Sunday, February 11, 2007

Richard Branson and Global Warming

Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Airlines, has offered a $25 million prize to anyone who devises a technology for removing carbon dioxide from the air. Branson's new venture, Virgin Galactic, is planning to offer space flights to tourists beginning in 2009, at a cost of about $200,000 per flight.

I have two questions for Branson. How much carbon dioxide will be emitted by each of these space flights? Is it worth doing this much damage to the environment to give a brief thrill to a few tourists?

People have questioned Branson's sincerity by pointing out how much carbon dioxide Virgin Airlines emits, and he answers that people would simply take other flights if he closed his business. But that excuse does not apply to Virgin Galactic, since Branson is the only one planning to offer space flights to tourists.

By planning tourist space flights and offering this award, Branson is implying that we can continue to emit carbon dioxide as if there were no tomorrow, because scientists will invent a way to solve the problem of global warming. It is obviously dangerous and irresponsible to imply that people should not make a personal effort to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

The newspaper articles that described this prize showed Branson playfully tossing a globe up in the air. Maybe this is meant to symbolize the space tourists who will be amusing themselves by playing with the earth.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Statue Of Robert Moses

I have found the perfect place for a statue of Robert Moses, to commemorate the changes he brought to New York.

There is a circle at the west corner of Prospect Park where Ocean Parkway used to begin. It is hard to imagine what this corner was like when it was first built, but it must have been a high point in the history of New York's urban design. Frederick Law Olmstead considered Prospect Park his greatest creation; the boulevards radiating from the corners of the park were the key to Olmstead's planning vision for Brooklyn; and Ocean Parkway was the most completely realized of these boulevards.

Robert Moses destroyed the stretch of Ocean Parkway nearest to Prospect Park in order to build a sunken freeway there, the Prospect Expressway. The boulevard that tied together the neighborhood was replaced by a freeway that sliced up the neighborhood. Shortly after Moses did this, the rest of Ocean Parkway was declared a landmark, so no one could do the same sort of damage to the rest of this boulevard.

This circle must have been a popular place for pedestrians when it was first built. The intact parts of Ocean Parkway are still full of people sitting and strolling, and this circle must have been even more lively, because it connected Ocean Parkway with Prospect Park.

Today, it is an empty circle full of weeds with a freeway passing by it. This circle is an ideal place for a statue of Robert Moses, with a plaque describing how he changed this neighborhood.

Because there are no pedestrians here, the statue is bound to be vandalized and covered with graffiti, exactly what Robert Moses deserves for vandalizing this neighborhood.

But if the damage that Robert Moses did to this neighborhood is ever undone - if the freeway is removed and the boulevard is restored - then the crowds of people on the boulevard will deter the graffiti artists. If Moses' act of vandalism is ever undone, then his statue will no longer be vandalized.