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Monday, April 2, 2007 | Science : Earth Sciences | print version Print | Comments

Video The Selfish Green

Jonathan Dimbleby, David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins, Jane Goodall, Richard Leakey

Thanks to Davy James for the link.

Reposted from:
http://throwawayyourtv.com/2006/06/selfish-green.html

The Selfish Green was the opening event of Wildscreen 2004, a landmark debate on the future of conservation led by Jonathan Dimbleby with Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins, Dr Jane Goodall and Dr Richard Leakey.

Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4


Part 5


Part 6


Part 7



This video is also available at throwawayyourtv.com here:
selfish green

Comments 1 - 39 of 39 |

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1. Comment #29322 by Civilized Worm on April 2, 2007 at 2:55 pm

 avatarI couldn't get that video player to work but the whole thing is up on youtube as well.

Other Comments by Civilized Worm

2. Comment #29338 by jeepyjay on April 2, 2007 at 3:31 pm

 avatarI'd not seen this debate before. It's very stimulating indeed (apart from part 1 which just introduces the speakers at great length).

David Attenborough and Jane Goodall are right that the ever increasing human population is the problem. However the only way to reduce it that was mentioned was education of women, which is surely a very long term process.

But what alternative methods are there that don't violate human rights, apart from natural disasters like plagues and famines or worse?

I'm afraid I don't share the general optimism that was expressed at the end.

Other Comments by jeepyjay

3. Comment #29352 by ao9news on April 2, 2007 at 3:55 pm

Just a little recommendation for the admin (or the person who posts these youtube videos):

I notice you are trying to post 320x240 videos, I assume it's because that is the native quality of youtube, and it doesn't make much sense to post bigger. But the thing is that the flash object size also has to account for the control bar on the foot of the video, so you need to add some 30 pixels to that, for your video to be truly 320 pixels wide, like finishing the HTML with "...transparent" width="320" height="270">"

See this video, and the next is the same size as those above in the original post, you can see the first one is considerably sharper, and it's because it's not resized for the whole object, including the control bar, to 240 pixels. The vertical size gives way for it and the horizontal size (320 pixels) is the limiting factor now, which is what I assume you want. Any resize from the original size, even if it's only a couple of pixels, it's gonna get the video softer, as you may know.





Just nitpicking, I just noticed how you're trying to size the videos to 320x240 and I assume that's what you had in mind.

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4. Comment #29375 by Veronique on April 2, 2007 at 5:12 pm

 avatarThat was a marvellous discussion; I had not seen it before. Sometimes I wish I lived in the UK and could attend these forums. It was, however in 2004.

It's now 2007. Consciousness has been raised among the grass roots, the electorate, if you like. Stern and the IPCC are published for all to see. We have just had Stern in Australia having talks with our major political parties' leaders. Our PM Howard still says that he won't do anything that will put our economy and our jobs at risk. Bush is much the same, Blair can say what he likes because he's gone as a political force, so it's just mouthings.

Jane Goodall said: Life is not just about money and stuff.

I have no idea how you get through to politicians, and ultimately they are the ones that make the decisions. Most of them are lawyers who have gone from Uni to politics with nothing in between. I would hazard a guess that none of them is even remotely educated in any of the natural sciences bar maybe, secondary school dabblings in science curricula.

That these people have a 3 or 4 year political view in terms of re-election does not give me hope that we will ever be able to rectify the damage we have perpetrated on this planet and our co-species.

So, unlike the four participants in that discussion, no, I am not optimistic about the future.

While ever we have dry economic rationalists in charge of our 1st world countries; while ever the leaders of 3rd world countries are the Mugabes and his like, there is little to look forward to.

None of us really wants to downgrade his/her life style to a more reasonable, equitable state that helps to lift the state of those who have less than we.

I don't know the answer and I don't know that anyone does. Leakey's idea of an enlightened, platonic world philosopher leader looks not bad on the surface. We are 6.6B in number. Plato never dreamed of that sort of figure when he wrote The Republic. Such a leader would require a massive enabling force to convince all peoples to tow the line. Debate and reason elude us as a species. Sad isn't it.

