle, age 17, Mexico

"Rather careless" must be the understatement of the century. To me, it sounds like a crushing indictment of the previous generations that this young person isn't counting on grownups to get the planet out of the mess. Instead, she says we will need to look to young people to develop what we are so obviously lacking: an environmental conscience.

Children don't talk about GDP. They don't talk about economic growth. Sure, growth comes naturally to them - but so do limits to growth: because a child that never stops growing is a monster.

 

Here are some sobering statistics:

  • There are more than 600 million children living in the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change. (UNICEF, 2011)

  • 88% of the existing global burden of disease due to climate change occurs in children under the age of five. (WHO, 2012)

  • Currently, 1.6 billion people live in countries and regions with absolute water scarcity and the number is expected to rise to 2.8 billion people by 2025. (World Bank, 2013)

  • By 2050, there will be 150-200 million forced migrants due to climate change (Oxfam, 2010)

Shared at Small Footprint Fridays

 

 

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1. Let's Talk with Our Children about Global Warming, with Sense and Sensitivity

2. Slash your carbon footprint

 

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Cars News and Reviews How My Children's School Greened Me- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Thursday

Welcome to the September 2013

Natural Living Blog Carnival: Extending Natural Living to the Classroom.


This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month, our members are talking about how they extend their family's natural lifestyle to their child's school. Hop around to each post to get some tips and share your own!

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Confession time: I never did much toward greening my children's school. On the contrary, it greened me.

Oh, I had taken the first baby steps: I worked very hard to have a natural childbirth, fed my babies organic food, gave them very few toys but plenty of time for outside play, kept television outside the house, that sort of thing. I put my toddlers in bike seats, but because it was fun; I never thought of carbon emissions.

It turns out I accidentally kept a chemically "clean" house. But it was only because I was (still am) lousy at housekeeping and needed to keep things simple, so I kept one bottle of soap that I used to clean everything. Air fresheners were beyond me. I did recycle. Then again, I used whatever shampoo was on sale; never heard of parabens.

So I did my best, but looking back, it's clear to me I really didn't know pip-squeak about green or natural living.

Then ViolaPlayer went to school.

(Okay, we started in a Parent-Child class, so nobody was thinking about violas then). It was then that our green journey really accelerated. More than that, rather than feeling that we were sending our child out into the world of school, we felt that we were coming home.

In the school's Nursery and Kindergarten, toys are made of wood polished in beeswax, or otherwise of cotton or wool, often made by the teachers. Nature has an important place, in their stories and their daily routine. The children play outside every day, unless there is absolutely pouring rain, or biting wind. Their snacks are made with organic ingredients. Rhythm pervades the routine in daily, weekly, and seasonal cycles.

From the beginning, the children are shown that you don't need a large amount of stuff to do your thing. For instance, for drawing they start with just three crayons: red, yellow and blue, chunky and easy to hold for small hands. However, those crayons are artist quality: soft to apply, with intense pigments, and beeswax-based so if you decide to stick it into your mouth that's okay.

At parent meetings the teacher takes the opportunity to fill you in on child development, and to stress the importance of enough sleep and healthy meals served at regular times. Teachers give tips on how to clothe your child so that s/he can play outside in all weathers. And it was a teacher who told me about the organic CSA farm that still provides vegetables to our family.

This continues in the grade school. Children start bringing their snack and lunch to school, and it is the teacher who asks the parents to please go light on the sugary snacks. One really nice thing is that through the school most parents are on the same page, so when my children go play at a friend's house I can be pretty sure that the friend's mom serves healthy snacks similar to mine. I mean, when it's apple season, apples is what we've got. We probably got them by picking them at the local orchard farm together.

Over the years, I have found out more, for instance that the school's cleaners use natural cleaning materials without toxic ingredients. I watched the roof on the main building get upgraded to a copper one, and a "green" roof, planted with succulents, installed over the entranceway. The school-wide composting program has been there from the beginning.

Seriously, this school had sustainability written all over its curriculum before the word "sustainable" got into fashion. So when I proposed that the school look into installing a windmill, the administration was on board immediately. Unfortunately, after I had done a year's worth of wind measurements I had to come to the conclusion there wasn't enough wind on the school's property to make it viable. I'll try solar next.

