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Future Hindsight

Future Hindsight

Author: Mila Atmos

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Now more than ever, the need to be an engaged citizen is critical. Future Hindsight presents interviews that explore how each of us has the power to shape our society and fulfill our shared civic responsibility.
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Green Power Nuclear energy offers large amounts of power, produces no carbon dioxide, uses a comparatively small amount of land, and runs around the clock. Although nuclear power produces hazardous waste, the amount of material and risk to civilians is small. The risk is hugely outweighed by the risk posed by climate change. According to Goldstein, nuclear power represents the best source of carbon-free energy available to us as we transition from fossil fuels. In the span of one decade, Sweden cut its emissions in half while also growing its economy, thanks to a large-scale nuclear program. Nuclear Waste or Air Pollution? Air pollution kills millions of people world-wide every year because of the particulate matter that coal-powered plants emit freely into the atmosphere. What people should be afraid of is coal, but what people are afraid of is nuclear power. The fear of radiation is exacerbated by disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima, as well as generational trauma about the potential use of nuclear weapons in the 1950s to the 1970s. Although large amounts of radiation are fatal, we actually live safely with small, naturally occurring amounts every day. The stigma against nuclear power caused Germany to shutter its plants in favor of solar and wind. They replaced one green fuel source with another instead of replacing coal with a green fuel. Unfortunately, because Germany’s renewables are not meeting demands for electricity, they are now burning more fossil fuels to fulfill that need. Small Modular Reactors Instead of giant nuclear plants, which can take decades to build, the future lies in small modular reactors. These new, pre-fabricated, transportable, and scalable reactors are in current development by the US and China. They are projected to be operational in the middle of the coming decade. These smaller reactors can be mass-produced and distributed to high-need areas. In addition, small modular reactors carry less stigma because of their size. The Chinese model can sit on a barge, be towed to a location, and immediately begin producing power. Find out more: Joshua Goldstein is professor emeritus of international relations at American University and a research scholar at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He researches, writes, and speaks about global trends including war and society, economic forces, and world energy trends and climate change. Goldstein co-authored A Bright Future, How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow. You can follow him on Twitter @GoldsteinJoshua.
What is Ecocide? The crime of ecocide is the "extensive loss, damage, or destruction of ecosystems such that their inhabitants can no longer enjoy life peacefully." Ecocide happens on a large scale; examples include the ravaging of the Brazilian rainforest, the consequences of widespread fracking, and toxic erosion from strip-mining. Corporations perpetrate almost all ecocide and millions of people are devasted by ecocide's effects every year. Currently, there is no legal pathway to compel corporations to stop committing ecocide. Criminalizing Ecocide The International Criminal Court oversees the prosecution of four crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. During its inception, the crime of ecocide was proposed but never codified thanks to pushback from countries like the US, UK, France, and the Netherlands. All of them hold significant nuclear and fossil fuel interests. Since the ICC operates on a "one nation, one vote" policy, it is conceivable for small nations directly impacted by climate change to work together and criminalize ecocide, even if larger, fossil fuel burning countries oppose it. Criminalizing ecocide on an international level holds the world's worst polluters to account. Shifting Public Opinion Once something is outlawed, social stigma is quick to follow. Banning ecocide internationally, or even publicly considering doing so, leads to a shift in public opinion. As entire cultures become aware and fight against ecocide, many corporations will change their business models to meet public outcry. We already see this phenomenon around the world. Recently, the CEO of Siemens wrote a letter outlining the ways his company became greener but noted his legal duty was to his shareholders. Making ecologically devastating practices illegal will ensure that corporations change their polluting behavior. Find out more: Jojo Mehta is the co-founder and director of Earth Defense Integrity (EDI). EDI's international team is working with climate- and ecocide-vulnerable states which have the power to propose an Ecocide amendment to the Rome Statute, the governing document of The ICC. The International Criminal Court's annual Assembly in December is the critical forum for advancing this work. They have accompanied Small Island ("Great Ocean") Developing State representatives and helped amplify their voices and concerns there for four consecutive years, as the nations most impacted by climate emergency. You can follow her on Twitter @Jojo_Mehta.
