Saturday, 1 May 2010


During several decades of rather ineffective leadership the UN has developed a suitable way to display action without running the risk of being blamed for failure: almost every day of the year nowadays is a UN-declared day for a worthy cause. Last week, on 22 April, it was the earth’ turn to be fêted.

Ever ready to have a turnout for worthy causes, Berkeley campus rose to the challenge. The whole week was filled with a plethora of activities, starting already on Saturday the week before and finishing first last Sunday. It would take several blogs to describe everything but, even if any of the events in itself would be charming and interesting to read about, the sheer quantity of them could lead you to exhaustion and too tired for reading my blog. This applies not only to you, I myself will have to begin rationing my attendance at campus events, lest I get saturated with impressions and lose my cravings for writing these postings.

Still, I could not help myself from watching three events that kindled my interest. Since several weeks ago, you could read an announcement all over campus that “The Cold Warriors” would give an outdoor concert, to support the Earth, I gather, on Saturday late afternoon. Since this was a campus first, for a concert given on Memorial Glade, I thought it essential to witness the event on your behalf, dear blog readers.

I came early to guard a vantage point, for a suitable photo overview, that I had discovered a week earlier. This was a palisade just to the left of the East Asian Library building, providing an unhindered vista of the University Library, on the steps of which the Warriors would be “warring”, as well as the whole glade, expected to be filled to the brim with audience. I did well in arriving early, since the palisade started to be crowded, and myself to be almost pushed over the rail by eager bystanders, around 16.00 hours, when the concert was supposed to start. However, as you can see from the picture on top, the glade was still two thirds empty and the band still only testing the sound system. Apparently, it is customary for a rock concert to start at least an hour late and the youngsters, knowing about this, did not feel the urge to come on time.

Soon after, crowds started to wallow in, however, and had to be counted in thousands rather than hundreds, according to my inexperienced assessment. Sure enough, around 17.00 hours the band got started with a terrible noise that led me to immediately apply my ear plugs, and the noise went on and on for an hour at least, only interrupted, at intervals, by an equally tremendous noise of applause from the enthusiastic student audience. From my comments you may deduce, correctly, that I am not a fan of this type of music, but I have to admit that, if being forced to attend such an event in future, I'd rather have it on Memorial Glade than anywhere else.

On a quieter note, and kindling my juvenile curiosity, I saw an announcement calling for all students to assemble for a manifestation at Sproul Plaza at noon on 22 April. The topic was to demonstrate that the Earth was getting hotter by undressing and dancing in the nude on the square. I trust you understand that this was a must for me to attend, but only as observer, I assure you. I arrived early, in order not to miss the least detail of the preparations, but it was relatively quiet on Sproul all the way up to noon. In the meantime I got a nice picture of a side event, also dealing with Earth Day, which consisted of watching out for the underfed kids in Malawi!

At noon, things started to hotten up. A group of students, but far too small to be called a crowd, started to sing and dance and undress, albeit only down to their underwear. Still, it was nice watching these few enthusiasts, working up an appetite whilst manifesting for the future of our Earth. Interestingly, not many people besides me had turned out to observe the event. Could it be that the students, not to speak about casual observers, start to get a bit blasé over all the various spectacles being enacted on Sproul?

Finally, let’s get down to serious business! The Communist Party, which we already met in an earlier posting, had announced an “Emergency Conference”, scheduled for Monday evening the 26 April, to convince the world of the need for global revolution in order to get to grips with global warming. In the typical Berkeley mix of academia on the frontier of science and political enthusiasts bordering on the extreme, the event was held in an auditorium, where that morning’s lecture must have dealt with the scientific underpinning of global warming, to judge from the formulas still on the black board. You, of course, immediately understand that the formulas are deriving the conditions for global warming to stop, seeing Gauss’ Formula being applied to demonstrate that ∆f = 0, q e d. You don’t? Don’t worry, not everyone has had the privilege of studying in Berkeley!