The practical skills the students learn, like woodworking (for boys and girls), sewing and knitting (for boys and girls) will serve them well when they need to fix or re-purpose things rather than buying new.

Then there's the gardening curriculum. The school has an awesome garden, not just organic but biodynamic, tended mostly by the students under the energetic instruction of their gardening teacher. They harvest from it the flowers they planted, vegetables for a soup or a pizza, herbs for tea, broom corn for making their own brooms. Both my children are now vastly better gardeners than I am. When I gave them a patch of their own, those turned into the best pieces of our yard. While my patch is a riot of weeds.

In Seventh Grade there is a block on food and nutrition, which culminates in the students making a schoolday lunch for a friend. What a party that must have been! You get used to the sweet life, and many of these lessons stick for a long time. On the first day that ViolaPlayer went to high school, I packed a lunch but offered that I wouldn't mind paying for lunch from the school cafeteria, say, once or twice a week. I figured there might be some peer pressure. But ViolaPlayer came home that day and asked for a home-made lunch every day: "There's a lot of junk food in that cafeteria." It was one of those "Whoa!" moments of "What did I do right?" -- But of course, it wasn't just my doing: all those years at the Waldorf School had left their impression.

ViolaPlayer walks to the local high school now, but CelloPlayer still needs a ride since, like many Waldorf Schools, ours is just outside of town. It's only 3 miles from our house, but the road to school is windy and narrow. The Chinese teacher used to bike it, until a parent started to give him rides; it would be awful to lose a teacher to a road accident.

However, I don't do the drive twice a day. We are fortunate to be neighbours with several families whose children go to the same school. Even though it's only three miles, we still share the ride: every little bit helps, right? At the height of our commuting deal there were seven children from four families involved, and all the parents had posted in our kitchens a commute schedule that resembled the departure/arrival timesheet of a small train station.

It saves a lot of gas. It saves the moms/dads a lot of time. And I can't tell you how many times my friends have bailed me out and gotten our children home when for some reason I couldn't make it to school on time for the pickup.

Besides, children on the backseat invariably forget that the driver has ears, so I get a clear, unfiltered glimpse into their school day from listening to their conversation.

And still, throughout the grade school (1-8), they go outside at every recess. I've seen them play a game of kickball in pouring rain - led by the Sports & Games teacher, whose rain coat was dripping wet like all his students' coats. The school doesn't have a "gym": it considers its grounds a 20-acre Sports & Games facility (it does have tennis / basketball courts, both outdoors.

The school requires no computers or even calculators, but good outdoor clothing is essential. In my family, we buy our children toys on only two occasions: Christmas, and their birthday. In contrast, I don't hold back on outdoor gear. Because outdoors is where I want them to be, as often and as long as they want. As a matter of fact, I have my own set of "technical" gear: insulated, waterproof, etc. - so I can be out there with them.

Even so, I've got my limits. One day, I grumbled because cold rain was forecast for an all-day outdoor class trip on which I was to be a chaperone. CelloDad remarked,

"You're a Waldorf mom: you don't mind getting wet." There's loyalty for you. All I could say was,

"Yes, I'm a Waldorf mom. That means that I don't mind if my children get wet."

(I put on my woolies and waterproofs and went on that trip. It drizzled all day. I had a great time).

 

 

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Cars News and Reviews Let's Talk with Our Children about Global Warming, with Sense and Sensitivity- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

There are a lot of myths, misinformation and outright lies out there about sex. That's why parents talk with our children about it: to enable them to make informed decisions, and so they know not to believe in outlandish notions like "you can't get pregnant if it's your first time", or "drinking Mountain Dew will prevent pregnancy". (I am not making this up; more common myths about sex here).

Similarly, there are a lot of myths, misinformation and outright lies out there about global warming. "We humans didn't do it", or "Even the scientists are confused about it", or "It's not happening".

But global warming is happening, and climate scientists agree that we humans are causing it. And since it is our children (and their children) who will have to bear the consequences, the least we can do is to give them the straight dope. While not depriving them of hope.

So let us talk with our children about global warming, and let's do that with respect and sensitivity: to who they are, to how old they are, to their emotional wellbeing. Let us first listen to them, get a sense of what they already know, and go from there. Just like when we talk with them about sex.