Fighting for Climate Policy Dismantling the energy system is crucial to breaking the energy crisis. Implementing clean energy policies is the most effective way to change our current energy system and undo the playbook of the fossil fuel and utility industries. Citizens need to demand legislators to support green policies because a policy problem can only be fought with policy solutions. Mass public pressure, such as the youth protests led by Greta Thunberg, can disrupt the status quo and compel lawmakers to act. Policy Feedback Policy feedback is the idea that once policies are enacted, they reshape the next generation of politics. In the case of clean energy, the implementation of policies would kick start new industries and create jobs. As these industries become entrenched, they would defend the policies that created them and promote additional policy aimed at more green energy. Once this path dependence is created, a totally clean and renewable energy future is the result. Policy Retrenchment Fossil fuel and utility companies have immense power in state legislatures to reverse clean energy policies. Utilities around the country know how to run profitable power plants that burns fossil fuels and thus do not have incentives to switch to renewables. They fight against decarbonization by resisting implementation; rolling back existing guidelines for retrenchment; and even challenging pro-renewable candidates in primary races. Find out more: Leah Stokes an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and affiliated with the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and the Environmental Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She is the author of the forthcoming book Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American State. She works on energy, climate and environmental politics. Within American Politics, her work focuses on representation and public opinion; voting behavior; and public policy, particularly at the state level. Within environmental politics, she researches climate change, renewable energy, water and chemicals policy. She completed a PhD in Public Policy in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning’s Environmental Policy & Planning group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); received a masters from MIT's Political Science Department; and completed an MPA in Environmental Science & Policy at the School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. You can follow her on Twitter @leahstokes
Climate Justice Many low-income communities bear the brunt of industrial pollution or the harshest consequences of climate change. In order to address global warming in a meaningful way, we must also address systemic inequality. The Green New Deal offers a solution to both: transitioning to clean energy while also ensuring low-income communities get the funding they need, and blue-collar workers get good-paying jobs. Promoting Policy Climate Change is a global collective problem, and individual actions alone are not going to suffice to combat it. Currently, only the Democratic Party in the US is willing to acknowledge this reality and work towards enacting durable decarbonization policies. Therefore, voting for Democratic leaders is paramount in this year's election. Organizing, activism, and raising awareness should support and prioritize policy-making success. Indigenous Wisdom Indigenous peoples have deep insights as to how we can relate to the environment, such as in the management of fisheries and – more profoundly – in surviving a loss of their world. Colonization was an apocalyptic experience for them, yet many of these indigenous communities have endured, and some are even resurging today. As the climate crisis poses an existential threat, learning the history of First Nations people might help us understand what it means for humans to live through catastrophic destruction. Find out more: Julian Brave NoiseCat is Vice President of Policy & Strategy at Data for Progress; Change Director at The Natural History Museum; and a Fellow at Type Media Center & NDN Collective. The belief that Indigenous peoples can contribute to understanding and solving the world's most pressing challenges inspires his work. In 2019, NoiseCat helped lead a grassroots effort to bring an Indigenous canoe journey to San Francisco Bay to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Alcatraz Occupation. He has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review, The Guardian, and The Nation, among many others.   Previously, he led 350.org’s US policy work and was an Urban Fellow in the Commissioner’s Office of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development. He studied history at Columbia University and the University of Oxford, where he was a Clarendon scholar. He is a proud member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and a descendant of the Lil’Wat Nation of Mount Currie. You can follow him on Twitter @jnoisecat
Carbon Tax The climate crisis is a global collective problem that requires a collective global solution. Robust and bipartisan public policy must be at the center of any effort. Taylor argues that we can harness capitalism to mitigate global warming, and proposes a combination of legislation together with a carbon tax on producers. Taxing carbon at $45 a ton creates serious incentives for cities, corporations, and individuals to cut emissions. A carbon tax is a swift fix because it can pass more quickly than substantial regulations that may take years to go into effect. Changing Public Opinion Changing public opinion starts with changing the minds of thought leaders. Elite Republicans are thought leaders for their party, so it is paramount to convince them that risk-management on climate change is essential for human survival on Earth. Many conservative leaders acknowledge reality, but there is currently no political window for change. Taylor and the Niskanen Center are working behind the scenes to ensure Republicans and Democrats will pounce when the opportunity presents itself with a new administration in the White House. Facts Over Ideology Climate denial is mostly a psychological argument in the face of overwhelming facts and scientific consensus. It is a reaction to left-leaning environmental activists, who many on the right believe are anti-industry, anti-fossil fuel, and anti-consumerist. Deniers believe that the climate change movement exists to attack the free market instead of to mitigate global warming. Accepting the facts and evidence of a warming planet is critical for passing bipartisan climate change legislation. Find out more: Jerry Taylor is the President of the Niskanen Center. Prior to founding the Center in 2014, Taylor spent 23 years at the Cato Institute, where he served as director of natural resource studies, assistant editor of Regulation magazine, senior fellow, and then vice president. Before that, Taylor was the staff director for the energy and environment task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Over the past two decades, he has been one of the most prominent and influential conservative voices in energy policy in Washington. He is also the author of numerous policy studies and has testified often before Congress. You can follow him on Twitter @Jerry_JTaylor
Use Your Purchasing Power Corporations only care about their bottom-line, so boycotting stores you don’t believe in does make a difference. Taking responsibility for your purchases is one of the most powerful non-violent tools available. Naysayers argue that individual actions have no effect, but these actions reverberate and impact the decisions of others. Recently, clothes giant H&M found itself with a $4.3B surplus, thanks in large part to changing consumer demands. As purchasers become more environmentally friendly, they moved away from fast fashion en masse, forcing the retail chain to change their behavior. H&M now operates clothing recycling centers in many of its store in a bid to appear more environmentally friendly. While this is only once instance, consumers can apply this action to a wide variety of stores and businesses and enact change in them. The Impact of Fast Fashion Fast fashion relies on the same business model as fast food: a high volume of cheap product for a low cost. Cheap textiles and materials as well as cheap labor come at the expense of exploited workers and the environment. To grow the cotton for one white t-shirt requires 713 gallons of water; leather tanneries use toxic metals like mercury and lead to dye their materials; cheap synthetic materials leech plastic microbeads into our water-system and food sources, eventually finding their way into our bodies. On top of this, the amount of oil used to create plastic hangers, bags, and other plastic accessories coupled with the carbon created during transportation creates a significant impact on the environment and climate. The actual cost of production, which should include pollution and other hidden costs, are not included in the price of fast fashion items. Stay Small and Local Unfortunately, there is no way to be entirely carbon neutral. Producing waste is inherent to life. The problem of pollution is essentially one of scale: the bigger you or your company are, the more pollution you produce, regardless of whether you use sustainable practices. Resource distribution is incredibly unequal throughout the world, so it’s important to use only what you need and not more. This way, we can ensure our resources do not go to waste and that others have access to what they need, as well. Staying local is also important to fighting climate change. A huge amount of carbon is produced in the transportation of goods. Consider using a local store to purchase new goods, instead of Amazon or eBay. Find out more: Jussara Lee has developed a small scale business operation in which luxury fashion and sustainable practices work in tandem. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, she launched her own label, which was embraced by prominent international retailers. For the past 18 years, she has worked to scale back the company to focus on making the best-fitting custom-made clothes with the gentlest impact on the environment. Hand-tailoring, local production, biodegradable materials, natural dyes form the core of her brand. The addition of mending services and a collection of transformed vintage clothes are part of her efforts to fit into a circular economic model, where the least amount of resources are consumed and waste is given a new purpose. You can follow her on Twitter @JussaraLeeNYC
