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Jun 9·edited Jun 9

Mountains and beaches were also areas of extreme poverty in the past. Read Henry David Thoreau’s Cape Cod to see that Cape Cod was the poorest, most forgotten part of Massachusetts in the mid 19th century. Many of the people there used driftwood picked on the beach to heat their small homes and mixed seaweed with the poor soil to grow food.

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Exactly. No one said, "ooh, white sand as far as the eye can see!" They said, "only sand. Damn."

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Nice, I agree. Its also true that the wealth that we all enjoy came out of the ground in the form of oil, and it is the abundance of cheap and plentiful energy that has created all this material wealth. And the desire and ability to climb mountains and hang out on beaches. Especially for people who live in cold climates like Icelanders.

The longitudinal correlation between the rise of material standards of living and energy use (and hydrocarbon availability) is 1:1, because it actually causation.

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Energy is all. More energy, more of everything else.

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Yes. It all started with coal, though. And coal is still the starting point for developing countries like India and China.

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Yes, absolutely, you might even say it started with biomass (wood) in the VERY early days of the steam engine in the UK. But yes, the whole gamut of hydrocarbons is the basis of our wealth.

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I call them "Mad Men Moments" for my own realization about my youth. S1E1, nearly scene 1, of Mad Men announces that the show will be shocking you with all the change since 1960, by having the kids run in on January Jones, who is smoking in bed. While pregnant! They are wearing dry-cleaner bags over their heads. January admonishes them to put them back - she needs those bags for her dresses. The whole thing is about 12 seconds long.

By the end of "Better Angels", Pinker has caught up with our generation, points out not the drycleaner bags, but how it's become unacceptable to spank children or beat your dog in public. Cats? How about "That dog won't hunt" - explained to me by a rural GOP-voter as meaning "That dog must be shot as useless" to any rural American. Once. Now a governor has destroyed her career by doing just that.

Other good reads are Neal Stephenson's "Quicksilver" trilogy, with the cat-burnings of Paris, and the whole of London turning out to enjoy a good hanging. And Crichton's "The Great Train Robbery" writes about the taunting of about-to-be-hung women, and the movie version shows it - they use the distraction of the super-popular hanging to pull off a jail break.

Change isn't just possible; it's inevitable, and Pinker shows how the trend has been running from long before anybody invented "PC/wokeness".

I will throw out a fun theory that just occurred the other day: you know how 'nobody knows' why crime plummeted in the 90s - in places with and without various policing strategies? What could possibly be common to very different towns and states? Well, maybe there was actually a change in the populace. Maybe all those 1970s Norman Lear shows and all the anti-bullying in schools took effect on the actual kids being raised? (NB: "Bullying" was once rewarded with "head boy" status and victims told it was building their character, 'You have to toughen up'. )

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Progress!!??? Hmmphh You panglossing Polyanna.

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Haha!

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Thank you so much much for having the courage and inner stability to persist in reminding us that there is hope, progress is also happening, even as we see where it isn’t complete. It appears true that every move forward entails illuminating what holds us back, so we always have evidence of both available. But without seeing all of it, progress as well as pain, we risk the stagnation of despair or the implosion of reactionary self-destruction. I appreciate your balanced voice.

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In the late 60s I worked with a veterinarian in the Swiss mountains. At times the small farms could only be accessed on foot, or in snow with skis; not quite the same as winter sports or summer hiking.

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What perspective!

Ironically the two places that I feel the deepest, most profound connection to the profundity of life are, in order:

1. On a beach looking at the ocean

2. On a mountain

The beautiful context described here provides a word that was missing in my mind - which I suspect will strongly deepen my experiences in the future: privilege. What privilege to be able to experience a beach or a mountain as we can today…

Thank you, Dan.

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Yup. I'm a professor and I encounter a similar cognitive block in students if I tell them something actually works. (I teach international environmental cooperation so good news is rare.) Or I tell them Malthus was wrong.

Re mountains and beaches. Agreed. Here's an exception though. In Norway, glacier climbing evolved as a strategy to get more quickly from one valley to another. Crossing a glacier is faster than rowing all the way out one fjord then all the way in the adjacent fjord.

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6 billion people never fly

Boeing builds bombs

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This is so cool! Thanks so much. I did not know how much I needed that.

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As I began reading, I also thought « beaches », and then you got to it. I’ve also had the same thoughts about so-called leisure time, and its relation to the development of great thoughts. People scrabbling for food didn’t have time to ponder the universe.

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