Archive for April, 2010
Came across this poem/story today… just shows us that things happen for a reason no matter how big or small.. just go with the flow…
The Little Things.
The head of a company survived 9/11 because
His son started kindergarten.
Another fellow was alive because it was
His turn to bring donuts.
One woman was late because her
Alarm clock didn’t go off in time.
One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike
Because of an auto accident.
One of them
Missed his bus.
One spilled food on her clothes and had to take
Time to change.
Car wouldn’t start.
Get a taxi.
The one that struck me was the man
Who put on a new pair of shoes that morning,
Took the various means to get to work but before.
He got there, he developed a blister on his foot.
He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid.
That is why he is alive today..
Now when I am
Stuck in traffic,
Miss an elevator,
Turn back to answer a ringing telephone…
All the little things that annoy me,
I think to myself,
This is exactly where
I’m meant to be
At this very moment
Recently, I wrote a paper on the ethics of a new field of study called geoengineering. This new study gives people the ability to mega-engineer the Earth to counteract global warming. The technology and science being put forth is pretty exciting stuff. But as I have become more aware about the environment and thus more environmentally conscious, I question geoengineering as a solve-all solution. Implementing these ‘remedies’ can greatly compromise our moral responsibility to living sustainable lives.
To make things even more interesting, geoengineering technology will be relatively cheap to attain and implement. So, by endorsing such studies can open Pandora’s box to a whole another world of problems. People can start weather wars against each other and even ultimately extinguish the Earth’s ecosystem.
It’s a long essay, but worth a read since it offers a glimpse into what is on the world’s agenda.
THE ETHICS OF GEOENGINEERING
It is no secret that the 21st century represents a new age of environmental consciousness. Never before has there been such a significant effort in raising awareness to preserve our planet’s ecosystem. This movement has come as a response to hundreds of years of humanities’ manipulation of the Earth. People have always changed the planet and its resources to conform to their desires – water is pumped long distances to where we live, forests are butchered to make houses and furniture, and deserts are made into luxury golf resorts. However, the biggest consequence of these actions can be observed in the change of the world’s climate, called global warming. This scientific phenomenon has caused the gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface since the mid-20th century and is still continuing to do so even today (Wikipedia).
Global warming can be largely attributed to the green house effect and the buildup of human-related greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels and forests. The greenhouse effect is the process that warms the Earth’s lower atmosphere and surface through the absorption and emission of infrared radiation by gases in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, human activity has increased the amount of green house gases in the atmosphere, which have a natural warming effect. The impacts of a climate change can already be seen as the polar ice caps are dwindling away, sea levels are rising, and the acidity of the ocean is changing, raising concerns about marine life extinction.
As evident as the dangers of global warming are so is the response to it. People have only begun to take action as a new popular trend of “going green”, which includes recycling material, reusing cloth grocery bags, and adjusting household thermostats among many other things (StopGlobalWarming). Efforts are also reaching as far as changing the design and construction process of buildings to be more sustainable, and inventing alternative resources that produce more energy with less waste. However, the efforts do not end here as science is on the verge of leading a new engineering effort to cure global warming.
The scientific community has created a new field of engineering called geoengineering that seems to come straight out of the comic books. This new area of study is defined by the National Academy of Sciences as the ability to deliberately manipulate the Earth’s climate to counteract the effects of changes in atmospheric chemistry – specifically, global warming (Lenton). Thanks to modern advances in technology and science, researchers are able to achieve what was once thought impossible, which is to essentially reverse-engineer the planet. Revolutionary geoengineering techniques include solar radiation management, ocean iron fertilization, stratospheric sulfur aerosols, and cloud reflectivity enhancement (Muylaert De Araujo). Geoengineering will allow humanity to push the boundaries of sustainable existence by wielding the ability to mega-engineer the global environment to conform to its own needs. However, a major ethical dilemma surrounding geoengineering questions if any single entity should have the right to control the Earth’s climate thus affecting every living citizen of the world. There is no doubt that this new area of study is exciting and is on the cutting edge of science; however, the moral hazards concerning such ability may yet be the biggest issue at hand. And despite our optimistic beliefs in this new field, the answer is that no one should exercise control to dictate the entire planet’s ecology.
