Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dam It...An earthquake

Most of us consider an earthquake an 'act of God.' Even if we don't believe in any particular god. We believe that certain things are beyond the cause and effect of humans. But is it so???

There is now talk that a dam that created a reservoir in China may have caused or hastened the earthquake that left 80,000 people dead or missing in Sichuan Province. Seems all that weight of water less than a mile from a fault line could change the actual geological activity.

With a dam fifty stories tall you might really be able to change nature at its most basic. Which leads me to wonder if we can the a force for preventing or delaying seismic activity. But probably not. Our best efforts at intended consequences seem to always go off track.

See the story here in The New York Times.

The Destruction of the Rain Forest

Like global warming (and a cause of it) we assume that the rain forests are being decimated as we speak and that there is little we can do about it except shake our heads at big corporations (and individual indigenous people) destroying the forests to harvest things from it or to clear fields and raise crops.

I was surprised then to read in The New York Times that another trend might be partially or even completely reversing the downward spiral in the number of acres of this pristine wilderness.

Yes, as people leave the land and go try their hand at life in the city, their cultivated land is quickly turned into...rain forest. Naturally there is a debate about whether these new forest are really rain forests or 'caricatures' of same. Read the article for yourself here. But whatever is happening surely urbanization causing new acres of natural (or quasi natural) forest qualifies as an unintended consequence. Individuals leaving the land, of course, does not stop global corporations operating so that, as one 'expert' put it "every stick of timber is being cut in Congo is sent to China." But there is certainly more going on than the simple views bandied about outside JUC. Yeah, it's here where we find the 'hmmm' in every story that might seem black and white.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Women's Work

In this picture from the sixties you see a couple of my aunts in the center. One was a school teacher and one was a secretary or admin in a bank trust department. I had a couple of other aunts who were teachers, another secretary and one who was a non-com in the Navy. My mother finished her education to become a teacher after I went to school. By the time I graduated from college a few more things were open to women. I got a job as a computer programmer. I worked that job for two and a a half years and was never promoted. Still I didn't have to take a job as a teacher (fact is I washed out of the requisite ed. courses to get a certificate) and while I visited the Navy recruiter, a job offer for this computer job came along before I had to resort to that and I got free training there. The year was 1970. I bet my Aunt Mary (looking at the camera on the right above) was still wearing gloves to work. We both worked downtown and we'd meet for lunch sometimes. I was required to wear a dress or suit with skirt to work.

So why am I telling you this? What are the lurking unintended consequences? Well, in the depression of 2008/2009 (and beyond?) a funny thing has happened as people were laid off. The majority of laid off employees are men and women's percentage in the work force was already increasing. They work in many more fields today but many are nurses, teachers, etc. A trend is occurring that could make the proportion of women in the work force greater than fifty percent. The NY Times wrote about this phenomena. Of course, since women are still paid less, generally, this is a way to slash payrolls I suppose.

More women than men in the work force! But, where a couple has only a working wife, will he do the dishes and shrub the shower?

History shows us that men won't take it easily, though. When they returned from WWII, they just booted the women out of factories and construction. This time maybe some will retrain as nurses and teachers.