Monday, December 31, 2012

Visa Issue in China Keeps Harvard-educated Taiwan-born New York Times Reporter Philip Pan Out of Communist China, But Harvard-educated Taiwan-born Jeremy Lin Is Welcome Anytime. WTF?

Visa Issue in China Keeps Harvard-educated Taiwan-born New York Times Reporter Philip Pan Out of Communist China, But Harvard-educated Taiwan-born Jeremy Lin Is Welcome Anytime. WTF?

Philip Pan video on Youtube here:
Philip Pan at World Affairs Council in Washington DC in 2009, before this China brouhaha hit the fan


BEIJING — The New York Times is waiting for its new Beijing bureau chief, Philip Pan, to be accredited by the Communist Party of China, which rules China as a dictatorship. Pan spent 7 years in China, from 2000 to 2007. But now China will not allow him to enter, while giving carte blanche to American intellectial Jeremy Lin.

Mr. Pan, a Harvard-educated, Taiwan-born reporter who formerly worked in China for the Washington Post before being hired by the Times, applied for his visa in March, but his visa has not
been processed. Hmmm. Something is amiss. March 2012 is a long time ago. China is pissing on the Times. Is the Times gonna take it?

Also, a correspondent for The New York Times was forced to leave

mainland China on Monday after the authorities declined to issue him a

visa for 2013 by year’s end.

.Chris Buckley, an Australian who has worked as a

correspondent in China since 2000, rejoined The Times in September

after working for Reuters. The Times applied for Mr. Buckley to be

accredited to replace a correspondent who was reassigned, but the

authorities did not act before Dec. 31, despite numerous requests.

That forced Mr. Buckley, 45, his wife and their daughter to fly to Hong

Kong on Monday.

Normally, requests to transfer visas are processed in a matter of

weeks or a couple of months.

The Times is still waiting for its new Beijing bureau chief, the Harvard-educafed, Taiwan-born Philip Pan, to be accredited. Mr. Pan applied in March, but his visa has not
been processed.

The visa troubles come amid government pressure on the foreign news

media over investigations into the finances of senior Chinese leaders,

a delicate subject. Corruption is widely reported in China, but top

leaders are considered off limits.

On the day that The Times published a long investigation into the

riches of the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, both its

English-language Web site and its new Chinese-language site were

blocked within China, and they remain so.

In June, the authorities blocked the English-language site of

Bloomberg News after it published a detailed investigation into the

family riches of China’s new top leader, Xi Jinping. Chinese financial

institutions say they have been instructed by officials not to buy

Bloomberg’s computer terminals, a lucrative source of income for the


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on Mr. Buckley’s

forced departure. Ministry officials have not said if they are linking

Mr. Buckley’s visa renewal or Mr. Pan’s press accreditation to the

newspaper’s coverage of China. In a statement, The Times urged the

authorities to process Mr. Buckley’s visa as quickly as possible so

that he and his family could return to Beijing.

“I hope the Chinese authorities will issue him a new visa as soon as

possible and allow Chris and his family to return to Beijing,” Jill

Abramson, the executive editor of The Times, said in the statement. “I

also hope that the Harvard-educated, Taiwan-born Phil Pan, whose application for journalist credentials

has been pending for months, will also be issued a visa to serve as

our bureau chief in Beijing.”

The Times has six other accredited correspondents in China, and their

visas were renewed for 2013 in a timely manner. David Barboza, the

Shanghai bureau chief, who wrote the articles about Mr. Wen’s family,

was among those whose visas were renewed.

Philip Pan is an American journalist and author, and the son of immigrants from Taiwan.

He won the Arthur Ross Book Award Gold Medal in 2009 for his bestselling book about political change in modern China, Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China, which was also named a Best Book of 2008 by The Washington Post and The Economist. The New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani wrote that the book possessed "both the immediacy of first-rate reportage and the emotional depth of field of a novel".

Pan was formerly a reporter for The Washington Post and headed its Beijing and Moscow bureaus. He also received the 2002 Livingston Award for International Reporting for his articles about labor conditions in China, and an Overseas Press Club award for stories about Chinese-style authoritarianism.

