Friday, November 24, 2017

Methane and CO2: Givers and Takers of Life

Once upon a time, there was a planet whose sun was dimmer during the first half of the planet’s existence than during the last half of its geologic history. Why?! How could this be? It was because of the high levels of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But then, Cyanobacteria (blue green algae) evolved and consumed these greenhouse gases and released oxygen as a byproduct. Eventually, the methane and CO2 levels were lowered until the temperatures decreased to the point that the planet was entirely locked in ice, despite the sun’s increasing output. This lasted for millions of years, until finally enough carbon dioxide was emitted by volcanoes and eventually a balance between oxygen and CO2 was achieved. From this point on, the only extinctions that ever occurred were when CO2 levels spiked on this, our planet, Earth.

Movie, “The Whistleblower”: Peacekeeping and Human Trafficking in Bosnia

Very rarely do I blog about a movie. They are usually so well covered in the media that it would be repetitive. But, the movie “The Whistleblower” needs greater exposure, especially with the current public concern over women’s rights and sexual abuse are in the headlines:

The movie The Whistleblower stars Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer from Nebraska who gets a job as a UN Peacekeeper in Bosnia. However, she soon finds out that her UN colleagues are involved in using and providing children for the sex trade.
The movie is a true story, based on the book The Whistleblower by Kathryn Bolkovac, which details her experiences as a human rights investigator. It started when Bolkova spotted a recruitment flyer from military contractor DynCorp, posted at her police department. A mother of three, with two of her children in college, Kathy signed up to be one of 2,000 police officers from 45 countries to work as peacekeepers. During the training process at DynCorp in the United States, she already became aware that at least one man in her immediate group knew about the use of young girls aged 12 to 15 for sex in Bosnia.
Upon arrival in Sarajevo in 1999, she found restaurants or dance clubs that were fronts for brothels–where young girls were forced to dance naked and have sex with customers–that catered to international clientele, including her fellow UN peacekeepers. She was appalled to find that the Bosnian police knew about the practice and turned a blind eye....”

The Whistleblower (2011) Movie Trailer (2 minutes)
(4 minute)

The Whistleblower: Kathryn Bolkovac— Peacekeeping and Human Trafficking in Bosnia (9 minutes)

Primitive American Tribalism: One Nation, Two Tribes

“Two tribes, whose mutual incomprehension and loathing can drown out their love of country, each of whom scans current events almost entirely to see if they advance not so much their country’s interests but their own tribe’s. Two tribes where one contains most racial minorities and the other is disproportionately white; where one tribe lives on the coasts and in the cities and the other is scattered across a rural and exurban expanse; where one tribe holds on to traditional faith and the other is increasingly contemptuous of religion altogether; where one is viscerally nationalist and the other’s outlook is increasingly global; where each dominates a major political party; and, most dangerously, where both are growing in intensity as they move further apart.”

“The project of American democracy — to live beyond such tribal identities, to construct a society based on the individual, to see ourselves as citizens of a people’s republic, to place religion off-limits, and even in recent years to embrace a multiracial and post-religious society — was always an extremely precarious endeavor. It rested, from the beginning, on an 18th-century hope that deep divides can be bridged by a culture of compromise, and that emotion can be defeated by reason. It failed once, spectacularly, in the most brutal civil war any Western democracy has experienced in modern times. And here we are, in an equally tribal era, with a deeply divisive president who is suddenly scrambling Washington’s political alignments....”

“It’s always worth remembering that ‘tribalism’ is not just one aspect of human experience. It is the ‘default’ human experience. It comes more naturally to us than any other way of life. For the overwhelming majority of our time on this planet, the tribe was the only form of human society. We lived for tens of thousands of years in compact, largely egalitarian groups of around 50 people or more, connected to each other by genetics and language, usually unwritten. Most tribes occupied their own familiar territory, with widespread sharing of food and no private property. A tribe had its own leaders and a myth of its own history. It sorted out what we did every day, what we thought every hour.”

“Tribal cohesion was essential to survival, and our first religions emerged for precisely this purpose. As Dominic Johnson argues in his recent book “God Is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human” almost all indigenous societies had a common concept of the supernatural, and almost all of them saw their worst threats — hunger, disease, natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Harvey and the specter of global climate change), a loss in battle — as a consequence of disobeying a god. Religion therefore fused with communal identity and purpose, it was integral to keeping the enterprise afloat, and the idea of people within a tribe believing in different gods was incomprehensible. Such heretics would be killed.”

“The tribes that best survived (and thereby transmitted their genes to us) were, moreover, those most acutely aware of outsiders and potential foes. A failure to notice incoming strangers could end your life in an instant, and an indifference to the appearances of other human beings could mean defeat at the hands of rivals or the collapse of a tribe altogether. And so we became a deeply cooperative species — but primarily with our own kind. The notion of living alongside people who do not look like us and treating them as our fellows was meaningless for most of human history.”
[Note The history of genocides, especially during hard times.]

Why We Are Addicted To Divisive Politics