The Gentleman second from the left in the picture is Professor John Harte, from the College of Natural Resources, based in Stanley Hall, the conference venue. He no doubt is the originator of the formulas. To my surprise, being a sceptic as concerns global warming, I found his presentation both lucid and interesting. I will take back home with me the single most valid observation he shared with us: the stratosphere is cooling over time, concurrently with the earth surface temperature rising. This is a phenomenon easily explained by his models of earth warming due to GHG (Green House Gases), whereas the most important, if not the only possible, alternative explanation, that the sun is temporarily getting hotter (for whatever reason), would not lead to this combination of outcomes. After hearing this, I now consider it being plausible that, indeed, the effluence of coal dioxide and other GHG maybe causing a steady increase in earth surface temperature over time, a long-run disaster for mankind in the making, as well as for the rest of earth’s present (but of course not future) fauna.

Less convincing was the first gentleman, from the left (of the picture), who succeeded him as speaker. This was no other than Raymond Lotta, the main revolutionary theorist of the Communist Party of the Americas, I gather. He articulated in his speech the belief that present world institutions would do nothing to prevent the world from succumbing to the dangers of climate change. The reason for this could be summarized in the word “capitalism”. Abolish this abomination and the world would be better prepared for doing the necessary from then on. The road from capitalism to this potential bliss was “Revolution”, a concept he chose not to go into in detail. Neither was there an attempt to explain exactly how revolution would be enacted, nor, how the world would be organized in detail thereafter. Could it be, that there already exists a master plan for overthrowing world governments and organizing a world communist régime therafter? And that it was kept secret from us for strategic reasons? Or is it simply so that the strategy has not yet been thought through in detail? After having heard Raymond, I tend to believe the latter.

On a more serious note, can we foresee a future with huge societal upheavals in the run-up to serious global warming? This could well be part of our future, manifesting itself in wars between nations, as well as violent turbulences within nations. But will the latter be due to radical movements from the far left, waving the banner of saving the world from warming? I believe not. Global warming and the necessary counter-measures, if enacted, will bring economic hardship to broad masses. Radical movements are then more likely to stem from the extreme right, based on denial and aiming at preventing or redressing the necessary costly public measures to cope with warming. All in all, not a rosy future for our children!

Lest I leave the readers of this blog in a depressed mood, let me round up this posting with a more pleasant topic. You may recall that Lars told us, in a recent comment, about an author who maintained, that the ultimate in Berkeley housing was an apartment with a view of both bridges. Unfortunately, I could not get into Lars’ former penthouse, to verify the beauty of his balcony view to that effect. As a consolation, I thought to present to you this view from a vantage point that WAS accessible to me. So yesterday evening, I trudged up Campus as far upward as necessary, to gain the perspective needed. It took me a lot of trudging, I can tell you!

After an hour’s climbing, past the Greek Theater and up the mountainside all the way to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, I still had no clear view, unencumbered by trees. By my calculations, this could possibly be had from the laboratory ground itself, but guards prevented me from entering. Already desperate and wary after the long climb, I glimpsed a steep descent just left of the entrance to the institution, being accessible by climbing a fence, from where I hoped to get the picture. Since that decline was outside the Laboratory itself, guards could not prevent me from climbing the fence, but shouted admonishments and watched me anxiously, as I was sliding down the slope on my back, barely holding on, with my feet trying to cling to roots, stones and whatever other support could be garnered. Precariously balanced in this manner, bliss awaited me. The result can be seen below. The vista is so large that it takes two pictures to capture it all. Not only do I have the two bridges on record, Lars, but, as a special bonus, the Campanile too, as their companion!


Michaela said...

Vielen Dank für die wunderschönen Bilder

kari_lantto said...

Two bridges! I have to do Hasse Alfredsson's "Roger Moore" stunt. Two bridges, thats a house for paupers. Let me explain. And you can check the fact as you are at the site.