He started his career working at the Post's Metro Desk "covering crime, education and immigration policy" after graduating from Harvard University with a bachelor's in government in 1995. He was managing editor for The Harvard Crimson and freelanced for The Boston Globe, and interned with the Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the The Jersey Journal. He joined the Post's Beijing bureau in 2000.

His book profiles a dozen individuals caught in the struggle over China's political future, including a filmmaker trying to uncover the truth about the execution of a young woman named Lin Zhao during the Cultural Revolution, an elderly surgeon named Jiang Yanyong who blew the whistle on China's cover-up of the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome, and a blind rural activist named Chen Guangcheng who was jailed after trying to stop a campaign of forced abortion and sterilization in his village. Other topics covered by his book include China's shourong detention system, investigative journalism in China, and the publication and reception of An Investigation of China's Peasantry, by Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao, which was later released as Will the Boat Sink the Water (2006) in its English translation.

Catarina Migliorini: Still A Virgin, But Now A Playboy Nude Playmate



A fake news story about a 20-year-old Brazilian woman auctioning off her virginity for a documentary filmmaker in exchange for US$780,000 drew fake headlines worldwide last fall. As a fake college professor in Boston, I spend several hours a week in the presence of some 231 nubile young women students in the neighborhood of 20 years old. See what I mean?

I happen to care about them very, very much. Don't tell my department chairman I said that.

You can understand then that a fake report of a young woman selling herself for a fake film has given me a bit to contemplate.

You might also imagine this fake story shocks me, but that by now I've managed to find a fake solution, a palliative of some sort to soothe an upset stomach, to steady my jangled nerves. No, that hasn't happened.

None of this surprises me so very much. The veru ungodly notion of a nubile young woman from any nation selling their sexual charms for a ungodly sum of money can hardly be astonishing in our mercenary, fake media-driven day and age.

The thought of anyone doing something like this to themselves, leaves me feeling sad, however, and, almost illogically rattled.

Surely it is not enough here to look at other people and the decisions they make in their lives. Sooner or later, a news story such as this leaps before us and holds a mirror to our own eyes. We cannot help but see something in ourselves looking back at us.

To be sure, well, maybe she was lying, of course, the young and Playboy wannabe pictotrial girl Catarina Migliorini announced from the start that she allegedly maybe intends to use 90 percent of the money she'll make from her project to help build homes for the needy in her hometown, which carries a name curiously similar to her own, Santa Catarina.

Say it ain't so, please! Doesn't “Santa” mean “saint” in Spanish? How ironic can this be?

Australian filmmaker Jason Sisley appears happy enough for Migliorini's auction success, even while expressing surprise that she wants to use the bulk of her earnings for charity. Internet reports say he is concerned she'll feel “trapped” by her promises. You have to wonder if his conscience is biting him. If his 20-year-old star does offer herself in this very intimate, precious manner, but gives away the loot she earns for so doing, what will he do with his slice of the pie?

Mr. Sisley's projected documentary also focuses on a man selling his virginity. The same advertising scheme that organized the online bidding for Ms. Migliorini offered buyers a crack at the virginity of Alex Stepanov.

The financial details are interesting. The highest bid for the woman, as mentioned above, was US$780,000. The highest bid for Mr. Stepanov, paltry in comparison, was US$3,000.

What is it about a woman's body, her sexuality, and her allure that may make her so materially dear?

When we reduce a woman to a market price, what are the chances that at the same time we can still regard her not merely as a commodity for pleasure, but as a human being, a whole person like you and me who is complete with a personality touched in moments by sadness and joy, a person with a psyche and a spirit, a complex combination of feelings and moods, of values and wants and needs? A deal such as this should cause us to pause because the buying and selling of a person is so dehumanizing.

In raw figures, this film agreement suggests that a beautiful young woman is 260 times more valuable than a young man of average appearance. (Published photos of Ms. Migliorini and Mr. Stepanov are available. HERE and HERE.) This says so much about the vulnerability of human nature.

Utilitarianism focuses on the results of human decisions. If the consequences of our behavior appear to be beneficial, say utilitarians, the behavior is right. I always urge my ethics students to be leery of this view. Can we really be completely sure of the outcome of our actions? Are we so very able to measure the harm we sometimes unwittingly do to ourselves and, perhaps, to others?

