Lapham’s Quarterly Fall 2019: CLIMATE, pt. 4

[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.]

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


Climate remains in the news late this December 2019. Australia is burning. Hundreds of bush fires have shrouded Sydney in a dense fog of smoke. The prime minister of that country denies it is directly related to climate change. Who can prove otherwise?

The January 2020 issue of Smithsonian Magazine has an outstanding article on illegal deforestation and logging of the remote interiors of Brazil’s Amazon territory here. I recommend it.

What does L.Q.’s Advisory section have to offer?

28. Teen activist phenom Greta Thunberg addresses the U.K parliament in April 2019:

”But perhaps the most dangerous misconception about the climate crisis is that we have to “lower” our emissions. Because that is far from enough. Our emissions have to stop if we are to stay below 1.5-2C of warming. The “lowering of emissions” is of course necessary but it is only the beginning of a fast process that must lead to a stop within a couple of decades, or less. And by “stop” I mean net zero – and then quickly on to negative figures. That rules out most of today’s politics.

The fact that we are speaking of “lowering” instead of “stopping” emissions is perhaps the greatest force behind the continuing business as usual. The UK’s active current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels – for example, the UK shale gas fracking industry, the expansion of its North Sea oil and gas fields, the expansion of airports as well as the planning permission for a brand new coal mine – is beyond absurd.“ (P. 72-73) The brief, complete, speech can be found at the Guardian U.K.

31. In 1951 Rachel Carson, noted for her book Silent Spring, narrates from The Sea Around Us:

”…the sea is forever repeating its encroachments upon the continents. It rises and falls like a great tide, sometimes engulfing half a continent in its flood, reluctant in its ebb, moving in a rhythm mysterious and infinitely deliberate.” (P. 77)

Wikipedia enlightens on seas of the Cretaceous and older Odovician periods she mentions.

32. H.G. Wells’ 1895 extract from The Time Machine is free in L.Q. Online. The most notable comment I found was not climate related:

“Looking around, with a sudden thought, from a terrace on which I had rested for a while, I realized that there were no small houses to be seen. Apparently, the single house, and possibly even the household, had vanished. Here and there among the greenery were palace-like buildings, but the house and the cottage, which form such characteristic features of our own English landscape, had disappeared.

“Communism,” said I to myself.” (P. 79)

Communism! Really? In 1895?? It was far from unheard of at that time. Perhaps more should have listened. These days I call it liberal social progressivism, ala Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, et al. But I digress. I am definitely not a Trumper!!!

Satellite image of Hurricane Rita, 2005 (p. 88)

33. Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, expounds in a 1956 essay excerpt:

“We may not appreciate the fact, but a fact nevertheless it remains: we are living in a golden age, the most gilded golden age of human history—not only of past history but of future history. For as Sir Charles Darwin and many others before him have pointed out, we are living like drunken sailors, like the irresponsible heirs of a millionaire uncle. At an ever-accelerating rate, we are now squandering the capital of metallic ores and fossil fuels accumulated in the earth’s crust during hundreds of millions of years.” (P. 80)

Wikipedia informs me Huxley requested and received injections of LSD on his deathbed several hours before his demise. He and British author C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) both died on the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, November 23, 1963.

Climate Change Goes To Hollywood amuses. (P. 87)

36. In 1864 George Perkins Marsh is an early warner of climate change:

”Man has too long forgotten that the earth was given to him for usufruct alone, not for consumption, still less for profligate waste.”

[Usufruct: (Law) the right to use and derive profit from a piece of property belonging to another, provided the property itself remains undiminished and uninjured in any way. Collins English Dictionary.]

“But man is everywhere a disturbing agent. Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned to discords. The proportions and accommodations which ensured the stability of existing arrangements are overthrown.”

”…with stationary life, or rather with the pastoral state, man at once commences an almost indiscriminate warfare upon all the forms of animal and vegetable existence around him, and as he advances in civilization, he gradually eradicates or transforms every spontaneous product of the soil he occupies.” (p. 88-89)

“Marsh served four terms in Congress as a Whig representative from Vermont, advocating for the preservation and care of natural resources. According to author Wallace Stegner, “Marsh’s warnings went unheeded except by a concerned few, upper-class bird-watchers probably.” (p. 92) Free at L.Q. Online. Wikipedia informs also.

37. Joseph Stalin cared more for trees than people. Who is surprised. Brief, and free at L.Q. Online.

38. Steven Milloy, climate change skeptic/denier, is mentioned in Pt. 1.

40. Susan Fenimore Cooper, daughter of James (Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans), expounds on forest conservation (cleverly called Stump Speech by L.Q.).  Free.

41. Chilling, in my opinion, is Katherine Viner’s 2019 (2019!) admonition to her Guardian newspaper staff on proper climate terminology:

” The phrase climate change, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity. Increasingly, climate scientists and organizations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology and using stronger language to describe the situation.
Therefore, we would like to change the terms we use as follows:

Use climate emergency, crisis, or breakdown instead of climate change.
Use global heating instead of global warming.
Use wildlife instead of biodiversity (when appropriate).
Use fish populations instead of fish stocks.
Use climate-science denier or climate denier instead of climate skeptic.

The original terms are not banned, but do think twice before using them.” (P. 98) Free.

