Climate Change Corps (A Modest Proposal)

On Monday, President Obama took the oath of office and delivered his second inaugural address. Many expected an optimistic, bipartisan appeal, similar to his speech in 2008. Instead, he came out of his corner swinging, directly addressing a number of progressive goals. He became the first president to mention gay Americans in an inaugural address, he defended the social safety net, and, to the surprise of many (including me) he devoted seven whole sentences to climate change. 

"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God."


The Culture of Curation

Apologies, all, for the long gap between posts. I was felled by illness, as folks often are this time of year. Laying in bed, coughing, got me thinking about the nature of epidemics, viruses, and the spread of ideas. 

I came by the following quote in a roundabout way -- a footnote in Matthew Crawford's Shopclass as Soulcraft.  Josie Appleton, in reviewing Benjamin Barber's book Consumed, writes:

"It is not so much that we have an ethic of consumption, but that – by default – it remains as one of the few meaningful experiences in our lives. There is a tangibility and satisfaction to buying – to picking out a new shirt or a new album and taking it home – that means that shopping remains for individuals a confirmation of their power to make things happen in the world.

The power of consumption has been usefully theorised by the Marxist sociologist Georg Simmel. In The Philosophy of Money, he looks at how buying an object is an act of individual subjectivity, the person stamping himself on a thing and claiming his right to its exclusive enjoyment. Simmel cited the example of a friend he knew who would buy beautiful things, not to use them, but to ‘give an active expression to his liking of the things, to let them pass through his hands and, in so doing, to set the stamp of his personality upon them’.

Shopping remains a way in which our choices have a tangible effect, in which we can make something in our lives new and different. It also becomes the primary way in which people can enjoy the creativity and efforts of others, even if this is done unconsciously, without knowing who made something or how."

Dead shopping cart, courtesy of Schmegs' photostream.


Repair & Replacement

After a long and consumptive holiday hiatus, OG is back on the soapbox.

I feel a need to offer penance after a holiday like Christmas. On this blog, and in my life, I love to go on about consumerismplanned obsolescence, and unintended consequences. But, on December 25th, these things are abandoned, shouted down by cultural fiat. 

My family has made some attempt to address the true meaning of Christmas, instituting a five-dollar limit on gifts. This is great, but it doesn't help my own craven failings . . . 

I went to the mall last week.

I'm not proud of it. But hey, I needed some things, and there were sales, and sometimes you need to try things on . . .

And so the penance. A New Year's purge has cleared closets and enriched Goodwill. Insufficiently sated, I went on a repair binge.

Damaged goods.