Our youngest children may not be concerned with such big issues; that's okay. If they do bring it up, they need to hear, through the answers we give, that we - their parents and other adults in their lives - will protect them and keep them safe. Some people define "very young" as pre-grade-school age, but I like to put that boundary at about 9 years: that is the time that children tend to discover their individuality (basically they wake up one day and find that their umbilical cord is gone), a disturbing stage that can cause a lot of anxiety.

After that their rational thinking really kicks in and it's easier to explain the science to them, even if it's best if you quote examples from everyday life, e.g. illustrating global warming by talking about what happens when you leave a car (a good hothouse) in the sun.

Teenagers in high school are awake to the broader social realm, and one can talk to them about their role as citizens of the planet and their country, besides discussing the science and news items on climate change.

There is now a plethora of books, movies, documentaries and websites dedicated to explaining climate change to children: if we do our parental homework we can select the ones that will work best for our particular child.

We don't want to tell lies to our children, and we don't want to minimise or deny the seriousness of our predicament. But we also don't want to fill them with despair. So it's important to present some points of light in the otherwise grim story of global warming and climate change.

In particular, let's quash the notion that "it's too late" to do something about it: Because while some effects of global warming will be with us for a long time, it's certainly never too late to prevent things from getting worse.

For encouragement, try reading Sandra Steingraber's piece in Orion Magazine about talking to children about climate change: it is poignant, funny, and inspiring.

But even more inspiring to me is a comment to that article, left by Nancy Schimmel, a storyteller who has contributed to the Green Songbook, a collection of songs and resources whose focus is caring for the Earth. Fittingly, the comment starts with a story:

"Back when nuclear weapons was the big scare, a Seattle teacher asked her third-graders whether they thought there would be a nuclear war. All but one did. She complimented the hold-out on her bravery in voicing a minority-of-one opinion, and asked why she held it. “Because my parents are working to stop it,” the child answered."

Not all of us spend our time kicking Exxon in the teeth, or organising a local chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby; but we can still point to people who do. And we can point to our own positive actions, whether that is writing to our representatives, or conserving energy by turning down the thermostat in our homes in winter. I hope you have a long list of your own.

It's the same way in which, when our children see images of disasters like big fires, or shootings, we try to keep them from getting overwhelmed by anxiety, by pointing out the helping people: firefighters, police, strangers helping strangers, teachers leading children to safety.

By the same token, finger pointing is not productive. "It's the oil companies' fault". Or, "It's those Chinese with their coal burning plants." Or, "It's those selfish lazy people in their big SUVs." Our children don't need to hear such negativity, they need to hear of how people work together to forge solutions.

So let us not forget to add how our child can do his or her bit to help out the planet. Getting them involved in whatever way they can contribute is immensely empowering.

Because as parents we want our children to look to their future without hate, without paralysing fear, but with hope.

 

Resources:

The Australian Psychological Society has published "Talking with children about the environment", a great resource full of practical, age-specific tips, including guiding children on what they can do to help the planet.

Skeptical Science is the go-to website for all the correct information on climate science. Very up to date.

"Earth, the Climate Wars" is a BBC documentary in three hourlong segments, great for middle schoolers and up. It's hosted by Iain Stewart who has a thick Scottish accent but who, as a scientist, really unpacks both the climate science and the controversy in a clear way. There is a great visual demonstration (part 1, minute 20) of how carbon dioxide traps heat.

 

Shared at Tuesday Greens, Small Footprint Fridays, Anktangle's Friday Favorites and Simply Natural Saturdays

 

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Cars News and Reviews Global Warming Denialism May Have Origin in the Victorian Frame of Mind- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Monday

In the face of ample scientific evidence that the earth's atmosphere and oceans are warming, and that the global warming is caused by humans, why do so many Americans (47%) believe that humans don't have a hand in the global warming ? Why is it that 13% of Americans aren't sure that there is warming at all, and that a further 8% are sure that there is no warming?

Climate scientists in particular are baffled by what seems like a stubborn refusal by a surprisingly large part of the American public to accept what the scientists see as the self-evident truth. What the scientists see looming in our future is deeply disturbing, and they are vexed by the lack of will to ward off what can be described as nothing less than a catastrophe on a planetary scale.

Where is the disconnect?

There is a lot of hand wringing over scientists' inability to communicate the science to the general public. I don't buy that argument. Climate science has been brought to the public by quite a few who command both the climate science and the communications skills. There are plenty of books, movies, documentaries, websites that correctly reflect the scientific consensus of human-caused global warming and the urgency of the threat.

