Quote of the Week

We have featured a few already, and there are some good ones here and here but we’re always looking for more! Quotes must be properly sourced (endless rumor mill attributions to Einstein and Churchill are not especially interesting) and germane to our interests.

If your submission is especially good we may use it for the Quote of the Week. You also get Planet Points, redeemable in good karma at the very least!


Comments:

  1. An even earlier formulation of the Dunning-Kruger effect:

    "The wise know their weakness too well to assume infallibility; and he who knows most, knows best how little he knows." Thomas Jefferson

  2. Charles Darwin knew all about the D-K effect:

    "It has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."

  3. Alas that's a common denier talking point: We know so little about climate etc... I've heard that ad nauseam, recently even from a permaculturist and I had to profoundly ridicule the poor friend. There's a major weak spot of climate science communication, inserting "likely" wherever possible. Like stressing that Earth is almost spherical.

    -----------
    Can I try to recall some of my own aphorisms? People often tell me to write up stuff. But then I forget.

  4. Alas that’s a common denier talking point: We know so little about climate etc… I’ve heard that ad nauseam, recently even from a permaculturist and I had to profoundly ridicule the poor friend.

    Yeah, the D-K effect means that "incompetent people will fail to recognize genuine skill in others" and "fail to recognize the extremity of their own inadequacy." The deniers know nothing and think that they know as much as the experts, while the experts know that what they know is little, but not nothing.

    Sometimes ridicule or acquiesence are the only options.

  5. Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

    Donald H. Rumsfeld Feb. 12 2002

    I'd say: It is good to know there are unknowns, it is better to know when you know enough.

  6. Whose job is it to communicate the implications of science to society? - author unknown

    If your position is at odds with reality, it's not progressive. Like, in growing cities, wanting housing to be cheap without building more of it. - Alex Steffen

    If you think a journalist is asking the wrong question, don't answer it - tell them what the right question is. - Ed Yong

    ..."balanced" coverage helped sustain the bogus claim that childhood vaccines can cause autism. - Curtis Brainard

    Big challenge: best hardball players are generally goal-agnostic; best visionaries generally lousy at movement discipline+killer instinct. - Alex Steffen

    To the extent that [some] policymakers and elite opinion....have made use of economic analysis..., they have...done so the way a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination. - Paul Krugman

    And as a citizen, is it your field? - Aaron Swartz

  7. I’ve learned not to argue too long with people who do not “believe in” human-made climate change. I figure it’s impossible to reason someone out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into.

    -- Mary Pipher, We Are All Climate Change Deniers; Almost all of us minimize or normalize our enormous global problems, Time.com

    via David Appell

  8. not a quote, but this addresses so much we refuse to acknowledge in every direction:

    http://xkcd.com/164/

    Also, this from Jonathan Nolan in The New Yorker (5/20/13) is too long and OT but too good not to share:

    We don’t live in the information age. That would be an insult to information, which, on some level, is supposed to inform. We live in the communication age. Ten billion fingers fumbling away ... each one an opportunity to offend, alienate, aggrieve, all in public, and at light speed. The misinterpretation age.

    Take the language itself. Texting in English is like propelling a gilded horse-drawn carriage onto the interstate. Subtlety, nuance, and ambiguity were luxuries of a less frantic era. And irony, a supposed hallmark feature, has become an invisible, odorless menace.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/05/20/130520fa_fact_nolan

  9. “A GREAT deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep,” the novelist Saul Bellow once wrote.

    Stolen from the NYTimes - article about war, but I believe the quote is free.

  10. Quotations? Oooh! I've got lots of those squirreled away. They're all over the place but here's one that was easy to find:

    "The predictions of severe impoverishment of the ecosystem and big impacts on the world socioeconomic structure are very legitimate, and in fact are quite legitimate claims of doom. A certain amount of hysteria is justified, indeed encouraged [at RealClimate]."

    -- Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, Nov 2006

    And, in contrast:

    "Climate change is a norm, not an exception. It is both an opportunity and a challenge. The real crises for 4 billion people in the world remain poverty, dirty water and the lack of a modern energy supply. By contrast, global warming represents an ecochondria of the pampered rich."

    -- Philip Stott, March 2007

  11. Here's a quickie from George Monbiot in, I think, 2007, after he had flown to North America to promote his book _Heat_:

    "The only reason for which I will fly is to campaign on climate change."