V

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5. Comment #29423 by antipodesman on April 2, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Back in the 50s and 60s the burning issue was global nuclear armaggedon. That issue is mostly forgotten now perhaps because of the end of the cold war. Those weapons still exist and the danger is perhaps greater than ever. A nuclear war would destroy all life forms except perhaps a few bacteria taking the world back to pre-cambrian conditions.
By comparison a little global warming seems pretty benign. Jane Goodall suggested that the decline of the human race might not be such a bad thing. I wonder if global warming might not solve the problem of nuclear proliferation. For my part, I would choose a world without humans where life still exists over a world consumed by nuclear holocaust where life might not return for billions of years.
Individually humans have the capacity for reason and may have an altruistic philosophy but collectively there is no chance for focused action to "save the planet". Consider the inability of the United Nations to take preventive action in the case of the Rawandan genocide. Our technological culture is able to make some predictions about the world but not to make substantial alerations, even in our own behaviour.
BTW: Richard there may be legislation against slavery but some estimates suggest there are more people in slavery now than ever in the 18th century. Slavery isn't limited to the 3rd world either.

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6. Comment #29424 by Quine on April 2, 2007 at 10:33 pm

 avatarThis reminds me of the example of Easter Island (Rapa Nui). History has shown what happens to a people who deplete their environment while focused on religion. Over the years I have wondered how this may avoided on a global scale. All should know the story:
http://www.primitivism.com/easter-island.htm

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7. Comment #29425 by catchy_nick on April 2, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Can anyone tell me how to post a video on the front page?

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8. Comment #29433 by Veronique on April 2, 2007 at 11:26 pm

 avatarQuine,

Have you read Jared Diamond's Collapse? Easter Island wasn't the only place to eat its environment.

With a massive 6.6B we are eating our future at fast rate of knots. And it doesn't look as though we'll stop in time.

There's another book by our Tim Flannery called The Future Eaters that I read a few years ago and gave away as many copies as I could afford. It made a terrific impact on me. It concerns what we are doing to our very fragile antipodean country. Nothing has really changed since I read it. Our pollies are still grandstanding and mouthing platitudes in this election year.

Cheers
V

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9. Comment #29435 by Quine on April 2, 2007 at 11:49 pm

 avatarVeronique,

I am sad to agree.

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10. Comment #29504 by HumanGame on April 3, 2007 at 6:54 am

 avatarI know an answer to most of the concerns pointed to in the videos above.

Technocracy; a proposal for a steady-state, post-scarcity economic system. It is intended for industrialized nations with sufficient natural, technological, and human resources to produce an economic abundance. Primarily this refers to the continent of North America, but may also apply to other areas today as well if they have achieved certain minimum criteria.

In my personal opinion after taking my time to thoroughly read the information given and asking my questions, this is the only logical choice we have given our technological age. I wholly encourage you all to read up and carefully scrutinize Technocracy.

Please, take your time and read what the following link has to offer.
http://www.technocracy.ca/simp/begin.htm

Other Comments by HumanGame

11. Comment #29508 by briancoughlanworldcitizen on April 3, 2007 at 7:02 am

 avatarHey fellow godless infidels, please stop by and comment on the following BBC article : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6517807.stm

The more of us that comment there, the more mainstream atheism becomes:-) Evangelise!!! Spread the good news of freedom from religous slavery and from the insidious threat of eternal torment!!!

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12. Comment #29659 by Logicel on April 3, 2007 at 11:37 pm

 avatarHumanGame, thanks for the info on technocracy. I am a supporter of promoting an economy of abundance.

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13. Comment #29663 by Logicel on April 4, 2007 at 12:55 am

 avatarI enjoyed this program very much. Dimbleby was a good moderator with a firm, comprehensive, and energetic hand. Leakey is a crusty old codger, delightfully so--I can imagine C. Hitchens morphing into a version of Leakey as Hitchens ages. Dawkins was coolly elegant and passionately honest. Goodall is beyond serene. However, I still cannot appreciate Attenborough--his fabled communicative style smacks too much of the down-home preacher to appeal to me.

My own level of optimism/negatively is balanced: I know it can be possible to do what we need to do but that it will be very difficult to pull off.

