The growing Rational Optimist genre of nonfiction

This week Inside Higher Ed (the U.S. equivalent of the Times Higher newspaper) has a glancing look at what it terms the Progress‘ and the ‘Rational Optimist‘ Genre of Nonfiction and asks…

“This is the sort of book that I think that every college freshman should be required to read. … What books would you add to a Rational Optimist genre of nonfiction?”

It’s a ‘do my homework for me’ question, but also a book promotion opportunity. Zero comments, so far.


The case for optimism in the Arab world

Macleans has a long new feature on The case for optimism in the Arab world

“The Arab Spring is not over. It has barely begun — fueled by a youth movement that will bring down the old order, one way or another”.

“A great deal of muddled thinking also distorts the way Arabs are seen in the western democracies. The “Arab youth bulge” is routinely apprehended as a harbinger of listless, semi-literate young men malingering in the cities, nursing their grievances and signing up for jihad at the first opportunity. That worry isn’t wholly unreasonable, but if it’s only a security lens you’re looking through, that’s all you’ll see. The University of Waterloo associate professor Bessma Momani, author of Arab Dawn: Arab Youth and the Demographic Dividend They Will Bring, sees something else in the Middle East, “a young region full of hope, ready for progress, and eager for a bright and prosperous future.””

BBC’s Civilization II series – yes, it’s as leftist as you’d expect

More confirmation, if any were needed, of the BBC’s innate tendency to swing easily toward nihilistic leftist stances

“The BBC plans to ‘question the very concept of civilisation’ in a new and lavish TV series.” … “inspired by Kenneth Clark’s seminal [Civilization] documentary series, but in many ways the opposite of the original.”

And they wonder why Douglas Carswell’s idea of a mass boycott of the BBC’s noxious licence fee is getting traction. Personally I have no TV, and haven’t had one for decades now, and so I don’t pay the licence fee. But I’d certainly help with the boycott.

Ice creamed

We’ve all seen headlines along the lines of: “Methane Hydrate Breakdown in the Arctic permafrost = Massive Global Super-warming!” Erm, nope. The panic is over about every eco-worrier’s favourite ice-gas, according to the USGS. It seems that Matt Ridley has another failed eco-scare to add to his growing list…

“Our review is the culmination of nearly a decade of original research by the USGS, my co-author Professor John Kessler at the University of Rochester, and many other groups in the community,” said USGS geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel, who is the paper’s lead author and oversees the USGS Gas Hydrates Project. “After so many years spent determining where gas hydrates are breaking down and measuring methane flux at the sea-air interface, we suggest that conclusive evidence for release of hydrate-related methane to the atmosphere is lacking.”

Virginia Burkett, USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change, noted, ” […] The authors’ sober, data-driven analyses and conclusions challenge the popular perception that warming climate will lead to a catastrophic release of methane to the atmosphere as a result of gas hydrate breakdown.”


Hans Rosling has died

Sad to hear today that the great Hans Rosling has died of cancer. In his passing we’ve lost a great public champion of rational thought about the future. I’d like to think that, in his last days, he took heart from thinking that the publicity around his death would bring his insights to a much wider public — and at precisely the moment in history where they might do the most good.