Is it thought control, free speech, Orwellian Newspeak? I am a born skeptic (‘trust, but verify’). That doesn’t make me a denier. May I ask question?

46. Eleanor Perényi disparages the modern weather forecaster in 1981. Amusing, and sadly accurate:

“Nightly, some variation on these themes is enacted in the grotesque ritual called a weather forecast but more accurately described as pandering to infantilism. It is a frightening revelation of how insulated we have become from the natural world.”

“Elsewhere, the weather is treated as something between a threat and a joke. The “meteorologist,” having read out the figures we can see for ourselves on the screen and relayed predictions that come to him from computers at the National Weather Service as though they were his own, then engages in heavy banter with the fellow who broadcasts the news: “Don’t give us any more of the white stuff, Bill.” “I’ll do my best, Jim.””

”Not only that: bulldozed and overbuilt Southern California is regularly burned over by man-kindled fires and bids fair to be destroyed by mudslides well before the long-predicted earthquake comes along. Californians are only continuing the well-worn practice of building where floods and washouts are regular events—all our alluvial plains are examples of the same recklessness.”

”In our civilization, if that is what it is, only farmers and gardeners are free of these fantasies. We don’t care if your weekend is ruined by the rain we need. We curse the wind the Sunday sailor wants for his outing (it dries up our peas, just coming to perfection), and bless the snow that blocks your roads but keeps our plants and the winter wheat safe.” (P. 110-112) Not free.

Ms. Perényi’s history is scattered around the internet, not having an in-depth Wikipedia page.  American born in 1918, at age nineteen she met and married a Hungarian baron (Zgismond Perényi). She managed his 750 acre estate in an ‘old world’ style during the late 1930s until she and the style were interrupted by WWII. She moved to the U.S., divorced the baron at some time, and seems to have spent most of the rest of her life as an accomplished gardener and gardening author. She also wrote a couple of novels, based on her experiences.  Just another quiet author and bright mind amongst us.

51. Ibn Khaldun has a much lengthier Wikipedia, as does the Muqaddimah, in which this 1397A.D. extract tells of the harsh desert life:

“Camel nomads are therefore forced to make excursions deep into the desert. Frequently, too, they are driven from the hills by the militia, and they penetrate farther into the desert, because they do not want the militia to mete out justice to them or to punish them for their hostile acts. As a result, they are the most savage human beings that exist. Compared with sedentary people, they are on a level with wild, untamable animals and dumb beasts of prey. Such people are the Arabs.”

”Since desert life is no doubt the reason for bravery, savage groups are braver than others. They are therefore better able to achieve superiority and to take away the things that are in the hands of other nations. The situation of one and the same group changes, in this respect, with the change of time. Whenever people settle in the fertile plains and amass luxuries and become accustomed to a life of abundance and luxury, their bravery decreases to the degree that their wildness and desert habits decrease.” (P. 119)

The author info says: “While seeking political asylum in an Algerian castle, he wrote this history, which English historian Arnold Toynbee called “undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place.”” (P. 119) Toynbee, too, has a lengthy Wikipedia entry. He is less celebrated than he used to be, but can hardly be dismissed.

“Whether we live or die is a matter of absolutely no concern whatsoever to the desert.” (P. 16)
—Edward Abbey, 1968

52. Karl Marx orates on labor and Nature. I think he is becoming Shakespearean for me, in that I understand him less the more I read. Marx is free at L.Q. Online.

54. Barry Lopez concludes ADVISORY with a superb contemplation on who will lead us from temptation and deliver us from evil. Others pin hopes on youth like Greta Thunberg. Lopez considers ‘the Elders’:

“…if the ability of many people to cope with the complexity of the man-made environment is compromised, and if the need for cooperation seems great, how are we to tone down the voices of nationalism, or of those in support of profiteering, or religious fanaticism, racial superiority, or cultural exceptionalism?”

”What I see consistently in these situations is the emergence of individuals who embody that culture’s sense of competence into positions of authority. They are its wellspring of calmness. They do not disappear with defeat or after setbacks. They do not require reassurance in their commitments to such abstractions as justice and reverence. In traditional villages they’re called the elders, the people who carry the knowledge of what works, who have the ability to organize chaos into meaning, and who can point recovery in a good direction. Some anthropologists believe that the presence of elders is as important as any technological advancement or material advantage in ensuring that human life continues.

”At the heart of the generalized complaint in every advanced or overdeveloped country about the tenor of modern life is the idea that those in political and economic control are self-serving and insincere in their promise to be just and respectful.”

”Elders take life more seriously. Their feelings toward all life around them are more tender, their capacity for empathy greater. They’re more accessible than other adults, able to engage in a conversation with a child that does not patronize or infantilize the child, but instead confirms the child in his or her sense of wonder. Finally, the elder is willing to disappear into the fabric of ordinary life. Elders are looking neither for an audience nor for confirmation. They know who they are, and the people around them know who they are. They do not need to tell you who they are.
To this list I would add one more thing. Elders are more often listeners than speakers. And when they speak, they can talk for a long while without using the word I. (P. 126-127)

Noteworthy sentiments. Elders, elders, wherefore art thou?

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.

2 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Fall 2019: CLIMATE, pt. 4

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