I have just a few questions:

The Net, what is that?

And where is cold fusion when you need it?

Other Comments by Logicel

14. Comment #29671 by sheepscarer on April 4, 2007 at 2:22 am

 avatarAs a species side-stepping the usual ecological constraints which keep top predators rare, I still worry that the development or invention of a clean and sustainable energy source will not stop environmental degradation merely allow us boys with big toys to continue unrestrained. I vaguely remember a very goood BBC series (think it was called 'Prisoners of the Sun')which dealt with the energy food-chain and this fossil-fuelled side-step. Think it was in the nineties. Check it out - at the very least it might remind you that the BBC used to make intelligent science programmes in the days before Horizon was handed over to the work-experience student with the media studies degree.

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15. Comment #29679 by aleprechaunist on April 4, 2007 at 3:22 am

Unless I'm mistaken, the problem with nuclear (quite apart from the waste containment problem) is that it produces weapons grade material as a byproduct. Surely widespread use of atomic fission for power generation in a religiously motivated world would eventually result in devastating nuclear exchanges unless there were powerful international bodies (with teeth) to control things.

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16. Comment #29680 by cheshirecat on April 4, 2007 at 3:35 am

produces weapons grade material as a byproduct.

Surely you need a fast breeder reactor for that. You can't get fissile material from a PWR can you?

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17. Comment #29681 by aleprechaunist on April 4, 2007 at 3:44 am

hmm... thanks for that, Cheshirecat. If true, I stand corrected on that point ;-)

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18. Comment #29683 by cheshirecat on April 4, 2007 at 4:40 am

And where is cold fusion when you need it?

The EU are building a power producing fusion reactor at cadarache in France.
http://www.niauk.org/news/latest-nuclear-news/new-fusion-reactor-deal-signed.html

It takes over from the experimental fusion reactor at Culham.

http://www.fusion.org.uk/culham/jet.html

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19. Comment #29685 by Chris Davis on April 4, 2007 at 4:52 am

 avatarI was a little saddened that no-one on the panel sees that a solution to this problem - caused at least in part by technology - might itself come from technology. Seems to me it's the ace up the sleeve of humanity: something we can do rather well, as opposed to the self-denial path that many appear to be advocating, and which we're very bad at.

(And there's more than a bit of self-flagellation in it: the public is mass-buying into the idea that, having created the problem with our greed, we must suffer abstemiousness in all things to rectify it. This strays toward the magical thinking found in Lenten or Ramadan denial rituals.)

But there are technological solutions, albeit speculative in some case, to these issues - just as there are for global hunger. As an example: the only way put forward so far to deal with CO2 buildup has been to reduce the supply side - massively reducing our current CO2 injection by eschewing all carbon-producing technology. (The self-punishing aspect of this can be seen in the glee with which the public have begun to attack air travel, despite its relatively tiny footprint.)

But what, instead, of carbon sequestration - the process of extracting CO2 from the air and burying it in deep ocean trenches, subterranean salt domes, or porous rock formation? This idea has been on the cards for decades, but only recently noticed by the public thanks to Richard Branson's (possibly Quixotic) challenge.

At present, systems for implementing sequestration are energy-hungry, which only underlines the vital importance of cheap, clean energy as a prerequisite for tackling these things. Nevertheless, sequestration is not tied to geography: CO2 capture can be carried out near sources of essentially free geothermal energy, perhaps capturing the large carbon injection produced by volcanic activity. Solid CO2 can be transported (at first; and then piped) to suitable sequestering point above deep trenches.

The volumes involved would have to be enormous, and require huge investment in manpower and hardware. The Carbon Credit scheme, and trading thereof, provides the best financial incentive for private companies to invest in starting such systems up. The eventual - but probably inevitable - arrival of fusion power should allow construction of CO2 capture systems to take place anywhere on the planet. In time, faster/better/cheaper methods for CO2 capture may arise with lower energy requirements, perhaps allowing individual towns, villages and even ordinary consumers to earn money from capturing CO2.

