May 30, 2012

Blinded by industry

A friend writes, regarding “On wildness and carbon” by David McKay:

If anyone finds the wind industry compelling, there’s a lot they aren’t getting and probably never will, because they don’t want to. People are reluctant to admit there is no solution, [that] all we can do on an insanely overcrowded planet full of greedy people is use far less energy, and start planning massive overhauls of cities and towns, making our lives smaller, getting some trains running, getting rid of cars, bike lanes everywhere, electricity only for parts of the day, smaller stores, small passive energy houses, using air conditioning only in extreme weather, shut down the meat and dairy industry, the list is endless. But that is apparently not ever going to happen on a large scale, because the changes are too huge for people to comprehend and corporate lobbyists wouldn’t allow it. Modern lives are built around electricity and technology, so going back to a more natural, sustainable way of life is probably impossible. People’s lives in the not so distant future will be forcibly curtailed by nature, not because they chose a wiser path.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism

May 29, 2012

Mr Dooley spurns the church and state

From “Dooleysprudence” by James Joyce (1916):


Who is the funny fellow who declines to go to church
Since pope and priest and parson left the poor man in the lurch
And taught their flocks the only way to save all human souls
Was piercing human bodies through with dumdum bulletholes?


Who is the tranquil gentleman who won’t salute the State
Or serve Nebuchadnezzar or proletariat
But thinks that every son of man has quite enough to do
To paddle down the stream of life his personal canoe?


May 28, 2012

Coey 2012

Learning about the power of genetic engineering are St Anne’s pupils T— and K— with Monsanto Education Officer Laura Coey.

Learning about the power of hydraulic fracturing are St Anne’s pupils T— and K— with Halliburton Education Officer Laura Coey.

Learning about the power of unmanned drone warfare are St Anne’s pupils T— and K— with General Atomics Education Officer Laura Coey.

Learning about the power of submission to Jesus are St Anne’s pupils T— and K— with Billy Graham Crusades Education Officer Laura Coey.

Learning about the power of wind energy are St Anne’s pupils T— and K— with Action Renewables Education Officer Laura Coey.

May 26, 2012

Time waves

Just as, in listening to Cottard, Brichot and many others, I had come to realise that, through common culture and fashionable fads, a simple undulation sends the same mannerisms of speech and thought over the surface of the globe, in the same way over the whole expanse of time great tidal waves bring up from the depths of the ages the same hatreds, the same sorrows, the same types of bravery, the same strange fancies running through superposed generations, each section made at various levels in the same series giving a repetition (like shadows cast on a row of screens) of a phenomenon as identically reproduced although often not as trivial, as the family trait which set M. Bloch junior at odds with his father-in-law, M. Bloch senior with M. Nissim Bernard, and others before them whom I had never known.

[De même qu’en écoutant parler Cottard, Brichot, tant d’autres, j’avais senti que par la culture et la mode, une seule ondulation propage dans toute l’étendue de l’espace, les mêmes colères, les mêmes tristesses, les mêmes bravoures, les mêmes manies, à travers les générations superposées, chaque section prise à plusieurs niveaux d’une même série, offrant la répétition, comme des ombres sur des écrans successifs, d’un tableau aussi identique quoique souvent moins insignifiant que celui qui mettait aux prises de la même façon M. Bloch et so beau-père, M. Bloch père et M. Nissim Bernard et d’autres que je n’avais pas connus.]

—Marcel Proust, The Past Recaptured
(1932 translation of Le Temps Retrouvé (1928) by Frederick Blossom):

May 25, 2012

Vermont Wind Proposals

Also see: "Large wind projects in Vermont"

And listen (and chat or call in) to Wind Wise Radio, May 27, 7:00 p.m.: Stand Against the Wind — Chris Braithwaite and other guests talk about the destruction of Lowell Mountain in northern Vermont, co-hosted by Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

