It takes decades

It takes decades for significant change to be realized. This has serious implications for urban policy and leadership because the timescale of political processes by which decisions about a city’s future are made is at best just a few years, and for most politicians two years is infinity. Nowadays, their success depends on rapid returns and instant gratification in order to conform to political pressures and the demands of the electoral process. Very few mayors can afford to think in a time frame of twenty to fifty years and put their major efforts toward promoting strategies that will leave a truly long-term legacy of significant achievement.
Geoffrey West, Scale, 2017

A shadow of what they once were

But extinction is not the only tragedy through which we’re living. What about the species that still exist, but as a shadow of what they once were? In “The Once and Future World,” the journalist J.B. MacKinnon cites records from recent centuries that hint at what has only just been lost: “In the North Atlantic, a school of cod stalls a tall ship in midocean; off Sydney, Australia, a ship’s captain sails from noon until sunset through pods of sperm whales as far as the eye can see. ... Pacific pioneers complain to the authorities that splashing salmon threaten to swamp their canoes.” There were reports of lions in the south of France, walruses at the mouth of the Thames, flocks of birds that took three days to fly overhead, as many as 100 blue whales in the Southern Ocean for every one that’s there now. “These are not sights from some ancient age of fire and ice,” MacKinnon writes. “We are talking about things seen by human eyes, recalled in human memory.”
The Insect Apocalypse Is Here by Brooke Jarvis, New York Times Magazine, 27 November 2918.

Shifting Baseline Syndrome

A 1995 study, by Peter H. Kahn and Batya Friedman, of the way some children in Houston experienced pollution summed up our blindness this way: “With each generation, the amount of environmental degradation increases, but each generation takes that amount as the norm.” In decades of photos of fishermen holding up their catch in the Florida Keys, the marine biologist Loren McClenachan found a perfect illustration of this phenomenon, which is often called “shifting baseline syndrome.” The fish got smaller and smaller, to the point where the prize catches were dwarfed by fish that in years past were piled up and ignored. But the smiles on the fishermen’s faces stayed the same size. The world never feels fallen, because we grow accustomed to the fall.
From The Insect Apocalypse Is Here by Brooke Jarvis, New York Times Magazine, 27 November 2918. Astonishing, moving and deep, with many thoughts about human perception, scale, and change.
“We write these strategic white papers, saying things like ‘Get the local Sunni population on our side,’ ” Skinner said. “Cool. Got it. But, then, if I say, ‘Get the people who live at Thirty-eighth and Bulloch on our side,’ you realize, man, that’s fucking hard—and it’s just a city block. It sounds so stupid when you apply the rhetoric over here. Who’s the leader of the white community in Live Oak neighborhood? Or the poor community?” Skinner shook his head. “ ‘Leader of the Iraqi community.’ What the fuck does that mean?”
— Patrick Skinner, a former CIA operative turned Savanna, Georgia police officer, from The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, New Yorker, May 7, 2018, by Ben Taub

How to start a YouTube channel

If you think that you’re being restricted by time or money or equipment, then you’re fooling yourself and you need to just get out there and start making stuff [...] My advice sounds so simple: start making videos. So why don’t we? Why does everyone find it so difficult? Well, the answer is, you want to make something that’s good, that’s popular, that everyone likes. You’re worried that, what if you make it and nobody does like it, or it’s bad. And so rather than face that reality, you just don’t make anything.
— Derek Muller, How to start a YouTube channel, 2013

The hornets that sting

There were some filmmakers speaking in an auditorium like this one about how documentaries should be made, how we should be like a fly on the wall and not interfere. And I just couldn’t take it anymore so I grabbed the mic and said, “No! We are directors. We are creators. We should be the hornets that sting.’
Werner Herzog, New Yorker, 2014

Herzog continues: "There was a roar of disgust against me so I shouted, 'Happy New Year losers!'

 

On the removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans…

Here is the essential truth. We are better together than we are apart.

Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world? We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz, the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures. Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think.

All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity.

Remarks delivered May, 2017 by the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, upon the removal of the last of the city’s several Confederate monuments. Transcript (NY Times)

Seven thousand years in 90 minutes

A few hundred thousand years ago in early human (or hominid) prehistory, growth was so slow that it took on the order of one million years for human productive capacity to increase sufficiently to sustain an additional one million individuals living at subsistence level. By 5000 bc, following the Agricultural Revolution,  the rate of growth had increased to the point where the same amount of growth took just two centuries. Today, following the Industrial Revolution, the world economy grows on average by that amount every ninety minutes.
… It is impressive that an amount of economic growth that took 200 years seven thousand years ago takes just ninety minutes now, and that the world population growth that took two centuries then takes one and a half weeks now.
From Superintelligence, by Nick Bostrom