Away from the furious public eco-debates, some groups are already getting on with it: Japan announced plans to bury 200 million tons of CO2 annually by 2020. Another obvious player is the oil industry - already operating giant raw-material handling systems around the world. BP is working on a $1-billion plant near Los Angeles to convert petroleum coke, a by-product of oil refining, into hydrogen, and sequester about four million tons of carbon dioxide a year.

This may all be wildly optimistic, but consider it at least an illustration of a technological approach to climate and other ecological problems that stands, in my view, a better chance of general take-up than trying to talk people into giving up their luxuries.

CD

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20. Comment #29770 by Veronique on April 4, 2007 at 3:39 pm

 avatarHumanGame - thanks for the link. I will read it; haven't time yet.

I have just had a quick squizz and one thing stood out: that politics cannot and will not solve our global problems. The more anyone listens to these pompous, prancing clowns, the more one must agree. None of them will injure what they see as their re-election chances. That they are totally out of touch with the populous never seems to occur to them, despite polls etc.

Chris - I don't know about carbon and/or nuclear geo-sequestration. There have been a lot of hot words and grandstanding, but I still have not seen a comprehensive, technological, sound and successful model that is able to predict future potential problems.

I know Sweden (?) is burrowing deep down into the tectonic plate to sequester nuclear waste but they are not there yet. I didn't know Japan was contemplating massive sequestration. Pumping waste into the sea worries me a bit. We have just had earthquakes off the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. There are warning stations throughout the Pacific but Aceh caught everyone by surprise because the Indian ocean was considered stable and there were no warning stations there.

In Australia, there is talk of pumping wastes into our tectonic plate. I don't know the deepest depth of the plate and cracking fissures that will allow escape is a concern. All pollies have been in denial for so long that the technology is not very well advanced and, of course, no one can do anything except model for future tectonic movements.

If you have any info that can be accessed I would appreciate it. It is a massive problem, because, both carbon and nuclear, we produce so much waste that I have difficulty in seeing how this poor planet can cope anyway.

Cheers
V

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21. Comment #29776 by Yorker on April 4, 2007 at 4:10 pm

 avatar13. Comment #29663 by Logicel

"However, I still cannot appreciate Attenborough--his fabled communicative style smacks too much of the down-home preacher to appeal to me."

You surprise me Logicel! Perhaps you're unaware of the background or standing of Sir David Attenborough OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS. If he's preachy, you can call me Billy Graham!

It will be a sad loss when the multi-talented Dave dies. His world renowned multiple wildlife series are unequalled; when he was boss, the BBC did it's best ever work. He's one of the world's most admired persons. Carl Sagan asked who would speak for Earth? He could do no better than David Attenborough.

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22. Comment #29777 by Yorker on April 4, 2007 at 4:14 pm

 avatar20. Comment #29770 by Veronique

Don't worry about the Earth Veronique, it's survived much worse in the past. Once it has got rid of us, or we've got rid of us, it'll heal itself and another species will get their shot.

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23. Comment #29798 by HappyPrimate on April 4, 2007 at 7:33 pm

 avatarYorker said "Don't worry about the Earth Veronique, it's survived much worse in the past. Once it has got rid of us, or we've got rid of us, it'll heal itself and another species will get their shot." I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. I tell people all the time when they seem to think humans so important, that just imagine the planet without humans - it would do just fine - probably much better. Now imagine the planet with just humans - no plants or other animal species. We would die. We are not important to the planet, the planet with all its biodiversity is important to us! I think we humans are in for a very large population correction by nature itself. It may come in the form of a pandemic, climate change drought and starvation or some other form or combinatin thereof but it will come because this planet cannot sustain our numbers as they climb unchecked. I just hope I am gone before it happens. Gotta love Jane! Richard was terrific and the other panel members were very interesting.

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24. Comment #29826 by celestial_T on April 5, 2007 at 3:23 am

 avatarRe 13. Comment #29663 by Logicel

"However, I still cannot appreciate Attenborough--his fabled communicative style smacks too much of the down-home preacher to appeal to me."

