After a week away, I’m back in the UK, and heard BBC’s Start The Week for the first time in ages; Andrew Marr introducing Robert Fisk, Bjorn Lomborg, Simon Winchester and Clare Carolin. An excellent edition.
Ostensibly focussing on natural disasters like the current Pakistan earthquake, and the place of humans in the grip of nature, in fact Robert Fisk started on about his new book “The Great War for Civilisation”. Specific interest for me, apart from Fisk’s own insights including three interviews with Bin Laden, is his view of Balfour and Sykes-Picot and the history of Middle East conflict. Understanding background to the Balfour Agreement is the reason I’m reading Barbara Tuchman’s Bible and the Sword, and of course Sykes-Picot is a main thread in my obsession with hero T E Lawrence.
Much maligned Lomborg is focussing on priorities in the way we address global natural and economic issues, in obtaining “value” for our efforts, rather than diving headlong into a too negative reaction to “global warming”. 40,000 dead in one telegenic earthquake is just two days worth of curable, communicable diseases in East Asia, for example.
Winchester’s book “A Crack in the Edge of the World” concerns persistent human occupation of dangerous natural locations, and the long learning curve before peoples abandon untenable locations like New Orleans, Beirut and San Francisco, and on the contrary the pull of these locations whose beauty stems from being close to the edge. (Another angle is the religious / political response to handling natural disasters – blaming theistic wrath vs employing pragmatic management … Lisbon, Christians and Voltaire, Krakatoa and Moslems, San Francisco and Rationality included … interesting.)
Spookily I was flying over central Pakistan and Afghanistan local time Saturday morning. Anyway, lots of grist to the connectedness of values applied to both nature and culture. Which is the main contribution to the loss of 40,000 in Pakistan – the natural earthquake or the cheap construction of public schools – and how much of the latter is corrupt conspiracy or ignorant cock-up ? Twas ever thus.
BTW – Travel is Torture – etymology of travel, travail (hard work), trapalium (instrument of torture)
(Exhibitions bring the world to people, so they don’t have to travel the world.)