Nations of the Learned

When I describe the schools that barefoot rural children once attended, in the USA of 1900 or the Ireland of the 1950s, everyone assumes their education would be pathetic — the “three Rs,” … This belief … crumbles the instant one reads descriptions of schools from a century ago

What the H5N1 scare tells us about ourselves and our society

I don’t know whether there is an H5N1 “bird flu” pandemic in our future. We humans think we can build moats around our modern way of life that protect us from the natural world. All the while we have actually been building the equivalent of superhighways into the heart of human society everywhere due to our dense living arrangements and global travel and trade.

Boondoggle Watch: Carbon capture great for making things worse, study finds

As global society advances further and further into its energy, resource and climate predicament, we can count on the creation of ever more ingenious boondoggles. This is because truly effective responses would require sacrifices and much more intensified cooperation. It is much easier and more fun to contemplate how our myriad boondoggles are going usher in an era of plenty and a stable environment.

Singing lessons

Most people never sing aloud anymore, except meekly in church, and snicker at those who do. Older people, though, can remember people whistling as they swept the streets, everyone singing at the pub, neighbours gathering at each other’s homes in the evenings to sing, or people gathering around a deathbed to caoin.

The world made by hand

In the cellar of my parent’s house sit a series of tools that have served my father and grandfather and great-grandfather, for they were created before the throwaway world was conceived. … They were made for a nation of craftsmen, of people who bore in themselves the power that all humans once had, to reshape wood and hide and stone into a human landscape.