Sustainable Food Supply We can create a sustainable food supply for future populations with technology and a change in diet. We cannot feed the world the way we feed North America because 40% of the world’s arable land is currently used for food production. Most of that land is used to feed the animals that we then eat ourselves. Animal protein takes 10 times the amount of resources to grow than plant protein. We could reduce beef consumption by 70% if we replace hamburgers with artificial meats like the “impossible burger.” Doing so would be a huge step for the environment. As technology improves and becomes less costly, artificial meats will become the norm. In addition, we need to focus on efficient, crop-specific farm practices, and shifting farm subsidies to vegetables instead of sugar. Mismanagement Humans have been mismanaging their food supplies for thousands of years. The Roman equivalent of vanilla, a plant called silphium, was prized so highly that Emperors hoarded it, yet it went extinct very rapidly due to mismanagement. Roughly two millennia later, clouds of billions of passenger pigeons ruled the American Midwest but went extinct in a short timespan because of overeating. More recently, the Canada’s Atlantic Cod stock disappeared, again thanks to mismanagement. Humans struggle with large scale, long term management efforts to ensure that our foods survive. This is a skill we desperately need to learn in order to ensure that our food supplies do not disappear. Protecting What We Have Think of the natural world as a library where each species is a book. Thanks to our current environmental and agricultural practices, we are burning these books; and once a species is gone, we can’t get it back. We need to focus on protecting what we have and managing our food supplies in a sustainable way. Ocean life is now most at risk from warming, pollution, and overfishing. A lot of ocean species travel in flocks like passenger pigeons, which makes them easy to kill. We need to stop eating the mega-fauna of the sea, like bluefin tuna and other big fish. Instead, we should focus on farmed fish and shellfish, like lobster and shrimp. Anyone who has an acre or two of land, should put in bee-friendly landscaping and avoid using chemicals that kill bees. Find out more: Lenore Newman holds a Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Environment at the University of the Fraser Valley, where she is an Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment. Her opinion pieces on the future of farmland use and other food-related issues have been published widely, including in The Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and Georgia Straight. She holds a PhD in Environmental Studies from York University. Her current research focuses on three main areas: (1) Technology and the future of food, including the evolution of the food system including bioengineering, cultured meat, dietary trends and indoor agriculture; (2) Agricultural land use policy, including agricultural land preservation, agriculture on the rural/urban fringe, and global land use patterns; and (3) Place making through food and agriculture, including direct marketing, edge city zoning, and culinary tourism experiences. In 2014, Lenore was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. She has authored over forty academic papers and reports in her areas of research. She is particularly proud of her work on foraged foods and on the impact of climate change on cuisine. You can follow Lenore on Twitter @DrLenoreNewman.
Nonviolent Social Movement Through non-violent social movements, we can demand meaningful change in the political and economic calculus for polluters. Climate strikes, extinction rebellions, and concerted efforts to stop devastating environmental policies have inspired a new generation of activists. The successful opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline showed that people could stand up to oil companies, and win. By stopping or delaying new fossil fuel projects, renewables have a better chance to take hold and in the meantime the technology has time to get cheaper and better. The divestment movement is another key piece of non-violent activism. Divestments from fossil fuels now total more than $12 trillion, and has become a material risk for those businesses. Reducing Our Carbon Footprint We must all address our individual carbon footprint in order to solve climate change. One Vermont family reduced their carbon footprint by 88% overnight. With the help of Green Mountain Utility, they fully insulated their house and installed high-efficiency air source heat pumps and solar panels. Even after including the costs of new appliances and insulation, their energy bills were still lower than before. We can all do similar makeovers because this technology is widely available at places like Home Depot. The technology and science to move toward carbon-neutrality already exist, we just need to use them. What if? Oil giant Exxon knew as early as the mid-1980s that climate change was real and man-made. Exxon was so aware of the impending crisis that they started building their offshore drilling rigs to compensate for the rise in sea levels that they knew was coming. Instead of telling the public, they hid their findings and denied climate change. McKibben wonders what the world would be like if they had been honest and had been part of the solution. His hypothesis is that the price of renewables, such as solar panels and wind turbines, would have fallen much earlier; new oil and gas exploration would have stopped; homes would be better insulated; and that a modest price on carbon would have been enacted. The result? A dramatically less polluted planet and a much different economy. Had we started earlier to combat warming, course correction would have been both easier and less costly. Find out more: Bill McKibben is a legendary environmentalist, author, and educator whose 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change. He has written dozens of books, is a staff writer at The New Yorker, and founded 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement. The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.” In 2014, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’  A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently for a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of Books, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, where he spends as much time as possible outdoors. In 2014, biologists honored him by naming a new species of woodland gnat — Megophthalmidia mckibbeni — in his honor. You can follow Bill on Twitter @billmckibben and 350.org @350.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030 lists 17 goals designed to improve human well-being, while also managing the Earth’s resources for the future. We have been moving further from completing our environmental goals every year because well-being comes at the expense of the global environment. The sustainable development goals are a set of tools to maximize human well-being and minimize the negative effects of increased development. For instance, making sure everyone in the world has access to electricity is a well-being goal, and making sure that energy is clean is an environmental goal. Resources as Money We currently undervalue the use of natural resources because our economic model is designed to maximize profits, not protect the environment. Prices need to accurately reflect the reality that these resources are finite and must be used as efficiently as possible. No one uses more money than necessary to purchase a good or service, but all of us use more resources than necessary to maintain our lifestyle. We are able to regulate a global economy; we should also be able to regulate the global commodities market of resources. Tipping Points There are two types of tipping points in the climate change debate: environmental and social. Environmental tipping points include scenarios like losing all of the ice on the North Pole, which makes climate change much worse. There are also tipping points in social systems, such as the dramatic fall in smoking, or the use of seatbelts in cars. People can change, and consequently, societies can change very quickly. If we can manifest social tipping points around climate change that impact governance, our economic systems, our behavior, and our technology, we can mitigate the damage caused by climate change, and hopefully avoid the most devastating tipping points in our environment. Find out more: Katherine Richardson is the Leader of the Sustainability Science Centre at the University of Copenhagen and ​​​a Professor of Biological Oceanography at the Center for Macroecology, Evolution, and Climate. She is also a member of the 15-person panel that wrote and delivered the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. You can follow her on Twitter @KRichardsonC.
