Motor cars, canines and capitalism

In a move reminiscent of the infamous family-planning measures introduced in 1976, residents of Shanghai are only allowed one dog per household.

November 21, 2011 | | Back Issues | Countryside Digest | Departments | Environment | Winter 2011

Doom

“Over the past few millennia, as empires rose and fell, local economies advanced and retreated – world economic activity overall expanded only slowly, and with periodic reversals. However, with the fossil fuel revolution of the last century and a half, we have seen economic growth at a speed and scale unprecedented in all of human history. We harnessed the energies of coal, oil and natural gas to build and operate cars, trucks, highways, airports, airplanes, and electric grids – all the features of modern industrial society. Through the one-time-only process of extracting and burning hundreds of millions of years’ worth of chemically stored sunlight, we built what appeared (for one brief, shining moment) to be a perpetual growth machine. We learned to take what was in fact an extraordinary situation for granted. It became normal.

“But as the era of cheap, abundant fossil fuels comes to an end, our assumptions about continued expansion are being shaken to their core. The end of growth is a very big deal indeed. It means the end of an era, and of our current ways of organizing economies, politics, and daily life.” The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, by Richard Heinberg (New Society Publishers, 2011).

Gloom

“To protect economic growth we have been prepared to countenance – and have even courted – unwieldy financial and ecological liabilities, believing that these are necessary to deliver security and keep us from collapse. But this was never sustainable in the long term. The financial crisis has shown us that it isn’t even sustainable in the short-term.

“The truth is that we have failed to get our economies working sustainably even in financial terms. For this reason, responses to the crisis which aim to restore the status quo are deeply misguided and doomed to failure. Prosperity today means nothing if it undermines the conditions on which prosperity tomorrow depends. And the biggest single message from the financial meltdown of 2008 is that tomorrow is already here.” Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, by Tim Jackson (Earthscan, 2011).

Poop Scoop

“Go for a bracing winter stroll in a major US city and you will be inhaling more than vehicle fumes. A new study has demonstrated for the first time that during winter most of the airborne bacteria in three large Mid-western cities come from dog fæces.

“Noah Fierer at the University of Colorado, Boulder, found the high proportions of airborne dog fæcal bacteria after analysing samples of winter air from Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago … Fierer says that at the relatively low concentrations found – 10,000 bacteria per cubic metre of air sampled – the bugs are unlikely to cause disease.” New Scientist, Aug 13/11.

One-Dog Town

“To control Shanghai’s growing pet population and curb rabies, China’s most populous city has introduced a one-dog policy. In a move reminiscent of the infamous family-planning measures introduced in 1976, residents are only allowed one dog per household.” New Scientist, May 21/11.

Bridget Driscoll

“Her claim to fame is that she was the first person to be killed by a motor car. The 44-year-old woman and her teenaged daughter were visiting London on August 17, 1896, to watch a dancing performance on the grounds of the Crystal Palace. While they were walking along the terrace, she was struck by a car that was offering demonstration rides to the public. The car was moving at only four miles an hour when it hit Mrs. Driscoll, but the impact proved fatal.

“At the inquest, the coroner delivered a verdict of ‘accidental death,’ and warned that ‘this must never happen again.’” CCPA Monitor, Oct/11.

Mad Madge

“While natural philosophers generally celebrated the invention of the microscope during the Scientific Revolution, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, denounced it vociferously. Microscopic images were ‘hermaphroditical, that is, mixt figures partly artificial, and partly natural,’ she wrote in Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1668). ‘If the picture of a young beautiful lady should be drawn according to the representation of the microscope…it would not be like a human face, but rather a monster.’” Julie Baldassi, in The Walrus, Oct/11.

Agnes Macphail

“Although she spent a career in politics, she was not a career politician. She went into politics for what she could do, not what politics could do for her. There was an integrity in her that is sadly lacking in today’s leaders. Politicians always start off with these great principles, but they soon sacrifice them on the altar of expedience, which Agnes Macphail never, never did.” Will Ferguson, in Canada’s History, Aug-Sept/11.

Casino Capitalism

“Speculative financial transactions add up, each day, to $1.3 trillion, 50 times more than the sum of all the commercial exchanges.” Adbusters, Nov-Dec/11.

Local Crokinole

“It may have sister versions around the world, but the game of crokinole as we know it today was likely born in southwestern Ontario. The earliest known crokinole board was created in 1876 in Sebastapol, Ontario, by Eckhardt Wettlaufer as a birthday gift for his five-year-old son Adam.

“The word ‘crokinole’ is derived from the French croquignole, which describes the action of flicking with a finger. Similar versions of the game, including British shovelboard and East Indian carrom, are considered precursors.

“The World Crokinole Championship is held each year in Tavistock, Ontario, near Sebastapol.” Sandy Klowack, in Canada’s History, Aug-Sept/11.

Beatitude

“The meek shall inherit the earth – but not the oil and mineral rights.” John Paul Getty.

About the Author More by Douglas G. Pearce

Douglas G. Pearce is a retired scientist who lives in Mono, you can read more miscellany in other issues of Countryside Digest.

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