There is even more talk of the human psyche having a hard time accepting an idea so scary as global warming and its consequences: floods, droughts, famine, wars. But I don't buy that argument either: Anomalously large fractions of people in the United States and Britain (as well as Japan) don't believe in global warming. But I can't accept that American humans are all that different from other humans. After all, the United States is famously a melting pot of humanity.

The next obvious culprit are companies protecting their bottom lines. In particular, corporations have been accused of deliberately spreading misinformation on global warming. Certainly, corporate culture is very strong in the US, and it is precisely conventional corporations that have the most to fear from any measures to combat global warming. The proposed solutions - to burn less fossil fuels, to impose a carbon tax - strike at the essence of their profitability. But corporations can't be the only culprit: after all, they act on a global scale now. If they do engage in spreading misinformation, their message must fall on particularly fertile ground in the United States. So the question remains: why is the American public so susceptible to climate change denial?

I think the answer can be found, at least in part, in the connection between the American psyche and that of the Victorians.

Wait. I'm joking, right? Aren't the Victorians those 19th century English who are so prudish and sexually repressed? -- Well yes. The Victorians were indeed prudish: they had good reason to be (more on that below). But there's a whole lot more to the Victorian psyche than that. This is explored in Walter E. Houghton's book, The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830-1870.

I personally have never seen such a complete picture of the era, assembled from the seemingly disparate pieces from the social, scientific and religious realms. To me, it has been eye-opening. The upheavals that pervaded all areas of life in this period amounted to nothing less than a violent revolution inside people's heads and hearts - and while the time was pervaded by aggression (think of the opium wars in China, and the coining of the phrase "Might is Right", by Thomas Carlyle), it is a miracle that the anger never manifested itself as the kind of physical violence that accompanied the French Revolution (the Bastille fell in 1789).

Social Changes.

Of course, the Victorian era was preceded by the Industrial Revolution (1760-1830): There was a mood of self-congratulation and self-confidence flowing into arrogance, over the accomplishments of industry. The use of the steam engine (James Watt) in manufacturing had shaped a new sector of the economy that brought immense wealth and created a new middle class, but also brought suffering to a new class of factory workers, and despoiled the formerly green and pleasant countryside with what William Blake called "dark Satanic mills". Remember all those factories were powered by coal.



"Manchester from Kersal Moor" by William Wylde (1857).

Working conditions in the coal mines and in the new factory towns were miserable, and unions were ruthlessly squashed; see the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens. There was a great deal of denial in the discussion on whether and how the working poor contributed to the wealth of the "masters" of the factories, and whether or not they "deserved" to be poor.

On the other hand, the Reform Act (1832) caused a major re-drawing of electoral districts, with the newly burgeoning factory towns gaining parliamentary representation; it also caused the vote to be extended to the growing middle class (but not to the poor, and not to women). This was not exactly a revolution, but still a major step toward representative democracy.

Advances in Science.

Another thing that spread like wildfire among the general population was the pursuit of science. In Sir Isaac Newton's day, what was then called "natural philosophy" was an elite occupation, and most of the Fellows of the Royal Society belonged to the leisured classes. Those days were past, and lots of people took up the study of science with a giddy enthusiasm, from the worker in the textile mill who spent his sundays collecting insects or plants, to those who shaped science as we know it today.

A list of the scientists of the day reads like a Who's Who of the foundations of modern science. A tiny handful of examples: William Herschel, whose telescope opened the heavens. James Hutton, who showed that the Earth's geology is much, much older than suggested in the book of Genesis. Alessandro Volta, who wrote the first paper on the chemical battery. Francis Beaufort, who invented the Beaufort wind scale. Edward Jenner, who developed the smallpox vaccine. Benjamin Franklin, who needs no introduction, a corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society. And the scientist credited with stirring the pot to the point of nearly overturning it: Charles Darwin.

So there was this overflowing enthusiasm for science. You can read more about science in the febrile period of the Industrial Revolution in Richard Holmes' marvellous 2008 book, The Age of Wonder - How the Romantic Generation discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science.

Religious doubt.

But the very same things that had brought wonder and excitement also brought despair of unforgivable depth. For science had broken religion.