At Princeton I met a grad student who had been an undergrad at Berkeley. When I told him I was from Sweden, he told me about Bent Hansen and the value of real estate in the Bay Area. He said, as did Lars, that the value increased with the number of bridges you overlooked. And that he did not know much about Bent Hansen's success as an economist, except that his house overlooked all FIVE bridges.
I never checked whether the geography really allows such a house. But I still think fondly of that story of Swedish success.

Emil Ems said...

Dear Kari,
That's a tough one! Looking at the map, I don't think you can do it from a Berkeley location. However, the hills extend South a good distance along the Bay. I gather that our old friend Bent must have lodged in the upper reaches of Oakland, probably Piedmont. Even from there I judge it difficult, if not impossible, to see all five Bay bridges. But, with a bit of good will, you can count the Bay Bridge (going from Berkeley to San Francisco, and photographed on the upper picture of the posting) twice, since it consists essentially of two bridges, linked by Yerba Buena Island. If so, Bent probably lived in Piedmont or thereabouts and saw, counting from the North: (1) the Richmond Bridge; (2) the Golden Gate Bridge; (3) the "two" Bay Bridges; and (4) the San Mateo Bridge. So there, mission accomplished!

John Harte said...

Those equations on the board have a simple and unfortunate meaning: the Govt. of California will not even provide UC Berkeley with sufficient funding for basic janitorial services, so the boards are not cleaned up from previous lectures! Faculty are on furlough, library budgets are squeezed, but of course football is thriving.

kari_lantto said...

Thats the way it is: Never check too good a story too well. BH didn't even live in Berkeley, but Oakland; a lower class suburb?

Still he could count the cars on a lot of bridges? Well, lets not check that any further.

Emil Ems said...

Dear Kari,
I am very glad you made the remark "Oakland; a lower class suburb?", since this gives me the occasion to extemporate some more on Bay Area peculiarities.

Whereas Berkeley is the big exception to the US rule of maintaining cities, Oakland is indeed the rule. This means that, in one area, you can have both the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich. Whilst the downtown, as well as the low marches towards the Bay, is almost exclusively populated by the poor black community, the Hills tell a different story.

Going up there is like visiting a City in the Sky, with beautiful villas we could not even dream of possessing, a hotel shaped like a royal castle (the Claremont), shopping centers and schools that outshine our own and, last but not least, a "city park" consisting of nought else but a venerable Redwood forest. As of yore, there resided the mightiest Redwoods ever, so huge that they were used as landmarks for navigating the coast from far off the Bay. Even now, the third generation trees (after two logging circles) easily outperform the largest trees they can show us in Europe.

In these Eleusinian fields, the poshest among the posh surroundings is the quarter called "Piedmont", where I presume that our good old Bent was residing in style!

Lars Werin said...

Emil, it’s a pleasure reading about your strolls, adventures and contacts on and around the Berkeley Campus. But I take it as a duty for us, your grateful readers, to try to hook on and present some further aspects. They have to be trivial compared to what you are producing. So let me speak of eating in Berkeley. I have already recommended Restaurant Chez Panisse to you, and you tried it and found it acceptable. I came to think of another nice place, the Metropole, also at Shattuck Avenue (I think where the avenue broadens into a rectangular square). But when I looked it up on Google, I found that it has shut down rather recently, to the chagrin of many Berkeleyans as it was the first place in Berkeley that tried to deviate from the American steak house or Tex-Mex models. Sorry about that, but you save some money.

Now for a rather interesting thing. When I spent six weeks in Berkeley in the spring of 1982 (28 years ago!!) there were two faculty clubs on the campus, one for men, one for women, housed in different buildings. But a big revolution had occurred rather recently: the men’s club was opened for women as well, and vice versa. I was invited to the women’s club twice by male colleagues, and they said they took me there because the food was much better than in the men’s club. And certainly the food was excellent and the ambience great indeed. But perhaps my hosts just wanted to show that they were modern, non-prejudiced persons? I never went to the men’s club. Now compare with the campus at Stockholm University in the same period. There was no faculty club, and as soon as someone said there ought to be one, he or she was reprimanded. You can’t have a place where only teachers can eat and the students are not allowed. What a difference in outlook! How do we explain it? Note another difference: there is much, lively student activity going on in Berkeley — as obvious from your chronicles. Very little of that sort in Stockholm. Perhaps because of the climate? Now, long after I left Stockholm University a faculty club was indeed set up there. Times are a-changin’! I have had lunch there a few times, and it has struck me that about half the guests come from either the Department of Economics or the place that, misleadingly, is called the Institute for International Economic Studies. Are economists more affluent than other academics, more class-conscious, or?

