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!
Saturday, 1 May 2010
EARTH DAY A LA BERKELEY
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.
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!
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!