The end of welfare Welfare ceased being guaranteed after reform in 1996. Although the safety net for the working class was strengthened through tax credits, the safety net for those who are jobless disappeared. In its current state, the welfare system is overwhelming and underfunded. States are given block grants that they can spend at their discretion. For example, Louisiana spends its money on anti-abortion clinics. As a result, over the course of a year, about 3.5 million children live in households with virtually no cash income for at least 3 months. Cash is king Cash has the ultimate function: it can be used to pay rent, utilities, food, school supplies, and more. Although food stamps (SNAP) and Medicaid help needy families, these cashless forms of assistance cannot address other necessities in life. Access to cash can be pivotal to keeping a job – to fill your car with gas so you can go to work – or a roof over your head while you look for a new job after being downsized. The poor are true Americans America’s poor are the very embodiment of American ideals. Living in poverty is incredibly complex, a daily challenge to which the poor rise. They take pride in their work and find purpose at the workplace. They are hard-working, resourceful, and enterprising. Poor families spend their money wisely to keep their children fed and sheltered, and they stretch every dollar to make ends meet. Find out more: Kathryn Edin is one of the nation’s leading poverty researchers, working in the domains of welfare and low-wage work, family, life, and neighborhood contexts through direct, in-depth observations of the lives of low-income populations. A qualitative and mixed-method researcher, she has taken on key mysteries about the urban poor that have not been fully answered by quantitative work, such as how do single mothers possibly survive on welfare? Why don’t more go to work? She has authored 8 books and some 60 journal articles. $2 a Day: The Art of Living on Virtutally Nothing in America, co-authored with Luke Shaefer, was met with wide critical acclaim. It was included in the NYT 100 Notable Books of 2015, cited as “essential reporting about the rise in destitute families.” You can follow Kathryn on Twitter @KathrynEdin
Empowering citizens Many Americans are unsure of how their government works. Civic education is the manual for democracy, which Civics 101 offers in the form of a popular podcast. Over the last hundred years, the United States became more democratic through the activism and litigation of concerned and well-educated citizens. Still, some unfairness in our system prevails. One important holdover from the institution of slavery is the Electoral College, which was originally designed to grant outsized electoral power to slaveholding states. The system continues to give about one third of American voters an advantage at the expense of the majority. Our responsibility is to understand the rules, participate, and empower ourselves to make this democracy work us. Undermining the Press The President is allowed to say whatever he wants about the press as a private citizen because of his First Amendment protections. However, the President cannot use the power of the federal government to exact reprisals against the press. For instance, when the White House revoked press passes earlier this year, it contravened the Constitution. Never before has a President undermined and used retributive action against the press like this, and other countries are taking note. Repressive measures like these come directly from an authoritarian playbook, and according to PEN America, the number of journalists jailed worldwide for “fake news” tripled last year because of it. America was once the moral leader on free speech issues around the world, but the current administration’s repressive tactics are withering that leadership. Technology for Democracy Democracy Works remedies some of the most pervasive and mundane reasons we don’t vote. TurboVote is a tool that enables online voter registration, sends out election day reminders, and even provides absentee ballots. Those mailed-in ballots are then tracked by the Ballot Scout initiative. The Voting Information Project produces the polling place and ballot data that is then used by Google and get-out-the-vote drives. By using current technology to take the hassle of voting out of our busy lives, the initiatives of Democracy Works are building a more engaged society. Citizens’ forum Deliberative mini publics innovate democracy by engaging citizens in constructive dialogue about the issues facing society. While many in parliament assumed citizens would always favor more spending and lower taxes, it turned out that voters who were presented with detailed information came to develop nuanced policy positions. After listening to presentations by experts, they actually favored higher taxes in certain areas and reached complex compromises about government spending. By doing so, they proved to lawmakers and skeptics that ordinary Irish citizens could be trusted with vital policy work. Find out more: Future Hindsight is a weekly podcast that aims to spark civic engagement through in-depth conversations with citizen changemakers. American democracy is a living, breathing mechanism whose well-being deserves to be cultivated and protected, and now more than ever, the need to be an engaged citizen is critical. We explore how each of us has the power to shape our society and fulfill our shared civic responsibility. You can follow us on Twitter @futur_hindsight and our host Mila Atmos @milaatmos
Focus on Violence First Abt’s central thesis for solving violence in urban areas is fairly straightforward: focus on the violence—and not other factors—first. Exposure to violence may be the central mechanism that keeps poor children poor because it inhibits their ability to escape poverty. Violence occupies the brain with lifelong repercussions. Studies have shown elevated rates of cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses based on childhood trauma. Trauma also impacts the ability to sleep, focus, and behave, all of which impact academic and job performances. By reducing violence first, we can provide a measure of safety and stability, which makes it easier to improve education, health outcomes, and attract business investments in a community. Focused, Balanced, and Fair Successful urban violence reduction efforts need to be focused, balanced, and fair. Urban crime “sticks” to certain locations, such as a liquor store or a gas station; certain high-risk individuals; and certain behaviors, such as the illegal possession of weapons. Tightly focusing on high risk areas, behaviors, and people, is key to reducing violence. A balanced mix of tactics includes increased policing as well as increased violence prevention programs. This carrot-and-stick method offers success consistent with human nature. Fairness builds trust between law enforcement and marginalized communities. When people don’t trust law enforcement and