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Bill McKibben: “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly — losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn’t yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious — our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless — position with three simple numbers.

Amy Sullivan: “What Obama Needs to Know Before Meeting Rick Warren Again

Obama should consider that Warren either lied about his plans for the 2008 forum or bowed to pressure from other conservatives regarding the topics up for discussion. In the week before the earlier event, Warren told Time’s David van Biema that his questions would center on four areas: poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change, and human rights. “There is no Christian religious test,” said Warren.

The night of forum, however, Warren stuck to a more conservative script, quizzing the candidates about gay marriage, judges, and abortion — and only briefly touching on poverty and climate change.

Dave Lartigue: “The Dark Knight Buyses

It’s been said that Green Lantern is the most powerful character in the DC Comics universe because he is limited only by his will. … Batman, as we’ve seen, has no such limitations. His wealth enables him to defeat Superman through synthesizing Kryptonite. I don’t know if he’s fought Green Lantern, but in the most recent incarnation of the Justice League comic he’s removed the ring from Hal Jordan’s finger without him noticing. Batman needs no magic ring to manifest his will, he just buys stuff. Does he need to fly? He buys a jet. Does he need to bend metal? Wayne Industries has an experimental construction power suit that does just that. Does he need a giant supercomputer installed in an underground cavern? Money gets the job done. Batman buys his way to success, and since the wealth is unlimited, so is the success.

… His only restrictions are ones he places on himself. Super-wealth gives him the option to choose what he will and won’t do. In a similar, yet smaller-scale manner, I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. I could, there’s one nearby, but I choose not to, because I don’t like the company or its practices. However, I know that I can only make this choice because I’m in a comfortable financial position; most poorer people simply can’t afford not to shop there. Batman plays by rules and follows them religiously, but they are rules of his own making. This is another advantage of the super-wealthy.

… [Lex] Luthor is evil Batman. He’s got the same resources and the same abilities, but unlike Batman, he has not chosen to play by the rules. In the comic book world, this means Luthor doesn’t win, which is why the comic book world is described as “escapism.” In the world as it is, there are far more Luthors than Batmen, and they win far more often.

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  • The first being that the potential for sex interferes with friendship, rather than potentially being part of it or (God forbid) adding to it.

    I have an ex-friend who believes that friendship between men and women inevitably leads to sex, even if one or the other are married to other people. Therefore I couldn’t possibly be merely friends with her husband, he had to be cheating on her. There’s more of a hint of projection here; she started saying this after she started cheating on him.

    Now imagine this combination of jealous and un-self-aware having to deal with the possibility that all of her husband’s friends were potential sex-partners.


    Plus, there have been several episodes where Supes managed to get
    himself mind-controlled. Guess who’s the only one with even a whisper of
    a chance at taking him down?

    Wonder Woman. Greg Rucka’s Sacrifice story arc is my personal favorite take on this question, because Diana showing up is the reason mind-controlled Superman did not kill Batman.

  •  One of the minor things that bugs me about the “New 52” is that most of the costume redesigns seem to just involve putting lines all over the costumes.

  •  That’s precisely how I feel – hopeless and powerless.  I feel that way about a lot of things, but nothing more so than climate change.

    Frankly* I’m at the point where I’ve already decided against ever having kids.  Not because I don’t want them, but because what’s going to be left for them?  I’m young enough that by the time I die, it’s probable the planet will be going with me.  I don’t like that – but I can’t in good conscience ask someone else to continue on in what’s likely to be an at-best difficult transitional phase, and at worst quite literally the end of the world.

    In perhaps a rather ironic sense, we may very well see the four horsemen in our time, just like all those PMD types say we will; not as agents of some supernatural power, but simply due to our own collective idiocy.  I admit, I’m not sure I want to be around when that happens.

    *I’m in a pretty bleak mood at the moment, this post will probably reflect that.

  • Wingedwyrm

    “Did the guy who made that statement just confess that he wants to boink all his male friends?”

    No, I believe the lack-of-thought process goes like this.  “This is the only thing that differentiates homosexual individuals from the rest of us.  Therefore, it must be the only thing about homosexual individuals.”

