Good press

1. Good press stunt: the Maldives held an underwater cabinet meeting. They’ll need to learn how to do that more often, since I’ll probably outlive the Maldives: at the rate we’re going, their islands will be inundated by rising seas in a few decades. The cabinet ratified a statement urging rapid global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — an SOS to be presented at COP15 in December.

2. Good coverage: there is a kind of awesome article in Crain’s this week by David Sterrett about the market for electric hand dryers, formerly controlled by Berkeley, Ill.-based World Dryer. Some choice phrases: “the local company that’s dominated the industry since its inception is seeing new business slip through its slightly damp fingers… dryer-industry arriviste Sir James Dyson… Timothy Griffin, acting village administrator, [says] ‘People have nothing to do when drying their hands, so they read the label and see Berkeley.’ ”

(I’ve tried to avoid paper towels since a visit to Japan, where they’re nonexistent. Some restrooms have hand dryers — often the Mitsubishi Jet Towel — but the general assumption is that you bring your own cloth towel.)

3. Not covered at all: among global scientific bodies, it’s not just IPCC (politically tainted by that Nobel Peace Prize!) that’s come to a consensus that we humans have royally changed the climate. In fact, the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London states that we’ve actually managed to shape the vastness of geologic time by ushering in the Anthropocene, per a report from Mike Davis.

Of course, this being Davis, there’s a mention of slums: “While guests enjoy the $5,000 per night rooms in Burj Al-Arab, Dubai’s celebrated sail-shaped hotel, working-class Cairenes riot in the streets over the unaffordable price of bread.” There’s also the transmutation of said slums into a cynical, Blade Runner apocalypse:

Coordinated global action on their behalf thus presupposes either their revolutionary empowerment (a scenario not considered by the IPCC) or the transmutation of the self-interest of rich countries and classes into an enlightened ‘solidarity’ without precedent in history. From a rational-actor perspective, the latter outcome only seems realistic if it can be shown that privileged groups possess no preferential ‘exit’ option, that internationalist public opinion drives policymaking in key countries, and that greenhouse gas mitigation could be achieved without major sacrifices in upscale Northern Hemispheric standards of living — none of which seems highly likely. And what if growing environmental and social turbulence, instead of galvanizing heroic innovation and international cooperation, simply drive elite publics into even more frenzied attempts to wall themselves off from the rest of humanity?… We’re talking here of the prospect of creating green and gated oases of permanent affluence on an otherwise stricken planet…

Will the electorates of the wealthy nations shed their current bigotry and walled borders to admit refugees from predicted epicenters of drought and desertification like the Maghreb, Mexico, Ethiopia, and Pakistan? Will Americans, the most miserly people when measured by per capita foreign aid, be willing to tax themselves to help relocate the millions likely to be flooded out of densely settled, mega-delta regions like Bangladesh?