institutions, they’re less likely to use them to solve disputes, leading to an increasing cycle of violence. Law enforcement also overburdens many of these communities with constant policing – think stop and frisk – but underserves them because they are still not safe. Targeting Behavior The people who are on the giving or receiving end of violent urban crime are usually heavily traumatized individuals. Constant trauma and violence lead to a condition known as hypervigilance, an elevated flight-or-fight response. Those who are hypervigilant can go from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye, which makes it difficult to function in a normal setting. By targeting trauma-caused behavior through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), we can help them achieve the results they want. CBT addresses anger management, interpersonal problem-solving, and future orientation issues. It’s hard to work with a young man who cannot visualize that actions today might have long ranging consequences when he doesn’t believe that he’s going to live longer than another two or three years. Once these behaviors are identified and addressed, opportunities such as job placements are easier to utilize, and success is easier to achieve. Find out more: Thomas Abt is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice, and was previously Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Development. He formerly served as Deputy Secretary for Public Safety under New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Chief of Staff to the Office of Justice Programs at the United States Department of Justice, and founding member of the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. Bleeding Out is his first book, focusing on evidence-informed approaches to reduce urban violence. It argues the best way to reduce violence is through direct action against violence first, before treating deeply rooted societal issues like poverty. You can follow Thomas on Twitter @Abt_Thomas
The Cost of Human Capital Meritocracy gives the illusion that we are all equally competing at a level playing field. The reality is that the elite is able to purchase better education, which means they are more qualified when it comes to college admissions and high-income jobs. By heavily investing in education and training, elites build human capital within themselves. They become superordinate workers who are paid enormous wages. The flip side is that human capital enslaves us because we have to yield intensive and alienated labor. In order to maintain status in the elite and reap the benefits of the capital invested in them, meritocrats must work continuously at the highest paying jobs they can find. A member of the elite works punishingly long hours under intense pressure. While meritocracy allows some to become extremely wealthy, they do so at the cost of their own freedom, and ultimately their own happiness. Meritocracy Erodes Democracy Meritocracy erodes democracy in two key ways. First, meritocracy frames the reality of systemic failure to provide economic opportunity as the failure of individuals to measure up in society. It tells the person who didn’t get into Harvard or get a job at Google that if only they worked harder or were smarter, they would have succeeded, when in fact they are victims of structural exclusion. This creates deep disaffection among those who are unfairly excluded, who then begin to question the underlying institutions that hold American society together. Populists and nativists are able to harness this sentiment, blame ‘the other,’ rise to power, and attack democratic norms. Second, meritocracy creates a massively wealthy elite minority who can legally buy influence in media, politics, and even reduce tax obligations. Between the alienation of the middle and lower classes, and the outsized power of the elite, meritocracy has been one of the leading causes of the erosion of democracy. Solving the Meritocracy Trap Meritocracy compounds inequality through unequal access to quality education. Expensive, elite schools prepare those who can afford them for the most selective universities and then high-paying jobs. In addition, because of the way social security tax works, employers now have a huge tax incentive to hire one superordinate worker and robots as opposed to more middle income workers. Markovits proposes two policies to address these problems: expanding elite education and extending the social security tax. Opening up elite institutions will make them less exclusive and more accessible, providing more opportunities to the middle class to higher income. Currently, the social security tax is capped at $137,700, which means that the person who makes $150,000 and the person who makes $2,000,000 pay the same amount in social security tax. Eliminating the cap would raise almost 1.5% of GDP in steady state, which could help fund expanded education. Find out more: Daniel Markovits is Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School and Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Private Law. Markovits works in the philosophical foundations of private law, moral and political philosophy, and behavioral economics. The Meritocracy Trap is his latest book. It places meritocracy at the center of rising economic inequality and social and political dysfunction, and provides solutions to these problems. You can follow Daniel on Twitter @DSMarkovits
Agreeing on the basic fundamentals The need for positive, bipartisan discourse is acute. In today’s politically charged environment, it's important to disagree in a constructive and civil way. The first step in good-faith dialogue is to start by finding fundamental policies or values you both agree on and build on them. In fact, most Americans hold the same ideals, but value them differently. Mike and his conservative co-host Jay both value justice and freedom, though to different degrees. Since they both agree justice and freedom are important, fair and rational debate becomes much easier. Equally important are the ability to keep an open mind, and to be able to see and understand other perspectives. The System is Working The Trump Administration is undeniably attacking institutions in a way that we’ve never seen from the executive branch before. While this is deeply worrying, the good news is that our system appears to be bearing the brunt of his attacks well. For instance, the election process worked in 2018, giving Democrats the House, which in turn led to renewed scrutiny and accountability in the form of impeachment. Many of Trump’s promises have not been enacted because parts of our governmental system have worked correctly and stopped them. Trump has been frustrated in many areas, just as his predecessors were. The fact that all presidents cannot achieve all of their goals is a sign that the system is working and continues to work. Returning Debate to the Center Our media landscape often showcases the two political extremes as the dominant modes of American political