What Do You Think Our Planet Will Look Like After Climate Change?

Arista Burwell-Chen

This past May, the Niels Bugge Cartoon Award created a contest called “Oceans are in our hands” in reference to the rising water levels due to climate change.

Artist Nickolay Lamm also created a montage of photo realistic interpretations showing how the rising tides will impact historical monuments across the nation. For each computer graphic he projects potential renderings for rising sea levels at five feet, twelve feet, and twenty-five feet. While sea level projections from the government are only at a 6.5 foot increase by 2100, the graphics are still astounding. 

Both the comic and computer generated renderings about global warming’s potential effect on our planet drive one point home: We need to take collective action to battle climate change before it is too late.

But how do we do this? Well, for starters, we need to become more informed. Check out Rising Tide, an international grassroots project dedicated to promoting community-based solutions to climate change. Their website addresses ways to battle climate inaction such as unmasking industry greenwash, confronting false solutions, resisting the expansion of the fossil fuel empire and more.

Check out the winning comics from the Bugge Cartoon Award below and Lamm’s sea level projections here.

1st Place: Andrei Popov (Russia)

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2nd Place: Bruce Mackinnon (Canada)Image

 

3rd Place: Pawel Kuczynski (Poland)Image

 

 

The Looming Paradox Nobody Wants to Address

The Looming Paradox Nobody Wants to Address

-Max Grinberg

In this day and age you can look at our current economic system in two different ways. You can either choose to ignore climate change, the collapse in biodiversity, or the exponential depletion of the Earth’s water, soil, minerals, or oils… or you don’t. Either way it creates a paradox of salvation: that to succeed we destroy ourselves, to fail we destroy ourselves. Meaning if we continue to deplete the Earth of it’s resources, we will eventually be extinct as a race. Or on the other hand say we do find alternative ways to sustain our energy and consumption needs, the sheer amount of “stuff” we will possess will eventually create a vast lack of space eventually killing ourselves off.

“WE MUST RANSACK THE HIDDEN CORNERS OF THE PLANET TO SUSTAIN OUR IMPOSSIBLE PROPOSITION.” -George Monbiot, The Guardian
(http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/27/if-we-cant-change-economic-system-our-number-is-up)

We are beginning to drill in untouched lushly diverse biospheres in our planet in order to sustain the type of demand driven by our over consumption and greed. Whether it be rain forests in South America, or national parks in Africa, or even ice sheets in Antarctica, the human footprint on planet Earth is becoming an issue we can ignore no longer. Unfortunately according to Monboit the tragedy of the stripping our planet has only just begun. Although it feels like the idea of limitting consumption is beginning to gain attention in the public’s eye, iron ore production has risen 180% in the last 10 years, global paper consumption is a a record high.

Because of the the exponential amount of population growth these problems will only get worse. Efficiency of production/consumption will solve nothing as growth continues. We are so consumed with creating a lavish life for ourselves we are killing the materials that we depend on for existence. Distractions to keep our attention off the biggest problem of all… protecting our environment. We need to be aware of problems such as this and not be afraid to bring them up in conversation. Strive for jobs that aim to take society in an alternative direction. And most of all open our eyes to what is really going on.

The One List the University of Washington Does Not Want to Be On

Arista Burwell-Chen 

This past May, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive think tank based in Washington D.C., released The One Percent at State U study. It examines rising debt for university students, part-time adjunct faculty hires, university administration spending and presidential salaries. The study focuses on the top 25 universities with the highest presidential pay, and unfortunately, the University of Washington made the cut.

Key Findings from the study:

  • The student debt crisis is worse at schools with the highest-paid presidents. The sharpest rise in student debt at the top 25 occurred when executive compensation soared the highest.
  • As students went deeper in debt, administrative spending outstripped scholarship spending by more than 2 to 1 at state schools with the highest-paid presidents.
  • At state schools with the highest-paid presidents, part-time adjunct faculty increased 22 percent faster than the national average at all universities.
  • At state schools with the highest-paid presidents, permanent faculty declined dramatically as a percentage of all faculty.
  • Average executive pay at the top 25 rose to nearly $1 million by 2012—increasing more than twice as fast as the national average at public research universities.

Read the original IPS report or check out the infographic below!Image.

Do Societies Evolve?

Patri Friedman proposes that just as flora and fauna evolve, so too do human societies.

Just as we evolved from sea to land, he postulates that societies will start to expand out and evolve on the oceans.

What do you think?

Greenhouse – Showing Where Politicians Get Their Money

David Cubine

Ever wondered where members of congress obtain their campaign funding? Now you can install a basic browser plugin that will tell you immediately.