May 23, 2012

wind = natural gas

On May 1, 2012, Windpower Monthly published an interview by Ros Davidson with Denise Bode, CEO of industry lobby American Wind Energy Association. Besides her incoherence about the Production Tax Credit (the industry will die without it! the industry no longer needs it!), here is an interesting excerpt about natural gas. Before moving to the AWEA in 2009, Bode was CEO of natural gas lobby American Clean Skies Foundation.
RD: You and Texan oil billionaire T Boone Pickens have promoted the idea of a wind–natural gas partnership, using both sources for generation and natural gas for vehicles. You co-authored an article on the issue with Pickens on Politico (the political journalism website) just before the 2011 AWEA conference. Yet, many people are increasingly uncomfortable with natural gas because of questions about the environmental safety of fracking - a procedure that releases gas from underground shale rocks - and because of methane emissions. Where does that leave AWEA and the prospect of natural gas as a "bridge fuel" to a low-carbon future?

DB: You're talking to somebody who was a state regulator of oil and gas. You can safely frack. You can regulate and manage it. The natural gas industry really got ahead of itself because they were drilling in places that did not have a mature regulatory structure. They also didn't have the infrastructure to properly address the fracking. Over time that will change, whether it is through federal or state regulation. It can be managed.

RD: So the controversy over fracking and methane emissions doesn't change your view of wind and gas collaborating?

DB: It's a matter of fact that wind and gas will be the two largest new sources of electricity generation.

RD: But doesn't the public perception of natural gas fracking make the partnership more difficult to sell?

DB: You know, we're focused on the PTC and don't spend a lot of time promoting our partnership. We try not to tear somebody else down and build ourselves up. We talk about the benefits of wind. Natural gas has to pretty much make its own case, although we do need to work together. We need each other to balance utilities' portfolios. Natural gas provides peak power in a way that wind can't. We need each other and should work together as much as possible.
It is obvious that wind needs natural gas, not just to ensure power on demand, but also to effectively balance wind's high degree of variation. However, natural gas does not need wind. In fact, without wind, natural gas turbines can operate about twice as efficiently - ie, with about half the emissions. In other words, to support wind on the grid is not only to support more fracking for natural gas, but also to support less efficient use of that natural gas.

Bode's comment that "You can safely frack" reminds us of this statement from the AWEA strategy memo leaked from its November 2011 board meeting:
We need to create a space for the wind energy industry without defining it as an alternative to fossil fuels and coal and that goes beyond being one of many "renewables." "Renewables" in general are saddled with weaknesses that we don’t want to have to carry.
That is to say, wind has moved from serving as atonement for consumerism to now being little more than the greenwashing arm of the natural gas industry.

Cf  "Breaking Up with the Sierra Club", in response to the discovery that the wind industry cheerleader had accepted more than $25 million dollars from fracker Chesapeake Energy.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

May 15, 2012

Denmark's ecological footprint worse than U.S.

This just in from Common Dreams: The World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Report 2012 finds that:

“The U.S. has the fifth largest ecological footprint in terms of the amount of resources each person annually consumes. We rank only behind Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Denmark in the global rankings of the Ecological Footprint.”

Denmark: 4th largest per-capita ecological footprint in the world.
U.S.: 5th.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

May 13, 2012

Nimby: you lose.

Another friend sent us a couple of articles by industrial wind development consultant Tiff Thompson about the pesky problem of people resisting the insertion of giant industrial machines near their homes after finding that any benefit is far outweighed by many adverse effects. Below are some quotes from her articles, with comments in italics. Since she has named her consultancy "Nimby Consulting", she clearly assumes that there is no basis for their fears, only selfishness, and that she can therefore bully them into submission ...

"For those waging arguments out of genuine fear, the prospect of an industrial-scale wind turbine within visible distance from their homes appears more important than seemingly distant implications of climate change."

False choice. She thus removes one side of the equation. Opponents are not only concerned that industrial wind's impacts are greater than claimed; they are also motivated to fight more strongly for those concerns because industrial wind's benefits are much less than claimed.

"[S]etbacks over 1 mile will effectively kill any wind project, even in the most rural settings."

Can not even consider accommodating concerns. This statement about "setbacks over 1 mile" is actually disingenuous, since the industry fights every setback, no matter how modest, e.g., the effort in Wisconsin to increase a 1,250-ft minimum setback (less than one-fourth of a mile) to 1,800 ft (just over one-third of a mile).