    Now, the thought process then goes on to say “since gay men must be having sex with other men all the time, they must not be able to have genuine friendships with other men.  Therefore, they must stop being gay… because that’s totally a thing that can happen.”


    Now imagine this combination of jealous and un-self-aware having to deal with the possibility that all of her husband’s friends were potential sex-partners.

    Honestly, what my imagination reports here is that it makes no difference at all… the world where all male friends are threats to my marriage is, from where I stand, not noticeably better than the world where all friends of any gender are threats to my marriage.

    That said, I recognize that this is probably a failure of my imagination. Were I actually in the world where all male friends are threats to my marriage, I most likely would consider that vastly preferable to the world where everyone is.

    (sigh) As I said initially: sad.

  • Isabel C.

    As usual when this comes up, I will note that my life would be a lot better, or at least a lot more full of sex, if I wanted to sleep with all my male friends. Or even all my single male friends. 

  • Wait… so same-sex friendships will suffer because they’ll be having sex all the time instead of doing other friend stuff?

    I think the idea is that the friendships will suffer because the possibility of sex will always be present. And that’s bad, because, um, morals and stuff. You know, kind of like how real friendships aren’t possible between any two people, because of the ever-present possibility that one of them might kill the other. Except worse, because it’s sex rather than mere death.

    To be fair, I do know a fair number of people who experience something similar to this in certain contexts, which I would prefer not to spell out here, and for whom I do have a great deal of sympathy.

    So, I dunno.

  • Tonio

    I get the impression that in many societies in the past, men and women were expected to have minimal social interaction outside of sex, or at least outside of marriage and courting. If this is true, some of Left Behind’s descriptions of dating (or whatever it is Buck and Chloe do before marriage) seem rooted in that concept. Was this social code rooted in a belief that a man and a woman couldn’t interact socially without lusting for each other? I suspect instead that it was about treating women as property, with the rationalization that women in those interactions would be preyed upon by men other than their husbands. 

  •  And if same-sex marriage, adoption, etc. were illegal, then these temptations would no longer exist… interesting…

    Even if the snark stuff were 100% true for everyone, all the time, that would be an argument to ban two people of the same sex from hanging out together at all.

  • Yeah.

    Though, IIRC, the original quote was talking about the effects of same-sex sexual relationships existing. So that’s at least consistent.

    This of course leaves unspecified (chillingly so) what one is supposed to do about it. But, presumably, people who believe this sort of thing would be thrilled to discover a painless, reliable intervention that makes everybody 100% heterosexual that they could just dose the water supply with, like fluoride.

  • MaryKaye

    If homosexual attraction makes same-sex friendship impossible, it follows very clearly that bisexuals cannot have friends of any gender.  Something I think my friends would be surprised to hear.

    I *have* experienced the friendship-complicated-by-sexual-attraction thing a couple of times, but (a) not every time, and (b) it usually worked out okay, either as a friendship or, in one case, as a romance and marriage.  (21 years this November, so empirically speaking, a successful one.)

  • SirThinkAlot

    Really Batman’s power isnt his wealth per se.   Its his sheer determination and single mindedness in stopping criminals.  Other heroes like Green Arrow(before the most recent reboot of DCs universe) or The Punisher lack any powers, including Batman’s resources, but do well as heroes because they are determined to fight.  

  • Paul Durant

    Does that sound like Romney? No. As evil as “let’s water down this cancer cure to a long-term treatment” is, at least at the end of that there’s a new long-term cancer treatment that works.

    Romney wouldn’t water down something that could be a boon to mankind to make it more profitable because Romney isn’t involved with anything that could possibly be a boon to mankind. Romney takes other people’s money and uses it to buy other, different people’s money, shuffle it around, and keep some of it.

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s why I said “maybe with a medical degree.” Romney doesn’t have the skill or knowledge to create a means of exploitation other than riding off the existing models to which his father contributed. He’d be SOL if he had to build his own empire from the ground up. :p

  • Vermic

    Really Batman’s power isnt his wealth per se.   Its his sheer determination and single mindedness in stopping criminals.