thought. While this helps ratings, it is not the case. Most Americans fall somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum, where there is much overlap and common ground to be found. They are not deeply ideological, and are not interested in big things, whether that’s a massive wall or a complete remaking of the American health care system. Healthy political discourse needs to keep in mind that policy options should serve the majority of the country, and not just the ten percent of extreme voters on either side. By elevating these center-oriented voices, bipartisan debate becomes easier, and solutions are easier to create. Find out more: Michael Baranowski is a political scientist with a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. His focus is on American political institutions, public policy, and media. He is a co-founder of the Politics Guys and serves as one of the show’s liberal hosts. The Politics Guys is a podcast for bipartisan, rational, and civil debate on American politics and policy. It features independent and bipartisan political commentary, as well as interviews with liberal and conservative experts and policymakers. The Politics Guys strives to balance liberal and conservative voices equally. You can follow the Politics Guys on Twitter @PoliticsGuys
The First Amendment The First Amendment protects four types of freedom of expression: freedom of speech, belief, assembly, and the ability to petition the government for a redress of grievances. It states that “Congress shall make no law” to infringe on these four freedoms. Over time, “Congress” has been extended to include the executive branch, as well as state and local governments. The court’s view of the First Amendment is extremely broad, which means that America protects more speech than any other country in the world. Defamation, harassment, and speech that incites imminent violence are the only kinds of speech that are not protected. The First Amendment also does not extend to private institutions such as universities or companies like Facebook. Undermining the Press The President is allowed to say whatever he wants about the press as a private citizen because of his First Amendment protections. However, the President cannot use the power of the federal government to exact reprisals against the press. For instance, when the White House revoked press passes earlier this year, it contravened the Constitution. Never before has a President undermined and used retributive action against the press like this, and other countries are taking note. Repressive measures like these come directly from an authoritarian playbook, and according to PEN America, the number of journalists jailed worldwide for “fake news” tripled last year because of it. America was once the moral leader on free speech issues around the world, the current administration’s repressive tactics are withering that leadership. Protected Speech The problems of hateful speech and fake news are uniquely difficult because in most cases they are protected by the First Amendment. While hateful speech is protected by the government, private institutions are allowed to police content on their own platforms or campuses. The ability to share unpopular ideas should coexist in a way that still allows for open debate, but that is not always the case. At dozens of campuses, controversial speakers who are invited to speak about their views were shut down by students. Fake news poses a threat by eroding the facts democracy is based on. We cannot let the government control it by shutting down websites because they may start shutting down legitimate sites—such as climate change websites—based on political ideology. Instead, we can counter it by educating the public about how to identify fake news, and taking steps as a society to disavow propaganda and misinformation. Find out more: Suzanne Nossel is the CEO of PEN America, which she has run since 2013. In that time, she has doubled the budget, staff, and membership. She previously served as COO of Human Rights Watch, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations. PEN America is a non-profit organization working at the crossroads between human rights and literature. They champion free speech around the world, celebrate creative expression, and defend the liberties that make it possible. You can follow Suzanne on Twitter @SuzanneNossel, and PEN America @PENAmerica.
Law as a Framework Equality creates a framework for how we should treat others, and how we should expect to be treated by others. The institution of laws enforces the rules of equality within that framework. Law helps shape the conversations in public life and in politics about what can, and cannot, be done when dealing with more abstract concepts like fairness, freedom, and equality. Law also acts as dispute resolution when we see our intangible values being infringed upon. It helps create compromises and resolutions to problems that arise from differing values, viewpoints, and ideologies. When the Law Fails Law can fail when judges fail to empathize with someone’s complaint about equality, such as in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Judges struck down a complaint because they thought the plaintiff was imagining his own discrimination. Their failure was one of empathy, but the legacy was one of racism and segregation. Law also fails when judges ratify policies that make broad judgements about social or racial groups. By doing this, they legitimize incorrect and dangerous ideas. They end up establishing a policymaker’s incorrect judgement as law, as though it had been correct. This in turn encourages other people to increase their attacks on these groups, because they see their own views as legitimized by the law. Reframing the Debate When fighting against policies that infringe on equality, consider more than one angle of argument. For instance, Trump’s Muslim ban was clearly an attempt to disenfranchise immigrants from Muslim majority countries, but it never actually mentioned Muslims. This made judges uneasy about declaring it discriminatory on the basis of religion. Instead, those opposed re-framed the debate around another American value: fairness. By arguing the ban impacted many residents already in the US with green cards, it violated their right to expect free and fair treatment. This argument was successful enough in court that the Trump Administration had to completely rewrite the ban, leaving out new countries and providing exceptions benefiting hundreds of thousands of people. Find out more: Robert L. Tsai is a Professor of Law at American University. He is also an acclaimed essayist and author, focusing on constitutional law and history. He is the author of three books: Practical Equality: Forging Justice in a Divided Nation (W.W. Norton Feb. 19, 2019), America’s Forgotten Constitutions: Defiant Visions of Power and Community (Harvard 2014), and Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture (Yale 2008).   You can follow him on Twitter @robertltsai.
