You Don’t Have to Be Complicit in Our Culture of Destruction – The New York Times

“People feel a kind of longing for a belonging to the natural world,” says the author and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer. “It’s related to, I think, some of the dead ends that we have created for ourselves that don’t have a lot of meaning.” In part to share a potential source of meaning, Kimmerer, who is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and a professor at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, published her essay collection, “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.” That book, which was put out by Milkweed Editions, a small Minnesota nonprofit press, and which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, has more than done its job. “Braiding Sweetgrass” has now been a yearslong presence on best-seller lists, with more than 1.4 million copies in print across various formats, and its success has allowed Milkweed to double in size. Given the urgency of climate change, it’s very unlikely that the appetite for the book’s message of ecological care and reciprocity will diminish anytime soon. “As we’ve learned,” says Kimmerer, who is 69, “there are lots of us who think this way.”

There’s a certain kind of writing about ecology and balance that can make the natural world seem like this placid place of beauty and harmony. But the natural world is also 

 Do you think your work, which is so much about the beauty and harmony side of things, romanticizes nature? Or, maybe more to the point, do you think it matters if it does? I am deeply aware of the fact that my view of the natural world is colored by my home place. Where I live, here in Maple Nation,2 is really abundant. We live in a place full of berries and fruits. So thinking about the land-as-gift in perhaps this romantic way would come more naturally to me than to someone who lives in a desert, where you can have the sense that the land is out to kill you as opposed to care for you. That’s absolutely true. But I don’t think that’s the same as romanticizing nature. Of course the natural world is full of forces that are so-called destructive. I think about Aldo Leopold’s3  often-quoted line, “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” But those destructive forces also end up often to be agents of change and renewal. It is a mistake to romanticize the living world, but it is also a mistake to think of the living world as adversarial.”

The Father of the Abortion Pill – Dr. Étienne-Émile Baulieu – The New York Times

Pam Belluck, who has been writing about reproductive health for over a decade, reported this article from Paris.

12 MIN READ

“When the idea struck him, nearly 50 years ago, Dr. Étienne-Émile Baulieu believed it could be revolutionary. Creating a pill that could abort a pregnancy would transform reproductive health care, he thought, allowing women to avoid surgery, act earlier and carry out their decisions in private.

“When science meets women’s cause, it is irresistible,” Dr. Baulieu, 96, a French endocrinologist and biochemist often called the father of the abortion pill, said on a recent Sunday afternoon in his apartment in a century-old building a short walk from the Eiffel Tower.

He had also hoped, as he wrote in a 1990 book, that by the 21st century, “paradoxically, the ‘abortion pill’ might even help eliminate abortion as an issue.”

That prospect seems as distant as ever, especially in the United States. Not only has abortion remained fiercely contentious since the pill Dr. Baulieu spearheaded, mifepristone, was approved in America in 2000, but last year’s Supreme Court decision ending the federal right to abortion has divided the country over the issue as never before.

Yet over time, some of Dr. Baulieu’s other expectations have materialized. Today, medication abortion, in which mifepristone and a second drug are taken early in pregnancy, is used in over half of pregnancy terminations in the United States. That proportion is expected to increase, even in states that have banned abortion, where growing use has put the pills at the center of legal and political battles.

For Dr. Baulieu, who continues work in his lab on the southern rim of Paris, his office overlooking a former asylum where the Marquis de Sade was held, the volatile developments are just the latest turns in an eventful life. He transported guns as a teenager in the French Resistance during World War II, changing his name and taking refuge high in the Alps. He joined the Communist Party and then quit it in 1956 after the Soviet invasion of Hungary. And he socialized with the artists Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns in the 1960s, beginning a pattern of friendships with painters, sculptors, musicians and actors that he said had helped inspire his scientific work.”

David Brooks | Biden’s America Finds Its Voice – The New York Times

   Opinion Columnist

“The cameras mostly focused on Volodymyr Zelensky during his address to Congress on Wednesday night, but I focused my attention as much as I could on the audience in the room. There was fervor, admiration, yelling and whooping. In a divided nation, we don’t often get to see the Congress rise up, virtually as one, with ovations, applause, many in blue dresses and yellow ties.

Sure, there were dissenters in the room, but they were not what mattered. Words surged into my consciousness that I haven’t considered for a while — compatriots, comrades, co-believers in a common creed.

Zelensky and his fellow Ukrainians have reminded Americans of the values and causes we used to admire in ourselves — the ardent hunger for freedom, the deep-rooted respect for equality and human dignity, the willingness to fight against brutal authoritarians who would crush the human face under the heel of their muddy boots. It is as if Ukraine and Zelensky have rekindled a forgotten song, and suddenly everybody has remembered how to sing it.

Zelensky was not subtle about making this point. He said that what Ukraine is fighting for today has echoes in what so many Americans fought for over centuries. I thought of John Adams, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, George Marshall, Fannie Lou Hamer, the many unsung heroes of the Cold War. His words reminded us that America supports Ukraine not only out of national interest — to preserve a stable liberal world order — but also to live out a faith that is essential to this country’s being and identity. The thing that really holds America together is this fervent idea.”