At first glance it is easy to see why many people are so quick to support a pioneering endeavor like geoengineering. This new science is truly avant-garde and pushes man’s imagination as it crosses the boundary from fantasy to reality. Geoengineering also offers a quick and seemingly painless solution to global warming. It saves all of us from the additional effort in “going green” to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Aside from these superficial benefits, proponents of geoengineering would argue that the power to control the world’s weather falls within ethical guidelines based on the social ethic of utility. The main objective of geoengineering is to reverse the effects of global warming, which should theoretically benefit the entire world. It removes many dangers such as animal extinction, glacial retreat, and regional water shortages. Consequently, much of the world including plants and animals will gain from such study. Also, this is why the support for geoengineering believes that by holding paramount the interest of the majority justifies the ethics behind allowing a single entity authority to global climate control. This suggests that the interests of the majority should outweigh the interests of the few and thus “the greatest good for the greatest number of people” (Johnson-Sheehan, Richard). The ethical issue at hand can be simplified down to a cost-benefit analysis favoring the majority that will benefit at the cost of the minority. It does not make much sense for the entire world to suffer at the cost of those few who will inevitably suffer anyways. People believe that permitting the control of the entire planet’s ecology to a body does not cross any ethical lines because it follows this utilitarian belief of majority rules.
The argument that supports the right to engineering the planet makes the decision of choosing the lesser of two evils convincing. However, the argument may be fallacious as it is based on assumptions that such technologies will work accordingly. As most of us know, this is almost never the case, especially when dealing with a system as complex and sensitive as the planet Earth. It is wrong to say that geoengineering should be utilized for the greater good of the living population because it is yet unknown if it will be beneficial at all. There are far too many uncertainties involved. In addition, the rights of the few who may be sacrificed for the good of the majority poses another issue. By allowing an actor to engage in geoengineering on the basis of utilitarianism completely overrides the rights of the unfortunate minority. It is unjust to infringe on their rights to being treated equally. Despite the little options there are regarding global warming, it is still not an ethical option to disregard the rights of people or even base a decision on unknowns.
The capacity to change the global thermostat gives people the ability to tinker with the very complex and sensitive system that governs our planet. A simple miscalculation or overlooked factor can potentially kill everyone. There are also countless unknowns in implementing such a system, as well as enormous pressure and catastrophic consequences that are involved with geoengineering and those involved in it. For example, ocean iron fertilization is a geoengineering project in its advanced stages of research and can potentially reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. The technique is based on carbon sequestration methods, which is a means of mitigating fossil fuel emissions by capturing and storing carbon dioxide away from the atmosphere through biological, checmical, or physical processes. More specifically, ocean iron fertilization supplys iron to iron-deficient oceans to promote phytoplankton bloom since iron is often the key factor in phytoplankton growth (Wikipedia). The result of implementing iron fertilization can spark phytoplankton growth to benefit the marine life food chain and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Although this sounds like a very promising solution, like many other geoengineering ideas, the results are relatively unpredictable. Critics of iron fertilization claim that this technique will yield little result since a majority of the plankton will be eaten rather than deposited on the ocean floor, which is a necessary process in reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere (Basgall). Others also believe that iron infusions can produce harmful algal blooms that can poison ecosystems or favor certain species and alter ecosystems in unknown ways (CDC). Introducing unnatural elements as a remedy to our natural problems presents much too many variables. It is unethical to say geoengineering will be an answer to global warming based on the premises that we are experimenting with a complex system that we do not completely understand that will yield a result we do not fully know. In fact, this could very well do more harm than help. And to allow any human the rights to this type of environmental control would be ridiculous. The responsibility of global climate control by any actor exhibits far too many uncertainties to render it safe or even ethical for that matter.
Other camps argue that the authority to dictate planetary ecology granted to a single entity is unethical because there lacks a method of international agreement. The implementation of geoengineering will likely influence the entire world and all its living creatures. And each will likely be affected in a different way for better or for worse. For this reason, a global democratic agreement is integral and an absolute necessity in any global climate change decision. The act of tampering with the global thermostat will impact the frequencies and intensities of winds, storms, droughts, and floods on a worldwide scale (Muylaert De Araujo). In addition, it will change the climatic effects on human and animal health and raise the global sea level among a myriad of other factors.
Research that is currently on the forefronts of geoengineering is solar-radiation management. This method against global warming proposes cooling the planet by reflecting the Sun’s rays and thus reducing the planet’s absorption of solar energy. This feat can be accomplished by distributing “megatonnes of light-scattering aerosol particles into the upper atmosphere” or by releasing particles of sea salt to make low-altitude clouds (Calgary). This process of cooling the planet will yield less precipitation and less evaporation globally due to the change in temperature, thus directly weakening the monsoon rains and winds (Calgary). It is easy to see that there will be local winners and losers of this effect. For example, a large majority of the Earth will obviously benefit from attaining the ultimate objective of global cooling, while those in the agriculture industry who rely heavily on the heavy seasonal rainfall for their crops will most surely suffer. Therefore, this becomes an issue of justice since no one will benefit or suffer equally. How can any actor make a sound and just decision if there can be no agreement? As exciting as all the mega-scale engineering solutions are, the task of attaining international democratic agreement and satisfying every global citizen is impossible. As a result, it is unethical to allow a person or people the privilege of managing the world’s weather since the necessary worldwide agreement is unattainable.
