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A Nobel Prize in Economics a Climate Change Denier Might Love

It has been a scary month in climate science. Hurricane Michael and a frightening report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underlined the potential costs of human-caused global warming. Then to add insult to injury, William Nordhaus won the economics Nobel Prize. Nordhaus wa...

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The Ragged Edge of the World
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endangered animals
rapid climate change
global deforestation
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Winds of Change
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Afterword to the softbound edition.


The Octopus and the Orangutan
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The Future In Plain Sight
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The Parrot's Lament
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Silent Partners
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Affluence and Discontent
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The Alms Race
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Apes, Men, & Language
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publications

 

A Partial List of Eugene Linden's Publications

 

Books [reverse chronological order]

THE RAGGED EDGE OF THE WORLD: Encounters at the Frontier where Modernity, Wildlands and Indegnous Peoples Meet. Hardcover: Viking, April 2011. Plume, April 2012.

THE WINDS OF CHANGE; Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations . Hardcover: Simon and Schuster; Feb. 2006.

THE OCTOPUS AND THE ORANGUTAN; More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity. Hardcover: Dutton; Aug. 2002.

THE PARROT'S LAMENT; And Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity. Hardcover: Dutton; Sept. 1999. Softbound and 11 foreign editions

THE FUTURE IN PLAIN SIGHT: Nine Clues to the Coming Instability. Simon and Schuster: August 1998. Soft: Plume; Feb. 2002

SILENT PARTNERS: The Legacy of the Ape Language Experiments. Hardcover: TIMES Books; April 1986. Soft: Ballantine; August 1987. Foreign: Dobutsusha Ltd., Japan; 1987.

AFFLUENCE AND DISCONTENT: The Anatomy of Consumer Societies. Viking/Seaver Books: 1979.

THE ALMS RACE: The Impact of American Voluntary Aid Abroad. Random House: 1976.

APES, MEN, AND LANGUAGE. Hardcover: Saturday Review Press/Dutton; Jan. 1975. Soft: Penguin; Feb. 1976, revised edition, 1981. Seven foreign editions.

Selected List of Articles [reverse chronological order]

A papal call to reconcile the natural, spiritual, and industrial worlds, Financial Times; July 2, 2015

Epiphany, With Encyclopedias, The New York Times; Nov. 29, 2014; Op-Ed

The Call of the Wild, Parade; April 22, 2007

Cloudy with a Chance of Chaos , Fortune; Jan. 23, 2006

Seeing the Forest: Conservation on a Continental Scale, Foreign Affairs; July/August 2004

The Nature of Cuba, Tiny frogs. Vst swamps. Pristine rivers. Whether by design or default, the island boasts the Caibbean's best-kept wildlands. But for how long? , Smithsonian, May, 2003 [COVER]

Who's Going to Pay For Climate Change?; The threat of lawsuits — and an exodus of insurance companies — may finally force corporations to think green, Time.com; February 7, 2003

Eugene Linden Diary, Slate; June 25-28, 2001.

The Road To Disaster; If Brazil paves this route through the Amazon, the earth's largest rain forest could go up in flames, Time; October 16, 2000; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 96. [INTERNATIONAL COVER]

The Big Meltdown; As the temperature rises in the Arctic, it sends a chill around the planet, Time; September 4, 2000; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 52. [INTERNATIONAL COVER]

Condition Critical; An exclusive look at a U.N. assessment of Earth's ecosystems shows they are strained to the limit, Time; Spring 2000; STATE OF THE PLANET; Pg. 18. [COVER]

Bats And Brokers; Looking for clues to explain Tuesday's market gyrations? Observe a bloodsucking mammal, Time; April 17, 2000; Pg. 92.

Facing Our Ecofolly; Environmental abuse and overpopulation mean the worst is yet to come, Time; January 31, 2000; TIME LATIN AMERICA; LATIN AMERICA; Viewpoint; Pg. 19.

