Justifying Al Gore's Nobel Prize

Soob asked me to justify the Nobel Peace Prize committee awarding the Nobel Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC scientists, and so that is what I will do.

First of all you can watch a 10-minute interview with Geir Lundestad (noted historian and director of the Nobel Institute) about the connection between climate change and peace. He makes the connection by pointing to the desertification of the Sahel and the conflicts that has caused.

The logic of Al Gore's Nobel is pretty straightforward. Climate change is related to war, Al Gore has raised awareness of climate change and helped efforts to combat it, therefore Al Gore has helped prevent future wars. In this post, I will once again establish the link between climate change, and war and peace. Then I will show the impact Al Gore had on raising the awareness of climate change, thus justifying Al Gore in particular for the award.

There are dozens of links between climate change and issues of war and peace, but for the sake of brevity I will look at resource wars, refugees, and state failure.

Climate change will indirectly cause resource wars by shifting resources between countries (one country's arable land becomes desert, while Siberia becomes farmable). I've looked at the link between climate change and resource wars before in a post highlighting an article by David Zhang on climate changes' impact on war frequency in China:
...when societies adapt to a certain amount of resources, anything that leads to constraints on those resources will lead to conflict. Thus, current global climate change will most likely lead to conflict, even though it is warming rather than cooling. Human civilization has adjusted to climate of a hundred years ago. Any sudden shift that leads to a constriction on resources, whether its oil, arable land, housing, or water, will lead to conflict over that resource.
There are several different types of resource wars. Some wars are fought as simple grabs for resources, such as Charles Taylor's efforts to dominate diamond mining in Liberia, Foday Sankoh's similar efforts in Sierra Leone, and Saddam Hussein's effort to grab Kuwaiti oil. At other times, the theft of resources is what allows a previously-existing insurgency to continue - that is what is currently happening in Iraq with oil smuggling.

Both types are relevant to climate change-triggered conflict, but most relevant is another type of conflict that develops over resources which were previously not valuable, but which some sudden change renders more value. One recent instance of this in the news is the military positioning between Canada, the United States, Norway, Denmark, and Russia over 'ownership' of the Arctic Sea. Now that the icecap is melting, the Arctic sea is suddenly valuable for shipping routes and the oil hidden underneath. In my opinion, war is unlikely in this case, but it serves as a high-profile example of the dynamics at work. ComingAnarchy has been following this with posts here, here and here. Resource wars could also break out over other resources, such as livable land, arable land, water, etc.

Next, climate change and refugees. This is a very simple causal link - climate change will directly create more refugees through more extreme weather such as droughts and hurricanes (Katrina's strength may or may not have been impacted by climate change, but the IPCC states that it's "likely that future tropical cyclones will become more intense" due to climate change). Norman Myers forsees up to 150 million "environmental refugees" in the coming years due to global warming and population growth (Norman Myers. Environmental refugees in a globally warmed world. Bioscience, 43:11). Helping refugees is a cause worth of a Nobel in the past (the 1954 prize went to the UNHCR).

Related to refugees is the link between climate change and state failure. Climate change will also cause more war because the burden of refugees on already weak states will lead to state failure, civil war, insurgency and conflict. One of the factors that defines state failure is a large presence of refugees, so the relationship is QED.

Now, time to show that Al Gore significantly raised awareness of climate change. I think this is pretty self-evident, but if there are any doubters out there, I did some simple research through Lexis Nexis. I used newspaper coverage as a proxy variable to look at public awareness. I looked at the number of articles referenced either "climate change" or "global warming" in the period of May 24 2005 to May 24 2006, and compared it with the number of articles that reference "climate change" or "global warming" between May 24 2006 to May 24 2007. The significance of May 24 2006 is that it is the release date of An Inconvenient Truth, so it compares a year before to a year after. Here's the data:

Media sourceYear previousYear after% increase
New York Times708131185.17%
Washington Post568113399.47%
Financial Times890162782.81%
AP wire reports6761866176.04%

This establishes correlation, not causation. However, in skimming a lot of the articles from both time periods, the articles were about Gore anyway, so in my mind that shows causation. (If that doesn't satisfy you, do your own research!)