"The wind farms typically referenced in oppositional arguments are, indeed, poorly sited and often the first the industry erected."

"The first" meaning: last month's. The industry has been saying this as long as it has existed, even as problems are documented with practically every facility built.

"Strategies such as ..., while successful at reducing noise, unfortunately also cause significant power loss."

Again, can not be seriously considered. Or as Ditlev Engel, CEO of Vestas, the world's biggest turbine manufacturer, wrote to Denmark's Environment Minister in complaint about regulations of low-frequency noise: "At this point you may have asked yourself why it is that Vestas does not just make changes to the wind turbines so that they produce less noise? The simple answer is that at the moment it is not technically possible to do so."

"In 1999, international noise standards were created by the World Health Organization’s Community Health Guidelines – set at roughly 40dB(A) averaged over night in one year. And in 1972, the US Environmental Protection Agency established its Office of Noise Abatement and Control, only to be later phased out in 1982, when individual states and local governments were given authority to create noise regulations. Today, in the USA, umbrella legislation – the EPA’s Noise Control Act of 1972 and Quiet Communities Act of 1978 – remains enforced, holding guidelines of permissible indoor and outdoor noise levels at 55dB(A) and 45dB(A) respectively."

Why is the EPA indoor limit (45 dB(A) — the writer apparently got the respective order backwards) 5 dB greater than the WHO outdoor limit? (And inside bedrooms at night, WHO guidelines specify a limit of 30 dB(A).) Note that a change of 5 dB is one that triggers widespread community complaints. Imagine the difference between a rural indoor nighttime level of 25 dB and the intrusion of 45 dB from neighboring wind turbines! And that's A-weighted (see below) averaged levels — add a significant low-frequency component (which is more prominent indoors) and a pulsing character, it's no wonder people get sick.

"In a recent Leicester, UK, article: ‘We were wrong on turbine noise, admit protesters’, a four-turbine project that was greeted by foreboding turned out to be not so threatening after it was erected and operational."

The one and only such report! The typical story is the opposite: Neighbors are reassured, even supportive, and then discover how wrong they were (e.g., Mars Hill and Vinalhaven, Maine; Falmouth and now Fairhaven, Massachusetts; Deeping St Nicholas, England; Waubra, Australia). Furthermore, not everyone is sensitive to noise to a health-threatening degree. This single light report can be weighed against the innumerable reports of problems around the world and increasing attention from the medical community (e.g., editorial in
the March 8, 2012, British Medical Journal [BMJ]
, special issue [August 2011] of Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society).

"[I]f people do not like wind energy, do not receive payments, have a turbine within their view, or dislike the developer, they are more likely to be annoyed. Hence, accurate noise assessment – from the beginning – is essential not only for a successfully sited project but also for community goodwill."

But remember, it's a (false) choice of turbine or climate change. And remember the impossibility of adequate distances from homes. And the economic cost of quieter and safer operation. And the laughability of noise standards (and the mystery of logarithmic decibels and frequency weighting). In other words, get the bullshit machine cranking early, and keep spreading it thick until the project is on. Be prepared to pay off a few neighbors. Then ... who cares? Once it's up, it will be nearly impossible to halt the multimillion-dollar investment. On to the next marks!

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights

May 12, 2012

North American Windpower

A friend has sent us these excerpts from the May 2012 issue of the trade journal North American Windpower.

Pressure Applied in States to Widen RPS Allowances

"It's disconcerting to even have the conversation," [George Cannon, a partner at Dallas-based law firm Patton Boggs,] continues. "Any attempt to water down or cancel an RPS has a chilling effect on investment."

Cannon says that any potential elimination or alteration of federal incentives and state mandates places into question the future viability of wind energy.

"The RPS mandates are effectively what creates the market, assuming there are no other structures in place, such as feed-in tariffs," he says. "If you roll back the RPS, then you are eliminating much of the market for the renewable off-take."

