Lapham’s Quarterly Fall 2019: CLIMATE, pt. 2

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[L.Q. cover, quotes, and images from Lapham’s Quarterly Fall 2019: CLIMATE, except where noted otherwise.]
[Right-click on a photo may give the option to open it separately.]
[NEW to Lapham’s Quarterly? See the standard notes at the end of this review. After 45+ LQ summaries I jump right in.]

[This is a READING section, for those who may stumble in looking for photography. There are pictures, too.]

It is December as I write.  2019.  I started reading this issue last September.  I’m slow and easily side-tracked.  I must get on with it, as MEMORY has arrived. I am eager to read it, but I must finish this ‘edit’, as Lewis Lapham called my collective summaries.  At least when I wake up in the night some of my thoughts are about what to write, rather than concerns of ill family members, or BMBFs (brutally murdered best friends, friends of friends actually) and their son’s second trial, after a hung jury.

I was on a bit of a rant in Pt. 1 of this summary.  Such is ill-literary license.  In Pt. 1 I mentioned a few nay-sayers.  The bulk of the issue is yay-sayers.  Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus but there is climate change, and it is swamping us.  I do find it encouraging that the news is filled with imminent warnings or occurrences of such, lest we forget and ignore what is going on around us.  Rising seas around the Marshall Islands, St. Mark’s Square in Venice flooded, Greenland and Antarctica shedding massive amounts of ice and water. Wake up world, our leaders are not leading.

Quite a bit of every issue is available free online. L.Q. is heavily financed by donors, though subscriptions are an indication of the commitment to knowledge. The journal, with its many extracts, is the perfect bedside reader. How do YOU decide what you read? I’m not reading anywhere near what I think I ‘should’ be reading. I’m horribly remiss in just 19th century classics, for example.

The three sections of Voices In Time this issue are Forecast (27 items), Advisory (27), and Evactuation (25).


1. Robin Wall Kimmerer is notable in her comparison of humans who have evolved with a spiritual reverence of Nature vs. those with a somewhat adversarial attitude toward same.

“On one side of the world were people whose relationship with the living world was shaped by Skywoman, who created a garden for the well-being of all. On the other side was another woman with a garden and a tree. But for tasting its fruit, she was banished from the garden, and the gates clanged shut behind her. That mother of men was made to wander in the wilderness and earn her bread by the sweat of her brow, not by filling her mouth with the sweet, juicy fruits that bend the branches low. In order to eat, she was instructed to subdue the wilderness into which she was cast.” (p. 25)

Apart from Nature, not a part of Nature. That makes a difference.

2. Next is a brief, ‘amusing’, extract, free online, from Carrier Engineering (air conditioners) circa 1919:

“Permit me to introduce myself. I am the Mechanical Weather Man, and I manufacture weather to order. …

Since air is the medium that conveys to us, and to our materials, the effects of weather, the science of manufacturing weather was called “air conditioning.””  (p. 26)

3. Lucretius, c. 50 BC, fears the world:

“Not for us and not by gods
Was this world made. There’s too much wrong with it!
To start, what the vast sweep of the sky vaults over,
Mountains take up the lion’s share, and forests
Full of wild beasts, and sloughs and rocky cliffs
And the sea that holds the headlands far apart.
Worse, torrid heat and the constant fall of snow
Remove from mortals two-thirds of the earth.
And what’s left to farm, Nature, through her own force,
Would choke with briars; man’s strength must stand against it, (p. 28)

Not even Christian yet, and apart from Nature.

4. (I don’t plan to list every extract, but…) In 1949 French historian Fernand Braudel notes how the Mediterranean zone was a cradle of advancing civilization for a long time, and the standard which Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the New World attempted to duplicate, largely unsuccessfully.

[NEWS FLASH – 12/10/2019 – Greta Thunberg has been named Time Magazine Person Of The Year and will appear on the cover of that magazine.  Well deserved, and much better than it being The Orange One, who was one of the nominees. Media attention about climate change is a good thing.]

6. Mark Twain. He can always be counted on to be amusing and satirical. “…I have conceived the stupendous idea of reorganizing the climates of the earth according to the desire of the populations interested.” (p. 35) Free.

7. Nay-sayer James Inhofe, mentioned in Pt. 1, is free.

12. Abraham Lincoln. Said to have been uttered on the morning of his assassination, he gives promise to post-war employment in the extraction of precious metals in the vast west. Free.