(climate change is directly related to war)


(Al Gore caused a huge increased in the public awareness of climate change)


(Al Gore contributed to a huge step
to the prevention of future climate change wars)

And that is an accomplishment worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Reactionary anthropologists

A followup on my previous posts on anthropologists at war.
The New York Times published an oped by Richard Shweder, an anthropology professor at the University of Chicago, on the contribution of anthropologists to American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan (via Abu Muqawama). Professor Shweder frames the current debate between "help US military efforts" on one side and "US government evil and corrupting" on the other side. He concludes:
The real issue is how our profession is going to begin to play a far more significant educational role in the formulation of foreign policy, in the hope that anthropologists won’t have to answer some patriotic call late in a sad day to become an armed angel riding the shoulder of a misguided American warrior.
A good point, but how are you going to build the significance of anthropology as a discipline if you don't want anthropologists to work for the branches of government most relevant? It seems to me that a substantial portion of American academics would prefer the purity of irrelevance to dirtying themselves with relevancy to policy:
While often presented by its proponents as work that builds a more secure world, protects US soldiers on the battlefield, or promotes cross-cultural understanding... such work breaches relations of openness and trust with the people anthropologists work with around the world and, directly or indirectly, enables the occupation of one country by another.

Colbert, Edwards spar in South Carolina

Stephen Colbert, candidate for President, campaigned in South Carolina today, declaring "I love South Carolina almost as much as South Carolina loves me." However, he has 'clashed' with actual candidate for President John Edwards, who's campaign released the following statement:
"What is more troubling than his quest for a status his own mother won't grant him (favorite son) are his ties to the salty food industry," Wells said. "As the candidate of Doritos, his hands are stained by corporate corruption and nacho cheese. John Edwards has never taken a dime from taco chip lobbyists and America deserves a President who isn't in the pocket of the snack food special interests."
There was no immediate reply from the Colbert campaign (possibly because it does not exist).

Also, see Colbert's appearance on Meet the Press.

MLS playoffs!

The Revolution's regular season is over. Here are the top ten goals of the year (from Blue Blooded Journo). Jeff Larentowicz gets numbers 2 and 3 - but nothing can top Michael Parkhurst's goal against Toronto last week.

Now it's on to the playoffs. The Revs play the first leg of the home-and-away series with New York at Giants Stadium tomorrow night at 7.30PM. It's on Fox Soccer Channel. For me and 10,000 other people in New England, this takes priority over the Red Sox World Series game at 8PM, although hopefully I'll find somewhere that will show both. After all, with the success of the Red Sox and Patriots, the Revolution are now the cursed team of New England (3 MLS Cup appearances, 3 losses, all in overtime or penalty-kicks).

Michael Parkhurst, wonder goal

Michael Parkhurst of the New England Revolution is leading a charmed life. He's a professional soccer player, playing for the team he supported as a child (his parents took him to the first-ever Revolution game). He won Rookie of the Year in 2005, and he's also won fan awards for his charity work. He's also recently been called to play for the United States. And now, finally, he's being compared to David Beckham.

Parkhurst, a defender, had never scored a goal as a professional until now. He scored on his first ever shot. Take a look:

For comparison:

David Beckham:

Dwayne De Rosario:

These people vote...

Video from Crooks and Liars. The face of the authoritarian follower is shown by this video (wmv).

There are three requirements for what Bob Altemeyer calls "Right-wing Authoritarianism". They are:
  1. Authoritarian submission (unquestioning submission to authority)
  2. Authoritarian aggression (basically the Two Minutes Hate)
  3. Conventionalism (mindlessly following social conventions)
In this video, we see numbers 1 and 2 on clear display. First, aggression:
"I think people have very long memories about Bill Clinton and what it was like to live through that hell..."

"Going through Hillary Clinton is just nothing but socialists and communism."

"Hillary Clinton does not have American values... to her, everything's the world, not the United States, we're not important."

"If Clinton has the opportunity, she'll end America as we know it."
Second, submission:
Q: "Why Giuliani?"
A: "He is strong. He's strong, he's what we need."
Readers of this blog will know I love to hate on Giuliani. It's because he scares me. However, just as scary are his followers.

Meet Iraq's new soccer coach

The Norwegian Egil Roger Olsen will be the Iraqi soccer team's new coach. He's an experienced coach who, as coach of Norway, has beaten Brazil and taken Norway to the #2 ranking in the world by playing boring football (long balls, defensive and counterattacking, etc.). He has a three year contract, meaning unless he is fired for poor results, he'll be coaching Iraq through the Confederations Cup, World Cup qualifying, and hopefully the World Cup itself. Iraq is training in Kurdistan for security reasons - I guess in Kurdistan there is less of a risk of being assassinated for the crime of being an athlete.

This is good news for Younis Mahmoud, captain of the Iraqi team and scorer of the winning goal in Iraq's Asian Cup triumph. Younis is a big target-forward who can hold up the ball or turn and run and score. He will fit well with Olsen's philosophy of long balls over the top to a lone striker.