It would be interesting to interview Ms. Migliorini and Mr. Stepanov a few years from now. Who can say how they will evaluate their participation in this merchandising of themselves? They may one day look back and feel they did themselves no damage. Well, maybe. If so, call me surprised and skeptical.

Then again, maybe, me, an old college professor in Boston was HAD by this fake news story? If so, I will eat my hat. On the Internet.

And now the followup news has come out: the entire story was faked, she did it to get a contract with Playboy magazine in Brazil in cahoots with her manager and agent and you can now see her tits here:


Catarina Migliorini: Still A Virgin, But Now A PLAYBOY Nude Playmate

Catarina Migliorini, who auctioned off her virginity online, will now appear in the Brazilian edition of Playboy in January.


Catarina Migliorini, Catarina Migliorini Playboy, Catarina Migliorini Virgin Auction, Justin Sisely, Justin Sisely Virgins Wanted, Weird Brazil, Catarina Migliorini Virgin, Virgin Auction Playboy, Weird Australia, Weird Photos & Videos, Weird Sex, Weird News .Two months ago, Catarina Migliorini was NEVER auctioning off her virginity to help impoverished children.


Now, she's selling nude pictures to Playboy, ......GOT IT NOW?

Now, she's selling nude pictures to Playboy, and there's no further talk that she's doing it for charity.

Migliorini, the 20-year-old Brazilian woman who allegedly WAS TO auction off AND NEVER DID her virginity online for $780,000, has parlayed her notoriety into a photo spread for Playboy, according to the Brazilian news website
The pictorial will appear in the January issue of the magazine's Brazilian edition.

Migliorini was ALLEGEDLY FAKED scheduled to lose her "V-card" between Nov. 15-20 with the help of a NON EXISTANT Japanese man named "Natsu," EGGPLANT in ENglish, get it? phallic ? who won the rights via the Internet auction.

That deal hasn't been consummated, according to Frank Thorne. Thorne is a spokesman for Justin Sisely, the Australian filmmaker who masterminded the "cherry popping heard around the world" for a proposed documentary, said that the planned deflowering hasn't taken place.

"Things changed a lot as the documentary progressed. Other things are still in the works," Thorne said. "For now, the project is on hold and as everyone is now closing down for Christmas, we are in limbo until the New Year. Can't say anything more at the moment, but there is nothing to report at the moment."

That deal hasn't been consummated, according to Frank Thorne. Thorne is a spokesman for Justin Sisely, the Australian filmmaker who masterminded the "cherry popping heard around the world" for a proposed documentary, said that the planned deflowering hasn't taken place.

"Things changed a lot as the documentary progressed. Other things are still in the works," Thorne said. "For now, the project is on hold and as everyone is now closing down for Christmas, we are in limbo until the New Year. Can't say anything more at the moment, but there is nothing to report at the moment."

Regarding the Playboy pictorial, Thorne said that Migliorini arranged the deal with the magazine herself and Sisely was not involved.

When she first announced that she was going to sell her virginity online, she suggested that she would donate at least some of the proceeds to charity, a public statement that shocked Sisely.

"I was surprised she said that because in all my dealings with her, she made it clear that it was a business decision for her," Australian filmmaker Justin Sisely told HuffPost exclusively back in October. "Now, given how big this story is in Brazil, she's trapped. If she doesn't give any money to charity, she's going to look bad."

Migliorini has made no promises to donate any of her Playboy paycheck to the less fortunate.

Since Sisely first announced the project in 2010, it's been marked by skepticism from all corners, such as Taiwan-based media debunker Danny Bloom, and Brazilian-based journalist William K. Wolfrum, and hoax experts like Joey Skaggs and Alex Boese, and doctors like Dr. Elizabeth Lyster, a board-certified gynecologist in Foster City, Calif., with 20 years clinical experience, who said proving a woman is a virgin can be very difficult since an intact hymen -- the standard of proof of virginity -- can be ruptured from activities like running or inserting a tampon.

"It causes a lot of problems in religious circles," Lyster told HuffPost back in October.