High school student Nick Rubin recently finished development on a tool that allows users to simply hover their mouse over a member of congress’s name and see what industries their money comes from, along with how many small-dollar contributions they receive and their stance on campaign finance reform. This can make browsing the web an eye-opening experience on a daily basis.

You can download the plugin for free over at http://www.allaregreen.us

Thanks to Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday SuperPAC newsletter for showing us the plugin.

The Impact of Consumerism on Children

By Jeff Highbarger

Good Life

 

The Impact of Consumerism on Children

British psychotherapist Graham Music recently released a book that stresses how empathy in children has reached new lows. He pulls from hundreds of academic sources on child development and moral psychology, and decades of his own clinical practice, to explain some of the context for why children today have become meaner and more self-absorbed.

Not surprisingly, Graham argues that an increased focus on materialism and the prizing of possessions has produced narcissistic children who grow up to be adults who never learn the intrinsic rewards of social belonging and interdependence.

 From Music:

How does consumer culture breed narcissism?

The idea of consumer culture is to try to sell us things to make us feel better, and often better than other people. Research shows that people who care more about status symbols, what they look like or being famous, have more mental health problems, and if you are exposed to those values, you are more likely to become unhappy. People who place greater value on being with the people they care about and doing things they believe in, tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally. But consumerism is addictive … Once self-interest wins, it’s hard to get the other side back.

What are the most powerful things parents can do to counteract consumerism?

Live by example, making sure there’s time to help a neighbour, or get involved in community activities. Mindfulness activities can make a huge difference – they really do trigger different parts of our brains – and many can be done with kids, such as being still, concentrating and showing an interest in things such as bird songs. We can learn from our children instead of trying to force them into our pace.

So the next time you’re thinking about buying an ipad for kids just to keep them happy, maybe you should encourage them to engage in some actually valuable human interactions. Not only will you save a couple bucks, but you’ll probably be helping them become better people someday too. And considering all of the problems we need to start solving collectively, a little empathy will go a long way.

$15 minimum: Is it working?

David Cubine

Last year, workers in SeaTac, WA seemingly won a hard fought battle for a higher minimum wage. Passing by less than 1%, the lowest paid workers in SeaTac now make $15 an hour.

At least, that’s how it was supposed to work. The $15 wage currently only applies to travel and hospitality workers in SeaTac. To be fair, that’s a huge portion of the work force there considering the city is home to Washington’s largest airport. But there’s another catch: The wage increase doesn’t include small firms, union members or airlines. And there’s yet another catch: Right before the wage increase took effect, a Washington judge further narrowed the beneficiaries of the wage increase by decreeing that airport workers are also ineligible for the $15 per hour wage because the airport is operated by the Port of Seattle. That’s almost five thousand people cut out of the deal, leaving only sixteen hundred workers benefiting from the increase.

What originally looked like a huge change for the city of 27,000 is starting to seem less significant, but the fact remains that a significant portion of minimum wage workers in the city have received a huge income boost. Has this led to the death of business, riots in the streets, mass extinctions?

No. It’s still difficult to gauge the impact of the raise as it’s only been in effect for 5 months, but anecdotal evidence has so far indicated that the increased wages haven’t had a huge effect on the local economy beyond small additional charges for services like parking. Not enough time has passed to make grand statements about the new state of SeaTac’s economy, and the small scope of those receiving the increase makes it difficult to predict what could happen with a larger-scale minimum wage increase, but the consensus for now is that things are doing just fine.

Check out these articles for more information:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/28/us-usa-wage-seatac-idUSBRE9BR01J20131228

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022905775_seatacprop1xml.html

Samso Island – An Experiment in Sustainability

Kate Vavrousek

 

In 1997, the Danish government proposed a national contest as an experiment with 100% renewable energy efficiency, phased in over the course of ten years. Samso Island was chosen for this experiment, because as an island with limited available resources, it would be a controlled environment to gather data from. The 4,000 residents on the island agreed to join in on a wind farm commune, using wind power for electricity, which has now become the sole source of electricity on the island. This electricity comes from just ten wind turbines. The energy produced by these turbines exceeds the need of Samso, and the excess is sold back to the mainland for a profit. Samso residents have a neutral carbon footprint, excellent tax breaks, 100 percent renewable electricity, and collectively earn a profit from their 10-turbine wind farm (Thomas, 2014). The Samso Island case is an example of “Eco-Capitalism.”