Reidar Vasser, a Norwegian historian, has some interesting thoughts on Olsen's appointment.

Germany vs. Israel U-21

Here are the highlights from the game Ashkan Dejagah opted out of:

Perhaps if he had played, Germany might have won. Also, I might take Israeli anger over Dejagah's refusal to travel to Israel more seriously if more Israelis had showed up to watch the game.

Ashkan Dejagah's dilemma

Ashkan Dejagah, a talented German-Iranian soccer player, plays for VfL Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga. He's been called up to the German youth national teams a number of times, where he's had some success. Recently he's created a bit of controversy by refusing to travel with the team to play a game in Israel. Iranian law forbids Iranians from traveling to Israel. Dejagah still has family back in Iran, and apparently fears being barred from visiting his relatives back in Iran if he has an Israeli stamp on his passport. He has also said that there are "political reasons. Everyone knows I'm a German Iranian."

Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath has "released" ("Ich habe dem Spieler freigegeben") Dejagah from training with the team so that the rest of the team can "train in peace" ("wir in Ruhe trainieren wollten").

The Central Council of Jews in Germany, as well as a senior member of the Christian Democratic Union (of which Chancellor Angela Merkel is a member), wants Dejagah banned from the national team in retribution. I wouldn't be surprised if that happens, but I also feel that would be way overboard. Essentially they would be forcing Dejagah to choose between abandoning a (very bright) future on the German national team, and never visiting his family or his home country again. I don't think that's a decision a 21 year old should be forced to make.

A lot of issues at play - the political value of soccer matches, the effect on team morale if one player says "no thanks" to the national team for specific games, the identity of an immigrant, Germany's guilt over the Holocaust, and Iran's stupid policy of banning entry to people who have visited Israel.

Fox News and Atheism

Via Crooks and Liars, I just saw a bunch of clips of Fox News' treatment of a new Air America radio show called FreeThought Radio, geared towards atheists (hey, we got a radio show! We got a Congressman! Next stop, the world!). FoxNews was comically biased, with the anchors having a very snarky tone of voice, saying that it's a "stab in the dark" by Air America because they just filed Chapter 11 and are looking for anything to get listeners, deeming it a "War on God," and showing images of Al Franken (who has nothing to do with the show and is no longer on the network since he's running for Senate in Minnesota). However the Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green was surprisingly balanced, offering unsolicited corrections of the 10 second blurbs Fox had been showing throughout the day.

Also, some atheists are attempting to rebrand themselves as brights - basically someone who doesn't believe in supernatural stuff. Originally I thought this was kind of a dumb name, but Pat convinced me otherwise. And in terms of rebranding I think it's a good idea. The word "atheist" means literally "NOT someone who believes in god". The identity of brights rather than atheists creates a positive identity - a naturalistic, as opposed to supernatural, worldview, someone whose ethics are based on a naturalistic world view.

Funny but sad

Via Ethan Zuckerman's blog (direct quote from my sister yesterday: "I would be a lot smarter if I read Ethan's blog more often"), we have "the best thing on the internet."

In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

Laugh it up! Cultural and geographic illiteracy is one of the major reasons why we need smart people to tell us how to operate in foreign cultures, whether that's Lonely Planet writing guidebooks for tourists or anthropologists providing intelligence to the military. My gut (which is never wrong) tells me that some of the reason why Americans ignore the world is that we feel safe in doing so in our unipolar moment - we are powerful enough to ignore the world, and our country is big enough that you can vacation all your life without going abroad. This creates a cycle in which our ratings-driven news business ignores world news to go after the lowest common denominator, which means that Americans never know why they need to know (it took four years to create Human Terrain Teams)... the media is run by the invisible hand of the free market, but one of the preconditions of that market is the information required to make a good choice. But the media is the institution that's supposed to provide that information in the first place....


More on anthropology in war

The New York Times has an article up that I missed on my post on anthropologists in Iraq yesterday: "Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones." Mostly it deals with Afghanistan:
The anthropology team here also played a major role in what the military called Operation Khyber. That was a 15-day drive late this summer in which 500 Afghan and 500 American soldiers tried to clear an estimated 200 to 250 Taliban insurgents out of much of Paktia Province, secure southeastern Afghanistan’s most important road and halt a string of suicide attacks on American troops and local governors.

In one of the first districts the team entered, Tracy identified an unusually high concentration of widows in one village, Colonel Woods said. Their lack of income created financial pressure on their sons to provide for their families, she determined, a burden that could drive the young men to join well-paid insurgents. Citing Tracy’s advice, American officers developed a job training program for the widows.