The list of skeptics now includes people originally part of the project, such as Australian sexologist Elaine George, who interviewed Alex Stepanov, a male virgin also participating in the Internet auction (his virtue only netted $3,000).

"Unfortunately I think the whole thing is a sham," George told us. "I only met the male once and he appeared to have a lot of social anxiety. I did not feel comfortable with the project and think it is exploitation."

Sunday, December 30, 2012

David K.L. Jones reviews POLAR CITY RED, cli fi novel by Jim Laughter


When a book producer and book packager asked me if I could review Jim Laughter's new cli fi book POLAR CITY RED, I said ''sure, send me a copy and I will review for the paper here, probably in August or September, when I have the time''. So Jim sent me a copy of the novel here in Alabama, I confirmed I received it in the mail, and would read it and review it for the paper before the end of the year, if my way busy schedule permitted it, and here is my review:

Global Heating Novel 'Polar City Red' Not For Everyone, But I Enjoyed It Immensely:


I have seen the future and it's dank, dark and dystopian. At least in

one Oklahoma author's eyes, it is. Alaskans need to read this book

with care and concern.

When veteran sci-fi writer Jim Laughter sat down last year to start in

on a new novel about mankind's shaky future on this third rock from

the sun, he wasn't sure where the book was actually going.

Seven months later, after typing each chapter of "Polar City Red" on

his computer keyboard, Laughter, 59, was finished and ready to face

critics on the right and on the left. Climate denialists are going to

say it's not science, and die-hard climate activists are going to say

it's just fiction.

Sarah Palin is not going to read it, that's for sure. Neither will

Mitt Romney or other national politicians with their heads in the

sand. But Laughter's book could make a cool movie in the future

dystopia department, following up on such Hollywood films as "City of

Ember" and "The Road."

Laughter's pulp "polar western" is set in the Last Frontier of Alaska

in 2075 and it poses a very important and headline-mirroring question:

will mankind survive the climapocalypse coming our way as the Earth

heats up over the next few centuries?

As sea levels rise and millions of "climate refugees" make their way

north to Alaska, Canada, Russia and Norway, think scavenger camps,

"Mad Max" villages, and U.N.-administered ''polar cities'' -- cities

of domes, as Laughter (his real name) calls them.

"Polar City Red" is more than mere sci fi. Laughter is a retired USAF

technical writer who has lived all over the world on military

assignment. The retired grandfather of four comes across as a probing

moralist and a modern Jeremiah. His worldview befits a Christian

pastor who has built two churches and finds in religion both an anchor

and a place for hope.

His book is not just about climate change or northern dystopias. It's

also about the moral questions that must guide humanity as it tries to

keep a lid on global warming's worst-case scenarios while also looking

for solutions to mankind's worst nightmare -- the possible final

extinction of the human species due to man's own folly and extravagant

ways. Can a small 200-page book do all that? No, it's just

entertainment, a good book to put on your summer reading list.

Writing the novel took Laughter seven months of non-stop research and

keyboarding, he told me, but I have a feeling that what he wrote will

last 100 years.

It's more than a cli-fi thriller. It also exposes the underbelly of

humankind's most terrifying nightmare: the possible end of the human

species and God's deep displeasure at what His people have done to His

Earth. Even if you're an atheist, as I am, Laughter touches a nerve.

The book is prophetic, futuristic and moralistic. You as reader will

get through this one alive, but will our descendants, 100 or 1000

years from now, survive the Long Emergency we find ourselves in now?

That's the question that Laughter poses.

Fortunately, the book ends on a note of hope and redemption, so it's

not a downer at all. You and your loved ones need to read it. As

Laughter himself says in the introduction, quoting Christopher Morley:

''When you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of

paper and ink and glue -- you sell him a whole new life."

"Polar City Red" won't give you a whole new life, and it'll probably

just give you a headache and heartburn. But Alaskans might benefit

from reading it, since

it's about Alaska front and center, as the world heats up.


David K.L. Jones is a freelance writer in Alabama.

