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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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New Essay

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Climate Change Optimism

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. With a President even more visionary than Roosevelt now through his first 100 days in the White House, a new optimism seems to be glimmering through the gloom of failed foreign policy and the credit crunch, reaching even that most pessimistic of fields: climate change. Talk from both Barack Obama and Gordon Brown of "greening the economy" has been primarily a rhetorical flourish intended to give bankers, politicians and economists a way of clawing back some new credibility in the public's eye.

Nevertheless, these green shoots point to a more deeply rooted belief that science and technology now at least offer the feasible tools which, if wielded by a coalition of the Western willing, can stem or even reverse the looming climate crisis. Arguably now, our greatest threat is not ignorance, but the belief that it is too late or not possible to do anything to halt climate change, whether as individuals or internationally. With that in mind, here are several good news stories that I have picked up on over the last week:

  • New molten salt technology offers a way to store the sun's heat for use at night or during poor weather, overcoming the key obstacle with solar power.

  • Household appliances that listen out for troughs in national energy use will mean fewer power stations need to be left on tickover just in case millions of kettles are turned on at once.

  • Investors in the Thames London Array, which will be the world's largest offshore wind farm, have agreed £2 billion of funding. When complete, the project could power a quarter of the homes in Greater London.

  • The cost of solar energy is expected to match that of conventional fuels within the next five years, a decade earlier than previously expected.

  • In the last three years, the number of plastic bags used annually in Britain fell from 13.4bn in 2006 to 9.9bn. If the trend continues through the actions of the big retailers, a further 5 billion bags could be saved, equivalent to taking 41 000 cars off the road each year.

  • Barack Obama's key climate change bill will not quite meet the European target for a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, but is at least a positive move to some sort of global consensus at Copenhagen, and reverses Bush's policy of ignorance.

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Posted by Alistair at 2:36 pm


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