Monday 9 August, 2021

Sun, sea and sky

This is where I was last week. Maybe you can see why I love Norfolk.

Quote of the Day

”The older I get the more clearly I remember things that never happened.”

  • Mark Twain

And the older I get, the more sympathetically I view this proposition.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Ry Cooder & David Lindley | Bon Ton Roulie


Just the thing for an August Monday. Another bootleg recording from my misspent youth.

Long Read of the Day

From probable to possible: the ideas of Albert O Hirschman

A terrific essay in Aeon on the life and ideas of Albert Hirschman, the most interesting 20th-century economist never to win a Nobel prize. (Keynes died long before the economics Prize was conceived).

Hirschman was deeply alive to the ‘grand tension’ that characterises societies undergoing processes of transformation and modernisation, and feared the consequences that frustrated hopes for development might trigger in the event that overly ambitious plans should ultimately fail. Indeed, failure might have worse consequences than ineffectiveness – it might produce violence and destruction. ‘Futility,’ he wrote, ‘can be abruptly replaced by brutality, by utter disregard for human suffering, for acquired rights, for lawful procedures, for traditional values, in short, for [what John Maynard Keynes in 1938 called the “thin and precarious crust of civilisation”.

What I find inspiring in Hirschman is his emphasis on ‘possibilism’. As he once put it in a discussion of his work: “The fundamental bent of my writings has been to widen the limits of what is or is perceived to be possible, be it at the cost of lowering our ability, real or imaginary, to discern the probable”. This strikes me as particularly relevant to us as we contemplate the likelihood of climate disaster.

Anyway, it’s a great essay. Worth reading in full.

Six countries ‘most likely to survive’ societal collapse caused by a climate catastrophe

Interesting study by the Global Sustainability Institute of Anglia Ruskin University. The key takeaway is that islands are the best bet.

‘Nodes of persisting complexity’ are geographical locations which may experience lesser effects from ‘de-complexification’ due to having ‘favourable starting conditions’ that may allow the retention of a degree of complexity. A shortlist of nations (New Zealand, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland) were identified and qualitatively analysed in detail to ascertain their potential to form ‘nodes of persisting complexity’ (New Zealand is identified as having the greatest potential). The analysis outputs are applied to identify insights for enhancing resilience to ‘de-complexification’.

As Charles Arthur (Whom God Preserve) notes about New Zealand (a favourite hideout for Silicon Valley squillionaires) if you’re thinking of migrating there you might think hard about whether you wanted one as a neighbour.

Good to see, though, that Ireland is one of the six.

Must Listen of the Day

Michael Lewis, IMHO the best non-fiction writer alive, talks to Andrew Sullivan about the pandemic, about Lewis’s book — The Premonition; A Pandemic Story and about grief (Lewis’s daughter, Dixie, died tragically in a road accident in May).

It’s long (54 minutes) but unmissable — and very moving. So make an appointment with it.

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