Sorry, but have to take issue with you there! Sir D enjoys a rare (and justly deserved) status - at least in the UK - of trustworthiness combined with vast knowledge. Don't under estimate him as a powerful force on any issue he chooses to speak up about. He combines passion and compassion about natural history in a way that has influenced a whole generation, myself included.
Apart from which, I was lucky enough to have a chat with him once over some fossils and I can tell you he is absolutely the most charming man on the planet!
Just had to get that off my chest.
carry on everyone!

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25. Comment #29839 by Logicel on April 5, 2007 at 5:23 am

 avatarYorker and celestial_T, My inability to appreciate Attenborough is testimony to my imperfection. I have tried, but so far I cannot warm up to the guy--he just turns me off. He has the same effect on my British husband. I will keep on trying to be receptive to him and his message, maybe someday I will see the light.

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26. Comment #29935 by Dr Benway on April 5, 2007 at 3:06 pm

 avatarThanks for posting this. I enjoyed it. Although I was a little annoyed by the moderator's frequent use of the phrase, "the selfish gene," to refer to human selfishness and short-sightedness.

Unless I've completely misunderstood Dawkins, human altruism, kindness, self-sacrifice, intelligence, and foresight are just as much a function of the 'selfish gene' as any other human phenotype.

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27. Comment #29936 by Veronique on April 5, 2007 at 3:09 pm

 avatarThanks Yorker, I know, I know. It's the other species that I feel so bad about; the ones we will take with us for no other reason than our profligacy. I must be going through a sentimental patch!

I just watched Carl Sagan's Blue Dot on youtube and I cried at the wastefulness of our tenure. I miss Sagan, I'm so glad we have his videos and books.

I sent the link to about 30 people in my address book as my reflections on easter.

Logicel, This type of reaction fascinates me. We have a TV program here called Gardening Australia. It is wildly popular. For some 3 years, I couldn't stand the presenter, Peter Cundall. His enthusiasm seemed put on and over the top; I couldn't bear to listen to his voice at all. His mannerisms got to me. Just yuk. None of my acquaintances could understand my reaction to this bloke.

Then our Andrew Denton interviewed him and I decided to watch (well, I like Denton!)

Cundall was exactly the same in that interview as he was on his own show. He talked about his past history (interesting), his TV show etc etc. I found myself warming to him and now his enthusiasm and his presentation is 'just' him. I watch and am delighted with the TV show (which was always good, anyway).

It's my reaction change that gave me pause to consider what was going on in me. He hadn't changed one iota.

I never have had that reaction to Attenborough however. Isn't it weird, those first 7 seconds on meeting someone (either in the flesh or on TV). Good luck to you, I hope you have an epiphany as much as you would like to. Attenborough's shows are wonderful (and, now, so are Cundall's!).

And Jane Goodall. What an amazing woman. That lovely little smile that hovers at the corners of her mouth and lights her eyes. And what has she seen? So much destruction. What did she say, 87 countries, 130 odd children's groups? She is indefatigable and utterly committed. I applaud her.

Cheers
V

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28. Comment #29952 by Yorker on April 5, 2007 at 5:15 pm

 avatar27. Comment #29936 by Veronique

I think you're like me. I felt about Tom Hanks like you felt about that guy Cundall. I couldn't even watch Hanks, then one day, on a long flight, I forced myself to watch the film "Cast Away", which is in large part, about him alone. Ever since then my mind changed entirely, now I think he's a good actor.

I also liked Sagan a lot and I still do, but I see him now in a different way, the book "Carl Sagan: A Life" made me think more about him as a human being. His first wife and kids talked about him in a less than flattering way, citing his unwillingness to do household chores and other mundane but important husbandly duties he shirked. This disappointed me a little but I forgave him on the grounds that the great things he did far outweighed these minor faults, of course, I could see that those who live with such a person might not consider the faults minor!

I have just read "Shadows" for the third time and still got additional stuff out of it, I've read all his books, he never wrote anything remotely mediocre. Finally, I must confess a slight lust and strong liking for Annie Druyan, Sagan's last wife. But then that's just me, I've always found intelligent women very attractive and desirable. As I age, I find this characteristic strengthening in me!