    This is a good point, and it’s one which the Christopher Nolan films tend to let pass.  I don’t know whether I’d exactly call it a “flaw” of the films, because maybe Nolan intended it, but it’s there anyway.  (No spoilers ahead, just general thoughts on the trilogy as a whole.)

    Batman in the comics is generally presented as the pinnacle of human capability, which entitles him to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with guys like Green Lantern and Superman.  Physically and mentally, he’s built himself to the limit of what ordinary humans can aspire to.  All his wonderful toys are useful tools, but not really central to the character.  Bruce Wayne in nothing but a pair of Bermuda shorts would still be a really formidable force, because he’s still the goddamn Batman.

    That’s de-emphasized in the Nolan films.  We’re shown a more mundane and (for what it’s worth) realistic Batman, one who relies a lot on his wealth and the skills and innovations of others, because in the real world someone trying to do what Bruce does would have to.  But the flip side is the impression it leaves that anyone could be Batman if you gave them a credit card and the keys to the Batcave, and do at least as well as Bruce Wayne, if not better.  Morgan Freeman would probably make a fine Caped Crusader if he felt like taking a break from the boardroom.  Christian Bale Batman isn’t the world’s greatest detective, and he isn’t much of a scientist particularly.  He’s a rich dude with some fighting skills who doesn’t mind getting beaten up.  You couldn’t really picture the Nolan Batman working alongside Superman, much less beating him to a pulp if matters came to that.

  • You couldn’t really picture the Nolan Batman working alongside Superman, much less beating him to a pulp if matters came to that.

    True. Then again, the Nolan Batman doesn’t exist in a world with a Superman in it. The existence of Supermen tends to change how we think of mortal heroism.

  • Vermic

    Yeah, with the success of the Avengers I expect DC will soon start work on a Justice League project.  The next time big-screen Batman gets a reboot, it’ll probably be with future team-ups in mind, and that’ll mean a Batman more capable (both physically and emotionally) of working alongside folks like Superman and Wonder Woman.  If that means a Batman like the Animated Series incarnation, then I’m all for it!

  • This sort of balancing act is very difficult to do well; one of the things that impressed me about the Avengers is that Whedon pulled it off reasonably smoothly. I really expected it to suck for that reason.

    IMO, the Justice League would be even harder to pull off. The Avengers are imbalanced, but they each have glaring flaws… the Hulk’s mindlessness, Thor’s cluelessness, Iron Man’s arrogance, Cap/Widow/Hawkeye’s mortality, etc… that they can mutually alleviate.

    In the JL, well, the character flaws are less blatant, at least.

    A World’s Finest style Superman/Batman teamup might work better than a Justice League, maybe? That has a classic brains/brawns thing going on, at least.

    Were I putting together a from-scratch Superman/Batman teamup,  I would have the throughline involve an increasingly frustrated Superman realizing that the human world is too complicated for him to use his power to eliminate suffering in, and edging closer and closer to deciding that therefore he will simplify the human world by brute force for its own good.  (Ominous background music.) And introduce  Batman as the wildcard who averts that.

    If I were feeling positive, I’d probably have Batman ultimately make Superman realize that it’s precisely the complexity of human nature that can ultimately give rise to forces even better than he is, and that eliminating that complexity merely to alleviate short-term suffering is a poor choice.

    If I were feeling evil, I’d have Batman suggest that though Superman isn’t clever enough to use his power effectively in a complex human world without blundering through it like a bull in a shopping mall, Batman is clever enough; with Superman’s power to draw on they could totally just run things from the shadows and make everybody’s life better without anybody having to know.

    Come to think of it, in the second case it’d just be easier to franchise the Authority to begin with.

  • fraser

     And Green Lantern can make kryptonite. And Zatanna, Phantom Stranger or any other magic practitioner can fry his butt. 

  • fraser

     Also the mystique. One of the second-string villains of the sixties realized that anyone going up against Batman automatically has two strikes against him because at some level he can’t believe beating the Bat is possible.

  • fraser

     According to the news from Comic-Con, Marvel has a half-dozen super-hero movies in the works, Warner Brothers is vaguely talking about maybe possibly having a new one of some sort out by 2015. On the other hand, Batman in the various animated series (and film spinoffs) has proven very capable at playing in the big league.