The Urban Heat Island Effect

Urban areas are a location of increased risk for a number of reasons. You’ve heard of the urban island heat effect. This is the phenomenon where energy is captured during the day, slightly raising daytime temperatures but really raising nighttime temperatures, allowing almost no cooling at night. That’s important for a number of reasons. First of all, cooling of an urban area at night is important for energy usage. Those areas that demand lots of energy need much more of it throughout the night, making delivery of that power much more difficult. The transmission of energy through power lines is diminished as temperatures go up. Also, physiologically, a little bit of exposure to a cool environment during the day if it’s a very hot day and you don’t have air conditioning—even a couple of hours—helps you survive a heat wave. A couple or three hours has been shown to reduce the risk of death. It gives your body back a little bit of time to cool off, to reset, to get a respite from the heat.

George Luber, Associate Director for Climate Change, Climate and Health Program, CDC, from his talk “The Health Consequences of a Changing Climate: A View from Public Health,” September 16, 2013, sponsored by Environmental Studies

The Purpose of Education

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum—from right to left—I think we could probably all agree that our society could use some more of those qualities: civility, respect, the differentiation between opinion and argument. I don’t need to remind you that we are saturated all the time by messages from one interest group or another telling us stuff like, for instance, health reform is a rip-off that will bankrupt the country, or health reform is an overdue act of justice for people who couldn’t afford quality healthcare, abortion is the work of Satan, or denying the right to terminate her pregnancy is a form of abuse. . . . We could go on and on with such a list. My point is a simple one: the only chance we have to maintain a functioning democracy is if we have citizens who are capable of listening to and making rational arguments about these questions, some of which are very difficult and not easy to resolve. A succinct way of putting this, which I like, came from a professor at Oxford, where he welcomed the incoming class at the beginning of the twentieth century. He says, “Gentlemen”—they were all men, of course, in those days—”nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in afterlife.” I’m dubious that’s going to be the rhetoric provided to the parents of the incoming class of Emory students: “Thank you for sending your children here; nothing they learn here is going to be of the slightest use to them in their afterlife, and we’re proud of it!” Then he modifies the statement: “Except only this: that if you work hard and intelligently, you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot.” That, in my view, is the main—if not the sole—purpose of education.

Andrew Delbanco, Director of American Studies at Columbia University, from his talk “What is College For?” September 10, 2013, presented by the Voluntary Core Curriculum and co-sponsored by the Emory Williams Lectures in the Liberal Arts and the Provost’s Office Luminaries Series

Constructing the Best Society

I was in high school during the Cuban missile crisis . . . and of course there was a stare-down between President Kennedy and the Russians to see who would blink first. The Russians blinked first, and they withdrew their missiles from Cuba. At that time I remember [jet fighters] going over my house two hundred feet up, heading south. So I wanted to know, why are people like this? The big argument was between capitalism—actually called Americanism—and communism. I had to take a high school course in Americanism. The only problem is they could never tell us what it was. They told us what communism was. At the end, they were different views of human nature. That is, what is the best society that fits the way people are constructed? I said to myself, You know, if they just went and looked at how people are constructed, we’d be able to figure out what’s the best society.

Darryl Neill, Goodrich C. White Professor of Psychology, Emory University, from his talk at the celebration of 50 years of psychology at Emory, part of the Annual Psychology Research Festival, September 9, 2013