Anna

How Twitter hijacks your mind (a personal account by Kathryn Schultz that explains a lot I just didn’t get about Twitter).

Turns out “having it all” means something pretty different depending on your gender. That may be part of the problem for women trying to juggle careers and family.

The choice to have a baby is akin to the choice to buy a Porsche? Um, excuse me! (Joan Walsh explains how conservatives are fighting tooth and nail to keep prenatal care and maternity care from being requirements for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.)

E.J. Dionne offers an incisive column on the same topic.

And a voice of reason on Obamacare from Fox News?? Here’s why we should be blaming insurance companies (surprise, surprise) for those wretched plans that a tiny slice of the public now has to give up because they don’t meet the bare, minimum standards for coverage required by the new law. Thanks, Juan Williams. How often do I get to link to Fox News on our site!?

Pam

When you don’t have a compass, just look to the cows. Scientists have found that cows tend to orient themselves along north-south magnetic lines.

Serena

Want.

Alan

Imported herbs and spices in the US may be contaminated with spider parts and the like, but herbal supplements are worse: one third of recently tested bottles didn’t contain even a scintilla of the herb on the label. Herb hawkers: are they stupid or are they liars?

Oh, Sweden. Just stahp. You’re making my policy crush on you unbearable.

Why you shouldn’t trust statistics on rape, especially comparisons among countries.

Editor’s note: The following floated between some of the staff this week and sparked some conversation, which we thought we’d include.

Alan: The big-think piece of the week was this Iraq-war veteran’s meditation called “Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene.” It is a gorgeously constructed essay, worth reading for its stylings alone. But do you agree with its central contention? It is provocative:

The biggest problem climate change poses isn’t how the Department of Defense should plan for resource wars, or how we should put up sea walls to protect Alphabet City, or when we should evacuate Hoboken…. The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead.

Clark: I just skimmed. On the central contention: in the context of the rest of the article, it seemed like “understanding that this civilization is already dead” was as much a philosophical stance as a statement about the reality of how climate change will affect our lives.

Scranton didn’t die in Iraq.  But the way he got through the horror and anxiety of war was to meditate on—and accept—the idea that he was dead.

Baghdad seemed incredibly dangerous, even though statistically I was pretty safe. We got shot at and mortared, and I.E.D.’s laced every highway, but I had good armor, we had a great medic, and we were part of the most powerful military the world had ever seen. The odds were good I would come home. Maybe wounded, but probably alive. Every day I went out on mission, though, I looked down the barrel of the future and saw a dark, empty hole…

I found my way forward through an 18th-century Samurai manual, Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s “Hagakure,” which commanded: “Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily.” Instead of fearing my end, I owned it. Every morning, after doing maintenance on my Humvee, I’d imagine getting blown up by an I.E.D., shot by a sniper, burned to death, run over by a tank, torn apart by dogs, captured and beheaded, and succumbing to dysentery. Then, before we rolled out through the gate, I’d tell myself that I didn’t need to worry, because I was already dead.

To me, the central contention isn’t that we’re doomed in some factual sense. It’s that the way forward to deal with the grief (denial, anger, bargaining, etc.) we feel about climate change is to jump as quickly as possible to acceptance. Acceptance allows us to act, by “freeing ourselves to deal with whatever problems the present offers without attachment or fear.”

  • We may, in fact, be doomed, but the core of his essay strikes me as an exploration of the grieving process, rather than a factual claim that all is lost.

    Serena: Sigh…. That was gorgeous. Really. I enjoyed some indulgent brooding on this line especially:

    The biggest problems the Anthropocene poses are precisely those that have always been at the root of humanistic and philosophical questioning: “What does it mean to be human?” and “What does it mean to live?”

    A couple of weeks ago, I went to some lectures that were part of an Environmental Humanities conference at the University of Washington. There, I heard Lawrence Buell discuss the importance of imagination in helping to shift our culture and actions with regard to the environment, and that this work would take time. At least one audience member pressed him, having perceived this seeming long game view as failing to appreciate the urgency of the threats climate change poses. Funnily, I think that woman’s response was demonstrative of precisely the issue Buell was pointing out: not exactly our failure to see the forest for the trees, but our failure to take the time to imagine beyond the forest at all, and in that oversight, neglecting to employ some of our most powerful and uniquely human capacities for imagination and storytelling—a big part of “what it means to be human,” in my view at least.

    It is crucial (and empowering, I think) to realize that the world we live in today, from its fracking operations to its iPhones to its food systems to its nature preserves, would have been nearly unimaginable to the average person of prior centuries. And it wasn’t just scientific innovation and policy supports for technological development and other such concrete mechanisms that brought us to Earth 2013; it was also photography and film, and genres like science fiction, that permitted us to envision collectively, beyond the bounds of our current reality, any number of possible futures, and only then to throw a line out in that direction, successfully or not, until we arrived at this undeniably confused and troubled moment. [More meandering thoughts to which I won’t subject the reader….]

    So, is civilization dead? Perhaps. But I say, let’s at least dream up a damn good story about it. It may be all we can do, anyway.

    Now back to “the unending robotic tweets of our new digital imaginarium.”