Citizens’ forum The Irish Citizens’ Assembly was formed in response to the severe social and economic crisis caused by the global financial meltdown of 2008. A group of political scientists, led by Jane Suiter and David Farrell, advocated for citizens to be included in debates about the necessary political reforms to address the failures of the executive. Deliberative mini publics innovate democracy by engaging citizens in constructive dialogue about the issues facing society. While many in parliament assumed citizens would always favor more spending and lower taxes, it turned out that voters who were presented with detailed information came to develop nuanced policy positions. After listening to presentations by experts, they actually favored higher taxes in certain areas and reached complex compromises about government spending. By doing so, they proved to lawmakers and skeptics that ordinary Irish citizens could be trusted with vital policy work. The case of abortion rights The first Citizens’ Assembly considered the issue of overturning the ban on abortion in the Irish constitution. Over the course of five weekend-long sessions, everyday citizens heard arguments from impartial experts, medical professionals, as well as activists on both sides. At the end of their deliberations, they produced a series of recommendations, which were sent to the Irish Parliament in June 2017. 64% of the Citizens’ Assembly participants recommended that abortion be legalized. In turn, Parliament put the question of legalizing abortion to the Irish public in a nationwide referendum in May 2018. It passed with 66% of the vote. The result indicates that the counsel of the Citizens’ Assembly was an accurate and meaningful representation of the Irish electorate. Since then the Assembly has given policy recommendations on issues such as how the state can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change and how to respond to the challenges and opportunities of an aging population. Ireland is a Beacon for Democracy The Assembly has strengthened trust and communication on both sides of the democratic equation – citizens and politicians – and has bolstered the legitimacy of democracy at a time when democracies around the world are under attack. Through the innovation of using citizens’ assemblies, the Irish experience is showing a path to overcome the problems of democracy in decline. Politicians learned about the willingness and capacity of everyday people to make serious, nuanced policy choices for the good of the country. The Assembly has led many in Parliament to consider the advice of constituents in a new way, and to seek advice from their voters. Conversely, Irish citizens see the Assembly as a way to augment their democracy beyond voting. Other countries have noticed this. At the launch of Scotland’s Citizens’ Assembly earlier this year, the constitutional minister for the Scottish government praised Ireland’s success as an example to follow. Find out more: David Farrell and Jane Suiter have been collaborating in research focused on Irish citizens’ assemblies for over 10 years. During the economic crisis of 2008-2009, they led a group of political scientists who proposed that citizens should be brought into the heart of debates over constitutional and political reform. This culminated in the establishment of We the Citizens – Ireland’s first national citizens’ assembly. In 2012 the Irish government established the Convention on the Constitution: David and Jane led the academic advisory group. This was followed, in 2016, by the Irish Citizens’ Assembly: David and Jane secured Irish Research Council funding to provide research leadership. David Farrell is Head of the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin. He is also a member of the Royal Irish Academy. He is formerly the research leader of the Irish Citizens' Assembly and currently a member of the Stewarding Group of the Scottish Citizens’ Assembly. Jane Suiter is Director of the Institute for Future Media and Journalism at Dublin City University as well as an Associate Professor in the School of Communications. She helped found the Irish Citizens’ Assembly (2016-2018) and the Irish Constitutional Convention (2012-2014). She is also a founding member of We the Citizens (2011), Ireland’s first deliberative experiment. The Irish Citizens’ Assembly is an exercise in deliberative democracy, placing the citizen at the heart of important legal and policy issues facing Irish society. With the benefit of expert, impartial, and factual advice, 100 citizen members have considered the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (on abortion); making Ireland a leader in tackling climate change; challenges and opportunities of an aging population; manner in which referenda are held; and fixed term parliaments. US-based deliberative democracy projects mentioned in the episode are: James Fishkin, Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University Kevin Esterling and his work with online town halls. He wrote Politics with the People, Building a Directly Representative Democracy. Citizens’ Initiative Review in Oregon You can follow David on Twitter @dfarrell_ucd, Jane @JaneSuit, and The Citizens’ Assembly @CitizAssembly.
Responsible Statecraft Responsible statecraft should derive from serious consideration of the public interest, with robust public debate and a strong role for Congress. The Quincy Institute believes that democratizing US foreign policy to include diverse points of view from minority, immigrant, and outsider communities – in addition to foreign policy experts – will lead to more vigorous diplomacy and less military intervention. Responsible statecraft would also require Congress to take its war-making responsibility back from the Executive Branch. US foreign policy should engage the world with peaceful discourse. Military Hegemony In the aftermath of the Second World War, the US and the Soviet Union embarked on a decades-long arms race. During this time, the American military-industrial complex grew to become a vital tool of national security. When the USSR collapsed, the US became the world’s only superpower. In order to secure unipolar primacy, America pursued greater military hegemony and dominance over potential rivals. Regional conflicts were viewed as existential threats to American democracy, embroiling us in needless conflict around the world. America’s imperial overstretch is a result of its militarized foreign policy that believes dominating a region by force, such as in the Middle East, can lead to stability. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred. Instability in the Middle East has led to a vicious cycle of violence and built permanent enmities worldwide. Vigorous Diplomacy The American diplomatic corps has been devastated under the current administration, coming at the heels of years-long decline. US foreign policy has repeatedly prioritized military force over diplomacy, espousing the idea of “peace through strength.” This rigid and devastating doctrine has resulted in near-endless war. Instead of being neutral, the US is often on one side of a conflict and hence cannot be a mediator. As we face the climate emergency and other transnational problems, the US must prioritize rebuilding the State Department and investing in more vigorous diplomacy. American power and influence should be wielded to resolve conflicts, end wars, and enhance peace. Find out more: Stephen Wertheim is Deputy Director of Research and Policy at the Quincy Institute. He is also a Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. He specializes in the role of US policy on the global stage, from the late nineteenth century to the present. The Quincy Institute promotes ideas that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace. It launched on December 4, 2019. You can follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenwertheim and the Quincy Institute @QuincyInst.