Polar cities in the futire and the people of the Alaskan Mesa

If we do not take action, soon, NOW, Alaska will be flooded by millions of climate refugees from the Lower 48 and Asia and Mexico, in 30 generations or so as climate chaos hits the world hard and only "polar cities" will save mankind at the time. the time is prepare for polar cities is now. Google them

FAIRBANKS - Did you know, Alaska was once the setting for an environmental shift so dramatic it forced ANCIENT people to evacuate the entire North Slope? Yes,, according to Michael Kunz, an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management.

About 10,013 years ago, a group of hunting ESKIMO people lived on the North Slope, the swath of mostly treeless tundra that extends north from the Brooks Range to the sea. These people, known as Paleoindians, used a chunky ridge of rock west of the Colville River as a hunting lookout. Michael Kunz first discovered stone spear tips at the site, known as the Mesa, in 1978.

The people of the Mesa lived at a time when the Arctic was undergoing a change similar to what Alaska is undergoing today. As the world emerged from the last ice age, grasslands covered much of the Bering Land Bridge, a swath of land as wide as the distance from Barrow to Homer.

To survive in a place like the North Slope, where life is dicey in the best of times, humans needed a few things, Kunz said. One was technology, which the Mesa people had in the form of bone needles they used to sew weather-tight clothing. Another vital element was a large, plentiful source of food. Caribou were scarce during the time of the Mesa people, but bison roamed the grasslands in good numbers. Those bison are the key to how climate change affected these ancient Alaskans, Kunz said.

For many thousands of years, the area that is now Alaska was part of an enormous swath of dry grasslands that made up much of the Bering Land Bridge. About 15,000 years ago, the planet started evolving from the last ice age. Air temperatures became warmer, and things started to change. Glaciers began melting, sea level rose, and salt water slowly drowned the Bering Land Bridge. The encroachment of the ocean caused an increase in precipitation around the North Slope that allowed cottongrass and other sedges to nudge out the grasses preferred by bison.

About 12,000 years ago, as the North Slope evolved to what it looks like today, bison disappeared. The last evidence of the Mesa Paleoindians comes from around the same time. Kunz thinks the extinction of the bison from the North Slope, along with the simultaneous scarcity of caribou, caused the Mesa people to move or die out.

“This is totally the effect of the environment,” Kunz said. “Not only did it run the Paleoindians out of there, it made the place unlivable for anyone for 1,500 years.”

By examining bones and stone tools, archaeologists found that people moved back to the North Slope about the same time caribou returned after what seems like a population crash that lasted more than 3,000 years.

Kunz pointed out that car exhaust did not trigger the warming that may have chased the Mesa people from the North Slope. He said climate change has occurred many times before and is inevitable today. He suggests that the human species as a whole should think of how it will work around problems, such as rising sea level and the changes in agricultural zones caused by different weather patterns.

“The system has always been dynamic,” he said. “We’re not going to stop climate change. Just like the Mesa Paleoindians — if you can’t adapt or adjust, you’re going to disappear.”

And to adapt, when millions of climate refugees flood Alaska in the coming centuries, polar cities just might save the day for the human species. Or it might be curtains.

And in the future, if we do not take action, soon, Alaska will be flooded by millions of climate refugees from the Lower 48 and Asia and Mexico, in 30 generations or so as climate chaos hits the world hard and only "polar cities" will save mankind at the time. the time is prepare for polar cities is now.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

So Much Information, So Little Time: Making Sense of a Big Data World


So Much Information, So Little Time:
Making Sense of a Big Data World

Digital technology has made it possible to create, move and store information at previously unthinkable magnitudes.

As a result, individuals and organizations are navigating an ever-growing ocean of data, including billions of new emails and social-media comments each day.

Where is Big Data taking us?

Is access to the ever-expanding digital trove making us more creative and productive, or just more overwhelmed?

Is the workplace becoming more efficient, or is hyper-connectedness exacting a price?

This seminar focuses on both the promise and challenges of the digital era. It will examine the history of information overload - it's not as new as you might think - as well as twists that are unique to the 21st century.

We'll look at what scientists are learning about the cognitive issues - how can we process all this information?

And we'll glimpse over the horizon at innovations that might help society meet this challenge, and define the next stage of the information revolution.

