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Friday, December 5, 2014

Beyond the Reach of Any Greenhouse-Gas Agreement: Nature’s Contribution

With China and the U.S. coming to an agreement in 2014 on limiting their respective greenhouse-gas emissions, the Peru talks suddenly gained new momentum toward a deal on a global scale. To be sure, even the U.S.-China agreement would not kick in for years, if not decades, and a global agreement would not even take effect until 2020 at the earliest. This drawback may pale in comparison to one of nature’s own contributions to greenhouse-gas emissions, and nature itself cannot agree to voluntarily restrict its own output. Accordingly, we should not assume that a global agreement will save the day, rendering the planet still inhabitable for humans in the next century.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cheaper Driving on an Uninhabitable Planet

By the end of November 2014, the price of oil had declined about 40 percent since its peak back in the previous June.[1] Expanding American fracking, a steady supply of oil from OPEC, and a weak global economy are the major factors behind the trend. Saving $630 million on gas as compared with what they had been paying in June, American drivers found themselves with more disposable income.[2]  Besides uses such as Christmas presents, groceries, and clothing, more consumers were buying SUVs and Hummers in spite of their low gas mileages. William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, pointed to the benefits, saying “falling energy prices are beneficial for our economy and should be a strong spur to consumer spending.”[3] With OPEC countries and Russia hit disproportionately, the U.S. Government had a geo-strategic interest in a further drop in the price of oil. It is no wonder that a major disconnect existed between these benefits and a startling, albeit largely hidden downside.

The full essay is at “Uninhabitable

[1] Steven Mufson, “As Oil Prices Plunge, Wide-Ranging Effects for Consumers and the Global Economy,” The Washington Post,  December 1. 2014.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hardness of Heart vs.Unethical Conduct: Which Is Less Christian?

Monsignor, a film made in 1982—in the midst of a very pro-business administration in Washington, D.C.—depicts a Vatican steeped in matters of finance centering around a priest whose degree in finance makes him a prime candidate to be groomed for the Curia. That cleric, Father John Flaherty, helps the Vatican operating budget during World War II by involving the Holy See in the black market through a mafia. In the meantime, he sleeps with a woman who is preparing to be a nun and subsequently keeps from her the matter of his religious vocation. The twist is not that Flaherty is a deeply flawed priest, or that the Vatican he serves is vulnerable to corruption inside, but that those clerics who mercilessly go after him are devoid of the sort of compassion that their savior preaches.

The full essay is at "Monsignor