Consider this: cosmology has displaced mankind from the center of the universe to a clod of earth orbiting a minor star on the outskirts of a random galaxy. And evolution has displaced us from the crown of creation to a mere random twig on the tree of life. These are huge, disorienting changes in the way we see ourselves.

There was an awful rainbow once in Heaven:

We know her woof, her texture; she is given

In the dull catalogue of common things.

Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings.

                     John Keats, from Lamia

"Woof" (or weft) is found on the weaving looms of textile manufacturing, as in "warp and woof". "Philosophy" means science, as in natural philosophy; people who have made it through graduate school are still called "Doctors of Philosophy", shortened to Ph.D.

I always thought the "Angel" referred to Lamia and all she stands for, like the life of the heart and the Imagination (Coleridge's capitalisation); but now I'm realising that the Angel refers to religion, and Keats' choice of example significant, since the awe-inspiring rainbow is the symbol of God's covenant with Noah. (Duh. How could I have missed that?).



"Lamia" by JW Waterhouse (1905). Note the snakeskin.

"Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings": Science was breaking religion. And then, in a sense, the Avenging Angel arrived to throw the Victorians out of the paradise of certainty that their forefathers had enjoyed.

Science, with its fact-based approach, its reproducible experiments, its ice-cold logic probing into the mysteries of Nature, had sown terror in the shape of seeds of doubt that had worked their way into people's hearts and germinated, and then proved very hard to eradicate (= to pull out by the roots).

Scientific uncertainty.

And it was everywhere; the era saw an explosion of scientific advances, and the public followed it, read about it, participated in it. Following the Humanist tradition, everybody tried their hand at poetry and music and art, and everybody studied science, whether through books or through the many philosophical societies. But it was all so new: the science was new; the study of it was new, and, as it happens in any emerging field, all was rife with debate and disagreement.

In short, there were only a handful of people who could be called scientists by our current definition. However, next to these few experts, there was a multitude of amateur scientists, who, like many newly introduced to knowledge, all thought they knew all there was to know about the subject.

Comparable confusion surrounds today's science. Take the discussion about heart disease: Should you take aspirin or the more expensive Statin to lower your cholesterol level? Or is enjoying a Mediterranean diet enough to ward off a heart attack? The jury is still out. A similarly tangled discussion surrounds the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In comparison, Newton's equations of motion are beautifully simple. But in a way, they solve "toy" problems in which pesky realities like friction are either highly simplified or ignored altogether. The scientific problems tackled in the 1800s were much more complicated than that, and were openly discussed in all their complexity. It was (and is) perhaps exactly because so much science was debated in public, that the public developed a deep distrust of the real experts.

Science vs Engineering.

More than that, in the realm of practical matters science, unlike engineering, was seen as a diversion. The Industrial Revolution was driven by empirical inventions: as Thomas Huxley put it, in the 1850s "Practical men still believed that the idol whom whey worship - rule of thumb - has been the source of the past prosperity, and will suffice for the future welfare of the arts and manufactures. They were of opinion that science is speculative rubbish, that theory and practice have nothing to do with one another, and that the scienfitic habit of mind is an impediment, rather an an aid, in the conduct of ordinary affairs."

Reactions.

Fragmentation was everywhere. In religion, people found their own private solution, which spans the Church of England, to intelligent design, to deism, to the Natural Religion espoused by Romanticism; sometimes all of these were found, albeit sequentially, in a single person. Families fell out over this. Parents stopped talking to sons and daughters. Uncles and nieces got cut off.

A dogmatism developed on all fronts, not so much because beliefs were deeply held, but precisely because they were not.

Imagine: you've gradually come to the realisation that the religion that had served as a steadfast beacon to your forefathers for countless generations has stopped making sense to you. Suddenly, you're cast adrift. After a period of denial, anger and despair you've managed to cobble together your own spiritual solution. You cling to that - one hesitates to call it faith - like a shipwrecked sailor to a piece of flotsam. In such a desperate situation, you don't want anyone prodding their finger into your life raft: you're too afraid it will turn out to be worm-eaten and might not carry you to the coast after all. You don't want to think about that, so you defend that piece of wood with an outsized belligerence toward anyone who even touches it with a finger.

The belligerence and aggression spilled over into discussions of scientific and social issues. Ad hominem attacks were common.

