the last week, a group of scientists and a prominent historian each
predicted a climate apocalypse. The scientists, led by Ricarda
Winkelmann of Germany's Potsdam University, issued a paper
finding that, if humans burn the rest of the world's estimated fossil
fuel reserves -- which might take only another 140 years at current
rates of increase -- effectively all of the world's ice will melt, and
sea levels will rise some 160 feet, enough to change the surface of the
planet and drown, among others, New York, London, Shanghai, Buenos
Aires, Tokyo, and all of Bangladesh.
Historian Timothy Snyder of Yale argued in
the New York Times that climate change may bring us the next Hitler. If
we ignore the warnings of science and don't start investing in clean
technologies, climate shocks will push countries into panic-inducing
scarcity, inspiring everything from ethnic and religious conflict in
Africa and the Middle East to imperial land grabs by a hungry and
worried China. The Nazi precedent is at the heart of Snyder's essay,
which is titled "The Next Genocide." For him, Hitler's genocidal war for
"lebensraum," or "living space" for Germans, is a paradigm of an
anti-scientific response to an ecological crisis. Snyder emphasizes that
Hitler rejected scientific measures to increase crop yields and called
for Germans to colonize Ukraine and the rest of Europe's grain belt as
protection against a food-poor future.
Taken together, these two
warnings underscore the discomforting fact that the future of the planet
is a political problem. The map of every coastline, the habitability or
uninhabitability of the places where billions of people live today,
will arise from policy decisions, as surely as if we were detonating
those cities, or literally playing God and raising the seas with a word.
This is only an especially vivid example of the new human condition,
the Anthropocene, in which people are a geological force shaping the
Earth. From now on, the world we inhabit will be the one we have made.
We can't decide to stop shaping the planet, but only what shape to give
it. And the only way to decide deliberately and explicitly is through
politics. Nothing else can bind and direct us in the right way.
as Snyder emphasizes, ecological crisis can make politics horrible. It
can power the worst politics imaginable, to the point of genocide. But
avoiding that awful future isn't just a matter of accepting scientific
guidance and opposing evil where it arises.
Instead, we can ask
what kind of politics makes ecological crises less terrible. Amartya
Sen, the 1998 Nobel laureate in economics, famously observed that no
famine has ever taken place in a democracy. That is, a natural disaster
isn't simply a matter of drought or crop failure; it is a joint product
of these events and political decisions: who gets the food, whether to
let people starve. No democracy has let its own people starve -- which
is an abstract way of saying that democratic citizens have not let one
another starve, or, more muscularly, have refused to be starved. There
is a key here to a politics for the Anthropocene: a world of ecological
crisis, where ecology is both a political problem and a political
creation, must be democratic, or else it will be terrible.
healing sounds like a good thing. I certainly believe that each of us
is far more than a cluster of discrete organs, bones and cells. I also
believe that the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone; the mind and
the body are a cohesive unit; that every illness experience is embedded
in a wider social context; that environment matters; and that the manner
in which a healer relates to a patient can result in widely different
outcomes. And while we Americans may be suspicious that some brands of
healing are nothing but quackery, unless the healer interferes with
standard bio-medical treatment (for example, by telling patients they
must stop receiving cancer chemotherapy) we tend to see holistic healing
as benign” Even if it doesn’t “work” it helps people struggling with
pain and disease feel better.
That assumption, I’ve come to see, needs to be looked at a bit more closely.
number of years ago I conducted interviews with 46 Boston-area
complementary and alternative medicine practitioners who told me during
an initial phone call that they treat breast cancer patients. Their healing modalities ranged from acupuncture to Zen shiatsu therapy and from homeopathy to past life regression.
of the healers explained that bio-medical treatment alone is
insufficient because it only targets the symptom (cancer) and not the
underlying causes of the disease. (Only a very few of the healers
actively discourage their patients from continuing bio-medical
treatment.) The deeper, root causes identified by the healers cluster
into a few categories:
*Elements of the modern environment or
lifestyle that cause or contribute to the rise in rates of breast
cancer; for example, air pollution, computers sending out
electromagnetic rays which typically are parallel to the level of a
woman’s breast, deodorants and antibiotics.
