Two shows to watch out for

In case you don't already know, you might be interested in these upcoming TV programs.

1. "Off the Grid": An episode of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days. 30 Days is the new FX series where Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me fame) or his pals participate in some "extreme" activity for 30 days, such as subsisting on minimum wage or having a Christian man go live among a Muslim community. On Wednesday, July 13, two "typical Americans" go to live at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, where they "go 'back to the future' and learn to live without the natural resources that will be depleted from our earth in the not-too-distant future" (text from the FX website). The promo for the show goes on to ask: "Can these fossil fuel addicts wean themselves from their consumptive habits without their lives falling apart?" (hat tip: Treehugger.)

Anyway, I don't have cable, so watch the show and let me know how it is!

2. Guns, Germs, and Steel on PBS. Starting tonight at 10pm, PBS will be featuring a 3 part series based on the book. From the promo on the PBS website:
Based on Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity's journey over the last 13,000 years – from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century.

Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago, Diamond embarks on a world-wide quest to understand the roots of global inequality.
Update: Here's a Washington Post review of the show. Not so glowing, but watching the show is definitely less time-consuming than reading the book...

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Woohoo! Dancing Rabbits! I know a few folks there. If the producers were smart they would have invested in pixilation equipment and encouraged a nude welcoming party.

Obligatory plug: If you haven't read GGS, put down that sleazy summer paperback you've been reading instead, go buy GGS and read it. Yes, it's that good.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I read about 2/3 of GGS about 2 years ago. I had to put it down and meant to get back to it, but didn't. Perhaps I'll be reinvigorated after the show...

(In the meantime, I recalled "Collapse" from the library about 3 weeks ago and it STILL isn't in...)

Guns Germ & Steel will supposedly air on PBS soon:

stepback--yes, that is the second numbered paragraph of the post was about. Did you not click on the "extended entry"?

Jared Diamond was interviewed and took phone calls on "Talk of the Nation" today from NPR. When the subject of oil finally came up, his remark was (paraphrasing) that since the major oil companies had mostly stopped looking for the stuff and were investing elsewhere, that was a pretty good indication that there wasn't much easily recoverable oil left to find.

The first TV installment of GGS was very nice. It was paced so that viewers could get the main points of GGS, which was that accidents of climate and geography (protein-rich plants or their lack, domesticable animals or their lack) did not allow enough excess energy to develop civilization.

However, some of the finer points were perhaps too quickly made. For example, the point that the Egyptians had enough excess food energy per capita to enable them to collect the surplus energy and use it to build pyramids. This was said once, not the usual 3 or 4 times for other points. Another point that was pointed out only once or twice and not dramatized much was that animal power (draft animals) was important in a man being able to farm more and more acreage.

In fact, I don't recall the book GGS being as focused on energy as such. More recently, being retired, my reading list on PO included Cottrell's "Energy and Society" which very pointedly brings out these energy-related points. E&S mentions that Egypt's annual fertilizing Nile flood enabled them to produce 200-250 or so extra (kilo)calories per farmer, which fed the workers who built the structures. E&S also discusses how horses and other big workers, while great for peak power needs, only work once in a while but must be fed all year, therefore a man, to afford a horse, has to be able to farm enough land to grow food for his family PLUS the horse and only after that is there excess. An energy-focused discussion such as in E&S makes the basic GGS idea quite scary - we really need this energy....

(I read GGS quite a long time ago and may have missed or forgotten lots of it)