Tamera said...

Hey Emil. Just a heads up on the Emergency Conference event. I was there too. Raymond Lotta did say something like 'We have a worked out strategy for Revolution' (not sure what he exactly said) but I did notice he pointed people to a pamphlet called "Revolution and Communism, A Foundation and Strategic Orientation."
It is something that I had read before the conference, and it does go into strategy for Revolution.
So if your serious about wanting to know-they have it at Revolution Books Berkeley for a couple bucks.
Also, man don't misrepresent what Lotta said, if you read the article that was around by him he laid out how you could begin changes. Not that the world would happily fall in line.
If you are unconvinced, thats cool.. and its your blog, I just think be unconvinced on the basis of what someone actually says.

Allright cheers
liked your pictures

kari_lantto said...

Getting curious aren't we? Where did Bent Hansen live? Actually I checked the econ. dep., but they only list current faculty. There are ways to find old pages of www, hmmm. An old phone-book would also do the trick?

It would make a worthy pilgrimage for you?

When I saw Oakland, I was there to sing with a black Gospel choir. The area was very flat and close to the sea. Few posh white people there.

Per Wijkman said...

Emil seeks him here, others seek him there
those dismal economists seek him everywhere.
Is he in Oakland
counting his rent
that ever-elusive professor Bent?

While Emil enthusiastically seeks to locate Bent Hansen's apartment overviewing five Bay-bridges, I have been engaged in the less exiting task of cleaning out the attic in preparation of a move.
Today I got to the boxes with economics books. Should I throw out such classiscs as Arrow, Baumol, Dorfman-Samuelson-Solow? Wiksell? I contemplate what to do with copies of dissertations or other writings which proud authors have kindly dedicated to me? And I barely dare mention the quandries I face about what to do with the few copies of texts which I myself am the modest author of. Judge therefore my relief when I come across Bent Hansen's two volumes of Lectures on economic policy published by Studentlitteratur and his Finanspolitikens ekonomiska teori, published by same, well-known to many of Emil's readers. This time the answer was easy. Feeling as though I had reseen an old friend I put these copies in the To Save Box. As I did so I could in my mind's eye see the bashful and reticent author reclining in a chair in his unknown apartment watching the sun set across the Bay while calculating in his head the number of cars passing per minute on the five bay bridges in the distance.

Emil! Please keep the travelogues coming!

Emil Ems said...

Dear Lars,
I am very pleased to welcome you back as commentator with your always welcome and this time also very gastronomical informations. Upon reading you, I immediately checked the UCB catalogue and found that, indeed, both the Men's and the Women's Faculty Club still exist. I will pay them a visit soon and report back to you, with pictures and all, at a future blog.

Dear Tamera,
Thank you kindly for reminding me that I am only human (who would have believed it) and may have overstepped the thin line between satire (a trait in my writing stemming, no doubt, from my Austrian background) and sarcasm. Following your comment, and in line with the admonishment "Gå till läggen!" (Go to the ledgers), issued by our famous Swedish Marxist/Leninist, I have revisited the video recording of Ray's speech, which can be watched at
Thereafter I have made some minor changes in the text, so as, whilst maintaining my slight satirical flavor, to stay firmly with reporting of what is my understanding of his words.

Dear Per,
Welcome back also to you, our most creative commentator, this time with poem and all! I will make sure to keep writing during the rest of my stay here in Berkeley, as long as my cherished commentators keep letting us know their reactions!