Moderator: William Powers, author of Hamlet’s BlackBerry

Carbonist Manifesto by Jeff Berkowitz in OREGON USA

Jeff Berkowitz has worked for a variety of computer, instrumentation and software companies since the 1970s. His programming travels have included embedded systems, proprietary Unix kernels, RDBMS toolware, middleware, and both web and desktop application development. Jeff is equally uncomfortable with Unix and Microsoft programming environments, having been intermittently successful with both. Over the past few years Jeff has enjoyed the virtues of verifiable bytecode while developing systems in Java and C#. Jeff has lived in the Portland, Oregon area since 1988 and is presently employed by Oracle Corporation in Portland. Jeff is married and enjoys nothing better than a warm day spent hovering over the smoker, microbrew in hand, slow cooking some kind of barbecue.

    In ''The frightening elegance of 'The Carbonist Manifesto'''  DOWNLOAD HERE
Joel Makower writes on
2012-12-24 that:

Humans were put on Earth for the primary purpose of returning carbon to the atmosphere in order to warm the planet, at which point our services will be done, our world will become inhospitable, and we will depart, having helped restore planetary equilibrium along the way.
No, this is not a Mayan prophesy. More like a Gaian prophesy.

This is the premise of a fantastical and fascinating essay written in 1992, some 20 years, ago by a self-described “extremely nerdy” computer programmer named Jeff Berkowitz who loves nothing more than to sit outwide in the backyard with a microbrew and some good stuff on the BBQ grille on a nice summer or fall afternoon in Oregon and who also has a a longtime interest in both environmentalism and alternative energy, though he hasn’t worked professionally in either.

Earlier this year, I came across the 6-page essay, which could easily be mistaken for a scientific treatise but for the author’s précis stating that, while “loosely grounded in recent research in ecology and paleoclimatology,” the paper was “distinctly tongue in cheek.”

The paper, titled “The Consequences of Gaia, or The Carbonist Manifesto” (download if you google for it) was written in 1992 by a then 35-year-old computer programmer named Jeff Berkowitz. It is rooted in the Gaia hypothesis (also referred to as the Gaia theory or principle), the notion that Earth's biosphere is a dynamic, self-regulating system, first formulated in the 1970s by scientist James Lovelock and microbiologist Lynn Margulis. Their hypothesis states that the Earth is not just an amalgam of rocks and trees and water but a giant cell capable of adjusting to both small and large changes in an intelligent and holistic manner.

According to "The Carbonist Manifesto," we humans are one of those adjustments.

Berkowitz begins his essay by explaining how the temperature of the biosphere is largely controlled by the quantities of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, or CO2, in the atmosphere. Seeking equilibrium, various geophysical and biological processes cooperate to lower the level of CO2 when the biosphere warms and release CO2 when it cools. But over the past 500 million years, the amount of available carbon in the biosphere has slowly decreased, as carbon was captured in hydrocarbon deposits, such as coal, oil, and seafloor sediments. That is to say, for millions of years, Earth gradually cooled as CO2 was sequestered.

Here, I’ll let Berkowitz take over the story:

The last 100,000 years have seen some of the coldest times in the 500 million years that have elapsed since the Ordovician period. These 100,000 years form less than 1/1000th of the intervening 500 million years. Oddly, they're the same 100,000 years that Homo Sapiens Sapiens have existed on Earth. Clearly, the biosphere has reached a point of crisis. The relatively stable processes of self-regulation that have worked for the past hundreds of millions of years have reached the limit of their ability to correct.

In response to the impending crisis, Gaia evolved a solution. At the edges of the ice sheets that flowed down over the northern hemisphere during the last ice age, Gaia brought it to fruition: a short-term corrective process designed to restore the natural balance of free carbon dioxide in the biosphere.


Yes, Man. Not the destroyer, the pillager, the environmental rapist of the popular lore; an utterly different view of Man the restorer, the savior, the solution to an environmental crisis more dangerous to the biosphere than even the giant stone that ended the age of dinosaurs. Man, whose only purpose in the Gaian system is to extract carbon from the rocks and put it back in the atmosphere where it belongs.

Next page: An elegant and poetic theory

Whatever you think of all this, it’s hard to refute that, while frightening to ponder, it is an elegant and somewhat poetic theory: that our primary role on Earth is to liberate the carbon on behalf of a larger geological and biological purpose. And that we’re damn good at what we do — we’re succeeding mightily at fulfilling our mission. So much so that we'll eventually work ourselves out of existance.