 

Forcasting the Digital Age, Slate Dialogue; First entry: October 14, 1998.

Volatility: Get Used to It; The global market magnifies our worst instincts, Time; September 28, 1998; INT TIME ATLANTIC; Viewpoint; Pg. 89.

Smoke Signals; Vast forest fires have scarred the globe, but the worst may be yet to come, Time; June 22, 1998; ENVIRONMENT/PLANET WATCH; Pg. 50.

How to Kill a Tiger; Speculators tell the story of their attack against the Baht, the opening act of an ongoing drama, Time; November 3, 1997; TIME ASIA; Pg. 24.

What Have We Wrought?; Our descendants in the next century may find themselves paying dearly for the material magic of the consumer society, Time; November 1997; TIME ASIA SPECIAL ISSUE/OUR PRECIOUS PLANET; OVERVIEW; Pg. 10.

Legions of the Dispossessed; Land degradation is creating multitudes of ecomigrants who cross borders and threaten the security of nations, Time; November 1997; TIME ASIA SPECIAL ISSUE/OUR PRECIOUS PLANET; VIEWPOINT; Pg. 28.

A World Awakens; History Shows that societies pollute first and pay later. Will the new awareness change our ways before it’s too late? Time; November 1997; TIME ASIA SPECIAL ISSUE/OUR PRECIOUS PLANET; PERSPECTIVE; Pg. 80.

A Way to Break the Impasse on Global Warming, The New York Times; September 27, 1997, Saturday, Late Edition - Final, Section A; Page 15; Column 1; Editorial Desk.

From Rio to Ruin?; Maybe not. As the U.N. Dithers, the poor take action, Time; July 7, 1997; VIEWPOINT; Pg. 33.

Antartica; Warnings from the ice the conventional wisdom is that climate change will be gradual and moderate. But what if it is sudden and extreme? A frozen wilderness may hold the answer, Time; April 14, 1997; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 54. [INTERNTIONAL COVER]

Global Fever; Climate change threatens more than megastorms, floods and droughts. The real peril may be disease, Time; July 8, 1996; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 56.

The Tree Gods Are a Bit Testy, The New York Times; June 22, 1996; Op-Ed.

The Exploding Cities of the Developing World, Foreign Affairs; January/February 1996;

ESSAYS; Pg. 52.

The Tortured Land; An epic landscape steeped in tragedy, Siberia suffered grievously under communism. Now the world’s capitalists covet its vast riches, Time; September 4, 1995; Pg. 42. [COVER]

 

Chain Saws Invade Eden; Vast, pristine forests in South America's sparsely populated Guyanas ought to be safe. Not so., Time; August 29, 1994; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 58.

Ancient Creatures In A Lost World; In an isolated, rugged region that divides Vietnam and Laos, scientists find a trove of new species, Time; June 20, 1994; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 52.

Population: The Awkward Truth, Time; June 20, 1994; U.S. Edition, ESSAY; Pg. 74.

Tigers On The Brink, Time; March 28, 1994; U.S. Edition, Pg. 44. [COVER]

Burned By Warming, Time; March 14, 1994; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 79.

 

Sustainable Follies, Time; May 24, 1993; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 56.

Who Lost The Ozone?; How the world waited too long to rescue the shield that protects earth from the sun's dangerous UV rays, Time; May 10, 1993; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 56.

Will the System Defeat Al Gore? Time; February 1, 1993; U.S. Edition, ESSAY; Pg. 74.

Megacities,Time; January 11, 1993; U.S. Edition, Pg. 28. [COVER]

The Green Factor; Does protecting the planet destroy jobs? Time; October 12, 1992; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 57.

The Last Eden; A trip into a remote African rain forest is a journey back in time to a world where the animals have never encountered humans. Time; July 13, 1992; U.S. Edition, Pg. 62. [COVER]

Summit To Save The Earth; Rio’s Legacy; Time; June 22, 1992; U.S. Edition, Pg. 44.