Geoengineering opens a world of opportunities for the future by making what was once thought impossible possible. The solution to humanity’s global warming woe may be at hand with this new field of study. Nevertheless, an innovative and groundbreaking topic is rarely met without any controversy and the ethics of geoengineering has been no different, and for good reason too. Geoengineering gives too much responsibility and power for a single person or group to control the Earth’s climate. The uncertain consequences and lack of unanimous international agreement makes it unethical for any single entity to exercise the power involved in engineering the Earth. The risks entailed with permanently changing the world only increase the gravity of the situation and calls the world to tread carefully. However, the development of geoengineering should not remove our responsibility as citizens of the world to live a sustainable and environmentally conscious life. We all individually hold a personal accountability to preserving our environment and should assume responsibility in combating the effects of global warming. After all, the decision of one person can make a huge impact in our world.
Bala, G. “Problems with Geoengineering Schemes to Combat Climate Change.” Engineering Village 2. Current Science, Jan. 2009. Web. 05 Apr. 2010.
Basgall, Monte. “Goal of Ocean ‘iron Fertilization’ Said Still Unproved.” EurekAlert! – Science News. EurekaAlert, 13 Feb. 2004. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. <http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-02/du-goo020904.php>.
CDC. “Harmful Algal Blooms: Red Tide: About | CDC HSB.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. <http://www.cdc.gov/hab/redtide/about.htm>.
Climate Response Fund. “Statement of the Scientific Organizing Committee.” Climate Response Fund. Climate Response Fund, 26 Mar. 2010. Web. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://climateresponsefund.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=152&Itemid=89>.
DiPeso, Jim. “Climate Geo Engineering – Pros and Cons of Geoengineering the Climate – Thedailygreen.com.” Going Green, Fuel Efficiency, Organic Food, and Green Living – The Daily Green. The Daily Green, 23 Aug. 2009. Web. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/blogs/republican/geo-engineering-climate-47083201>.
Jamieson, Dale. “The Ethics of Geoengineering.” People and Place 1.02 (2009). People and Place. Ecotrust, 13 May 2009. Web. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://www.peopleandplace.net/perspectives/2009/5/13/the_ethics_of_geoengineering>.
Johnson-Sheehan, Richard. “Ethics in the Technical Workplace.” Technical Communication Today. Third ed. Pearson Education. 91-116. Print.
Lenton, Timothy M. Tipping Elements in the Earth’s Climate System. Proc. of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Harvard University, Cambridge. PNAS, 2008. Web. 5 Apr. 2010. <http://www.pnas.org/content/105/6/1786.long>.
Maynard, Andrew. “Geoengineering: Does It Need a Dose of Geoethics?” 2020 Science: Providing a Clear Perspective on Developing Science and Technology Responsibly. 2020 Science, 28 Jan. 2009. Web. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://2020science.org/2009/01/28/geoengineering-does-it-need-a-dose-of-geoethics/>.
Muylaert De Araujo, Maria S. “Ethical Issues Created by Geo-engineering Proposals – An Initial Analysis.” Web log post. ClimateEthics.org. Rock Ethics Institute, 11 Nov. 2007. Web. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://www.treehugger.com/gogreen.php>.
StopGlobalWarming. “Take Action.” StopGlobalWarming.org. StopGlobal Warming. Web. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://www.stopglobalwarming.org/sgw_actionitems.asp>.
University of Calgary. “Climate Change Experts Argue for International Geoengineering Effort.” PhysOrg.com. PhysOrg, 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://www.physorg.com/news183817746.html>.
Virgoe, John. “International Governance of a Possible Geoengineering Intervention to Combat Climate Change.” Compendex. Climactic Change, July 2009. Web. 5 Apr. 2010.
Wikipedia. “Geoengineering.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia. Web. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoengineering#Moral_hazard>.
Wikipedia. “Global Warming.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia. Web. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming#Attributed_and_expected_effects>.
So apparently this guy was on a Taiwanese reality show. Whats amazing is that he sings it perfectly without an accent.
Eugene Allen, White House butler for 8 presidents, dies at 90
By Wil Haygood
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 2, 2010
Eugene Allen, who endured a harsh and segregated upbringing in his native Virginia and went on to work for eight presidents as a White House butler, died March 31 of renal failure at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. He was 90.