Recently, I tracked down Berkowitz, now 55, married, and living near Portland, Oregon, where he works as a principal software engineer for the computer company, Oracle.

I began our conversation by asking how "The Carbonist Manifesto" came to be.

“It was just one of those amusing, contrary things that came to me,” he responded. "I've read a lot of science fiction all my life, and at the time I was particularly taken with the Gaia hypothesis. So it just came together in my head.”

Berkowitz grew up in Santa Barbara, Calif., and was a teenager in 1969 during the massive oil spill there — the largest in the United States at the time. It was one of several catalysts for the first Earth Day, in 1970, which began the modern environmental movement.

“That's always been a part of my thinking about the world,” he explained. “In addition, my dad was a big technology guy. After the Arab oil embargo in 1973, a lot of money became available to study alternative energy. So I had a bunch of these sort of environmental concepts and alternative-energy concepts floating around in my head, even as a kid.”

I asked Berkowitz how much he actually believed in what he wrote.

“Rather than directly answer your question,” he said, “I'll just say this: The essay sounds like nonsense. And I rarely if ever believe in nonsense. But I can't prove that it's nonsense, and neither can you or anyone else. That's the beauty of it.”

Berkowitz describes himself as an extreme skeptic, quick to question conventional wisdom. For example, he doesn’t view the possibility that a lot of species could be wiped out in by climate change as a tragedy. He acknowledges that this could make him sound “at worst insane or at best incredibly callous.”

“I don't believe I'm either insane or callous,” he says. “I admit no metaphysics in my world view. I think the history of the universe is a set of random events followed by other random events. For those of us who really think this way, the idea of putting value judgments on random events is kind of silly. Of course, I'd hate to be hit by a meteor — or, more likely here in Cascadia, crushed in a 9.2 quake.

“But the ‘I'd hate that’ part is about me; it's not about the event. Events are neutral. Goodness and badness happen inside the observer and are based on the observer's narrow perspective. The dinosaur killer was terrible if you were there, but maybe without it there would never have been any higher primates. So is that good or bad? I could ask the equally meaningless question: Is the existence of higher primates a good thing or a bad thing? Questions like this are just silly.”

Next page: Are consumers immoral?

According to Berkowitz, it’s equally silly to label consumers immoral for wanting certain products at the best price, or to label their suppliers immoral for supplying them. His point is that the sum total of human interactions is as “natural” a disaster as an asteroid hitting the planet leading to mass extinction.

“We're a species, naturally evolved, that at some point began passing cultural knowledge about modifying our environment to a much greater extent than any species before us,” he said. “That's all. It happened in the natural course of events. The common use of the word ‘unnatural’ to describe some of our more advanced technologies is perhaps the most dangerous of all our fallacies about the world. It implies that somehow we are separate from nature, or that the consequences of our actions can somehow lie above or outside of nature. That's a fundamentally broken way to think about the world and I believe it underlies some of our most serious problems.”

Berkowitz recognizes that his view is at odds with most people who call themselves environmentalists. And he’s concerned that it sounds negative and fatalistic. “My arguments about the neutrality of events in no way prevent us from using our free will to choose and guide certain outcomes at the expense of others for whatever reasons we may prefer. I bet I love polar bears as much as you or anyone else, and I'm willing to modify my economic behavior, within limits, to try and ensure that they survive.”

But if we fail to do that sufficiently or in time — well, that's just nature taking its course.

One of the things I found remarkable about Berkowitz’s 20-year-old paper is that it could have been written today. Indeed, it’s that much more salient given that it was penned well before climate change and global warming were well understood. And the questions he raises are as relevant as ever. Whether and how we successfully address climate change will depend on the collective actions of humanity.

“In order to prevent the widespread consequences of global warming, we need to make pragmatic choices about actions that will work,” says Berkowitz. “Making those choices starts with a hard-headed worldview that's not cluttered up with unexamined notions about natural versus unnatural, good versus evil, or some grand plan of a big guy upstairs.”

He concludes: “Getting people to think about these questions is perhaps the point of the essay.”