In the face of all this upheaval, people started clinging to the reduced family inside their own home, much like in the wake of 9/11 people's instincts were to gather their immediate family, and bunker down at home. The home became a sacred place, where you could hide from the hubbub outside. In Victorian times, this led to a worship of Woman, the "Angel of the house", whose purity and chastity must be defended at all costs. Any reference to sexuality, or indeed any bodily function, was regarded as on a slippery slope to loose morals, adultery and the disintegration of the family unit. It could not be tolerated. Hence silly sayings like "Horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies glow." Hence the rest of the prudery which we find so ludicrous now. But at the time, the prudery make profound sense.

One more Victorian reaction to the changes in their time, worth mentioning here, was what Houghton calls "evasion", by which he means "a process of deliberately ignoring what was unpleasant, and pretending it did not exist" - In other words, denial.

Our Inheritance.

I think in many respects we in the West, and Americans in particular, have not outgrown the Victorian era. Sure, American independence was declared in 1776. But the imprint of the British Empire is still with us. Think of how US law has its roots in English common law. Think of even such a small thing as the worship of grass lawns, even in places like Chicago and Phoenix, whose climates are far removed from the mild wet climate that makes green lawns like those seen in Downton Abbey effortless in the British Isles. Heck, think of how we still speak English (not "American").



Photo by Gary Bembridge via Wikimedia Commons

Here are a few striking correspondences between [the way people lived in the Victorian era] and the way we live now: We are still a very polite society. We avoid talking about [politics, religion and evolution] politics, religion, evolution and global warming, for similar reasons: not only because we don't want to put our fingers on our friends' sore spots, but more importantly because we don't want our friends to put their fingers on our sore spots. We congratulate ourselves on our technological achievements; but it is those same achievements that have brought us our current despair. And we have developed unspoken but deep-seated fears about how [the poor] climate refugees might bring rioting and war to our own streets, the way it happened in [France] Syria. We seek escape in drugs like [opium] Molly or, more commonly, in the newly invented [novels] internet. And so on.

In the context of climate change: today's general public still harbour a deep-seated distrust of basic science. Scientists have mostly forgotten, but faith is a kind of earthly paradise, that rock in the stormy sea thing. When we speak of evolution or climate change, a religious person (who might harbour his own doubts deep inside) might just see, not the voice of reason, but rather a large snake.

Scientists are seen as "eggheads" who pursue such esoteric projects as the hunt for the Higgs boson. Inside industrial R&D departments there is a palpable near-enmity toward the Research side, which is invariably much smaller than the Development side, but per scientist much more expensive.

When I worked in such a research lab, there was a lot of talk of whether the lab actually contributed to the company's bottom line, or whether we were decoration, or "court musicians" as the term went: a sort of status symbol, pleasantly diverting, producing beauty, but otherwise quite useless, despite the fact that we were encouraged to write patents as well as peer-reviewed journal papers.

This disdain is, I believe, another relic of the Victorian era. I also believe it is misplaced. For instance, it was basic research on quantum optics that, years later, led to a demonstration of amplified stimulated emission of microwave radiation (maser for short), which eventually led to the widespread use of semiconductor lasers: embedded in cash registers' UPC scanners, inside the DVD players we use to watch movies, in the routers that drive internet traffic, and in numerous other devices where we may not even be aware of the presence of a laser. Such a long-term result is the exception rather than the rule, but the maser did develop into a killer app.

Global warming, which has until recently been largely invisible in daily life, is bigger than social upheaval or scientific revolutions. The science of it is still emerging. It threatens disruption, not just of our culture but of our very species. And it springs directly from the progress in science and engineering that has shaped that culture, and that until recently gave us, especially in the US, so much pride, not to mention a cushy existence in air-conditioned homes and large cars, with big meaty barbecues any time we want.

So it's not surprising that climate change has fully awakened the Victorian frame of mind that still pervades the US. It's been there all along. Think of evolution denial: as of 2012, 46% of Americans hold creationist views.

I'm not sure how knowing all this will make any difference to the hard work of remedying climate change denial. But as a scientist, I say Knowledge is power. So I offer the above as a relevant perspective to anyone who is concerned about global warming and about our inaction, and to climate change communicators: I hope this is useful to you.

Certainly, it is heartening that the American perception of climate change has started to shift: between 2010 and 2012 the fraction of Americans who are "alarmed" about global warming has increased from 10% to 16%, while the portion of those who are "dismissive" of any warming has halved from 16% to 8%.