    Discuss. (OK. I'll bite. Should he have ditched in mid-Atlantic because half of the purpose of his book was to earn himself a living?)

  12. Roger Pielke, Jr, July 2009:

    "As I've argued many times, uncertainty is a far b[e]tter reason for justifying action than overhyped claims to certainty, or worse, claims that any possible behavior of the climate system is somehow 'consistent with' expectations. Policy makers and the public can handle uncertainty, its the nonsense they have trouble with."

  13. “Anyone Who Thinks Economic Growth Can Continue In A Finite World Is Either A Madman Or An Economist." Kenneth Boulding

    “It is not an investment if it destroys the planet” – Vandana Shiva

    “We are living on this planet like we have another one to go to” – Terri Swearingen

    “Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” ― Rachel Carson

    “Anything else you are interested in won’t matter if you can’t breathe the air or drink the water” – Carl Sagan

    “There are no passengers on space ship earth, we are all crew”- Marshall McLuhan

    “The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed” - Gandhi

    “Growth For The Sake Of Growth Is The Ideology Of A Cancer Cell” - Edward Abbey (1927 – 1989)

    “The more our world looks and function more like nature, the more likely we are to be accepted on this home that is ours, but not ours alone” – Benyus

    all via Navneet Gupta

    "When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world." ~ John Muir

  14. ... Susanna Sutherland, the woman brought in to head up the Office of Sustainability. While Klein, Lyons, and Rogero were spearheading the push for stimulus bucks, Sutherland was in charge of the city’s waterfront development project,

    .... Her undergrad and graduate education in environmental science, together with her intimate familiarity with Knoxville’s bureaucracy, made her ideally positioned to hit the sustainability ground running.

    Susanna didn’t have much time to wage an ideological war against climate deniers when there were pragmatic victories to be had. “Why politicize something when you can just do it?” she told me plaintively, looking up with tired eyes.

    sooooooooo ...

    “Why politicize something when you can just do it?”

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/07/31/2334471/knoxville-climate-change-conservative-clean-energy-green-red/

  15. The story is very good news. I just liked the quote, which in this case seems to need context to avoid silly arguments. It fits well into the current spate of arguments, too, as it represents a lot of people working together to get something useful done, and moving right outside a variety of comfort zones without distributing accusations and insults and bloviating.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/07/31/2334471/knoxville-climate-change-conservative-clean-energy-green-red/

  16. The question Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government. (...) the earth belongs in usufruct to the living; (...) no man can by natural right oblige the lands he occupied, or the persons who succeed him in that occupation, to the paiment of debts contracted by him. (...) What is true of every member of the society individually, is true of them all collectively, since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of individuals.

    Letter of Thomas Jefferson to James Madison Paris, Sep. 6, 1789
    http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/letters-of-thomas-jefferson/jefl81.php

  17. Resolved, that none of us know, or care to know, anything about grasses, native or otherwise, outside the fact that for the present there are lots of them, the best on record, and we are after getting the most out of them while they last.

    Resolution of a Texas stockmen meeting ca. 1898. Source: http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth2412/m1/13/

  18. 'For conservation to be successful it is necessary to take into consideration that it is a characteristic of man that he can only be relied upon to do anything consistently which is in his own interest. He may have occasional fits of conscience and moral rectitude but otherwise his actions are governed by self-interest. It follows then that whatever the moral reasons for conservation it will only be achieved by the inducement of profit or pleasure.'

    --Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; World Wildlife Fund British National Appeal Banquet, London (1962)

  19. 'If combustion continues to increase at present rates we will consume the oxygen of the atmosphere faster than it can be replaced. We can then calculate the day when we will wither like mice locked into a jar with a burning candle.'

    -- Ivan Illich, 1970

  20. Scientists should practice political advice in a sustainable manner – so that the communication and advice in a few years time can be done with the same credibility as today.

    -- Hans von Storch, 2010

  21. 'Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm – but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.'

    -- T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party, 1974

  22. Just noticed this one. I'm irresistably compelled to point out that the epigram "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into” is attributed to Jonathan Swift.

  23. Yeah. Sometimes it looks most intelligence all around gets invested in ego - which inevitably results in stupidity.

    Related quote: http://planet3.org/nominate-a-quotation-for-inclusion-in-our-quote-gallery/#comment-39255

    Chögyam Trungpa warns: Ego is able to convert everything to its own use, even spirituality.

