Briefly Noted (1 Aug 2019)

Recent Posts

  • Primitivism and Demography — While demography involves some of the most controversial political issues, they are also some of the most important. But primitivism provides a unique insight to the issues by posing the question: more artificial management, or more natural management?
  • The Primitivist Tradition — A rough text that outlines the bounds of the general primitivist tradition.
  • Response to “Humanism or Antihumanism?” — Final set of clarifications regarding the relevance of humanism.


Wilderness and the American Mind, Roderick Nash — The “bible of the wilderness movement.” Addresses the progression of American sentiments toward wilderness specifically, but touches on the development of these attitudes worldwide. He begins with opinions in ancient civilizations; moves on to the discovery of the New World; the pioneer era; the Romantic movement; the creation of a “wilderness cult” in the U.S. and its development into the wilderness conservation movement; major figures like Muir, Thoreau, and Leopold; important events like Hetch Hetchy and Glen Canyon; the creation of a biocentrism; and developing international opinions on wilderness. He helps demonstrate the presence of a primitivist impulse in the wilderness movement, although he focuses mainly on the Romantic movement in this regard. He does not shy away from difficult facts of wilderness conservation, such as its origin in wealthy, urban populations alienated from nature; or the economic incentives that make wilderness preservation a possibility. His epilogue, “island civilization,” is a precursor to current ecomodernist ideas, which I have addressed in my review of Green Delusions and an older article, “Refuting the Apartheid Alternative.”

UNESCO: Its Purpose and Philosophy, Julian Huxley — An extremely revealing book, it outlines Huxley’s vision of a world society and UNESCO’s role in making it happen. Covers such topics as behavior control, psychological repression, the value of cultural history and art, eugenics, and education. Most useful because it makes clear what the project of world society entails and humanism’s relation to it.

World Society, John Burton — Much less useful than I thought it would be. It was popularized as a biological perspective of human needs in relation to world society. In fact the section covering that topic is short and superficial. Mostly an introductory text to basic problems in international relations, and not even a very thorough one.

Civilized Man’s Eight Deadly Sins, Konrad Lorenz — Outlines the straight-line of old guard green thought. Useful as an introduction to a handful of the most commonly-cited problems in green politics, and for its insights into how people of the 60s and 70s were talking about the issues. Lorenz is at times unnecessarily academic and preachy, but he apologizes for this in the introduction. Maybe good to recommend to newcomers, but boring to those already familiar with the basics.

On the Web

How E-Commerce Sites Manipulate You Into Buying Things You May Not WantNew York Times — An article on a recent study on dark patterns on the web. Those interested in the topic might also check out the Dark Patterns website.

Confirmed: NASA Has Been HackedForbes — “…the hackers apparently got as far as the Deep Space Network (DSN) array of radio telescopes and numerous other JPL systems.”

When Myspace Was King, Employees Abused a Tool Called ‘Overlord’ to Spy on UsersVice

The Internet Is Increasingly a Low-Trust SocietyWIRED

How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing ScienceQuanta — “The latest AI algorithms are probing the evolution of galaxies, calculating quantum wave functions, discovering new chemical compounds and more. Is there anything that scientists do that can’t be automated?”

Exploitation, Conservation and Misconceptions: A History of the National Wildlife Refuge SystemModern Conservationist

Tech journalists troubled by Assange computer intrusion chargeCPJ

Climate protesters storm Garzweiler coalmine in GermanyBBC

Amazon patents ‘surveillance as a service’ tech for its delivery dronesThe Verge

Hacked documents reveal sensitive details of expanding border surveillanceThe Washington Post

Electronic Expansion of Human Perception, Whole Earth Catalog — Get brief historical context at the author’s website.

Edward Abbey Needs No Defense: A Response to Amy Irvine’s “Desert Cabal”… by Tonya Audyn Stiles, The Canyon County Zephyr — A review and response to a social justice critique of Edward Abbey

The Most Controversial Tree in the WorldPacific Standard — Is the genetically engineered chestnut tree an act of ecological restoration or a threat to wild forests?

The Most Dangerous Possible GermanThe New Atlantis — On the ambiguous legacy of Werner Heisenberg, quantum genius and would-be inventor of the Nazi A-bomb

Why Our Postwar “Long Peace” Is FragileNautilus 

Man-Computer Symbiosis, IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics — One of the early cybernetic texts speculating on a merger between biology and technology. For a review of this kind of thinking for a popular audience, see Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control

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