Even so, as of April 2013, 16% of Americans don't believe global warming is happening. You can argue about who is sowing the doubt, but certainly any doubt sown has a disproportionally large impact on us all. So the task of climate change communication is far from over: we need to keep getting the message out on global warming, and on the urgent need to fight it.

I'll do my bit. Last year I gave a talk at a neighbourhood salon which a friend hosts at her house. The talk was on global warming and what we as individuals can do about it (so yes, it included a pep-talk on fuel efficient cars). I've been asked to re-tool that talk so it's appropriate for a middle and high school audience, and to bring it to schools in the area. I think I will.

Meanwhile, I'm going back and re-reading Keats, Coleridge and Tennyson, Eliot and Trollope, and all the rest of the Romantics and the Victorians, plus a few others new to me, like John Stuart Mill. With new eyes. Watch the "Bedside books" space on this blog.

 

Shared at Green Living Thursdays

 

 

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Cars News and Reviews Two Cellos in the House- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Sunday

It has come to this.

I can now wear my children's hand-me-downs. They've grown past me. I suppose I knew it was coming - but it still came as a surprise.

And now CelloPlayer needs a bigger cello. The first week of school, we went to the strings place for a full-sized rental. It didn't look all that huge. Then they pulled out a case for it. I suddenly got that sinking feeling.

Here are the two cellos (I'm keeping the 3/4 cello because I'm too small to play a full-sized one: see that I mean about the hand-me-down deal?) If you place them side by side the full-sized one doesn't look all that big.

But here are the two cellos in their cases.

See the difference? The 3/4 cello came with a soft case: very nice, very friendly, handles, straps for carrying it on your back. Real nice. The new full-sized comes with a foam-padded case. Padded slots inside for two bows. Little slot for the rosin. Altogether much better protection. And much larger. Heck, this thing has wheels, like the professional hard cases. CelloPlayer was very pleased.

But I'm sunk.

Here I am, I've been bragging that this and that gas-sipping car fits my whole family of four plus a cello. My friends, that was a little, 3/4 cello in a little, soft case.

I could see immediately that the big case of the full-sized was not going to fit sideways in the back of our car. No way. CelloPlayer has Orchestra at school twice a week. On Mondays the shared commute is done by my friend and neighbour, who drives a Jeep: no problems there. On Thursdays, I'm driving the commute, and we fold down one of the back seats in our VW Golf. The cello stretches itself over that, plus a good fraction of the trunk. There is space for three children (one in the front passenger seat) plus myself. Yay for hatchbacks: you can pull tricks like that.

On Tuesdays CelloPlayer and I have back-to-back lessons after school; on those days the other, 60% side of the back seat gets folded over, so both our cellos can lie there, side by side. Like this:

Now there are three seats available for people, including the driver. If my family of four needs to be somewhere with both cellos, the big cello will lie across the left back seat so its bottom faces forward, which leaves space for the 3/4 cello to go across the trunk as usual. I'll probably put in some blankets or a pillow for extra protection.

Oh boy.

Quite apart from everything cello, everybody in my house calls me "Shorty" now.

 

 

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Cars News and Reviews The Toyota Yaris is Not a "Teen" Car- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross

A few years ago, there was a dad at CelloPlayer's school, who cheerfully brought his two young children to their Early Childhood classrooms before going to work. He drove a Yaris. I asked him about it and he told me how happy he was with his car, as he was helping his children out of their car seats. Later in the day his wife would come pick them up, in a slightly larger car.





This family are back in Germany now, his company had placed him in the United States for only two years.

I think it is telling that this young professional, on a great adventure with his family and presumably enjoying a generous expat package, chose to drive himself to work in a Yaris. I asked him about that too. I mean, I know many expats splurge on a bigger or more luxurious car in the US, because cars are so cheap here.

He gave me a mystified look and said, "But... this is a fine car. I like it."

So there you have it: the reason for the panic among car manufacturers. Many millennials just aren't interested in cars, have their ego vested in something other than the box in which they move around, and are content to drive small cars - if they must drive at all.

"Well, just wait till they get children: then they'll go for the minivan." I think that old fogeys who say such things perhaps don't understand the millennials' perspective, and may vastly underestimate their resourcefulness. I wouldn't be at all surprised if my German friends took their children on multi-day road trips in that Yaris. Because they've got that "Yes You Can" attitude about such things.

