Links for the Week Ending 28th of July

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Alison Gopnik asks the question “Does Evolution Want Us to Be Unhappy?” The short answer is “no”, but then again evolution doesn’t want us to remain permanently happy either, since this hinders our fitness to compete. For a much more thorough treatment of this topic read David Buss’ paper “The Evolution of Happiness” in the January 2000 edition of the journal American Psychologist. I am a firm believer that every ‘thinking’ person should know something of the happiness literature. It is easier to deal with what life throws at you with an understanding of what drives happiness.
  • A common theme of many posts in this blog is the declining share of labour and the increasing share of corporate profits in the national income of developing economies. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) devotes a whole section of its latest Global Wage Report to this issue (Executive Summary here, full report here). Part II of the full report is well worth reading as it highlights the role financialisation has had on skewing income from workers to corporations.
  • A recent post by Neven at the Arctic Sea Ice Blog rightly highlights the climatic threat posed by the collapse in sea ice extent. I certainly feel very uneasy that global warming has the potential to unleash large releases of methane through processes that we have very little understanding of at the present time. Mankind is making an extraordinarily reckless gamble that methane releases will come in at the low end of the probability distribution.
  • Many organisations concerned with resource depletion and climate change, such as the Transition Network, contain an uneasy alliance of  socially aware scientists and anti-science “new agers”. No-where are their differing world views more apparent than on the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). The New York Times has an excellent article on the citrus greening bacteria that threatens to devastate world orange production and the potential for GMO technology to provide a solution. The article highlights the difficult choices society will need to take with respect to the application of GMO.
  • It is an open topic as to how much we will require GMO to help us deal with the problem of food production in an era of climate change.  An op-ed in the New York Times details some of the challenges we face in feeding mankind as the planet heats up.

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