  24. choke, giggle ... we hosted Chogyam Trungpa in the Santa Cruz mountains when I was a young thing. It was obvious he was having a bit of trouble with all the exposed female flesh while we lacked any self-awareness about the physical/cultural issues. ah to be young again ... though I would not like to revisit that naivete/stupidity ...

    He too appears to have matured a bit. Interesting how that happens. I'm lucky we didn't have instant media back then.

    (ot, sorry)

  25. "Civilization, on the other hand, might well collapse. A total collapse of modern civilization would be a serious blow to the already sluggish economy, and the economic damage could amount to $80 trillion per year (the total value of all human goods and services). All in all, it would have serious implications for the upcoming elections."

    XKCD "What If" on the result of dropping Mt Denali from the top of the Earth's gravity well.
    http://what-if.xkcd.com/57/

  26. “Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life... Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” --Rachel Carson

  27. "We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one “less traveled by”—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth."

    Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964) via Steven Earl Salmony

  28. Some Ayn Rand quotes:

    Ecology as a social principle . . . condemns cities, culture, industry, technology, the intellect, and advocates men’s return to “nature,” to the state of grunting subanimals digging the soil with their bare hands.

    (The Ayn Rand Letter, III, 25, 1)

    Now observe that in all the propaganda of the ecologists—amidst all their appeals to nature and pleas for “harmony with nature”—there is no discussion of man’s needs and the requirements of his survival. Man is treated as if he were an unnatural phenomenon. Man cannot survive in the kind of state of nature that the ecologists envision—i.e., on the level of sea urchins or polar bears . . .

    (Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 277 )

    The immediate goal is obvious: the destruction of the remnants of capitalism in today’s mixed economy, and the establishment of a global dictatorship. This goal does not have to be inferred—many speeches and books on the subject state explicitly that the ecological crusade is a means to that end.

    (Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 280 )

    It has been reported in the press many times that the issue of pollution is to be the next big crusade of the New Left activists, after the war in Vietnam peters out. And just as peace was not their goal or motive in that crusade, so clean air is not their goal or motive in this one.

    (Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 167 )

    All found here: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/ecology-environmental_movement.html
    This is almost as addictive as A.H.'s Mein Kampf or a speech by Erich Honecker. Some more:

    Man cannot survive on the perceptual level of his consciousness; his senses do not provide him with an automatic guidance, they do not give him the knowledge he needs, only the material of knowledge, which his mind has to integrate. Man is the only living species who has to perceive reality—which means: to be conscious—by choice. But he shares with other species the penalty of unconsciousness: destruction. For an animal, the question of survival is primarily physical; for man, primarily epistemological.

    (For the New Intellectual, 15 )
    http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/man.html

    I don't dare look what she wrote on sex...

  29. "There is no wealth but life" - John Ruskin

    "Endurance is nobler than strength, and patience than beauty." - John Ruskin

    "And besides; the problem of land, at its worst, is a bye one; distribute the earth as you will, the principal question remains inexorable, —Who is to dig it? Which of us, in brief word, is to do the hard and dirty work for the rest, and for what pay?" - John Ruskin

    "Ask a great money-maker what he wants to do with his money, — he never knows. He doesn't make it to do anything with it. He gets it only that he may get it. "What will you make of what you have got?" you ask. "Well, I'll get more," he says. Just as at cricket, you get more runs. There's no use in the runs, but to get more of them than other people is the game. So all that great foul city of London there, — rattling, growling, smoking, stinking, — a ghastly heap of fermenting brickwork, pouring out poison at every pore, — you fancy it is a city of work? Not a street of it! It is a great city of play; very nasty play and very hard play, but still play." - John Ruskin

    "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do." - John Ruskin

    "Your honesty is not to be based either on religion or policy. Both your religion and policy must be based on it. Your honesty must be based, as the sun is, in vacant heaven; poised, as the lights in the firmament, which have rule over the day and over the night." - John Ruskin

    "In general, when the imagination is at all noble, it is irresistible, and therefore those who can at all resist it ought to resist it. Be a plain topographer if you possibly can; if Nature meant you to be anything else, she will force you to it; but never try to be a prophet." - John Ruskin