*Food and drink related causes such as alcohol abuse, dairy products, artificial sweeteners and gluten. *Personal
experiences and character traits including trauma, social isolation,
lack of self-acceptance and feelings of resentment.
As I listened
to healers (almost all of whom I very much liked on a personal level) I
began to understand that through invoking these root causes the healers
were actually reframing or expanding breast cancer from a discrete
physical disease of a body part to a much larger problem potentially
involving all areas of a woman’s life (and possibly her past lives as
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on Wednesday
that it will invest a total of $35 million toward research into dietary
supplements. Five research centers will spend the next five years
investigating the effectiveness of some of the most popular “natural”
dietary supplements in the country.
research is important because the medical benefits of many nutritional
supplements are unproven, despite the fact that about one-fifth of
Americans take them. Antioxidant supplements, for example, have been found to stave off cancer, among other diseases, in some patients but worsen preexisting lung tumors in mice. Fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower your risk of heart attack, or it could increase your risk of prostate cancer, or do nothing
to stop cognitive decline. If any of these chemicals contains a miracle
cure—or if health-conscious people are unwittingly hastening their
demise—doctors should probably know.
an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
who has written extensively about vitamins and nutritional supplements,
sees the value in these sorts of studies, even if the result is
negative—in the past, similar studies have shown that taking
concentrated garlic doesn’t slow bad cholesterol, or that the herb saw
palmetto can’t help an enlarged prostate. “When patients want to take
[these supplements] physicians can say ‘Don’t do it, take a statin
instead. And don’t take garlic because it’s “natural”—it just doesn’t
work,’” Offit says. The term “natural” is deceiving, he adds, since most
drugs are derived from compounds found in nature.
Offit doesn’t think the NIH’s investment in research will solve the
real issue with supplements: a lack of strict regulation. “The problem
is getting a quality product in an unregulated industry. I cannot
emphasize this more strongly—the FDA simply does not regulate
[supplements],” he says. Though the FDA does claim to
regulate supplements, studies in recent years have shown that the
nutritional supplements sold in health food stores contain varying
quantities of the active ingredient that is often different from what is
on the bottle, plus a whole bunch of extra ingredients not even
mentioned on the label. Earlier this year, the New York State Attorney
General conducted an investigation, adding to the mounting evidence against the efficacy of these supplements.
Fourteen years ago I still lived in Los Angeles. I got up early that
day because it was a primary election day for the Mayor of LA.
When I got into the polling place the election workers were closely watching a small television.
said a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At first I thought it was
an accident, like when a plane hit the Empire State Building. I did my
civic duty, voted and went off to get my breakfast bagel.
Tina, who lived on Long Island at the time. She was unaware of events
but turned on the TV and filled me in on what was happening. I hurried
home, put on the TV and booted up my computer. By that time the first tower had collapsed and the second followed. Events that would be replayed again and again.
Tina and I had met a woman, who was killed on one of the planes. My
cousin had friends killed at the Pentagon. Tina knew a family whose
daughter was in one of the towers.
I moved to Long Island a few months later. I avoided Ground Zero. Then I accidentally wound up exiting a subway near there.
revenge is just another word for justice. I remember the videos of the
Palestinians dancing in the streets. Hell if they had wanted to turn the
entire Middle East (except Israel, our only real ally there) to glass
the day after 9/11 I would have said go for it.
Now I think we
would have been better off if we had acted more like Israel did after
Munich in 1972. They had the Mossad hunt down and kill the Jihadi scum
that had murdered their Olympic atheletes. Hind
sight is 20/20 and I went along with the rush to war. So did 70-80% of
my fellow citizens. I can't blame Fox News I was reading the New York
Times and News Day every day and they were rah-rah for war too. Now we
are mired in the 1400 year old wars between the Muslim world and the
West, wars marked by imperialism on both sides.