In a side-quote, Shakespeare has a word for it:

“This most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majesti­cal roof fretted with golden fire—why, it ap­peareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.”
—William Shakespeare, c. 1600

I’m sure home and business fires created foul air back in the day. Modernization and electricity have replaced that with vehicle exhaust fumes. That is progress.

[Thunberg update:

WASHINGTON – USA TODAY, Updated 9:12 am EST Dec. 12, 2019:

President Donald Trump attacked 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg on Thursday for being named Time magazine’s “Person of The Year.”

“So ridiculous,” Trump said on Twitter. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

Thunberg responded swiftly, changing her Twitter profile to read: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”

Priceless, priceless, priceless. If only she can keep him distracted long enough…]

17. Charles Dickens. A SUPERB description of 1865 London fog. “Even in the surrounding country, it was a foggy day, but there the fog was gray, whereas in London it was, at about the boundary line, dark yellow, and a little within it brown, and then browner, and then browner, until at the heart of the City—which call Saint Mary Axe—it was rusty black.” (p. 51) From Our Mutual Friend. Free.  (Not everything is free. We are fortunate.)

Dickens is just one more prolific author in which I am sadly, sadly deficient.  Wikipedia elaborates at length on Dickens, and separately, Our Mutual Friend. Insightful. I suspect I would like reading him a lot. Not long ago I started reading Melville’s Moby Dick but found it quite tedious in some of his side-explorations of whales and the whale industry, so I set it aside. In recent years I have enjoyed some Joseph Conrad and Jacob Riis, though Riis’ How The Other Half Lives is interminably long. It too has been set aside unfinished for some time.

18. There is a superb extract from Amitrav Ghosh’s book The Great Derangement, in which he posits that industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries could have started anywhere, but it flourished in England and Western Europe because of European colonization and suppression of much of Africa and Asia.

“What determined the shape of the global carbon economy was that the major European powers had already established a strong (but by no means hegemonic) military and political presence in much of Asia and Africa at the time when the technology of steam was in its nascency, that is to say, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. From that point on, carbon-intensive technologies were to have the effect of continually reinforcing Western power, with the result that other variants of modernity came to be suppressed, incorporated, and appropriated into what is now a single, dominant model.”

“In Asia it was military dominance that created the conditions in which Western capital could prevail over indigenous commerce. British imperial officials of that period understood perfectly well the lesson contained in this: it was that the maintenance of military dominance had to be the primary imperative of empire.”

“As the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty points out, the period of the Great Acceleration is precisely “the period of great decolonization in countries that had been dominated by European imperial powers.””

“Could it be the case that imperialism actually delayed the onset of the climate crisis by retarding the expansion of Asian and African economies?”

“Here, then, is the paradoxical possibility that is implied by these positions: the fact that
some of the key technologies of the carbon economy were first adopted in England, the world’s leading colonial power, may actually have retarded the onset of the climate crisis.”

“It is to assert that the poor nations of the world are not poor because they were indolent or unwilling; their poverty is itself an effect of the inequities created by the carbon economy; it is the result of systems that were set up by brute force to ensure that poor nations remained always at a disadvantage in terms of both wealth and power.” (p. 53-54)

There is a lot to think about there.

To be continued…

The standard notes:
1. Since L.Q.’s inception with the Winter 2008 issue its size is always 7″ x 10″ x 1/2-17/32″. It is white-covered, printed on high quality paper throughout, with richly printed reproductions of fine art from time immemorial, and 221 pages up to a page or two of addenda at the back.
2. Each issue contains extracts about the title topic from great authors and thinkers spanning all recorded history. It begins with an eloquent, to a fault, preamble/introduction by editor Lewis Lapham. The main body is called Voices In Time and contains 3 or 4 subcategories of the topic with about 25 extracts per section. Noteworthy sidebars, side quotes, and depictions of appropriate art from the ages are liberally distributed throughout. Several extended contemporary essays bring up the rear. There are several other small sections every issue (Among the Contributors, Conversations, Miscellany, ‘The Graphic’).
3. Per the L.Q. website:
“Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific and literary as well as political and economic. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern—war, religion, money, medicine, nature, crime—by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past.”
4. I encourage all to subscribe to this fine publication. It is a rich supplement to anyone’s reading.

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