Eugene Linden
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VITAMIN C FOR OUR FEEBLE RECOVERY

[THIS ESSAY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN QUARTZ]

As our feeble recovery shambles on, the question arises as to whether the United States economy is being dragged down by forces, some decades in the making, beyond the power of central banks and policymakers to reverse. Workers, for instanc...
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Featured Book

The Ragged Edge of the World
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Articles by Category
endangered animals
rapid climate change
global deforestation
fragging

Books

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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 the ragged edge of the worldThe Ragged Edge of the World

 
A species nearing extinction, a tribe losing the last traces of an accumulation of centuries of knowledge,  a tract of forest virtually untouched since prehistoric times facing the first incursions of humansóhow can we begin to assess the cost of the increasing disappearance of so much of our natural and cultural legacy? While these losses occasionally garner headlines, the pressures on earthís remaining wildlands and tribal peoples are unremitting and mounting.
 
For forty years Eugene Linden has explored environmental issues in a series of critically acclaimed books and in articles for publications ranging from National Geographic and Time to Foreign Affairs. His diverse assignments have frequently taken him to the very sites where tradition, wildlands and the various forces of modernity collide. In The Ragged Edge of the World, he recounts his adventures at this volatile frontier, where he has witnessed the dramatic transformations that follow in the wake of money, development and ideas as they make their way into the worldís last wild places.
 
Linden tells this story through encounters at this movable frontier. He takes us from Vietnam where exciting new species are being discovered near the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail to New Guinea and Borneo; from pygmy forests to Machu Picchu; from the Antarctic, where the entire ecosystem is changing, to the Ndoki, long celebrated as the most pristine rainforest in the Congo, which, even though it now has protection, suffers impacts from the outside world as dust, a portent of an ominous drying, blows in from the north. Even in the face of so much harm, however, many efforts at preservation have succeeded, and Linden charts the pioneering projects the protection of Midway Atollís vast albatross colony and Cubaís vigilant guardianship of its spectacularly beautiful landscape.
 
An elegy for what has been lost and a celebration of those cultures resilient enough to maintain their vibrancy and integrity, The Ragged Edge of the World captures the world at a turning point with a compelling immediacy that brings alive the people, animals and landscapes on the front lines, as change continues its remorseless march.

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Short Take


 On Wednesday, April 9, the New York Times published one of the most exasperating op-eds I’ve yet read on climate change. Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger wrote that articles that link global warming to the rash of extreme weather events, hurt rather than help efforts to rouse the public to the scale of the threat by alienating conservatives. Instead they recommend focusing on how mitigation might make a better society, and on promoting nuclear power and geoengineering.
           

Where to begin! Let’s start with the fact that one reason conservatives have hardened their opposition even as the evidence that climate is changing has become overwhelming is that there has been an extremely well-funded campaign to spread confusion and disinformation on the issue going back to the 1990s. This is never mentioned in the op-ed.
The unmentioned campaign has been remarkably effective. National newspapers like the Wall Street Journal give discredited scientists and peddlers of specious arguments – e.g. that there has been no unusual rise in global temperatures -- a pulpit and a patina of legitimacy. If you accept the arguments of the deniers that those scientists who spread alarm about global warming are twisting the facts and have a self-interested agenda, then of course you are going to see items linking extreme weather to climate change as further proof of their perfidy.

But the absurdity of this op-ed really comes into focus if you accept its premise. Let’s say the scientific community and the media made a concerted effort to avoid linking disasters to climate change (actually they are already doing that – most of the articles and news items I’ve seen have stressed the uncertainties), what then? We Americans have proven time and again that we only act when there is an emergency, as for instance after 9/11 or the financial crash of 2008 (not that the reactions to either of these crises should be a model for how to respond to climate change). Without a sense of urgency Americans are going to continue to do what they’ve been doing since the threat first gained attention twenty-five years ago: nothing.

In the U.S., we are becoming more carbon efficient as companies and individuals become more cost-conscious and alternatives gain appeal. The problem is that climate is changing faster than this conservative-friendly transition. In effect, Nordhaus and Shellenberger are saying: Don’t acknowledge what is staring you in the face because it’s going to cause conservatives to stick their heads deeper into the sand. Thanks guys! 



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