Check out this Youtube video from Worldfocus for more information: 

Denmark is a world leader in wind energy production. Last year, in 2013, wind turbines provided Danes with 50% of their total energy usage for the month of December, and the Danish government plans on making wind power account for over 50% of its total energy usage by the year 2020. Denmark has the largest wind power capacity in proportion to their overall electricity consumption of any nation. (energinet.dk, 2014). Denmark began investing in wind technology in the 1970s, following the energy crises of that decade. But before the investment in wind power, Denmark invested in securing the energy sources it had: coal. Incentives were put in place that urged local oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, and because coal was the most secure resource, power generation changed from mainly oil to coal for heat and power generation. Coal-fired energy production releases high amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus, the switch to coal created a surge of environmental concerns, as Global Warming became evident in the 1980s (Krohn , 2002). Since that time, Danish parliament has been in agreement on energy policy, and has created a strong tax system that relies on “green taxes”, even despite the resurgence of right wing political power that began in the early 2000s. The events that spurred green technology along with strong parliamentary support for “green taxes” have also resulted in strong norms of energy sustainability in Denmark. Green taxes are indirect taxes on energy use that serve to reduce energy use. Danish households pay about 200% taxes on energy, including natural gas, petroleum, and oil. On the other hand, Danish manufacturers pay very low taxes on electricity, encouraging economic productivity.

 

energinet.dk. (2014, Jan 15). 2013 was a record-setting year for danish wind power. Retrieved from http://energinet.dk/EN/El/Nyheder/Sider/2013-var-et-rekordaar-for-dansk-vindkraft.aspx

Krohn , S. (2002, Feb 22). Wind energy policy in denmark status 2002 . Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20070927011857/http://www.windpower.org/media(492,1033)/wind_energy_policy_in_denmark:_status_2002.pdf

Thomas, J. (2014). Danish island is energy self-sufficient. Retrieved from http://www.metaefficient.com/renewable-power/danish-island-is-energy-self-sufficient.html

Happy Planet Index

Tess Chilton

In this Ted Talk Statistician, Nic Marks, argues that quality of life is measurable. He also argues that true contentment comes from our connections with others, engagement with the world and our sense of autonomy rather then our accumulation of material wealth. He asks, why then do we base our nations success by its productivity instead of the happiness and well being of its people?

Mark is a pioneer in the field of well-being research and has created ways to measure happiness. In this Ted Talk he brings up the Happy planet Index that he created, which calculates national well-being against resource use. The results of this test show that the people in world’s wealthiest countries, who consume the most, are not the happiest. The happiest planet, in fact, is Costa Rica and they use 1/4th the resources that westernized countries use. A happy life does not have to cost the earth.

He give an outline of the five ways to wellbeing according to http://www.happinessworks.com/. They are: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. These activities are simple things individuals can do in their everyday lives. The Five Ways to Well-being were developed from evidence gathered in the UK government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing. The Project, published in 2008, drew on state-of-the-art research about mental capital and mental wellbeing through life. I hope this inspires new ways of thinking about prosperity in terms of happiness and well-being rather then economic growth.

The Power of Willful Ignorance

Tess Chilton

This is a talk that Kate Cooper, a marketing consultant in the food industry. She shares how marketing firms make us buy what they want us to buy. Her job is to make us want what they want us to buy, to crave it to need it. She shares a few of the secrets that marketing firms use to get us to feel that way. She focuses on how they do this with chickens, pigs and cows and as you can imagine what she reveals is very startling.

She explains that one of their biggest tricks is knowing that everyone believes what on the labels. So they will put things like farm fresh, 100% natural or butchers choice. She explains that that really does not mean anything. We see it on the label and feel more confident but the majority of the time it isn’t even true.

She shows us a picture of what a real farm looks like. It is a concentrated animal feeding operation with animals squished into tiny cages right next to eachother hardly able to move. Thats the reality, not farm fresh.

The second trick she reveals to her audience is that they focus on progress. She explains that this way of farming was born out of necessity. That at the end of the second World War, resources were extremely tight and farming had to be out of necessity and had to be economical. They learned from that and built off those ideals and now we raise more and more animals in smaller and smaller spaces.

Marketers use the right choice of words to make people feel better about this and ignore the facts. The goal of marketers is to make people feel comfortable about what they are seeing. For example to make people feel ok about half of the worlds antibiotics going to animals who are more prone to diseases from being in such tight spaces they say “As farming has . . . become more efficient, veterinarians have incorporated new technologies and methods into practice.” That makes us feel like this a a positive thing.

Her last point is that their main secret weapon is us. Because we don’t want to think about where are food is coming from or how the animals have been treated. The power of willful ignorance is how this is able to continuously happen. At the end no one claps.