Mr. Allen and his wife, Helene, were profiled in a Washington Post story in 2008 that explored the history of blacks in the White House. The couple were excited about the possibility of Barack Obama’s historic election and their opportunity to vote for him. Helene, however, died on the eve of the election, and Mr. Allen went to vote alone. The couple had been married for 65 years.
Afterward, Mr. Allen, who had been living quietly in a simple house off Georgia Avenue NW in the District, experienced a fame that he had only witnessed beforehand. He received a VIP invitation to Obama’s swearing-in, where a Marine guard escorted him to his seat. Eyes watering, he watched the first black man take the oath of office of the presidency.
Mr. Allen was besieged with invitations to appear on national TV shows. There were book offers and dozens of speaking requests, all of which he declined. He also received hundreds of letters, some from as far away as Switzerland, from people amazed at the arc of his life and imploring him to hold on while thanking him for his service to the nation. People in his neighborhood would stop him and explain to their children the outlines of his life.
“He liked to think of himself as just a humble butler,” his only child, Charles, said Thursday. Aside from his son, Mr. Allen is survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Mr. Allen was born July 14, 1919, in Scottsville, Va. He worked as a waiter at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and later at a country club in Washington. In 1952, he heard of a job opening at the White House and was hired as a “pantry man,” washing dishes, stocking cabinets and shining silverware for $2,400 a year.
He became maitre d’, the most prestigious position among White House butlers, under Ronald Reagan. During Mr. Allen’s 34 years at the White House, some of the decisions that presidents made within earshot of him came to have a direct bearing on his life — and that of black America.
Mr. Allen was in the White House when Dwight D. Eisenhower dealt with the Little Rock desegregation crisis. Eisenhower once asked him about the cancellation of Nat “King” Cole’s TV show, which the president enjoyed. Mr. Allen told him that the show had difficulty attracting advertisers, who were worried about white Southern audiences boycotting their products.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Mr. Allen was invited to the funeral. He declined for the most generous of reasons: “Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral,” he told The Post. When first lady Jackie Kennedy returned to the White House afterward, she gave him one of the president’s ties. Mr. Allen had it framed.
Mr. Allen served entertainers including Sammy Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey and Elvis Presley. He flew aboard Air Force One. He sipped root beer at Camp David with Jimmy Carter and visited Eisenhower in Gettysburg after he left the White House. There were always Christmas and birthday cards from the families of the presidents he had served.
He looked up one evening in the White House kitchen to see a lone figure standing in the doorway: It was Martin Luther King Jr., who had insisted on meeting the butlers and maids. Mr. Allen smiled when King complimented him on the cut of his tuxedo.
Mr. Allen served cups and cups of milk and Scotch to help Lyndon B. Johnson settle his stomach when protesters were yelling outside the White House gates during the Vietnam War. He longed to say something to Johnson about his son, who was serving in Vietnam at the time but dared not — save for acknowledging that his son was alive when Johnson asked about him.
It pained Mr. Allen to hear vulgar words, sometimes racially charged, flowing from Johnson’s mouth; and it delighted him when Johnson signed the historic civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965.
Sometimes Mr. Allen’s own life seemed to stop beneath the chandeliered light. First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him one afternoon, and Mr. Allen wondered whether he or a member of his staff had done something wrong. She assured him that he had not but also told him that his services would not be needed at the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Mr. Allen tensed, wondering why.
“She said, ‘You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself,’ ” he recounted in the Post interview. Mr. Allen thought he was the first butler to receive an invitation to a state dinner. He and Helene — she was a beautiful dresser — looked resplendent that night. The butlers on duty seemed to pay special attention to the couple as they poured champagne for guests — champagne that Mr. Allen himself had stacked in the kitchen.
Mr. Allen was mindful that with the flowering of the black power movement, many young people questioned why he would keep working as a butler, with its connotations of subservience. But the job gave him great pride, and he endured the slights with a dignified posture.
“He was such a professional in everything he did,” said Wilson Jerman, 81, whom Mr. Allen hired to work at the White House in the early 1960s. “When my wife, Gladys, died in 1966, he told me not to worry about a thing. I didn’t think I could get through that period, and he just took me by the hand. I’ll never forget it.”
Mr. Allen retired in 1986, after having been promoted to maitre d’ five years earlier. He possessed a dazzling array of framed photographs with all of the presidents he had served, in addition to gifts and mementos from each of them.
The last item to be framed and placed on Eugene Allen’s basement wall was a condolence letter from George W. and Laura Bush. It arrived from the White House just after the death of Helene.