So if you are considering buying a car like the Yaris, go with your gut. Ignore the condescending splash page of Toyota's US site that showcases the Yaris as if it were meant for the pre-teen crowd: the ones who haven't outgrown their Legos and still get reeled in by cupcakes with pastel-coloured frosting.



(In the interest of full disclosure: I occasionally play with Legos, as does CelloDad. And we enjoy our gluten-free cupcakes, thanks. However: would such items help draw us to a car? Umm no).

What I'm trying to say is this: the Yaris is a car. It is not "a high-schooler's car". It's a car: and if it works for you, then it is the car for you.

Another way Toyota treats you like a teenager is by not giving you any choice. "You're getting the 1.5L engine and that's that" - as in "You're doing your homework and that's that." Moms of teens know how it's sometimes necessary. But come on, when you're ready to buy a car you're ready to deal with some choice.

Actually, if you did do a little homework you would find more choice: Toyota's UK website offers the Yaris with the 1.0L engine (44mpg); or the Yaris with the 1.33L engine (40mpg); the feisty diesel Yaris (51mpg); or the 1.5L Yaris Hybrid (50mpg).

(If I were a helicopter mom, I would rather have the 1.0L engine for my teen. Teens are feisty enough: let them start with a car that's not feisty, so if they do get in trouble behind that wheel, they get in trouble slowly. And I would rip out all the USB connections; teens don't need any distractions while driving. If I were a helicopter mom).

Keeping the trim the same for the sake of comparison (Yaris TR), the 1.0L engine (44mpg) at £ 13,020 is £750 ($1150) less expensive than the 1.33L engine, which in turn would be about that much less expensive than the 1.5L engine if the latter were available for sale in the UK which it's not: at 35 mpg actual efficiency, it's too guzzly.

Why pay $2000 more for an engine that requires 26% more gas per mile? Even the 1.0L engine will get you to speeds of 96mph: how much extra cash do you have lying around for the speeding tickets?

Besides, in the basic, T2 trim, the five-door Yaris with 1.0L gasoline engine costs just £10,595 (see table below). Still gets you from A to B without getting wet in the rain.

If it were just me and CelloDad, with one 3/4 cello, this car would do us just fine. We might hold out for the plug-in hybrid. But I suppose right now, with two children and two cellos, we need a bit more space. It's only for this reason that it gets the 3-cello rating. Pity. Maybe we should have chosen to play the violin.

 

Toyota Yaris /Yaris Hybrid -All 5-door






























Yaris

(US)
Yaris

(UK)
Yaris

(UK)
Hybrid

(UK)
Type L T2 TR Diesel T3 Hybrid
Year 2014 2014 2014 2014
Emissions rating      
MSRP $ 15,455 £ 10,595 £ 15,270 £ 15,495
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 30/36 mpg      
Avg. quoted 32 mpg 49 mpgUS 60 mpgUS 67 mpg US
Avg. actual 35 mpg 44 mpgUS 51 mpgUS 50 mpgUS
Carbon emissions, quoted   111 g/km 104 g/km 79 g/km
Engine 1.5L 4-cyl

VVT-i
1.0L

VVT-i
1.4L

D-4D
1.5L

Hybrid
Power 106 HP @ 6000rpm 60 HP

$nbsp;
89 HP

66kW
100 HP

74kW
Torque 103 lb-ft 69 151 82
Transmission 4-spd Auto Manual Manual Auto
Fuel Reg. Unleaded Euro Unleaded Diesel Euro Unleaded
Length, mm(in)  

154.7 in
3885 mm 153.0 in   3905 mm 153.7 in
Width, mm(in)  

66.7 in
1695 mm 66.7 in   1695 mm 66.7 in
Height, mm(in)  

59.4 in
1510 mm 59.4 in   1510 mm 59.4 in
Weight, kg(lbs)  

2315 lbs
1025 kg 2260 lbs 1050 kg 2536 lbs 1150 kg 2536 lbs
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 15.6 cuft      
Turning radius, m(ft)  

30.8 ft c-c
4.7m / 15.4 ft   4.7m / 15.4 ft
Top speed, kph(mph)   96 mph 109 mph 102 mph


 

 

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