“. . . .  American policy has oscillated between a hubristic interventionism and a callous non-interventionism. “We overdo our foreign crusades, and then we overdo our retrenchments, never pausing in between, where an ordinary country would try to reach a fine balance,” George Packer wrote in The Atlantic recently. The result has been a crisis of national self-doubt: Can the world trust America to do what’s right? Can we believe in ourselves?

Finding the balance between passionate ideals and mundane practicalities has been a persistent American problem. The movie “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis was about that. Lincoln is zigging and zagging through the swamps of reality, trying to keep his eye on true north, while some tell him he’s going too fast and others scream he’s going too slow.

Joe Biden has struck this balance as well as any president in recent times, perhaps having learned a costly lesson from the heartless way America exited from Afghanistan. He has swung the Western alliance fervently behind Ukraine. But he has done it with prudence and calibration. Ukraine will get this weapons system, but not that one. It can dream of total victory, but it also has to think seriously about negotiations. Biden has shown that America can responsibly lead. He has shown you can have moral clarity without being blinded by it.”

David Lindsay: Great column Mr. Brooks. Here are the three most liked comments:

Katileigh
New YorkDec. 22

At long last. A recognition that neither smooth oration nor tough talk matter. What both Biden and Zelinsky do is lead from the heart with competence, confidence, courage, and calm. It’s making all the difference. Thank you, David, for giving credit where credit is due.

20 Replies3296 Recommended

Jon commented December 22

Jon
San Carlos, CADec. 22

Joe Biden has done a great job given the cards he was dealt. He inherited a mess and has steadily just been cleaning up the mess. He has not gotten nearly enough credit for just being a good steward. Life gets a lot worse when there is bad stewardship.

11 Replies3113 Recommended

Kevin Leibel commented December 22

Kevin Leibel
Chapel HillDec. 22

I actually love President Biden with all my heart. He’s been doing the right thing since taking office, he has a team that earns my respect and his policies are leading the US in the right direction. The war in Ukraine is an existential fight between good and evil and I am so very proud we are on the right side.

10 Replies2394 Recommended

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Review: Big Blue Marvel – The New York Times

“Way back in 2009, “Avatar” arrived on screens as a plausible and exciting vision of the movie future. Thirteen years later, “Avatar: The Way of Water” — the first of several long-awaited sequels directed by James Cameron — brings with it a ripple of nostalgia.

The throwback sensation may hit you even before the picture starts, as you unfold your 3-D glasses. When was the last time you put on a pair of those? Even the anticipation of seeing something genuinely new at the multiplex feels like an artifact of an earlier time, before streaming and the Marvel Universe took over.

The first “Avatar” fused Cameron’s faith in technological progress with his commitments to the primal pleasures of old-fashioned storytelling and the visceral delights of big-screen action. The 3-D effects and intricately rendered digital landscapes — the trees and flowers of the moon Pandora and the way creatures and machines swooped and barreled through them — felt like the beginning of something, the opening of a fresh horizon of imaginative possibility.”

David Lindsay: I took my family to Avatar, the way of water, on Christmas day in the afternoon. Kathleen and I loved this film, as we did the first Avatar. My son and daughter both liked it very much, but thought it was too long, or way too long.

I liked it way more that AO Scott, who gives it something like a 7, I give it a 9/10. I would have given it a 10, if it had only had an intermission, since it runs 3 hours and 12 minutes, with over 25 minutes? of previews.

I want my tennis buddy from Exxon Mobil to see Avatar 1, followed by this sequel, #2, to learn a little of the religious philosohy called deep ecolgy. Deep ecologist, like the aliens on the magical moon-planet, in this movie, do not see themselves as more spiritual than other species, but equals to all ofther forms of life, in an intricate web of sustainable, and not polluting, existence in harmony with nature. Both films are many things: including good stories, and a call to a return to a sustainable way of life, that would protect our wonderful life and delicate ecology from dying.

Zelensky, a Celebration of Resilience and a Sales Pitch for Support – The New York Times

“President Volodymyr Zelensky’s carefully choreographed blitz of Washington was crafted as one part celebration of Russia’s failure to crush Ukraine, one part appreciation for the American taxpayers funding the battle, and one part sales pitch for keeping a fragile coalition together in the long, bloody and freezing winter ahead.

But between the lines were revealing hints of Mr. Zelensky’s worries about the year ahead.

For all the repeated talk of “victory,” and the comparisons of the current moment to the turning of World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Zelensky and his top military officials doubt that the Russian forces that invaded in February can be vanquished anytime soon. And the Ukrainian president surely knows his country’s remarkable resilience in the first year of the war could be threatened in the second, and the resolve of its saviors could begin to waver.

Opinion Video Featuring Gary Shteyngart | Putin vs. the Priest – The New York Times

Kirk SempleAlexander Stockton and 

Mr. Semple and Mr. Stockton are producers with Opinion Video. Mr. Kessel is the deputy director.

