Making the Geologic Now is an online book in the form of a Zuihitsu, in which short chapters that are part science, part interview, part engineering, part art, part culture, and part whimsy mingle with each other to reflect upon the Anthropocene. It can be browsed on the web, downloaded for a price you choose (including free), or bought as a hardcopy.
Liquid Assets: How the Business of Bottled Water Went Mad by Sophie Elmhirst [The Guardian] “Water is no longer simply water – it has become a commercial blank slate, a word on to which any possible ingredient or fantastical, life-enhancing promise can be attached. And it’s working. Over the past two decades, bottled water has become the fastest-growing drinks market in the world. The global market was valued at $157bn in 2013, and is expected to reach $280bn by 2020. Last year, in the UK alone, consumption of water drinks grew by 8.2%, equating to a retail value of more than £2.5bn. Sales of water are 100 times higher than in 1980. Of water: a substance that, in developed countries, can be drunk for free from a tap without fear of contracting cholera. What is going on?”
With a global mean temperature rise of 1.5℃ (video, direct .mp4 link) the Marshall Islands, site of the US's Bikini Atoll nuclear weapons tests, may disappear completely. With most islands just six feet above sea level and less than a mile wide the ring of atolls is already severely affected by climate change. ⅓ of all Marshall Islanders are believed to live in the US, although they may face deportation. In recent months the residents of the Pacific island nation have been advised to cease eating fish after elevated levels of PCBs were found in the waters around the US missile base on Kwajalein Atoll. Recently, very previously, previously, previously, personal anecdotes.
From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
Jimmyjane (NSFW) makes luxury, design-oriented vibrators and other sex toys and accessories. ("Design inspired by Apple, not Hustler.") They'd like to change the way Americans think about them: instead of as 'dirty little secrets,' they're hoping for mainstream acceptance and to usher in an "Age of Great American Sex." (Via) [more inside]
Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
40 Things You Need to Know About the Next 40 Years For it's 40th anniversary issue, Smithsonian magazine asks experts in various fields for insights into our future and compiles a list of 40 predictions about the future of science, nature, the arts and technology. The feature essay is by President Obama, in which he explains why he's optimistic about America's future. (VIA) [more inside]
Governments around the globe are opening up their data vaults allowing us to check out the numbers for ourselves. This is the Guardian’s gateway to that information. Search for government data here from the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand — and look out for new countries and places as they are added. Read more about this on the Datablog. [more inside]
The story of stuff and how it's currently being played out between the political economies of China and the US (G2 'Chimerica') in an illuminating Fallows vs. Ferguson cage match. [more inside]
The Global Oneness Project is exploring how the radically simple notion of interconnectedness can be lived in our increasingly complex world. They travel the globe gathering stories from creative and courageous people who base their lives and work on the understanding that we bear great responsibility for each other and our shared world. [more inside]
NRW 1946—2006. Short articles chronicling North Rhine-Westphalia. The site has one rather large shortcoming though, the video clips cannot be accessed (only available on VHS within the State!).
Generation WE: How Millennial Youth Are Taking Over America And Changing Our World Forever (via) [more inside]
Against Pandas: "Pandas are endangered because they are utterly incompetent... Pandas are badly designed, undersexed, overpaid and overprotected. They went up an evolutionary cul-de-sac and it is too late to reverse."
The ashes of the recently deceased contains high amounts of nutrient rich phosphates, just perfect for sprucing up that garden of yours. On the iconic peaks of Scotland though Mountaineers have decided that enough is enough.