Global Wind Market Demands Industry Evolution

To make matters worse [emphasis added], load growth in the U.S. in non-existent, with 2012 electricity consumption projected to remain 1% below 2007 peaks. ...

As a consequence of the aforementioned issues, turbine prices in the U.S. are approaching unsustainable levels. ...

Clipper Windpower's Liberty turbine design was very innovative. However, ongoing doubts remain regarding the durability of its quantum-drive powertrain, which, in turn, lead to concerns regarding long-term warranty exposure and put future sales at risk. Reinventing the group was an option for United Technologies Corp. [who divested its recently acquired Clipper assets], but to do so would require a great deal of time and investment, especially given the unique architecture of the Liberty concept. ...

Nordex recently announced that its joint venture deal [with Vestas] fell through and that it is exiting the offshore wind business completely.

California Wind Market Is 'Not for the Faint of Heart'

... rabid environmentalists ...

Navigating California's Regulatory Maze

Because California's four primary areas for wind farm development are now largely saturated, developers are moving into many new regions of the state that host a combination of renowned natural landscapes, community activism, cultural resources and diligent government oversight.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

750,000 pounds of concrete and 46,000 pounds of steel

Lori Potter reports in the Kearney (Neb.) Hub (via Wind Watch):

Jake Nikle of Wanzek Construction’s Fargo, N.D., office provided the Hub with some details about the materials, machines and manpower required to build the Broken Bow Wind farm.

Wanzek and its subcontractors are preparing sites for 50 wind turbines that will have a combined generating capacity of 80 megawatts. ...

The initial work includes building roads through pastures to the hills where foundations and electrical cables are installed. The concrete foundations now hidden underground are octagon shaped, but high in the middle and sloping to the sides.

Each foundation is about 8 feet below ground and is 56 feet across at its base.

The “pedestal” on top of the ground goes down three feet. Each of the 14-feet concrete circles has 128 bolts in two circular rows. The 8-foot-long bolts are anchored through a ring in the concrete foundation that also has 23 tons of rebar. ...

About 250 yards of concrete were required for each foundation. To support the weight of a turbine, 750,000 pounds of concrete and 46,000 pounds of steel are used.

More than 45 miles of underground cable will be buried to link the turbines to a substation.

Nebraska Public Power District, which has a power purchase agreement with Edison Mission Group, is building a nine-mile transmission line between the wind farm substation and an existing NPPD substation south of Highway 2 near Broken Bow.

Getting equipment to the turbine sites isn’t easy. About 24 miles of roads have been built, including some that included filling in parts of pasture canyons that must be crossed.

Turbine construction will be done in two phases, with cranes putting a section of each tower put onto the pedestals.

Then a larger, 550-ton-capacity crane will lift the top section — nacelle, rotors and blades — into place. It will require about 30 semitrailer trucks to haul that crane’s components.

Depending on the configuration of the load, it will take eight or nine trucks to haul each turbine.

At times when one of the three 42-meter (about 140 feet) blades extends straight up from the tower, the turbine will rise about 400 feet from the ground.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism

May 8, 2012

Mind and Body

Happiness is beneficial for the body but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind. ... Ideas take the place of sorrows; when the latter are transformed into ideas, they at once lose part of their noxious effect on the heart and from the very first moment the transformation itself radiates joy.

[Le bonheur est salutaire pour le corps, mais c’est le chagrin qui développe les forces de l’esprit. ... Les idées sont des succédanés des chagrin; au moment où ceux-ci se changent en idées, ils perdent une partie de leur action nocive sur notre cœur, et même au premier instant, la transformation elle-même dégage subitement de la joie.]

—Marcel Proust, The Past Recaptured
(1932 translation of Le Temps Retrouvé (1928) by Frederick Blossom)

May 6, 2012


Today, the New York Times Magazine published the winning essay in their Ethicist contest for the ethical justification of eating meat. As expected, it is lame.

And in a strange fit, the Times “Public Editor”, Arthur Brisbane, decries the contest for making meat-eaters uncomfortable (which strongly suggests that the ethics of meat eating is indeed elusive).