The right to keep and bear arms is
actually part of a broader natural right to self-defense. No government,
no document, no vote creates your right to self-defense. You have this
right because you are a living, breathing human being.
I'm old, I'm tired of fighting. I've become cynical.
I used to put up rousing pro labor music on Labor Day.
nearly 70 years old. I was born in the late 1940s and grew up in the
1950s, an era of optimism, despite what many would have young people
believe about that era it was a good time.
World War II was over,
Eisenhower was President. The Democrats ran Adlai Stevenson, a total
dweeb with the personality of a slug against him, twice. I wasn't
supposed to like Ike because my parents were staunch Democrats.
back on things I think Eisenhower was the second greatest Republican
President ever. He managed the US during one of the most dangerous
periods in history and helped keep the nukes from flying. He presided
over rise of the civil rights movement. Built the interstate highway
system that drew the country together. He saw to it that the promises
of home loans and the GI Bill for vets saw the rise of the educated
middle class in America.
Yeah I remember a lot of things about those days.
remember how we had a parade on Memorial Day to honor those who gave
their lives fighting to keep this country whole and defend ideals we
shared. Almost all the stores were closed except for one or two
I remember the Fourth of July when we had parades and a
big gathering at a place called Fireman's Field that was a day of
partying, speeches, bands and entertainment capped of with fireworks.
We had a parade on Labor Day too, all the stores and the paper mill closed that day too.
11 was Armistice Day, later as World War I faded from memory it became
Veteran's Day. We had assemblies in school where veterans spoke of the
wars and their service.
I remember Thanksgiving, a day of showing
gratitude, families gathering for a big feast. As I grew older there
was usually the Army-Navy Football game on the TV.
Christmas and New Years as the Holidays. People had their own religions
and celebrated them differently including the days on which presents
Somewhere along the line something was lost.
rising middle class became separated from the working class. The
children of the generation of vets who were the first generation to go
to college became the white collar elite. They became the privileged and
started looking down on the people who built the buildings and roads,
drove taxis, waited on them in restaurants.
condescension, perhaps even contempt towards working people came an
anti-union rhetoric and stagnant or even falling wages.
In the early 1960s I read a book by Vance Packard, The
Status Seekers: An Exploration of Class Behavior in America and the
Hidden Barriers That Affect You, Your Community, Your Future. I
wish I could remember it better as Vance Packard was a real sociological
Cassandra warning of trends that threatened society and the well being
I know I grew up questioning the rampant consumerism
and status seeking of the privileged. I wanted adventure more than the
rewards of conformity. I liked the bohemian life more than the status
After the 1960s they blamed the hippies for every modern social problem, hippies became the universal scapegoat.
where along the line we stopped having parades on the Fourth of July
and the LGBT rights parades celebrating the Stonewall Riot became the
only parade most cities seemed to have.
Instead of parades and
celebrations of important events and movements that affected the life of
Americans we saw those days turned into orgies of consumption. Days
featuring huge sales kicking off yet another season of marketing during
which people are supposed to assert their individuality and status by
their spending and consuming.
I've worked in Big Box Stores where
Labor Day marks the start of the Christmas Marketing orgy, with
Halloween tossed in as an extra must consume and spend money on event. While
I was wondering if this is a universal given I learned through a
Facebook Friend that they still have a Labor Day Parade in one of the
small Adirondack villages I grew up in. I learned there is/are small
towns and cities that still hold Fourth of July parades and events. We
have a small business and know people who restore cars and houses, make
real wood cabinets and the like. We celebrate those who open and run
their own restaurants unbeholding to and not following the rules of some
corporate board of directors. Some of us
are looking at less being more with smaller homes, less status and more
time even if only to loll around reading or watching TV. We've
been polarized as a nation and people by folks who are experts at the
art of selling and propaganda. After all if we are at each others
throats over bullshit issues we might never notice how empty our lives
as consumers and worker drones really are.
We might never ask how
we go to a place where politician seem selected by big money, bought
and paid for not to govern in the interests of the people but in the
interests of the rich elites.
I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.