IN the last years of the nineteen-eighties, I worked not at startups but at what might be called finish-downs. Tech companies that were dying would hire temps—college students and new graduates—to do what little was left of the work of the employees they’d laid off. This was in Cambridge, near M.I.T. I’d type users’ manuals, save them onto 5.25-inch floppy disks, and send them to a line printer that yammered like a set of prank-shop chatter teeth, but, by the time the last perforated page coiled out of it, the equipment whose functions those manuals explained had been discontinued.
via What the Gospel of Innovation Gets Wrong – The New Yorker.
1938, Daniel B. Beard, a ranger charged with conducting a “wildlife reconnaissance” of the future Florida Everglades National Park, attempted to describe the character of the land:
The southern Florida wilderness scenery is a study in halftones, not bright, broad strokes of a full brush as is the case of most of our other national parks. There are no knife-edged mountains protruding up into the sky. There are no valleys of any kind. No glaciers exist, no gaudy canyons, no geysers, no mighty trees unless we except the few royal palms, not even a rockbound coast with the spray of ocean waves. . . . Instead, there are lonely distances, intricate and monotonous waterways, birds, sky, and water. To put it crudely, there is nothing (and we include the bird rookeries) in the Everglades that will make Mr. Jonnie Q. Public suck in his breath.
And yet the strangeness of the Everglades made them beguiling. One day, Beard, who was on his way to Coot Bay, at the southern extremity of the park, met a returning visitor on the road. “What’s there to see down there?” Beard asked, feigning ignorance. “Mister, don’t miss it,” the man replied. “Not a damned thing!”
via Slide Show: The Changing Everglades – The New Yorker.
While wind and solar power have made great strides in recent years, with renewables now accounting for 22% of electric energy generated, the issue that has held them back has been their transience. The sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind doesn’t blow year-round – these are the mantras of all those opposed to the progress of renewables.
Now the renewable power billionaire Elon Musk has just blown away that final defence. Last Thursday in California he introduced to the world his sleek new Powerwall – a wall-mounted energy storage unit that can hold 10 kilowatt hours of electric energy, and deliver it at an average of 2 kilowatts, all for US$3,500.
via The Tesla battery heralds the beginning of the end for fossil fuels.
Helen Zille’s strategy was to stay on as the leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s largest opposition party, until she had built up a pool of black leaders, one of whom could take over from her. She achieved her goal with the election of Mmusi Maimane as DA leader.
Maimane’s election also signifies that the DA has socialised its members – who are overwhelmingly white and coloured with former members of the old National Party outnumbering those of the old Progressive Federal Party – into accepting that they will follow a mostly black leadership at the top for the foreseeable future.
via First black leader breathes life into South African opposition.
November, 2011, a caravan of poachers—as many as a hundred, by some counts—crossed into the Central African Republic on horseback from Sudan. They rode seven hundred miles along the northern border, and entered Bouba-Njida National Park, in Cameroon. The caravan included a pack train of camels loaded with AK-47s, bags of ammunition, heavy machine guns, and two mortars. The poachers had been in the park before, in 2010, when they killed about a dozen elephants and two park guards. This time, they were shooting elephants in far greater numbers, and in some cases sawing off the tusks while the animals were still alive. Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, a regional director for the U.S.-based International Fund for Animal Welfare, heard about the slaughter, travelled to the park, and notified the authorities in Yaoundé, the capital. Cameroon’s government sent a contingent of Army troops to drive the poachers out. A handful of people on each side were killed or wounded in skirmishes, but the poachers, who were by then better acquainted with the park’s geography, continued about their business.
via The Elephant Watcher – The New Yorker.