He cites, apparently as reasonable critique, a blog post by Lisa Henderson, a sophomore at Kansas State University, on the Pork Network: “I believe that humans are omnivores and that meat provides protein and other things that are essential for health. Animals utilize the grass. Animals help us utilize more of the earth. I am not anti-vegetarian, but they seem to be anti-meat, and they seem to want to take that choice away from me.”

The omnivore argument actually justifies a vegetarian diet, because, especially since the invention of cooking, humans can thrive in a large variety of environments without meat. Furthermore, while meat-eaters insist that the imperative of being omnivorous drives their eating habits, they are not in fact omnivorous. Do they eat other humans? Do they (at least the majority in the U.S.) eat horses and dogs? The fact is, they too make ethical and cultural decisions about their diet and do just fine.

It is also telling that meat-eaters always feel threatened by the mere existence of a vegetarian diet. That response suggests that the only justification is indeed cultural in that vegetarians are seen as apostates or traitors.

Brisbane then solicits a comment from Calvin Trillin, which again he cites as apparently meaningful: “If they had a chance, they would eat us.”

Those vicious cows and chickens: terrorists in our midst!

Finally, Brisbane had also noted evocations by animal experimenter Linda Cork of life on the Arctic tundra and arid plains, where she sees fishing and herding to be essential to survival. But that only underscores that animal flesh is not essential to survival in Stanford, California. (Science researchers like Cork, for all their avowed objectivity, generally sugarcoat the fate of their victims as “sacrifice”.)

[[[[ ]]]]

So to the winning essay, by former vegetarian Jay Bost, who, like Linda Cork, apparently saw that life in the Arizona desert would be difficult without eating animals and that therefore it’s OK to eat them in North Carolina and Hawaii, too.

In what Brisbane derides as “awfully complicated”, Bost lays down three conditions (not necessity, not imperative) to feel OK about eating the corpses of other animals: 1) accept that death begets life, that all life is just solar energy temporarily stored in an impermanent form; 2) invoke compassion to choose ethically raised food, vegetable, grain, and/or meat; 3) give thanks.

Bost defines “ethical” as “living in the most ecologically benign way”. He compares boutique organic beef to monoculture/pesticide agriculture and — quel surprise! — concludes that not eating meat may be unethical. He compares the “best” situation on one side (we're not even getting into the horrors of “organic” dairy) to the worst situation on the other. Of course, meat eaters also eat plants, since healthy life without plants is a lot more unlikely than life without meat. They are implicated in both sides.

But let us consider cannibalism again. Since the greatest burden on the earth’s ecology is in fact the burgeoning human population, why wouldn’t it be ethical, by Bost’s definition, to eat other humans? In fact, one might conclude from his argument that not eating humans may be unethical. After all, if grazing animals help the land, it would be unethical to kill them. Whereas the Gospel of John in the Christian testament notes at 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son”. In the ritual of the eucharist (i.e., “thanks”, Bost’s final condition), believers consume the flesh of Jesus (”just solar energy temporarily stored in an impermanent form”), not a sheep or chicken.

[[[[ ]]]]

Which leads me to my own (unsent) entry, imagining the only possible ethical argument, namely, the circular one of religion:

Meat: An Ethical Imperative

In the Book of Genesis, Cain slew Abel, because Abel was a meat-eater and thereby found greater favor with G-D. Having distanced himself from the ways of G-D by foregoing meat, Cain’s ethics had deteriorated to the point that his envy turned to murder. After that, he kept to cities, where a greater variety of sin is possible. But as the mark of his crime faded, his envy rose again, and so today urban vegetarians righteously condemn the diet that has sustained humans for millenia. They denounce meat-eaters as cruel, but instead of being cruel to animals, vegetarians must be cruel to other humans, just as Cain was toward Abel.

Violence and murder are a part of the human psyche. If we don’t regularly kill animals — respectfully, gratefully incorporating their spirits into our own — we end up killing other humans, even loved ones, as Cain killed his own brother. To advocate a vegetarian diet is ultimately to advocate murder. To eat humanely raised and slaughtered animals is to promote peace among men, which is why sacrificial meals are at the core of every religion and community.

