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Salon Four Notes

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Attendies: Talia, Bergey, Claudia, Jocelyn, Dmitriy, Jimmy

Bergey replied to the posting about peak oil, that my description of the crash of civilization seems like an optimistic scenario. If peak oil doesn't stop us, global warming will, at best forcing huge migration, but as likely destabilizing Earth until it turns Venusian or Marsian. We agreed that neither scenario would be the end of humanity, but a definite decrease in our numbers (which didn't bother us) by means of much misery (which did).

So we discussed possible solutions-- paths to less misery. One we mentioned is the economic solution, placing economic penalties on companies or individuals who pollute, exactly enough to undo the damage caused or recreate the resource used up. Two concerns we explored were the vastly non-linear nature of costs and effects, and the potential for exacerbating economic disparities by the having a "flat-tax" on all polluters. In opposition, Claudia proposed considering levels of environmental damage and resource use to be criminal offenses. Dmitriy and Claudia, as the most vocal supporters of the two proposals, debated until they understood each other.

Next we asked, how can these solutions be enacted, given the social (people's disinterest) and political (corporation influence) realities? Lakoff's method (strong ideas, reiterating frames), lobbying, and getting good people in high places were all considered.

NYT had nice white and evil black rats on the front of its Science Times section, and we briefly revisited past Salon's discussion of race.

Talia asked if anyone found "gender" to be a useful concept. We discussed the definition of gender, as distinct from sex. Claudia argued that a distinct concept of gender has done an enormous amount for women's rights by showing that gender is a social choice. We disagreed firstly if the prevalence of the concept was harmful, with many people arguing that there are benefits to being able to self-identify with people sharing any number of characteristics, and gender is one useful one, and secondly what should be "done" to decrease its harmful effects. It was argued that enforcing gender-blindness could create more limiting groups and gender-dominated, and that enforcing diversity of gender was a better option.

Jocelyn turned our attention to Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe, and the connections between Olympia by Manet and Venus d'Urbino by Titian, which sparked a number of exchanges on pornography, the third wall, prostitution, social status, and cats and dogs.

After most people had left, a discussion on the merits of drugs and meaning of life ensued, extending into the wee hours.