In another district, the anthropologist interpreted the beheading of a local tribal elder as more than a random act of intimidation: the Taliban’s goal, she said, was to divide and weaken the Zadran, one of southeastern Afghanistan’s most powerful tribes. If Afghan and American officials could unite the Zadran, she said, the tribe could block the Taliban from operating in the area.

“Call it what you want, it works,” said Colonel Woods, a native of Denbo, Pa. “It works in helping you define the problems, not just the symptoms.”

SCARED - Concerned Anthropologists

Academia and government are two very separate cultures. As Sandy Berger noted, there isn't much cross-pollination (to the detriment of both), and the Network of Concerned Anthropologists would like to keep it that way, at least where their profession would be most useful:
We, the undersigned, believe that anthropologists should not engage in research and other activities that contribute to counter-insurgency operations in Iraq or in related theaters in the “war on terror.
These anthropologists believe that they have a bond of openness and trust with "studied populations" and that assisting American counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq would harm those bonds.

The Small Wars Journal posted a response from the Seriously Concerned Anthropologists for a Ridiculously Enfeebled Defense (SCARED):
Pledge of Non-participation in Counter-insurgency

We, the undersigned, believe that anthropologists should not engage in research and other activities that contribute to counter-insurgency (COIN) operations in Iraq or in related theaters in the “war on terror.” While some people say COIN reduces the need for massive bombing that results in untold civilian casualties, we say we will not get our hands dirty even if it saves lives.

US military and intelligence agencies and military contractors have identified “cultural knowledge,” “ethnographic intelligence,” and “human terrain mapping” as essential to US-led military intervention in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. We prefer that they remain hopelessly ignorant and ineffective, thereby dragging out the war on terror and multiplying the death count. Rather than instilling cultural understanding in US military operations, we prefer that soldiers in the battlefield never learn to distinguish ordinary peaceful Arab and Muslim culture from the death cult of suicide terror and insurgency.

Today's US military practices the cultural imperialism that privileges some native peoples (the so-called "moderates") at the expense of others (the so-called "terrorists"). But, as anthropologists, we know that such normative evaluations are inherently subjective and we refuse to abet such cultural hegemony. Rather than impose the normative American value structures (such as "freedom" and "democracy") on foreign peoples, it is our responsibility to allow competing normative schemes (such as "fascism" and "theocracy") to assert their normal roles in such societies without the interference of colonialist Western powers.
Marcus Griffin (who to my knowledge has no connection with SCARED) is an anthropologist working with US forces in Iraq who maintains a blog (I wish he would update more but I guess he has more important things to do). He has some good posts on what his work means for anthropology more generally, such as whether it puts other anthropologists in danger, and a response to criticism from one of the founders of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.

Snakes on a plane

I'm posting from my parent's house in Massachusetts. I flew up to Boston last night on the shuttle from DCA to Logan, and on my plane were Senator Kerry and Representative Ed Markey. They both flew coach, and Kerry was actually in my row. I tried to switch seats with the woman next to him but she wouldn't let me, despite apparently having no idea who she was sitting next to. Kerry was reading Norman Podhoretz's screed "World War IV" and taking notes. I'm heartened that Kerry actually seeks out opposing opinions - Sun Tzu advises "know your enemy." Markey was reading the Boston Globe's Sports section - he's a big Sox fan. I had a couple chances to go up to Markey, who I interned for a few years ago, and introduce myself, but unfortunately I wimped out.

As Markey and Kerry walked down the deserted terminal last night they were talking about five-percent increases in efficiency rates in something-or-other. I feel comforted knowing that my state's Congressional delegation is a bunch of geeks (although that political geekdom is why Kerry isn't President right now).

And contrast to the title of this post, I don't think Markey and Kerry are snakes - it's just a funny title.

The Cup

Wells Thompson scoring the winning goal.

Lifting the trophy. That's Big Red there in the middle, aka Jeff Larentowicz.

A trophy!

A trophy at last!

The Revolution won their first-ever trophy, winning the US Open Cup championship by beating FC Dallas 3-2.

Prior to this victory, the Revolution had never won a trophy in their twelve year history, despite playing in three MLS Cup finals and one previous Open Cup final - they lost four finals in six years. Some of us were beginning to think that owner Bob Kraft was trying to create a curse around the Revs as a marketing strategy.

I watched the game in an empty bar with one other interested soccer fan (a DC United fan) and three people watching a hockey game. Such is the life of a dedicated soccer fan in this country.

On to the MLS Cup!