Summit To Save The Earth; Population: The Uninvited Guest, Time; June 1, 1992; U.S. Edition, Pg. 54.

Apes and Humans: A curious kinship, National Geographic; March 1992. [COVER]

Demanding Payment for Good Behavior, Time; February 3, 1992; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 52.

 

Hot Air at The Earth Summit?; As the U.S. stonewalls a Rio meeting, citizens offer a planet-saving proposal, Time; November 4, 1991; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 77.

TIME cover story: ">Lost Tribes, Lost Knowledge, Time; September 23, 1991; U.S. Edition, CULTURES; Pg. 46. [COVER]

Foreign Aid; Good Intentions, Woeful Results; How an ambitious environmental program ended up damaging the tropical rain forests, Time; April 1, 1991; U.S. Edition, WORLD; Pg. 48.

Endangered Earth Update; Is the planet on the back burner?; War and recession may be grabbing the headlines, but the relentless trashing of the world’s air, land and seas continues apace, Time; December 24, 1990; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 48.

The Last Drops; Population growth and development have depleted and polluted the world's water supply, raising the risk of starvation, epidemics and even wars, Time; August 20, 1990; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 58. [INTERNATIONAL COVER]

Dashed Hopes and Bogus Fears; The Smithsonian chronicles an unpredictable Information age, Time; June 11, 1990; U.S. Edition, TECHNOLOGY; Pg. 58.

Earth Day; Will the Ballyhoo go bust? Time; April 23, 1990; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 86.

Can We Really Understand Matter? Time; April 16, 1990; U.S. Edition, SCIENCE; Pg. 57.

 

How the Earth Maintains Life; An intriguing scientific theory continues to win adherents, Time; November 13, 1989; U.S. Edition, IDEAS; Pg. 114.

Special Report: Greening of Geopolitics; How the U.S. Can Take The Lead in the Third World; First: stop sending mixed signals, Time; October 23, 1989; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 63.

Playing with Fire; Destruction of the Amazon is "one of the great tragedies of history", Time; September 18, 1989; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Cover Story; Pg. 76. [COVER]

Putting the Heat on Japan; Accused of ravaging the world's forests and seas, Tokyo starts to clean up its act, Time; July 10, 1989; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 50.

BIODIVERSITY; The Death of Birth; THE PROBLEM: Man is recklessly wiping out life on earth, Time; January 2, 1989; U.S. Edition, PLANET OF THE YEAR; Pg. 32. [COVER]

 

 

Putting Knowledge to Work; Suddenly, artificial intelligence produces some results, Time; March 28, 1988; U.S. Edition, TECHNOLOGY; Pg. 60.[COVER]

Boom in the Bust Market; Taking Stock in Bankruptcy, Time; October 12, 1987; U.S. Edition, ECONOMY & BUSINESS; Pg. 52.

The Gambia; signs in the wilderness, The Atlantic; March, 1986; Vol. 257 ; Pg. 32.

Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom Inc., April, 1984, THE AGE OF THE ENTREPRENEUR; Pg. 64.

Politics Means Getting To Say You’re Sorry Wall Street Journal, Op-Ed 1984.

The Demoralization of an Army: Fragging and Other Withdrawal Symptoms Saturday Review; January 8, 1972.[COVER]

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Short Take

In Memorium: Koko the Gorilla

Koko the gorilla died on June 19. She and a female chimpanzee named Washoe (who died in 2007) played an outsized role in changing how we view animal intelligence. Their accomplishments inaugurated deep soul-searching among us humans about the moral basis of our relationship with nature. Koko and Washoe have made it much more difficult for us to treat animals as commodities, in any way we wish.

I knew the two great apes when I was young and they were young, and I”ve closely followed the scientific, philosophical and moral upheavals they precipitated over the last five decades. In the 1960s and ’70s, they learned to use American sign language, and they came to understand that words could be combined to convey new meanings. It threw the scientific world into a tizzy, implying that sentience and languagewere not ours alone, that there was a continuum in higher mental abilities that linked animals and humans.