Investigations Get Results Since 1957, BGA investigations have uncovered corruption and unfair practices throughout Chicago and the state of Illinois. A recent investigation of police shootings in predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Cook County found that of 113 shootings over seven years, none led to disciplinary action. After the findings were published, a state law was enacted requiring an investigation each time a police officer discharges their weapon. BGA also investigated and exposed the corruption of Alderman Burke in the 14th Ward of Chicago, who is now under federal indictment on multiple charges. When governments are faced with evidence of corruption they must — and usually do — act quickly to correct it. Good governance Advocacy for good governance goes well beyond exposing corruption. The BGA’s policy team recommends public policies for more transparency, accountability, and efficiency. Marie Dillon, the Policy Director, participated in the mayoral transition to help newly elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot transition into office and to help her staff develop ethics reform goals. The BGA is also tracking how the new mayor’s actions measure up against BGA’s agenda. The combination of advocacy for sound public policy and government oversight through investigative journalism makes it possible for BGA to push for effective government reform. Getting People Engaged Voting is still the ultimate tool of accountability. To that end, a big part of BGA’s civic engagement effort is to empower citizens to participate in their democracy. The way that government treats its citizens is one of the most important factors in the daily quality of life, from the safety of the roads to the quality of public schools. When citizens have little faith in their government, or see their government as unresponsive to their needs, the social contract breaks down. In the last city-wide election, BGA published stories and candidate profiles, as well as where to vote and how to vote. Good governance helps people see their investment in voting, in paying taxes, and participating in their communities as worthwhile, and become even more engaged. Find out more: David Greising is the President and CEO of the Better Government Association. Greising spent 25 years as a high-profile local and national journalist, and served as the Chicago Tribune’s business columnist for more than a decade. He also recently served as the Midwest bureau chief for Reuters. The Better Government Association was founded in 1923 as a voter advocacy and election reform group. Their mission evolved in the 1950s to include investigative journalism. Since then, they have produced hundreds of investigative reports outlining corruption and other government shortcomings, resulting in lasting legislative change in the state of Illinois and city of Chicago. You can follow David on Twitter @dgreising and the BGA @bettergov.
Technology for Democracy Democracy Works remedies some of the most pervasive and mundane reasons we don’t vote. TurboVote is a tool that enables online voter registration, sends out election day reminders, and even provides absentee ballots. Those mailed-in ballots are then tracked by the Ballot Scout initiative. The Voting Information Project produces the polling place and ballot data that is then used by Google and get-out-the-vote drives. By using current technology to take the hassle of voting out of our busy lives, the initiatives of Democracy Works are building a more engaged society. Partnering for Success Democracy Works collaborates with voters, state partners, and corporations to create more successful elections. Since being founded in 2012, TurboVote has registered over 7 million new voters, with 2.5 million in 2018 alone. Moreover, 63% of them were millennials or younger. Successful voter registration came through heavy reliance on partnerships, including with over 130 universities and Snapchat. When Facebook reminds you to vote, it’s because of a TurboVote partnership. The Voting Information Project partnership with Google provides accurate polling locations and ballot information. Partnerships with 46 states help streamline the election and voting processes. TurboVote Challenge The TurboVote Challenge is the premier corporate coalition championing civic engagement in America. Its goal is to reach 80% voter turnout by 2024. In order to achieve record-breaking voter turnout, we cannot rely on the government and politicians alone. Instead, everyone must play a part and treat everyone like citizens and voters. Learning institutions need to register their students; companies need to work to motivate both employees and customers; and everyday citizens need to vote and encourage others to vote as well. Democracy is strongest when we are all participating and voting.  Find out more: Seth Flaxman co-founded Democracy Works while studying at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The Democracy Works’ tool TurboVote has been used by more than 7 million Americans to register to vote, and provides a suite of other tools to simplify voting for everyday citizens. Democracy Works also started the Voting Information Project, a widely accessible public information project designed to remove voting barriers by providing easily searchable polling place locations, ballot information, and other official election information. Thanks to a partnership with Google, the VIP is used by millions of voters around the country. Seth earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and was student body president there. In 2011, he was honored as one of Forbes magazine's '30 Under 30' in the field of law and policy. Seth is also a Draper Richards Kaplan entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow. You can follow him on Twitter @Sethflaxman, Democracy Works @demworksinc, TurboVote @TurboVote, and The Voting Information Project @VotingInfo
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Comments (4)

Arielle Niss

🤩♥️ love this show

Mar 13th
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Nha Cai 388bettop

so good

Mar 10th
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Okamifan1 Productions

Never subscribed to this trash. Dont need notification #garbage

Mar 9th
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Donald Moyer III

who are you?

Mar 9th
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