I’m Going Down to Bonobo’s for a Few Beers After Work

July 29, 2007

I’ve long been a big fan of the bonobo, a species of great apes that is notable for making love, not war (literally — the leaders of groups perform sex acts on each other to diffuse tensions that, in other species, would lead to violence). This is an example of the really practical knowledge I gained from going to college.

Anyway, I mention this because there’s a huge article on bonobos in this week’s New Yorker, and it’s absolutely delightful if you’re looking for some Sunday summer reading. The opening paragraph disappointed me, though, because I’ve always had this idea of opening up a bar and calling it “Bonobo’s.” It turns out that is already the name of a vegetarian restaurant in New York City.

On a Saturday evening a few months ago, a fund-raiser was held in a downtown Manhattan yoga studio to benefit the bonobo, a species of African ape that is very similar to — but, some say, far nicer than — the chimpanzee. A flyer for the event depicted a bonobo sitting in the crook of a tree, a superimposed guitar in its left hand, alongside the message “Save the Hippie Chimps!” An audience of young, shoeless people sat cross-legged on a polished wooden floor, listening to Indian-accented music and eating snacks prepared by Bonobo’s, a restaurant on Twenty-third Street that serves raw vegetarian food. According to the restaurant’s take-out menu, “Wild bonobos are happy, pleasure-loving creatures whose lifestyle is dictated by instinct and Mother Nature.”

I recommend reading the whole thing, along with Samantha Power’s excellent essay on counterterrorism policy after Bush in the NYT book review.

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Jeff Jacoby is still in doubt about global warming

February 7, 2007

The UN’s report last week didn’t convince Jeff Jacoby, who calls those who want to take action on global warming “chicken littles” in his Boston Globe column today. To be clear, Jacoby admits that the planet is warming, he just isn’t sure why or whether we should do anything about it.

That climate change is taking place no one doubts; the Earth’s climate is always in flux. But is it really so clear-cut that the current warming, which amounts to less than 1 degree Celsius over the past century, is anthropogenic? Or that continued warming will lead to the meteorological chaos and massive deaths that alarmists predict? It is to the media. By and large they relay only the apocalyptic view: Either we embark on a radical program to slash carbon-dioxide emissions — that is, to arrest economic growth — or we are doomed, as NBC’s Matt Lauer put it last week, to “what literally could be the end of the world as we know it.”

Perhaps the Chicken Littles are right and the sky really is falling, but that opinion is hardly unanimous. There are quite a few skeptical scientists, including eminent climatologists, who doubt the end-of-the-world scenario. Why don’t journalists spend more time covering all sides of the debate instead of just parroting the scaremongers?

This is an interesting turning of the tables on environmentalists, who have long complained that the media inaccurately paints a picture of doubt within the scientific community where there is none. It also contrats with recent stories about government scientists being told to tamp down their alarmist conclusions on the subject.

Al Gore says bluntly in his likely Oscar winner An Inconvenient Truth that there is literally no peer-reviewed science journal article that questions the conclusion that global warming is a serious , man-made problem. Yet Jacoby points to academics like Richard S.J. Tol who, at least, seems to go against that statement. Tol and other “deniers” of the consensus view on global warming were recently the subject of a multi-part series in Canada’s National Post, which Jacoby mentions. Tol also looks like a funky dude on his personal web page, which makes me like him.

Richard S.J. Tol

I have no science background whatsoever, but I must say that a lot of people I trust to get this sort of thing right agree that global warming is a very serious matter on which urgent action is needed. I’ll wait to see if any debunkings come up regarding Jacoby, Tol, and the recent round of denials in the wake of the UN report.