    "Primarily, which is very notable and curious, I observe that men of business rarely know the meaning of the word 'rich'. At least, if they know, they do not in their reasoning allow for the fact, that it is a relative word, implying its opposite 'poor' as positively as the word 'north' implies its opposite 'south'. Men nearly always speak and write as if riches were absolute, and it were possible, by following certain scientific precepts, for everybody to be rich. Whereas riches are a power like that electricity, acting only through inequalities or negations of itself. The force of the guinea you have in your pockets depends wholly on the default of a guinea in your neighbour's pocket. If he did not want it, it would be of no use to you; the degree of power it possesses depends accurately upon the need or desire he has for it,— and the art of making yourself rich, in the ordinary mercantile economist's sense, is therefore equally and necessarily the art of keeping your neighbour poor. " - John Ruskin

    "Suppose any person to be put in possession of a large estate of fruitful land, with rich beds of gold in its gravel; countless herds of cattle in its pastures; houses, and gardens, and storehouses full of useful stores; but suppose, after all, that he could get no servants? In order that he may be able to have servants, some one in his neighbourhood must be poor, and in want of his gold — or his corn. Assume that no one is in want of either, and that no servants are to be had. He must, therefore, bake his own bread, make his own clothes, plough his own ground, and shepherd his own flocks. His gold will be as useful to him as any other yellow pebbles on his estate. His stores must rot, for he cannot consume them. He can eat no more than another man could eat, and wear no more than another man could wear. He must lead a life of severe and common labour to procure even ordinary comforts; he will be ultimately unable to keep either houses in repair, or fields in cultivation; and forced to content himself with a poor man's portion of cottage and garden, in the midst of a desert of waste land, trampled by wild cattle, and encumbered by ruins of palaces, which he will hardly mock at himself by calling "his own."" - John Ruskin

    "We shall be remembered in history as the most cruel, and therefore the most unwise, generation of men that ever yet troubled the earth: — the most cruel in proportion to their sensibility, — the most unwise in proportion to their science. No people, understanding pain, ever inflicted so much: no people, understanding facts, ever acted on them so little." - John Ruskin (if only he knew)

  30. It's as if Rand, and her legion of disciples, never heard of externalities. It's easy to understand why Libertarianism appeals to a robber baron, whose private benefit is proportional to his ability to socialize cost, but what's the profit motive for ideologues like Rand?

  31. “Suppose any person to be put in possession of a large estate of fruitful land, with rich beds of gold in its gravel; countless herds of cattle in its pastures; houses, and gardens, and storehouses full of useful stores; but suppose, after all, that he could get no servants? In order that he may be able to have servants, some one in his neighbourhood must be poor, and in want of his gold — or his corn. Assume that no one is in want of either, and that no servants are to be had. He must, therefore, bake his own bread, make his own clothes, plough his own ground, and shepherd his own flocks. His gold will be as useful to him as any other yellow pebbles on his estate. His stores must rot, for he cannot consume them. He can eat no more than another man could eat, and wear no more than another man could wear. He must lead a life of severe and common labour to procure even ordinary comforts; he will be ultimately unable to keep either houses in repair, or fields in cultivation; and forced to content himself with a poor man’s portion of cottage and garden, in the midst of a desert of waste land, trampled by wild cattle, and encumbered by ruins of palaces, which he will hardly mock at himself by calling “his own.”"

    But now we have machines so our potential for depradation has become technically unlimited.

  32. Up to a point, that's true. We don't yet have self-building and self-maintaining machines. Also, even in the UK some parts of agriculture depend on low paid immigrant labour. And that's not getting into nannies, gardeners, cleaners, etc.. 😉

  33. "I think we really need to revisit the whole notion of using permafrost as a waste containment medium." -- Steve Kokelj
    Source: CBC News "Oil and gas waste leaking into N.W.T. lakes, study shows"
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/oil-and-gas-waste-leaking-into-n-w-t-lakes-study-shows-1.2418767

  34. "Just as with other great words, the word environment means different things. You might say that a cave woman twenty thousand years ago sweeping out the cave was improving the environment. Many people improving the environment think only in terms of the air they breathe in their hometown and the water in the aquifer under their hometown. My guess is very few are thinking centuries ahead or thousand of years ahead, but that’s what we have to do."

    Pete Seeger


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  1. 'We are not talking about going backwards, but forwards. The stubborn resistance to progress with clean energy does not speak well of the hearts and minds of those promoting big fossil. I wonder if most of them know how much money and skill has been poured into persuading them not to think or be curious. And they call themselves "skeptics".'

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