Category Archives: policy

Laurie Garrett on Flu pandemics, past and future

Courtesy of TED, we have some useful media bringing typically well-informed perspectives on the flu now unfolding. Let’s start of with a Q&A with Laurie Garrett, author of “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance”:

TED took 20 minutes with Laurie Garrett this afternoon to follow up on her TEDTalk from 2007, posted today, about pandemic flu. Garrett is the author of The Coming Plague, and a fellow on the Council for Foreign Relations who studied global health and emerging diseases. (As you can imagine, she is very busy this week.) We asked Garrett: What has changed since the last pandemic panic, 2007’s avian flu? What does she worry about now? And really, should we not wash our hands?

Read her responses on the TED website.

TED has also posted video of a lecture Garrett gave in 2007:

In 2007, as the world worried about a possible avian flu epidemic, Laurie Garrett, author of “The Coming Plague,” gave this powerful talk to a small TED University audience. Her insights from past pandemics are suddenly more relevant than ever.

What the global warming pigeons actually say to the cheshire cat

global-warming.jpgIf you are still scratching your head after yesterday’s post about Freeman Dyson and the pitfalls of the global warming debate, it might help to actually find out more about what the global warming “cassandras” are, and have been, shouting about. Are they really as far off as Prof. Dyson seems to think? Are the models and projections so completely unreliable as to be useless for setting even broad policies to contain our impacts on our environment? After all, the models do come with error estimates. And even Prof. Dyson agrees that the current observed warming is largely anthropogenic (a crucial point, for those on the right who might seize upon Dyson as another skeptic in their ilk) – he just disagrees about the consequences, and thinks we can invent our way out of the problem with biotechnology (e.g., carbon-eating trees – never mind actual plant physiology!). If the cause is agreed upon, why shouldn’t we start addressing that in the first place, especially if we are unsure about outcomes? Whatever happened to the precautionary principle, Prof. Dyson?  

As it happens, the National Academy of Sciences is hosting, right now (Mar 30-31), a summit on America’s Climate Choices! What’s more, as you’ll see if you click on that link, they are also webcasting (and archiving) the entire summit for everyone in the world to see. How about that for transparency in science and policy discussions? Here’s the complete agenda, so you can pick and choose which session to watch – but it should all be worthwhile for any citizen interested in what policy options are available and how choices may be made.

I’ve also found a small number of useful publications articulating the global warming argument (i.e., the argument for doing something to arrest/reverse it) made available freely as PDFs in recent months. These documents (all well-considered, sobering pieces, rather different in tone from Al Gore’s lecture/documentary) should at least help the naysayers understand where the IPCC/Hansen et al are coming from. These should get you started, if you are unfamiliar with or still skeptical about the case for worrying about global warming:

These may not be enough to convince the cognitively dissonant genius of Freeman Dyson, but they should do to get the rest of us ordinary folks thinking about what we should, collectively, do about it. If you’ve got other freely available resources to add to this list, let me know.