As the essential bond of society, shared murder is its ethical basis.

To maintain civilization, if we are to avoid human sacrifice, the crime of Cain, we must slay animals and, to honor them as worthy gifts to the gods, eat them.

In choosing a nonviolent diet, vegetarians deny that ethical necessity. In continuing to eat meat, even to our own and the planet’s harm, we recognize the necessary sacrifice that ethical living demands. We must bear the burden of Cain by emulating Abel.


Update, April 7, 2013:  Chris Grattan of Brockport, N.Y., writes: “In paleolithic hunting cultures, the rites connected with the killing of game were oriented toward an expression of gratitude to the animal for having given its life and the belief that its spirit would return in another body. In neolithic horticultural and agricultural societies the rites to promote the fecundity of the land were often gruesomely bloody, often in the form of human sacrifice. I try to keep this in mind when being subjected to vegetarian sanctimony.”

Get thee behind me Cain, ye ferking vegetarian!

[[[[ ]]]]

But, back in reality, as omnivores we can choose what we eat. For most people most of the time, there is no need to eat animals. To choose to eat animals is to choose killing and suffering, and ethical justification for that choice — when it is a choice — is impossible.

As I have quipped before, meat-eaters claim to be omnivores, but they can’t swallow the truth.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, anarchism, ecoanarchism

Art and Society

From The Past Recaptured, by Marcel Proust (1932 translation by Frederick Blossom of Le Temps Retrouvé (1928)):

