Articles on Environment
Acts of civil disobedience often emerge out of a sense of desperation in which citizens feel they are not being heard by decision makers by other means, and so they are forced to seek alternative ways to be heard and to affect change. The very function of civil disobedience is to protest against injustice—a requirement for any democratic society, though it is often portrayed as a foolish, juvenile activity reserved for people on the lower rungs of society.
For well over a year, all eyes have been on the pandemic. While we have been singularly focused on the pandemic, another global tragedy has been taking place, though this tragedy has been happening for many years, its existence well-known, but conveniently ignored. It’s all around us, and has been normalized to such a point where any mention of it is met with denial, justification, ostracization, and anger – not anger on behalf of those suffering, but anger towards the messenger who is making the suffering known.
Is the world a better place? Opinions vary, though the enduring Western-centric belief is that humankind has never had it better. This belief is commonly espoused by technologists who praise the information age for ushering in a new era of opportunity and prosperity. The information age, coupled with industrialization, has certainly shaped the world in ways previously thought unimaginable. Advances in technology have transformed everyday life. Facial recognition software. Artificial intelligence. Microchip implants. Renewable energy. Genetic engineering. A revolutionary mRNA vaccine designed in just two days.
Given all this progress, it’s hard not to believe in the “prosperity presumption,” the belief that the world, as a whole, is getting better. Indeed, techno-utopians who adhere to the prosperity presumption also hold the belief that any form of technological stagnation is antithetical to progress. Some of the biggest technologists fall under this category.
Trigger moments in human history awaken us to injustice and turn the tide of public perception. What happened in Waterloo, Iowa may not have been a watershed moment but as far as human folly, it was a doozy.
Between March and mid-April 2020, as the pandemic surged, managers at the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo lay bets on how many employees would fall prey to COVID-19. This, while the brass told workers they had “a responsibility to keep working in order to ensure Americans don’t go hungry.”
Every day we learn more about our home planet’s fascinating cohabitants: we know that mother pigs sing to their piglets while nursing; we know that chickens form complex social hierarchies; we know that dolphins have the longest memories in the animal kingdom; we know that birds can sing a wide range of complex songs, each with its own specific meaning; we know that when a goose’s mate dies, its partner will remove themselves from the flock and mourn for life.
The North Complex Fire is still burning in Butte County, Northern California. It's one of the worst wildfires in California history and has ravaged a vast area, some 40 miles long and 20 miles wide. My two days there were a visit to a different planet. We were part of a K9 search and rescue team, sent to look for dead bodies. Our team consisted of 4 humans and 2 dogs, a German shepherd and a Malinois. We were part of a larger search and rescue operation that had teams from almost every county in Northern California, several hundred individuals. Each morning, we were sent out to our assignments after signing in, listening to a 7 am briefing and after checking out various pieces of equipment which included a radio, a gadget called a nano that would track our whereabouts all day and through which we could send an emergency signal if necessary, a can of red spray paint to mark areas that were searched and a complete K9 first aid, trauma kit.
Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild is a must-read for anyone interested in going beyond conventional political analysis and exploring the “deep story” worldviews that shape thinking on both the left and right of the political spectrum. Hochschild describes “deep stories” as emotional images that shapes the essence of a person’s worldview, and this book was her attempt to understand the deep story that forms the ideology of the right wing. Hochschild is a UC Berkeley sociologist who spent five years in Louisiana in an attempt to break through the “empathy walls” that divide the political spectrum in the US. She worked to overcome her own biases as a member of the left-leaning political spectrum by forming human connections with conservatives in Louisiana, many of whom were Tea Party activists.