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29. Comment #29954 by Yorker on April 5, 2007 at 5:26 pm

 avatarLogicel, I urge you to watch some Attenborough stuff again. Perhaps his ground-breaking film about the hunting chimps, his anthropological work with head-hunters and cannibals, or his real-life "Diane Fossey-like" meeting with the mountain gorillas would make you "see the light" about him. Even the simple fact that he never bothered to learn how to drive a car, is remarkable in today's world.

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30. Comment #29993 by Logicel on April 6, 2007 at 3:06 am

 avatarYorker, ok, you did it. I like Attenborough now. I learned how to drive a car with great reluctance finally at the age of 42---it was the only means of getting to my job as a director of a small-town local history museum. 15 years has lapsed since then, and so has my driver's license. It is a rare characteristic in the world that I live, so Attenborough reigns supreme in my book now, and I better not hear anymore dissin' about the guy!!!

BTW, I am a typical native New Yorker, soft on the inside, tough on the outside.

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31. Comment #29995 by Yorker on April 6, 2007 at 3:24 am

 avatarWell Logicel, I'm glad you became a "convert", but I have this nasty feeling that you may be just trying to shut me up! :)

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32. Comment #29998 by Logicel on April 6, 2007 at 3:28 am

 avatarVeronique, thanks for your feedback on my odd dislike of the eminently likable Attenborough. Thanks to Yorker, I have now experienced the wished for epiphany. Onto working on my other existing faults.

The content of your comments and the style in which they are written actually reminds me a bit of Jane Goodall's ineffable essence.

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33. Comment #29999 by Veronique on April 6, 2007 at 3:32 am

 avatarGo Logicel!!

Happy I am. And Yorker, I actually understand what you said about Tom Hanks. I am still ambivalent about him, though Castaway I enjoyed.

No, surely Logicel would never try to shut anyone up. Far too outspoken (are you still in France?) and direct. Go!!

Goodnight to all of you
V

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34. Comment #30000 by Logicel on April 6, 2007 at 3:32 am

 avatarHey Yorker, I don't know if you ever heard of Attenborough, but he is really an admirable chap, you ought to check him out! (;-)))

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35. Comment #30001 by Logicel on April 6, 2007 at 3:40 am

 avatarYup, Veronique, I have been in France for ten years so far.

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36. Comment #30002 by Yorker on April 6, 2007 at 3:40 am

 avatar1. Comment #29322 by Civilized Worm

I like to think of myself as a liberal person and I have nothing against gay people (one of my brother's is gay) but your avatar negatively impinges upon me. There's something about two guys kissing each other on the mouth, that makes me want to look away. I can't speak for others of course, but I suspect I'm not alone - just alone in raising it.

Some might say I have a problem etc. but at my stage in life, I couldn't care less about that and I'm very unlikely to change. I guess I shall just have to avoid your posts.

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37. Comment #30617 by celestial_T on April 9, 2007 at 3:28 am

 avatarHi again Logicel

I just dropped by and am glad to see that you have come around to an appreciation of the wondrous Attenborough! I was watching some episodes of Attenborough's Life on Earth again the other day and it struck me that this is a great example of conveying that sense of wonder or non-religious spirituality...who needs a god to feel in awe of this world we live in?
I know that's an obvious point to contributors to this site, but seek out 'Life on Earth' and be reminded of it!

now if I could just get over my Tom Hanks aversion...! (what is it with him?)

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38. Comment #30628 by Logicel on April 9, 2007 at 4:26 am

 avatarcelestial_T, Hanks has managed to, despite his bland, good-guy appearance, via significant acting talent and energy to pull off some good roles. My personal favorite is Punchline co-starring with Sally Fields about the aspirations of stand-up comedians. He is noted for his style of understating his acting so much, you take it for granted and think the guy is not acting.

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39. Comment #44346 by Raksha on May 24, 2007 at 11:49 am

If these guys are optimistic then so am I. It would be hard to find a greater collection of environmental campaigning expertise in one place anywhere on the planet. I'm proud that the BBC made this programme (now lets just see it moved to BBC1 as many BBC four shows should. My faith in humanity's ability to get through this was given a boost the other day when I found out about a drinking straw designed to filter any water to make it drinkable and a flower that can be used to detect landmines (it grows red in soil above them) If we can do that we can do anything.

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