The Opinion video above tells the story of Father Ioann Burdin, a priest with the Russian Orthodox Church who ran afoul of his government soon after Russia invaded Ukraine.

His crime? Well, we don’t want to spoil the plot for you. Suffice it to say, Father Ioann’s tale shows the hazards of following your moral compass in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. (He’s still paying the price.)

The story also explores the often tragic absurdity of the modern Russian state, something that Father Ioann, in our conversations with him, described with a wryness and wit that informed our telling of his story.

Caitlin Doughty | Human Composting Should Be an Option for New Yorkers – The New York Times

By Caitlin Doughty

Graphics by Taylor Maggiacomo

Caitlin Doughty is a mortician and the author of three books on death and the funeral industry. She founded the Order of the Good Death, a nonprofit that promotes end-of-life alternatives.

“Eight years ago, panting heavily in the humid summer air, I carried a pair of orange work buckets full of wood chips up a leafy hill in rural North Carolina. Although these were ordinary wood chips, the pilot study I’d come to observe was planning to put them to an extraordinary use: composting a dead human being into soil.

The deceased gentleman I saw that day, lying on the forest floor in dappled sunlight, had donated his body to science in order to be useful to society after death. Now that gift and the study, by the Forensic Osteology Research Station of Western Carolina University, have borne fruit. With human composting technology, our dead have the chance to become nutrient-rich soil that can be used to plant trees and regrow forests.

As of today, five states — Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Colorado and, most recently, California — have either legalized or set a date for legalizing human composting as a means of disposition after death. In New York, one such bill has passed the Assembly and Senate. It now awaits Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature.”

David Lindsay: This gets me really excited about dying, just not till human composting is legal in Connecticut.

Why Is It So Hard for Men to Make Close Friends? – The New York Times

“The Tuesday before every Thanksgiving, Aaron Karo and Matt Ritter, both 43, go out to dinner with a group of seven men whom they befriended as second graders in Plainview, N.Y.

At the dinner, one of the friends wins the Man of the Year prize — a silly accolade the group concocted as an excuse to reconnect. They eat and they laugh, and the winner leaves with his name engraved on a cartoonishly large silver cup.

“It’s not really about the trophy,” said Mr. Karo, who co-hosts a podcast with Mr. Ritter called “Man of the Year,” which explores adult friendship. “It’s about the traditions that keep us together.” The friends jockey for the prize in a running group text, where they share memes and talk a bit of trash but also keep up with one another.

“I think men have been convinced that success in life does not necessarily include friendship — that if they’re successful at work or they’ve started a family, they’ve won,” Mr. Ritter said. “Our definition has always included having these thriving friendships.” “

Delia Ephron | How to Save a Life – The New York Times

Ms. Ephron is a writer and a bone-marrow transplant recipient.

“It’s not yet Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, and Eid al-Fitr is past. But three of those holidays are looming, waiting to cheer you, stress you out or otherwise consume your life. I have no idea what you want to give or receive next month, but I have a good suggestion, and it will cost nothing.

A little background: In 2018 I had a fatal disease, acute myeloid leukemia, or A.M.L., and the only thing that could save my life was a bone-marrow transplant. Leukemia is a blood cancer, a disease of the marrow. Your marrow produces your body’s blood supply.

I was given four months to live unless I had a transplant. A bone-marrow transplant, for the patient, is a grueling procedure that involves wiping the diseased marrow clean with powerful chemotherapy and transfusing stem cells from a healthy person who is genetically matched. But for the person who makes the donation, it is not difficult.

Bone marrow transplants, also known as blood stem cell transplants, help save the lives of about 8,000 people a year in the United States with blood cancers — from children only a few months old to adults in their 70s, according to Be the Match, the national registry of donors. I was 72, and I could not have a match from a relative because doctors were concerned that leukemia might run in my family. My sister Nora died of the very same disease in 2012, at 71. I needed a donor from the national registry.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Five Readings for Your Thanksgiving Table – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

I always enjoy Thanksgiving, but I’m particularly going to savor this year’s in light of the midterm elections. They surfaced something beautiful and decent and vitally important in the soul of the nation. It was a readiness to defend the core of our democracy — our ability to peacefully and legitimately transfer power — when it was under imminent threat by Donald Trump and his imitators.

Had we lost our commitment to the solemn obligation that one party smoothly hands off power to another, we’d be totally lost as a country today. But instead, democracy was reaffirmed. Enough Americans — principled Republicans, Democrats and independents — sorted through their ballots and rejected almost all of the high-profile Trumpist election deniers for major state and federal offices.

In “using the tools of democracy to protect democracy,” as Vox put it, they reconnected the country with something deep in our heritage — that losers concede gracefully and move on, and winners win gracefully and govern. In celebration of that tradition, I offer these five readings for your Thanksgiving table:

Sept. 19, 1796, excerpts from President George Washington’s Farewell Address, explaining that he would not seek a third term and the most important lessons he had learned:

“The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. … You should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness. … With such powerful and obvious motives to union affecting all parts of our country … there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands. …

“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the constitution which at any time exists, until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”