Death Is a fact

You may have read about it. NASA, in a test to see if we had the wherewithal to prevent an asteroid from crashing into earth and extinguishing all life, crashed a rocket into a small asteroid, Didymos. The test was successful. Didymos was nudged out of orbit. It was a small news story, swallowed by the headlines about war and politics, but to me it was quite significant. It was the first time I can remember that someone, some nation, did something to benefit not just themselves, but all humanity, indeed the entire planet. That’s really quite rare, it’s almost … Read More

The Things That Happened to Happen

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been reading William MacAskill’s What We Owe the Future. He is a Scottish moral philosopher who advocates “longterm-ism,” the moral framework that decisions we make today have tremendous consequences for future generations, and that those consequences should be deeply considered and taken into account. Almost in passing, MacAskill, in discussing the “contingencies of history,” mentions that in the early days of the United Nations there was serious discussion about having the UN take responsibility for the then-new atomic bomb technology. The idea was that all nations would surrender their bombs into … Read More

LongTerm-ism and Instant Gratification

A new book is trending among progressive altruists and tech donors: What We Owe the Future by Scottish moral philosopher William MacAskill. MacAskill preaches “long term-ism,” which in a nutshell proposes the moral position that decisions we make today should take into account the welfare not just of the current generation, but of generations to come. MacAskill actually attempts to calculate the future population of humanity under various scenarios. If the population grows exponentially as it has been, before too long there will be not billions, but trillions of human beings, all of whom will be affected by decisions we … Read More

Women Keeping Other Women’s Secrets

I have been thinking recently of a woman I knew well for several decades, a person of many accomplishments who is now no longer with us. She was an important influencer of other women, who sought her out and admired her. Most notably, though, she was a confidante to other women who shared their deep secrets with her, trusting that she would keep their secrets. And she did.
It is hard, even dangerous, to be such a woman. In my various careers as a business person, spiritual leader, and teacher, I have known several women who have played this role. … Read More

Is Overpopulation the Key to Everything?

The Dalai Lama has said, “There are too many precious human beings on this earth.” This statement, coming from a spiritual teacher with a high level of authority, ought to be emblazoned on the foreheads of everyone who is trying to solve the world’s many problems, but for some reason it is not. I don’t often see it mentioned in discussions of climate change, for example, as an obvious solution. Those discussions seem focused on political and technological fixes. I have read that some experts think that the ideal carrying capacity of planet earth is 500 million people—which was the … Read More

Cosmology and the Daily Grind

When I was a kid I used to love science fiction. Every summer my Dad would give me a list of great books he wanted me to read. Instead, I went to the local library and came home with an armload of Sci-Fi from classic authors like Robert Heinlein, Clifford Simak, and Theodore Sturgeon. I loved the way these works posited alternate realities and different universes, and created dramas amid spaceships, other planets, and other stars. When the first Star Wars movie came out, and everyone suddenly discovered the power of these spacious dreams, I wasn’t surprised. For me it … Read More

The Custom of Telling the Bees

I read that the Royal Beekeeper at Buckingham Palace told the bees in the beehives there that the Queen had died but that they had a new master who would take good care of them. The beekeeper apparently received some teasing in the Press, but it turns out that the practice of “telling the bees” about momentous occasions such as weddings, births, and deaths is an old custom, especially in England, but also throughout Europe. No one knows where or when the practice began; there is some speculation that it goes back to ancient Greece and the belief that bees … Read More

The Power of Men in Power

Today’s headlines are full of the military “mobilization” occurring in Russia in connection with the war in Ukraine. As Russian police and military—men in power—knock on doors in the middle of the night to serve unsuspecting draft-age men (not in power) with enlistment papers, other men are rushing to the airports or driving cars to the border, desperate to escape. This brings up fifty year old memories of a time when I and my whole generation were draft age, subject to men in power, facing conscription into our country’s war in Vietnam.
I haven’t seen any articles or commentaries drawing … Read More

Sound Pollution is Making Us Stupid

On top of the many grievous issues facing our world today, it may seem as though sound pollution is somewhere down the list, but after reading Ed Yong’s bestselling book An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us I have come away impressed how critically important all the senses are for every animal, including us. Yong reveals to the reader all the miraculous ways that living things—birds, fish, mammals, even plants—experience what he calls their Umwelt, the world of their senses, and how limited our own human sense organs are compared to other creatures. Many birds … Read More

Zombie Ice and Karma

I learned a new term recently—maybe you too saw the headline—“zombie ice.” Zombie ice is glacier ice in Greenland that scientists have determined is 100% certain to melt into the ocean at some point in the reasonably near future. The water under the glaciers has warmed to the point that the ice—like a cube of ice dropped into boiling water—is irrevocably doomed to melt, probably by 2050 or sooner. At this point, nothing can stop this process, hence the term “zombie ice.”
I don’t know who invented this term, but never say that scientists don’t have a sense of humor. … Read More