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Sunday 24 September 2023 Dublin: 17°C
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# 7 great reads
Sitdown Sunday: How the climate crisis is turning the Arctic green
Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Reading the Doomsday Clock

Existential risk researcher SJ Beard looks at the fascinating history of the Doomsday Clock – where it came from, how to read it and what can be learned from it. 

(BBC, approx 14 mins reading time)

The speed and violence with which nuclear technology evolved was breathtaking, even to those closely involved in its development. In 1939, world-renowned scientists Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard wrote to the US president about a breakthrough in nuclear technology that was so powerful, and could have such tremendous battlefield consequences, that a single nuclear bomb, “carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port”. It was a possibility too significant to ignore. This letter led to the establishment of an enormous scientific, military, and industrial collaboration, the Manhattan Project, that a mere six years later produced a bomb much more powerful than the one imagined by Einstein and Szilard, capable of destroying an entire city and its population. Only a few years after that, nuclear arsenals were capable of destroying civilisation as we know it.

 2. Turning the Arctic green

Ben Rawlence writes about how climate change is causing the Arctic treeline to accelerate towards the pole, turning the white landscape green. 

(The Guardian, approx 23 mins reading time)

Reindeer are endearing animals, with their wide brown eyes, furry antlers, soft fur and enormous snow-proof padded hooves. Sami herders recognise every member of their herd individually. Love is an insufficient word for the relationship: codependency comes closer. The people move because the reindeer move in search of grazing. Their culture has evolved around the migratory needs of the herds. But the breakdown in weather is upsetting this cycle. The Sami are among the first victims of climate breakdown, forced to contemplate a little earlier than the rest of us the collapse of a whole culture.

3. A tale of two presidencies 

Jonathan Lemire examines US President Joe Biden’s first year in office, almost evenly split between success and struggle. 

(Politico, approx 6 mins reading time)

Biden declared that America could have faith in its government again, as he sought to turn down the temperature in a Washington overheated by his predecessor, Donald Trump. But in the late summer, the Biden administration was dramatically derailed, thrown off course by both unanticipated events and political missteps of their own making.

4. Planning the Holocaust

80 years old from the infamous Wannsee Conference, Katrin Bennhold looks at how it took just 90 minutes to plan, and the worrying resurgence of antisemitism in Europe.

(The New York Times, approx 8 mins reading time)

To many the anniversary of the Wannsee Conference is less salient than the liberation of Auschwitz or the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, which focus on the victims of Nazi terror. But it stands out as a rare date — and memorial — to focus on the perpetrators of the Holocaust, documenting the genocidal machinery of the Nazi state. The host on that January day in 1942 was Reinhard Heydrich, the powerful chief of the security service and the SS, who had been put in charge by Hermann Göring, Hitler’s right-hand man, of a “final solution” and coordinating it with other government departments and ministries.

5. The craze for cartes de visite 

Holly Williams writes about the lesser-known art form of photo collaging that the Victorians used to flirt. 

(BBC, approx 12 mins reading time)

While there are no good sources detailing what people thought about specific photocollage albums, their function as a shareable entertainment is surely what led to some being so, well, inventive. Many offer little more than pretty embellishment of photographs – but some others prove witty, surprising, and mischievous. Cut-out photographic figures are placed within painted drawing rooms or landscapes, but also more imaginatively arranged as if performing circus tricks or lost at sea, caught within a bird’s nest or spider’s web, or stuffed into pickle jars to be speared out with a fork. Cut-out heads are spliced onto the bodies of ducks or monkeys, juggled by jesters, or smoked out of a pipe. They’re delightful, and they’re often weird.

6. Dakota Johnson

An interview with actress Dakota Johnson on the two films that she is bringing to the 2022 Sundance Film Festival not just as an actress, but for the first time, a producer.

(The Los Angeles Times, approx 9 mins reading time)

“Of course there’s things that are stressful in terms of like, ‘OK, how do we do this? How do we get around this problem and save money?’ All the things that are so unsexy about making movies, but then I feel better about it,” said Johnson. “I feel like every single decision that is made can be made with artistic integrity, it can be creative. It can be, ‘OK, how do we make this work but still push the boundaries a little bit, still reach the hearts that need to be reached?’ “It’s not about control. It’s about contribution. It’s about collaboration,” she said. “It’s about really reaching for an idea and sticking to it and maintaining the integrity of whatever story is trying to be told.”


Following Friday’s announcement that Meat Loaf had died at the age of 74, take a look back at this interview he did with Rolling Stone in 1993, just after the release of Bat out of Hell II: Back Into Hell.

(Rolling Stone, approx 10 mins reading time)

Today the locale is Burbank, Calif. – specifically, backstage at The Tonight Show – and Meat Loaf is lounging with his wife, his 12-year-old daughter (he has another daughter who is a freshman in college) and a few friends before performing “I’d Do Anything for Love (but I Won’t Do That),” the omnipresent, over-the-top single that has helped push his career back over the top. Jay Leno has popped in to say hi. So has Gere. But currently – as is often the case – Meat Loaf is expounding. About how he and Jim Steinman (who wrote all of both Bat I and II) are more like an actor and playwright than a singer and songwriter.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

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