What I'm Reading (Sept. 16)

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Is there a political perspective on nature vs. nurture? What to do about losing “the grid” during storms. A whale of a tale! PETA and the fashionistas. And what I am listening to.

“Harden understands why the left, with which she identifies, has nurtured an aversion to genetics. She went to graduate school in Charlottesville, the birthplace of Carrie Buck, a “feeble-minded” woman who was sterilized against her will, in 1927, under a state eugenics program sanctioned by the Supreme Court. But she does not believe that a recognition of this horrifying history ought to entail the peremptory rejection of the current scientific consensus. The left’s decision to withdraw from conversations about genetics and social outcomes leaves a vacuum that the right has gaily filled. The situation has been exploited as a “red pill” to expose liberal hypocrisy. Today, Harden is at the forefront of an inchoate movement, sometimes referred to as the “hereditarian left,” dedicated to the development of a new moral framework for talking about genetics.”

This article takes on two entangled concerns. First, to what degree are our fates written in our genes or the environment.  Second, the part that caught my focus was how political views color our thinking, even in something as statistically objective as polygenic scores. Interestingly, here the political lines over what is or is not “fake” are reversed. From the New Yorker, Can Progressives Be Convinced That Genetics Matters?

Are you like me and wonder why we can’t put our electrical grid underground so that we do not go through what is becoming an annual “days without power.”  Of course, it is more complicated than that, isn’t it always?

“There are many ways to make power grids more resilient, but they are all costly, require the involvement of many agencies, businesses, and power customers, and may not solve the problem.”

From The Conversation, Can burying power lines protect storm-wracked electric grids? Not always Reading it will make you a more informed consumer

Fifty-one years ago, the world was introduced to a new multi-platinum vocalist who has gone on to impact our lives in some indirect ways. I am referring to the Songs of the Humpback Whale. This week, Nautil.us interviewed the producer of the work, Dr. Roger Payne, in a piece entitled, The Man Who Seduced the World with Whale Songs. That reminded me of another more in-depth look at how Dr. Payne came to this work from Invisibilia, Two Heartbeats A Minute. You can find their transcript and the podcast here.  

Clothing, fabric, thread, and its sources are so woven into the woof and weave of our lives that we have rarely given them a thought. I learned that lesson from the book The Fabric Of History by Virginia Postrel, which I heartily recommend. I am hardly a fashionista. My usual attire is what I have called work-at-home-casual, but this article caught my eye. 

“For most women like me, when a fine silk blouse catches our eye in a clothing store, we don’t think much about the worms that made the silk. If you do, here’s the story you will typically find: A few days after silkworms disappear inside their cocoons, right about the time they finish spinning, the little pods are collected and submerged in boiling water. To make a pound of raw silk, up to 5,000 worms must die. …

The myths and misunderstandings around this tiny worm—and the far-reaching effects—have been troubling me. In recent years, I’ve seen increasing activity by a group that might be called vegan readers—people so committed to animal nonviolence that they won’t eat or buy products made from animals. Despite representing a tiny slice of American consumers (2 percent, according to this Gallup poll), vegans wield an outsized clout in this nascent “conscious” marketplace.”

It is an equally fascinating story with many parallels to other “organic” movements, From the Craftmanship Quarterly, Eco-Fashion’s Animal Rights Delusion.

Finally, one of the work-at-home downsides, at least for me, was that the end of the commute also took away time from podcasts which I greatly miss. I do not care for those talking heads, interview ones that are “radiofied” television, but I love those that tell stories and use audio as only radio allows. In part, to get me back on track and in part to share, I will try and feature a, what I have been listening to selection. Here is the first.


Ginkgo Biloba. … For some reason, it reminds me of Prevagen. At the Anthropocene Review, John Green rates many of our human-centric creations and concerns on a five-star scale. In this episode, he rates and discusses the history of the Ginkgo Biloba, a tree that has been with us for a long, long time – dinosaurs used to eat it. Here is the podcast.