The problem for science remains unresolved: 3,000 years into the investigation of signal human attributes and we still don’t have rigorous ways to define language and intelligence that are agreed on and can be empirically tested. There remain a number of scientists who don’t think Koko and Washoe accomplished anything at all. Even if a scientist accepts one of the definitions of language that do exist, it’s nearly impossible to test it in animals because what is being examined is inherently subjective, and science demands objective, verifiable results.

Consider how hard it is to prove a lie beyond a reasonable doubt in court. Then consider trying to prove lying in an animal in accord with the much stricter standards of science.

As difficult as proving it may be, examples of apes lying abound. When Koko was 5, I was playing a chase game with her. When I caught her, she gave me a small bite. Penny Patterson, Koko’s lifelong foster parent and teacher, was there, and, in sign language, demanded, “What did you do?”

Koko signed, “Not teeth.”

Penny wasn’t buying it: “Koko, you lied.”

“Bad again Koko bad again,” Koko admitted.

“Koko, you lied.” But what was Koko’s intent — a central issue when it comes to proving a lie. What was actually going on in her head when she made the gestures for “not teeth?” As if that weren’t inscrutable enough, one of the guiding principles of scientific investigations of animal intelligence is what’s known as Morgan’s Canon: Scientists must not impute a higher mental ability if a behavior can be explained by something more primitive, for example, simple error.

Analogously, about 50 years ago, on a pond in Oklahoma, Washoe saw a swan and made the signs for “water” and “bird.” Was she simply noting a bird and water, or was she combining two of the signs she knew to describe an animal for which she had no specific word? The debate continued for decades and was unresolved when she died.

Since Washoe made those signs, there have been many more instances of apes combining words to describe something, but these examples still don’t prove they can combine words to arrive at a novel term, even if it seems obvious that they can. Faced with these ambiguities, many scientists have moved to studying whether animals can accomplish specific cognitive tasks, and a welter of credible findings show sophisticated abilities in animals ranging from crows to elephants.

Although science struggles with questions of general intelligence, language and intent, the public is in the “it’s obvious” camp, readily accepting evidence of animal sentience. The latest objects of fascination are the octopus — a relative of the clam! — and fish. Stories of cephalopod escape and problem-solving regularly go viral, and to the consternation of sushi lovers , John Balcomb’s book, “What a Fish Knows,” provides copious evidence that fish know a lot.

We tend to see animals as either personalities or commodities, or sometimes, both. When I wrote about octopus intelligence, I was amused by one octopus-oriented website that divided its space between stories of smart octopuses and recipes for cooking them. Perhaps the most extraordinary example of our schizophrenic view of animals occurred some years back when a chimp colony that included sign-language-using apes was disbanded and many of these onetime celebrities were shipped to a medical research lab to be used in Hepatitis B and AIDS drug testing.

I knew these chimps too, and visited them in their new environment. They were desperate to communicate with their human captors, but the staff didn’t know sign language. So insistent were Booee and Bruno with their signing that one handler put up a poster outside the cages showing some basic signs to help the humans respond. When I was there, three days after Booee had arrived, he was signing agitatedly for food and drink. But what I think he really wanted was reassurance: If the humans would respond to “gimme drink,” things were going to be OK.

Teaching Koko, Washoe and other animals some level of human and invented languages promised experimenters insight into the animal mind. But the animals seemed to seize on these languages as a way to make their wishes — and thoughts — known to their strange, bipedal wardens, who had no ability or interest in learning the animals’ communication system. For Koko, I believe, sign language was a way to make the best of a truly unnatural situation, and so she signed.

Science doesn’t know if great apes can invent terms or if they tell lies. And the tension between whether we view and treat animals as personalities or as commodities lives on. The truth is, Koko, Washoe and many other animals who have had two-way conversations with the people around them shatter the moral justification for the latter.



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