Even in our artistic enjoyment, although sought after for the impressions it gives, we are very quickly content to leave those impressions aside as something that cannot be expressed and confine our attention to those phases which allow us to experience the pleasure without analysing the sensations thoroughly, while thinking that we are communicating them to others with similar tastes, with whom we shall be able to converse because we shall be talking to them of something which is the same for them as for us, the personal root of our own impression having been eliminated. At the very times when we are the most dispassionate observers of nature, of society, love, even art itself, since every impression has two parts, one of them incorporated in the object and the other prolonged within ourselves and therefore knowable only to us, we are quick to neglect the latter, that is to say, the one part to which we ought to devote our attention, and consider only the other half, which, being outside ourselves, cannot be studied deeply and consequently never will cause us any fatiguing exertion; the slight groove that a musical phrase or the sight of a church made in our consciousness we find it too difficult to try to comprehend. But we play the symphony again and again or keep returning to look at the church, until, in this running away from our own life which we have not the courage to face — they call this “erudition” — we come to know them as well, and in the same manner, as the most learned lover of music or archaeology. How many there are, consequently, who stop at that point and extract nothing from their impression, but go to their graves useless and unsatisfied, like celibates of art. They are tormented by the same regrets as virgins and idlers, regrets that fecund labour would dispel. They are more wrought up over works of art than the real artists, because they do not labour arduously to get to the bottom of their emotional state and therefore it is diffused in outward expression, puts heat into their remarks and blood into their faces; they think they are doing something really great when, after the execution of a work they like, they shout vociferously “Bravo, bravo!” But these manifestations do not force them to seek light on the nature of their love; they do not know what it really is. Meanwhile, this unexpended passion exuberates into even their calmest conversation and leads them to indulge in grand gestures, facial contortions and noddings of the head when they talk of art. “I have been at a concert where they played some music which, I admit, did not thrill me. Then the quartette began and, nom d’une pipe, that was another story!” (Here the music lover’s face assumes an anxious expression, as if he were saying to himself, “Why, I see sparks, I smell something burning; there must be a fire somewhere!”) “Good Lord! what a difference! It was exasperating, it was badly written, but it was stunning! It was not something everybody could appreciate.” And yet, ridiculous though these devotees may be, they are not entirely to be scorned. They are nature’s first efforts in the process of evolving the artist; they are as shapeless and lacking in viability as the earliest animals, which preceded the present species and were not so constituted as to be able to survive. These weak-willed, sterile dabblers should arouse our sympathy like those first contrivances which were not able to leave the ground, but in which there was, not yet the means, secret and still to be discovered, but at any rate the desire, to fly. “And let me tell you, old man,” adds the dilettante, as he takes your arm, “that’s the eighth time I’ve heard it and I promise you, it won’t be the last.” And in truth, since they fail to assimilate the really nourishing part of art, they suffer from a continual need of artistic enjoyment, a gnawing hunger that nothing can satisfy. So they go and applaud the same work for a long time at a stretch, believing also that in being present they are performing a duty, an act of piety, as others regard their attendance at a meeting of a Board of Directors or a funeral. Then come works of a different, even quite contrary, character in literature, painting or music. For the ability to launch new ideas and systems and, especially, to absorb them has always been much more widespread than genuine good taste, even among the producers of art, and this tendency is spreading considerably with the increase in the number of literary reviews and journals — and, along with them, of people who imagine they have been called to be writers and artists. There was a time, for example, when the better element of our youth, the more intelligent and more sincerely interested, no longer cared for any but works having a lofty moral and sociological, even religious significance. They had the idea that that was the criterion of the value of a work, thereby repeating the error of such as David, Chenavard, Brunetière, and others. Instead of Bergotte, whose airiest sentences, as a matter of fact, required much profounder meditation, they preferred writers who seemed more profound only because they did not write as well. “His intricate way of writing is suited only to society people,” the democratically minded said, thereby paying society folk a compliment they did not deserve. But the moment our reasoning intelligence tries to judge works of art, there is no longer anything fixed or certain; one can prove anything one wishes to. Whereas the real essence of talent is a gift, an attribute of a cosmic character, the presence of which should first of all be sought for underneath the surface fashions of thought and style, it is by these latter qualities that the critics classify an author. Because of his peremptory tone and his ostentatious scorn of the school that preceded him, they put the mantle of prophecy on a writer who has no new message to deliver. This constant aberration of the critics is such that a writer should almost prefer to be judged by the public at large (if the latter were not incapable even of understanding what an artist has attempted in a line of effort unfamiliar to it). For the talent of a great writer — which, after all, is merely an instinct religiously hearkened to (while silence is imposed on everything else), perfected and understood — has more in common with the instinctive life of the people than with the superficial verbiage and fluctuating standards of the conventionally recognised judges. Their battle of words begins all over again every ten years — for the kaleidoscope comprises not only society groups, but also social, political and religious ideas, which temporarily spread out more broadly through refraction in the large masses but nevertheless are shortlived, like all ideas whose novelty succeeds in deceiving only minds that are not very exacting as to proofs. Therefore parties and schools have followed one another, attracting to themselves always the same minds, men of only relative intelligence, always prone to partisan enthusiasms which less credulous minds, more exacting in the matter of proofs, avoid. Unfortunately the former, just because they are only half-wits, need to round out their personalities with action; therefore they are more active than the superior minds, attract the crowd and build up around themselves, not only exaggerated reputations for some, and unwarranted condemnation of others, but civil and foreign wars, which it ought to be possible to escape with a little non-royalist self-criticism. And as for the pleasure that a perfectly balanced mind, a heart that is truly alive finds in the beautiful thought of some master, it is no doubt wholly sound, but however precious may be the men who are capable of enjoying it (how many are there in twenty years?) it nevertheless reduces them to the condition of being merely the full consciousness of someone else. When a man has done everything to win the love of a woman who could only have made him unhappy and, despite repeated efforts over many years, he has not even been able to obtain a rendezvous with her, instead of trying to describe his sufferings and the danger he has escaped, he reads and rereads this pensée from La Bruyère, annotating it with “a million words” and the most moving memories of his own life: “Men often want to love and do not know how to succeed in so doing; they seek defeat but are not able to find it, so that, if I may so express it, they are forced to remain free.” Whether he who wrote that pensée intended it so or not (and then it should read “be loved,” instead of “love,” and it would be finer that way) it is certain that the sensitive man of letters referred to gives it life, fills it with meaning to the point of bursting and cannot repeat it without overflowing with joy to find it so true and beautiful, and yet he has added hardly anything to it and there remains merely the pensée of La Bruyère.