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Everything is connected

Old blog pieces, new journalism, timeless ideas

Oct 13, 2019

Two days ago, I bookmarked a column by Tim Harford, remembering the great economist Martin Weitzman. I knew Weitzman only because a colleague made use of his ideas on how to prioritise the conservation of species, the Noah's Ark problem. He wanted to pay people to conserve quinoa varieties, but which ones deserved support?

I was intrigued to discover Weitzman's objection to the idea that there's no point spending money on climate change now, because our descendents will be so much richer than us that they'll be able easily to cope. Weitzman focused on the tail risk. Using an analogy of treating his house for damp now, lest his great-grandchildren have to pay more to fix it in future, Harford explains:

The truly eye-opening contribution — for me, at least — was Weitzman’s explanation that the worst-case scenarios should rightly loom large in rational calculations. If there’s a modest chance that the damp problem will give all my great-grandchildren fatal pneumonia, I shouldn’t ignore that. And my great-grandchildren wouldn’t want me to: the probably rich great-grandchildren would happily sacrifice some trivial amount of income to avoid being the possibly dead great-grandchildren. But they won’t have the choice. It’s up to me.

And then, just moments ago, I revisited something I wrote 13 years ago: Take precautions: global warming deserves it, prompted by various published reflections on global warming the climate crisis, in turn prompted by An Inconveient Truth. In my piece, I complained that The Economist was too supportive of Bjorn Lomberg. I didn't know about Weitzman's argument then, and apparently, neither did The Economist.

And then, a final strange connection. Last night I happened to read an article in The New Yorker about a former Economist journalist called Jonathan Ledgard. And blow me if that article didn't trumpet one of Ledgard's passel of huge ideas:

"Many species are at risk of local extinction because they have no independent means to change their financial value," Ledgard explained. The goals is to "pick a local species that is threatened with extinction, give it some financial agency in the world, and then work out how the value that it holds can be distributed to the local human community."

A few months later, Ledgard called me to say that he had refined the concept to focus on the promotion of insect life on European farms.

Well, blow me. Genius invents payments for ecosystem services, with nary a mention of Weitzman or anyone else who has not only thought about this before, but has actually done it.

How was your Sunday?

King content crowned again

A time of innocence and empowerment

Oct 14, 2019

As part of a project I have in mind, I've started downloading the logs of this site from my server. Looking at them, I'm still surprised by how many pages search engines seem to be looking for and failing to find. Two questions:

  1. Where are they coming from? Mostly, it seems, opensiteexplorer.com, which is now moz.com.
  2. Why doesn't my nifty rewrite rule redirect as I thought it did? 1

Anyway, I'm not actually pursuing answers in detail. Instead, I'm using the first three unfound pages each morning as a goad to bring those old pages into the not-so new-anymore site. It was doing that that alerted me to the second point, because after finding the old version and chasing down all the links in it, I noticed that the page does indeed exist, exactly where it ought be. And looking back, the links on that page, tracked down with the help of The Internet Archive, are a microcosm of some changes over the past 15 years.2

Rex Sorgatz's website is still going, although these days he seems to be putting more effort into his newsletter.

The website he was working on, for NBC's coverage of the Athens Olympics? What would he make of it now?

The $14 steadycam? No longer still there, but parked and "coming soon," complete with fetching person-at-work under construction image. How it takes me back.

The Italian Stanley Kubrick fan site is still there too, and on this visit, so was the English version, albeit a little scrambled. Kubrick's telex about the Steadycam is still there too.

Saddest, for me, are the demise of "probably the oldest UK based Poultry Web Page" and the glorious Vasalini's Chickencam, offering "A live view of daily life in a chicken yard on the island of Martha's Vineyard. They don't make 'em like that any more.

In passing, I note that both of those sites were members of webrings. The one hosted on Geocities is dead as a Norwegian Blue. The other, remarkably, is still going strong on Angelfire.

It's tempting to try and draw some overall conclusion, but beyond harking back to a time of innocence and empowerment, I'm not sure I can. Everything that allowed people to make those pages back in 2004 (except the NBC site) is still available to anyone who cares to make something similar.

Go to it.


  1. RewriteRule ^\d{4}/\d{2}/\d{2}/(.*)$ /blog/$1 [R=301,L] is the rule in question. Which, I expect, should convert GET /wp/Archive/2004/07/05/king-content/ to GET /blog/king-content/. But it doesn't. 

  2. I find it pretty hard to believe too. 

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Jeremy Cherfas

Freelance Communicator

In essence, I see myself as a translator. I speak Science, and I speak English, and I work hard to make the two understand one another. Mostly, I like to help people tell their stories. I'm a biologist by training and by inclination, and my main joy is applying that to food and the agriculture and industries that supply it.

I also have side interests in economics and many other things.

Writing:

Everything is connected

Old blog pieces, new journalism, timeless ideas

Oct 13, 2019

I don't know what I don't need

A trim, probably

Sep 26, 2019

Reading:


Profile picture

Jeremy Cherfas

Freelance Communicator

In essence, I see myself as a translator. I speak Science, and I speak English, and I work hard to make the two understand one another. Mostly, I like to help people tell their stories. I'm a biologist by training and by inclination, and my main joy is applying that to food and the agriculture and industries that supply it.

I also have side interests in economics and many other things.