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Posts Tagged ‘Alain de Botton’

This week there have been many stories about the Japanese maintaining their civility and dignity as they struggle with the aftermath of the earthquake :

“Emergency centers, where more than 450,000 evacuees are being housed in stadiums or schools, are neatly organized, with people constructing origami boxes made of newspaper in which to nestle their shoes. This is a country where people do not wear shoes inside, and the habit extends to the little islands of blankets that each evacuated family claims in their emergency shelter” (Time’s Global Spin blog)

The stories reminded me of episode ten in the BBC’s A History of the World in 100 Objects about a Japanese clay jomon pot, made around 5,000 BC. Presenter Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, says:

Jomon pots are used as cultural ambassadors for Japan in major exhibitions around the world. Most nations look back to imperial glories or invading armies – and I think it’s extraordinary that a technologically, economically powerful nation like Japan proudly places the very origins of its identity in the early hunter-gatherers. As an outsider, I find the meticulous attention to detail and the patterning of the surface, and the long continuity of Jomon traditions, already very Japanese.

– author Marie Mutsuki Mockett gives us an insight into modern day Japan in her wonderful piece Memories, Washed Away ;

– the Daily Mail on the courage of the Fukushima fifty workers at Japan’s stricken nuclear plan ;

– CNN on how Japan’s religions confront tragedy ;

philosopher Alain de Botton on tsunamis and Stoicism ;

– an interesting take from Larry Elkin on the Japanese emperors’ speech explaining a constitutional monarchy to Americans :

We have seen many times how monarchs can inspire their people, raise morale and even change history, all without any real political power at all. Royals are at their best when suffering is greatest and they provide whatever relief they can.

Japan’s suffering is the greatest it has seen in a very long time. I hope their emperor can help the Japanese through these trials.

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I have been meaning to write about the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull (a word I never thought I would write) for a while but my day job got in the way. The Boston Globe has a great set of photos from Iceland (they should have done a slideshow but the images are still damn impressive).

The disruption highlighted how we take flying for granted and unknowingly depend on airplanes  for our everyday lives to function : there were stories in the British press that supermarkets would run out of fresh fruit and vegetables because they could not get deliveries from overseas. It is hard to believe that the Wright Brothers only completed the first controlled, powered flight in December 1903 and that the first commercial jet service only started in 1952.

Although it is too late for my brother, who was forced to cancel his holiday, planes have thankfully started flying in Europe again.

While they were still grounded, philosopher Alain de Botton wrote a lovely piece imagining a world without planes:

“In a future world without aeroplanes, children would gather at the feet of old men, and hear extraordinary tales of a mythic time when vast and complicated machines the size of several houses used to take to the skies and fly high over the Himalayas and the Tasman Sea.”

This may not be very far-fetched as Reihan Salam explains that dozens of major airlines are likely go bankrupt over the next decade so we have just experienced the world to come .

Salam points to a book by Christopher Steiner, $20 Per Gallon, which imagines how the world will change if oil prices continually rise. Starting at $4 a gallon, each chapter of the book describes what could happen as oil price rises by $2. Chapter $8 is called The Sky Will Empty as the airline industry is destroyed :

“Steiner paints a vivid picture: Cross-country fares quintupling in price, mid-sized cities losing most or all of their flights as subsidies dry up and the remaining airlines consolidate their operations. We’ll always have Skype and as-yet-unimagined communications technologies to stay in touch over long distances. And who knows, perhaps these technologies will be good enough to maintain the intimate connections that cheap air-travel has made possible. I certainly wouldn’t bet on it.’

Neither would I.


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